#Impact&CommunitySeries: “Future generations deserve to be able to live our ways of life without worrying about the threats we face,” Quannah Chasinghorse Potts, Climate Change Activist.

 

Image credit: Keri Oberly

Quannah Chasinghorse Potts, (age 17) is Han Gwich’in from Eagle, Alaska and Lakota Sioux.  Quannah is the daughter of Jody Juneby Potts, and an advocate passionate about obtaining wilderness designation (permanent protection) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development.

Every year, Quannah hunts caribou with her family and fishes for salmon in the summer, which has given her a strong connection to her people’s indigenous lands and way of life. Quannah is passionate about climate change, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, and environmental justice. She plays basketball, is a musician, snowboarder, loves many forms of art (including, painting, drawing, traditional beading and sewing), and is apprenticing as a traditional tattoo artist. 

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Quannah shares the inspiration behind becoming a climate change activist at a young age, what motivates and inspires her (especially when the going gets tough) and why she’s passionate about protecting the lands, animals, and our way of life for the future generation. Lean in!

Background story to how you came to be the young girl leading Climate Activism in Alaska?

I grew up close to my indigenous lands and around women that are passionate about protecting the lands, animals, and our way of life. Seeing how much the lands have changed over the years due to climate change has been very apparent and how it is affecting the animals. I noticed from a young age that indigenous people are treated differently and aren’t taken seriously. I have always wanted to do my best for my people, to use my voice and fight for my people. 

Image credit: Keri Oberly

Measured impacts and achievements since you embarked on this journey?

I lobbied in Washington D.C. in September of 2019 for the HR 11-46 bill that was introduced by Congressman Huffman to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The bill was passed in the House of Reps. and now we are waiting for permanent protection and for the bill to pass in the Senate next. In September 2019, I helped organize and lead a youth Climate Strike with Fairbanks Alaska Youth for Environmental Action. 

In October 2019, one of my closest friends/little sister and I wrote a resolution titled “Declaration for the Climate Change State of Emergency in Alaska” at the 2019 Elders and Youth conference then the  AFN Conference (Alaska Federation of Natives) asking them to establish a Climate Action Leadership Taskforce, uplift indigenous youth voices, and create policies to ensure that the future generations get to thrive and continue to live our ways of life. Also during the week of AFN, I spoke at the “Justice for the People, Justice for the Earth” rally.

I travelled to New York in October to meet with many banks to ensure that they won’t financially support the oil and gas industries. In February 2020, I went to Denver, CO to speak at the Outdoor Retailer show for The NorthFace on their Climate Speaker Series on the Climate Crisis and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. During the week in Colorado, I attended the Climate Rally at the Colorado State Capitol.

In February 2020, the following weekend after I returned from Denver, CO, I was invited to speak at the Indigenous Youth panel for McMaster College outside of Toronto, Canada at a health conference about the climate crises and the interconnected issues within Native communities. 

What motivates & inspires you behind each action that you take?

My motivation is the future generations and keeping our ways of life alive and thriving. Future generations deserve to be able to live our ways of life without worrying about the threats we face. I am the fourth generation of Gwich’in fighting for the Arctic Refuge and I don’t want my kids or grandkids to have to keep fighting. What inspires me the most is my auntie squad and my momma, but also youths taking a stand on these issues and using their voices. We can NOT be silenced, I will NOT be silenced.

Image credit: Keri Oberly

Any Challenges and Lessons learnt?

I have faced many challenges and many lessons learned. As young as I am, it can be hard because in this day in age, and especially with social media influencing my generation, we have a lot of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. A specific challenge during the debate on the climate resolution during AFN was hard, especially with those who are in favour of the oil and gas industry within our native communities. There were some things said about my little sister and I that was untrue and hurtful but we stayed strong and it passed without any amendments/changes. 

Memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work?

Every opportunity I take on behalf of the Gwich’in Youth Council and for my own achievements outside of the Youth Council, I meet a lot of amazing people and being able to connect to others. When I went to Washington DC to lobby for the HR 11-46 bill, the turnout for the youth climate strike was pretty memorable, passing the Resolution at AFN with my little sister and how much support we received, going to Denver, CO to speak on The NorthFace climate speakers series and being a part of the Climate rally at the Colorado state capital and going to Canada and meeting the coolest people. My favourite part about this work is meeting people and being able to come together on these issues.

Image credit: Keri Oberly

What is it like growing up in Alaska as a young girl?

Alaska is my home, it’s wild and beautiful. I grew up learning and living my ways of life unapologetically and having that connection to the lands and animals is so grounding. What’s sad is that our native communities really suffer from generational trauma and addiction because of the hardships we face. Breaking that cycle is hard because even though I am young and other indigenous youth my age and even younger have our own trauma and our own weight to carry along.

I have many amazing experiences and memories, but within those, I still have bad memories and experiences. We need to uplift our people and help them heal within this process of not only fighting and defending our lands and animals but our human rights. Once we are able to live our ways of life without worrying about the threats that we face and the mistreatment we receive, we can begin to relax and begin the process of healing.

With how far you’ve come, and your success, are you planning on making any big moves in the near future and can you share?

I have a lot of plans for the future and there are some cool projects I’m currently working on with amazing filmmakers on a short documentary about my mom and I. I’m going to be making BIG MOVES within the next few years. I had a lot of plans, trips and events that were planned within these next few months but everything got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Image credit: Keri Oberly

Do you have female mentors? Do you have a life philosophy, personal mantra perhaps that keeps you steady when the going gets tough?

 Growing up and as I continue to learn and grow, I have watched the women in my life overcome many obstacles, they are all my moms close friends whom all are teaching me what I need to know about the work we do. I call them my auntie squad and I always think about them and how they showed me their strength and power as they take on the challenges that our people and native women face in this world.

From a very young age, my mom has ALWAYS repeated a few things to my siblings and me, and one I have always remembered and still continue to repeat to myself is “Remember who you are, and where you come from”. When I feel the world crashing on my shoulders, my momma and aunties remind me that I’m here for a reason and I will always face challenges but I will always come out stronger.  I always think about my ancestors and my roots, how they continue to bless me, protect me and run through me.

I think about the strong bloodlines coursing through my veins, the animals and the lands that depend on us to take care of them as they do us, and the future generations to come. The beautiful, strong, powerful, and smart women in my life have had a huge impact on who I am today, they help me stay grounded and continue to teach me. I am forever grateful for all the women who have shown me true power and helped me connect and recognize my true power. 

 

The LLA Grassroot Series is a monthly interview series that highlights the achievements and journey of African female who has demonstrated exemplary initiative at the grassroots level.

The vision is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through impact at the community level.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things at the grassroots level, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

 

 

 

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment

Read these next

SIGN UP FOR OURNEWSLETTER

Sign up for the Leading Ladies Africa Newsletter and get the latest info on what you need to thrive in your life, business or career.

What are you interested in?