This blog was written to mark International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

Greenpeace campaigner Steve Abel greets Elvis Teddy with a traditional hongi, a traditional Maori greeting, as the Greenpeace crew of the new Rainbow Warrior meet Te Whanau a Apanui (Maori tribe) at Whangaparaoa, East Cape to celebrate the withdrawal oil giant Petrobras which had planned to drill for deep sea oil. Elvis Teddy, who skippered the San Pietro fishing boat, was arrested by police during the protest.

Greenpeace campaigner Steve Abel greets Elvis Teddy with a hongi, a traditional Maori greeting, as the Greenpeace crew of the new Rainbow Warrior meet Te Whanau a Apanui at Whangaparaoa, East Cape to celebrate the withdrawal oil giant Petrobras which had planned to drill for deep sea oil. Elvis Teddy, who skippered the San Pietro fishing boat, was arrested by police during the protest.

Kia ora my name is Mike. I am a Maori member of the northern tribes of the far north territories of Aotearoa - New Zealand. I’ve been an indigenous rights activist for most of my adult life. During the 1980’s through to the 90’s together with many others, I was engaged in the struggle to correct historical and contemporary injustices affecting Maori people in Aotearoa - New Zealand.

The colonial history of our country has followed a theme that will be familiar to many and which has included both covert and overt processes of denial, destruction, insult, tokenism, transformation, and exploitation.

As a result of the process of colonisation our lands, forests, rivers and oceans have been ravaged and defiled.

Equally, the social effects of these processes have been devastating to our people resulting in the predictable range of issues that afflict indigenous peoples.

Our activism during this time was centered on political and constitutional rights together with social and cultural programs.

However, the emerging global climate emergency caused us to re-evaluate our focus.

My first exposure to the issue was in 1992 when I was sent to Rio de Janeiro to attend the first global Earth Summit of world leaders. This was the first global world leaders meeting to attempt to address this crisis and notwithstanding the subsequent series of COP summits over the last 25 years, we are no closer to achieving the political commitment to real action that is required.

By 2008, in my home village, we were beginning to see the emergence of the predicted effects of climate change including unusual flooding events, increasing droughts, and more powerful cyclonic storms and that’s when we really began to be alarmed.

My partner Hinekaa Mako and I then began to interview meteorologists and climate scientists here in Aotearoa – New Zealand and the more we began to find out about the issue the more concerned we became, so much so that we decided to suspend our social, political and cultural activism in order to work full time on climate issues.

By 2011 I began working with Greenpeace – Aotearoa. There were a number of factors that contributed to this decision including the global reach of the organisation, and its willingness to engage in nonviolent direct action.

These things, and significantly its preference to commit to robust analysis of strategy and tactics, drew me to Greenpeace.

For example, the New Zealand office of Greenpeace saw that lobbying the government and developing international accords would not likely prevent the fossil fuel industry, more specifically deepwater oil drilling from getting established in our customary waters. Therefore the tactic was to take the fight to the oil drillers head on.

And together, that’s what we’ve done.

A Greenpeace inflatables alongside a fishing boat owned by local iwi Whanau Apanui working together to disrupt the seismic testing carried out by Brazilian oil giant Petrobras in Raukumara Basin, off East Cape, North Island.

A Greenpeace inflatables alongside a fishing boat owned by local iwi Whanau Apanui working together to disrupt the seismic testing carried out by Brazilian oil giant Petrobras in Raukumara Basin, off East Cape, North Island.

Over the last five years, this approach has proved to be very successful and we have prevented any deep water oil drilling from being established so far.

Strong links have developed between Greenpeace and those of our tribes that have been on the front line of oil exploration. We’ve sailed in flotilla together, we’ve marched together and we’ve fought through the courts together. We’ve forged relationships in the crucible of action, so they are strong and enduring.

Greenpeace crew and members of Te Whanau a Apanui (Maori group) celebrate the withdrawal oil giant Petrobras which had planned to drill for deep sea oil off Whangaparaoa, East Cape. A message made from seaweed reads 'Oil free as NZ should be'.

Greenpeace crew and members of Te Whanau a Apanui (Maori group) celebrate the withdrawal oil giant Petrobras which had planned to drill for deep sea oil off Whangaparaoa, East Cape. A message made from seaweed reads 'Oil free as NZ should be'.

However, although we are winning some battles we are still to win the struggle against devastating climate disruption.

We need to work together across all sectors of society and all nations as a matter of urgent priority.

In solidarity

– Mike Smith

Mike Smith is a senior tribal member of Northland tribe Ngapuhi and a Greenpeace campaigner.

Mike Smith is a senior tribal member of Northland tribe Ngapuhi and a Greenpeace campaigner.