The Sault’s Noodin Niimebin Shawanda, 18, spoke in front First Nations’ Chiefs, Elders, and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna at the 37th Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls last week.
The July 12-14 event was an annual gathering of First Nations leaders from across Canada and Shawanda was personally invited to speak by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day on the topic of climate change.
“With my speech I was trying to get youth to reconnect and learn about the land like our ancestors did so that they can have the will and love to fight for it,” said Shawanda who is part Odawa, Cree, and Ojibwa.
Shawanda’s speech, read in front of McKenna and First Nations leaders, recommended seven “actions” to “engage, care for, and strengthen our connection to the land.”
One of the more salient points he made was a suggestion that if people want fight climate change they should go out into nature more so that they know what it is that needs protecting.
“The best way to learn about the impact we are having on the earth…is to experience it in person,” he said near the end of his speech, which reportedly received a standing ovation.
Shawanda said that Day chose him to read because he personally knew his family and how he grew up very connected to nature on Manitoulin Island.
Although he's in the Sault studying history at Algoma University now, Shawanda grew up in the nature-filled Wikwemikong First Nation Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island.
He said some of his earliest memories are sitting in a canoe on a lake as a very young child as well as sleeping outside in a prospector’s tent.
So why was he holding a wet piece of paper?
Shawanda read the same speech again on Sunday during a rainy last day of the Great Lakes Gathering held mostly in the open air at Ojibway Park in Garden River over the weekend.
He's certainly living his suggestion that we should "experience nature".