Why Indigenous Communities Need a Seat at the Climate Table


(The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) There is growing recognition that Indigenous communities are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and that traditional ecological knowledge is essential for adapting to environmental change.

As part of a series of video stories about faith and the environment, The Conversation spoke with Ray Minniecon, an Australian-based Anglican Aboriginal pastor and Indigenous Elder from NAIITS, an Indigenous Learning Community. Minniecon shares its perspective on the role indigenous knowledge can play in protecting the environment and its participation in the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


In Christianity, there is the notion of caring for God’s creation. As a native Christian, how do you see this idea?

For indigenous peoples, we want to make sure that we are the ones who hold the knowledge of our ancestors. So we should be the ones helping our own people to master the things that are important to us as indigenous peoples. And so we build on our assets, not on our deficits, and the assets that our ancestors left us are very powerful. We can directly care for our creation and teach people the right way to live in relationship with each other, with all of God’s creation, and with our Creator. We have a lot to learn to achieve this goal today. But we also have much to teach others through our ancient wisdom. And I think that comes from the ministry and the message of reconciliation.

What do you mean by reconciliation in this context?

It means reconciliation, not with nature, not only between us and with our past and our histories, but also reconciliation with our environment. Reconciliation with our creator. This is truly one of the main items on the agenda for all of humanity at this particular point in our human history.

Do you think people connected to Aboriginal tradition saw the current state of environmental destruction coming?

We wondered, who gave these people permission to come and invade our country and do all this destruction not only to our land, but also to the people themselves? We had to learn their language to say when are you going to stop your destructive policies and practices and start listening to us and taking note of how we have taken care of the earth and how we have prevented these big things like the fires bush and other kinds of things from the wisdom that our elders have passed on to us?

We have mitigation strategies within us, because for us, the country already has laws. And we complied with those laws that were there. And these are good laws, these are perfect laws, and they tell us how to take care of the earth. The earth is alive. He has wit and voice. Our brothers, sisters, grandparents, they are the ones who tell us who we are and how we can take care of each other. This is why I say to COP26, as an Indigenous person, that our hopes are dashed by the way these nations are trying to convince us, to deceive us by saying that they have the solutions to climate change when they are they are destroying our environment and created this mess.

What was your experience at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) and what did you learn from it?

The experience left me disillusioned. Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of climate change destruction, but we don’t have a seat at the table. We have tried to raise our voice to make people realize that fossil fuel industries and other extractive policies and developments are still harmful to Mother Earth and also harmful to our human existence.

Indigenous peoples have taken care of our country and our environment for the past 60,000 years, and we have kept it in pristine condition, because we knew what we had to do to protect it. Our Mother provides us with everything we need and need. And it is only in the last 200 years that we have seen the incredible devastation, degradation and destruction of our environment in so many powerful ways that we have felt very sick spiritually, mentally and physically.

But it is those who colonized Indigenous nations who have the loudest voice. The Australian pavilion at COP26 was supported by fossil fuel industries, coal mining industries. These extractive industries say that they are the ones who will bring us the solutions to climate change. And I just thought what they were saying was so hypocritical and misleading, and it left me depressed and with a lot of questions in my mind. I just felt like I was leaving with no hope at all. But I haven’t lost faith. My faith in God is there.

What do you think needs to happen for Indigenous voices to be heard? What would that look like?

Well, first and foremost, we need an official seat at the table – the G-7, the G-20 and those international conferences and gatherings where these issues are debated and discussed. Companies or nations that come together for events like COP26 invite us, but they are the ones who really don’t listen to our voices. I feel like a token.

The policies and practices based on the wisdom of our elders that we have put in place here in our country over the past 60,000 years have ensured that we can protect Mother Earth and live in harmony with all creation. If some of these wise strategies from our cultural understandings could be implemented quickly, we might be able to stop the damage we are causing to our Mother and bring about the immediate changes for the betterment of all humanity before it happens. be too late.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/why-indigenous-communities-need-a-seat-at-the-table-on-climate-181300.

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