An aerial photo of the complex geology of Australia's Great Sandy Desert; by USGS via Unsplash.
Climate Action

Indigenous Youth Climate Activists You Need To Follow

Although comprising a small percentage of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples protect around 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity. For many, their traditional knowledge and way of life — often stretching back through centuries or even millennia — exist because of an interdependent relationship with the land.

While a diverse range of Indigenous Nations and communities can be found around the globe — each with their own histories, cultures and livelihoods — many tend to share an approach to life deeply rooted in reciprocity. To put it succinctly, Indigenous groups have successfully overseen vast ecological areas that maintain a life preserving balance — without exploitation.

Indigenous peoples and local communities play an outsized role in the governance, conservation and sustainable use of the world’s biodiversity and nature. They actively protect and conserve an astounding diversity of globally relevant species, habitats and ecosystems […] | ICCA Territories of Life Report, 2021

Foreground Text: Indigenous Youth Climate Activists You Need To Follow; a Climate Action post on Transatlantic Notes. Background Image: An aerial photo of the complex geology of Australia's Great Sandy Desert; by USGS via Unsplash.

Indigenous land management includes conservation at its heart; safeguarding where they live and their culture from logging, drilling, oil pipelines, deforestation, mining, fish and marine decimation — all ongoing issues — that underpin what will ultimately save the planet.

For those of us who fight for sustainability and climate action but come from non-Indigenous communities (applicable to individuals, governments and policymakers alike); we must ensure our support of environmentalism does not centre our needs/voices or encroach on Indigenous sovereignty. We do not have the right to demand or expect unrestricted access to sacred, cultural knowledge — especially if the steps we use to shield our lifeways from climate collapse comes at the cost of failing to protect theirs. Our climate advocacy must never lose sight of true allyship; Indigenous representation must be championed and secured at every climate conference, governmental panel or decision making process that aims to address this global threat.

Climate activists are instrumental when it comes to establishing initiatives that raise awareness and generate actionable change; a number of them are Indigenous youth leading the way to a future aimed at ensuring climate justice … 

Xiye Bastida

A member of the Otomi-Toltec Nation from Central Mexico (now living in New York City), Xiye Bastida is one of the principal coordinators of Fridays For Future; a youth-led global climate strike movement. She is also the co-founder of Re-Earth Initiative — an international organization that focuses on highlighting the intersectionality of the climate crisis.

Txai Suruí

Txai Suruí, (from the Paiter Suruí people of Rondônia, Brazil) comes from an area of the Amazon that has witnessed some of the most extreme deforestation. Industries such as mining, timber extraction and agricultural development have caused biodiversity to disappear and left life-giving rivers to run dry. As founder and coordinator of the Movement of Indigenous Youth of Rondônia; Suruí works alongside the Kanindé legal team to defend and preserve the ancestral lands and rights of her people. 

Quannah Chasinghorse

From the Hän Gwich’in and Sičangu-Oglala Lakota tribes in the U.S. (Alaska and South Dakota, respectively), Quannah Chasinghorse is a proud land and climate protector and model. Through her work with The Alaska Wilderness League, she helps to defend Alaska’s significant public wildlands from oil and gas drilling and other industrial threats. Her rising social media presence and ascent into modelling helps Quannah raise awareness and advocates for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit movement (MMIWG2S).

Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier is an Anishinaabe Indigenous rights advocate from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Ontario, Canada. Since being appointed as Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation in 2019; Autumn has gone on to speak at climate and economical conferences to advocate for global clean water policies and protections. She became a water activist at just eight years of age after learning pollution had poisoned the water supply of a neighbouring Indigenous community.

Amelia Telford

As National Director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network; Amelia ‘Millie’ Telford (Bundjalung People of Northern New South Wales, Australia) works tirelessly to protect and preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lifeways from the harmful impacts of fossil fuel extraction and its resulting climate change. Millie is committed to conserving and developing a more sustainable future based on robust climate justice.

India Logan-Riley

India Logan-Riley (Māori People, New Zealand) is the co-founder of Te Ara Whatu, a Māori and Pasifika youth climate action group that works to find climate change solutions focused on protecting Indigenous sovereignty. Rooted through her traditional teachings, India educates and mobilizes resistance to further land development and practices that perpetuate cultural and environmental degradation. In 2021 she received the Stanford University Bright Award.

A Fridays For Future protest with a number of Indigenous youth holding a banner that reads, 'Indigenous Justice Is Climate Justice'; photo by John Englart/Climate Action Network via Flickr.
photo via John Englart/Climate Action Network

Laetania Belai Djandam

Laetania Belai Djandam (Dayak Tribe, Borneo Island, Indonesia) began her climate activism at age seven when she participated in a river clean-up. As a young adult, Laetania continues advocating for sustainable forest and land management; focusing on halting illegal logging and other industries from contributing to global warming through the destruction, displacement and degradation of Borneo Island wildlife and soil.

Josefa Cariño Tauli

Josefa Cariño Tauli (Ibaloi-Kankanaey Igorot People, Cordillera, Philippines) is a committee member and policy co-coordinator for Global Youth Biodiversity Network; a youth-led organization that aims to halt ecological loss around the world. Working to push international leaders to take bold climate action, Josefa raises awareness about embracing sustainability and equitable climate justice.

Martina Fjällberg

Martina Fjällberg (Sámi People) is a reindeer herder and climate activist from Sweden; the Sámi are Indigenous Nations that live in the Arctic regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. Currently the vice president of Sáminuorra; a Sámi youth organisation that aims to promote and protect the interests and rights of the Sámi People; Martina also works to safeguard nature and cultural conservation efforts from the impacts of climate change.

Climate change is something that will impact all of us; this fact is inescapable. As a global collective we are responsible for ensuring our planet is protected and maintained so that generations to come can live sustainably. Any action we support or undertake has to include and preserve Indigenous communities; their youth is showing us the way forward. It’s time we follow their voices and causes; our futures — and theirs — are all connected.

How are you supporting Indigenous groups from around the world? Does your climate action defend Indigenous rights?


Further Info:

It’s Time to Put Indigenous Peoples First at the UN Biodiversity Talks – Climate Home News

25 thoughts on “Indigenous Youth Climate Activists You Need To Follow”

  1. I commend each and every single one of these youths for dedicating their time and building platforms to educate others about the climate crisis. Defending and preserving Indigenous communities and their rights is crucial. Thank you for sharing this informative post!

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  2. Great post! The rights of Indigenous people in Canada has been a big theme this year with the discovery of mass graves as part of the residential schools. I’m sure Canada is not alone in this and hope that other nations will be held accountable as well.

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    1. Hopefully more people will become aware of Indigenous rights and become involved in supporting justice for these nations. I’ve been following the news about residential schools in Canada and the U.S. for a number of years and hope that everything is done that those communities involved want to be done; the damage this “school” system did is indefensible.

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  3. This post is very informative. Preserving the climate and safe guarding our environment has become an urgent issue. But I also agree there’s need to strike the right balance when it comes to considering the culture and traditions of the indigenous people because for those communities, their practices is their identity. Interesting. Thanks for giving us this insight

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  4. Hi Molly,

    I complete agree when you say “As a global collective we are responsible for ensuring our planet is protected and maintained so that generations to come can live sustainably.”. The sad thing is, far too many countries are inclined to focus on money rather than the environment – there needs to be a change in how we approach things.

    For example, rather than saying that it is the responsibility of consumers to recycle items made of plastic, why isn’t there legislation saying that manufacturers shouldn’t produce plastic in the first place? Tackle the problem at the source!

    Sadly, I think that things will have to get worse than they already are before some people wake up to the realisation that we are destroying the planet that we live on!

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    1. I agree and have written a number of posts on this exact issue; that individual action, while noble and helpful, is not really where responsibility should lie.

      The global collective I’m referring to most definitely includes holding polluting and extractive industries/governments accountable for their inaction/love of profit over planet — my last climate action post was reflecting on this and the barriers we face when the people making policies are bought and paid for by Big Oil, Coal, etc.

      I hope in our support of climate action that we are also seeking climate justice that protects and preserves Indigenous rights and lands.

      Thanks for your comment!

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  5. I have not heard of any of these indigenous activists, but I am scrolling through their social media as we speak. It’s so important to share this type of information with the world.

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  6. Great post, Molly. This is such an important topic and I am glad to see that you highlight all the amazing people with the work that they do.
    They are the real heroes and it’s good to see that they get some more recognition. Thank you for bringing this topic to my attention and to all your readers. Thanks!

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  7. I am unfamiliar with most of these indigenous activists so thank you for enlightening me and sharing the work that they do. I will definitely have to look more into them and the movements they support.

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  8. Such a great list! In Canada, I feel like indigenous people are on the front lines protecting the country’s land the most. If it wasn’t for their actions, voices, and sacrifices I think we’d have so much less old growth forests and protected land. I’m so grateful for the work they do!

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