False Solutions vs Real Solutions to the Climate Crisis: Indigenous Water Protectors Defending their livelihoods, Lands and Territories

Kandi White (Arikara, Mandan, & Hidatsa Nations) Program Director, Indigenous Environmental Network

Shyrlene Oliveira da Silva Huni Kui (Huni Kui Peoples)

Jack Collard (Nyoongar National)

Jayce Chiblow (Garden River First Nation)

Tom BK Goldtooth (Diné/ Dakota)

Note: The transcript, linked below has been edited for clarity.

Kandi White

Everyone, welcome. Thank you for joining us this beautiful evening here in the United Arab Emirates during COP 28. Today’s panel is false solutions versus real solutions to the climate crisis. Indigenous water protectors defending our livelihoods, lands and territories. This will be an intergenerational discussion with our Indigenous water protectors on how the climate crisis and false solutions to climate change are impacting our livelihoods, lands and territories. Real Solutions to the climate crisis rooted Indigenous worldviews values and our relationship. Water will be presented so I’d like to introduce myself as your moderator… I said, hello, relatives. My name is Eagle Woman. My English name is Kandy White, and I am Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara from so called North Dakota and the United States. 

Very honored and privileged to be here with such an esteemed panel of my colleagues. Tonight we are going to begin speaking with a beautiful person whom I’ve had the privilege to meet some years ago in the work that we’ve been doing. Shyrlene Oliveira da Silva of the Huni Kui Indigenous territory in the Amazon in Brazil., and mother of Chief Ninowa Huni Kui Jr. Is an Indigenous activist and has a PhD in plant production from the Federal University of Acre. Shyrlene was recently accepted into the post doctorate program at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Shyrlene has been working professionally with 16 Indigenous Peoples of Acre and with Indigenous populations in voluntary isolation and recent contact. Please join me in welcoming Shyrlene. 

Shyrlene Oliveira da Silva

Native peoples of this land and other territories. I introduce myself given to me by my ancestral leaders. 

The Huni Kui and other Indigenous Peoples have a direct relationship with water tied not only to the basic maintenance of our ways of life, use for food production, river travels and more, but also to our spirituality. We consider water a living spirit…a benevolent spirit that carries messages to the Huni Kui people. For centuries we have lived nomadically, without frequent contact with other human communities. But due to the colonial invasion of our forests through violent rubber plantations, we had to settle in specific territories to ensure the wellbeing of our families

The relationship of the Huni Kui people with water has always been very profound. Water is sacred to us. Its color movements, the animals and spirits within it reflect our spirituality and carry messages to strengthen us. 

These [our] ceremonies leads us to visions taking us to the highest planes of our traditions allowing us to see the world through the eyes of our ancestors. At sunrise, for the closing of the ceremonies it’s very important that we go and bathe in sacred places with pure water to cleanse our thoughts body and renew our spirits washing away all  the evil spirits, the diseases, the negative thoughts this bath with ancient traditional plants. They teach us and provide guiding thoughts for our work harvests, hunting and fishing and it hasn’t been possible anymore. 

Due to the climate emergency faced by the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon we have suffered from extreme droughts. Just this year we experienced a lack of rain from May to November. We can no longer rely on the natural cycles of rains and summer. This is definitely the most severe drought we ever experienced. 

We are on the brink of a desert in the Amazon. Traveling in our small boats is becoming increasingly difficult as the rivers have low water levels. We walk for days with our kids in the riverbeds that now resemble dry roads. Indigenous women suffer daily from water scarcity and they’re taking long journeys with their children to collect water to drink. They take only small amounts because, guided by ancestral knowledge, they know that they must derive from nature only what we need so that we can rely on it for the coming days. 

Mining pollutes the remaining waters that we have, forcing us to consume water and fish contaminated with mercury, iron and mining waste. There is no more pure water in these territories. The impact on health of children and elders has increased significantly in the river, with high coordinating diseases by viruses, so. ·

In the broader climate discussions, we haven’t seen the so called developed countries genuinely concerned about water preservation. We’ve witnessed false solutions for preserving forests and water, ignoring the practices and solutions presented by Indigenous Peoples who have indeed conserved these environments for thousands of years. 

… the overheating of the waters has reached the point where fish and dolphins can’t endure and are becoming extinct in our rivers. This has led to hunger in our territories, exacerbating the social issues that these peoples have faced for centuries. 

I hope that in COP 28 the parties become aware of the direct relationship between water and the culture, tradition and subsistence of Indigenous Peoples. The impacts of illegal mining, deforestation and the advancing of carbon trading associated with false solutions have affected Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities a lot. 

During the implementation of the REDD+ program in the Brazilian Amazon, I had the opportunity to coordinate one of the divisions. I realized the inefficiency of this approach, which does not reduce carbon dioxide emissions and mostly consists of misguided projects that do not benefit the true protectors of the forest, of the water and the biodiversity. Since then, I have joined environmental networks against false solutions. 

Indigenous Peoples whose territories are now under threat have suffered immense losses and damages due to climate emergency. It is crucial to emphasize that protecting Indigenous lands alone is not sufficient. We do not preserve the forests if we do not preserve the forests around them. Activities related to false climate solutions directly impact river sources in the way of life of these peoples. 

So to end … my time here, I emphasize that real solutions for environmental preservation and conservation must include the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples respecting their diversities and traditions. And I remind you all that when our bodies are violated, also our spiritual body is violated together with our body. That is the Mother Earth that has been violated. 

Kandi White

Thank you so very much. Please give it up for Shyrlene so much. She traveled all this way and has been amazing and speaking out and been a voice for her people, and it’s hard to leave home, but it’s amazing that she’s been able to do this for us. So thank you so much. We will now move on to our next speaker, Jack Collard. Jack Collard is a proud citizen of the Nyoogar Nation.

To  my Australian friends that are here, Jack’s servitude in his nation has found him as the role as the executive director for the Aboriginal and Torley Strait Islander International Engagement Organization, which seeks to connect Indigenous nation states to Indigenous nation states across the globe. Weaving a web of interconnectedness and interdependency, this network aims to leverage the networks and respective homes to realize the necessity for Indigenous Peoples to become self-determined from the colonial powers that be. Jack is also an alumni of the Indigenous Environmental Network’s fall Solutions Training Program, and as such uses his voice to warn about the dangers of green colonialism and its many shapes and forms. 

Jack Collard

My name is Jack Collard. I come from a place in the southwest of so called Western Australia. My ancestral and cultural ties are to the Wajuk lands of the Nyoongar nation, the sandy coastal plains home to the swampy wetlands.  So, for everybody here that doesn’t understand the situation within Australia 200 years ago, before those white devils, they came, there was 500 nations that lived in peace within my nation. There were 16 clans, and there was balance. There was that interconnectedness, there was that interdependency, there was respect. We don’t have formations in the lands of castles. We didn’t create weapons of mass destruction. 

It’s because we respected one another. But we also understood the dangers of upsetting the spirits of the land. And for us Nyoongars, one of the most important of all of those spirits are those rainbow serpents that carve the land. And they carve the land to sustain the life in some of the places where it’s hardest to sustain life. Because as you go east out to Balarung Mungara Country, it gets hot in the summer, it gets so hot that it’s too hot for rivers to flow above the ground. So those rainbow serpents, when they traveled, they carved out the paths under the ground that connected all of these nations. And their travels are immortalized in the songs that we sing. The secrets of these waterways and the locations of these waterways were for us to keep because it was our responsibility to keep them. 

…we have these things called llama holes. And these llama holes are these holes in that hard granite rock… And these are the places where in our country, the male rainbow serpent, who we call Wagol, he poked his head out. And these llama holes are our responsibility as we traverse from the coast in the summer.  As the wind comes from Antarctica and gets too cold to be in those swampy wetlands. As we move east, we rely on Izlama and we would travel in our bands of our clans, of our families. And our responsibility was to leave those water holes in a better place than we found [them]. 

We would cover them up with rocks to reduce the condensation and also to prevent animals from falling in. And if they did fall in, it was our responsibility to clean them as soon as possible before we would take the water. We would pay our respects, and we still do, to that waggle. Because without waggle, we are nothing. Without that waggle, there is no life. Western science acknowledges that for over 120,000 years we’ve been caring for that water, caring for the land, caring for each other more successfully than any one group. And then the white people came, the white devils. They came from a different culture, a culture of fear, a culture of scarcity. 

And they came to this place of abundance and they thought that all them smells that they smelt on them ships, all them feelings that they felt, they thought it was worth it, they thought that they hit the jackpot.

And my great great grandfather Yalagonga, he was the leader of the Muru clan in this land of abundance. And he put pity on these sick, stinky white people that got off these boats. He showed them fresh water sources and in return, they got their guns, they got their sabers and they went on a killing spree. They massacred us at Kartagarap, the Place of the spider. They chased us to Lake Monga Garilup, the place of fire. And that place of fire got turned into a place of mourning. And were lucky to survive. And we found shelter over them Black Hills.

And as went over to them Black Hills we found ourselves in slavery. We found ourselves breaking our laws because what the Nityang they did is they went to those Galama and they poisoned them all. They poisoned them all so that we could not sustain lives on our own. Our law is we never kill a tree. We will take a limb. We’ll cut out a little bit, but we’ll let him live. And were forced into this slavery. And out of Balong Mungada country, the wheat belt, 93% of that native vegetation has been cleared for broad acre farming. We have oral history of my grandfather saying, no, you need to leave a tree here, you need to leave a tree there, otherwise that topsoil is going to go. You got no windbreaks. 

And now what we’re seeing is that topsoil is blowing all the superphosphates, all the artificial chemicals into our river, albelia is our navel, and the salt is rising. And I feel like us Indigenous Peoples in this space right here are in a similar position. They’ve taken our water away, they’ve taken our food away, they’ve taken our sovereignty away in every respect. And now there are crumbs. There are crumbs that are being put on a table and they’re saying, hey, if you want these crumbs, the only way you’re going to get it is if you play by our game, if you give up your sovereign rights, if you commodify the sacred, if you participate in these carbon markets that make absolutely no sense at all. And I think everybody deep down knows that they make absolutely no sense at all. 

But these crumbs, they’re powerful, just like a culture of fear, just like a culture of scarcity. And that’s what sent those waddlers, on them boats all that way in hopes that they can get some safety. And I know there’s people here that are specialists in this, and they’ll be able to speak to this further than me. But to wrap this up, I want to reflect on a story that my brother over here, Sterling shared of his grandfather Crowfoot when he was sitting around the fire. And he grabbed a piece of paper, some money, and he put that in the fire. And then he grabbed that dirt and he threw that in the fire. That paper is going to go, but our Mother Earth remains. 

There are many influences, there’s many reasons, there’s many rationalizations to make the decisions that we do. But we must reflect on these impressions that we are leaving, because they will reflect on that, because we will be those ancestors one day. And these stories that we tell, the lives that we lead, that’s all that we leave. 

Kandi White

Give it up. Give it up. Everybody just join me and take a deep breath in, breathe out, because we’re sharing our realities here, and they’re hard to hear, but we speak truth to power. It’s why we’re here. I just want to reflect on that. And I’m very appreciative of everyone here sharing our stories the way we are. And I am getting a bit emotional as I often do because of the connections that we have together for the way we’ve been impacted. I would like to introduce our next speaker here, JC Chiblo. JC is Anishinaabe from Garden River First Nation, Ontario. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a Master of Environmental Studies. 

Jayce’s Master research was conducted in her community where she brought together youth, community leaders and knowledge keepers, and a workshop style gathered focused on climate action throughout an Indigenous Food Sovereignty Lens. JC started with Indigenous Climate Action in 2020 and has worked as the Community Engagement Lead and Toolkit lead, where she supported the creation, dissemination, and implementation of ICA’s Toolkit and Climate Leadership program. Currently, she sits as the Education Training Manager where she will continue to support ICA’s development of education and training program materials. And she’s just an awesome youth and amazing person. So please join me in welcoming JC. 

Jayce Chiblow

So, hello everyone. My name is Jayce Chiblo. I’m Anishnaabe from Gardener First Nation, which is located in the Robinson Huron Treaty territory in so called Canada or near the Great Lakes. Today I’m very honored to be on this panel of really amazing leaders and great speakers. It’s really just an amazing opportunity to be able to share my reflections and my understandings of the teachings that have been passed on to me through the experiences that I will share and the stories that I will share with you all today. 

But before [I’ll] get into that, I was thinking when I was asked to join this panel and it was about real and false solutions, I really was trying to think of what I could offer to you all that would be helpful. And for me and for those of us at Indigenous Climate Actions, we truly believe that true climate solutions challenge the status quo and will center Indigenous sovereignty and leadership through Indigenous led climate solutions. Solutions that maintain the systems of oppression that have got us into this situation are not going to be what we need to move forward in a good way. Real solutions reduce greenhouse gases at the source and do not rely on market-based mechanisms and non-market-based mechanisms. 

Climate policies like we’re seeing today at the UNFCCC continue to be led by wealthy and influential forces that cause the very problems that we are in today. State and non-state actors ought to act with humility and practice honesty regarding climate solutions and be held accountable through justice mechanisms defined and led by Indigenous Peoples. And I feel like I need to also quote my coworker Rosie here, because when I was reading through some of our materials, I felt like this would be something that folks would really enjoy. Capitalism tells us that land is only meant to be profitable, but the land is not something to be owned, controlled, or bought. And sold land is a relative we are in relationship with. 

We say land back, but we see it not as a means to control, but as a first step in breaking free of the systems of oppression. A first step towards a balance of life. A life of balance that is once again built on care and reciprocity with the land waters and our other non-human kin. Here at ICA, we are in opposition to these neoliberal trade agreements, market-based policies and corporate technofixes aimed at protecting and subsidizing the extractive energy corporations causing climate chaos, just to name a few. I mean, I feel like we’ve heard a couple here, but things that are pollution, carbon pricing, carbon market mechanisms, nuclear power, geoengineering and other nature-based solutions that just tend to be expensive and unproven technologies. 

I encourage you to take a look at Hoodwinked in the Hothouse if you’re looking to learn more about false solutions. So, for me, I thought I would focus the majority of my presentation or talk on real solutions. So, for me, real solutions for climate justice must be guided by principled, practice, protect and be guided by Indigenous traditional knowledge, place-based experience and public interest science. It must be holistic when we’re talking about solutions. It must intertwine ecological and social harm. It must replace the economies of greed with economies of serving ecological and human need. Solutions must advance deep, direct, and participatory democracy rooted in local self-determination. And honestly, real solutions need to repair our relations with the earth and with each other. 

So, for me, I thought I would talk about a couple of experiences that I had and the way that I like to bring those experiences into not only the negotiations, but the way that I approach climate justice and climate change in general. So the first one in my mind is going out on the trapline. I’ve been very lucky to spend some time in my community when I was doing my masters with an elder. Don’t tell them I called them an elder, a knowledge keeper, one would say. And were really lucky to be able to spend time out on the land. 

And when were out there and were noticing these patterns of the animals and really getting to know the trapline areas, it began to make me realize that these projects, the green projects that we’re seeing, need to be Indigenous led, because they’re the ones that are going to be able to protect the land for future generations. They’re going to know the places where it will be harmful to put projects and the places where it’s going to protect the lands, the medicines, and the plants that we used to thrive and survive.

I also like to bring up something called the Nibi Gatherings or the Water Gatherings. They happen out in Treaty Three territory in so called Canada. And the reason why I bring that up as a solution is because that gathering is rooted in ceremony. 

And I feel like those pieces, that ceremonial aspect when we’re talking about water and we’re talking about real solutions is vital. It builds that connection to the land and to our teachings and to our culture that can then inform [us] how we should be doing these solutions. I also want to talk quickly about the late Josephine Mandamin. Josephine was an amazing water walker, what we call a water walker. And when I was first invited to this panel and someone was like, we want you to talk about water, I was like, oh, I don’t really know what I could talk about, because it feels like such a lifetime ago that I was so lucky to participate in my very first water walk in 2009. And just so you know, the water walks. Josephine had walked all around every single great lake by herself. 

She carried a copper pail and an eagle staff and walked from about 03:00 a.m. And, you know, as a teenager, I did not want to get up at 03:00 a.m., but we did, and we would walk until sundown, and it really was an honor to get that experience. So, Josephine walked around the Great Lakes, which has a span of 4503, 530 miles, which is really long, and it also accounts for 21% of the world’s fresh water. More than 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, including my family. That’s 10% of the US. Population and 30% of the Canadian population. Yet people who plan to bear children are advised not to eat any fish out of the Great Lakes due to the massive amounts of pollution in my territory. 

So, like I said, with a copper pail in one hand and a staff in the other, the late Josephine Mandamin, Anishnaabe grandmother who I looked up took on a journey of a sacred walk. She traversed over 10,000 miles around each of the Great Lakes. She really is someone that we should be looking up to and embodying in our teachings, not logo. Her motto would be Just do it. And every time we’d be at those events, and we’d be prepping and doing things, and everyone was always talking and taking their time and doing things, and she would just be like, just do it. Just go grab the pail and get going. Never mind all this extra stuff that’s happening. And I feel like that advice is what the leaders and the negotiators and the state leaders need to hear. 

And I want to quote Josephine as well, because I feel like she began in 2003, so I feel like the timing 20 years since her experiences. So, I will quote that in our prophecies in the Three Fires Society, we are taught that water is very precious. If we could discontinue our negligence, we can change things around. That’s why I’m really embodying the prophecy. You’ve heard walk the talk. This is why I walk. So, for me going out on those water walks and experiencing the land, you get to spend so much time out there. Like I said, 03:00 a.m. to about 07:00 p.m. long days. You’re not walking the entire time. There’s a team with you. It’s a joint effort and it’s really about raising awareness about the solutions that, and I really believe this being a solution. It was a water protection walk. 

We would give information to those that would stop and honk at us and be like, what are you doing? Why are you walking around the Great Lakes? We’re walking around the Great Lakes to protect it, to protect those for future generations, to be able to drink clean water and to be able to fish, hunt and trap in their territories. And also to take that knowledge from building those relationships with those plants, the animals, the water and all the non-human relatives in order to ensure that the solutions that are being negotiated here are going to be reflective of what we need on the ground. And I will end with just a few quotes from my mother, actually, because my mom was the one that brought me to these gatherings and has forced, I was a teenager. 

Did you really want to go to these things? No, but I’m really glad that she brought me to these things. So one of the things for Anishinaabe people, and we truly believe this and try to embody it, is we are the water. The water carries the knowledge of our ancestors. It connects us to our ancestors in past generations and water connects us to all life. So I encourage you, as you’re going through these pavilions and these negotiations, remember Josephine Mandamin and just do it. 

Kandi White

Thank you Jayce appreciate you so much for giving us that beautiful talk and being real about how it is when you’re younger and just want to go and maybe just go swimming instead.

Either way, we’re still respecting that water. So super important. Our final speaker this evening, last but not least is Tom BK. Goldtooth. He’s the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, which incidentally is the oldest Indigenous based and grassroots network working on environmental, energy, climate and economic justice issues in North America, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Tom has been the lead of the Indigenous delegation of IEN within the UNFCCC since COP four in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1998. Tom and Ien participated in the formation of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change in 2008. Tom has been awarded with recognition of his achievements throughout the past 32 years as a change maker within environmental, economic, energy and climate justice movements. 

From his participation in leadership in the first National People of Color Environmental Justice Leadership Summit in 1991 in Washington, DC. DC. To the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in. Cochabamba, Bolivia end to the recent co-formation of the US based Green New Deal Network and the United Frontline Table and its people’s orientation to a regenerative economy platform. He has been on the forefront of key moments fighting for systemic change. In 2007, Tom cofounded the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace, lifting up the spiritual, cultural values and ethics of water policy. Tom initiated the first International Indigenous Conference of the Rights of Mother Earth in 2012 at the Haskell Indian Nations University and serves as a member of the Global Alliance of the Rights of Nature. 

Tom wrote the IEN Indigenous Principles of Just Transition as an organizing tool of using Indigenous original instructions as the foundation for building sustainable and healthy Indigenous communities. And lastly, Tom is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2015 Gandhi Award, and in 2016 was presented Sierra Club’s highest recognition was presented, the John Muir Award. And that’s maybe just a teeny bit of his bio that I wanted to share with you all. So please join me in welcoming Mr. Tom BK. Goldtooth. 

Tom BK Goldtooth

I greeted you in two languages. One is our Dine’, Navajo for you from Canada. I call [us] the Southern Dene because we’re related to the Northern Dine’.  And I’m going to talk mostly from the perspective of our Eastern fire, of our Dakota, Ocheti Shakowin, the Seven Consul fires. A couple years ago, I asked permission from our woman and our grandmothers, where I lived, to be able to speak to water. Where I come from in northern Minnesota, we have initiated a process of decolonization. Part of that is language restoration and part of that is understanding that genesis of who we are. Because as what was talked about is also a process of colonization that happened over 500 years ago where I come from. 

A process by a society of people, not all those people, because they also committed atrocities against their own people from Europe. So, who were these people that entered our shores and instituted a process that made us ashamed of who we are as Indigenous Peoples? The process of colonizing our spirit, the process of taking away our bundles, our sacred bundles that we hold, that is the heart of our ceremonies. A process also of now. The modern word is objectifying. The woman, our woman. Now we have history exposing itself of the murder, the colonial murder of our woman and our children, finding our children buried, hidden from these residential schools of the government, but also the churches. We call that historical trauma. So, we have to speak truth when we talk with people that don’t understand. 

When we talked about the importance of our inherent relationships and our Indigenous jurisprudence, our Indigenous laws that we call our natural law, what happened when we got colonized, that included militarization, it included imperialism, it included all these things that caused the death of our people. And with that is historical trauma, psychologically, socially, in our villages. But deep inside, like churning, the term I gravitated to learning more about is internalized oppression that we oppress our own. Now, someone that is trying to hold on to their traditions, to grow my hair and maintain long hair, to have ceremonies and be proud as Dakota, be proud as Dane, Navajo, there are ones that say, who do you think you are? Who do you think what you’re doing is hurting our people? We got to live the modern white man way. Now. Those things must be forgotten. 

So, all this trauma is carved in when we use justice, a fight for justice, a fight for dignity. So, it bears upon the trauma of our woman. So, where I come from, my children, I made a commitment to teach our children, some of you know, some of my boys and my daughters. But it’s also to learn their place as a new generation coming up on who they are. And part of that has been lifting up their relationship to water. And where I come from, the women are the keepers of the water. Us men are the keepers of the fire. We have responsibilities like that. When we mentioned my sister Josephine, Mandamiin in the Indian way, she’s not my sister by blood, but she’s my sister, that we took each other as relatives. She’s been part of our Indigenous environmental network. 

We took her to the World Water Forum in Mexico City and she is a walker. She out walked a lot of the younger people in the march down there for attention of the relationship to water, the spiritual. I want to talk [about] this [in] couple of minutes I have many of you remember the gathering in Standing Rock, North Dakota Access Pipeline, the Ocheti Sakowin Seven concept fire gathering and the visibility of that went all over the world. But one word came out of that mini Wiconi. It became a meme Mni Wiconi. And that conveys what I wanted to share with you. It’s about relationships. It’s about what was talked about already. What does mini Wiconi mean? I was taught what it means by women and men when I was just a little guy.

And part of it is a story that I don’t have time to fully share it. But when our woman carry a baby, our baby is swimming inside the belly. And when [those] signs are there that baby is ready to come into this world, the mother passes water, the passage of the water.

 So how is it that our people who were told to the world were pagans, that were uncivilized, that’s what colonization said about us. But we understood life. And Mni Wiconi talks about the coming of life and the water that’s flowing. Water is life. That’s what that means and symbolizes the coming of life. Water is life. The coming of the baby. How can you explain that? Really, truly, in English? It can really be purely told and told in Lakota Dakota Nakota. 

So these are things when we talk about relationship to water and the sacredness of water and the stand there wasn’t really about well, really, the stand was about protection of that river. Imagine an industry that’s going to ram a pipe underneath that river, not even asking permission. So that’s what I wanted to share in that relationship. We initiated the program. Very innovative. Called Indigenous Water ethics. I’ve worked for a number of years with some non-people academic that have been pushing water ethics to the water ministers of the world. Some of the institutions are up there, they rejected incorporating water ethics into water policy and water management. I could not understand that. 

I joined this movement to lift up the importance of water ethics and water management in the nonnative water, in the governance systems that live next door to our tribal communities up north. But it’s something in the global south. There’s policies that have no understanding on water. And what I’m talking about, they’re controlled by industry and privatization. So, we have an initiative to lift up and align water ethics with Indigenous traditional knowledge. That’s how we talk about ethics and our relationship through the knowledge that has been taught to us. So, it’s a difficult project because it also embraces acculturation and assimilation as one of the products of colonization that takes us away from who we are. Some of our relatives in Quito who have been moved away from the jungle, the Amazon, they’re experiencing the loss of language. 

So now they’re starting to look at what went through to rebuild our communities and our relationship to the sacredness of water. Very important. The ethics, the ethics of values becomes law. A law that does not understand who we are, don’t understand the responsibilities of respect for life, for nature. We have a duty of responsibility for how we walk on the Mother Earth. Just one more minute, if I can. When we’re born, we’re tied to our biological mothers, to the umbilical cord with the baby that flowing of water, that baby is being held. That cord is still there. There’s a way that and who cuts that cord? Who holds the baby? It’s always been a woman. Now the hospitals, sometimes it’s a man. We don’t know what kind of hands and life that man has catches that baby, but the umbilical cord is cut. 

Some of us save that. We save that and dry it up and we keep it. And that baby grows to be an old woman, an old man. They still have tucked away that memory of that and biblical court. But my last words is that in our belief when we say walking on Mother Earth, how are you walking? How are you? How are you walking? How are you walking on the Mother Earth is that we’re still tied to the Mother Earth. We have an umbilical cord to the Mother Earth that has never been cut. The colonizers understand something about us. In the Vatican dungeon, they have studied mysticism, and they know something. 

And how the tribal people who still maintain this knowledge, whether it was the tribal people in Europe, there was an initiative to sever that in order to have dominance and power over governance of people in land and farmers and crops, that mentality has to change. It has to change. The water is the one that flows and heals and can wash that away. That’s why when someone’s sick, sometimes we have a water or washing ceremony with cedar. 

Kandi White

Hello. Hello. Thank you, Tom. Thank you so much. As I’ve been sitting here and listening and making the connections to the stories, thinking about our people back home, where I’m from, too, as well, so called North Dakota and the so-called United States, where hydraulic fracturing is occurring using millions and millions of gallons of water. Each frac job flaring natural gas directly into the atmosphere. Not even though it’s a byproduct of the oil industry there. Thinking about the poisons and the sicknesses and the cancers and the connections of water of what we need. I’m thinking about my sister here, how she’s been in the Amazon and now walks on dry riverbeds. I’m thinking about my sister here, how it’s hard to be able to go out of her home without even breathing clean air or having clean water

I’m thinking about my brother in Australia, how the water is drying up, the water underneath the ground, where they also are doing fracking, where they’re lying to people. I’m thinking about my amazing and excellent boss here who I’m so privileged to work with because I’ve learned so much about the importance this is why we come here. 

And a lot of people don’t want to hear it, but you need to hear this because these stories Are just a few. Imagine all of the other Indigenous nations around the world. Imagine all the other Indigenous Peoples are here, have these stories that water is being poisoned and water is life. We need to wake up. We need to understand the importance of protecting life, not only for us, but for the seven generations ahead. We have to remember the seven generations of where we come from so we know where to go. And I want you all to join me as we close out with this panel, with this one most important message that we have to these heads of states and the world leaders and the governments and the people that are here at this cop 28, where the climate crisis is exacerbated, where people don’t have clean drinking water. Hear us? ·

Water is life. Repeat after me. Water is life. Water is life. Water is life. 

Thank you. 

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