Indigenous groups discuss climate concerns at UN conference in Anchorage

Decked out in flowing African garb, Mary Smat marveled Monday over how she ended up on the other side of the world from her home in Kenya, attending an international climate change meeting in Anchorage.

Smat, a Masai woman, is anxious about her work in Anchorage over the next week: helping craft a joint statement about climate change to be signed by indigenous groups from around the globe, she said.

"There's a lot of controversy," Smat said.

"I would like for us to come out with one voice," she said.

Smat works for a Masai tribal nonprofit in Kenya that works on education and economic development. She's also one of roughly 400 delegates from more than 70 countries to this week's Indigenous People's Global Summit on Climate Change at the Dena'ina Convention Center in downtown Anchorage. The summit was sponsored by the United Nations, the World Bank and many foundations and nonprofits.

On Monday morning, hundreds of delegates – some wearing traditional clothing with long underwear underneath – listened to Native leaders from Greenland, Russia, Scandinavia and Alaska talk about how global warming is changing their lives in the Arctic. The session was translated into several languages, including French, Russian and Spanish.

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