The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace International, +44 7896 893118 (in Kiruna)
Jon Burgwald, Greenpeace Nordic, +45 4081 8898 (in Kiruna)

Indigenous Peoples Put Arctic Council on Alert on Eve of Foreign Ministers Meeting

Kiruna, Sweden

Fifteen more Indigenous groups have signed onto a joint statement rejecting oil development in the Arctic. The coalition now includes major Indigenous organisations from every Arctic state, including two organisations that are permanent participants on the Arctic Council.

The move demonstrates that there is growing opposition to Arctic oil drilling amongst the Indigenous communities who will be most affected by the industrialisation of their territories and would feel the first impacts of an oil spill.

"This conference is an indication of where the world is going," said Bill Erasmus, Dene National Chief and international vice-chair of the Arctic Athabaskan Council, which is a permanent participant at the Arctic Council. "People are worried about the land, regardless of their backgrounds or professions, and people are getting together because of their concern." Erasmus said he plans to take this message to the Arctic Council Foreign Minister's meeting on May 15 in Kiruna.

On the eve of the Arctic Council meeting, 70 people from seven Arctic states attended the conference, "The Peoples' Arctic: Unified for a Better Tomorrow", the second such conference hosted by the Save the Pechora Committee and Greenpeace, meant to connect Indigenous communities from around the Arctic and foster better relationships between Indigenous Peoples and environmental groups.

The Joint Statement of Indigenous Solidarity for Arctic Protection[1] was drafted last August at the first annual Arctic Indigenous Peoples' conference, which was held in Usinsk, Russia. Twenty-two Russian Indigenous representatives and organisations signed on to the declaration at the time, including RAIPON, also a permanent participant on the Arctic Council, as well as an Inuit hunter from Greenland and an organisation from Nigeria. In the months following the conference, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum also signed on.

Following two days of presentations on a variety of topics such as the impact of resource extraction and climate change on Indigenous communities, 15 more groups and individuals signed on to the statement, including the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Dene Nation, the Assembly of First Nations in the Northwest Territories, the Youth Council of Sami Parliament in Sweden, Avataq (the environmental organisation in Greenland), The Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, the mayor of one Alaskan city and several other Indigenous organisations. A full list of signatories and the text of the statement can be found here.

"When the foreign ministers of the Arctic Council meet tomorrow here in Kiruna, it will be in the shadow of this declaration and of these powerful Indigenous Peoples, who have just gathered here to join forces to protect their homelands," said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, who attended the conference.

"With this declaration, the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic are sending a very clear signal to the Arctic Council to protect the Arctic against dirty oil business, but instead the Council is using its power to issue a toothless oil spill response agreement that isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

The Arctic Council needs to stop wasting time and resources on useless documents that do nothing to hold government or industry accountable, go back to its initial mandate of Arctic protection and listen to the original inhabitants of this land."

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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