Indigenous climate activist Ruth Miller says Native voices and grievances can’t be ignored in the fight against the climate crisis.

The evidence has been stacking up, and we all now understand that climate change is real: it’s not only a possibility, it’s already arrived. And few communities feel that more keenly than those who live in the Arctic region and the Circumpolar North. There, the effects of climate change are felt with twice the speed they are in the rest of the world. 

Ruth Miller, a Dena’ina Athabascan Native Alaskan, has spoken to Now This about how climate change is wreaking havoc not only on Native communities and their traditional ways of life, but more specifically its impact on the increasing number of murders and disappearances of indigenous women and girls. 

In Alaska already, Miller says, people are seeing their homes blown irretrievably into the ocean, because the ground ice beneath them has melted. Toxins and pollutants are being found in the fish and caribou people are eating, and those toxins are transferred to human bodies. Rates of cancer and other diseases are increasing exponentially. 

And not only that, but increased land development in the Arctic has led to an increase in the number of murdered and missing native women and girls. The land is being developed in pursuit of natural resources, often by the companies most guilty of contributing to climate change phenomena. It is in these developed areas that increasing numbers of native women and girls are going missing and dying: their deaths are directly linked to corporate greed, fueled by political climate change denial. 

In desecrating sacred places, which are deeply valuable to indigineous people, the drivers of climate change are also having a deep cultural and social impact. Indigenous ways of life are intrinsically tied to the land on which they reside – indigenous people consider themselves guardians of the land, and it is impossible to transplant the people away from their land.

Even if indigenous people could survive climate change by moving away to a different area, the loss of tradition, culture, and land that had sustained them for millenia would be equivalent to the genocide that began with the dawn of colonisation in North America many centuries ago. 

Find out more on Now This

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