Taking Back Our Futures
You say your future was stolen.
Taken from you in the middle of the night when you were least expecting.
And it was precious.
Carried down in your family from your ancestors, all the way to you.
You say you were going to live it brilliantly.
With all the teachings you were gifted.
With all your relations.
You say you have been trying to get it back.
You followed the trail and found the culprit.
Insidiously lurking behind closed golden doors.
You pounded on them, demanding they give back what is yours.
You plead some more.
They send security.
You say you grieve for what you have lost.
But your anger takes over.
You talk to your friends, who are equally enraged.
You conspire together.
You all make your way to the golden doors and demand they open.
It may not seem like it right now,
But I know you will cross the threshold to the other side.
It is simply a matter of whether you must break it down or be let in.
The other day, I had a conversation with young Indigenous Peoples about the future. We were reflecting on what we had seen in a short film they supported the development of last year, and as we were sharing, one person spoke about the anxiety they have about the climate crisis. They divulged the feeling of looming calamity that hangs over them when they think about the Earth dying, and the constant reminders that they see of this. They shared that this is an obstacle to how they envision their future – a future that has been stolen from them.
A hopelessness followed in our conversation. These youth felt that changing the course of the climate crisis was out of their control due to the workings of corporations and the industrialization of history. I am left with the lingering question asked by a student in this conversation: How much can I think about the future if there will be no place to have a future?
The intensity of being told that the world is going to end is increasing among each generation that comes into being. One youth mentioned this intensity is worsening every year, to the point that planning for 20 years in the future seems pointless with so much uncertainty around what the future will look like. These youth also felt that the often-dismissive and insincere manner of many older generations when planning for a more sustainable future was unnerving, and added to their anxiety.
The weight of powerlessness and anxiety in the room speaking with these youth was incredibly saddening. They are the leaders of tomorrow, and they don’t see a point in planning for a tomorrow that they are uncertain will be there. The longevity of Indigenous Peoples rests on the shoulders of these young people, and their ability to bring forth our ways of being, knowing, and doing to the next generations. Without spaces to do that, the future is jeopardized – for all our relations. Not only must these youth deal with the hardships of ongoing colonization that has ravaged their communities in the past and present but must now also worry about the impacts of climate change on their future. For International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I write to implore everyone to think about these youth and the futures they long to have. I ask that you think about the next seven generations to come, and then the seven that will come after that.
How will what you do today impact them?
Are your actions today going to help or hinder their survival?
Will you be gatekeepers, holding the door closed?
Or will you open it and give back what is rightfully theirs?
- Written by Sarina Perchak, MSc Student | Family Relations and Human Development | Métis, Irish, and Ukrainian
Indigenous Peoples, Colonization, Justice