The Politics of Indigeneity: Indigenous Strategies for Inclusion in Climate Change Negotiations
Amity A. Doolittle
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Indigenous environmental activists have clearly articulated their views on global climate change policy. The content of these views was explored during the 10-day 2008 World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Barcelona. Data were primarily collected through interviews and participant observation. In addition, policy statements and declarations made by indigenous environmental activists from 2000 to 2009 were analysed to place the perspectives of indigenous leaders and environmental activists in the context of their decade-long struggle to gain negotiating power at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This study examines the rhetorical strategies indigenous leaders from around the world use to gain political recognition and legitimacy in climate change negotiations. Two core principles, relating to a particular representation of indigenous environmental knowledge are identified as fundamental rhetorical tools. These are a belief that the earth is a living being with rights and the conviction that it is the responsibility of indigenous peoples to protect the earth from over-exploitation. However, reference to indigenous environmental knowledge is not the only rhetorical mechanism used by indigenous leaders in the climate debates. When faced with specific United Nations policies to combat climate change that could have a profound impact on their land rights, some indigenous leaders adopt a more confrontational response. Fearing that new polices would reinforce historical trends of marginalisation, indigenous leaders seeking recognition in climate change debates speak less about their ecological knowledge and responsibility to the earth and more about their shared histories of political and economic marginalisation and land dispossession, experienced first through colonialism and more recently through globalisation.