Empowered Indigenous Youth Central to Addressing Climate Crises

By Aeon Albert, NPM Youth Representative


APRIL 2021--Since 2020, the global pandemic has stopped public gatherings and changed lives. One global issue that has not halted is climate change. To bring awareness to this issue, the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians hosted a series of virtual summits bringing attention to climate change.


On April 1, 2021, more than 270 elders, youth including myself, policymakers, communicators, scientists, program managers, and organizations gathered virtually to empower Indigenous youth leadership in the climate change movement. The purpose of the day was to inspire, empower, and inform youth how to take action and offer leadership and internship opportunities.


Paul Williams a presenter at the Summit asked whether remote mentorships work in a world where the elite and wealthy take technology and climate change for granted. "Opportunities are emerging as the environment, climate change, and new technologies are developed and implemented to address those changes. Still, those opportunities are often mistaken by those who are privileged by being well connected.”


Each presentation ignited the power of Indigenous voices and beliefs. When asked how we can all work together to elevate the indigenous voice at all levels, Christopher Honanie of the International Indian Treaty Council had a beautiful response. "The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a tool with many different articles that affirm our rights as Indigenous peoples. It is important for us to remind people of that," said C. Honanie. The article that stands out most in the Declaration is article 29, which states, "Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programs for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination." Indigenous Rights are fundamental to teach future generations when it comes to protecting the planet, we call home.


For most Indigenous tribes and communities, the youth and elder populations are most crucial to those in the center because they represent and tie the past to the future. Each of the summits hosted by the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians also focused on tribal climate change policies, tribal climate resiliency, and youth empowerment. Additional summits emphasizing traditional knowledge are planned for the summer of 2021 with a final summit in the winter of 2021. You can find more information at www.atnitribes.org/climatechange.


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