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Global plastics negotiations include a focus on Arctic Indigenous peoples' concerns

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

As world delegates prepare for a crucial U.N. meeting in Canada, Arctic Indigenous communities emphasize the urgent need to address plastic pollution impacting their health and environment. James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News.In short:Delegates from nearly 180 countries will meet in Ottawa on April 23 to progress a treaty aimed at curbing plastic pollution, considering the lifecycle of plastics from production to disposal.Arctic Indigenous representatives will present new scientific findings on the presence of harmful plastics in traditional foods like walruses and seals, highlighting the risks to their communities.The negotiations, which have previously stalled, are seen as a critical opportunity to establish a comprehensive global agreement by year's end.Key quote: "To learn that these microplastics are ending up in our main foods, but also in our bodies, is yet another alarm for the decision makers." — Vi Waghiyi, environmental health and justice director, Alaska Community Action on ToxicsWhy this matters: The outcome of these talks is important not only for global environmental health but also for the health outcomes of Arctic populations, who are disproportionately affected by pollution due to their subsistence lifestyles. Read more: “Plastic will overwhelm us:” Scientists say health should be the core of global plastic treaty.

As world delegates prepare for a crucial U.N. meeting in Canada, Arctic Indigenous communities emphasize the urgent need to address plastic pollution impacting their health and environment. James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News.In short:Delegates from nearly 180 countries will meet in Ottawa on April 23 to progress a treaty aimed at curbing plastic pollution, considering the lifecycle of plastics from production to disposal.Arctic Indigenous representatives will present new scientific findings on the presence of harmful plastics in traditional foods like walruses and seals, highlighting the risks to their communities.The negotiations, which have previously stalled, are seen as a critical opportunity to establish a comprehensive global agreement by year's end.Key quote: "To learn that these microplastics are ending up in our main foods, but also in our bodies, is yet another alarm for the decision makers." — Vi Waghiyi, environmental health and justice director, Alaska Community Action on ToxicsWhy this matters: The outcome of these talks is important not only for global environmental health but also for the health outcomes of Arctic populations, who are disproportionately affected by pollution due to their subsistence lifestyles. Read more: “Plastic will overwhelm us:” Scientists say health should be the core of global plastic treaty.



As world delegates prepare for a crucial U.N. meeting in Canada, Arctic Indigenous communities emphasize the urgent need to address plastic pollution impacting their health and environment.

James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News.


In short:

  • Delegates from nearly 180 countries will meet in Ottawa on April 23 to progress a treaty aimed at curbing plastic pollution, considering the lifecycle of plastics from production to disposal.
  • Arctic Indigenous representatives will present new scientific findings on the presence of harmful plastics in traditional foods like walruses and seals, highlighting the risks to their communities.
  • The negotiations, which have previously stalled, are seen as a critical opportunity to establish a comprehensive global agreement by year's end.

Key quote:

"To learn that these microplastics are ending up in our main foods, but also in our bodies, is yet another alarm for the decision makers."

— Vi Waghiyi, environmental health and justice director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Why this matters:

The outcome of these talks is important not only for global environmental health but also for the health outcomes of Arctic populations, who are disproportionately affected by pollution due to their subsistence lifestyles. Read more: “Plastic will overwhelm us:” Scientists say health should be the core of global plastic treaty.

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of

For Oregon tribes, retracing the Rogue River Trail of Tears helps heal old wounds

The forced removal of Indigenous people from the Rogue River Valley still resonates in Oregon.

Forged by an explosive volcanic eruption in southwest Oregon, Table Rocks took their shape over millions of years, carved by the steady waters of the Rogue River, which now flows more than 800 feet below the rim.Every autumn, as temperatures drop and rainclouds return, acorns fall from oak trees that surround the pair of flat-topped mesas. The return of the acorns precedes the return of Native peoples, who gather the bitter nuts, grind them up and turn them into a nutritious mush – a practice that goes back millennia.In recent years, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians have created opportunities for members to reforge connections to the lands their ancestors knew intimately. Their removal from this place in 1856, an event some historians call the Rogue River Trail of Tears, has become a road map that many tribal members are retracing into the future.In the fall, the two tribes come together to gather acorns at an event called Acorn Camp in southwest Oregon. This June, they will host their first joint Camas Camp, where they will harvest camas lilies and other spring plants. And, just after Memorial Day Weekend, the Siletz tribe will host its annual Run to the Rogue marathon, a 216-mile relay down the coastline and up the Rogue River.Greg Archuleta, cultural policy analyst with the Grand Ronde tribe, said the current focus is on refamiliarizing tribal members with the places of their ancestors, as well as passing down practices that have survived for generations.“Our primary focus right now is really to get tribal members out on the landscape,” Archuleta said. “It’s all about presence.”That presence has also created a new sense of home for many Indigenous families who have spent generations living elsewhere – on reservations far away, in bigger cities or out of the region altogether.“It’s kind of like meeting a relative that you’ve heard about for a long time but never had a chance to meet,” Robert Kentta, tribal council member for the Siletz tribe, said of returning to southwest Oregon. “That connection is still there.”A popular hiking trail leads up to and around Upper Table Rock, a volcanic plateau near Medford in southern Oregon.Jamie Hale/The OregonianRobert Kentta, tribal council member for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, stands on former reservation land that once belonged to his great-grandfather, who was removed from southwest Oregon in 1856. Jamie Hale/The OregonianTRAUMA AT TABLE ROCKSFor tribal members, revisiting Table Rocks isn’t always easy. There is trauma there, buried in the ground, filling the recesses of the hard, volcanic rock.At the start of the 19th century, the region was home to the Takelma, Shastan and Athabaskan peoples who had lived in the area for untold generations. But it was also becoming home to a growing number of non-Indigenous settlers. The first to arrive, French fur trappers called the Indigenous people in the region “rogues,” a derogatory nickname that was often used as a justification for violence, according to historian Gray Whaley in “Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee.”When gold miners showed up in 1849, they treated the “rogues” as a threat, and waged an open campaign of extermination, according to historical documents. That first year, a militia killed 60 Indigenous people after allegedly finding an Indigenous man “secreted” in a white woman’s home, according to Whaley. Tribal historians say their ancestors suffered violence both casual and organized, by both local militias and the U.S. Army.“Pretty much the whole philosophy was to exterminate the Indians,” Archuleta said. “It was something that was pretty extreme during that time.”In 1853, many of the Rogue River peoples gathered at Table Rocks to sign a treaty with the U.S. government in which they agreed to cede the lands in exchange for a permanent reservation, where they might be safe. Violence from militias continued during the treaty negotiations, an attempt to derail the process, tribal historians said. After signing the treaty, the people were removed to a temporary reservation at Table Rocks, where hardships continued.Being forced to remain in one location kept the Rogue River peoples from their traditionally mobile practices of gathering, hunting and creating seasonal homes, resulting in starvation in addition to disease and continued attacks, according to historians. Those who left the reservation were often hunted down and killed by local militias.The situation came to a head in 1855, when the deaths of two packers were blamed on Indigenous men. A white militia seeking to avenge the deaths left under the cover of darkness to the Table Rock Reservation, where they killed about 25 people sleeping by the banks of the river, according to historical accounts. As they left, the militiamen killed another 50 to 80 Indigenous people in the area, most of whom were women and children.The violence was particularly brutal. One witness recalled seeing two elderly women who were bashed to death with clubs and a child who was “taken by the heels and its brains dashed out against a tree.” According to Whaley, one attacker later said that while the extermination made him feel bad, “the understanding was that [the Indians] were all to be killed. So we did that work.”In response to the attacks, a group of Indigenous leaders retaliated with raids on homesteads and settlements. In less than a year, roughly 250 Indigenous people were killed, along with some 50 non-Indigenous soldiers and 44 civilians, according to historical records.Table Rocks are a pair of volcanic mesas above the Rogue River in southwest Oregon.Jamie Hale/The OregonianTravis Stewart, director of the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center in Grand Ronde, stands outside a plankhouse named achaf-hammi.Jamie Hale/The OregonianA winter landscape at Fern Ridge Lake, a reservoir on the Long Tom River outside Eugene that is on the historic pathway of the Rogue River Trail of Tears.Jamie Hale/The OregonianTribal members have been holding those horrific memories for generations.“We have these historical legal traumas as well as physical and emotional and spiritual traumas,” which metastasized into issues like substance abuse and domestic violence, Kentta said. “We often hear about elders who don’t want to be hugged.”Kentta’s great-grandfather was 7 or 8 years old when his people were removed from their homelands. After the boy’s father was killed, his mother left him with his paternal grandparents while she left to find her family. She never returned. The boy left southwest Oregon as an orphan.In February 1856, amid the fighting, U.S. soldiers led by Bureau of Indian Affairs agent George Ambrose moved 325 people by foot from the Table Rocks Reservation to a place that would become the Grand Ronde Reservation, 263 miles away. The 33-day journey went over mountains and along rivers, north through the Willamette Valley, roughly following the future Interstate 5 corridor, and up into the Coast Range.Aside from the rugged environment, winter weather and generally poor conditions, the captive travelers also faced the constant threat of violence from militiamen stalking the group. Ambrose, who apprehended one man, eventually dissuaded militias from murdering members of the group, though casualties still mounted. According to Ambrose’s journal, the journey saw eight deaths among the captives – as well as eight births.The Rogue River people who chose to stay and fight against removal held out until that summer, eventually surrendering after brutal losses. The surviving holdouts were taken to both the Grand Ronde and Siletz/Coast reservations, according to tribal historians.Despite generations of oppression and the attempted genocide of a people, leaders in the Grand Ronde and Siletz tribes said they prefer a frame of resilience.“There’s pride in the resilience of our ancestors,” Kentta said. “And some of it’s probably a stroke of luck that they didn’t get swept away.”A view of Spirit Mountain from Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area in Grand Ronde. Jamie Hale/The OregonianChris Mercier, vice chair of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal council, stands in the Uyxat Powwow Grounds at the Grand Ronde Community. Jamie Hale/The OregonianHOMECOMINGIn the Grand Ronde Community, just a mile down the road from the tribe’s Spirit Mountain Casino, is a quiet place: the Uyxat Powwow Grounds, home to an outdoor arena lined with turf and a large ceremonial plankhouse named achaf-hammi.Outside the plankhouse is a tall gray pole carved from a single western redcedar tree, marking this place as the end of the Rogue River Trail of Tears.Travis Stewart, director of the tribe’s Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center, created the pole with a carving group for the plankhouse’s dedication in 2010. Standing at the base of the roughly 26-foot pole, he pointed out the headman at the top and coyote running down either side. The length of the pole is decorated with five tiers of faces representing five treaties signed by the tribe, he said, each face crying a stream of tears.Those tears are not just from grief, Stewart explained, “they’re bringing their generational knowledge to this place and it’s coming out into the ground here.”Traditional practices like carving and basket weaving, as well as harvesting plants for food and medicine, are now representations of the resiliency of Indigenous people throughout generations of hardship, Stewart said. The pole, the plankhouse, and events like Acorn Camp and Camas Camp are proof that this generational knowledge still exists.“There was a lot of effort and sacrifice on behalf of those old people that made tough decisions ultimately in order to preserve that (knowledge),” Stewart said. “It’s a responsibility of ours to continue that.”After the removal from southwest Oregon, the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations became home to more Indigenous survivors, people from neighboring lands who spoke different languages, ate different food and practiced their own customs. At first, most people kept to their own (going so far as to organize themselves geographically), according to tribal historians, but as the U.S. Government shrank the reservations – Siletz from 1.1 million acres to nearly 17,000 today, Grand Ronde from 61,000 acres to 11,500 today – the people came together, creating new tribal communities.“We’ve made our footprint here,” said Chris Mercier, vice chair of the Grand Ronde tribal council. “It wasn’t under the best circumstances that the tribal people were ushered up here, but I like the fact that we’ve established this community, one that’s been existing for over 150 years now.”Of the 5,700 enrolled members of the Grand Ronde tribe, only about 1,200 today live in or around Grand Ronde, Mercier said. But those who do enjoy a tight-knit community, where the past, present and future of the tribe seem to collide at every turn.The Rogue River runs through Valley of the Rogue State Park near Grants Pass in southern Oregon. Jamie Hale/The OregonianBuddy Lane, cultural resources manager for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, stands on the banks of the Siletz River down the road from the tribe’s headquarters.Jamie Hale/The OregonianThe Siletz River flows through the Coast Range near the Siletz Reservation. Jamie Hale/The OregonianFor several generations after removal, people didn’t want to directly confront the traumas of the past, tribal leaders said. That was in large part due to ongoing struggles, including being forced to send their children to boarding schools, which were rampant with abuse, and the 1954 termination of western Oregon tribes, during which the government severed all federal support.Only in the past few decades have the tribes directly faced the past, they said, seeking healing through conversation, support and returning to places of tragedy.In the mid 1990s, the Siletz tribe started Run to the Rogue, in which tribal members run and walk their way down the coastline, then up the Rogue River to a place called Oak Flat, about 50 miles from Table Rocks, where in 1856 several bands of the tribe’s ancestors surrendered to the U.S. Army.Buddy Lane, cultural resources manager for the tribe, has been organizing the event since 2012. He said runners of all abilities participate to different degrees. The tribe’s youngest members take the first mile in Siletz, and the elders take the final mile to Oak Flat. The strongest runners take the hardest miles along U.S. 101 at Cape Perpetua, a stretch Lane has done before.“The trek is a lot easier than it was for our ancestors,” Lane said.Many tribal members follow runners along the route, supporting their effort and finding ways to reconnect with their roots, he said. Some pay visits to the lands where their families once lived, or gather in parks, staying up late into the night as runners come and go.“It’s an emotionally charged event,” Lane said. “We’re not celebrating something, but we’re remembering things and making sure those folks with stories are not forgotten.”The relay, along with the Acorn Camp and Camas Camp, represents a new generation of tribal members who are actively connecting with their past through new experiences in the present, they said. The fact that these homecoming events all include a return trip back home – to Siletz, Grand Ronde and other places – underlines a complex question: What is “home” to a displaced people?For Kentta, who has lived his whole life in Siletz and whose ancestors are from the Applegate Valley as well as Finland, southwest Oregon is like a home away from home.“Whenever I’m in the Rogue Valley it’s kind of an emotional feeling of like a connection, even though I didn’t grow up there,” he said. “It’s an ancestral home rather than my current home.”Archuleta grew up primarily in east Portland and traces his ancestry to the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas Chinook, Cascades Chinook, Santiam Kalapooia, Shasta and Rogue River peoples. He has family ties to the Warm Springs, Yakama, Siletz and Klamath tribes. “Pretty much all of western Oregon” is home, he said.“It’s really each person, each family’s perspective of how they see it,” he said.While many other places may be home, for these sister tribes, there’s still something special about the land in southwest Oregon. Table Rocks has always been an important place, a site of harvest and ritual, as well as the setting of creation stories, tribal historians said. Today, for non-Indigenous people, Lower Table Rock and Upper Table Rock are primarily places for recreation and conservation, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy.The area is home to more than 340 species of plants and 70 animals, including the tiny dwarf-wooly meadowfoam wildflower, which grows nowhere else in the world, as well as a threatened species of fairy shrimp, which hatches in vernal pools that form in the rocky soil every winter.For the descendants of the Takelma, Shastan and Athabaskan people, it is also once again becoming a place to build community, while communing with a landscape that holds a rich and complicated history.“Some of these activities that we’re doing is to bring back healing, bring back families together, and to connect to the landscape, and to continue that stewardship and responsibility to the land,” Archuleta said. “Just being able to fish in a place where your ancestor fished or gathered … it’s restoring what’s always been there, and what’s always been in our hearts and minds.”--Jamie Hale covers travel and the outdoors and co-hosts the Peak Northwest podcast. Reach him at 503-294-4077, jhale@oregonian.com or @HaleJamesB.Our journalism needs your support. Subscribe today to OregonLive.com.

Winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize Use Courts to Contest Oil Projects

Around the world, grass-roots organizers and Indigenous communities are taking proposed coal, oil and gas projects to court — and winning.

You have been granted access, use your keyboard to continue reading.Environmental Prize Highlights Work to Keep Fossil Fuels at BayAround the world, grass-roots organizers and Indigenous communities are taking proposed coal, oil and gas projects to court — and winning.Wild Coast residents demonstrated against Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to start seismic surveys for petroleum exploration at Mzamba Beach, Sigidi, South Africa, in 2021.Credit...Rogan Ward/ReutersApril 29, 2024, 1:09 p.m. ETNew coal mines continue to open each year, and oil and gas companies are still exploring new parts of the world. But increasingly, people — especially Indigenous communities — are saying no to new fossil fuel developments on their land and using courts and legislatures to deliver the message.In India, protests by Adivasi communities persuaded officials to cancel the auction of land for coal mines in the biodiverse forests of Chhattisgarh State. In South Africa, the Mpondo people stopped the Shell Global company from carrying out seismic surveys for oil and gas off the Wild Coast. In Australia, First Nations people blocked development of a coal mine in Queensland.These legal victories occurred within the past three years. On Monday, leaders of these and other grass-roots environmental movements, spanning six countries, won the Goldman Environmental Prize.“One of the things we’ve seen in recent years is that environmental law, protection of natural resources, has become intertwined with human rights law and the law of Indigenous people,” said Michael Sutton, an environmental lawyer and the executive director of the Goldman Environmental Foundation.Forcing these types of cases is the fact that as climate concerns have risen so has exploration for fossil fuels in many places, said Carla García Zendejas, a lawyer and director of the People, Land & Resources program at the Center for International Environmental Law.“With all the decisions that are being made for climate change, trying to address the climate crisis,” Ms. García Zendejas said, “it seems that the oil companies are just trying to get every drop of oil out of the ground as soon as possible, before permits and concessions are halted or revoked or stopped.”In most countries, a proposed project to extract natural resources must undergo an environmental review process, she said. And people living in the areas have a legal right to access information about the proposed project.In 2021, locals in Mpondoland on the Wild Coast of South Africa learned from visiting tourists and guides that a project was underway to conduct seismic surveys for oil and gas off their shore.“It was a shock for us to hear that the Department of Minerals and Energy has already given permission for Shell to explore oil and gas,” Nonhle Mbuthuma, a local resident and community organizer, said. “But the people on the ground were not aware.”She had co-founded a group called the Amadiba Crisis Committee — originally to fight a proposed titanium mine — which she quickly mobilized to oppose the seismic surveys.Ms. Mbuthuma is one of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, along with Sinegugu Zukulu, a program manager for a local NGO called Sustaining the Wild Coast.The region’s coastal waters provide habitat for dolphins, whales and many migratory fish species. Communities in the area depend on fishing and eco-tourism for their livelihoods.“When you talk about the ocean to the people of Wild Coast, the ocean is home to us,” Ms. Mbuthuma said. “The ocean is the economy.”Seismic testing can harm wildlife — damaging marine animals’ hearing, disrupting their natural behaviors and causing them to leave affected areas. Studies of smaller invertebrate species like lobsters, scallops and zooplankton have found that some species become injured or sick enough to die after exposure to seismic air guns.Both coastal and inland communities in the region mobilized to oppose the project, “speaking in one voice to say no to oil and gas,” Ms. Mbuthuma said.Ms. Mbuthuma and Mr. Zukulu, along with other community members, filed a legal challenge to the project’s environmental approval, arguing that local people hadn’t been properly consulted. In 2022, South Africa’s High Court ruled in their favor and rescinded Shell’s permit.Shell did not respond to a request for comment, but the company has appealed the court’s decision.The Mpondo people are concerned not only about direct threats to their livelihoods and about local pollution, but also about global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels, Mr. Zukulu said. “It wasn’t just us in our land, in our little corner,” he said. “It is a global challenge.”Similar local fights are playing out around the world. In quickly developing countries, demand for energy is still rising as more people gain access to electricity and economies grow.In India, more than 70 percent of electricity currently comes from coal, and more than 20 percent of that coal comes from Chhattisgarh State.For years, India’s central government went back and forth on whether to open the state’s Hasdeo Aranya forest to coal mining or to declare it a “no go” zone. The forest is home to dozens of rare and endangered species, including the Asian elephant. About 15,000 Adivasi people in the region depend on the forest for their traditional ways of life.But Hasdeo Aranya also sits on top of one of the country’s largest coal reserves.“It represents a very unique microcosm of all the environmental and social justice movements that exist in India,” said Alok Shukla, another winner of this year’s Goldman prize, through a translator. Mr. Shukla helped found the local Save Hasdeo Aranya Resistance Committee, and also convenes an alliance of grass-roots movements in the state called the Save Chhattisgarh Movement.With help from Mr. Shukla and other organizers, residents of the region have protested the proposed mines for years, and successfully lobbied for a protected elephant reserve in the forest. In 2020, the government announced a new set of land auctions for potential coal mines, setting off a new wave of protests.Neither India’s Ministry of Coal nor Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change responded to requests for comment.In October 2021, 500 villagers went on a 10-day march to the state capital, Raipur. The following spring, women in several villages began a weekslong tree-hugging protest, employing a tactic used to stop deforestation in northern India in the 1970s.That summer, Chhattisgarh’s state legislature adopted a resolution against mining in the region.Other winners of this year’s Goldman prize include a lawyer from Spain who won legal rights for Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon; an activist from the United States for work to limit carbon emissions from freight trucks and trains in California; and a journalist from Brazil who traced the beef supply chain back to illegal deforestation, persuading major supermarkets to boycott illegally sourced meat.In Australia, Murrawah Maroochy Johnson, a young Indigenous Wirdi woman, won the Goldman prize also for work blocking coal mining on her community’s land. Ms. Maroochy Johnson argued in court that the greenhouse gases released from this mine would violate the human rights of First Nations people across Australia.Mr. Shukla hopes that their actions inspire others around the world.“There is a way that local communities can actually resist even the most powerful corporations using just their resolve and peaceful, democratic means,” he said.Enjoy unlimited access to all of The Times.6-month Welcome Offeroriginal price:   $6.25sale price:   $1/weekLearn more

Acre-by-acre, the Prairie Band Potawatomi bought back their land

After almost two centuries, the Indigenous Nation is reestablishing the only reservation in Illinois.

Last week, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation began efforts to re-establish the only federal Indian reservation in Illinois, formally confirming the Tribe’s governance over its land. The move could have wide-ranging impacts on matters ranging from criminal justice to climate and environmental jurisdiction. The Prairie Band Potawatomi have spent years purchasing land in northern Illinois where the Shab-eh-nay Reservation once existed, and last week, the Nation turned 130 acres of those lands over to the Department of Interior to hold in trust — a bureaucratic process that legally establishes tribal governance and opens tribes up to a range of benefits including tax credits, federal contract preferences, and land use exemptions. “Now those lands are subject to our laws, our jurisdiction, and the nation determines what — if any — actions will happen on those lands,” said Joseph Rupnick, chairman of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and fourth generation great grandson of Chief Shab-eh-nay, the original reservation’s namesake.  In the early 18th century, as the United States expanded westward, the federal government took massive swaths of land from Indigenous nations throughout the Midwest, including from the Prairie Band Potawatomi, via armed conflicts and nearly a dozen skewed treaties.  The 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien with the Nation reserved land in present day northern Illinois for Chief Shab-eh-nay and the Prairie Band, where they remained for another two decades. However, in 1849, Shab-eh-nay left the reservation to visit Kansas and on his return found that the state had taken his land and home and illegally auctioned it. “The state of Illinois said he abandoned his land and sold it,” said Rupnick. Tribes relinquished millions of acres in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin to the federal government by the mid 1800’s, and nations in the region were eventually removed from the state to lands west of the Mississippi River. The Prairie Band has spent nearly a century working to reclaim those lands, paying to buy land back acre-by-acre. “Congress never took any action to disestablish that reservation,” said Rupnick. “So in our minds, it still exists.” Last year, federal legislation was introduced to redress that seizure of Potawatomi land, and companion bills promised cash settlements to the band to reacquire additional lands in and around the original reservation’s boundaries. The proposed bill would also waive the band’s historical claims to the vast majority of its former territory. “The decision to put portions of the Shab-eh-nay Reservation into Trust is an important step to returning the land that is rightfully theirs,” said U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a co-sponsor of the bill. “I am so honored to represent the first federally-recognized reservation in Illinois.” Efforts to make the band whole have also been ongoing at the state level, too.  “It’s well overdue,” said Illinois State Representative Mark Walker, the sponsor of a bill lawmakers are currently considering that would turn over Shabbona Lake State Park, just over 1,500 acres inside the historic footprint of the reservation, to the Prairie Band Potawatomi nation. That means it’s now up to the Tribe to take over jurisdiction of the land, everything from law enforcement to natural resource management.  “At this time, we have various options for utilizing the trust lands, and no immediate changes have been decided upon,” according to a spokesperson for the Tribe,   In an email statement from DOI, a spokesman confirmed the transfer and continued, “It is the Department’s policy to acquire land in trust for Tribes to strengthen self-determination and sovereignty, and to ensure that every Tribe has protected homelands where its citizens can maintain their Tribal existence and way of life.” “I have pictures of my great grandmother and my grandmother coming up here in the sixties trying to fight for this land,” Rupnick said. He wasn’t sure he’d live to see this day. “To have it actually happen today is amazing.” This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Acre-by-acre, the Prairie Band Potawatomi bought back their land on Apr 23, 2024.

Indigenous peoples rush to stop ‘false climate solutions’ ahead of next international climate meeting

COP29 could make carbon markets permanent. Indigenous leaders are calling for a moratorium before it's too late.

This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, High Country News, ICT, Mongabay, Native News Online, and APTN. For more than 20 years, Tom Goldtooth has listened to conversations about the negative impacts fossil fuels and carbon markets have on Indigenous peoples. On Wednesday, Goldtooth and the Indigenous Environmental Network, or IEN, called for a permanent end to carbon markets. Beyond being an ineffective tool for mitigating climate change, the organization argues; they harm, exploit, and divide Native communities around the world.  The recommendation was delivered to a crowd of Indigenous activists, policymakers, and leaders at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, and is the most comprehensive moratorium on the issue the panel has ever heard. If adopted, the position would pressure other United Nations agencies — like the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC — to take a similar stance. The heightened urgency stems from the COP29 gathering planned later this year, when provisions in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on carbon market structures are expected to be finalized.  “We are long overdue for a moratorium on false climate solutions like carbon markets,” said Goldtooth, who is Diné and Dakota and executive director of IEN. “It’s a life and death situation with our people related to the mitigation solutions that are being negotiated, especially under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 is all about carbon markets, which is a smokescreen, which is a loophole [that keeps] fossil fuel polluters from agreeing to phase out carbon.” Tom Goldtooth delivers a speech during the “The vision of indigenous peoples to climate change” event in December 2015. Dominique Faget / AFP via Getty Images The Network’s language on “false climate solutions” is intentional. Tamra Gilbertson, the organization’s climate justice program coordinator and researcher, said a false climate solution is anything that looks like a tool for reducing emissions or fighting climate change but allows extractive companies to continue profiting from the fossil fuels driving the crisis.  “Carbon markets have been set up by the polluting industries,” Gilbertson said. “The premise of carbon markets as a good mitigation outcome or a good mitigation program for the UNFCCC is in and of itself a flawed concept. And we know that because of who’s put it together.” The carbon market moratorium the Network called for would end carbon dioxide removal projects like carbon capture and storage; forest, soil, and ocean offsets; nature-based solutions; debt-for-nature swaps; biodiversity offsets, and other geoengineering technologies.  This year’s moratorium recommendation builds on a similar proposal the IEN offered at last year’s Forum, when it called for a stop to carbon markets until Indigenous communities could “thoroughly investigate the impacts and make appropriate demands.” That call led to an international meeting in January, where Native experts discussed the impacts a green economy has and would have on their communities. Ultimately, the participants produced a report detailing how green economy projects and initiatives can create a new way to colonize Indigenous Peoples’ lands and territories.  Darío José Mejía Montalvo, of the Zenú tribe in Colombia, participated in the January meeting and has chaired a previous UNPFII. He highlighted the report during a UN session last week.  “The transition towards a green economy [keeps] starting from the same extractivist-based logic that prioritizes the private sector, which is guided by national economic interests of multinationals, which ignores the fights of Indigenous people, the fight against climate change, and the fight against poverty,” Montalvo said, according to a UN translation of a speech he delivered in Spanish.  Dario Jose Mejia Montalvo speaks during an interview with AFP at the Amazon Dialogues Seminar on August 6, 2023. Evaristo Sa / AFP via Getty Images Goldtooth and Gilbertson say that, while the January report established wider consensus around the negative impacts of the green economy, the IEN felt that the report’s recommendations were unclear and did not go far enough to discourage the growth of carbon markets – which is why the organization is calling for a permanent moratorium.  “We have to do everything that we can from every direction we possibly can in this climate emergency that we’re in, because we don’t have a lot more time,” Gilbertson said. If carbon markets are enshrined in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as they are currently written and become a more powerful international network, “we are in a whole new era of linked-up global carbon markets like we’ve never seen before. And then we’re stuck with it.” Under the Paris Agreement, countries submit plans detailing how they will reduce emissions or increase carbon sequestration. Article 6 provides pathways for nations to cooperate on a voluntary basis and trade emissions to achieve their climate goals. More specifically, paragraph 6.4 would create a centralized market and lead to large-scale implementation of emission reductions trading. The nuances of these structures and how carbon markets are presented in Article 6 has far-reaching impacts: A report released in November by the International Emissions Trading Association, or IETA, showed that 80 percent of all countries indicate they will or would use carbon markets to meet their climate goals. In its current form, carbon offset projects as described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement would further threaten Indigenous land tenure and access to resources. If finalized in November, pilot projects are expected to start as soon as January 2025.  At this year’s Forum, organizations like the United Nations Development Program, Climate Focus, Forests Peoples Programme, and Rainforest US discussed new initiatives to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights within a carbon market. In particular, there’s increased attention on policies that would more effectively incorporate free, prior, and informed consent, or FPIC, into carbon offset operations. But Kimaren Riamit, executive director of ILEPA-Kenya, an Indigenous-led nonprofit, said the foundation that must be established even before FPIC is better recognized Indigenous self-determination – agency for tribes to decide for themselves if they want to engage in carbon market projects at all.  “FPIC without enablers of self determination is useless because what do you give consent over when your land rights are not there? What do you give consent of if you are not part of the decision governance arrangement?” said Riamit, who is of the Maasai tribe in Kenya. Enablers of self-determination include protections for Indigenous land sovereignty and land tenure security. Riamit says that, in carbon market projects, free, prior, and informed consent has become a strategic tool and a confusing exercise in disseminating information rather than a way of  obtaining meaningful consent from tribes. There must be a deliberate and full disclosure to tribes of what they are agreeing to when engaging in a carbon market project, and time for them to digest the information, consult internally, provide feedback, and – critically – “be able to say no.”  It’s notable to Riamit that carbon offset companies don’t advocate strongly, if at all, for improved self-determination of the Indigenous communities they work with.  “They don’t sharpen a knife to slaughter themselves,” he said.  This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Indigenous peoples rush to stop ‘false climate solutions’ ahead of next international climate meeting on Apr 22, 2024.

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