Welcome. Victoria, I'm so pleased to be with you today. Everyone, we are with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Indigenous rights activist and along a student of Indigenous peoples and herself a member of the Kankanaey Igorot peoples and Luzon Philippines, and the third Special UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It's such a pleasure to be with you today, Vicky, and to hear your observation. If I might draw you out from your position, the rights of Indigenous peoples today and how you see Indigenous people on the broad horizon. Thank you very much John and thank you for having this interview with me. Well, with regards Indigenous peoples' realities in the world today, Indigenous people still face a lot of challenges in terms of how their rights are being respected, protected, and fulfilled by governments. But the good news is that there is now an international standard, that sets the norms for the rights of Indigenous peoples which is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people, which was adopted in 2007 by the UN General Assembly. This has helped a lot in terms of making more visible the realities that Indigenous peoples face, as well as it has given Indigenous peoples a tool that they can use to get their governments to respect and protect their rights. That's the good part. The bad part though is that many of the Indigenous peoples in various parts of the world, are still suffering from the violation of their rights like their displacement from their lands and territories. There are still many cases of forced evictions, as well as big corporations encroaching into Indigenous territories or government projects being brought into their territories without obtaining the free prior informed consent of the Indigenous people who are in those territories. Of course, the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination which means either they are autonomously governing themselves. This continues to exist in many parts of the world but with the national laws and policies which discriminate, and marginalize Indigenous peoples, there is an erosion in this Indigenous governance systems which have served Indigenous peoples for a long time. But in spite of all these, Indigenous peoples are still strengthening their own movements, their own actions to protest against those kinds of development brought into their territories without their consent as well as to assert that they have their own existing knowledge systems or philosophies or cosmologies that they have learned from their ancestors and that they continue to live by. Many Indigenous peoples are unconsciously asserting that these kinds of systems whether it is governance systems or justice systems that have been used by them even before colonization, and still exists up to the present should continue to remain and be recognized by the government and be included in the nation building work that the state is doing. I always say that Indigenous peoples actually do contribute to nation state building, because they are providing the diversity that a nation needs to have for it to become multicultural and multinational. These kinds of systems that continue to exist up to now are actually showing now that the last remaining frontiers of better kept ecosystems are in Indigenous territories and the reason why that is so, is because they continue to assert that their systems of relating with nature of sustaining the environment are tried and tested and they would like to continue such practices. That's the good news. At least, many Indigenous peoples have been persistent in influencing and informing governments in the dominant societies, that their systems are not backward or pagan or superstitious. These are very vibrant systems that in fact has contributed in making this world much better in terms of environmental sustainability and in terms of cultural diversity. Well yes, my first experience in the UN has been in my participation in the drafting of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was really the first step that Indigenous peoples have taken to go into the UN Global System to complain about what is happening to them, and at the same time demand that the international community should look into this and develop policies or norms that will protect Indigenous peoples, that will protect their right. That is how those were the beginnings of Indigenous peoples coming together sharing the situation that they face, and helping draft the UN Declaration for more than 20 years. Actually we started in 1985 doing the drafting, negotiating each and every article of the declaration, and with the support of both the UN, the UN has a voluntary fund that brings Indigenous peoples so the UN and donors also brought Indigenous peoples that we managed to connect with each other. In the process we shared our own visions of what we would like our futures to be and what role the international community can play. That is how we all started and then we fought for more spaces in the United Nations. The first one was the UN permanent forum of Indigenous issues, which we wanted to be based in New York. Because most of the work on Indigenous peoples are based in Geneva, and yet it's in New York where you talk about development about environment, so we thought we should occupy a space in the UN there so that we will be able to influence policies as well as bring to the attention of the international community the situations that we are facing. Then we all stand very strongly for the establishment of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and this was established in 2001. Finally we work for the expert mechanism on the rights of Indigenous peoples which is based in Geneva. It's under the Human Rights Council and this took over the UN working group on Indigenous populations which was the group that drafted and adopted the declaration. For instance, last year, finally the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has established a platform for sharing of local communities and Indigenous peoples on their actions on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Of course, the convention on biodiversity host also has an article that recognizes the importance of Indigenous peoples' knowledge. In the last event the process that we influenced was the Green Climate Fund. This is the fund that supports countries when they undertake climate change actions. We managed to have them adapt an Indigenous peoples' policy that basically says that when you are funding climate change actions, whether this is for mitigation or adaptation, you have to ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples are being respected and protected. That's such a fine overview Vicky. Now recently in the last few years the concept of integral ecology has come forward. I'm thinking for example of the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis's Laudato si' in which he very consciously joins social justice with ecological or environmental justice. I think that's such an important concept which I also hear in your own work understanding how people in place are connected with biodiversity. Can you say a bit about how integral ecology is now coming into fuller understanding in relationship to Indigenous societies. Yes, thank you. Yes, in fact, I have been very encouraged by the Laudato si' of the Pope Francis and I myself I had gone to Rome. I was to invited in the Amazon key note that they had where this whole concept of integral ecology has been discussed. I think this integral ecology does capture the way that Indigenous peoples regard their relationship with nature with their neighbors, and of course, with the world in general. That you cannot separate environment and development from respecting the rights of people and in our case of course Indigenous peoples' rights, as well as the cosmologies of various peoples. To a certain degree I think that this integral ecology does recognize that there are diverse ways of thinking, diverse faiths, but they all believe that nature has to be part of conserving, protecting nature and sustaining nature has to be part of our daily lives. It has to be at the core of how we relate, of course, with all the living and nonliving things around the world but also with our neighbors, whatever colors, whatever cultures they have. Vicky, I wanted to follow up with an observation that integral ecology has provided ways for non native peoples to come into a clear understanding of that connection between cultural wisdom and environmental concern. From Indigenous peoples' standpoint, I'm beginning to see much more attention to Cosmo Vision and Cosmopolitics now, and it strikes me that that provides a way for Indigenous people to speak from out of their own wisdom, and define their own language. Is that your experience also? Yes, absolutely. In fact, a few days ago I had meetings here in the Philippines with the interfaith Buddhist, where I talked about this as well. Many of the various religions and not just in the Philippines but in Asia have absolutely spoken more clearly about Indigenous peoples and how this links, our cosmologies link directly. We thought that people of different faiths believe in as well. I think that affirmation that integral ecology is indeed one of the ways that we can solve the problems that we face now gives Indigenous peoples a higher profile. Yes. The world is in a such very bad situation nowadays with the COVID pandemic and the increasing adverse impacts of climate change, and I think that to a certain degree people are also getting desperate and seeking very actively for solutions to these problems and that's where Indigenous peoples' cosmologies come in. Not only because of what we say but also because many scientific researchers now are showing the overlaps between Indigenous territories and highest levels of biological diversity as well as ecosystems where their forest or marine ecosystems are in a much better shape than even those protected areas that the governments have developed. There are now many maps that will show that in national protected areas which are being managed by the governments the situation is not so good compared to Indigenous peoples' protected areas, those areas that they themselves have protected and conserved. I think that these kinds of scientific evidences are also enhancing the contributions that Indigenous peoples can provide. Even amidst these forest fires remember you have your own forest fires in the US. Yes. The bush fires for instance in Australia among others. Many Indigenous peoples have always said that we do manage fires very well, we know how to sustain our territory so that the fires will not come into the ecosystems that we are protecting. I'm seeing this, I myself went to Santa Clara County in New Mexico and I saw that there was this forest fire that destroyed their forest and it was because the federally kept forest was burning and for many years the Indigenous peoples in Santa Clara protected the forest but because, the federal system doesn't recognize or support their systems, it went through the territories of the Indigenous peoples. Can I also ask you with regard to rights of nature, which has become a more prominent issue now where nation states are in many instance following the lead of Indigenous people in understanding, how to protect rivers and mountains and forests growths by recognizing their capacity to have legal standing. I think this is another major contribution of Indigenous thought. Can you comment then on this issue of rights of nature and Earth jurisprudence. Yeah, thank you. Yes, well, as we say our cosmologies are basically based on natural law. We do believe that nature in itself has to be protected and they have rights to continue to exist in the best forms that they can. We do support this kind of framework, we just want to have a little caveat to present. When we talk about the rights of nature we also need to talk about who is going to protect those rights? Yes. Because, of course, I mean Indigenous peoples have always been protecting these rights of nature but suddenly with the states coming into the picture, then they will assume the posture of being the ones protecting the rights of nature again. So it will somehow take over the system exist in the past while the Indigenous peoples have been the ones protecting it. They have been fighting against state interventions that destroy nature as well as corporate behavior that disregards nature. We have to look at who are the proper actors that should be given the authority to really speak on behalf of nature. Nature can not speak by itself of course, it can by having all this disaster and all that. But some people have to really play a more active and dominant role in ensuring this kind of protection. Of course, the idea is that the government should do it, but as we know the governments are not in that kind of setting where it's natural by their very nature to protect nature. I think that's the question that still remains if we respect the rights of nature, the rights of the rivers, and now there is something called the ocean kinship. Where the oceans are kin and we're going to work together in protecting the oceans. Although it should be more inclusive in terms of the actions, and the policies that are being taken to protect and respect these rights. Finally, Vicky can I ask you about your own situation among your people, the Igorot people in the Philippines, Luzon Island. Are there issues now that Igorot people are concerned about and that might be helpful for you to say something to us. Well, as you know in the Philippines, the Indigenous peoples are something like 15 percent of the national population. Also we are found all over the country in many different islands. The worst situation now is, of course, the attacks and the criminalization of Indigenous peoples. Yeah. As we talked about earlier even I was included in a list of alleged terrorists last year, and there is 600 people who are in that list and you can be arrested at any time, so the UN was mobilized. I'm thankful to the UN who have mobilized themselves to protest against this, because as a rapporteur I'm supposed to enjoy immunity and yet I'm included in that list. That's the reality amongst us. We still have this and just recently the Anti-Terrorist Act was passed which is very vague in terms of who are terrorists. It's an arbitrary way of selecting people that the state doesn't like and arresting them and in some cases even killing them. That's the situation that we face but we are still strong. We are still asserting ourselves, we do have an Indigenous Peoples Rights Act in the Philippines one of the few national laws that protect Indigenous peoples' rights, so we are pressuring the government to implement this law as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I would say that here in the Cordillera among my own people we still live in a much better way and we are in fact even in this COVID pandemic and my town has zero cases, because we implemented our own traditional lockdowns that we have been doing since time immemorial whenever there are epidemics, pests, and all that. Vicky, this is so good to hear especially the health of your community, and I have such happy memories of my visit to Mindanao with T'Boli people in the 1980s, and your presence at the Harvard conferences on religions and ecology in 1997 and I'm so pleased to make this connection again, and say thank you so much for this opportunity to hear your wisdom on the work of your career. You have given so much on behalf of Indigenous peoples and we're very thankful and express our gratitude for this time today with you. Well, thank you very much John and thank you for reaching out to me. I hope that our efforts to connect will really contribute in further raising awareness of the situations of Indigenous peoples as well as support, for the struggles that we are waging to have our rights respected and protected. Thank you very much for doing all this, and I do appreciate your consistent efforts and Mary Evelyn's efforts in really talking about Indigenous peoples' cosmologies and spirituality. Thank you very much. Thank you Vicky.