Developing strategies and framing climate discourse to bolster First Nations’ voices in Climate Change.

The First Nations Climate Lens A critical, decolonizing lens on climate that promotes holistic, multi-dimensional and interconnected solutions for climate issues.

First Nations face unique climate risks because of how colonialism and capitalism have shaped where we live, our socio-economic conditions, and how we exercise our relationships with Mother Earth. The AFN has developed a ‘Climate Lens’  to ensure that First Nations’ experiences and interconnections aren’t overlooked when contemplating climate related solutions for (or by) First Nations.

A First Nations’ Climate lens advocates for a fundamental reframing of the climate discourse; it moves away from the overemphasis on technological solutions, towards a framing that emphasizes the centrality of First Nations’ governance, rights and knowledge systems. This proposes that a critical and decolonizing lens is essential for equitable, immediate and transformative action built on solutions that are holistic, multi-dimensional and interconnected.

Case Study: BC First Nations Climate Strategy and Action Plan

The BC First Nations Climate Strategy and Action Plan, released in 2022, is grounded on a vision, five guiding principles, and four priority pathways for climate action: Inherent Title and Rights; Capacity and Leadership; Land and Water Protection; and Climate Response and Preparedness. The full Strategy, as well as 20 Urgent Calls for Climate Action, can be found on the website:

Case Study: The Yukon First Nations Reconnection Vision

The Yukon Climate Action Fellowship, a cohort of 13 First Nations youth from across the Yukon, launched their Reconnection Vision (RV) in May 2023. The RV identifies the dominant approach to climate action is to treat the symptoms of climate change (e.g., rising carbon dioxide emissions) rather than the root causes—Disconnected relationships. Their response is to emphasize the concept of Reconnection, framing Reconnection—the practice of getting back into good relationship with spirit, self, each other, and the Land—as climate action. The full Reconnection can be found on the website:

First Nations jurisdiction and inherent right to self-determination

Address capacity needs to support First Nations governance and their role as climate leaders

First Nations self-sufficiency in food, water, and energy

Close the natural and built infrastructure gap

First Nations are equipped to mitigate, prevent, respond and recover to all emergencies

Leverage the First Nations Climate Lens to reform legislation, policy, and programs

Environmental action based in First Nations knowledge systems, health, languages, cultures and spiritualities

First Nations Lens to Climate Action

The Assembly of First Nations is working with First Nations leaders in climate action, Knowledge Keepers and other experts to advance a holistic and uniquely First Nations-perspective on climate problems and climate solutions, grounded in the interconnectedness of all living things and First Nations’ cultures, knowledge, teachings and relationship to environment, and focused on Indigenous knowledge exchange. Learn more about the First Nations Climate Lens and our efforts in the AFN National Climate Gathering Report.

A Look at the First Nations Climate Lens Key elements of the National Climate Strategy

Circle 1: Natural Law

Circle 1: Natural Law

Our Original Instructions.

First Nations Knowledge Keepers have described climate change as a symptom of a greater problem: a set of human values, based on the separation of humans from the natural world, that guide a series of destructive human behaviours and activities blatantly disrespecting Natural Law.

Natural Law is a set of laws that originate directly from the Creator, based in our diverse languages, oral histories, and ceremonies, to govern how we must interact with the Land, Water, and more-than-human relatives to ensure balance and reciprocity.

Circle 2: Context

The Legislative, Legal and Policy Ecosystem

For First Nations, climate action is a rights- and responsibilities-based activity that occurs within a legislative, legal, and policy context. This stems from our inherent jurisdiction over our lands and territories, as well as our affirmed right to self-determination.

The broader ecosystem for this includes the federal government’s passing of legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), its commitment to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, as well as the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It also includes Indigenous-specific jurisprudence and the protections afforded to First Nations by the Constitution Act, 1982.

Circle 3: Impacts

The First Nations’ Lived Reality

In Canada, climate conversations often disregard the historical legacy of colonization, which has included relocating First Nations, forcibly removing children from their families and placing them in Residential Schools, and prohibiting the use of traditional languages and practices, among other atrocities.

Climate change exacerbates many of the resulting impacts of colonization, including those relating to mental health and well-being, poverty, poor housing, food and water insecurity, and the erosion of rights, culture, and access to lands.

The lived reality of First Nations needs to be understood and incorporated into analyses of the distribution and experience of climate-related impacts. In this regard, addressing the climate crisis cannot be separated from the broader project of First Nations self-determination and reconciliation.

Circle 4: Action

A First Nations’ Worldview

First Nations-led solutions are multidimensional, interrelated, interconnected, and grounded in First Nations law, knowledge, language, and governance. The core of a First Nations worldview is an understanding that we are one with the land.

This recognition lays the foundation for a set of legal principles and orders that, while unique to each individual First Nation, represent natural, spiritual, and environmental law. It is this sacred responsibility.

AFN National Climate Strategy Toward urgent and transformative climate action.

In July 2019, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) declared a First Nation Climate Emergency. The resolution laid out some immediate steps for AFN to develop a National Climate Strategy and host bi-annual National Climate Gatherings. It directed the strategy to stress urgent and transformative climate action that reduces emissions in Canada, while simultaneously addressing income inequality within First Nations as part of the mobilization for a just transition

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has hosted two successful National Climate Gatherings in Whitehorse, Yukon, on the traditional territory of the Ta’an Kwächän and the Kwanlin Dün and in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the territories of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, and Peskotomuhkati peoples

The Gatherings offered opportunities to show that, despite the disproportionate risks First Nations face in climate change impacts, First Nations-perspective on climate impacts, risks, and opportunities at a local, regional, national, and international level, inherently possess a deep and holistic understanding of the root-causes of the climate crisis. 

Annual Reports

AFN National Climate Gatherings Bringing together First Nations from coast‑to‑coast‑coast.

In July 2019, First Nations-in-Assembly passed Resolution 05/2019, Declaring a First Nations Climate Emergency.This resolution mandated the AFN to organize National Climate Gatherings and develop a National Climate Strategy.

AFN National Climate Gathering Overview

On March 3 and 4, 2020, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) held its first National Climate Gathering (the Gathering) in Whitehorse, Yukon, on the traditional territory of the Ta’an Kwächän and the Kwanlin Dün. Well over 300 First Nations experts, leaders, youth, women, knowledge keepers, and professionals, gathered to discuss the most urgent crisis of our time – climate change.

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