Indigenous Peoples at Copenhagen Climate Talks Deliver Peace Prize Message to Obama at US Embassy: Procession, Prayer & Protests

"Indigenous rights and knowledge are the foundation for addressing climate change"

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Copenhagen, Denmark - Indigenous Peoples from across North America and their allies from around the world gathered at the US Embassy in Copenhagen the other day to deliver a message to President Obama as he traveled to Oslo to accept his Nobel Prize. The delegation of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and First Nations Peoples is in Denmark this week for the historic COP 15 Climate Talks, and is calling for a climate deal that includes a moratorium on all new exploration of oil, gas, coal and uranium as a first step towards the full phase-out of fossil fuels and a just solution to the climate crisis.

"The United States is importing millions of barrels of oil from the Canadian Tar Sands, which is contributing to the genocide of the Dene and Cree nations of Northern Canada and to the destruction of Mother Earth" said Susana Deranger, a grandmother from Fort Chipewyan in Northern Alberta. "Last summer, there was a flock of ducks that landed on a tailings pond of Tar Sands dirty water, and they all died. This is the water that is poisoning our people. There are clusters of rare cancers that are concentrated in our communities and killing our people. Obama, we urge you: End Environmental Racism - Climate Justice now!"

The events this morning included a solemn procession to the US Embassy, and a traditional prayer led by Sarah James, a Gwich'in Alaska Native elder, who is in Copenhagen to tell the world about the impacts of climate change on her homelands, such as melting permafrost and forced relocation. After the blessing, Native American, First Nations, and Alaska Native Representatives spoke about the Presidents Nobel Prize.

"When Obama was campaigning, he captured the hearts of young people and he promised us change," said Kandi Mossett of North Dakota, Tribal Campus Climate Challenge Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network. Through tears of frustration she added, "But we are learning that for Native communities, when it comes to reining in oil companies or committing to fight climate change, he is just another politician who goes back on his word. And on these issues, his decisions are matters of life and death for our people."

After the speeches, a smaller group attempted to cross the street to deliver a message to US ambassador in Denmark for President Obama, who will be in Copenhagen next week for COP 15. After some tense negotiations with police, the party was allowed to approach the embassy and delivered a large hand-written scroll, which included the Indigenous Environmental Network's positions for the COP 15 negotiations: "We strongly call for a moratorium on all new exploration for oil, gas, coal and uranium as a first step towards the full phase-out of fossil fuels, without nuclear power, with a just transition to sustainable jobs, energy and environment...We oppose false solutions to the crisis: These include nuclear energy, geo-engineering techniques, so-called clean coal, and the carbon market."

The US Embassy representative accepted the scroll and agreed to deliver it to the Ambassador. The Indigenous Delegation closed their event with prayer, and traveled to the Bella Center where Obama's speech was broadcast live.

"In his acceptance speech, President Obama remarked that 'Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice,'" said Jihan Gearon of Fort Defiance Arizona/Navajo Nation, Native Energy Organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network. "Mr. President - we implore you to come to Copenhagen to make history with a just climate agreement that upholds the rights of Indigenous Peoples and takes decisive action to keep fossil fuels in the ground."

Indigenous Environmental Network: Indigenous Peoples empowering Indigenous Nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice and maintaining the Sacred Fire of our traditions.
The Indigenous Environmental Network is in Copenhagen for the duration of COP 15.

© 2009