Indigenous islanders whose homes are sinking underwater march on Cop26

Indigenous islanders whose homes are sinking underwater march on Cop26

Indigenous people in ceremonial dress before marching from from Glasgow Green Park to the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

Indigenous people whose island homes are sinking underwater due to climate change have marched on the Cop26 venue in Glasgow aiming to “heal the legacy of colonialism”.

Groups from Panama, Amazonia, Patagonia, Alaska and the wider USA were joined by activists as they progressed through the streets to the sound of drums and wood pipes.

They marched from Glasgow Green along the Clyde to the Cop26 campus, where they were initially denied access.

A small number of the indigenous people were shortly afterwards allowed into the conference where they planned on meeting with the president of Cop26, Alok Sharma.

Agar Iklenia Tejada, 31, came to Glasgow from Panama and is a member of the Guna people, who live largely on islands off the coast.

She started crying when speaking about the plight of her home.

Agar Iklenia Tejada with the ‘mola’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Three of our islands are already underwater,” she said. “We are moving from the islands to the mountains or the coasts already.”

She added: “One of the islands is the one that I was born in and grew up in, so it’s very emotional to even talk about it.”

She said her grandmothers are refusing to leave the partially submerged island and that the loss of her home makes her angry.

“However, we are going to keep fighting to conserve and preserve our traditions, our origin and who we are,” she said.

She said that people are polluting, mining for gold and cutting down trees.

“All of these thing affect the everyday life that we have on the islands,” she said.

Agar brought the largest ever “mola” – a traditional hand sown cloth applique unique to the Guna people – to Glasgow with the help of the NGO Geoversity Foundation.

She and her fellow indigenous people carried it through Glasgow’s streets to the venue for the global gathering.

Machi Jorge Kilakeo, of the Mapuche Nation in Chile, said they had come to Cop26 with their “hearts open”.

“We are here to heal the legacy of colonialism and invisibility and violence,” he said.

What is…Cop6?

  • Cop stands for Conference of the Parties 
  • It refers to annual meetings of the 197 countries who are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 
  • The 26th COP is in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12 
  • Cop26 aims to make progress on delivering the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 2C above pre-industrial times, and to aim for 1.5C 
  • Each country must submit its climate plans – called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) 
  • The NDCs published in advance of the COP would result in warming of 2.7C 
  • Ireland negotiates as part of the EU at COP meetings

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