« Return to this article

Know the West

Seeing COP26 through the lens of Ríos to Rivers’ chief storyteller

Paul Robert Wolf Wilson’s photos take you into the streets and behind the scenes of the convention.

Paul Robert Wolf Wilson, a Klamath and Modoc tribal member, attended the United Nations’ 26th annual climate change summit, called the Conference of the Parties (COP26), with the Rivers for Climate coalition. This coalition consisted of Indigenous youth, scientific and policy specialists, and allies from multiple international nonprofit organizations. Following is a view from the convention through Wilson’s lens, as an advocate and chief storyteller at Ríos to Rivers.

 




Paul Robert Wolf Wilson
(Klamath, Modoc) is an enrolled member of the Klamath and Modoc Tribes, a photojournalist, and the chief storyteller of Ríos to Rivers. Ríos to Rivers is a group of committed river-runners with roots in river systems around the world, facilitating place-based educational experiences to empower the next generation of river stewards. Paul has a background in using his art to strengthen and document the traditional ecological knowledge [TEK] systems of his peoples, and tribal communities like his.



One of the multiple security checkpoint barriers of the COP26 campus area on a closed street in Glasgow, Scotland. In addition to COVID safety protocols, the daily process of security screenings could take over hour to enter into the conference.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Dozens of people attend an event inside of the ‘Methane Moment’ Pavilion in the Blue Zone of COP26. In this space, nations and large non-profits have meeting spaces and scheduled events for credentialed attendees and negotiators of the conference.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

The first-ever UNFCCC session closed to credentialed Indigenous delegates, hosted by the IIPFCC (International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change). Though on the frontlines of climate crises and representing the governance of over 80% of the remaining biodiversity left globally, the IIPFCC has had to work for years to have this closed session meeting.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Rayen Cariman of the Indigenous Mapuche Community in Talca, Chile, and Fernanda Purrán of the Mapuche Community of Callaqui on the Biobío River pose together in the Pavilions of the Blue Zone at COP26. The Mapuche Pehuenche communities of Chile lead the fights against many extractive industries currently dislocating communities and trying to develop unwanted energy projects.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Chilean delegates from multiple coalitions pose in front of the COP26 sign in the Action Hub area of the confernce. These delegates are holding up banners in Spanish, highlighting multiple campaigns against extractive industries that look to impact their communities.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Two protestors hold a sign outside of the first security gate of COP26. This entry space would aggregate large crowds of people waiting for entry into the conference, and remained a popular area for protests and informal actions.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

A poster reading “COP welcomes climate criminals” posted on the side of a phonebooth. Indigenous leaders and allies noted that the number of credentialed delegates inside of COP26 representing fossil fuel industries far outnumbered other groups and interests.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Dozens of police line the front of the climate march in Glasgow, Scotland. Military and police violence upholds and enables many violations of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Treaties in the development of false climate solution projects globally, a nuance many Indigenous leaders shared during these actions.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Indigenous activists, allies and thousands take to the streets of Glasgow, Scotland to give urgency to the climate crises while the formal climate policy negotiations take place.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Members of multiple Indigenous delegations lead the climate march in the streets of Glasgow. Being at the frontlines of the impacts of climate crises, these Indigenous leaders use every means possible to bring urgency to the battles they represent to steward their communities and territories.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

Youth and activists hold up banners calling for the undaming of the United Nations at the Climate March in Glasgow. More information is available for this campaign at UnDam.org
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

One of the larger Indigenous collectives, Minga Indigena, hosts a closing ceremony to celebrate the work of the delegates and honor the communities and territories represented at this international platform. Food, a candle-lit circle, and multicultural dances were present throughout the evening.
Paul Robert Wolf Wilson

We welcome reader letters. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy.