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In celebration of Earth Day, United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) announces the 2023-2024 class of UNITY Earth Ambassadors. The
environmental stewardship and leadership program, which began in the 1990s, provides Native American youth with training sessions and informational workshops to increase their knowledge of environmental issues affecting Indian Country.

“Our newest class of Earth Ambassadors shares a commitment to protecting Mother Earth and implementing ideas to sustain our natural environment for future generations,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY executive director. “While we make this important announcement on Earth Day, it is important to remember that conservation should be a year-round commitment. These young people are up to the challenge of making that happen.”

ALL OF THE APPLICANTS FOR THIS year’s EARTh AMBASSADORS CAME HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Learn more about what their community had to say about these amazing advocates:

● Bronson Kainoa Azama, 22, Kānaka Maoli, Hawaii

“Bronson is from the islands of Hawaii where he serves as a youth advocate for his people. He time and
time again puts in countless hours towards his cause of protecting and preserving the Hawaiian language,
lands, and culture. Bronson is one incredible human being because his calling is towards his people and
being an educator to many all throughout turtle island. When I first met Bronson, I was astonished by the
presence he brings and his knowledge of the importance of protecting Mother Earth. He brings a voice to
the table and represents his people very graciously and proudly. Bronson is an active earth ambassador
without the title and continues to work towards a greater goal of being the voice of his people and Mother
Earth.” – Former Earth Ambassador and UNITY Western Region Representative, Steve Harvey

● Derek Capitan, 24, Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico



“Mr. Capitan is outstanding! I serve as his research mentor at the University of New Mexico. Mr. Capitan  has shown outstanding dedication, motivation, and talent! He has been collaborating with Professor  Eliane El Hayek and I conducting research related to the accumulation of metals in plants on lands used  for agricultural practices in his native community at Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico. This community has been affected by mining legacy, so Mr. Capitan’s project responded to community needs, which informed  the design of the study. The results of Mr. Capitan’s work indicate that the water and soils the community  members are currently using for agricultural practices are safe.” – Associate Professor and Regents’ Lecturer, University of New Mexico Jose M. Cerrato 

● Spencer Walton, 20, Confederated Tribes Of Siletz Indians, Oregon

“I have had the honor of working with Spencer, a youth participant in a Tribal Water Summit held at the University of Oregon. Here, I learned Spencer’s greatest accomplishment was graduating high school. As a Siletz tribal youth member, I learned that Spencer eagerly sought out opportunities to be in spaces that encourage Native youth excellence. Spencer was in attendance for the 2022 National UNITY Conference and it was a conversation starter as we both shared our excitement for being in a city together before ever meeting. It is experiences like these that remind me of the spirit of Native youth being curious and eager to find those healing connections in our journeys. Spencer’s mother and I also spoke and I learned of the troubles Spencer had to endure to receive his diploma. After graduating high school, Spencer applied to the Tribal Water Summit and worked with his family to ensure a ride from his home to the university’s campus. The youth here participated in a canoe journey and site visits at a hydraulics water plant in the city learning about the process of cleaning water. At the end of this program, I witnessed a transformation in Spencer’s curiosity for environmental stewardship. I truly believe that Spencer deserves to be in spaces like the UNITY leadership circle as he is ready to grow as a young leader.” – Former Earth Ambassador,  UNITY Peer Guide and Miss Indigenous UO | NASU Co-Director, University of Oregon Angela Noah 

● Jovi Williams, 18, White Mountain Apache, Arizona

“Jovi has been an active participant and leader in community projects that involve protecting and improving the quality of living in the White Mountain Apache Tribe. As a student leader at Dishchiibikoh High School and a member of the National Honor Society, he led numerous projects relating to community cleanup and conservation projects. He would be a perfect candidate to be an Earth Ambassador under the UNITY Program as he is dedicated and passionate, especially on voicing out ideas on possible policy issues that can greatly affect how we improve the environment. He
upholds the tribal land’s policies and holds close to his heart the traditions and practices he learned growing up in the community as a valued member of the tribe. As an Earth Ambassador for the program, Jovi will have an advantage as he is already aware of the issues that need to be given attention for the improvement of the environment. He is well-loved and listened to by his peers and represents the school and community on numerous occasions and various programs that would bring benefit for the entire community.” – CTE Computer Teacher / NHS Co-Adviser, Dishchiibikoh High School, Ramon Paredes

● Evelyn Enos, 18, Akimel O’odham, Gila River Indian Community, Arizona

“Evelyn finds time to use her tribe’s recycling program in her home and encourages those around her to recycle within their household too. Evelyn has seen people around her neighborhood use their recycle bins as a trash bins and wishes that they understood that doing this easily taints the actual recycling of items altogether. She is aware that even using a recycling bin as a trash bin will automatically make the whole bin unacceptable to a recycling plant, with this, she would like to help bring awareness to everyone about what it means to have “clean recycling.” Not only does Evelyn stay mindful of her recycling to help mother earth, but she also runs a small business where she has chickens and sells eggs at a discounted price to other Tribal members in her Community and those around her. If she knows someone who is in need, she is more than willing to give to those individuals and doesn’t expect anything in return.”  –  Akimel O’odham/Pee Posh Youth Council Advisory Board Chairwoman, Darren Pedro-Martinez

● Tia Butler, 19, Confederated Tribes Of Siletz Indians, Oregon

“Tia is very passionate about climate justice in her community. She has worked with numerous youth climate action teams, and most recently worked on Oregon’s Legislative session to gain experience in the bill process. Tia would represent the Earth Ambassadors program well and holds all the values to organize and advocate for climate justice. Tia has been culturally involved with her tribe her whole life and belongs to a very important family in our community. She has always been able to connect her traditional teachings growing up to the westernized climate action spaces that are made in Oregon. It is so important for the climate groups to hear Tia’s perspective and local native youth, and Tia has a strong voice when speaking about how environmental racism has affected tribal communities. As a previous Earth Ambassador and a current mentor for our youth at Siletz, I know Tia can organize, promote, and host a community event promoting environmental stewardship. Tia also has the support of our established youth council and our tribal mentors. I am so excited to have Tia given the opportunity to spotlight the work and passion she has for environmental justice.” – Former Earth Ambassador and Student Success Advocate, Portland Public Schools Indian Ed, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, Jeidah DeZurney 

● Anagali (Shace) Duncan, 20, Cherokee, Rhode Island

Anagali (Shace) Duncan is an incredible candidate for the Earth Ambassador program who will not only thrive in the program, deeply benefit from the opportunity, and use his participation in the Earth Ambassador program as a catalyst for growth, but will apply what he learns to inform how he’s able to be of service in the coming years and decades. Though I have only known Anagali for a year, while he has served as a Tribal Youth Resource Center Youth Ambassador, I have been very impressed by him – his presence, his voice, his character – and feel that his passion and demonstrated interest in environmental stewardship align very well with this opportunity!  As part of his involvement as a TYRC Youth Ambassador, Anagali developed a presentation for the 2022 OJJDP Tribal Youth National Conference on “Resiliency through Advocacy: Impact of Climate Change on Community Health and Well-Being.” Anagali has also shared with me about his outreach over the last semester to other undergrad and graduate students at Cornell and Harvard who grew up in the same area to connect and learn about how waters are being affected on the reservation back at home (for example, as a result of the Tyson Chicken company’s harmful practices). I understand that water protection is an area of passion for Anagali and may be an area of interest and focus for his community service project.” – Program Coordinator, Tribal Youth Resource Center, Tribal Law and Policy Institute, Laura Smith 

● Sumaya Quitugua, 18, Acoma Pueblo, Chamorro, Arizona

Sumaya shared that she believes Environmental Ambassadors possess an abundance of responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to demonstrate an understanding of the historic ways our people protected and cared for mother earth as well, as to implement and develop experiential ways to apply the preservation and protection to mother earth. She is part of the environmental club at school as well as active in community service events within the Phoenix Indian Center’s FINAL Youth Council. Sumaya has gone to parks to replant an abundance of trees and flowers and participated in community service drives that strive to educate the community on the importance of repurposing items. Along with community service events, she strives to educate herself on water and crop preservation within the tribal community. – Youth Development Specialist, Phoenix Indian Center, Trevor Foster

● Liliana Mars, 17, Narragansett Indian Tribe, Rhode Island

  “Liliana shows an immense amount of knowledge when it comes to the various ways a community can keep and protect our earth. The importance of proper recycling and composting are in her daily routine. She also understands the value of the connection we as Native people have to the earth and all her creations. She was active in the Northeast Healing Circle when given the opportunity to represent our tribal youth. Liliana was brought up to know the proper uses for plants for medicine, the stories behind them, and what plants our people used for colors and for food. She was taught about our clan systems and how each clan protects who they are named after whether it’s an animal bird or plant. As the only granddaughter of the late medicine woman to our tribe Wenonah Brown, Liliana was taught at an early age to listen to what the earth and her being have to share and to reteach that knowledge to her community.”  -Historic Preservation Officer, Narragansett Indian Tribe,  Nishkeneneau Mars

● Sareya Taylor, 21, White Mountain Apache, New Mexico

“Sareya is not only a bright, motivated earth steward, but she understands how to relate this information in
a way that inspires and motivates others. She has a background in art and creative writing and is able to combine that with a deep understanding and connection with culture, the land, and environmental stewardship. These skills together promote a strong method of delivery that makes her an ideal ambassador for this message. She is someone who deeply embodies her message with passion, logic, and persuasion. She understands her culture in a way that is rare to find in a young person. She has learned science through the lens of traditional ecological knowledge and as such she has a true understanding of land
stewardship, future generations, respect for elders and traditional knowledge. She is able to take modern information on science and the environment and incorporate it with traditional knowledge to think outside of the box on environmental solutions. She understands the importance of place-based living science to adapt to and mitigate impacts of climate change, to protect food sovereignty and security. Sareya is a systems thinker who understands that the impact of ecosystem services is exponential and that pieces of the environment cannot be viewed as separate from other pieces because they work together as a holistic
unit.” – Natural Resources Director, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Emily Luscombe