On World Indigenous Day 2021, the world is coming together to shine a light on Indigenous peoples worldwide, calling for a new social contract that leaves no one behind. Young Indigenous peoples are at the forefront of that advocacy.
Despite being some of the most impacted groups by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and systems of inequality and exclusion, Indigenous youth have been leading the way online and offline, demanding their own and their communities’ rights to be respected and their voices included in all decision-making that impacts their lives and futures.
To celebrate Indigenous youth’s resilience, agency, and drive, the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, the Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth have come together to highlight the work of young Indigenous peoples who are leading the way in fighting for a more sustainable future for all.
Yurshell Rodríguez is an indigenous woman of the Raizal Afro-Caribbean Native ethnic group of the Archipelago of San Andrés. Yurshell is an environmental engineer, climate activist, researcher, and plaintiff in the first guardianship of climate change and future generations in Latin America.
“Being part of an indigenous community and living in an island nation makes us even more vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change. Our politicians and decision-makers must hold the climate polluters accountable for destroying the natural and ecological dynamics of our planet.”
Archana Soreng belongs to Khadia Tribe. She is one of the Members of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, launched on 27th July 2020. Archana is experienced in advocacy and research on the rights of indigenous communities and climate action. She is working to document, preserve, and promote traditional knowledge and cultural practices of Indigenous communities.
“Our Ancestors have been protecting Nature at the cost of their lives. We indigenous Youth are proud of Our History, Culture and Knowledge System and are willing to Work Together towards Climate Action. Ensure Us a Seat at the Decisions Making Table. INCLUDE US, SUPPORT US, AND PROTECT US.”
Eric Marky belongs to the Terena people. He graduated in Journalism from the Dom Bosco Catholic University in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Eric is an indigenous communicator who works for Mídia India. As a DJ, he seeks to portray in his music the struggles of indigenous peoples in partnership with indigenous singers from all over Brazil.
Gift Parseen is an indigenous Maasai youth. Gift is a member of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus and volunteers in a non-governmental organization called Maasai Women for Education and Economic Development (MAWEED) as a youth representative, whose role is mostly based on rights issues, which include the environment, climate change, human rights and matters that affect indigenous peoples and their relations with relevant UN organizations and agencies. Gift is also a member of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders of Kenya (HRDK), an umbrella organization, which protects human rights defenders.
“I believe that the youth are not the future leaders – as the saying goes – rather, they are the leaders leading in action towards the future! I believe that the future generation is well protected in the good actions of the present generation. The indigenous youth are the custodians of mother earth!”
Mitã Xipaya belongs to the Xipaya Kuruaya people. Mitã is an indigenous activist for rights climate action, and human rights. Mitã is also the founder of the Indigenous Youth Union of Médio Xingu (União da Juventude Indígena do Médio Xingu), a representative of the indigenous youth national mobilization in Brazil for the rights of the Earth, and a member of Engajamundo and the Altamira Youth Collective (Coletivo de Jovens de Altamira).
“We are all from the same Earth, from the same world. And all of us have the responsibility to take care of our planet. We cannot dream of a future if we cannot guarantee a present.”
Quannah ChasingHorse is from the Han Gwich’in and Sicangu/Oglala Lakota tribes. She is an indigenous land protector and climate justice warrior. Quannah’s deep connection to the lands and her people’s way of life guides and informs everything she does and stands for. She is passionate about Indigenous sovereignty/rights, as well as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) advocacy and representation. She is an avid snowboarder, guitar and ukulele player and is apprenticing as a traditional indigenous tattoo artist. Quannah was honoured to make the 2020 list of Teen Vogue’s “Top 21 under 21”. Quannah is also an IMG fashion model and actress.
“We shouldn’t have to fight for something that should be our number one right. To live our ways of life freely, practice our culture and traditions, eat our traditional food and medicines, etc. Uplift, listen and hold space for indigenous voices and perspectives.”
Mayalú Waurá Txucarramãe
Mayalú Waurá Txucarramãe is an environmental and indigenous rights activist from the Kayapó and Waurá people. Mayalú holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography from the Mato Grosso State University in Brazil (UNEMAT). She works in indigenous health and acts as the Executive Secretary of the District Council for Indigenous Health of Kaiapó in Mato Grosso State. Mayalú also works towards and advocates for the empowerment of Indigenous women and youth.
“Take radical initiatives in the name of preserving nature and the people who care for nature.”
Dokera Domico belongs to the Ēbēra Katío indigenous group. National coordinator of indigenous youth of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia-ONIC and youth coordinator of the Great Embera Nation, Dokera is committed to working for the construction of proposals aimed at the defense and empowerment of Indigenous youth and the first nations of Latin America.
“Finally, we will continue to contribute to our national indigenous movement from our thinking, feeling, and act as indigenous youth from the worldview that we inherited spiritually from our ancestors.”
Yves Minani is the founder and Executive Director of Union of Indigenous Peoples for Development (Union des Peuples autochtones pour le Réveil au Développement – UPARED) and the coordinator of the Initiative for Equality Network in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Yves was born into an Indigenous Batwa family and has dedicated his work to advocate and promote the rights of the Batwa. He also serves as Africa Focal Point for the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus.
“As the theme of this year is “leaving no one behind”, indigenous youth have been forgotten by the government in different sectors of national lifestyle. Youth are the future of indigenous people and must be integrated and taken into consideration by the government to promote indigenous human rights.”
Jessica Vega Ortega
Jessica Vega Ortega belongs to the Mixteco-Bajo (Tun da vií) people. She is a promoter, advocate and peer educator for indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights, specifically Indigenous children, adolescents and youth. Jessica is the Yani Tundavii Dikuintii (Mixteco Brothers Together) collective coordinator, part of the CIARENA A.C. organization, member of the Coordinating Committee of the Indigenous Youth Network for Latin America and the Caribbean and co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus.
“Maybe we can’t change the world, but we can change the little piece that touches us. We are the Earth’s guests, so let it be a little more beautiful, a little more perfumed, a little more friendly, a little more mother earth.”
Anish Shrestha is a Youth Advocate belonging to the Newar indigenous community. He has been representing indigenous peoples and youth voices for more than eight years. Anish has been active in human rights, the environment, climate change, indigenous peoples, and youth issues. He is presently working as Executive Director of the Youth for Environment, Education and Development (YFEED) Foundation and Partnership Coordinator of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Youth Platform (SYP).
“We have a mother, and that mother is our territory, our common home of all the indigenous peoples and everyone who inhabits this earth. We, indigenous youth, are the guard and keepers for the Mother’s future, for our common and shared future.”
Josefa Cariño Tauli
Josefa Cariño Tauli is an Ibaloi-Kankanaey Igorot youth. She is a Steering Committee Member and Policy Co-coordinator of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, advocating for meaningful youth engagement and indigenous people’s rights in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
“Indigenous peoples embody the value of reciprocity with nature and each other, of knowing that we have the responsibility to sustain that which sustains us. This is something that everyone should learn from, and quickly, at this crucial window of opportunity to safeguard a sustainable and just future for all.”
Carson Kiburo is a youth and community leader of the Endorois People. He works on indigenous people’s rights, youth empowerment, and global governance. Carson is the co-founder of the Jamii Asilia Centre, a youth-led startup non-profit NGO that promotes and champions the rights of the indigenous peoples in Kenya. Carson is also the co-chair of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus – the official youth engagement with the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and other UN agencies. At the community level, he focuses on advocacy work to preserve and transmit indigenous peoples knowledge systems as key in combating the world’s most pressing challenges in sustainable practices.
“In this year’s International Indigenous Day – the world needs to move away from, ‘we need to include’ to ‘including indigenous youth’ from the start! That’s meaningfully participating in their self-determination.”