Indigenous land defenders at the COP15 summit highlight that Land Back is essential to protect biodiversity

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Brian Roewe.

There was a Land Back media conference at the UN COP15 biodiversity summit in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal) this past Wednesday December 14.

Mohawk land defender Ellen Gabriel stated: “For centuries, Indigenous peoples have been squeezed into smaller and smaller pieces of land. And yet those pieces of land are still being taken and stolen from us.”

Gabriel added: “These parks, they’re great for recreation. Everybody can come snowshoeing. … But for Indigenous people, we don’t have any rights.”

She further noted: “What Land Back means to us is the freedom. It’s democracy. It’s our voices being heard.”

Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’ also stated: “We know that our very existence relies on the biodiversity on our territories. We have the jurisdiction on biodiversity. We have the jurisdiction to control our lands, and to manage them according to our laws.”

And Aamjiwnaang water protector Vanessa Gray highlighted: “When our communities face industrial violence, not only is our health impacted but our ability to practice our culture and ceremony is impacted. Indigenous people stand together across colonial borders to fight the same extractive infrastructures and companies, we speak our own languages and uphold our responsibilities in solidarity with each other.”

To hear their full comments, watch the 43-minute video of the “Biodiversity can only exist with Land Back” media conference.

Tla’amin land defender Ta’Kaiya Blaney has also been at COP15.

Further reading: Indigenous land defenders sing “Trudeau is a colonizer” as prime minister opens the COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Blaney says: “These international forums that do not allow space for Indigenous leadership outside of the boxes they put us in, refuse to address colonialism and capitalism as the root causes. It’s very clear that it’s just offsetting the responsibility for future generations to deal with the destruction that is currently taking place.”

For a video of Blaney speaking at COP15, click here.

Dene land defender Melissa Daniels has also commented: “Performative reconciliation is using a global platform to self proclaim leadership in conservation/biodiversity & continuing to authorize militarized violence against the Wetʼsuwetʼen, Secwepemc & all other Indigenous ppl who’ve said no extractive industries on their homelands.”

In this Twitter thread Daniels further notes: “The discussions at #COP15 should have been framed around Free, Prior & Informed Consent, Indigenous Rights and Title, & Indigenous Sovereignty and yet all I heard about was an “indigenous-led”, divide and conquer, colonial conservation rebrand.”

Further reading: Melissa Daniels warned against collecting salt on ancestral lands stolen from the Dene peoples (April 2022).

We continue to follow this.

Further reading: The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) denounces 30×30 initiative as “fortress conservation” and Global Biodiversity Framework to be discussed in Montreal amid concerns about Afro-Colombian ancestral rights and title.

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