RedTide: International Indigenous Climate Action Summit – Building a Collaborative Legacy to address Climate Change.
By April Ingham, Executive Director, PPP & Collaborator for RedTide
My introduction to Pacific Peoples’ Partnership (PPP) began with a wonderful publication entitled “Pacific Promises.” This was jointly authored by interns Stephanie Peter of the Cowichan Tribes on Vancouver Island and Deyna Kiriata Marsh of the Cook Islands, two young women who represent diverse nations within the North and South Pacific. Together, they crafted a work of fiction about a friendship that began with a message in a bottle, and what would lead to life changing global experiences for two young girls. The story felt very personal to both women, as the exchange powerfully illustrated their own unique biospheres, and the impacts that climate change is inflicting on their families, peoples and homelands. Ultimately, the story presents a hopeful message about solidarity, global citizenship and the promise of our youth.
As was illustrated so beautifully in this special publication, connecting peoples North and South for culture and knowledge exchange, as well as working intergenerationally within communities to build up our youth, is central to PPP’s work. Over the years we have produced 23 Pacific Networking Conferences (PNC), which are typically held in Canada every 2-3 years to address topical Pacific and Indigenous matters. Past conferences have focussed on critical topics including: West Papua human rights, Truth & Reconciliation in the Solomon Islands, and in 2015 we held “Rising Tides: Our Lands, Our Waters, Our Peoples” which focussed on experiences of climate change within Indigenous communities.
“Rising Tides” was a participatory and creative program developed and hosted with the direct support of several Coast Salish Nations in Canada. Within this we explored resilience, innovation, climate change adaptation, and the importance of traditional knowledge to ensuring our sustainability. The conference was blessed with the attendance of Ora Barlow-Tukaki, a strong Māori woman with a grand vision. This multitalented educator, performance artist, activist and community connector told PPP of a vision to host an international Indigenous climate action gathering in her traditional Māori territory of Te Whānau-A-Apanui. PPP welcomed the opportunity to help coordinate a PNC inspired conference in the South Pacific, and was honoured to work alongside Ora and her husband Ray’s organization Toitoi Manawa Trust to help make this a reality.
For two years preceding the RedTide: International Indigenous Climate Action Summit, PPP along with fellow Canada based partners – Indigenous Studies at the University of Victoria, and Indigenous Climate Action worked jointly to assist Toitoi Manawa Trust, and their Māoriand New Zealand counterparts, to realize the vision of hosting and organizing this important summit.
From the beginning the process was collaborative, kicked off with a virtual International participatory visioning exercise with Indigenous climate activists, educators, traditional knowledge keepers and leaders to help guide program development and build Indigenous global solidarity for RedTide.
Rooted by this collaborative process, with incredible support and participation, we held RedTide this past May 1-6, 2018. This was no small feat as the Summit was located in Toitoi Manawa Trust’s homelands, which was once a whaling community, and located in one of the more remote coastal areas of Aotearoa NZ. The rich landscape and biosphere here are 97% Māori owned and controlled, with the nearest township an hour away. Given the remote location, coordination and promotion was understandably a bit of a challenge. We wondered: would internationals come that far? How would delegates get to this location? The answer was simple: yes they would come, and by any means necessary. Delegates biked, bussed, hiked, camped, flew, carpooled, tented and hitchhiked! Nearly all the guests had an interesting tale to share about their travels to Te Kaha and of the warm hospitality that awaited them at both of the hosting Maraes.
RedTide began May 1, 2018 with welcoming protocol at Pahaoa Marae, followed by two days of solid conferencing designed specifically for youth. Over 100 youth primarily from Māori communities attended, some making a three hour round trip just to participate. Others living locally would stay late into the night, in support of their family members who volunteered to host the guests at their Marae. PPP was delighted that Vancouver Island youth delegate Kalilah Rampanen (Ahousaht/Cree), also a performer at our 2015 Rising Tide Conference, was sponsored to attend largely thanks to crowdfunding donors and the support of Indigenous Climate Action.
It was my greatest pleasure to accompany these youth as they traversed, and excitedly participated in dynamic daily sessions. They included those relating to water health and fish monitoring (at the riverside); and about reading Tohu (the signs) through hands on participatory learning sessions led by Māori Traditional Scholars; or at creative spaces where they explored 3-D design technology, spoken word and GIS mapping.
For me, the highlight was exploring the Māori Stardome. Laying on the floor inside a large bubble similar to a bouncy castle and surrounded by people of all ages, we looked starward and learned directly from expert Māori Astronomy researcher and educator Dr. Pauline Harris. She captured our imagination and wonder through a guided presentation, utilizing a special 3-D stargazing projector to educate and awe her students about Māori astronomical star lore, traditional navigation and the Māori Moon calendar.
More and more people began to arrive in advance of the main summit. As they settled in, our Coordination Team along with the host community hoisted a massive marquis tent on the grounds of the historic Te Kaha Marae which was the site of the main RedTide summit. On opening day May 3, dozens of visiting delegates were officially welcomed onto the Marae. Walking up together we were surprised to see a drone flying overhead recording the ceremony. However, this did fulfill an important goal of RedTide which was to make the proceedings accessible to all who are interested.
Over the three days that followed 200+ community members and delegates came together for meal prep, cleanup, groundskeeping, daily sharing, and communal living on the Marae. From early morning to late at night we witnessed fascinating keynote speakers, inspiring presenters and young leaders. Together we shared in song and feast, enjoying creative pursuits, educational environmental outings, and ultimately learning together and building community. Sessions covered diverse themes such as Climate Justice and Indigenous Peoples; Youth in Climate Change; Community Resistance against Environmental Racism through Reconciliation; Customary knowledge; Organics and Community Resilience; Coastal Inundation; Recycling; Maramataka (Māori Calendar), and Climate Education Toolkits & Research.
In particular I was jolted by the powerful words issued by Indigenous rights and environmental law expert Dayle Takitimu –
“Close your eyes and you will find the solution to climate change it is in your DNA…Indigenous people have a particular worldview, this positions us within the world, not masters of it… The planet does not need saving, it is US that needs saving, we will make ourselves extinct… Stop playing the power game – play the sacred one – it is more empowering… Indigenous peoples have a special role to play due to our unique relationship with the earth.”
So many inspiring speakers and participants shared throughout the program. The richness of the experience was overwhelming. Invaluable connections were made, ideas exchanged, and solidarity built. From the very beginning of planning in late 2015, those that contributed to the vision put forward by Toitoi Manawa Trust all agreed that we wanted to ensure a legacy. Our 16 year old youth keynote speaker Manaia Sorensen, fresh from a regional win for her speech “Five Embarrassing Things you Didn’t know about Climate Change”, seemed profoundly inspired by RedTide and ended up taking her message directly to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand. She was even photographed in the “Boss’s” seat alongside PM Ardern just a few days ago. This is the future!
Achieving legacy is an ongoing goal and true outcome of RedTide, and PPP is deeply honoured to be a part of this important movement. Together we built community, celebrated young leaders, inspired action and introduced new career pathways for youth. We created educational curriculum and resources that will contribute to climate education worldwide. The events were historically marked by a RedTide carving residency and the resulting creation of two poles by Master Carver Michael Matchitt. The poles were gifted by Michael to a new regional school which is currently under construction and set to open in 2021. Another enduring legacy is the REDTIDE Rangatahi Roopu – a community launched Youth Group.
As mentioned in Ora’s Reflections on RedTide, the gifting of cultural property was also an important component of the program. It was to this end that I felt honoured to carry “Little Dream”, a cedar carved miniature dugout canoe, with me to Aotearoa. The canoe was carved by talented Ahousat Carver and PPP friend Moy Sutherland, and then gifted by him and his daughter Pawa Haiyupis (who contributed significantly to the development of RedTide). “Little Dream” was gifted ceremoniously with the cultural support of Kahlilah and the Turtle Island delegation to all those that keep the spirit of RedTide alive. The canoe will journey to each coordinating community now and into the future, with the next confirmed landing planned for Vancouver Island in 2020. It is to this end we welcome you aboard this vision, and encourage your support of PPP along with our partners as we work towards hosting the next RedTide!
GRATITUDE: So many people and organizations contributed to making RedTide a reality. Here are but a few: University of Victoria, Indigenous Climate Action, MetaMāori Science & Digitech, E Tu Whanau, Te Runanga o Te Whanau, Southern Trust, Nga Whenua Rahui, Eastbay REAP, Coast Community Board, Opotiki District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, LUSH Handmade Cosmetics, Kiwis 4 Kiwi, Forest & Bird, Michael Matchitt, Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, Te Puni Kokiri, Department of Conservation, Hataraka Ngata Gibson of Crazy Hat Productions, IFIP (International Funders for Indigenous Peoples), Mark Gauti from T’Sou-ke Nation for the creation of our amazing logo, and to all those that contributed to crowdfunding and participated in envisioning RedTide.
In closing, PPP wishes to acknowledge Toitoi Manawa Trust and the amazing people of Te Whānau-A-Apanui upon who’s lands and territories these historic proceedings were held. Your hospitality was beyond amazing and you will forever be remembered. Thank you for allowing PPP to be part of this amazing vision, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2021 for the raising of the commemorative poles!.
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To learn more about the 2018 RedTide program check out the following stories and links: