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Worlds Apart: Indigenous Leaders Abandon Faith in UN to Find Climate Solution

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

GHOST RANCH, N.M. - As United Nations delegates gather in Warsaw in the 19th annual effort to craft a global climate treaty, indigenous leaders from across North America met half a world away and offered a prophecy: The solution to climate change will never come via the UN talks.

Tribal elders from the United States, Greenland and Mexico spoke of the need for individual action rather than government edicts, and of the difficulty - and urgency - of replacing economic questions with moral ones.

They spoke of grandfathers and grandmothers, of battles with alcoholism and disenfranchisement, of a world that's changing around them and a need to do something for their grandchildren. Most of all, though, they talked of a need for a new direction in an increasingly unsustainable world.

Organized by the Bozeman, Mont.- based American Indian Institute, the gathering drew about 65 people from across North America.



Different palette

Here amid the hills and mesas that painter Georgia O'Keeffe made famous, these elders presented a different palette with which to look at environmental woes. They placed little faith in the weighty United Nations process that opened Monday and will draw thousands of people to Warsaw over the next two weeks to try to find a way to stem emissions of greenhouse gases.

"I have nothing to say to them," said Angaangaq, an Inuk known here as Uncle and who since 1975 has been "runner" for his elders in Greenland, spreading their words worldwide. "Not one of those United Nations people responsible has ever changed."

"They are orators of the highest quality, but ... the time for excuses has gone long ago."

The dismissal of the UN was all the more striking given that it came from those who, in the 1970s, spearheaded the quest to have the world body recognize indigenous rights.

Forty years later, they have moved on.   


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