UNITY announces the newest class of its Earth Ambassadors Leadership Program
UNITY has announced the recipients of its 2019-2020 UNITY Earth Ambassadors Leadership Program. The environmental stewardship program (which was started in the 1990s) was re-established in 2015 with the support of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
|The 2019-2020 class of UNITY Earth Ambassadors are:|
- Alec Lee (Navajo), 19, New Mexico
- Angela Noah (White Mountain Apache Tribe), 19, Oregon
- Hope Long (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), 16, North Carolina
- Jeidah DeZurney (Confederated Tribes of Siletz), 20, Oregon
- Kaylene Nevaquaya (Comanche Nation), 18, Oklahoma
- Marco Ovando (Shoshone-Paiute Tribe), 19, Nevada
- Sage Lacapa (White Mountain Apache Tribe), 15, Arizona
- Samuel Lopez (Tohono O’odham Nation), 16, Arizona
- Sky Wildcat (Cherokee Nation), 23, Oklahoma
- Zunneh-Bah Martin (Diné), 22, New Mexico
“We are excited to work with our new class of UNITY Earth Ambassadors. These youth leaders are committed to preserving and protecting our land and environment. Their passion and contributions to dialogue and action-planning are important to our sustainable future,” said Mary Kim Titla, Executive Director of UNITY.
The 2019-2020 class will participate in training sessions and informational workshops to increase their knowledge of environmental issues affecting Native America, learn to serve as an ambassador to increase awareness of the issues affecting the environmental quality on Native lands, and promote the efforts to address environmental concerns within the nation’s Native communities. Topics will focus on, but not be limited to, recycling, conservation, regeneration, and restoration.
The newly selected ambassadors were nominated by a member of their community, meeting criteria that included demonstrating leadership potential, showing an interest in protecting the environment, and experience and participation in community service projects. They will receive leadership training and be officially recognized at the National UNITY Conference in Orlando, Florida, July 4 – 8, 2019.
In addition, the UNITY Earth Ambassadors will be provided special opportunities, coordinated through UNITY, to take their message to tribal and governmental agency representatives, as well as lawmakers and others committed to environmental stewardship.
2019-2020 UNITY EARTH AMBASSADORS
Alec Lee, 19
Alec if from New Mexico. He currently studies at Northeastern University in Boston Massachusetts. To him being an Environmental Ambassador is to be passionate about a natural, healthy, balanced world. To be proactive and bring awareness to the community, thinking of potential projects and pathways that will benefit the environment, and will create a better environment for the future. In June of 2017 Alec became a fellow at the Santa Fe Indian School Leadership Institute’s Summer Policy Academy, which is recognized by Harvard University’s Honoring Nations. Then in June of 2018 Alec was nominated for a second-year fellowship to study at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He grew passionate about topics such as challenges in education, natural resource management, environmental protection, cultural and language preservation, and more. He joined a team that focused on environmental justice. Together they examined the threats to the greater Chaco Canyon, his beloved homeland of his Navajo people and of his beloved Pueblo people, where ancestors traveled, migrated, and received gifts from the Creator. His team received a personal call and message from Senator Martin Heinrich to personally visit him. Alec was the spokesperson and had the opportunity to present policy recommendations to the National Congress of American Indians concerning oil and gas development, to protect sacred sites. As the lead spokesperson he was able to use his gift of storytelling. He speaks with a deep sense of passion, and power. In the future Alec would like to host workshops in his community to bring awareness to relationship to Mother Earth as Indigenous people, to teach and encourage good habits that will decrease the eco-footprint. Through these workshops he wants each person to feel empowered, that their decisions can make them a hero in their own community.
Angela Noah, 22
White Mountain Apache Tribe
Angela is a representative from Northwest Youth Corps and a team of inclusion efforts. The efforts support students to connect them to local tribes. She engages the tribal community in Eugene, Oregon. Angela helps take students from the University of Oregon to the coastal tribes for cedar gathering. Where they have the opportunity to hear from elders about issues they’ve faced and share how we can heal by creating ideas in a thoughtful conversations. As an ambassador of Native representation Angela works with the Chemawa Indian School Students, bringing them on a 5 week camping trip through the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Also volunteering for the annual Native Youth Wellness Day that includes volunteering on a local farm, collecting rush to braid into hats, and trail building. As a traditional Southwest Native American she serves as an ally for the Northwest tribal community, as conservation trail programs are implemented in the Northwest region. Angela has had the humbling opportunity to ask communities what their needs are and then return to the Northwest Youth Corps to assess resources in aiding the hurting communities. Her hope is to provide a space of collaboration that encourages healing the land. Being an Environmental Ambassador Angela plans to continue working with the students from Chemawa Indian School, who she knows are capable of becoming environmental leaders. She wants these youth to know they are supported. Her goal is to engage the youth in the outdoors so that they will lead and understand that Mother Earth needs their help.
Hope Long, 17
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Hope is a student at Swain County High School in North Carolina. To her being an Earth Ambassador means to protect and educate the community about the natural resources that are in the surrounding areas. As an Earth Ambassador she believes there is a responsibility to educate the public about these plants. Hope partners with the Natural Resources department and Revitalization of Cherokee Artisan Resources. In the future, Hope plans to gather native plants and construct growing areas for public access, and also present to local schools of the various uses of plants.
Jeidah DeZurney, 20
Confederated Tribes of Siletz
Jeidah is an environmental science major at Willamette University in Oregon. She is being educated on how to make a real impact legally for her tribes water rights. Her plans are to focus on policies and policy making. Jeidah is a Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board Youth Delegate, where she explores Indigenous leadership styles and attends board meetings providing insight to health concerns of the youth. She is currently an intern at the Oregon Department of Education, office of Ed. where Jeidah provides support of the Senate Bill 13 Tribal Shared History. She also participates in researching issues affecting urban American Indian and Alaska Native youth. Previously Jeidah was the President of Siletz Tribal Council, where she became involved in UNITY. During this time she mentored middle and high school youth as they developed their social skills. Her goal is to go back to her tribe and work for Indian country fighting for the land, water, and treaty rights. Being an Earth Ambassador means she can do that now, and have a voice and a space to voice concerns. Jeidah would like to create multiple small projects to bring back to her community. She believes we need to educate, not just the youth, but the whole community to know the effects of the small changes that can be made for a healthier, more sustainable everyday life.
Kaylene Nevaquaya, 19
Kaylene is from Oklahoma. She is a student at Elgin High School. To her being an Environmental Ambassador means to support the protection of the earth’s environment. She believes it is our responsibility to be caretakers of the earth and to show it love and appreciation because it gives us life. Kayleen has participated in the “Keep Tahoe Blue” campaign in Nevada and California, which involved cleaning up around Lake Tahoe to maintain clean and safe waters. She currently participates in the Future Farmer of America (FFA) Garden Buddies, and teaches children with special needs how to garden and care for the environment. This has been her favorite activity, watching the children become excited about growing their own plants and loving their creation. Kayleen lives in a small community of Comanche and Kiowa people, and has noticed that there is no practice of recycling. She would like to advocate for recycling and bring awareness among peers that recycling must start with them.
Marco Ovando, 20
Marco is from Nevada, and a student at Boise State University. To him being an Environmental Ambassador is to be a caretaker to the land. As an agricultural advocate, he believes we are preserving the planet for the next generations. Marco serves as State President for the Nevada FFA Association, with a membership of over 5,000 youth across the state. He has had the opportunity to meet with legislators, both state and federal. Marco also had the opportunity to engage with the President of the United States about the issues affecting agriculture and the environment. In his local tribe’s community, he constantly addresses environmental concerns relating to the agricultural producers and water conservation. Marco takes part in helping to grow sagebrush and native grasses for the Bureau of Land Management through several greenhouse facilities located on the high school campus. This program helps preserve vital keystone species, and has brought forth new species into the area. Marco is helping to preserve the ecosystem for those keystone species which hold great relevance to the Shoshone-Paiute People. He is helping the farmers and ranchers to continue their buckaroo legacy and help the thriving economy of mining to continue to supply the world with Nevada’s precious metals. In the future Marco plans to establish a program within his tribe and use the local FFA Chapter to preserve their land, land that is rich in history, resources, and promise, “In the promise of better days through better ways”.
Sage Lacapa, 16
White Mountain Apache Tribe
Sage if from Arizona. He is a student at Alchesay High School. To him being an Environmental Ambassador means having the ability to provide information to his community about environmental sustainability and spread awareness of the harm we are causing Mother Earth. He attended the Nizhoni Academy, which provides courses at NAU focused on global warming and environmental sustainability. Sage then returned back to his community and started an environmental Group called “Green Help” along with his peers. This began the “Leave no Trace” club at his school, bringing awareness about environmental sustainability. They are very involved in the community teaching how to make traditional foods, such as traditional Apache corn mush, cleaning up after tribal events, volunteering at their local farm N’Dee Bikiyaa, also helping them with their harvest festival. In the future Sage plans to provide his community and neighboring communities with a Food Sovereignty Conference, which would promote spreading the message of sustainability, food sovereignty, and growing indigenous foods, and to teach how to become a leader in their community.
Samuel Lopez, 16
Tohono O’odham Nation
Samuel is from Arizona. He’s a student at Sunnyside High School. To him being an Environmental Ambassador means to be an advocate for the land, to be the voice that will stand up to preserve the land and protect the water. He has a passion for water rights and land issues. Samuel has been involved in youth councils for more than five years. He has worked with the San Xavier Co-op Farm, where he found his love for planting and harvesting. Samuel is an advocate for the purity of traditional seeds, and is active in protesting Monsanto from patenting seeds of indigenous tribes. In the future Samuel plans to promote environmental stewardship to teach young people how to grow, harvest, cook and prepare traditional foods for their families, community and then move on to the nation and other tribes.
Sky Wildcat, 24
Sky is from Oklahoma. She studies at Northeastern State University. To her being an Environmental Ambassador means to be active in reconnecting with the water and land that provides for us. Also relearning the languages and the cultures that have been taken from us. Sky served as Miss Cherokee (2016-2017) with a platform in environmental preservation. During this time she traveled across the country and throughout Oklahoma. Speaking, she incorporated traditional stories of the importance of taking care of the land and being mindful of our environmental footprint. Sky worked with the Cherokee Secretary of Natural Resources, Sarah Hill, to propose banning the use of styrofoam use in Cherokee Nation offices, which was signed into existence the last day of her reign as Miss Cherokee. Sky has been mentored by elders, which has enhanced her learning of the Cherokee language, culture, traditional names, and uses of medicinal plants. In the future She would like to create a curriculum with the help of other students to teach high schoolers the importance of taking care of the land and how it connects to cultural values. Sky believes in mentorship between College students and High School students, promoting not only environmental stewardship, but also a path to higher education.
Zunneh-bah Martin, 22
Zunneh-Bah studies at Colorado College, and is from New Mexico. To her being an Environmental ambassador means caring for the environment, honoring the land, knowing and having cultural ties to the land, and being an advocate for environmental justice. She has learned about socio natural trauma, and healing which is something that is very important to her. Zunneh-Bah works around recycling, gardening, farming, and trash pick-ups. She also participates in movements and protests related to stopping the exploration and destruction of Mother Earth and Father Sky, and more. Zunneh-Bah also does work related to public health in Indigenous communities. As a Gen-I (Generation Indigenous) Ambassador, she created an initiative called UNSPIR (United Natives Striving for the Protection of Indigenous Rights) pronounced “you inspire”. Her goal has been to educate the Indigenous rights and how they relate directly to environmental rights. Zunneh-Bah recently participated in an international film festival about uranium mining, and the impact on the land. She is an aspiring Indigenous woman filmmaker and would like to document her project to share with her communities. Zenneh-Bah project would address pollution, education around alternatives single use materials, indigenizing the zero-waste lifestyle, revitalizing indigenous methods of gardening and farming. Also learning more about natural and herbal medicines, protecting environmental rights and Indigenous rights, and more. In the future, Zunneh-Bah wants to share her environmental changes that she has made to encourage her community to make small changes.