“We shouldn’t have to tell people in charge that we want to survive. It should be our number-one right. We should not have to fight for this.” Those are the words of 17-year-old Quannah Chasinghorse, who stood in front of a sea of delegates at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) 2019 Convention in Fairbanks.
Heavily involved in advocating for rights for the indigenous people of Alaska, Quannah Chasinghorse is part of the Gwich’in and Lakota Sioux tribes. Her biggest goal? To put into focus the damaging effects of climate change on the indigenous populations of Alaska.
Alaska is Facing the Brunt of Climate Change
In a report released by the National Climate Assessment (NCA), Alaska is warming twice as fast as the rest of the country.
Furthermore, these disastrous effects are hitting the indigenous populations of Alaska extra hard, too. The quicker seasons and the warmer days present many risks for indigenous Alaskans.
These risks include threats to food supplies and higher costs for infrastructures. Furthermore, some indigenous villages have had to relocate due to coastal erosion from climate change.
Youth activism has undergone a surge in the past year due to these irreversible changes. In the spotlight, Chasinghorse and her 15-year-old partner Nanieezh Peter are determined to make a change.
Quannah Chasinghorse Speaks at the Alaska Native Convention
At the Alaska Native convention, Chasinghorse brought attention to the report released by the NCA. Thousands of Alaska natives at the convention heard the teen’s arguments.
Moreover, she provided for a generational lens by drawing to her own experiences with climate change. Chasinghorse explained how the youth are more keen on how climate change is changing everyday life.
Both Chasinghorse and Peter expressed deep sorrow for the generations that will come after them, presenting their own climate change resolution to the delegates.
Their resolution called for AFN voting members to recognize climate change as a state of emergency. It, unsurprisingly, faced a lot of opposition from those who had interests in oil and gas reserves along the North slope.
With concerns about the resolution tampering with the lucrative business opportunity, the vote for the resolution was not unanimous. But on December 21, delegates of the Alaska Federation of Natives passed the resolution.
Quannah Chasinghorse Hopes to Continue to Spread the Word
Both teens are adamant in standing up for their communities in these times of change. And rightfully so.
Something must be done to help the communities that face the brunt of climate change.