Indigenous rights and voices have been a focus of the COP26 conference currently running in Glasgow - the annual meeting of governments and organisations to discuss and plan climate change policy. Here are a selection of the powerful speeches heard from indigenous activists from around the world, including two from Aotearoa.

Around two thirds of the organisations that normally attend the COP conference could not this year.

But indigenous speakers and protestors have still made themselves heard, with powerful speeches inside the conference and a protest outside highlighting the 1000 environmental protestors who have been killed since the signing of the Paris Accord in 2015.

The Paris Accords legally recognised the role and knowledge of indigenous people in addressing climate change. Yet, one third of these environmental defenders deaths were indigenous people. 

Inside the conference, young, indigenous activists gave speeches about the impact of the climate crisis on their communities, and the change needed to help them.

India Logan Riley

26-year-old Māori (Ngāti Kahungunu) climate activist

Extracts from COP26 speech, November 1 2021 

"Since my first climate talks in Paris, I have been giving the same speech. I have been applauded and awarded for conjuring emotive imagery of rising sea levels and yearly wildfires that my community continues to endure.

Six years ago, I first spoke these stories into this space, and every year since I have repeated the same words - wildfires, sea level rise, wildfires, suffering, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, sea level rise. 

Emissions continue to rise.

I am the same age as these negotiations. I have grown up, graduated, fallen in love, fallen out of love, stopped and changed a couple of careers along the way.

All while the global north, colonial governments and corporations fudge with the future.

Knowing that this history shows us that hands and minds made this present world, and so it is hand, hearts and minds that can remake it.

It is indigenous and frontline communities that are leading this remaking. We are keeping fossil fuels in the ground and stopping fossil fuel expansion. We are halting infrastructure that would increase emissions, and saying no to false solutions.

In the US and Canada alone, indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to at least one quarter of annual emissions. What we do works.

In the face of mediocre leadership, indigenous peoples shine through.

This is all to say that climate change is the final outcome of the colonial project, and in our response we must be decolonial, rooted in justice and care for communities like mine who have borne the burden of global north greed for far too long.

This is an invitation to you. This COP, learn our histories, listen to our stories, honour our knowledge and get in line or get out of the way. Kia ora, thank you."

Brianna Fruean

22-year-old Samoan-New Zealand climate activist

Excerpts from COP26 speech, November 2 2021 

"When I was a little girl I was taught the importance and power of words. In my culture in Samoa there is a proverb that goes ‘E pala ma’a ae le pala upu’, it means that even stones decay, but words remain.

A lesson in knowing how words can be wielded, how text can change everything, how each word you use is weighted,. How switching one word or number could reframe words.

How climate action could be vastly different from climate justice. How two degrees could mean the end, and 1.5 could mean a fighting chance.

In your words you wield the weapons that could save us, or sell us out.

I don’t need to remind you of the reality of vulnerable communities. If you are here today you know what climate change is doing to us. You don’t need my pain or my tears to know that we are in a crisis.

The real question is, whether you have the political will to do the right thing, to wield the right words, and to follow it up with long overdue action.

If you’re looking for inspiration on this, look no further than the climate leadership of young Pacific people. We are not just victims to this crisis, we have been resilient beacons of hope. Pacific youth have rallied around the cry. We are not drowning, we are fighting."

Txai Suruí

24-year-old Brazilian climate activist

Excerpts from COP26 speech, November 3 2021 

"I’m only 24 but my people have been living in the Amazon Forest for at least 6,000 years.

My father, the Great Chief Almir Surui, taught me that we must listen to the stars, the moon, the wind, the animals, and the trees.

Today the climate is warming. The animals are disappearing. The rivers are dying, and our plants don’t flower like they did before.

The Earth is speaking. She tells us that we have no more time!

We need a different path, with both local and global changes. It’s not 2030 or 2050. It’s now.

While you are closing your eyes to reality, the land defender Ari Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, my friend since when I was a kid, was murdered for protecting the forest.

Indigenous people are on the front line of the climate emergency, and we must be at the centre of the decisions happening here. We have ideas to post on the end of the world.

Let us stop the answering with lies and fake promises. Let us end the pollution of hollow words. Let us fight for a liveable future and present.

It is always necessary to believe this dream is possible. May a utopia be our future on Earth. Thank you."

Elizabeth Wathuti

26-year-old Kenyan climate activist

Excerpts from COP26 speech, November 4 2021 

"I have done a lot of soul searching about what to say here today. I have asked myself over and over what words might move you.

Then I realised that making my four minutes count does not rest solely on me.

My truth will only land if you have the grace to fully listen. My story will only move you if you can open up your heart.

I can urge you to act at the pace and scale necessary, but in the end your will to act must come from deep within.,

I need to tell you what is happening in my home country. Right now ... over two million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation.

In this past year, both of our rainy seasons have failed, and scientists say it may be another twelve months before the waters return again.

Meanwhile, our rivers are running dry, our harvests are failing, our straw houses stand empty, our animals and people are dying. 

I have seen with my own eyes, three young children crying at the side of a dried up river, after walking twelve miles with their mother to find water.


By 2025, in just four years time, half of the world's population will be facing water scarcity. And by the time I am 50, the climate crisis will have displaced 86 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Please open your hearts. If you allow yourself to feel it, the heartbreak and the injustice is hard to bear.

Sub-Saharan Africans are responsible for just half a percent of historical emissions. The children are responsible for none, but they are bearing the brunt.


The decisions you make here will determine whether the rains will return to our lands… whether the children will have food and water."

Xiye Bastida

19-year-old Mexican-Chilean climate activist

Excerpts from COP26 speech, November 4 2021 

"In my home country of Mexico, there is an increase in intensity of droughts and tropical storms, which are themselves exacerbating present injustices.

And instead of trying to fix the damage prior generations have caused, we are adding to harm every day we fail to act. Which represents a deep ethical immortality, an immorality of disconnection with the place we call home. 

Up to 475 million more people would be affected by climate related risks if we get to two degrees of warming instead of 1.5. Even if we stay at 1.5 degrees, 4.5 billion people will be exposed to heat waves and water stress.

You have been doing this for longer than I have been alive. How many more COPs will we have before you take action?

I would like to invite everybody here to connect on a personal level with the following statement:

I am in a critical moment in history in which I have a stake in the future of the planet.

I will be respectful and responsible enough to listen to the generations of the future and the best available science, and do everything in my power to leave this world better than I found it. 

Starting by committing to have my country do the most to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming while centring justice and the protection of frontline communities."

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