Here are 7 Indigenous Youth Activists You Should Know

India Howeth

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October 11, 2020

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Since the 1970s, people have called for a celebration of an Indigenous People’s Day in protest and instead of what the U.S. federally still recognizes as Columbus Day. As of last year, fifteen states now officially recognize October 12th as Indigenous People’s Day and not Columbus Day. This switch is meant to protest the uplifting of genocide that Christopher Columbus and the colonial practices that followed his American arrival committed against Native American people and instead celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, heritages and identities of indigenous people in the modern U.S.

Seven Indigenous youth activists share what their identity means to them: how this relates to their climate work and how they celebrate this day.

1. Kaden Ryan

I feel that my identity as a Native American informs my climate advocacy work because I feel as if I am more connected to the land than some of my friends who are other cultures. I sometimes make comments like “Mother Earth is crying out” or “I can smell the rain” and most of my friends with different racial backgrounds often are confused and don’t understand what I’m truly saying.

2. Sareya Taylor

As a young White Mountain Apache and Navajo person, it is sometimes easier for me to see the effects of things like climate change or how harmful different things such as pipelines, can be to the Earth and my communities. I grew up being taught to treat the Earth kindly because it takes care of us as people.The Earth gives us the air we breathe, the food and the water we drink. It tells us when we should be hunting, planting, it helps determine how we live our lives.

3. Jay Mercado

There is power in being a host person of the land — I flow from this place of deep knowledge and embodied resistance. The ineffaceable truth of my existence will always stand in direct opposition to white supremacy and colonialism.

4. Catherine Oxendine

Indigenous People’s Day does not have a personal meaning to me and that’s because in the Lumbee Community we have Lumbee Homecoming. It is a time where we celebrate our culture and love of family around July 4th weekend. I participate every year; eating the good food, attending pageants, and ending the week with a parade. One thing I want people to know about my culture is herbal remedies work. We have been using them for thousands of years and they are effective. It’s key to respect the environment so we can have these herbal remedies for years to come. Being Indigenous we are not only physically, but also spiritually, tied to the land.

5. Dylan Kenai

As an indigenous person I am connected to our land and earth. This is the same earth that my ancestors lived on before me and I will worked my hardest to keep our land and earth upheld and maintained. I ensure my identity in my work by acknowledging the land that we are on and who it originally belonged to.

6. Wyatt Wilson

To me, Indigenous Peoples’ Day serves as a testament to our resiliency and our continued resistance. On this day, I want people to remember that Indigenous Peoples have been at the forefront of environmental conservation and movements for climate justice. To this day, so many of our communities continue to fight for the protection of our land, waterways and sacred sites. Even after Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I implore all of you to continue to learn from and uplift Indigenous voices.

7. Thomás Lopez Jr.

My existence is my resistance. Indigenous youth must simply show up in best way they can. Remember, young people, you don’t need feathers, regalia, moccasins, cedar or sage to be Indigenous. You are perfect, just the way you are. If you want to ensure your cultural identity is present in your work lean into who you really are! Whether you’re from the Rez or City, if you’re light skin or dark skin, if you speak your native tongue or not; you are still Indigenous! 

India Howeth

India Howeth

Social Media Intern

India joins ACE as a Social Media Intern based in Washington, D.C.  She is currently studying at American University for a B.A. in an Interdisciplinary Studies major of Communications, Legal Studies, Economics and Government with a minor in Arabic: her third language after English and Spanish.  

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