Indigenous People Face New Colonization Through Climate Solutions

May 3, 2023

r. Amy Hudson, a member of the NunatuKavut Community Council, recently attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York, where she expressed her concerns about the impacts of climate change on Indigenous communities. She emphasized the need for Indigenous peoples to be part of the global conversation on climate change and criticized Western and Eurocentric governments for their reluctance to engage Indigenous communities in these discussions.

The NunatuKavut Community Council represents 6,000 Inuit from south and central Labrador, making up approximately nine percent of Canada’s Inuit population. In 2019, the community council and the Canadian government signed a memorandum of understanding to negotiate self-determination for the community. While negotiations continue, the council exercises its inherent rights to self-government in areas such as health, education, land, and resources.

At the UN forum, Hudson shared stories from Indigenous delegations across the globe, highlighting their ongoing struggles against Eurocentric governments. She noted the similarities in experiences and impacts of colonization, as well as the shared approaches and assertions of self-government and self-determination among Indigenous peoples. Hudson believes these shared experiences strengthen and validate the need for Indigenous communities to work together in responding to climate change.

During the forum, the NunatuKavut delegation made a three-minute presentation that emphasized the importance of Indigenous peoples’ relationship with their ancestral lands and the need for a holistic approach to addressing climate change. The presentation focused on key impacted areas and emerging issues, with a side panel event allowing the delegation to provide more details on the challenges faced by their community.

Hudson pointed out that climate change is already affecting the NunatuKavut Inuit’s way of life, with sea ice conditions changing, sea levels rising, and unpredictable weather patterns impacting the ocean and fishing industry. Coastal erosion and rising sea levels are also disturbing cultural heritage and archeological sites. Furthermore, polar bears in Labrador are exhibiting unusual behavior, roaming the entire coast and showing aggression toward humans.

In response to these changes, Hudson stressed the importance of developing relationships with academia to better understand the causes of these changes and potential mitigation and adaptation strategies. She also emphasized the need for climate governance that incorporates Inuit resistance, resilience, and adaptation, drawing from intergenerational knowledge and expertise.

However, Hudson criticized Western and Eurocentric governments for their reluctance to engage Indigenous peoples in conversations about climate change solutions. She cited Canada’s “arbitrary recognition of Indigenous rights” as an example, despite the passage of the United Nations Declaration Act, which aims to incorporate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into federal legislation.

One of Hudson’s main concerns is the exploitation of Indigenous lands for mineral extraction and the fast-tracking of mining permits for renewable energy projects. She argues that this approach to climate change solutions represents a “new way of colonizing” Indigenous peoples.

Despite these challenges, Hudson remains hopeful about the role of Indigenous communities in responding to climate change. She emphasized the strength and knowledge that Indigenous peoples bring to the table and the importance of working together to ensure a just future for all communities.