Environment & Climate

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 9th August 2022. How climate change threatens indigenous people’s way of life.  

By August 3, 2022 No Comments

This year’s theme: “The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge”

In a world where the rights of women are being challenged, this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People certainly is set to celebrate the role of women in the Preservation & Transmission of Traditional Knowledge, recognising the importance of the role indigenous women play in preserving their culture & heritage.

Indigenous women are the backbone of indigenous peoples’ communities & play a crucial role in the preservation & transmission of traditional ancestral knowledge. Their integral collective & community role as carers of natural resources & keepers of scientific knowledge, also sees many indigenous women take the lead in the defence of lands & territories, advocating for indigenous peoples’ collective rights worldwide. (1)

The indigenous people of the world are watching how anthropogenic climate change is slowly but surely watching their native lands diminish & be destroyed by so called ‘progress’

During a march in 2021, some 5000 women representing nearly 170 of the 300 tribes indigenous to Brazil, denounced the historic assault on native lands they say is unfolding under the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. (2)

Foremost among those threats is the “marco temporal” or “time frame” argument: a legal challenge to indigenous land rights that is being considered by the supreme court. (2)

Opponents say that, if successful, the suit – which Bolsonaro has championed as a way of stopping Brazil being “handed over to the Indians” – would nullify all indigenous claims to land they were not physically occupying when Brazil’s constitution was enacted on 5 October 1988. (2)

One example of this is the land dispute currently being heard about a sprawling ranch in the municipality of Fernando Falcão, in the northern state of Maranhão. The 11,000 hectare ranch should never have been built as all 11,000 hectares of the land in question falls inside the Porquinhos Indigenous Territory, home to the Apãnjekra Canela people, which has been in the process of official recognition by Funai, the federal agency for Indigenous affairs, for 22 years now. (3)

Under previous Brazilian governments, the federal system would have automatically refused to register any property overlapping with an Indigenous territory. But on April 16, 2020, under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, Funai published what’s known as Normative Instruction 9. This allows large landowners to obtain federal property certificates for areas in any Indigenous territory that has not been officially recognized, or demarcated. (3)

It is this kind of battle that the Indigenous Women of Brazil & all around the world are fighting every day, as they are displaced by Government’s, Policy makers & sometimes military action.

Another reason why it is so important to recognise the importance of women keeping cultural knowledge alive, is how climate change is affecting the very land indigenous people have lived on for centuries.

One of the stories brought to COP25 in 2019, was from Doreen Debrum, Ambassador of the Marshall Islands. Debrum spoke openly & honestly about her concerns for the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands & how the loss of the land would not only displace the people, but it would lose the connection their very cultural history is embedded in.

“People belong to the land, not the other way around. Everyone belongs to somewhere specific & you can always return. If you lose that connection, you will be lost. What if there is no more land or no more functional land, then what becomes of us not only as a nation or a collective people, but also our own selves.

If we leave, there will be no return & what do we become as a culture? For me & early generations of Marshallese the cost of failure is simple; just 30 years ago our forefathers fought hard & long for our political independence & for our statehood. Could you imagine having won an independent state only to realise now that your children & your grandchildren may see it disappear.” (4)   

Another female voice making herself heard at COP25 was Nakabuye Hilda F, a Ugandan student who was taking a lead in her own country to get the developing world to pay attention to the impact climate change is having in her country “I am the voice of dying children, misplaced women, and people suffering at the hands of the climate crisis created by rich countries.” Nakabuye Hilda

Helena Gualinga an Indigenous Ecuadorian Amazon Kichwa Activist also cited how political actions to her country & to the Amazon were “violating our human rights” She continued “The governments of our countries keep concessioning our territories without our consent to the extractive industries that are creating climate change. This should be criminal” (5)

The impact climate change is having on indigenous people’s land has the potential to see millions of indigenous people displaced from their lands as climate change advances.

The term ‘climate migration’ has often been seen as a myth, yet the IOM (International Organization for Migration) cited in their paper Migration and Climate Change – Prepared for IOM by Oli BrownInternational Organization for Migration Geneva in 2008 that:

“In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding & agricultural disruption.

Since then, various analysts have tried to put numbers on future flows of climate migrants (sometimes called “climate refugees”)—the most widely repeated prediction being 200 million by 2050. (6)

With these stark figures in mind, it is now even more important for the Indigenous Women of the world to not only be recognised for their role in the Preservation & Transmission of Traditional Knowledge but also their willingness to fight for their land & cultural heritage.

Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.

  1. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/international-day-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples-2022.html
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/10/indigenous-warrior-women-brazil-ancestral-lands-protest
  3. https://news.mongabay.com/2022/07/under-bolsonaro-policy-invaders-seize-control-of-250000-hectares-of-indigenous-lands/
  4. https://twitter.com/i/status/1202173197908615168
  5. https://twitter.com/i/status/1204800761240137738
  6. Migration and Climate Change – Prepared for IOM by Oli Brown – International Organization for Migration Geneva, 2008