From the moment we received Kelsey Leonard’s Dreamstarter® application, we knew she was an impressive young woman.
In 2010, she became the first member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation to graduate from Harvard University.
In 2012, she became the first Native American woman to earn a science degree from the University of Oxford. Her master’s thesis, “Water Quality For Native Nations: Achieving a Trust Responsibility”, discusses water quality regulation and how water resources on tribal lands are not protected.
And she is using her $10,000 Running Strong For American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter grant to pursue her dream “Sewa Stewards: Ocean Protectors Against Marine Debris” to inspire indigenous youth to protect the ocean.
So, naturally, it came to us no surprise to see that she was quoted extensively in a National Geographic article published July 13: “Trump Just Remade Ocean Policy – Here’s What That Means”.
Among other things, the article asserts, “the new order shifts focus from the environment to business interests and takes indigenous voices off the table.”
President Trump’s Executive Order replacing the Ocean Policy enacted under President Obama “focuses on economy, security, and energy as well as ‘streamlining’ current policies,” the article states. “It places strong responsibility on states to take action and eliminates the requirement for involving indigenous groups in decision making.”
Kelsey, tribal co-lead of the former Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body, points out in the article that “The people who are on the front lines of climate change are indigenous peoples.
“So the removal of language that references climate change – not only in this executive order, but throughout the administration – is an affront to tribal sovereignty.”
With no longer a requirement to have tribal or indigenous group representatives on any newly-formed committees, Kelsey, who served on the planning body on behalf of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, states, “The level of coordination and involvement and equity of decision making for indigenous peoples in this process was unprecedented around the world.
“And that no longer exists. It was stripped with one stroke of the pen.”
Kelsey sums up her reaction to the order in a single word: “disappointment.”
But through her disappointment, Kelsey is not daunted.
“I don’t sit here without hope that we can continue the good work that we have built and the foundation that we’ve laid over the past eight years,” she says. But, “that’s not for tribal nations to determine.”
The article adds that the public is invited to offer comments on the draft report, which is available by download, by going to http://www.noaa.gov/stories/advancing-vision-of-science-and-technology-for-americas-oceans. The deadline for comments is August 27.
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