Last week, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation became the first indigenous tribe to declare an official climate emergency. Like other nations that have made similar declarations, the announcement is not backed with funding but rather is an official call to action. Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm is hopeful that the declaration will spur a domino effect among indigenous groups and lead to an Indigenous Climate Accord.
“The indigenous peoples have been left out of the Paris Climate Accord,” Tizya-Tramm said. “We’ve gotten a nod in the preamble, but where are the national and international public forums for indigenous voices?”
In June, the Gwitchin Steering Committee is planning an Arctic Indigenous Climate Summit and hopes that many different groups will come together to discuss their shared climate problems and possible plans of actions that are stronger than even the Paris Agreement.
The Vuntut Gwitchin is a northern tribe in Canada’s Yukon territory, where melting icecaps are an unavoidable daily truth. “We’re seeing it in the priming of furs, in the emptying of lakes, in the return of animals, such as, this year, the geese coming before the black ducks, which we hadn’t seen before,” Tizya-Tramm said. “It’s about bringing that to the rest of the community, nationally.”
Few media outlets reported on this major declaration from May 19, but indigenous groups have been prominent climate activists across the globe, including leading pipeline protests at Standing Rock and leading water justice actions. Traditional knowledge will likely be a critical ingredient for determining solutions to reduce the climate crisis, but international discussions largely ignore indigenous voices.
Other nations to declare climate emergencies include the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
Image via Bureau of Land Management