First Nations delegates say COP26 discussions should prioritize Indigenous knowledge

Ahead of the COP26 climate conference, First Nations delegates are saying the global community needs to prioritize the perspectives of Indigenous peoples when it comes to climate solutions. 

Indigenous delegates connecting to share goals at climate conference in Scotland

Members of Indigenous Climate Action at the COP26 conference. From left: Eriel Deranger, Rebecca Sinclair, Jayce Chiblow. (Rebecca Sinclair)

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Ahead of the COP26 climate conference, First Nations delegates are saying the global community needs to prioritize the perspectives of Indigenous peoples when it comes to climate solutions. 

"I think people at a global stage need to hear that we, regardless of who's making policy or what's going on, Indigenous folks, knowledge keepers, elders are still caring for this land and we can only benefit from that," said Rebecca Sinclair. 

Sinclair, who is Cree from Barren Lands First Nation in Manitoba, is a research and policy analyst with Indigenous Climate Action (ICA) based in Winnipeg.

Sinclair is one of nearly a dozen people from ICA who will be participating in actions, webinars and discussions at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, starting Sunday.

The Conference of Parties (COP), as it's known, meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up in the early 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements.

"[We'll be] trying to influence as much policy as we can to uplift Indigenous voices and sovereignty and our rights," said Sinclair.

One of ICA's focuses at the conference will be on the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives.

"We're being excluded from the conversation," said Sinclair. 
Members of Indigenous Climate Action on their way to the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland. From left: Rebecca Sinclair, Sarah Hanson, Nhattan Nguyen, Jayce Chiblow. (Submitted by Rebecca Sinclair)

"I think that's what the global stage needs to understand is that you're repackaging solutions that we have and excluding us from that conversation, which can be detrimental to the climate crisis already," said Sinclair.

Since she and other members of the ICA have been in Scotland, they have been able to connect with other Indigenous organizations and grassroots collectives from across North America to learn about each other's priorities when it comes to climate change.

"We're really trying to be informed with each other's actions, with each other's goals and our strategies and in participating in this so that we're ensuring a united, collective Indigenous voice," said Sinclair.

Jayce Chiblow, the ICA's Toolkit Training Lead, said she is excited to learn from other Indigenous leaders at the conference.

Chiblow, who is Anishinaabe from Garden River First Nation in northern Ontario, said she trains youth to hold Indigenous knowledge in the highest esteem.

"The youth have to think of our next seven generations, so bringing that to the table is really important, and in my experience, I haven't seen colonial governments think that far ahead," said Chiblow.

Going all-in on clean energy

James Harper, who is Nehiyaw from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, is a delegate with Indigenous Clean Energy, a not-for-profit dedicated to involving Indigenous people in clean energy projects.

He will be participating in three events at the conference and will be focusing on reframing the relationship between Indigenous people and the clean energy sector.
James Harper will be working towards the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives on clean energy projects. (Kyle Ross)

"We will be talking about how projects basically fit within the framework of community empowerment and what development should look like with the community participating from the start," said Harper. 

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Harper will make a presentation in the Blue Zone — the area restricted to government officials and ministers from around the globe — and will talk about how they can support Indigenous energy initiatives.

"We'll be talking about how government policies, financial policies and so forth can help enable remote energy microgrids to come to fruition," said Harper. 

"The key stress on access to funding, among other things, like capacity building and, you know, making sure that there's an updated framework in place for that duty to consult."

Harper said he would like the international community go all in on clean energy development.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He was an associate producer with CBC Indigenous.