The United States’ policies of land management have always been more about resource control, and power rather than how to protect the land and the people that reside on it. Such policies emboldened the government to displace and remove indigenous peoples from their territories, wipe out buffalo and other native species, and toxify the lands and water ways to support industrialization and colonization. One of the most important ways we can restore the health of the land is to focus on returning it to Native communities through Land back efforts. Indigenous peoples have generations of knowledge about living and caring for their lands sustainably, Land Sovereignty for tribes promotes a stewardship of the land, without exploiting resources. The idea of stewardship is this: protecting the land is mutually beneficial to all those who reside on it.
McKalee Steen, of the Cherokee Nation, is a third year PhD candidate at US Berkley studying Environmental Sciences, Policies and Management. McKalee’s dream is to see sovereign tribal nations reclaim their lands and natural resources, and support young Native advocates with their own Landback initiatives. In partnership with the UC Berkley Native American Studies Department, McKalee is hosting the first ever Indigenous Youth Perspectives and Action on Landback Conference where Native youth will come together to discuss ongoing efforts and give attendees the tools they need to succeed in their own efforts. Event planning is in full swing as McKalee is securing event space, lodging for attendees, coordinating transportation, and booking guest speakers to present. The conference will take place the fist weekend of August, with two full days of forums, a special trip to the Sunrise Ceremony on Alcatraz for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and a special traditional meal catered by one of the only Indigenous restaurants in the country (Wahpehpah’s Kitchen). Attendee applications recently closed with a very successful number of applicants. With her Dreamstrater grant McKalee is able to invite 20 of the Native Youth that applied to attend her conference, with paid travel and lodging. McKalee is excited to host her event, and inspire the next generation of Native Landback activists.
Corice Lieb, of the Omaha Tribe, is a student at the University of Nebraska where he is studying Emergency Management and Disaster Science to address the environmental injustices in Indian Country. Corice’s dream is to strengthen tribal sovereignty and support tribal emergency management systems by using drone technology to increase accessibility to disaster relief funds. With his mentor organization Corice has gotten involved in the “Soaring Eagles” project that will provide a course for Native youth to learn how drones can be used to conduct preliminary damage assessments that are needed to access disaster relief funds. During this course students will get hands-on experience with operating drones and have the opportunity to obtain a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone pilot’s license. Easier access to disaster relief funds will support tribal sovereignty as tribes will be able to establish and coordinate their own emergency management teams and capabilities, and to restore their environment. So far, Corice has been able to attend drone technology conferences and network with companies that can help tribes acquire drones. Classes for the Soaring Eagle project will begin soon on the Omaha Indian Reservation. Corice is excited to get other Native youth involved in new technologies that support tribal sovereignty.