Published on April 17th, 2015 | by Robyn Purchia0
Badass Native American Kids Fighting for the Planet
I recently stumbled upon an article in the The Huffington Post about a photographer who is documenting Native American children defending the planet in New Mexico. Tailinh Agoyo, who has roots with the Blackfeet and Narragansett tribes herself, found inspiration for The Warrior Project in her 11 year old son.
“Children are so knowledgeable [about environmental issues],” Agoyog told The Huffington Post. “They know what’s going on and they’re more aware and more affected than adults are.”
Agoyo recognizes that environmental issues impact all the world’s people, but she argues that in Native American communities “there’s just this tie to the earth . . . We’re just raised being very in touch with the earth and its rhythms.”
In Native American culture there is a traditional spiritual reverence for the natural world that is based on the notion that all aspects — plants, animals, water, rocks, sun, sky, and wind — are animated by spirits whose origin is the same as that of human beings. Destorying these spirits is almost akin to destroying family.
“The children we photograph are nurtured in a culture where the importance of honoring the earth is part of their DNA,” Agoyo says on The Warrior Project‘s website. “They are not passive victims. They are budding change makers, activists, and empowered leaders. They are warriors of strength, knowledge and ancestral power.”
It is the photographs of the child activists that I found so moving. They are not just fighting to protect the spiritual traditions of their people; they are fighting for their future.
Take Nolan for example. This isn’t just some kid trying to look tough in his hat and wrist band, he is tough.
In 2014, Nolan, a member of the Navajo/Cherokee Nation, spoke out against a proposal for a cell tower near his elementary school. He protested in the snow, attended school board meetings, and was the only student who spoke in front of the city council for the final decision. And, in the end, he was successful.
“I fight with my brain, not with my muscles,” said Nolan. “Diné [Navajo] people come from the Twin Warriors and the warrior tradition is important because it is like a religion. You must stand up for what you believe in and protect the Earth because if you don’t, you aren’t honoring her.”
Then there is Luca, a 7-year old from the Ohkay Owingeh/Narragansett/Blackfeet people, who is concerned about the Keystone Pipeline.
“Some workers are trying to make a pipeline from Canada through the whole United States,” Luca said. “If the pipeline busts, gross oil from Canada gets into our clean water. If that happens we won’t have clean water to drink and if we don’t have clean water to drink we will dehydrate and if that happens we might die in three to four days. If we die, nobody will be on the earth, even animals! It’s also really dangerous so I hope it doesn’t happen. Do you hope it doesn’t happen?”
Yes, Luca, I do! And even more so after knowing that even a 7-year old can grasp the ramifications of the pipeline.
Agoyo plans to photograph more children in states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Utah. Hopefully the project will not only raise awareness in adults, but will inspire more children to be warriors like Nolan and Luca. The future really does belong to them.
Images by Tailinh Agoyo as part of The Warrior Project. Check out the website for more photographs and information on how to donate to the inspiring project.
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