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  • Forfatterens bildeRebekah Olson

Indigenous Climate Poetry

As part of our series on Indigenous languages (and their importance in the fight against climate change), I want to share with you all this powerful spoken word poem.


RISE: From One Island to Another


Two indigenous poets, one from the Marshall Islands and one from Greenland, meet at the source of our rising seas to share a moment of solidarity.


I don't want to write much on this as I would so rather you listen, feel, and interpret these words in the way that feels most genuine to you. What I will say, is that in the fight against the undeniable climate crisis, language plays a vital role. The interplay of climate science and linguistics is called ecolinguistics and the below poem is one of the many examples of what this field is all about.


To keep temperatures from continuing to rise, we need scientists, politicians, and engineers. But we also need writers, thinkers, and artists. We need new ways of disseminating and demystifying the threat of climate change, the dangers we are all facing and will continue to face if we do nothing, or even if we do too little.


These women give us two new voices making an attempt to do exactly that. They are sharing their story. Will you listen? Will it change you? What is your story and what is keeping you from telling it?


Though I strongly recommend watching the video and listening to the women speak their words, especially the words of their native languages, you can find the lyrics typed out in full below.

Sister of ice and snow I’m coming to you from the land of my ancestors, from atolls, sunken volcanoes–undersea descent of sleeping giants

Sister of ocean and sand, I welcome you to the land of my ancestors –to the land where they sacrificed their lives to make mine possible –to the land of survivors.

I’m coming to you from the land my ancestors chose. Aelon Kein Ad, Marshall Islands, a country more sea than land. I welcome you to Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland, the biggest island on earth.

Sister of ice and snow, I bring with me these shells that I picked from the shores of Bikini atoll and Runit Dome

Sister of ocean and sand, I hold these stonespicked from the shores of Nuuk, the foundation of the land I call my home.

With these shells I bring a story of long ago two sisters frozen in time on the island of Ujae, one magically turned into stone the other who chose that life to be rooted by her sister’s side. To this day, the two sisters can be seen by the edge of the reef, a lesson in permanence.

With these rocks I bring a story told countless times a story about Sassuma Arnaa, Mother of the Sea, who lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean.

This is a story about the guardian of the Sea. She sees the greed in our hearts, the disrespect in our eyes. Every whale, every stream, every iceberg are her children.

When we disrespect them she gives us what we deserve, a lesson in respect.

Do we deserve the melting ice? the hungry polar bears coming to our islands or the colossal icebergs hitting these waters with rage Do we deserve their mother, coming for our homes for our lives?

From one island to another I ask for solutions. From one island to another I ask for your problems

Let me show you the tide that comes for us faster than we’d like to admit. Let me show you airports underwater bulldozed reefs, blasted sands and plans to build new atolls forcing land from an ancient, rising sea, forcing us to imagine turning ourselves to stone.

Sister of ocean and sand, Can you see our glaciers groaning with the weight of the world’s heat? I wait for you, here, on the land of my ancestors, heart heavy with a thirst for solutions as I watch this land change while the World remains silent.

Sister of ice and snow, I come to you now in grief mourning landscapes that are always forced to change

first through wars inflicted on us then through nuclear waste dumped in our waters on our ice and now this.

Sister of ocean and sand, I offer you these rocks, the foundation of my home. On our journey may the same unshakable foundation connect us, make us stronger, than the colonizing monsters that to this day devour our lives for their pleasure. The very same beasts that now decide, who should live who should die.

Sister of ice and snow, I offer you this shell and the story of the two sisters as testament as declaration that despite everything we will not leave. Instead we will choose stone. We will choose to be rooted in this reef forever.

From these islands we ask for solutions. From these islands

we ask we demand that the world see beyond SUVs, ACs, their pre-packaged convenience their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief that tomorrow will never happen, that this is merely an inconvenient truth. Let me bring my home to yours. Let’s watch as Miami, New York, Shanghai, Amsterdam, London, Rio de Janeiro, and Osaka try to breathe underwater. You think you have decades before your homes fall beneath tides? We have years. We have months before you sacrifice us again before you watch from your tv and computer screens waiting to see if we will still be breathing while you do nothing.

My sister, From one island to another I give to you these rocks as a reminder that our lives matter more than their power that life in all forms demands the same respect we all give to money that these issues affect each and every one of us None of us is immune And that each and every one of us has to decide if we will rise

Cover Photo: Hurricane Ridge, WA, USA

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