Who will stop the drums? Indigenous peoples’ voices loud and strong

By Andrea Vasquez

In the event Vision of Indigenous Peoples in Face of Global Change on Wednesday 2nd in the Mandela Auditorium in Le Bourget, Paris, France. This event was an initiative of the region of the Île-de-France (also known as the Paris Region) organized on the frame of the 21th Conferences of the Parties.

There were two round tables in which indigenous delegates and non-indigenous delegates from different parts of the world, including Tom Goldtooth (Dine’ and Dakota, USA), Marie Rue (France), Ena Santi and Felix Santi (Kichwa, Ecuador), Tempa Gyaltsen (Tibet, Nepal), Hector Martin Manche (Asháninkna, Peru), Julius Caesar Daguitan (Phillipines), Isso Nihmei (Pacific Island Region) and Irene Bellier (France).


The panellists talk about resistance and resilience of indigenous peoples in face of a global crisis and its symptom – climate change. At the rhythm of the Kichwa drums, singing, body movements and storytelling the audience was able to learn from although diverse cultures similar struggles and desires for the future.

Bellier opened the session by identifying three important points to include in all UN processes and relevant to apply now in current countries’ negotiations in the COP:

  1. Respect of Human Rights, that global change and its symptom climate change, is threatening such as health, territory, food security, dignity, education. This rights intersect with Free Prior and Inform Consent and with the Convention 169 ILO due to for indigenous peoples these rights are frame by their own cosmovisions. The mentioned and other pertinent instruments should be in the heart of the COP negotiations.
  2. Recognize the indigenous science and promote the transition to a post-extractivist era.
  3. Have full and effective participation since the beginning in all processes related with climate change and draft of international, national, regional policies.

Marie for her part discussed that this is not a new fight although there are new conditions in play. The politics that set the guidelines for living and development do not respect indigenous forms of organization, science, terms, ways of living, and mechanisms of self-determination. With current policies Nature have been separated in parts and analyze separately (culture, air, soil, water, forest, animals, people etc.). Rue showed her perplexity about how western scientists investigate something that is already discovered by indigenous peoples without asking for indigenous peoples help.

“Indigenous peoples refuse to be passive victims and came from their countries to propose solutions” –Marie Rue

In the conversation along the two round tables all the panellists went through the same examples in their regions and territories and convey a clear message: “We are feeding the causes of climate change, transnational corporations and their promotion of extractive activities such as dams, industrial plantations and crops, mining, oil, and gas are the biggest threat in nor just in indigenous territories but the entire world.”

The Kichwa delegates presented a short video of the Kawsak Sacha, a proposal to coexistence with the natural world. This philosophy comes from the millenary wisdom of the original peoples of the Amazon forest.

“Kawsay Sacha is a proposal of how to interchange with Nature who is alive as we are” –Felix Santi

Felix continued by saying that this proposal is also an instrument to face the big industries who have put the sacred heritage available for logging, mining, and oil. He made a call on governments and entrepreneurs who are in this moment negotiating about the future of billions of people to take conscience of existent diverse realities. Ena Santi for her part shared with the public her sentiments and desperation regarding the negative impacts of global change as mother and woman. Both of them as well as their people back in Ecuador strive to convey to the western world this sense of urgency to act now.


Nomadic pastoralist from the Tibet are demanding freedom of choice. Actually they are force by the Chinese government to settle down and with this imposition they are no longer self-sufficient enabling with it other social, cultural, political and economic issues within their societies. Gyaltsen encourages scientists, politicians, and practitioners to listen to peoples of the land and respect their cultural knowledge. He continues saying that they have extensive knowledge of living in their territories for thousands of years and policies are made without consulting with them.

Daguitan, the indigenous youth representative, deplore that there is getting normalized seeing Nature as a commodity and available to trade to the highest bidder. Martin clarify for the public “We are not against technology” but it should not use to pollute more and destroy Nature, respect to our plans of live (equivalent to self-determine or endogenous development).

Goldtooth urge the audience to challenge and review the concepts of property rights and unlimited growth have enable a system of taking out without giving back. He vocalized a proposal that suggest a different paradigm in which is conceived Mother Nature as an entity that has intrinsic vales and is subject of rights. This concept could open a new legal jurisprudence. Goldtooth asked to the public: who has rights over Mother Nature? Who represents then Mother Earth’s rights? Who ask to permission when there is something to consult with Mother Earth? And how do we convey this message? He gave us some hits

“Evaluate your relationship with Mother Earth and challenge your relation with the terminology of dominion that commodifes Nature” –Tom Gooldtooth

He encouraged us to challenge terms that have determine one model of development that reduces to one all diversity of cosmovisions and set values practices by indigenous peoples around the world.



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.


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