Meet the UNITY Earth Ambassador Class of 2015
UNITY congratulates and introduces the first thirteen members of our re-established UNITY Earth Ambassadors Leadership Program. The environmental stewardship program, which began in the 1990’s, made its return this year with funding assistance from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community!
Introducing the First 13 Members of the 2015 Class of UNITY Earth Ambassadors:
Henry Birk Albert, 16, Koyukon Athabaskan
Koyukon Athabascan of The Tribe of Ruby, AK
I am Birk Albert, age 16, Koyukon Athabascan and an enrolled member of The Native Village of Ruby. I was raised in roadless Alaska by the Yukon River in a small village of 170 residents. My family lives a subsistence life in a log house heated only with wood heat and no plumbing. My dad is one of the last traditional snowshoe builders. I attended a school with about 40 students in K to 12. I enjoy creative writing (GenIzine.blogspot.com) and studying history as well as outdoor activities in the Adirondack woods.
I learned never to give up from my dad and his family and my mother taught me empathy and the value of impacting the lives of others. My future will always have me giving back to Alaska and my Native community. I want to be a good ancestor. I am humbled to be chosen as an Earth Ambassador as well as invited to the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering. I may now be raised by more than one village, but I have UNITY to thank for introducing me to other Tribal Youth peers across America.
Kristine Baker, 16, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
We are all familiar with the environment. It is all around us. It is everything which surrounds us naturally and affects our daily lives on the earth. Everything comes under an environment, the air which we breathe every moment, the water which we use for our daily routine, plants, animals and other living things. Any type of disturbance in the nature’s balance affects the environment totally which ruins the human lives. Our environment is getting affected to a great extent by the means of air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, soil pollution. We all must take an oath together to protect our natural environment to keep it safe. One of the projects that I want to promote is in keeping a two mile road debris free. We are currently faced with issues of alcohol and drug abuse. We not only have to worry about debris in our ditches but we not have a huge problem of needles being disposed in the ditches. This is not only unsafe for our community but it is also in our water ways. My project is to promote a clean environment. I will be organizing a team to promote a healthy community. We will be adopting and promoting our project through our own social media page. This will include the initial start up, adapting and final project. I believe that by starting this project, other members of the community will do the same.
SuSun Fisher, 16, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Grand Ronde, OR
SuSun Fisher is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon. At the age of 16, Miss Fisher represents her Tribe as Miss Siletz 2014-2015 and is currently on her 3rd reign as tribal royalty. She attends Chemawa Indian School where she will be starting her junior year this fall. SuSun is very active within her community. She is Female Co-President of the Siletz Tribal Youth Council and a member of the Chemawa Youth Coalition that plans activities that benefit the environment and community. In 2014, she was chosen as a UNITY “25 under 25” youth leadership award recipient. This past December she was selected as a Youth Ambassador for the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference. As a UNITY Earth Ambassador, SuSun intends to plan events and projects concerning the environmental issues in her community. She believes this will be a great opportunity for not only herself, but the youth in her community to become more aware of the environmental issues of their native lands. She is excited to work with the other Earth Ambassadors and youth on creating great change within each community.
Mariah Gladstone, 21, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Blackfeet
In order to preserve this planet and ensure that our children have clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe, it’s essential that we begin acting now. It starts personally, by taking shorter showers, using reusable shopping bags, replacing light bulbs with CFLs, and other small steps. Then there is the larger ones like pushing legislation that encourages environmental protections (while also respecting indigenous rights). As Native peoples, we are inherently political; our existence is tied to treaties which define us as sovereign entities. As such, it is essential that we exercise that responsibility. There are cases where legislature and the politics that colonialism and brought us will not work. In these cases, there is not always an easy answer. But I have faith that my indigenous brothers and sisters will physically protect our mother earth if ever a conflict arose. Keystone XL will be stopped with Native-made road blocks (if the idea doesn’t trickle away on its own). Indigenous youth must also make every effort to be well spoken. We must walk in the world of a colonial nation and our traditional worlds. We must represent ourselves as ambassadors and advocates and interpreters. We should strive to become educated in mathand science and culture. Our minds are our bows and arrows and our cultures are our shields. As Native youth, we must always remember that a good planet is mighty hard to find.
Wyatt Goggles, 20, Eastern Shoshone
Fort Washakie, WY
Youth have the potential to be the trail makers of a cleaner and safer environment because today, so many are ambitious and willing to take that leap. These past years I have been able to meet and develop friendships with many people through the projects offered here in our community. Many of these are young and inspiring individuals. The inspiration you see in their eyes and the commitment they strive for when it come to a cause as this, is overwhelming. Our youth can be environmental stewards by motivating their peers and families to make the best choices there are when it comes to protection of our resources. It starts with my younger brothers and sisters who show interest in learning about how our earth lives every day. Showing them that we all benefit; sometimes too much, from our earth.
Kenaba Hatathlie, 18, Navajo
Kenaba Yikaitaah Hatathlie was born and raised in New Mexico,and recently graduated from Kirtland Central High School. Kenaba has been a part of UNITY through the Kirtland Central Dine Youth Council since 2012 and has served as a National UNITY Council representative for the past three years. As president of her local youth council, she has planned and organized events in her community to spread a positive, healthy lifestyle and to spread knowledge of the Navajo culture. Kenaba has been also involved in her community by holding positions in student council, National Honor Society, and Ignite Peer Mentoring. She will be attending Stanford University this fall to major in Earth System Science. She plans to not only improve the environmental issues in her community, but also on the Navajo Nation.
Jessica McCool, 17, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
My name is Jessica McCool. I am 18 years old and will be attending Chapman University where I will study Sociology. I am part of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in California and work as an Environmental Intern for the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office. I am a White House Tribal Youth Ambassador, a Center for Native American Youth Ambassador, and am currently a member of the White House Tribal Youth Gathering Youth Steering Committee. Recently, I was selected to be a 2015 UNITY Earth Ambassador.
Xavier Medina, 16, Pascua Yaqui
What I’ve done in the past to become a better steward of the environment is I have participated in community clean-ups and cemetery clean-ups. In the future i want to change policies for smoke free parks. An estimated 4.5 trillion of the annual 6 trillion cigarettes sold worldwide do not end up in a dust bin or ashtray, but are simply flicked away along roadside or on pavement. The ban on indoor smoking may have exacerbated this. (Source: Current Environmental Heath Reports) Also I’d like to raise awareness about the Rio Yaqui water rights issue.
Nadira Mitchell, 14, Navajo
My name is Nadira Mitchell, I am 14 years old. I finished 8th grade at Utterback Middle Magnet School for the Arts and will be attending Tucson High School in the Fall as a freshman. I am Navajo (Dine) on my mom’s side and Anglo-American from my dad’s side. Helping the community through volunteering, doing community service, getting involved in extra-curricular activities at school and setting a goal and working hard at achieving my goal has helped me to become a better leader. I am a Junior Docent with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s Teen Conservation Leadership Corps, interpreting to visitors the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert and assisting with camps during the summer. I like science, music and photography and hope to combine all those as I continue to develop my leadership skills as a UNITY Earth Ambassador.
Ryan Stiffarm, 15, San Carlos Apache / Acoma / Gros Ventre
The world is facing many environmental issues that greatly impact our everyday lives. Water conservation, waste management, recycling, and mining are just a few environmental issues that I am interested in and that youth can get involved in. Water conservation is an important, especially in very dry climates like the southwest, where there are extreme drought conditions. The wastefulness of water shows that we do not care about our precious water. Youth can solve this problem by conserving and using water sparingly. Another problem that is arising is the management of disposable waste. Large amounts of waste are produced every year and will continue to rise due to the increase in population. Youth can solve this problem by recycling and using recycle bins, making sure their waste get handled and processed correctly. A problem that also affects the land is surface mining. Mining causes the breakdown of the Earth’s water and soil, destroying the precious life that grows there. Education of the Earth’s environment in school and workshops can greatly reduce the destruction of our Earth. Becoming an Earth Ambassador is my way in making sure people start to understand the impact these environmental problems will have in the future.
Rory Wheeler, 17, Seneca Nation of Indians
Nya:wëh Sgë:nö:’ (I’m Thankful for your well-being), My name is Rory Wheeler, member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, New York, and I’m honored to serve on the White House Tribal Youth Gathering Youth Steering Committee representing the White House Youth Ambassadors. I’m currently a Senior at Lake Shore Senior High School in Evans, NY. I am also an active member of the Seneca Nation Community, serving as a Firefighter for the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department, a Executive Liaison/Youth Representative for the Seneca Nation President & Council. I have previously served in the Seneca Nation President’s Office, Legislative Council Office and Emergency Management Department, I’m a member of the Seneca Nation Tribal Youth Council, Lake Shore American Culture Exploration Club (Vice President) and the Seneca Nation Tribal Youth Program. I strive for the betterment of my community, and I have passion to help Native Youth prosper.
Tomas WhiteAntelope, 24, Northern Arapaho / Lummi
My great grandfather Sam Cagey was given the name, “No-Tun” which means “Keeper of the River”. He fought for our water rights in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960’s by addressing the issue to Congress and heavy lobbying in Washington DC. He is remembered as the man who saved our water rights for the Native People throughout the Pacific Northwest. I was given his name after he passed. Although he is gone his spirit remains intact and I have been encouraged by my people to follow his footsteps and continue to fight for our water rights. With water, comes respecting the land and understanding that whatever we put in the water, comes back to the people.
Erica Woody, 19, Navajo
While attending Navajo Preparatory School, I was more exposed to my culture and how it related to the world. I was fortunate enough to attend the Mountain School of Milton Academy in Vershire, Vermont for my junior year of high school. It was at Mountain School that my interest in farming was piqued. Here I learned how to recycle and live a lifestyle that would not damage Mother Earth. In order for Native Youth to become more effective stewards of the environment, they must be familiar with their culture and history. To fix the future, one must first understand the past. Youth have to be knowledgeable in the manner in which our ancestors lived and the doctrine they followed in order to preserve not only the earth, but also our culture for many generations to come. By respecting nature and understanding how precious our earth is, Native youth will become better stewards of the environment.