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Alaska, Louisiana Native Communities Show International Commission Climate Change Impacts

 

Tribal leaders will guide a special representative from an international human rights commission on a tour of three Alaska villages and four Indigenous Louisiana communities to discuss the effects of climate change and forced displacement on Indigenous communities.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Michael Givens, 857-540-0617, mgivens@uusc.org

KIVALINA, Alaska./HOUMA, La. May 17, 2023 —The last week of May, three Indigenous tribes from Alaska and leaders from four Indigenous Louisiana communities will meet with representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS) for a visit to their communities and in-depth discussions about the impacts of the climate crisis on the social, economic, environmental, and cultural experiences of the tribes.

The OAS is an international association of 35 independent nations in the Americas. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is an independent body of the OAS tasked with protecting and promoting human rights. The Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) promotes and protects the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of communities in the Americas and plays a pivotal role in monitoring human rights violations in the Western hemisphere. Soledad García Muñoz is the current Special Rapporteur holding the position.

In October, five tribes—four from Louisiana, one from Alaska—participated in a hearing before the IACHR about threats to tribal sovereignty and determination posed by climate change.

“Tribal leaders were given a mere 20 minutes to summarize generations of lived structural violence and neglect,” reads an article on the hearing. “They detailed the federal government’s failure to adequately provide its citizens with resources to mitigate and adapt to extreme ecological destruction in their communities. Moreover, the leaders spoke to the barriers they have experienced when trying to secure federal relocation support and post-disaster assistance in the wake of major land loss through permafrost and ice melting, flooding, and major storms. Despite the limited amount of time given for testimony, the leaders succeeded in highlighting their most pressing concerns and presenting a moving and compelling case to the commission.”

As a result of the tribes’ testimonies, the Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights asked the State Department for an in-loco visit to the United States to visit the tribes and understand how the climate crisis is impacting not only community infrastructure, but also how tribes have experienced economic, cultural, and social discrimination when trying to address climate change impacts. During the tour, members of the tribes will not only show the stark impacts of climate change and its effects on land, bodies of water, homes, and infrastructure, but will also discuss the institutional and systemic racism of both the U.S., Alaska, and Louisiana governments in providing inadequate resources for repair and recovery in the face of massive storms, catastrophic land collapse, soil erosion, rising waters, thawing permafrost, and decreasing arctic sea ice, among other impacts.

“We are excited to meet with Special Rapporteur Soledad Muñoz and introduce her and her team to Kivalina,” said Millie Hawley, tribal administrator for the Native Village of Kivalina, Alaska, which is currently planning to relocate the entire village due to significant climate change impacts. “The final Kivalina Relocation Planning draft estimate is nearly $300 million. How we are going to fund this project is unknown. We need all the help we can get to fund the relocation before our village loses more ground due to rapidly-eroding beaches on both sides of the island.”

“We must restore our ancestral and sacred connection to our environment in order to move into a just future,” said Devon Parfait, chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw Tribe in southern Louisiana. “Indigenous teachings and philosophies that ground our sense of place into the environment will be critical in changing our institutions and life ways. Shining a light on the tribes in Louisiana gives us a lens to look at the historic marginalization and push to erase Indigenous communities across the globe and the issues that come with an over-extractive society.”

Below is a list of tribes that will meet with the Special Rapporteur. For more details, please contact Michael Givens at UUSC.

Monday, May 22

  • Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw Tribe
  • Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT)
  • Jean Charles Choctaw Nation

Tuesday, May 23 

  • Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha Tribe

Thursday, May 25

  • Kwigillingok
  • Nunapitchuk

Friday, May 26 

  • Kivalina

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The Alaska Institute for Justice (AIJ) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of all Alaskans. Formerly known as the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, it transformed into the Alaska Institute for Justice to reflect the inclusion of an additional program dedicated to climate and social justice issues, the Research and Policy Institute.

The Lowlander Center supports Louisiana’s lowland communities and places, both inland and coastal, for the benefit of both people and environment.

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a human rights and solidarity organization founded as a rescue mission in 1940 during the Holocaust. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and with a membership of more than 35,000 supporters across the United States, UUSC’s programs focus on the issues of climate and disaster justice, migration justice, and international justice and accountability.