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Interview - Issue #8

COP26: The Sacrifice of Indigenous People

An interview with Makaśa Looking Horse

Where the Leaves Fall contacted global changemakers for their thoughts and responses to this year’s COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference. Makaśa Looking Horse was born on Six Nations territory (the largest First Nations reserve in Canada) and is Mohawk and Lakota. She has campaigned extensively to secure clean drinking water for her community and was nominated by the UN Global Indigenous Youth Caucus to do the opening words and blessing at the UN Youth Climate Summit in 2019. She is currently studying at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. You can read the edited interview that was published in the print edition of Where the Leaves Fall here.

Where the Leaves Fall What do you feel are the most pressing issues for COP26 to address and why?

Makaśa Looking Horse They should include Indigenous peoples, given the track record outlined in the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: "The natural world is declining at a faster rate than any time in human history. Humans depend on nature’s resources to survive, so this accelerating and unparalleled loss of biodiversity poses a “direct threat” to people living in all regions of the world.”

Indigenous peoples could contribute to global sustainability efforts if provided legal and political rights to use and steward the lands they know so well. Yet, these lands and waters are under growing pressure from industrial development and resource extraction, threatening not only the livelihoods of various fishers, ranchers, herders, and hunters who live there, but also the knowledge they carry with them about managing natural resources.

WtLF What outcomes (and practical measures) would you like to see emerge from COP26?

Makaśa Given the new IPPC21, we are in a dire situation. They must act now and act aggressively but most importantly they must stop the war on Indigenous people who are trying to protect the land and the water through the Standing Rock, Line Three and Land Back Lane protests at Six Nations. Instead, put Indigenous peoples at the forefront of all environmental policy, if they want to see real change. Without Indigenous peoples there will be a deafening silence regarding Indigenous nations inclusion in the COP26.

‘Indigenous peoples could contribute to global sustainability efforts if provided legal and political rights to use and steward the lands they know so well.’

— Makaśa Looking Horse

WtLF How optimistic are you that COP26 will deliver positive change, and why?

Makaśa Given their track record, not optimistic at all. Canada has supported pipelines and the tar sands, which to Indigenous people speaks volumes.

WtLF What do the world leaders, and everyone else, need to change on a personal level?

Makaśa The changes we could make on a personal level, like me? We do not even have access to clean drinking water. What more sacrifices do Indigenous peoples need to make? On my Lakota side we have $1.8bn sitting in a US Treasury trust fund for sale of the Black Hills. My Six Nations side turned down $93m for the sale of a few occurrences of land that we fought to keep from development. Do we need the money? Yes, poverty is real. I don't think we need to sacrifice. I think we need to show the rest of the world how to sacrifice in order to sustain life on this planet.

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