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People Across the U.S. Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day Through Climate Justice Education

October 2010

The below press release from Grassroots International’s ally the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) discusses some of the events that were held on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. IEN is a network of indigenous peoples who focus on creating sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice, and maintaining indigenous traditions.

October 12, 2010, United States – Indigenous people’s movements around the globe have called for a day of action for climate justice on October 12, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  “As we prepare for the next round of U.N. Climate Negotiations in Mexico next month, we are voicing our clear opposition to false market-based climate policies,” said Jihan Gearon, Energy Organizer for the U.S.-based Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). “Our actions and those of our allies this October 12 are part of the growing momentum in favor of real system change.”

In response to the October 12 call, many groups are engaging in educational workshops to stimulate long-term action for climate justice.
The Los Angeles-based Bus Riders’ Union and Labor/Community Strategy Center and the Black Mountain Water Coalition on the Navajo Nation in Arizona will hold workshops on the Cochabamba Peoples’ Declaration on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth; the San Antonio, Texas-based Southwest Workers Union will host a community garden workday and ongoing education linking Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro to California’s Proposition 23. The objectives of these educational activities is to build grassroots capacity to address the climate crisis directly.

These local struggles and others around the globe are linked by a common commitment to global well-being, human rights and the rights of nature, and the growing awareness that efforts to mitigate the climate crisis must be rooted in equity, economic justice, and the dignity of all peoples.

The October 12 events occur following another day of climate action, the 10/10/10 Global Work Party. “However,” says Jihan Gearon, “the call to action for Indigenous Peoples’ Day is distinct. Native people are not ‘just getting to work’ to stop global warming. We’ve been caretaking the natural environment since the beginning of time. Only now that it’s almost too late, people outside our communities are beginning to get the message.”

“Our approach is not simply to address the symptoms of the problem,” adds Gearon, “but to attack the root causes.”

“We need decisive action, and not in the form of misleading policies like the U.N. REDD program (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), said Tom Goldtooth, Director of IEN. “While it pretends to protect forests, REDD and similar carbon-offset schemes allow continued destruction of our atmosphere and put our forestland and indigenous people’s homes, livelihoods, and cultures in continued peril.”

Indigenous Environmental Network is part of a growing coalition of community-based organizations across the U.S. who affirm that those who must lead the way to climate stability are those who’ve been most directly impacted, both by toxic industry and by historic appropriations of land and resources. Following the Cochabamba World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth convened by Bolivian President Evo Morales this past April, IEN and community-based groups worldwide are promoting the Cochabamba Declaration, the popular response to the widely ill-regarded Copenhagen Accord, as offering the most realistic approach to current ecological and social threats.

This day of education for action is just one of many social movement events leading up to the 16th Conference of Parties (COP) and UNFCCC negotiations on climate change in Cancun.  Grassroots movements will converge at the negotiations November 29-December 10 to bring strong opposition to reject false market-based policies in favor of policies based in human rights and the rights of Mother Earth.

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