We had a chance to connect with Sealaska Board Youth Advisor Maka Monture, a Tlingit and Mohawk from Yakutat, Alaska. She currently resides in Anchorage, Alaska, and is working on a few different projects at the time of this interview. We wanted to catch up on what she has been doing and, more importantly, learn more about why she is so dedicated to leading a youth charge on climate change and Native women’s rights issues.
When asked what motivates and inspires her, she answered simply, “My ancestors. My grandparents. My mom and brother. My village. My future children and descendants.” Maka’s present work is tied to her roots.
Maka is from Yakutat (Yaakwdaat), Alaska. Yaakwdaat is a small Tlingit village in the northernmost part of Southeast Alaska. She is from the Raven moiety of the Copper River Clan, House of the Owl, and Child of the Mohawk people of Eastern Canada. Growing up, her grandparents became her father in his absence. She exclaims that the land was her first teacher, and her maternal grandparents its translators. The person she is today and the person she has yet to become are all tied to Yakutat and her Tlingit heritage.
We asked Maka what she was looking to shine a light on in 2020 and the coming years. She is currently working on finding ways into the spaces of the Conference of the Parties and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) — a high-level advisory body to the U.N. Economic and Social Council. Her goal is to learn how the Permanent Forum operates, engages in dialogue, and furthermore, identify routes in which young indigenous Alaskans may have a role in the space of the forum. “My vision is to continue to find ways to build relationships with empowerment communities, young leaders, and indigenous youth all over the world for learning opportunities and collaboration based on empowerment, resilience and leadership development. I would love to learn more about what has been developed in the youth programs in Hawaii (for the traditional sea voyaging programs) and New Zealand (for the cultural resurgence programs).”
She hopes to find answers to the obstacles our indigenous peoples and community face, to uncover incredible outcomes for a thriving planet for future generations. Her goals are to help build a network of allies and leaders all across Turtle Island of the leaders/learners/educators/future elders/protectors.
So how do Alaska Native youth unite to cause change? From Maka’s perspective as an intergenerational being, she has learned to weave together her realities and recommends other do this as well. She has worked with diverse youth from vulnerable communities from all over the world. It is clear that in today’s world of Greta Thunberg mania, indigenous women, indigenous youth, and climate activists of color are left out of the world narrative because of the historical implications that have led to oppression of people of color. It is also clear to her that indigenous and coastal people of the Pacific are often left out of the narrative because our state of climate change looks different: Our salmon are depleting. Our whales are washing ashore. Our animals are being affected.
“We need to help the world see that young people who are land defenders aren’t necessarily activists — we are survivalists. We are the physical form of the land fighting for itself. We’re the physical proof of the love and resilience of our ancestors. Action comes in different forms — we need to create our own narratives. We need to host our own spaces. We need our own negotiators. Pacific peoples need to have a way to be united. Young indigenous land defenders need a way to be able to be united — and we need the help of our communities.”
Maka Monture served as the 2019-2020 Sealaska Board Youth Advisor. Maka and the incoming Board Youth Advisor will be recognized at the 2020 annual meeting Saturday, June 27, 2020 at 1 p.m. AKDT. Learn more about the annual meeting here.