• Indigenous Climate Action

Alberta Eco-Trust Environmental Gathering

Co-founder of ICA, Eriel Deranger was invited to speak on a panel at the 2nd Annual Breaking Through Conference hosted by Alberta EcoTrust. The conference description is as follows:

“We are at a unique time in Alberta with new opportunities for meaningful progress on the environment. As we all grapple with important issues like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting watersheds and preserving valuable land and habitat, it is more important than ever to break through barriers and drive change! No one can do it alone.

Building on the success of the first Environmental Gathering in 2016, we invite you to be a part of this exciting and strategic opportunity to connect and collaborate with people from environmental nonprofits, First Nations communities, industry and government."

In this vein Eriel shared the Saturday morning opening keynote panel with Emma Gilchrist, Executive Director DeSmog Canada and Celine Trojand with Organizing for Change. The Saturday theme was Mobilizing for Change and the panel was described as follows:

"It’s not enough to be good at program design and delivery. We need to get better at rallying and organizing people in our communities to participate in change endeavours. Discussing a range of tools and methodologies that build public support for environmental initiatives and inspire people to change behaviour, this expert panel will kick off a day of skill building with a focus on media and mobilization."

The other panelist brought forward their experiences mobilizing on pipelines issues in British Columbia where we have seen massive mobilization and the recent cancelling of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. However, the pipeline and associated tanker traffic battles still woe as new proposals for pipelines linger, including the highly contentious Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline.

While the other presenters brought forward valuable insight and stories of success engaging new constituents, government and even industry, it became clear that challenges faces here at home in Alberta and more deeply in Indigenous communities was not being adequately explored.

Eriel argued that perhaps we needed to bring the mobilization to Alberta to start the hard conversations about stopping the expansion of Alberta's oil sands by challenging the Teck Frontier Mine, the largest proposed open pit oil sands mine in history, if we wanted to permanently win pipeline battles. Eriel explained that stopping the expansion of the oil sands was not simply about stopping development but creating a new vision for Albertans that was inclusive of Indigenous peoples who have historically been excluded from resource development strategy resulting in their rights and lands being degraded over the last 50 years of oil development.

During the panel conversations Eriel pulled back the audience and panel to remember that Indigenous peoples often don't feel an ease and welcoming transition into movement mobilizations. Eriel also expressed grave concern that there is often miscommunication and misunderstanding when presenting often clashing worldview perspectives. Namely, that Indigenous cosmology and worldview is rooted in connection and interdependence with place or the lands and environment, and that in many cases there were not even words for the environment or climate change in Indigenous languages further complicating communication. Her presentation hit home with many in the audience as she spoke to the value of grassroots Indigenous mobilization and getting to the root of why ‘man’ feels the right to dominate over nature.

Eriel ended her presentation with a reminder that many people find themselves in success because of the privilege they are born into, while others find themselves still dealing with immense institutional trauma and living in states of crisis that can only be remedy if we are willing to stop the violence to the lands, peoples and cultures. That within all this she saw that there was still tremendous opportunity to succeed because the beauty of humanity was that we are in a process of conscious evolution.

While the conference aimed to be diverse it was obvious that there are still major hurdles to getting Indigenous participation at these key events. As an observation, it could have been a lack of Indigenous representation on the agenda and workshops. Which begs to suggest that perhaps we need to work on finding better outreach methodologies to ensure Indigenous communities are aware and participate in these gatherings.

Eriel and ICA supporter Sheila Muxlow co-facilitated a workshop at the conference titled Indigenous Climate Action – Resilient Communities Building Climate Solutions. As the workshop summary described:

"From the solar projects in Lubicon Wood Buffalo to the wind projects in Tsu Tina to the greenhouses in Fort Chipewyan, Indigenous communities have taken inspiring action to address climate change and support a sustainable pathway to food, energy and water security.

Despite years of colonial government that has undermined their rights, Indigenous communities have remained resilient taking a stand for lands and waters that all of us as Treaty people rely on. Building support for Indigenous leadership on climate change must go beyond the traditional tactics employed by the environmental movement, as there are historical and systemic barriers that Indigenous peoples face. As we move into an era of truth and reconciliation with the colonial past of Canada, we are met with abundant opportunities for collaborative work, but first we need to clear the way for equitable decision making through the recognition of Indigenous rights and the commitments made through the Treaty agreements.

Learn more about the work of truth and reconciliation and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead with support more Indigenous-led climate action. Lets work together to build a foundation for sustainable long-term climate solutions that all future generations will benefit from."

The workshop explored some of the ideas that Eriel presented on the morning panel by diving deep into the importance of upholding the internationally recognized rights of Indigenous peoples as described by UNDRIP and included in the Paris Agreement. Participants of the workshop were walked through Canada dispossession of land and rights and Alberta's historical mismanagement of resources and the rights of Indigenous peoples and the legacy of contamination and pollution it has left. She then brought participants into a discussion about the power that Indigenous Knowledge has in framing and building a climate stable future not just in Alberta, or Canada but the world over, as Indigenous peoples are protectors of 80% of the world's biodiversity necessary for climate stabilization.

Participants were asked to walk around the room and read some of the feedback that ICA received on our online survey's on climate engagement. Many of the participants remarked that this was the first time they had heard some of these concepts and wanted to learn how to support Indigenous inclusion in climate change conversations.

Overall, the conference and workshop went well and we were pleased that so many people were receptive to the work of ICA.


©2020 by Indigenous Climate Action.