This year the United Nations declared that the International Day of Indigenous Peoples (9 August) would be titled “Indigenous youth as agents of change for self-determination.” This statement was made in recognition of the contributions that indigenous youth continue to make toward protecting and repairing the environment. In its message the UN emphasized the need for young indigenous people to be given decision-making roles as they are at the forefront of some of the most pressing crises facing humanity today, saying “The issues raised by indigenous youth in the climate change debate can offer important insights into climate action and sustainable resource management, and they should be given a seat at all levels of the decision-making table.”
In a world that is ravaged by floods, wildfires, drought, natural disasters, pollution, the impact of unregulated mining, logging and oil drilling, a hopeful future for our young people can seem like an unlikely dream. However, as Astrid Arellano writes, ‘Indigenous youth have shown that another future is possible. In their territories, commonly threatened by extractive companies and megaprojects that put nature and the rights of their peoples at risk, young people have led efforts that give hope by offering alternatives that contribute to sustainability and well-being not only of their communities, but of the planet.’ Read her hopeful article from August 2023 about three young indigenous leaders from Ecuador, Peru and Mexico who are defending the jungle from the oil industry, while they seek access to communication and renewable energy for their communities and rescue ancestral knowledge about indigenous food systems.
Image: Helena Gualinga, Kichwa defender of the Amazon rainforest. Photographer: Anka Maldonado.