First of all ~

I’m starting to pack and gather. I fly in ten days. Feels like a mission. Emails piling in with updates, information, events, confirmations, yet-to-dos, and the excitement and many high emotions start to roll. I’m so excited with so many people heading out and already landing in airports and making headway, posting pictures, and preparing for the first week. With the Conference officially starting in a few days, I feel super nervous and anxious as to what exactly the focus will be – our focus, my focus?!

I think of my community and indigenous communities like mine across the U.S. and Canada – what we call Turtle Island and what we face in terms of climate change. We already face so many issues in our daily lives: poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, rise in violent crimes, Native Americans leading the opioid epidemic death rate, grandmothers raising their grandchildren…It’s hard to pinpoint on a small scale. We are all connected, in the span of distance and issues, and with those that have gone before us and those ahead of us. Our ancestors who fought for and knew enough to plan so far ahead and do their best for us. I’m a mother, hoping to be a grandmother someday. For Indigenous representation in COP23 delegations, the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Caucus is being held the first week.

I have an overwhelming sense of sadness and humility and wonder who am I to be asked to attend when so many should be. It’s always a struggle, even to speak. To be able to speak for them/those that cannot. Think of Standing Rock-Mni Wiconi against Dakota Access Pipeline, my own Bad River community and many Anishinabe fighting against Enbridge Pipeline, and so many of the communities in the world standing up to corporate greed and industrial contribution with devastating climate effects. I think of the many people from and in communities that have settled with corporations and take risks of black money, such as our neighboring tribe, the Lac Courtes Oreilles Community, that has settled with Enbridge for $75 million. Enbridge makes $75 million in a day. As one of my Bad River elders, Edith Leoso, points out in her facebook post: “It’s a sad day when we forget what our people are worth”.

For the mothers and sisters and brothers and sons who sacrificed and lost so much. “Can we please get a moment of silence” for 16-year-old Senorita Topacio Reynoso, an environmental activist and youth leader from southeastern Guatemala who was shot dead in 2014 protesting the Escobal mine with her father Alex. For Berta Caceras from Honduras, the strong indigenous woman who was assassinated in 2016. For Ingrid Washinatowatok El-Issa from the Menominee Nation who was in Columbia helping defend for rights when her life was taken. For so many many more that have given and been taken as we continue to struggle and strive.

I could only imagine the difficulty, disagreements, and dismay that occurred during the times of treaties as tribes, chiefs, and leaders differed in negotiations.

Negotiations and implementations, deals and money, language, equality, and things we are still fighting for. I ask: what and who are we fighting? We speak to be heard. To create the better life for the grandchildren and great grandchildren. Do what was done for us.

I am so honored to be asked to help raise the voices and stories. Thank you – Miigwetch.

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