Post by Danita Ordaz | Illustrations by @ChiefLadyBird
The International Indigenous Youth Council strives to make a difference in all communities across the United States. It has provided a platform for empowered Indigenous youth to utilize their voices for transformative change. Myself and Lauren Howland were able to travel to Rhinebeck, New York to partake in the Drawdown Conference as faculty members. Lauren was also representing the organization of Seeding Sovereignty. The Drawdown is a collective comprehensive solutions-based guide to combatting climate change and reverse global warming. This conference specifically took place at the Omega Institute, which is a campus that focuses on sustainability and holistic well-being of the people it hosts.
Learning the Ways of Indigenous Stewardship
In one of the sessions, we collaborated with Roberto Borrero from the United Nations Humans Rights Council, Sherri Mitchell the founding director of Land Peace Foundation and Sachem HawkStorm of the Schaghticoke people. Together we organized a panel-style session titled, “Learning the Ways of Indigenous Stewardship”. Naturally, we refocused the topic of the session, and explained that we do not “own” the land as stewards, but rather live in relation to the land as a part of our own identities. Additionally, as a part of living relationally we explained that we must also live in relation to the ecosystems which we are a part of, including one another. This inherently ties into building solidarity with each other, supporting Indigenous movements, and tips for being good allies to one another.
The last session on the Drawdown conference was a youth panel, which we also participated in. There was a wide representation of youth from various background and areas to speak on the issue of Climate Justice. Several youth were quick to point out the fact that it is problematic that there were not very many young people at the conference, but we are actually the ones facing extinction as a result of climate change. A common theme expressed in the panel was also to provide youth with the platform and tools we need to create intergenerational change. We want to live and we are eager to help create that change.
The logics of colonialism was always that indigenous people must disappear in order to get access to resources and the land. This way of thinking has left a lasting legacy that our communities still combat today.
When reflecting on this weekend, I feel it is important to state why it is so important to not only have Indigenous folks present but to have our voices valued. Just to provide some historical context, part of the violence that Indigenous communities face today is being systematically silenced. It is embedded in history. The logics of colonialism was always that Indigenous people must disappear in order to get access to resources and the land. This way of thinking has left a lasting legacy that our communities still combat today. For example, you see rampant misrepresentation in mainstream media or the erasure of true American history in curriculum taught in classes.
I grew up listening to the elders speaking about the day that we will have to stand up and fight for our sacred mother and our water.
This type of silencing and erasure does not exclude conversations surrounding climate change academia. Indigenous people have known for decades that the earth’s climate was changing and the ways of living were unsustainable/extractive on the earth. The truth is I have been gearing up for this fight since I was a little girl. I grew up listening to the elders speaking about the day that we will have to stand up and fight for our sacred mother and our water. We have had the evidence of climate change for a long time before it was “scientifically proven,” however, as Indigenous people our voices have often been excluded from the conversations surrounding climate change and sustainability due to colonized ideas of knowledge. We have had more holistic collective knowledge bases to be able to see these changes happening. Sometimes our sources of knowledge aren’t considered “scientific” enough to be considered valid because it is not conducted in a western framework.
I realize we must be willing to venture out to new areas and talk to different pockets of people.
It seems that now people are finally recognizing that our solutions must be intersectional across different pockets of people. Now people are willing to listen more than they have in the past. The way we create change is also by embracing one another. However, when working to bridge communities for transformative change we must also learn how to do this in a respectful manner. The sole purpose of having us voice our thoughts at the Drawdown Conference was really to help create strong allies to support Indigenous efforts. I realize we must be willing to venture out to new areas and talk to different pockets of people. It is a lot of work and it can be exhausting at times, but it helps create strong pathways for people to follow in the future. With that we can begin to foster healing and hope for a better future for generations to come.