Climate Advocate Helena Gualinga: Climate Change Is Not A “Gen Z Issue”
Talking about that same eagerness on the part of older generations to take a step back and let Gen Z take care of things, do you think there is a similar expectation that Indigenous communities should be the ones to clean up the mess?
I think that that happens less. At least in my experience, I cannot speak for anyone else, often Indigenous people are not valued at all. That’s more the issue. While with youth, you kind of get the credit for it, even though they just use us for photo ops or something. We still get some credit. But instead, with Indigenous people that does not happen. In both media and with the governments, we are criminalized and they sometimes even have called us terrorists or use words like that against us. And it’s not always just people in power. It’s also just people in general, the civil society that has these great misconceptions of Indigenous people and does not actually even know of the work that Indigenous people are doing. I think that’s more the issue, that people are not even aware of how much Indigenous people are contributing to our world. 

I was just the other day talking about this with my dad. I asked him, “Hey, do you know what percent of untouched forest there is in our province in Ecuador, that is in Indigenous people’s territories?” And he was like, “Yeah, it should be like 90 something.” We have all these politicians saying: “We’re saving the Amazon,” and they have all these contracts with NGOs or other governments. In reality, Indigenous people are protecting those lands because we stood up a few years back when they were threatening our communities. And that still happens. Just last year, they were just in my province, there were like two cases of Indigenous communities fighting for the lands against extractive industries. And that’s a very small province. So I think that is more the issue, it’s like people don’t even acknowledge the work that we are doing.

Michelle Santiago Cortés Read More