• Indigenous Climate Action

Responding to COVID19: Building Communities of Care

(Photo taken in February when we last met as a team. We are practicing physically distancing now)

Just over two weeks ago, the WHO officially classified the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic that has rippled around the world, impacting all of us who call Mother Earth home.

As a small team at Indigenous Climate Action, we wanted to share some words with our supporters and community members. We are so grateful for your support of our organization to bring about transformational change and ensure Indigenous leadership in times of crisis.

Inspired by the teachings of our ancestors, we are moving ahead thoughtfully.

Although the specific cause of COVID-19 remains under study, many of our knowledge holders have indicated this was prophesied - when the land becomes sick, we will become sick. Science is now exploring the possibility of connections between biodiversity loss and increasing threats to humanity. These emerging connections further support what Indigenous knowledge holders have been saying for decades.

ICA is known for being a resource for Indigenous-centered climate action, promoting values of climate justice, and holding the approach of two-eyed seeing. As we continue to monitor the outbreak and impact of COVID-19, we are bringing together perspectives of science, along with our traditional knowledge. Here are some of the resources we have created this month:

Uplifting Indigenous leadership is part of what inspired Indigenous Climate Action to emerge less than 5 years ago and why we believe that, now more than ever, it is critical to uplift Indigenous ways of knowing and being, including taking care of the most vulnerable. Our top priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our team, supporters and the community members we work with. This includes the family and community members of our relatives living in isolated and remote communities that often don’t have adequate access to education, medical services, housing and clean drinking water.

Some communities have closed schools, daycares and non-essential businesses, leaving many people without employment, childcare and prospects for future employment. In addition, the Canadian and US governments are now closing their borders and limiting travel, with some regions adopting aggressive measures of martial law and fines for those not abiding by quarantine measures. These measures are intended to prevent the spread of COVID19, however our collective history of colonization, institutional racism and poverty still exist in our communities and is now exacerbated by this crisis. Now, more than ever, we must come together to create communities of care and do what we can to ensure equal access to food, housing, medicine and stay aware of our human and community rights, so these restrictive measures are lifted once the spread of COVID19 is contained and/or cured.

At this time, ICA is in the process of adjusting our programs, postponing plans for our community gatherings and exploring creative ways to achieve the goals of our work. We are continuing to nurture our remote working environment to connect as a team and ensure ample time for discussion about the mental, emotional and spiritual supports needed to help us move through this. Some of the creative approaches we will employe are as follows:

  • reaching out to local leaders to discuss how we can continue to show up for our community needs and our mandate for Indigenous Rights and Climate Justice;

  • exploring new and dynamic ways to boost our online activity and resources, including webinars and Facebook live feeds;

  • offering other ways to amplify voices and invite community engagement in our work; and

  • sharing stories of resilience and Indigenous-led solutions to both the current health crisis and the climate crisis.

The risks of the virus causing COVID-19 should be taken very seriously. ICA leadership will monitor developments vigilantly, but at the same time, we should guard against overreaction, as some stories may tend to sensationalize the issue. Because the situation is fluid, we are prepared to be adaptive. We are confident that now more than ever we need Indigenous knowledge and values to move through this crisis.

To uplift this approach we look to our sister organization Indigenous Environmental Network and echo their call for the 4 C’s - Ceremony, Caution, Community and Compassion. Check out the link for more information on what this means, and how you can practice these right now.


Other ways we can ALL show up:

  • refrain from mocking or dismissing peoples’ anxiety and precautionary measures;

  • offer your assistance on specific tasks or needs without judgement (whatever feels best to that particular person);

  • refrain from buying items that sick/disabled folks need to survive when they are in short supply;

  • call an Elder and just talk to them. See if they need anything. Isolation can be very lonely;

  • take this time to learn your language and more about traditional medicines. There are many emerging links and resources available online;

  • take up beading or sewing and make gifts for community members;

  • if you’re able bodied consider going hunting, fishing or trapping and providing food for the elderly, single parents and others in need;

  • check in with isolated or homebound activist friends who may want to join actions in a different way;

  • some may try to seize the crisis to divide against each other based on where we come from, including scapegoating of Asians and Asian Americans. There is no place for xenophobia or racism in our movements; and

  • take care of yourself!

We understand this is a trying time for everyone and our thoughts and prayers are with those that are sick, struggling to adjust to the changing times, and those that are out there on the frontlines. Our sincerest thanks to all of those holding down the frontline essential services in the food, hospitals, pharmacies, utilities, sanitation and the hundreds of community response teams across the globe.

Remember to wash your hands (often), refrain from touching your face, stay home if you can, and reconnect with your language, your medicines, your culture and your people. We are all in this together (but physically distanced).

Mussi Cho,

The ICA Team


©2020 by Indigenous Climate Action.