Aurora L. Conley is a member of Climate Generation’s Window Into COP23 program, a multi-sector delegation attending the United Nation Framework on Climate Change Convention’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bonn, Germany. Our delegates will observe sessions and interact with climate change policy negotiations across international leaders and stakeholders.
Conley is Anishinabe from the Bad River Tribe on Lake Superior in Wisconsin. She lives there with her two sons, Misko and Jordan. She’s worked for the Tribe’s legal department since 2012 as the Litigation Support Specialist. Conley chairs the Anishinabe Environmental Protection Alliance (AnEPA), focusing on protection and preservation of land and water. She was a delegate with the Will Steger Foundation’s 2009 Expedition Copenhagen to COP15 and COP16 in Cancun, Mexico. Conley worked for Honor the Earth, as Executive Assistant, for a number of years. She recently was an International Observer serving El Salvador and Guatemala. She addresses many community issues such as poverty, education, public health and resiliency, and connects them to the larger world.
How does climate change affect the indigenous community sector?
Communities of color have been at the frontlines of many things, and climate change is no different. With lack of resources and voice, we would be and are the most affected by causes and effects of climate change. I speak for not only my community on Lake Superior, as we are facing drastic weather changes and floods, but also considering those Indigenous across the world who are even losing their homelands and ability to live from the land.
How can the philanthropy sector contribute to climate change solutions and help us uphold our commitment to the Paris Agreement?
Wow!! What a question!! The contributions are unlimited: being connected to and struggling to protect our land bases, fighting for the health of Mother Earth and her children, upholding human rights that are and should be available to all. Indigenous communities have values and beliefs that are rooted in sustenance and sustainability for human life in relation to Mother Earth. We fight to survive, to be heard. We are warriors.
Why are you excited to attend COP23? What are you most looking forward to?
I am excited to know things and to learn! I’ve been to COPs before, and it was so exciting to be introduced to policy, community, and the enormous amounts of connectivity. I’m looking forward to mentoring, learning, giving feedback, traveling, and participating!
What change or progress do you hope comes from the conference, whether that’s personally or politically?
I personally am very excited to be involved in a different capacity with Climate Generation. I feel that things are coming back around, as I traveled with them (then named Will Steger Foundation) previously as a youth to the UNFCCC, and now coming back years later, I am more knowledgeable and experienced. Politically, I’m excited to see what the states and cities of the U.S. have to say, as some have already declared that they would uphold and aim to implement the Paris Agreement despite administrative opposition.
Where is your favorite place to be outdoors in Minnesota?
There’s an oak tree that sits alone in this field on Highway 34. It looks as though it has been there for quite a while, and it reminds me of strength, endurance, and perseverance—that it’s okay to stand alone and stand strong.
I love being in White Earth. The land is so vast and rich, and I’ve made many connections and learned a lot from there. I love any of the shores of Lake Superior because there’s so much history and connection there to the Ojibwe. I would love to explore the Boundary Waters, as I have heard many great things!! Any place with a shore and body of water, history, and connections, and I’m happy!!
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