From an article by Chris Detjen and Maia Dedrick on

On Saturday, Dec. 12, Aurora Conley, a 25-year-old Ojibwe native of Bad River, Wis., walked at the leading edge of a 100,000-person march through the streets of Copenhagen — the largest climate mobilization in history, by many estimates — carrying with other indigenous people a banner that said “The World Wants a Real Deal.” The following Wednesday, she spoke at a press briefing on behalf of the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change.

“It was really imperative that we were at the front lines of the march, and that we’re at the front lines of the climate movement,” Conley said. “Indigenous peoples are the ones most impacted by climate change and the practices causing it. Our cultures and traditions are the ones that are dying first.” When asked for examples of these impacts, she spoke of close native friends who have developed cancer due to suspected exposure to toxic oil sand mining residues.

A local leader, Conley is studying to become a solar panel installation trainer for other Native Americans, and has worked with Winona LaDuke through the environmental organization Honor the Earth. At the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, she took her leadership global.

Conley was in Copenhagen as one of 12 Midwestern young people attending the conference through Expedition Copenhagen, a partnership between the Will Steger Foundation and Stonyfield Farm. Like all of us on the Expedition, Conley used her time there to connect people in her community back home with this year’s historic deliberations in Copenhagen.

Midwest contributes 20% of U.S. greenhouse emissions
Expedition delegates hailed from seven states in the Upper Midwest: Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Our region’s voice matters greatly on climate change. The Midwest contributes 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the United States each year, largely because of its dependence on coal-fired electricity.