This story is published as part of the Global Office for Indigenous Affairs, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian country today and High Country News.
At the world’s largest gathering of indigenous leaders, women discuss how to hold financial institutions accountable for fueling climate catastrophe through investments in the extractive industry.
Michelle Cook, Navajo, was among those who offered powerful testimonials focused on women on the front lines of extractive projects, the boards of financial institutions and the halls of government. Speaking at a side event organized by Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network during the 21st session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, Cook described the work as part of an obligation sacred.
“That’s what we do, praying for the world – for nature – with love, compassion and courage. No other weapon than that, the truth,” said Cook, the founder of Divest Invest Protect. “For some, it’s so terrifying. Indigenous women won’t give up… We won’t be intimidated or shamed or scared just because we are who we are.
“Indigenous women will not give up…We will not be intimidated, shamed or scared just because we are who we are.”
The International Forum’s side events offer participants the opportunity to pursue thematic dialogues outside of the forum’s schedule, which is more limited than in previous years due to the pandemic and operates on a hybrid format this year. Summer Blaze Aubrey, Cherokee and Blackfeet, is an attorney for the International Indian Treaty Council and also spoke on the panel. She noted that racism and genocide are at the center of human rights violations around the world. The atrocities continue and are fueled by the extractive industry, she added, even with the “green energy” initiatives moving forward. She pointed White House rhetoric on Russia and the Defense Production Act, which was enacted to launch new mines or expand existing ones.
“Engaging in the extractive industry is not going forward, it will not help in the long term. It’s part of capitalism,” Aubrey said. “It’s not helpful… We see that throughout the extractive industry on Turtle Island, it’s linked to violence against women. It’s so nuanced and interconnected that you can’t talk about one without talking about the other.
The women on the panel argued that due diligence needs to happen continuously throughout development projects, not just during the initial stages. But ultimately, they say, society must divest completely from the extractive industry.
“Indigenous peoples provide the answers,” Aubrey said, referring to traditional knowledge and science. “We understand how to live in symbiosis with the environment. How to feed people. We already have systems in place that will protect us and the world. »
She added that businesses and financiers need to recognize this and commit to these principles and strategies. The panel called out BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, saying the investment firm has an insatiable appetite to fuel its bottom line. BlackRock currently does not have an Indigenous rights policy, a shortcoming that Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network founder Osprey Orielle Lake said should change immediately.
Like countless other participants during the first week of the Permanent Forum, the panel repeatedly returned to the issue of free, prior and informed consent. (CLIP). The FPIC specifies that proponents must engage with affected Aboriginal communities to ensure their participation and consultation. However, although the international principle of human rights has been widely embraced by UN member states through the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, many experts and leaders have identified that the articles are not recognized or enforced effectively, leaving land and people vulnerable to exploitation. Other solutions put forward included investing in climate justice frameworks that center traditional ecological knowledge.
For women like Maria Violet Medina Quiscue, from Pueblo Nasa in Colombia, it takes courage to speak out on these issues – especially on a global scale – because land and human rights defenders are being murdered, which means that publicly criticizing the institutions, companies and nations behind them puts his life on the line. Quiscue described the deep-rooted racism against indigenous peoples in Colombia, which has been in evidence lately.
For the past seven months, around 2,000 indigenous people have been living in a settlement in Bogota National Park after being displaced by extractive industries and paramilitary groups. The anti-indigenous rhetoric of Colombian politicians has created a hostile environment for indigenous peoples, grocers and store owners refusing to serve indigenous peoples. Quiscue says racism in Bogota escalated after Mayor Claudia Lopez Hernandez unleashed a series of attacks on indigenous peoples in the encampment.
Quiscue says the discrimination they currently face is rooted in colonization. Maria and the other panelists made it clear that Indigenous peoples retain both the legal right to say “no” to extraction and the sacred obligation to speak out against current and future developments. At an event featuring numerous policy solutions and calls to action, this is the line that women seeking to hold financial institutions accountable repeatedly returned to: you can’t be a climate leader when you’re building climate change. extraction.
Carina Dominguez is a reporter/producer for Indian country today (soon to be renamed ICT). She is an enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Tucson, Arizona. She is passionate about reporting on environmental issues, social movements, politics and sports. Previously, Carina worked in New York for CBS Television Network. Follow her on Twitter at @Carinad7.
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