As world leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the climate crisis and hopefully develop plans that will seriously help combat climate change, Indigneous Peoples from all around the world are also gathering in Glasgow to bring attention and awareness to their peoples and the effect of climate change.
Indigenous People exist across ninety different countries in the world. Three hundred seventy million Indigenous People live in the world, and about 70% of them live in Asia. Indigenous Peoples are the self-identifying people who have a historical and ancestral link to those who inhabited land at a certain time before people of different cultures arrived. They have their language, culture, beliefs, and social, economic, and political systems. They are linked to the land, nature, environment, and their ancestors in the region that they inhabit. They have often lived there for thousands of years. Indigenous People have been and continue to be evicted from their ancestral land, denied the right to practice their culture, and a target of hatred and genocide. Indigenous Peoples are also greatly discriminated against in a country’s governmental and legal systems, contributing to the violence and prejudice they face. Indigenous Peoples are being driven out of their ancestral lands, which causes malnutrition, homelessness, and extreme poverty. Fifteen percent of the world’s population in extreme poverty is Indigenous Peoples, representing 5% of the world population.
Among all this, Indigenous Peoples are the most vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change, even though they have contributed the least to climate change.
Although Indigenous Peoples make up a small percentage of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity. For years, the cries of Indigenous People to protect the environment have been ignored. Even in recent years, as the environmentalist movement has gained traction, the voices of white environmentalists are emphasized. At the same time, Indigenous People’s requests for the protection of the Earth are again silenced in the act of oppression. Despite doing more than any government has, many Indigenous leaders are struggling to be heard at the Conference of the Parties 26 Climate Change Conference.
In an interview with the Guardian, six Indigenous activists from across the globe spoke about their communities and how they've been impacted by climate change, and how they have helped combat it. One of the most significant contributors to the climate crisis is the capitalist society in which we live. Charitie Ropati, a Yup’ik and Sāmoan land protector, spoke about how colonialism and capitalism go hand in hand in the interview. She said that when land is commodified, it is no longer treated with respect, leading to more CO2 emissions. Indigenous Peoples are urging both world leaders and all citizens to recognize that the Earth is sacred and should be treated as such, not as something to profit from and never something to exploit.
For far too long Indigenous peoples have been silenced and treated heinously. Indigenous peoples deserve a seat at the table and deserve to be listened to. They deserve autonomy over the land which is theirs, land which has been stolen from them. Continuing to suppress the voices of indigenous people and perpetuate violent circumstances against them is a continuation of colonization. It is essential to reflect on how we affect Indigenous communities as we occupy their land and exploit an environment they desperately preserve. They are experiencing firsthand the worst effects of climate change, and we need to uplift their voices to combat climate change and combat the hatred and disrespect they face every day.