let’s break the money cycle that stays in white circles

By, Christine Nobiss

We are in this climate crisis together....but not all of us will be affected by this change in the same way. It is well known that Indigenous communities and communities of color everywhere are the most immediate recipients of climate change disaster. Greta Thunberg just arrived on the shores of the USA. Though her work and the work of other white environmental activists is incredibly important, this world still applauds, supports, encourages, and emulates ”whiteness” and the culture created out of the doctrine of discovery.

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Imagine if the same amount of people made the same big deal about Indigenous youth from any of the tribal nations that are protecting 80% of the world's biodiversity. What about Autumn Peltier, Wikwemikong First Nation, who began her advocacy for the environment and clean water at age 8? Why are US environmentalists and philanthropists falling over themselves for a Swedish activist when our people have been teaching our children these ways for hundreds of years? Our children have not only stood at the front lines repeatedly but have DIED PROTECTING our territories and our ways. We have some of the most dedicated youth in the world fighting in our own backyards against environmental disaster and climate change. Indigenous Peoples are not activists or environmentalists. Our work at the frontlines is motivated by deep ancestral ties to sacred landscapes and from first-hand effects of environmental racism.

According to The Guardian, “A group of wealthy US philanthropists and investors have donated almost half a million pounds to support the grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion and school strike groups – with the promise of tens of millions more in the months ahead.” http://bit.ly/2NK2hQy

These are all White led projects. Extinction Rebellion was founded by three White environmentalists in Britain and the school climate strikes were inspired by Greta herself. Like always, the majority of funding will go to white-led non-profits and grassroots organizations. The cycle of wealth in this world stays, generally, in the hands of the White and the elite, no matter what the cause. Even if it is a cause that is working towards ending White supremacy itself.

We have to ask these questions. Why is a White Swedish environmental activist receiving the world’s attention on this issue when Indigenous Peoples have been at the forefront of this for hundreds of years? We all know the answer. Even the climate movement is white and privileged. Even the most radical “environmentalists” don’t understand their bias in this whole colonized mess.

Indigenous Peoples have answers; a solution to the climate crisis but the colonizers are still uncomfortable, still racist, still blind to our struggles. Have any Indigenous youth been offered a solar powered yacht to cross the ocean? How many people know about the “first-ever round-the-world voyage by a traditional Polynesian vessel—a predecessor of the modern catamaran.”? http://bit.ly/2MNSitw

Furthermore, the Swedes are unquestionably part of the reason why we are now facing this climate crisis. They may not have had long lasting nor huge colonies in North America or Africa but their participation in the imperialist race to steal land still contributed to colonization and genocide of Indigenous Peoples. The desire to steal land was encouraged by competition with other colonizing empires and a desire to “civilize” the world—basically, if they had won against the Dutch they most assuredly would have expanded. They are part of the reason why colonial-capitalism has flourished causing environments to collapse, the climate to turn and worldwide suffering to ensue.

It is somewhat ironic that the Swedes are admired for how far ahead they’ve moved into a green economy. They live in a country that has profited from world colonization and the rise of capitalism. White privilege has created an opportune lifestyle for the Swedes, so it’s not hard to do what they are doing when, essentially, they have been protected by their pedigree.

Let’s not look to them only as role models moving forward into this new era of a green economy. Let’s look at the Indigenous Peoples that have survived genocide and continue to carry on their ways—ways which can save the world. Let’s look to our tribal nations for an Indigenous-led regenerative economy created through traditional ecological knowledge. An effective way we can protect, preserve and restore the climate is by seeing and taking the word of people who fight colonial oppression by tenaciously holding onto traditions that tell a different story about this planet.

Let’s get funds to Indigenous Peoples first. We have answers.

Christine Nobiss1 Comment