Whether it be environmental disaster or extractive development, often it’s the indigenous First Nation peoples around the world who are on the frontlines – whose lives, communities and very existence are under threat. In First Nations Frontline, a new series which recently started airing on Al Jazeera English, indigenous people from Australia, Sweden, Colombia and North America invite audiences into their worlds, revealing the realities and consequences of the rampant capitalism and human greed which contributes to the climate crisis.
Providing a glimmer of hope as the world navigates the climate crisis, Colombian Arhuaco leader Ruperto Chaparro Villafaña teams up with scientists to save the critically endangered Starry Night Harlequin Toad in Colombia, in The Starry Night Toad directed by Kata Karáth. They work to unite indigenous and western scientific knowledge to understand the role of the toads in the unique ecosystem of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world’s highest coastal mountain and the sacred land of the Arhuaco people. The life cycle of the frog helps determine when to cultivate and harvest different crops – the reason this species is a flagship for their community-based project. Chaparro Villafaña must also defend their territory against illegal land grabbers, even as he’s working with scientists to find the cure for a deadly fungus that threatens all Harlequin toad species in the Neo-tropics.
The Torres Strait: Swallowed by the Sea directed by Theopi Skarlatos, looks at the Torres Strait Islanders’ class action against climate change. Climate change is causing catastrophic damage to the Torres Strait Islands. Fearful of losing their homes, the islanders sue the Australian government – but this is just the beginning. Refusing to be silenced, this is the story of how a father and son are letting the world know of their plight.
In Black Butterflies: The Cost of Going Green directed by Saila Huusko, father and daughter Mikael and Sara Elvira fight against what they believe is Sweden’s exploitation of their land and resources, in the name of Sweden’s green agenda. Their community, the Sami, believe natural resources should only be used when necessary because, without them, humans will cease to exist. This film is their journey as they lobby climate activists and the Swedish government demanding the protection of their way nomadic way of life.
Moving to North America, the Navajo Nation offer valuable knowledge to mitigate the effects of climate change on their sacred lands in Native Nation: Voices of Survival directed by Ali Sargeant Sam Liebmann. Two Native American writers take us on a road trip to meet a community of fellow indigenous activists who are fighting to protect their land. They use traditional knowledge and ideas, and hope to influence the world’s approach to save the environment.
“The issue of the environment and the struggles of First Nation people often go hand in hand, and certainly we have seen this in the recent COP27 deliberations in Egypt,” says Farid Barsoum, Executive Producer of the First Nations Frontlines series for AL Jazeera. “ Indigenous people are often the first to bear the brunt of our environmental failures. We commissioned this series in the hope that several of these stories will collectively illuminate some of these issues, providing valuable insights for a global audience.”
The documentaries can be accessed on Al Jazeera English streaming service, Youtube https://www.youtube.com/@aljazeeraenglish/featured or online https://www.aljazeera.com/videos/documentary/