Hey y’all, Sharon here. This is my attempt at a blog post summarizing what Ruckus was up to in Copenhagen this month. There was A LOT happening in a short time. If you want stories, well you’ll just have to come to a Ruckus camp…
A few months ago, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) began a conversation with us about providing action support for their delegation to Copenhagen. The delegation included representatives from Indigenous Nations across North America. Myself, and Ruckus board member Heather Milton Lightening staffed the Indigenous support team.
Based on conversations with IEN, we arrived in Copenhagen with a few goals:
* to highlight and escalate negotiations in ways that support Indigenous vision and demands
* ensure Indigenous leadership in actions and mobilizations that could advance a climate and ecological justice agenda
* train IEN staff and allies to form their own action teams and execute their own direct actions in furthering their campaign work
We also came in with the goal of coordinating 4 actions in Copenhagen during the span of COP15 (we actually pulled off 5): a framing action to set the message “Respect Indigenous Rights”; an action calling out the US and its whacked out energy policy; an action around the Canadian Tar Sands; and an action around REDD’s (read IEN’s booklet on REDD if you want to know what it is and its impacts). In addition we were looking to ensure Indigenous voice and leadership within other civil society actions.
A word about how we work: we took our direction from IEN and by extension, the Indigenous Caucus (recognized as stakeholders by the UN). While direct action was being used as a tool to escalate IEN’s campaigns, the Indigenous People’s Power Project (IP3) was also brought along as an offering to the caucus to support actions the caucus wanted to engage in as a body. We briefed the caucus on an almost daily basis about IEN-initiated, and civil society actions that were taking place where Indigenous participation was strategic. We took our cues from the decisions made during those briefings. Its important to note that most of the members of the Indigenous Caucus are no strangers to direct action on their home turf, having to regularly intervene on threats to their homelands. That said, embracing direct action as a strategy within the UN was stepping into new territory for the caucus.
Indigenous Initiated Actions:
Framing Action: Respect Indigenous Peoples Rights
This action took place on the second day of COP 15. A simple action was staged in the main hallway of the UN complex otherwise known as the Bella Center. We were there to elevate the voices of the Indigenous Peoples, who are recognized stakeholders in the UN process, and to make our presence known to the negotiators roaming the hallways, wheeling and dealing. We wanted to frame the action in such a way that was dignified, respectful of where we all come from, but that said we were here and we meant business.
You have to be permitted to do an action inside the UN and we were testing the waters with UN security to see where they were drawing their lines. Here’s how our permit read:
“This is a cleansing ceremony for conference party leaders to cleanse their minds & spirits; for clarity, compassion, strength & perseverance in coming out of the COP negotiations with a binding commitment to Save Mother Earth”
We whipped up 2 banners over night. It would be the first of many late night banner painting sessions:
We assembled with our banners, our prayers, and our message.
Check out this interview with Ben Powless, Mohawk from Six Nations Canada and one time Ruckus trainee: youtube
On December 10th, day 4 of COP 15, International Human Rights Day, and the day Barack Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize, Indigenous Peoples stepped out with something to say. We were calling out the US and its energy policies which escalate ecological devastation and cultural genocide not only for Indigenous People in the United States but also globally.
More late night banner fun with good results:
A scroll with a letter to Obama was prepared and delivered to a representative from the US Embassy. Democracy Now told the story pretty well.
And check out Faith Gemmil and Wahleah Johns on the NBC nightly news:
And if you’re curious, here’s how the scroll read:
As the United States President Barack Obama accepts his Nobel peace prize today, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and First Nations Peoples come to Copenhagen to speak out against the United States energy policy that is detrimentally affecting our lands, health and livelihoods. We represent the following Nations: Mathais, Colomb Cree Nation, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Cree, Nakoda, Blackfoot, Ojibwe, Pit River/ Wintu, Neets’aii, Gwich’in Athabascan, Navajo, Mikisew Cree, Dene, Inupiaq, Oneida, Mayan, and Yaqui.
We support a full and effective participation of Indigenous people within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
We support the free, prior and informed consent, including the right to oppose the extraction of fossil fuels by destructive industries.
We call for the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and other international human rights instruments and agreements.
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 support vibrant green economies: the U.S. assisting Indigenous communities to help supporting a just transition into a green economy, freeing ourselves from dependence on a carbon-based fossil fuel economy
We support the most stringent and binding emission reduction targets: Carbon emissions for developed countries must be reduced by no less than 40%, preferably 49% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 95% by 2050. We call for national and global actions to stabilize CO2 concentrations below 350 parts per million (ppm) and limiting temperature increases to below 1.5ºc.
We oppose false solutions: These include nuclear energy, large-scale dams, geo-engineering techniques, clean coal technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, bio-fuels, tree plantations, and international market-based mechanisms such as carbon trading and offsets, the Clean Development Mechanisms and Flexible Mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol and forest offsets.
Indigenous Peoples of North America
International Human Rights Day: Implement Indigenous Peoples Rights
After the US Embassy we headed back to the Bella Center for another action. The co-chairs of the caucus proposed a human chain in commemoration of International Human Rights Day. It just so happened that the youth caucus were doing a “rainstorm” action just before ours and a blending of youth and Indigenous people was quite a treat.
Unfortunately UN security wasn’t as excited by this swarm of people as we were. So off we went, around the bella center!
I got a “yellow card” for this action; meaning UN security flipped out on me because we moved our human chain around the Bella Center. It was quite the joke around the action team for the next few days…
Faith Gemmil vs Ken Salazar
The day wasn’t over yet for Faith Gemmil. She heard Ken Salazar, secretary US Department of the Interior, was giving a press briefing. With the help of her new friends over at NBC (see the nightly news link above) she managed to get in and address Ken Salazar. Check out the video that was captured as Faith asked her question.
Rolling out the welcome mat for Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper
This was our much anticipated action of the COP. We had first nations folks in the house from tar sands affected communities, and allies from the UK and Canada were also rolling deep. Together with our friends at Rainforest Action Network we decided to roll out the welcome mat for Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and pay the Canadian embassy in Copenhagen a visit, just to let them know we were there. We also thought we’d bring him a welcome basket, with some useful things, like treaties, literature on the tar sands, even one of our “Respect Indigenous Rights” placards (translated into Danish for his convenience):
Oh, did I mention more late night banner painting (Heather is a machine!)
Here’s the press release our action media team pulled together. On the way to this action I got a phone call from Danish police, informing me we were not allowed to assemble at the embassy. Unfortunately for them, there were already about 20 people gathered when we got there, dozens more on their way, and we had no intentions of stopping. After all, we were only there to welcome Harper, drop him a gift basket, and let him know there’s always the opportunity to do the right thing.
Also, around Canada and the UK folks were marking Canada’s oily footprint in their home cities. Check out the UK solidarity action.
NO RIGHTS NO REDDS
This was the last day we knew most of us would have access to the UN. It was also the morning after President Evo Morales of Bolivia had arrived in Copenhagen. Bolivia came to the COP with the most aggressive targets of any government. They also came with a message: RIGHTS FOR MOTHER EARTH.
Delegates from Bolivia came to the Indigenous Caucus with a request for support for a welcoming ceremony and action they wanted to do. We thought it would be a good time to pull out our NO RIGHTS NO REDDS!!! Shirts.
This was also the day of the Reclaim Power action, so at this point, it was all about keeping the energy up until our friends marching outside reached the bella center.
Indigenous Participation in civil society actions:
Marching through the streets of Copenhagen
Watch Tom Goldtooth’s rap at the rally at the end of the march.
In solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Bolivia, we joined them in leading the Reclaim Power march out of the Bella Center to join our comrades on the outside. Here are some of the days highlights
And a few from outside
EJ Groups at the US Embassy
Well, we didn’t think we’d go to the US Embassy twice in one trip, but we thought it’d be worth it to unite with our friends in the Environmental Justice movement in the US. Oh yeah, we had one more delivery for Obama:
And of course, there’s an awesome video
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS…
We’re already in conversations about COP 16. Help us get there! Donate to Ruckus today…