Shondiin Mayo is originally from Stevens Village, Alaska, and grew up in both Fairbanks and the Navajo Nation. She is Diné (Navajo) and Tleeyegge Hut’aane and is of the Bitterwater Clan and born for the Koyukon Athabascan people. As a leader in the Center for Native American Youth’s Ambassadors for Land Conservation program, Shondiin and a partner are developing a podcast to bring to light the impacts of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. She will soon enter the University of Alaska Fairbanks for graduate school. We spoke to Shondiin about how climate change is affecting Indigenous communities and the ways she’s taking on that fight.

How is climate change affecting your community?
Warmer weather arrives earlier in the year and more forest fires leave the land charred. The spring ice melts at a faster rate, and has flooded my childhood village and destroyed a lot of homes. I remember hearing the thunder of ice rumble down the river, and soon huge ice chunks would be floating past my family’s small log cabin. That is my experience, and each community that I belong to has had climate change affect them in different ways. At the community level, there is a focus on the declining salmon population because it is one of our largest sources of nutrition.

What is one thing you wish every person was doing to address climate change?
I wish every person was aware of how much climate change will impact them. The relationship that we have to ourselves is in tandem with our relationship to the environment. Acknowledging that the environment impacts your health and well-being makes you feel appreciative of what makes you happy. Whether by taking a walk outside or getting out on the land, you feel that connection to the soil we stand on.

Read the full article about Indigenous solutions to environmental issues at The Aspen Institute.