On Sunday, Indigenous leaders, activists, and their allies gathered along the banks of Bassin de la Villette, Paris’s largest man-made lake, as 25 Indigenous activists from North and South America formed a canoe flotilla on the lake. Renowned Indigenous North American climate activists from the Ponca Nation in Oklahoma to the Tla’Amin First Nation from British Columbia to Lummi Nation youth from Washington State, among others, participated in the event.
The purpose of the flotilla was to call upon the world’s governments to include the rights of Indigenous people in the text of the UN climate summit’s international deal, which is expected to be finalized in the coming days, and to highlight the relationship between people and water. The inclusion of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the legally binding portion of the agreement is a contentious issue at the climate talks. Several countries — including the United States, Norway, and Australia — have worked to eliminate Indigenous rights from the binding parts of the agreement, and include them only in the “aspirational” preamble. So far, they have succeeded — the latest version of the agreement, released on December 9, references Indigenous rights only in the non-binding introduction.
“It’s key that we are here as Indigenous peoples because we are the frontline communities,” said Dallas Goldtooth of Indigenous Rising, which works to defend Indigenous rights. “Our communities are the first ones to feel the affects of climate change.”
Speaking at the event, he continued, “Our communities are impacted and our traditional ways of life are at risk of being destroyed and even up until yesterday, governments of the world refused to let the rights of Indigenous peoples to be put into the Paris agreement. That is not acceptable, the rights of Indigenous peoples must be respected and acknowledged in a legally binding text of the Paris agreement. That is non-negotiable.”