COP 22: Indigenous Communities Join World Leaders In Marrakech


Between 7-18 November 2016, representatives from 191 countries gathered in Marrakech for the COP 22 climate change conference. This came at the same time as Donald Trump’s US election victory, a renowned sceptic when it comes to global warming, and whose policies include pulling out of existing global cooperation on climate change. At the Paris Convention, world leaders demonstrated their commitment to combatting climate change. The aim of COP 22 was to move beyond commitment and formulate a detailed plan of action of how objectives are to be met, and to agree on the steps that need to be taken.

Hot topics on the agenda included how to finance the cutting of emissions and how to empower developing countries so that they are:
able to develop efficient climate change policies. Without an effective COP 22, the Paris agreement runs the risk of being the next Kyoto Protocol. At the time this considered a huge success, but in reality it provided broad objectives rather than concrete strategies, and was not effective in bringing down emission levels and tackling climate change.

COP22 can be considered a success, as all countries pledged to move forward with the Paris Agreement. What is particularly notable is the ambition and enthusiasm of many developing countries, especially those in Africa, to strengthen their climate change policies and reduce carbon emissions. COP22 also saw the launching of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action to facilitate cooperation with the private sector and promote sustainable development in businesses.

Alongside COP 22, also in Marrakech was the Indigenous Communities pavilion, organised by the International People’s forum and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). At the pavilion, there were representatives from thousands of indigenous communities from around the world. The pavilion housed a series of discussions and exhibitions with the aim of promoting indigenous knowledge and raising awareness of the potential of this knowledge as a solution to climate change. It also called upon world leaders to make decisions which respect the rights of indigenous groups.

Indigenous voices are critical in the discussions concerning climate change, for two main reasons:
The first is that despite that the way of life of indigenous communities are largely carbon neutral and present a sustainable way of living, they are among those most at risk of the effects. This is due to the territorial violations conducted by corporations, ignorance of states, and dependence of indigenous people on the local biodiversity. For example, the Mochica-Chimu people in the north of Peru with whom Habitat Pro Association works, is a fishermen community who have for centuries been making fishing boats from the totora reed plant. Due to the effects of ENSO and continuous illegal occupations and garbage dumps in the wetlands, growing pools for the totora have decreased dramatically. Fishermen in Huanchaco say, 30 years ago the daily catch by a fisherman in reed raft was 30 kilos, now – only 3 kilos that leads to an increasing poverty and drives out indigenous peoples from their land. This is one example, among many, of the ways in which indigenous groups are under threat from climate change and ignorance of states

The second reason why indigenous voices must be heard in the climate change discussions, is that indigenous knowledge, as stated previously, has the potential to be a solution to climate change. For generations these communities have co-existed with the natural environment in a way that respects the natural world and has generated extremely low carbon emissions. Key to their survival over centuries has been their ability to adapt to changing climate and environmental conditions, coming from a deep understanding of the land. The indigenous practice of growing totora reeds in Huanchaco, Perú, is not only a carbon neutral way of fishing, but the plant contributes to the balance of groundwater that helps to mitigate the effects of climate change. This is one example of how indigenous knowledge and traditional practices can be used to help combat climate change.

In global discourse significant developments have been made in the recognition of indigenous knowledge in recent years. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability stated that: “Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems and practices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change” However it is clear that more can and should be done. Indigenous groups need to be more engaged in international climate dialogue. Although the inclusion of the indigenous communities pavilion alongside the conference is a significant development, indigenous groups could have had a more prominent role at the COP22 conference. Combined with developments in science, indigenous knowledge and understanding has the potential to be a solution to climate change.

It is critically important that a permanent and central space be carved out in the international community for enhanced participation of indigenous peoples on the issue of climate change and the essential role that they must play in advancing and implementing models for sustainable development.

1El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an irregularly periodical variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, affecting much of the tropics and subtropics. Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study. The extremes of this climate pattern's oscillations cause extreme weather (such as floods and droughts) in many regions of the world. Developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected

Top 10 most inspiring Indigenous Instagrammers


The beauty of being proud of your roots is just priceless and more importantly if one is indigenous. We have curated a list of indigenous instagrammers to introduce you to successful and talented individuals representing various indigenous communities around the world.

Nikki Pitre (@Nikkipitre)
Nikki is a devoted advocate of Native American education. She aims to improve the future of Native American youth by her leadership in the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools and the American Indian Higher Education consortium. In her feed (@Nikkipitre), Nikki is devoted advocate of Native American education. She aims to improve the future of Native American youth by her leadership in the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools and the American Indian Higher Education consortium.

Thosh Collins (@Thoshographer)
Tosh is a photographer who is focused on creating consciousness on global issues through photos that depict the cultural identity of indigenous people. He is the founder of "Well For Culture", which is a community that brings together indigenous genius minds.

Shannon Michelle (@Native.yogini)
Michelle is Mohawk and she is all about Yoga and wellness. She combines the healing process with a profound connection to native wisdom

Waylon Pahona (@Pahona52)
When we think of courage, Waylon certainly represents it. Coming from a negative, past Waylon has successfully overcome obstacles and rippled his positivity on young generations. His feed is truly unique and full of encouraging mottos to live by.

Tisha (@Indigenousfoodrevolutionary)
Tisha wins our heart with her passion for traditions. The one that stands out the most is the “Native Paleo food.” A revolution, as she calls it, is documented in a blog that focuses solely on food as a sacred heritage.

Jacob Pratt (@Jake_Dakota)
Jacob is an entrepreneur and youth advocate. Since 2012, he has been committed to helping indigenous youth realize their potential through Wambdu Dance.

Acosia Red Elk (@Redelk42)
Acosia is known as the rock star of Pow wow-- a Native Americans’ way of meeting together. She is a self-taught dancer and since 1998 she's danced professionally. She represented her Umatilla people, the Sahaptin speaking tribe, in various competitions where she won five world championships.

Daniel Anunnaki (@daniel.mood)
An aspiring photographer portraying the indigenous identity of “his Aymara community.” Most of the pictures illustrate his passion for Aymara traditional heritage.

Indigenous power couple Sunny Red Bear and Raynor Whitcombe

Sunny Red Bear (@SunnyRedBear-Whitcombe)
She has been deeply rooted in her culture as an advocate of native women. She believes that, "survivors will continue to heal for the rest of their lives, because healing is not a destination, it’s a life-long process.” She is interested in pursuing a degree that focuses on policy changes for Native women

Raynor Whitcombe (@Kingaden88)
Native Samoan, Raynor once realized that the obesity rates in his country are terrifying. He started working with his community members as a personal trainer to inspire his people to live fit and influence the entire fitness culture.

Habitat Pro Commemorates The International Day To End Impunity For Crimes Against Journalists


Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right defined among others in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. However, journalists still face injustices that are often left uninvestigated. According to the newest UNESCO report, 827 journalists have been assassinated in the last decade, from which only 8% cases have been resolved. Today, as we mark the day to end impunity against journalists, we stay together with all brave journalists suffering for doing their job, and particularly covering injustices toward indigenous peoples.

The recent indigenous movement on confronting the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline is the latest and the most frightening example of the attacks on freedom of expression. The producer Deia Schlosberg, award-winning host of Democracy Now! Amy Goodman, and actor Shailene Woodley now face a possible sentence of up to 45 years. For doing their job. For being a journalist, a producer, an actor.

In Latin America, many cases of impunity have been ignored by governments and justice. Journalists face obstacles from accessing information to fighting for their rights. Thirty two years have passed since the correspondent from Diario La Republica Jaime Ayala Sulca forcibly disappeared after denouncing the crimes of the navy, and nobody is still brought to justice. Nowadays, there is significant reason for concern about the situation in North Dakota even though the case is getting more attention and even some celebrities have taken a stand for mother earth.

“We stand together with brave and resilient brothers and sisters in Standing Rock, and we call on American government to release unjustly imprisoned Deia Schlosberg, Amy Goodman, and Shailene Woodley!“, said the President of Habitat Pro Association Gladys Silva.

As an organization that advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples, we solicit your support to defending the freedom of expression and information for everybody. On this day we must shift the paradigm of oppression to equitable freedoms!

The Historical Truth, Or Why We Should Rebrand Columbus Day


The second Monday of October has been a symbol of nationalism since Columbus Day became official in many countries in the early 20th century. Columbus Day was a way for the new American nation to differentiate itself from the old world. However, shouldn’t we start changing the focus to indigenous people since thanks to Columbus, they suffered the unspeakable acts of cruelty?

Every year, buckets of fake blood are splashed on Columbus’ statues. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the powerful statement behind it. Genocide, oppression of peaceful natives, sexual slavery, and death of many innocent people are the realities of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. In many places around the world, these conditions remain unchanged as many of these injustices continue to take place. We should commemorate the ancestral victims rather than recognize the man who brought these brutalities to their shores.

The state of Vermont and Alaska and the cities like Denver and Phoenix marked a major milestone in honor of first nations. Proclaiming the change to Indigenous Peoples Day, they recognized the role and sacrifice of indigenous peoples and contributed to a more accurate historical record. The initiative had a ripple effect prompting cities across the nation to celebrate this day with this day with activities that included Pow-wow, which is a traditional Native American dancing, singing and feasting.

Habitat Pro Association supports the initiative and encourages other states and countries to join the movement and commemorate the resilience of their original inhabitants by denouncing the symbols of colonization, such as Columbus Day.

WISH 2016: Wisdom of Indigenous & Human Survival


Habitat Pro Association and SMPLCT Lab partnered for a special event during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 2016 - 15th Session. WISH 2016, which stands for Wisdom of Indigenous & Human Survival, was a side event that took place on may 17th and gathered indigenous and non-indigenous people to discuss indigenous issues in regards to culture, youth and technology.

WISH as a side event superpassed expectations because it had successful panelists with different perspectives. Educators like Moroni Benally, Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Diné College; film-makers like Kalvin Hartwig, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, producer of indigenous movie This Is Who I Am, self-started entrepreneurs like Ruth DeGolia from Mercado Global, Jessica Minhas from I’ll Go First; environmentalist activist Summer Rayne Oakes, international non-profits professionals like Polina Kovaleva, Head of New York Office of Habitat Pro - all had a chance to discuss challenges that face indigenous peoples in 21st century.

The session opened with Ruth DeGolia who emphasized the work ethics that entails working with indigenous communities in Guatemala, and how well it integrates with the product cycle to reduce poverty in the Mayan communities. Ruth believes “Every culture, every tribe, region is different, but a lot of things that are working in one can really help a way of reinventing the others.”

The event followed by a set of questions concerning the meaning of culture and the use of technology to preserve indigenous heritage, among others.“In my culture there isn't a word for culture, but we have a word that means "good trail" which is the good way of living that sets the values that wisdom came from traditional stories,” expressed Kalvin Hartwig.

Moroni Benally pinpointed an example on how youth from his community mixes their native words with English when texting their friends. Many participants and panelists agreed that in a way it helps to evolve and, likewise, preserve the language. Also, he shared a story how a dating experience of one of his students led to an idea to create an application to determined the roots of a person in order to avoid dating someone related.

Polina Kovaleva expressed "In regards to our today's event and the Forum itself, definition of cultural rights is more important. The enjoyment of culture in condition of equality and no discrimination, that's what is important, and I believe that we should all work toward that". She also explained Habitat Pro’s initiative #GiveUsVoice that gives indigenous peopes an opporunity to speak up about issues in their communities and proposed solutions through series of video clips.

The session concluded with a kind remark from a prominent Peruvian activist Tarcila Rivera.

“I think we are facing very big challenges from the indigenous perspective and not only. The biggest one is related to the cultural expresions of indigenous treated as subculture.”

When Sustainable Living Becomes a Necessity

Polina Kovaleva, Habitat Pro Association

More than 150 countries are expected to meet today at the UN Headquarters in New York to sign the climate agreement adopted last December in Paris at a signing ceremony hosted by Ban Ki-moon.

This day becomes especially important in anticipation of the 15th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues taking place on 9-20 of May in New York reminding us how little attention was paid in the agreement to the role of indigenous knowledge and practices in mitigating climate change.

As it was correctly said by UNPFII Chair Megan Davis, “Sadly, the agreement asks States to merely consider their (indigenous) human rights obligations, rather than comply with them.” Once again, rights of indigenous are going to be considered, not complied with. Rights of indigenous peoples who, along with being one of the populations most vulnerable to climate change, have been the Earth’s strongest protectors for years!

However, being oppressed and pushed down for generations, indigenous peoples developed an incredible strength and resistance to be able to protect their rights and our planet without any support of global leaders. Youth using digital technology play a special role in indigenous empowerment.

Take Surui youth living in Amazon rain forest helping Google putting together an online map documenting nearly 300 cultural and natural sites, as well as highlighting their ancestral lands and documenting invasions by illegal loggers. Or, interactive game Mi Parcela designed to put in practice ancestral knowledge and self-sustainable production alternatives for the Amazonian populations.

It is important to listen to indigenous, but they often hide their origin. Habitat Pro Association that supports indigenous, particularly women and youth in Peru, created a movement I 4 Indigenous that aims to support educational programs for indigenous youth and, most importantly, to inspire them to be proud of their heritage. By taking selfie representing of what indigenous means to him/her, everyone can support the world’s most sustainable communities. Same goal has a short film This Is Who I Am focusing on the importance of language, culture and traditions for indigenous youth.

All these examples show some individual actions of indigenous and non-indigenous people to confront ignorance of world leaders and continue fighting for the protection of their land and Mother Earth. Thais why it is particularly important to come to the UN for the Forum in May.

Habitat Pro Association together with SMPLCT Lab, a design lab that creates sustainable products and experiences, plan a big event during UNPFII. Our event "WISH: Wisdom of Indigenous & Human Survival 2016" will bring together government agencies, businesses, local communities, indigenous peoples’ organizations, private investors, educators, adults and youth who all have a common interest in learning together and educate each other about the challenges of 21st century. We will discuss the protection of indigenous peoples' lands, traditions, languages and ceremonial practices; how youth are becoming peacebuilders and social change activists to strengthen the voices of vulnerable societies and what type of technologies are bridging cultures and creating cross-culture collaboration between communities worldwide.

I know that today many people will celebrate a great progress in climate change agreement that is expected to get a record number of world leaders’ signatures. The importance of this historical agreement cannot be underestimated. However, separately I celebrate the Earth Day and the incredible work of many indigenous communities who are united for the same cause – protecting our planet and sustainable living.