In What's New

Introducing Our IYSC Ambassadors

July 08, 2024
Meet the Planet’s 6 Savviest Young Ambassadors
Mobile phones and mobile pastoralists

Mobile phones and mobile pastoralists—traditional practice with modern technology! Morocco. Photo: Younes Tazi, 2014

When you hear the word ‘ambassador,’ what pops into your mind? Maybe a fancy suit sitting on a jet?

A clear case of youth leading the way… to a global biocultural resurgence

Quick! When you hear “ambassador,” what pops into your mind? Maybe a fancy suit sitting on a jet? Well, here at Terralingua, we think an ambassador is primarily someone who connects with and represents the most important people in the world – young people, of course!

As it happens, Terralingua is incredibly fortunate to count among its key collaborators a remarkable group of young Indigenous people who are, quite literally, our hope for the future.

But wait — all young people are the future, right? Indeed. But the six we will introduce in this post have made such inspiring commitments to biocultural diversity and have shown such a capacity for critical thinking, courageous storytelling, connecting, and collaborating, that Terralingua had to invite them to become Ambassadors for the Indigenous Youth Storytellers’ Circle (IYSC).

Before we get into the ground-breaking work that our ambassadors do for the IYSC, let’s have a peek at the IYSC itself. We’ll admit it: we think that the IYSC is one of the most innovative platforms for young Indigenous people. Why? Because it amplifies the power of storytelling to change the global narrative for cultures and ecosystems everywhere. A tall order, we know…

.

IYSC - C. Mittermeier WaiWai

How does the Indigenous Youth Storytellers’ Circle (IYSC) work?

Some of these young voices could have so much to teach us, if only we were in contact with them.

The IYSC is a one-of-a-kind online platform. What makes it unique is the way it allows young Indigenous people to share their inspiring, first-person stories about their connections to their biocultural heritage with a worldwide audience.

In 2019, Terralingua launched the IYSC as an official project of the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages. To date, more than 60 talented young authors, poets, artists, photographers, and filmmakers from over 40 Indigenous groups on all continents have sent us their work. That’s a lot of young voices!

Through their engaging personal essays, poems, artwork, and videos that explore how Indigenous people are connecting with their ancestral languages, cultural traditions, and land-based knowledge and practices, IYSC contributors are proving that they are the vanguard of a global transformation toward a viable future for humanity.

But here’s the challenge: so many more young Indigenous voices remain unheard. Yet their message is critical to helping us along the path to a global biocultural resurgence. Some of these young voices may hail from remote communities. Others may be struggling to be heard due to challenging circumstances. They could have so much to teach us, if only we were in contact with them.

Clearly, Terralingua needed a way to reach out to more young Indigenous people and their wealth of stories, which matter a great deal to other Indigenous communities of the world, and to us all. Something had to be done.

.

Reflection of the natural world

Reflection of the natural world. A glass ball in a child’s hand. Photo: Uschi, 2016. Available on Pixabay; reproduced with artist’s permission.

.

Enter the IYSC Ambassadors

Thanks to their mentoring and leadership role, the IYSC Ambassadors are changing the lives of other young Indigenous people everywhere.

The IYSC Ambassadors are the key to bringing important young Indigenous voices to a worldwide readership. By working their magic through social media – posting videos and media snippets, sending out calls for story submissions, amplifying published young people – and using their networking talent, our ambassadors can reach a huge diversity of Indigenous communities across the world.

In this way, they forge crucial links to other young Indigenous people and help them access a truly global forum that genuinely appreciates and supports their traditions. And, thanks to their mentoring and leadership role, the IYSC Ambassadors are changing the lives of young Indigenous people everywhere.

By fostering tomorrow’s young Indigenous leaders, our ambassadors are helping ensure that the world catches up with the wisdom and solutions embedded in the timeless stories told by Indigenous youths. 

Without further ado, let’s meet them!

Indigenous Languages

.

.

Ambassador Abraham Ofori-Henaku

An easygoing, humble, friendly, and curious young person whose goal is to be the voice that inspires others to tell their own stories.

Abraham Ofori-Henaku is an Indigenous Akan from Ghana, and a communications professional who loves storytelling, both as an art and a “science.” He holds a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Media Arts and Communication, Institute of Journalism (formerly, Ghana Institute of Journalism), and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Public Relations with Marketing at the same institution.

Abraham’s personality is a blend of the serene and the sanguine — two facets that are reflected in the way he deeply connects with the world through his stories. When he’s not at work or school or creating memories with loved ones including friends, he can be found watching his favorite sitcoms, getting lost in a delightful book, or writing thought pieces on his lived experiences, the environment, culture, the arts, and controversial social topics.

In addition to his more serious pursuits, Abraham enjoys dancing, swimming, and occasionally creating content on social media. He is an easygoing, humble, friendly, and curious young person whose goal is to be the voice that inspires others to tell their own stories. And he hopes to set that example through his work and his storytelling, more of which you will find here:

• “My Missing Tongue”
• “Pandemic Perspectives: Thoughts from a Young Writer in Ghana
• “No Native Bones
• “Growing Pains: The Price of My Negligence
• New story coming in 2024

.

.

Ambassador Abraham, your thoughts on how the IYSC can benefit young Indigenous people? How do you see your role in this vision?

“If I were one of the characters in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, I would be the Once-ler. The Once-ler takes joy in cutting down trees and destroying the environment but eventually realizes the harm he has caused and resolves to change his ways. There was a time in my life when I believed learning how to speak my local dialect would bring me no special benefits if I aimed for international opportunities. In my ignorance, nothing Ghanaian really mattered, especially my Indigenous background. Now, having experienced the harm brought upon myself and my environment, like the Once-ler I have awakened, and I now fight for what is right: saving the environment with a renewed sense of urgency.

“Presently, I identify more with the character of Ted (also in The Lorax). Like Ted, I advocate for the importance of biocultural diversity through storytelling. Biocultural diversity is the rich interconnection between our cultural heritage and our natural environment. For young Indigenous people, preserving this diversity is not just about safeguarding traditions and languages. It’s also about maintaining our spiritual and ecological well-being. As an IYSC Ambassador, I seek to empower young Indigenous people to become stewards of their cultural and natural heritage.

“I help them forge connections, exchange ideas, and find solutions to safeguard biodiversity and preserve cultural heritage. As an IYSC Ambassador, I have the privilege of leading by example and bridging the gap between our communities and the world. Most importantly, my position allows me to ensure that our perspectives are heard, respected, and integrated into dialogues on sustainability and cultural preservation.”

Ceren Kazancı

.

Ambassadors Ceren Kazancı and Soner Oruç

We believe that plants build a bridge of communication between the Elders and youth.

Ceren Kazancı (Indigenous Laz from the Caucasus) and Soner Oruç (Turkey) are ethnobiologists, studying traditional ecological knowledge in the Western Lesser Caucasus at the Turkish–Georgian border region, one of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots of the world.

Like other ethnobiologists, they recognize that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are critical for the conservation of both cultural diversity and biological diversity. Ceren completed her doctoral degree in ecology at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. She focuses on highland communities and is interested in the ethnobotany of nomadic herders in the Lesser Caucasus.

As an Indigenous Laz, Ceren wants to revitalize the traditional relationships which her people maintain with all forms of life and contribute to the continuity of her culture. Since 2020, she has been gardening in Arhavi near the Black Sea coast on the border with Georgia.

.

.

Soner, a father and bird lover, lives in the Arhavi-Caucasus region of Türkiye. Since 2019, he has focused on ethno-ornithology, ethnobotany and ethno-apiculture, as well as the traditional ecological knowledge of the Laz. He finds fulfillment through his work as an independent researcher and advisor in biodiversity projects and as a tour guide, and also engages in hunting, gathering, farming, the gift economy, and crowdfunding.

By recording and preserving traditional ecological knowledge such as the “cultural keystone plant species” of the Laz, which forms the basis of projects like their documentary on revitalizing Indigenous languages through plants, Ceren and Soner are actively involved in an Indigenous biocultural resurgence. As they recently expressed it in a social media post, “we believe that plants build a bridge of communication between the Elders and youth.” More of their work is featured here:

• “Biocultural Diversity on the Border | The Yaylas of the Western Lesser Caucasus
• “Pandemic Perspectives: Notes from a Village in Rural Turkey

nomad child

Will she always be a nomad? A nomad child, Turkey. Photo: Bariş Koca, 2014

.

Ambassador Ceren, your thoughts on how the IYSC can benefit young Indigenous people? How do you see your role in this vision?

“The IYSC supports biocultural diversity by ensuring that the lived experiences of young Indigenous people are heard, seen and felt around the world. Their traditions, languages and land-based knowledge and practices deserve recognition.

“As an IYSC Ambassador from the Caucasus region, I promote these stories and help amplify their global reach. By meeting with young Indigenous storytellers and sharing in the diversity of our heritage, and be reaffirming our common values and worldviews, I add energy and strength to the diversity of life. We live in an age of agricultural, ecological and climate crises. So, being a part of the IYSC helps me raise awareness of the value of biocultural diversity. Also, it allows me to share the vitality of young Indigenous people’s stories with the rest of humanity.”

By meeting with young Indigenous storytellers and sharing in the diversity of our heritage, I help add energy and strength to the diversity of life.

.

A child beading wild strawberries (marts’q’vi, çiğelek) for later eating in Adjara, Georgia. At one time, it was common for each şaşorti to bring a child with her to the yaylas. He or she helped the grandmother and experienced the culture with her. Photo: Soner Oruç, 2017

.

Ambassador Soner, your thoughts on how the IYSC can benefit young Indigenous people? How do you see your role in this vision?

“As one of the pioneering voices of the IYSC, my initial focus was on the Indigenous People of Anatolia and the Caucasus. Now, as an IYSC Ambassador, I connect with young Indigenous people around the world. My role is to help put their biocultural heritage and experiences on the world stage. After I meet with them and read their stories, I start to understand the lives of my own friends and their efforts to revive their biocultural heritage. And I feel a growing responsibility to amplify the many voices of the earth.

“Providing a forum for young Indigenous people is a true gift and one of the many rewards of being an Ambassador. When they sense they are being heard and understood by their Elders, peers, and decision-makers, this can drive real hope for the future.

“As I have been doing for years, I continue to encourage family and friends to share their biocultural stories orally, in writing and in other recordings, or through the visual arts. I believe this kind of communication has great power to heal us and our environment. Change is not easy to set in motion, but we are determined to expand our worldwide community.”

When young Indigenous people sense they are being heard and understood by their Elders, peers, and decision-makers, this can drive real hope for the future.

.

.

Ambassador Fauzi Bin Abdul Majid

Respect for one’s fellow humans, nature, and the Creator is a very important teaching.

Fauzi Bin Abdul Majid (FAUZ MA) is a Palu’e-Malaysian youth from Indonesia. In addition to pursuing a Master’s of English Language Studies at Sanata Dharma University, one of the best such programs of any university in Indonesia, he is also a formidable poet, writer, dancer, and choreographer and coach of modern dance.

FAUZ MA believes that respect for one’s fellow humans, nature, and the Creator is the most important teaching. More of his exuberant poetry and storytelling is featured here:

• “Tales of a Cursed Ship
• “The Scene
• “My Oxygen
• “The Pati Karapau Ceremony of Nua Lu’a (Palu’e Island), Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, Indonesia

.

Langscape Magazine

Participants pose after the Pati Karapau is over. Pictured are relatives of the Lakimosa Tana, the Lakimosa Tana himself, and two Catholic priests. Fauzi is at the center of the group. Photo: Kelvin Thiru, 2019

.

Ambassador FAUZ MA, your thoughts on how the IYSC can benefit young Indigenous people? How do you see your role in this vision?

“The Indigenous Youth Storytellers Circle provides a platform for young Indigenous people to reclaim, preserve, and share their cultural narratives. In turn, this fosters a sense of pride and connection to their heritage. And it empowers them to raise their voices, build community, and inspire others. As an IYSC Ambassador, I facilitate young Indigenous people’s access to resources so they feel empowered to tell their stories. In addition to this, I amplify their voices through a variety of media including online collaborations. Finally, I actively support their efforts to preserve and promote Indigenous cultures and knowledge.”

.

Ambassador Manju Maharjan

My special role makes me even more determined to empower young Indigenous people to promote their biocultural heritage.

Manju Maharjan is from the Indigenous Newah community, who primarily reside in the Kathmandu Valley, site of the capital of Nepal, a country with diverse landscapes, cultures, and languages. Growing up with a rich cultural heritage, Manju developed a keen interest in the biocultural diversity of her community. For example, she researched the Newahs’ use of various plants as essential components of everyday ceremonies  and celebrations.

Already a four-time contributor to Langscape Magazine, Manju continues to share vibrant written stories about Newah communities, from their culinary and artisanal traditions to the revitalization of their language. Nepalbhasa.

Currently, she is a student and researcher living in Taiwan. In addition to her research, Manju connects with Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan to learn about their cultures and traditional knowledge. You can find more of her essential storytelling here:

• “Ethical Straw: Reviving a Sustainable Weaving Tradition in Nepal
• “Finding Resilience in the Time of COVID-19: The Pahari Bamboo Weaving Craft in Nepal
• “Learning to Write Our Native Language: The Nepalbhasa Ranjana Script of Nepal
• “Making Haku Chhoyala | Food Brings a Nepalese Indigenous Community Together
• New story coming in 2024

.

Maharjan interviewing

Tara Pahari (left), who has been weaving bamboo since she was 18 years old, shares with Manju Maharjan her experience of making bamboo crafts in Nepal and how it has supported her family and the education of her two daughters. Photo: Dipendra Deshar, 2020

.

Ambassador Manju, your thoughts on how the IYSC can benefit young Indigenous people? How do you see your role in this vision?

“Over these past five years, the stories published by the Indigenous Youth Storytellers Circle (IYSC) reflect the passion and determination that Indigenous youths feel for their biocultural heritage. Much of the world’s Indigenous knowledge is at risk of extinction, which would be a significant loss to future generations. Importantly, the IYSC counters this trend by connecting young people to their ancestors and cultural roots. In this way, it helps to revitalize Indigenous knowledge and foster a sense of identity and belonging.

“By listening to their Elders’ stories in their language, then telling their own through a range of media, young Indigenous people can reconnect with their community’s way of living in harmony with nature. Eventually, they can embrace anew their community’s rich biocultural diversity.

“The IYSC empowers young Indigenous people by giving them a voice. To achieve this, it must reach out to young Indigenous people in every corner of the world. As an IYSC Ambassador, I now play a more active part in the IYSC’s mission. And my special role makes me even more determined to empower young Indigenous people to promote their biocultural heritage. Through the IYSC, I can inspire them to play a stronger role in sustaining the biocultural diversity of their communities.”

.

.

Ambassador Katie Pootoogook Manomie

Katie Pootoogook Manomie is an Inuk woman who was born in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. Her biological family is the Pootoogooks, who reside mostly in Cape Dorset. Katie was adopted at birth by a non-Inuk woman and an Inuk man, named Suzanne and Enook Manomie. She moved from Nunavut to British Columbia with her non-Inuk mother when she was three years old. Because of that, her adoption is considered part of the Sixties Scoop. (This is a period in which policies were enacted in Canada that enabled child welfare authorities to take, or “scoop up,” Indigenous children from their families and communities for placement in foster homes. From there, they were adopted by white families).

Raised with no knowledge of her family, people, or culture, Katie is now reconnecting to her identity as a displaced Indigenous woman. She now creates sealskin art and feels that her gift is blood memory because many of her biological family members are artists.

Currently, she is attending the University of Victoria’s Indigenous Studies Program and hopes to enter the Indigenous Law Degree Program. Katie wants to advocate for Indigenous children in the foster care system and be a voice for Inuit.

Read about her powerful journey in her recently published story, “Blood Memory.”

 

Ambassador Katie, why is it important for a young Indigenous person to connect with their homelands?

“I feel that it was important for me to connect with my homelands because I have always had an identity crisis. I didn’t know where I came from and who my family, people and culture were. In order for me to understand how I wanted to move forward with my life, I first had to understand who I was and where I came from.”

Tags: , , , ,