Five Indigenous Activists and Organisations to Follow Today
BY JENNIFER HAKIM
Every June, Canadians celebrate National Indigenous History Month, to honour the heritage, contributions and cultures of First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities across the country. The US celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day every 11th October, while the rest of the world commemorates World Indigenous Day each 9th August, raising awareness of the needs of Indigenous peoples - their traditional knowledge, voices and wisdom. But that’s definitely not enough.
In May 2021, when the world learned of the atrocities uncovered on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, British Columbia, it became clear a huge part of Canada’s (sinister) history remains hidden - and the US and British Empire as a whole. It also became even more clear, for anyone who hadn’t paid attention until now, that not only do Indigenous people deserve reparations and more authentic visibility, they also need support for their ongoing projects.
If you want to do some research, learn the real history and culture of Indigenous people, and support some great projects, here are some insightful accounts to follow, all by Indigenous activists, artists and organisations.
Chief Lady Bird
Chief Lady Bird is an Anishinaabe/Potawatomi artist from Mnjikaning Rama First Nation, who paints murals and draws about Indigeneous empowerment. “Everything I have learned has been through observation, blood memory and through living in a house with parents that value culture” she explained in an interview with Muskrat Magazine in 2016. In 2019, she illustrated a children’s book, ‘Nibi’s Water Song’, written by Sunshine Tenasco, to “educate about the unequal access to clean water in Canada while also inspiring young Indigenous folx to stay strong and fight for what they believe in”. Her work can be found on Twitter here: @chiefladybird
Johnnie Jae, also known as “The Brown Ball of Fury”, is an Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw journalist, speaker, podcaster and founder of A Tribe Called Geek, an award-winning platform for Indigenous geek culture & STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). She is also the co-host and producer of Decolonized News Hour, a ground-breaking news and commentary show featuring the latest stories from Indian Country, “in all its underappreciated diversity, and investigations of current issues from a Native perspective”. Find more of her work on her website here www.johnniejae.com
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw (Oglala Lakota) is an inspiring educator, writer, speaker, researcher and founder of Natives In America, an online literary publication for Native American, Alaska Native & Native Hawaiian youth. Passionate about Indigenous rights issues, college admissions, and greater Native presence in media and higher education, she believes in empowering young people to use their voices for the issues they care about in their communities. Megan is currently the Director of Native Student Services at the University of South Dakota. You can find her on Twitter here: @mredshirtshaw
Seeding Sovereignty is an Indigenous-led collective that works to “radicalise and disrupt colonised spaces through land, body, and food sovereignty work, community building, and cultural preservation”. The collective was founded by Janet MacGillivray, a social change community activist of Muscogee (Creek) heritage, to amplify the role of Indigenous knowledge and to de-expert and diversify the environmental movement. In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Seeding Sovereignty launched a long-term mutual aid and community defense program, now in its third phase, called The Indigenous Impact Community Care Initiative (IICCI). You can find Seeding Sovereignty and support the initiative on Instagram here: @seedingsovereignty
Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and the editor-in-chief at the Texas Observer. A multi-awarded journalist, he has reported for multiple outlets including PBS NewsHour, National Native News, NPR, Al Jazeera America and High Country News, where he served as Indigenous Affairs editor. He additionally was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. Tristan is a director of the Muckrock Foundation, a non-profit, collaborative news site that “brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyse, and share government documents, making politics more transparent and democracies more informed”. He is also a former president of the Native American Journalists Association. You can find more of his work on Twitter here: @Tahtone