7 Indigenous Activists You Should Know

7 Indigenous Activists You Should Know

Indigenous communities are often misunderstood and misrepresented by mainstream media and politics.

Yet, Indigenous activists have always been at the frontlines of global issues to preserve the sacredness of Earth and stand for human rights.

The impact of colonialism has left Indigenous people on the backburner of representation and accessibility, in all its mediums.

As native people to their land, Indigenous people are protectors of our systems of water and land — and we can learn from them.

For example, Indigenous communities often have ‘water protectors,’ or cultural organizers, who are passionate about preserving clean water systems in lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Recently, local North and South Dakotan water protectors have stood at the Standing Rock Reservation to speak out against crude oil structures — such as the Dakota Access Pipeline — which can pollute water systems. 

Beyond the protection of water systems, Indigenous activists are also fighting against the marginalization they face.

The violent oppression of Indigenous people, such as displacement, racism, and classism, are the reason they make up 15 percent of the world’s most poor populations. And yet, they continue fighting to preserve Earth’s greatest treasure: nature. 

If you want to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities, here is a list of Indigenous activists whose work you can learn from, support, and follow right now:

Sarah Deer

Lawyer and Professor at the University of Kansas, Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma (Lawrence, Kansas)

Sarah Deer at a desk
Sarah Deer / Photo courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation - used with permission.

Sarah Deer is an activist, lawyer, and professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas.

In 2013, Sarah was a key activist in fighting for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a law which ‘expanded tribal jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence.’

Sarah has also expanded on her ideas in her book aimed to end sexual violence against Indigenous communities.

Jasilyn Charger 

Member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Eagle Butte, South Dakota)

After noticing the mental health crisis among teens in the Cheyenne River Reservation, located in South Dakota, Jasilyn Charger and her friends started the One Mind Youth Movement, an organization which facilitates outreach, unity, and education through human connection.

Jasilyn also played an essential role in fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline by organizing an anti-pipeline water run. Jasilyn has used her passion for community care and climate justice to advocate for Indigenous peoples.

You can follow more of Jasilyn’s work on Instagram.

Autumn Peltier

Indigenous Canadian Water Activist, Wikwemikong First Nation (Ontario, Canada)

Autumn Peltier speaks into a microphone
Autumn Peltier, Chief Water Commissioner, The Anishinabek Nation, speak at Nature’s Last Chance session, Global Landscapes Forum New York City 2019. / Photo courtesy of Justin Davey, Global LAndscapes Forum

Autumn Peltier is a seventeen-year-old water activist. In fact, at the age of eight, she delivered her first speech to the First Nations people in Canada.

Autumn has spoken to politicians and policy-makers on the importance of preserving water — a sacred part of Indigenous communities and culture. Recently, Autumn was named chief water commissioner by the Abnishinabek Nation: a group of political activists and advocates.

You can learn more about Autumn by following her on Instagram

Nathan Phillips 

Former Director of Native Youth Alliance and Member of Nebraska’s Omaha Tribe (Ohama, Nebraska)

Nathan Phillips is the former director of the Native Youth Alliance, a nonprofit organization of young Native American leaders sparking culture-based community change and upholding traditional Indigenous culture.

Nathan was also present at the Standing Rock protests of 2016 and 2017, which fought against the development of an oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Nessa Turnbull-Roberts

Bundjalung woman and winner of the 2019 Young People’s Human Rights Medal (Sydney, New South Wales)

In 2019, Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts was recognized as one of Australia’s leading Indigenous activists.

Vanessa is a human rights activist for advocates for child housing rights — as a child who was forcibly taken from her family, Vanessa now works to abolish out-of-home care in Australia.

You can follow more of Vanessa’s work advocating for human rights through Twitter and Instagram.

Larissa Crawford

Anti-racism Researcher and member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (Alberta, Canada)

Larissa Crawford is a published researcher, artist, and climate change activist.

She’s the founder of Future Ancestors Services, an Indigenous and Black-owned, youth-led service that is focused on climate justice through an anti-racist lens.

Larissa is passionate about preserving the sacred nature of people and planet Earth and focuses her transformational services on accessibility, anti-racism, and anti-ageism.

You can follow Larissa on Instagram.

Txai Suruí

Indigenous environmentalist and Amazonian preservation activist (Rondônia, Brazil)

Among many Indigenous activists in South America is Txai Suruí, who is working to preserve the Amazonian forest.

Txai is fighting against the deforestation and land-grabbing that is so common for rainforests across the world. 58.4% of the Amazonian rainforest borders Brazil, making it a large part of South America’s greenery and iconic nature preservations — Txai works with other Indigenous Brazilian activists to stop the forest from being torn down.

You can follow more of her work on Instagram and Twitter.

In order to represent Indigenous people in our communities, it is essential to stand behind the activists who are fighting for their right to be heard, seen, and understood.

You can start by learning from and supporting these activists who are working to build a better world.

Article Details

October 30, 2021 10:05 PM
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