November 1, 1998
The Indigenous Peoples of the
throughout the world for global dissemination. If we continue this path of unsustainable developments, we may not have a future for our children.
Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Chief, Onondaga Nation
Tom "Mato Awanyankapi" Goldtooth, National Spokesperson, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
Patrick Spears, President, and Bob Gough, Secretary, Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (ICOUP)
Jackie Warledo, Field Representative, International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)
from the "CIRCLES OF WISDOM"
NATIVE PEOPLES / NATIVE HOMELANDS
CLIMATE CHANGE WORKSHOP and
November 1, 1998,
As Indigenous Peoples, we begin each day with a prayer, bringing our minds together in thanks for every part of the natural world. We are grateful that each part of our natural world continues to fulfill the responsibilities that have been set for it by our Creator, in an unbreakable relationship to each other. As the roles and responsibilities are fulfilled, we are allowed to live our lives in peace. We are grateful for the natural order put in place and regulated by natural laws.
Most of our ceremonies are about giving thanks, at the right time and in the right way. They are what was given to us, what makes us who we are. They enable us to speak about life itself. Maintaining our ceremonies is an important part of our life. There is nothing more important than preserving life, celebrating life, and that is what the ceremonies do. Our instruction tells us that we are to maintain our ceremonies, however few of us there are, so that we can fulfill the spiritual responsibilities given to us by the Creator.
The balance of men and women is the leading principle of our wisdom. This balance is the creative principle of Father Sky and Mother Earth that fosters life. In our traditions, it is women who carry the seeds, both of our own future generations and of the plant life. It is women who plant and tend the gardens, and women who bear and raise the children. The women remind us of our connection to the earth, for it is from the earth that life comes.
We draw no line between what is political and what is spiritual. Our leaders are also our spiritual leaders. In making any law, our leaders must consider three things: the effect of their decisions on peace; the effect on the natural order and law; and the effect on future generations. The natural order and laws are self?evident and do not need scientific proof. We believe that all lawmakers should be required to think this way, that all constitutions should contain these principles.
Our prophecies and teachings tell us that life on earth is in danger of
coming to an end. We have accepted the responsibility designated by our
prophecies to tell the world that we must live in peace and harmony and
ensure balance with the rest of Creation. The destruction of the rest of
Creation must not be allowed to continue, for if it does, Mother Earth
will react in such a way that almost all people will suffer the end of
life as we know it.
A growing body of western scientific evidence now suggests what
Indigenous Peoples have expressed for a long time: life as we know it is
in danger. We can no longer afford to ignore the consequences of this
evidence. We must learn to live with this shadow, and always strive
towards the light that will restore the natural order. How western
science and technology is being used needs to be examined in order for
Mother Earth to sustain life.
Our Peoples and lands are a scattering of islands within a sea of our
neighbors, the richest material nations in the world. The world is
beginning to recognize that today's market driven economies are not
sustainable and place in jeopardy the existence of future generations.
It is upsetting the natural order and laws created for all our benefit.
The continued extraction and destruction of natural resources is
There is a direct relationship between the denial of Indigenous Peoples
land and water rights, along with the appropriation without consent of
Indigenous Peoples' natural resources, and the causes of global climate
change today. Examples include deforestation, contamination of land and
water by pesticides and industrial waste, toxic and radioactive
poisoning, military and mining impacts.
The four elements of fire, water, earth and air sustain all life. These
elements of life are being destroyed and misused by the modern world.
Fire gives life and understanding, but is being disrespected by
technology of the industrialized world that allows it to take life such
as the fire in the coal fired powered plants, the toxic waste
incinerators, the fossil fuel combustion engine and other polluting
technologies that add to greenhouse gases. Coal extraction from sacred
earth is being used to fuel the greenhouse gases that are causing global
Because of our relationship with our lands, waters and natural
surroundings which has sustained us since time immemorial, we carry the
knowledge and ideas that the world needs today. We know how to live with
this land: we have done so for thousands of years. We are a powerful
spiritual people. It is this spiritual connection to Mother Earth,
Father Sky, and all Creation that is lacking in the rest of the world.
Our extended family includes our Mother Earth, Father Sky, and our
brothers and sisters, the animal and plant life. We must speak for the
plants, for the animals, for the rest of Creation. It is our
responsibility, given to us by our Creator, to speak on their behalf to
the rest of the world.
For the future of all the children, for the future of Mother Earth and
Father Sky, we call upon the leaders of the world, at all levels of
governments, to accept responsibility for the welfare of future
generations. Their decisions must reflect their consciousness of this
responsibility and they must act on it. We demand a place at the table
in discussions that involve and effect our future and the natural order
and natural laws that govern us.
We, the participants in the "Circles of Wisdom" Native Peoples / Native
Homelands Climate Change Workshop, held in
express profound concern for the well being of our sacred Mother Earth
and Father Sky and the potential consequences of climate imbalance for
our Indigenous Peoples and the significance of these consequences for
our communities, our environment, our economies, our culture and our
relationships to the natural order and laws.
Indigenous prophecy now meets scientific prediction. What we have known
and believed, you also now know: The Earth is out of balance. The plants
are disappearing, the animals are dying, and the very weather ??rain,
wind, fire itself reacts against the actions of the human being. For
the future of the children, for the health of our Mother Earth, Father
Sky, and rest of Creation, we call upon the people of the world to hold
your leaders accountable.
We submit this declaration to the Fourth Conference of the Parties
(COP4) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(FCCC) being held in
wish to add our voices to ongoing global discussions regarding the
impact of climate imbalance on forests, oceans, plants, animals, fish,
humans and biodiversity.
The following principles are self evident and guide our beliefs and
Mother Earth, Father Sky, and all of Creation, from microorganisms to
human, plant, trees, fish, bird, and animal relatives are part of the
natural order and regulated by natural laws. Each has a unique role and
is a critical part of the whole that is Creation. Each is sacred,
respected, and a unique living being with its own right to survive, and
each plays an essential role in the survival and health of the natural
As sovereign Peoples and Nations, we have an inherent right to
self?determination, protected through inherent rights and upheld through
treaties and other binding agreements. As Indigenous Peoples, our
consent and approval are necessary in all negotiations and activities
that have direct and indirect impact on our lands, ecosystems, waters,
other natural resources and our human bodies.
Human beings are part of the natural order. Our role and
responsibility, as human beings, is to live peacefully and in a
harmonious balance with all life. Our cultures are based on this
harmony, peace and ecological balance which ensures long term
sustainability for future generations. This concept of sustainability
must be the basis of the decisions and negotiations underway on national
and international levels.
The Creator has entrusted us a sacred responsibility to protect and
care for the land and all of life, as well as to safeguard its well
being for future generations to come.
Indigenous Peoples have the right and responsibility to control access
to our traditional knowledge, innovations and practices, which
constitute the basis for the maintenance of our lifestyles and future
[The Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples];
Indigenous Peoples of North America were invited by neither the United
Nations Convention on Climate Change.
In June 1997, more than 2,000
including Nobel Laureates, signed the Scientists Statement on Global
Climate Disruption which reads, in part, the "accumulation of
greenhouses gases commits the sacred earth irreversibly to further
global climate change and consequent ecological, economic, social and
spiritual disruption" (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
December 1995). Climate imbalance will cause the greatest suffering to
the Indigenous peoples and most pristine ecosystems globally.
The migration of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) through the air
and water pathways continues from warmer southern climates to the colder
climates of the Great Lakes and Arctic climates of
(POPs) disproportionately impact indigenous Peoples, through their food
web systems, causing health and ecosystem impacts.
Within the next 100 years, temperatures over land areas of North
degrees Fahrenheit over today's normal temperatures, well in excess of
the global average (IPCC Report 1998). This increase in temperature will
cause the sea level to rise (5?25 feet over the next 500 years), drying
increases in the summer heat index (10 ? 25 degrees F).
The burning of oil, gas, and coal ("fossil fuels") is the primary source
of human induced climate change. The increasing demand and use of fossil
fuels continues to have adverse impacts on natural forests. Natural
forests are critical parts of the ecosystems that maintain global
climate stability. The continued large scale taking of fossil fuels
results in numerous impacts on these vital areas through deforestation
and pollution from drilling operations and ultimately forest degradation
from the global climate imbalance. The mining and drilling for coal,
oil, and gas, as well as other mineral extractions, results in
substantial local environmental consequences, including severe
degradation of air, forests, rivers, oceans and farmlands.
Cultural impacts, forced removal, land appropriation, destruction of
sacred and historical significant areas, breakdown of Indigenous social
systems, and violence against women and children are too often the
outcomes of fossil fuel development on Indigenous Peoples. Fossil fuel
extraction areas are home to some of Mother Earth's last and most
vulnerable Indigenous populations, resulting in accelerated losses of
biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and ultimately in ethnocide and
We request that the potential consequences of climate imbalance for
Indigenous Peoples and our environments, economies, culture, place and
role in the natural order be addressed by:
Establishing and funding an Inter?sessional Open?ended Working Group
for Indigenous Peoples within the Conference of the Parties (COPs) of
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC);
Provisions for case studies be established within the framework of
FCCC that would allow for assessing how climate changes effect different
regions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities; assessing climate
changes on flora and fauna, freshwater and oceans, forestry, traditional
agricultural practices, medicinal plants and other biodiversity that
impact subsistence and land?based cultures of Indigenous Peoples; and
other case studies that would provide a clearer understanding of all
effects and impacts of climate change and warming upon Indigenous
Peoples and local communities;
Indigenous Peoples have the right, responsibility and expertise to
participate as equal partners at every level of decision?making
including needs assessments, case studies, within national and
international policy?making activities concerning climate change
impacts, causes and solutions;
Wthin the FCCC, establish protocols that would actively promote
international energy efficient and sustainable forms of development,
including the widespread use of appropriately scaled solar energy and
renewable energy technologies as well as sustainable agricultural and
forestry practice models;
Mandating a moratorium on new exploration and projects for extraction
for fossil fuel reserves in pristine areas. Exploration and development
in the traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples of the world must
be done with the full consent of Indigenous Peoples, respecting their
right to decline a project that may adversely impact them;
Imposing a legally binding obligation to restore all areas already
affected by oil, gas, and coal exploration and exploitation by the
corporations or public entities that are responsible. This restoration
must be done such that Indigenous Peoples can continue traditional uses
of their lands.
This is a partial list of additional Indigenous and non?Indigenous
groups signing in support of the Declaration. The following Indigenous
Peoples and Nations attended this Albuquerque Workshop?
endorse this declaration:
Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force ? Mohawk,
Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora
Native Coalition for Cultural Restoration of
Lake Highlands Defense
International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism
International Indian Treaty Council
Intertribal Council on Utility Policy
Native American Council of
Seventh Generation Fund
Roundtable of Institutions of People of Color
Dine' Citizens Against Ruining the Environment (CARE)
North American Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Project
Gwiichin Steering Committee
Eastern Cherokee Defense League
White Clay Society of Gros Ventre
American Indian Chamber of Commerce of
American Indian Law
Traditional and Spiritual Leaders:
Oren Lyons, Onondaga; Kendall Rice, Potawatomi; Arvol Looking Horse,
Lakota; Marvin Stevens, Kickapoo; Tom Stillday Jr.,
Johnny Jackson, Yakama Cascade Band; Corbin Harney, Western Shoshone;
Individuals:This is a partial list.
Tonya Goubella Frichuer, Onondaga; Chuck Crowe, Eastern Band of
Cherokee; Kent Lebsock, Lakota; Fidel Moreno, Yaqui/Huichol; Carlon Ami,
Hopi/Tewa; Mary Defender?
Walt Bresette, Red Cliff Ojibwe; Earl Tulley, Dine'; Floyd Buckskin,
Pitt River; Andrew Becenti, Dine'; Barbara Bernacik, Laguna Pueblo; M.C.
Balwin, Dine'; Joseph Campbell, Dakota; Elena Bautista Sparrow, Yujpik;
Joseph Chasing Horse, Lakota; Charlotte Caldwell, Menominee; Tami
Soreson, Ojibwe; Marylou Stillday, Ojibwe; Sarah James, Neestaii Gwichin
Athapascan; Tom Goldtooth, Dine'/Dakota; Michael Sturdevant, Menominee;
Jose Barrero, Taino; James Main, Sr, Gros Ventre; Roy Taylor,
Pawnee/Choctow; Barbara McCloud,
Valerie Taliman, Dine'; Wilbur Slockish Jr, Yakama Klickitat Band; Dana
Mitchell, Penobscot; James Ransom, Haudenesaunee; Robert Shimek, Ojibwe;
Jimbo Simmons, Choctow; Patrick Spears, Lakota; Carlos Pelayo, Yoreme;
Walkingstick, Eastern Band of Cherokee; Geraldine Warledo,
Cheyenne/Arapaho; Jackie Warledo, Seminole.