Inspiring people: John Goldtooth

Tom B.K. Goldtooth is a Native American environmental, climate, and economic justice activist, speaker, film producer, and Indigenous rights leader within the climate and environmental justice and indigenous movement. Tom is active in local, national and international levels as an advocate for building healthy and sustainable Indigenous communities based upon the foundation of Indigenous traditional knowledge. Tom has served as executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network since 1996 after serving as a member of the IEN National Council since 1992.

Tom is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He is also huŋka Bdewakaƞtoƞwaƞ Dakota from Minnesota. He is known by his Dakota name of Mato Awaƞyaƞkapi, given to him by Pete Catches Sr. , a Lakota holy man of the Spotted Eagle Way of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Tom currently resides near the small town of Bemidji, Minnesota. Bemidji is located close to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota.

Goldtooth has been a presence within the Native American community and with Indigenous Peoples globally for over three decades, advocating and organizing with Native-Indigenous communities for environmental and economic justice on a local, national and international level. Tom holds the indigenous portfolio work on policy issues of environmental protection, climate change, energy, biodiversity, environmental health, water and sustainable development. Tom co-authored the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation booklet on the risks of implementing the REDD, a mechanism of carbon trading and carbon offsets program within indigenous territories. He is a member of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change — the indigenous caucus within the UNFCCC. Goldtooth is a board member of the Science & Environmental Health Network, a member of the Global Alliance on the Rights of Nature, a member of the Steering Committee of the Climate Justice Alliance and Coordinating Committee member of Grassroots for Global Justice.

Goldtooth also collaborated with Melissa Nelson, Executive Director of the Cultural Conservancy Project, in San Francisco to establish the first Bioneers Conference Indigenous Forum, starting in 2007. Goldtooth also co-produced «Drumbeat for Mother Earth,» an award-winning documentary which explored toxic and synthetic chemicals contaminating the food web, violating indigenous rights set forth in treaties between the United States and Indigenous nations who are situated between their borders, and the cumulative consequences that exposures to these chemicals causes as they bio-accumulate and bio-magnify in the bodies of Native-Indigenous women, children and men that is passed from one generation to the next.Toms participation as an Indigenous non-governmental organization observer in the UN Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meetings from 1998 to 2000, in partnership with Sheila Watt-Cloutier, then President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council , elevated the issue of human rights – rights of Indigenous Peoples in these global INC meetings negotiating the reduction of and elimination of 12 toxic chemicals called POPs, which is defined as «chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment».

Photo by Gabriela Custu00f3dio da Silva on

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