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Climate Treaty Contains Good News for Native Americans

Native Americans from New Mexico, Arizona and other U.S. regions were represented at the recent United Nations conference on climate change. (Robb/morguefile)
Native Americans from New Mexico, Arizona and other U.S. regions were represented at the recent United Nations conference on climate change. (Robb/morguefile)
December 21, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. - Representatives of Native American tribes from Arizona, New Mexico and other U.S. regions were in Paris this month as part of an international delegation of indigenous peoples at the United Nations conference on climate change.

The treaty has yet to be ratified, but the tribes say their involvement is a sign of progress for their push to be recognized under international law.

Andrea Carmen of Tucson is director of the International Indian Treaty Council. She says language acknowledging their rights in the climate-change battle is a big, but incremental, step.

"We're looking at the United States, if this treaty could actually get through the Senate," says Carmen. "Or what is going to be the approach of the current and next administration in the U.S. for implementation?"

All 195 countries at the conference approved the treaty, which seeks to implement cuts in carbon emissions across the globe by 2020.

Carmen says indigenous peoples have been working for more than two decades for full recognition as climate-change policies are formulated. She says Native Americans are being profoundly affected by the results of the warming climate as are their counterparts around the world.

"With indigenous peoples, we used to also be able to move," Carmen says. "Now, we're kept in a place, but the plants and animals are moving. So, people are saying some of the animals and plants they've always depended on are becoming very scarce."

Carmen adds, although the coalition didn't get everything it sought in the final treaty, just the document's mention of the "rights of indigenous peoples" is a significant step toward the goal.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - NM