An Indigenous Teen Climate Activist Is Setting Out To Take Down Trump And His Conservative Constituents

Artemisa Xakriabá is a 19-year-old indigenous climate activist leading global efforts to thwart the harmful effects of climate change. Global warming is catastrophic. Extreme weather creates a domino effect of natural disasters leading to public health crises leading to displacement and poverty, which largely affects people of color. 

According to Time, “In the U.S., urban communities of color, often also low-income areas, are especially at risk, particularly those living in counties in the Southeast, which have the highest concentration of African Americans. The situation is similar for Latinx populations. In the U.S. and globally, those least responsible for climate change are already the first to bear the brunt of its health effects.” 

Poverty, discrimination, and limited access to healthcare makes navigating the difficulties of climate change that much harder for blacks, Latinxs, and indigenous people. Artemisa Xakriabá wants to change that. 

Artemisa Xakriabá  is combatting climate change in Brazil.

The 19-year-old climate activist from São João das Missões, Brazil wants to thwart the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. A representative of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities for indigenous communities, Artemisa participated in the first march for indigenous women this year. At the protest, she and others took to the streets of the capital in Brasília to denounce President Bolsonaro’s destructive environmental policies.

Last September during the Global Climate Strike, she gave the closing remarks to a crowd of around 250,000 protestors in New York City.

“We, the indigenous peoples, are the children of nature, so we fight for our Mother Earth because the fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all other fights. We are fighting for your lives. We are fighting for our lives. We are fighting for our sacred territory. But we are being persecuted, threatened, murdered, only for protecting our own territories. We cannot accept one more drop of indigenous blood spilled,” she said. 

On this same day, she spoke before the US House of Representatives to urge senators to take action on climate change. 

Who are the indigenous people of the Xakriabá tribe? 

The Xakriabá people are one of 13 indigenous tribes in São João das Missões, Brazil; although historically the Xakriabá did not have a central territory, they largely inhabited the Tocantins River area but were forced to live on reservations in the 18th century. While their original language has become extinct due to colonialism, it was an Acua language of the Ge language family which is a part of the Macro-Je language stock spoken by indigenous South Americans. 

“It’s a very sad thing to say because, within those eight to nine months of (Bolsonaro’s) term, a lot has changed. He wants to place mining inside the village, within the indigenous territories. They are killing our trees to put mining, putting the part of the economic groups, the politics itself, the agribusiness,” Artemisa said before congress. 

Right-wing Bolsonaro has exacerbated issues for the Xakriabá with his deforestation policies that allow the government to plunder the tribe’s territory for mining and farming. 

Artemisa fights back against the Brazilian government.

Artemisa is challenging the government that refuses to end the tens of thousands of fires obliterating the Amazon rainforest. Corporate agriculture has ravished the area by burning down trees to create room for cattle — the fires have increased by 70 percent since last year. Yes, they’re killing trees for short-term financial gain, because in the long-term their won’t be a planet to capitalize on any longer. 

The Xakriabá tribe now has limited access to the river and its water due to corporate mining. 

“The scarcity of water in the territory is noticeable,” she said. “We need the river and the water for our living and for our spiritual health, our connection to the earth. So access to the river is a big issue for us. The governments of Brazil and the United States are not helping. They promote hate-based narratives and a development model that attacks nature and indigenous peoples. These governments are trying to put us in extinction. They are part of the problem.”

Gen Z wants a policy overhaul and that means centering indigenous voices. 

The Youth Climate Strike Coalition in the United States has a list of the demands and one is “respect of indigenous land and sovereignty and environmental justice,” along with “protection and restoration of 50% of the world’s lands and oceans including a halt to deforestation by 2030.” 

While this may seem like common to sense it is politically groundbreaking (ain’t many politicians here calling for such sweeping action) and recognizes the significance and humanity of indigenous people which is sorely lacking from our leaders. 

Gen Z isn’t waiting to be saved, they’re smart enough to know that we have to save ourselves. The only question is: are adults ready to follow? 

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