While the world engages in important conversations around the climate crisis, Indigenous people are faced with especially unique experiences, challenges and opportunities. As the result of centuries of colonialism and disenfranchisement, Indigenous lands and life ways have already been deeply impacted by environmental degradation. With the growing climate crisis, Indigenous cultures, which are inextricably connected to the land, are now being threatened in unprecedented ways.

During this critical time, our values and inherent responsibilities call upon us to take action.

Some may ask themselves, “Well, what can I do,” which is an incredibly important question to ask ourselves as Indigenous people and good relatives to our Mother Earth. But we must also be mindful to stand in our power as we reflect on this.  As we actively resist the ongoing destruction of our Mother Earth and our precious ecosystems, we must align ourselves with our personal and communal power, and take action! creating solutions for a sustainable, regenerative future.

Here are a handful of things that you can do to channel all of that valuable energy and anxt into something positive for the Earth, our communities, and all our relations: 

Engage and Resist to Protect Land, Air, Water, and Families

  • Are your lands and waters in danger of contamination and degradation?  Conduct research in order to find out what the source of this contamination or degradation is, and mobilize with like-minded people to take action.
  • Talk to your elders, peers, and community members to learn, share, and build the power of your voices!  
  • Research what other Indigenous communities have been resisting in order to protect their lands and waters.  Reach out to them to learn strategies.
  • Build creative partnerships to clean up toxic sites.  Who might be interested in protecting and cleaning up the land?  Neighboring communities? Non-Indigenous farmers, hunters, and fishers? Downstream water users?  Find your allies!
  • Support the struggles of others!  Sign that petition, make those phone calls, donate money and supplies if you can, and if you are able, join calls for action!

Reconnect to your Lands, Waters, and Community

  • Learn or re-learn traditional harvesting and land care.  Do you know any harvesters, farmers, hunters, or fishers? This will build your relationships with the spirits of the land and help to restore balance to the land.  With that knowledge, you will be able to help your community. If you don’t know people, go out on the land and begin learning the shapes, patterns, plants, and animals.  Read. Learn from whoever you can! 
  • Pray and fast on the land.  Visit your sacred sites. 
  • Imagine new economies. What do we need to provide and thrive?  How can this be done in a way that honors the land?  Don’t be afraid to dream! Talk with your friends, family, elders, community members and share ideas!
  • Localize our trade. The more local we get, the more responsible and caring we can be.
  • Reduce energy use. Talk to your Nations’ planners, housing, leadership about the absolute necessity of renewable energy. Build a team in your community to advocate for this.  Work with the schools and youth! Learn how to produce energy yourself! 
  • Learn how your ancestors built homes.  What materials did they use? What architecture did they use?  How can we make sure any new housing reflects local material use and energy saving measures?  
  • Honor water. Use a water well, and learn how to work with plants to purify water.
  • Use nontoxic cleaning supplies.  Baking soda, Oasis soap, and Citrasolv eliminate most other cleaning supply needs.
  • Plant seeds and support local food systems!  
  • Learn your language! The understandings that will help us be resilient and thrive are within our languages. 
  • Teach our children the beauty in the world and in their cultures.  Help them to feel strong, disciplined, and gentle.  Outreach and connect to other parents who are trying to do the same. Parenting is a challenge, and we need to support each other!
  • Take children outside and help them open up their creative vision to learn from the Earth.  Excessive technology removes their minds from this creativity, so try to make sure they are required to be outside without screens for periods of time throughout the day.  We are raising the next generations’ elders. 

The possibilities here are endless! 

Whatever you do, remember that as an Indigenous person and as Indigenous communities, we are uniquely equipped to create solutions that not only stem from time-honored traditions that honor the Earth and all our relations, but we also descend from some of the most innovative and resilient people on this Earth!  Our love for the land, for the ancestors we descend from, and for our communities today, can fuel us with rich inspiration.

We hold the solutions to our greatest ecological challenges, and we also hold within us the power to ensure that our future is one that is just and beautiful for future generations.

To learn more about the NDN Collective and our recommendations around climate justice, check out our Position Paper: Mobilizing an Indigenous Green New Deal.

About the author

DR. PennElys Droz

Dr. PennElys Droz, NDN Collective Director of Fellowship & Prize, is Anishinaabe/Wyandot from the US-Canadian border. Droz directs the planning, execution and evaluation of the NDN Fellowship & Prize. Droz brings two decades experience in the Indigenous environmental and regenerative Nation building movements to re-develop ecologically, culturally and economically thriving and resilient Native Nations.

About the author

Sarah Sunshine Manning

Sarah Sunshine Manning is a mother, an award-winning journalist, writer and educator whose work centers the experiences of Indigenous communities. She serves as the communications director of the NDN Collective, also hosting the While Indigenous podcast. Sarah is a member of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Idaho and Nevada and also a descendant of the Chippewa-Cree Tribes of Montana.

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