Year in Review 2014.

The Chi-Nations Youth have been hard at work this year, at the end of 2013 they decided 2014 will be the year we focus more on environmental justice not just the protests of 2013. We wanted to get to know the land we were protecting from fracking and pipelines. We wanted to understand what it meant to harvest medicines and foods. Early spring 2014 the American Indian Center tapped maples and the youth council was there in force, some of the youth had tapping experience, and helped facilitate the annual event. Chief Meskokanaye youth group from Red Lake came down with walleye and wild rice and we had a dinner to raise money to return to their harvest camp. Before we left for Red Lake we heard of a protest in the Penokee Hills against an Iron Ore Mine and we had friends and allies from Wisconsin who invited us there to check it out. Our trip to Red Lake became a trip to Bad River then Red Lake.  We packed into the 15 passenger van with no room to spare, with all the gifts, camping supplies and a week worth of clothes from 14 people really made comfort a difficult achievement. We discovered our family lived along the way. We stopped for lunch in Green Bay provided by the Pochel family, met up for a visit and stretch with the Roberts, and made it to Bad River for dinner welcomed by the Benders. The next day we went to the Penokee Hills to visit the protest camp. When we got there we really got to see what it looked like with people living off the land. There was a family and the man was from Leech Lake they watched over the land and used treaty rights to protest the proposed mine. After the visit we made a goal to revisit the Penokees and Bad River. That night we made it to Red Lake for the next 4 days we were at sugar camp. We spent a few nights at the boys and girls club and one of our friends bought his big drum and we practiced and shared the songs we knew. We learned so much from Red Lake and really became empowered to use our stories, ceremonies and voices to stand up for the land. Upon our return we met to discuss how we would use the gifts we received from Red Lake  we started focusing on what we wanted as far as environmental justice. We made plans to make a trip to Bad River. In the spring we continued to get to know the land and helped plant rainbow corn and gete okosomin at the American Indian Center. The spring and summer were spent discussing how we would protect the land from fracking. We became educated on the processes and dangers of the fracking and pipeline projects that have been proposed. We heard speakers, read articles and watched movies about the subject. We decided the way we would protest is through the water. How will we protect the water for the 7th generation. In May we were asked to partner with American Indian Center and the Earth Partnership from Wisconsin and participate in a water steward institute. In June we were awarded the Title 7 award for community commitment. In Late July early August we got to participate in the institute. It gave us the opportunity to revisit Bad River and the Penokee hills and to work with Patty Lowe and Reynaldo Morales to learn the art of visual medias. This trip was funded by and EPA grant awarded to the American Indian Center from our friends in the Earth Partnership.  On the ride to Bad River we played a scavenger hunt where we had to identify medicines from the car. When we pulled over to stretch we had a youth vs. advisers nature walk where we competed on who can name more medicines. During our stay we got to visit the Red Cliff reservation and the boreal forest they manage. We got to swim in the pristine waters of Lake Superior and really understood what we wanted to protect. We made a documentary about the water and the proposed Iron Ore mine, and the effects it would have on the people who drink the water. Upon our return we had a documentary, newly learned skills and a fire to educate more people about the injustices that are being committed against the land and water. At the end of August we led Garden walks in the Medicine garden at the American Indian Center for the ending of the NSF grants wrap up event. Late August we heard of a huge protest happening in New York City for the Climate and a whole bunch of Native leaders would be there representing. We wanted to got to that protest and decided to find different avenues of finding a way. The National Sierra club received a grant that would pay for our trip to New York on one of their buses. It was an ambitious schedule but we decided it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and prepared for our trip. We heard from speakers about their protests across the country including Shining Soul a hip hop group from Arizona who uses hip hop as a form of resistance. They gave us inspirational speeches and threw a hip hop show for us. The week before we left to NYC we had a premiere of our documentary at the American Indian Center and got a chance to talk to the community about the documentary and all the things we’ve learned over the year. After the premiere we had a sleepover to hang out with each other and have fun. We left for NYC and were all nervous about the schedule and not having anywhere to plug-in our phones and cameras. We wanted to document the march but knew we couldn’t get a lot of footage due to the lack of power sources. After a 20 hour bus ride we made it to the march 3 hours late and 4 miles behind the other Native groups. We spent almost the entirety f our time trying to find other Natives. The march had 400, 000 people and it was amazing, we got the first time experience of New York City and had the satisfaction of knowing Native Leaders led the March. When we got back we made a short video about our experience. After the March we continued with our commitment to the land and harvested the rainbow corn we planted. We spent September and October planing for the upcoming year, setting goals and looking forward. November marked Native American Heritage Month in Chicago and we had the big opportunity host workshops across the city and to show our documentary at the opening of the Chicago Public Library’s Native American Heritage celebration. We got to sit on a panel and answer questions from the audience. We learned about a Change the Name rally in Washington DC and decided to use the money we receive from the workshops and presentations to go to this trip. We hosted a workshop at the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier,a couple more engagements with the Library, and a workshop at the UIC heritage days, we were also invited to open the reproductive justice conference. We have so much support from so many places it empowers us, especially the support we receive from our community. This community has achieved so much and has made us the young leaders we are today. Next week we plan to go to the change the name rally in Washington DC, and represent for Chicago. We continue our fight for the land and plan to interview the many Native Leaders who will be in attendance. These leaders fight for the land and a proper image to promote a strong Native Identity for youth.