Caught by the River

A Postcard from COP: Day 3

Anna Fleming | 9th November 2021

Anna Fleming‘s third postcard from Glasgow relates a meeting with the Minga Indígena, a collective of groups, organizations and communities from indigenous nations across the Americas.

Beneath the arch at Glasgow Green, a beautiful artwork is unfurled. On a thirteen-metre long piece of black fabric, a brightly coloured sail appears, filled with symbolic aboriginal imagery. Swirling clouds and airs, the rainbow, sun, dolphin and man are among the figures appliqued onto the fabric by forty women from Guna in Panama. People cluster in, taking photographs as Agar, an Indigenous woman who led this craftwork, explains the symbolism. 

We have gathered to meet the Minga Indígena, a collective of groups, organizations and communities from indigenous nations across the Americas. Minga means gathering when there is a calling, getting people together for a common purpose. This is an Indigenous Calling for everyone to come together. 

We bring a group of children from Sunnyside Primary, a school in a very deprived ward in north-east Glasgow. When facing closure in 2014, Sunnyside transformed into a School of Conservation and these children are the Ocean Defenders who develop and run their own campaigns to protect our seas from plastic waste. At 9am, when they learned they would be meeting Indigenous people from the Americas, they were excited and decided to write a message that they would carry to the meeting. 

The atmosphere noticeably changes when the children arrive. It was not hostile before, but with the children here, the air relaxes and hearts and minds open like flowers. The elders spot the children’s sign and ask for a translation. Now they understand the message and they thank and applaud the children; some of the elders cluster in with mobile phones, wanting photos with the kids, who cannot stop smiling. Then Calfin, a leader from the Mapuche Lakenche in Chile, people of the sea, gives them a very moving personal address. The children listen, rapt. The adults? We wipe tears from our eyes.  

“All the Indigenous are fighting for you so you can have a better world, better health, better life. We have to leave our differences behind. Remember this day and tell your children about it.” 

We all start walking. The Minga lead, dressed in traditional clothing that speaks of a great variety of cultures and territories, from rainforests and deserts to sea and mountain environments, all of which, they tell us, are changing in the face of unbearable pressures. They are here to continue the centuries-long battle against colonialism and heal our wounded planet. As we fall into step behind these brave leaders, pacing the same common pavements, we move together towards a common goal. Calfin, the quasi-leader of the Minga Indígena describes their role as the tip of an arrow. They are here, at the focal point, representing a much bigger collective movement. We are honoured to join them, our feet expressing better than any words, our solidarity, as we walk along the Clyde on this historic journey to COP26.