BY ISN STAFF | October 7, 2019

On Sunday, October 6, 2019, Red Cloud Indian School, a Catholic Institution administered by the Jesuits and the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and the Lakota People’s Project co-hosted a panel organized by a student at the school, Tokatawin Iron Eyes who has engaged in climate activism for many years, including at Standing Rock

Red Cloud, Greta Thunberg, Tokatawin Iron Eyes, Climate Crisis

Greta Thunberg (left) and Tokatawin Iron Eyes (right). 

The panel included Tokatawin and Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager whose climate activism animated last month’s Global Climate Strike. Activist Chase Iron Eyes and Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe president Julian Bear Runner also participated in the event. Tokatawin and Greta met at a conference earlier in the year through their mutual robust involvement in the climate strike movement. The two emphasized the need for collaborative youth leadership, collective action, global education on climate issues, and the interconnectedness of individuals and the Earth.  

“We have a moral responsibility to do something about this,” said Tokatawin. “It is not about who gets the label of climate activist, who gets the label of doing more, it is about ‘who am I to deny my responsibility to my children and their children, who am I to deny my responsibility as a human?’” 

“This is a matter of life and death for many people,” said Greta of the climate crisis. “To mobilize and organize is so extremely important in times like these…we need everyone to push from every possible angle to the right direction.”  

Red Cloud Indian School released the following statement after the event:

As you walk upon our sacred Mother Earth, treat each step as a prayer.
– Black Elk

Today Red Cloud Indian School was honored to host a Youth Climate Crisis Panel, sponsored by the Lakota People’s Law Project and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and featuring environmental justice advocate and Red Cloud student Tokata Iron Eyes and Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg. Born on Standing Rock Nation, Tokata is a dedicated indigenous activist and a water protector who protested against the Dakota Access pipeline. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Greta Thunberg’s climate activism has sparked a global youth movement that is demanding progressive solutions to the climate crisis. 

Both Tokata and Greta remind us of the crucial importance of lifting up and celebrating the voices of young people, particularly in conversations about the future of Unci Maka, or Mother Earth. We are extremely proud of Tokata and the many other Red Cloud students who have become strong advocates for environmental and social justice—and we are inspired by the millions of students around the world who are standing with Greta Thunberg and taking action to protect our planet. 

As Tokata herself has reminded us, “…there cannot be a solution to the climate crisis that doesn’t include indigenous people.” Like many indigenous peoples around the world, the Lakȟóta people have a profound and deeply spiritual interrelationship with the environment. Traditionally, Lakȟóta people did not own land individually, but instead believed in the importance of honoring the earth as our common home and sharing its resources responsibly. Today, indigenous leaders like Tokota are working tirelessly to preserve and protect the earth for future generations—and we are proud to stand with them. Because regardless of who we are and where we live, all of us have a moral responsibility to care for the gift of creation. 

Watch the full video:

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