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Houska: Native Youth Rally for Racial, Climate Justice in D.C.

Hundreds of young activists took to the streets in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness of climate change as well as racial discrimination in the U.S.
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Last week, a mass mobilization of youth took to the streets of Washington, D.C. on November 9 to demand justice on race, climate change, and immigration. The message was simple: the political system is failing, so youth are taking matters into their own hands.

Waving banners of “Our Generation, Our Choice,” hundreds of young people from all over the United States marched past curious onlookers to the White House, where they chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” and chalked messages of equality on the pavement.

Photo courtesy Tara Houska.

Two citizens of the Cheyenne Rivers Sioux Tribe delivered fiery speeches that roused the crowd on the chilly D.C. morning. “We’re tired, we’ve had enough,” said 19-year-old Jasilyn Charger to ICTMN. Jasilyn is homeless and has seen so much in her young life: “The murders, the suicides – we’re losing our future, but we’re here to make a change.”

Trenton Casillas-Bakeberg, also 19, said he had traveled to the demonstration to spread a message of unity. “We need to set the political climate for the next administration, and bring the message back to our people that together we are undefeatable. Mitakuye Oyasin.”

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The 2016 elections are a year away, and the country is in turmoil over issues of race and immigration, while climate change remains largely unaddressed by Congress. Young faces rallied for substantive change; if the beeping horns of frustrated drivers were any indicator, they made their presence known.

The rally was a coalition of different organizations; Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, 350.org, Million Hoodies, and United We Dream joined forces to make their message known. Support from many other grassroots groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, resulted in a diverse action prominently featuring the intersectionality of racial and environmental justice.

For Jasilyn and Trenton, it was a chance to inspire hope and fight for what they believe in. When they returned to Cheyenne River, Jasilyn parted with powerful words, “Anyone with a strong heart and passion can stand up for what’s right. We will be back.”

Tara Houska. Photo courtesy Josh Daniels.

Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, and an all-around rabble rouser. Follow her: @zhaabowekwe.