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Good News for Native Americans in Climate Treaty

Native Americans are hopeful their voices were heard during the Paris climate talks this month. (iStockphoto)
Native Americans are hopeful their voices were heard during the Paris climate talks this month. (iStockphoto)
December 22, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - Representatives of Native American tribes from several 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, director of the International Indian Treaty Council, said 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," she said, "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 said indigenous peoples have been working for more than two decades for full recognition as climate-change policies are formulated. She said 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," she said. "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 added that, 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.

The IITC statement is at iitc.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND