Indigenous campaigners at COP27 channel ‘spirit’ of nature

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Delegates at COP27 representing indigenous communities – some of the world’s most vulnerable to the climate crisis – have used traditional dress to draw attention to their plight and urge action.

Since indigenous “communities are not the focus of discussion” at the UN climate summit in Egypt, Ninawa Huni Kui said it was important for him to visually represent his constituency as president of the Federation of Huni Kui Peoples in Brazil’s Amazon Basin. to give.

“We don’t have much hope for what happens at COP27,” he told TBEN in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, frustrated by his lack of access to the decision-making process at the conference.

Spanning 7.4 million square kilometers (2.9 million square miles), the Amazon basin covers nearly 40 percent of South America and includes nine countries, with about 34 million — mostly indigenous people — living in this area.

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The world’s largest rainforest, which until recently helped cushion humanity’s rising carbon emissions, is now under such pressure that it is beginning to release more carbon than it absorbs, making Brazil’s recent elections a major climate issue .

Incoming President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who arrived at COP27 on Tuesday with the eyes of the world on him, has pledged to “compete for zero deforestation”.

Between negotiating halls and in a designated outdoor protest area that has remained largely empty, small-scale demonstrations have demanded climate justice, including more urgent action to protect the Amazon.

“This COP is more restrictive than any before,” Ninawa said.

“In other countries we could demonstrate on the street, gathering more people along the way. But here we can only demonstrate within the blue zone.”

Ninawa stroked the sacred feathers on his head – he immediately stood out among a crowd of deputies in suits and activists in T-shirts – said he wore them “because I am a chief, but also because the birds that gave us these feathers protect us .” “.

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“I’m here to represent the voice of the forest and its living creatures,” he added.

“This is my community’s traditional clothing. Each item here represents a spirit of the forest that speaks to us.”

– Fight for rights –

Gloria Ushigua, a celebrated activist in her native Ecuador, told TBEN she was trying to “force COP27 participants to respect indigenous peoples”.

A long orange feather emerged from her painted headgear, above a cascading array of flowers.

While defending the rights of the Sapara people and their part of the Amazon against oil interests – for which she received death threats – Ushigua wore her traditional lanchama dress, as these are the clothes she “grew up” in.

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Ushigua said she came to Sharm al-Sheikh wearing the same clothes she wore to “defend her culture and her people” against drilling and deforestation projects.

Juan Calvin, representative of the Mapuche people of Patagonia in southern Chile, said that “governments cannot make decisions without our consent”.

The traditional white hat he dons with colorful embroidery is another way for him to advocate for “the identity of indigenous peoples and their rights to land and resources”.

The hat, which symbolizes his people’s “relationship with the earth, water and fire,” is a reminder of “our ancestors, who fought to maintain our identity,” he told TBEN.

But traditional clothing “also reminds the men and women of today’s society of what they are really connected to,” which he says is key “to raising awareness about climate change.”

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