Ruth Miller: Alaska Native Approaches Climate Crisis with Radical Compassion | KCET
Ruth Miller: Alaska Native Approaches Climate Crisis with Radical Compassion
In 2019, Ruth Miller was one of three people selected from an audience of nearly 2,000 young Americans to personally address the United Nations Secretary-General at U.N.A-U.S.A.’s Global Engagement Summit. She decided to ask the Secretary-General about the climate crisis.
“I cannot think of a more pressing global issue that encompasses both the economic relationships of our world, the social relationships of our world, and the preservation of our planet,” she later told the U.N. Foundation in an interview.
Miller was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and is a member of the Dena’ina Athabascan Alaska Native tribe. Her father comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish background. Both of her parents are Indigenous rights lawyers. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied critical development studies with a focus on Indigenous resistance and liberation.
More Indigenous and Youth Activism
During her time in college, she took part in the Ivy Native Council Conference, and led the student group Natives at Brown. She was also a programmer for the Native American Heritage Series and one of 11 Brown students who occupied the Standing Rock reservation during the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Upon her graduation in 2019, she was the first Indigenous student speaker to deliver a commencement speech at Brown. She spoke on the importance of radical compassion.
In her speech, Miller recalled the anxiety that kept her up at night as a child, and how her mother would comfort her by reminding her that she came from a long line of Indigenous “warrior women.”
“Trauma and violence play dark roles in the history of both my peoples, and maybe this echo crept into my mind at night in vulnerable moments,” she said, later continuing, “Now I am leaving Brown with a new idea of how to be a warrior. I will fight with compassion. I will stop thinking of destruction and instead towards reimagining and rebuilding. Generating seeds of change and helping them grow, instead of just battling the weeds.”
When she was just 16, Miller interned with former U.S. Senator Mark Begich, becoming one of the youngest interns on Capitol Hill.
“That was my first introduction to not only how a young person could get involved in political advocacy within government, but it also exposed me to the many different platforms that Indigenous advocacy can take. I had the opportunity to work on bills that allowed for traditional foods to be served in public centers, for example,” she told the U.N. Foundation.
She went on to work for the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, an Alaska consortium of 15 regional tribes that fight against environmental exploitation. At the time, the organization was lobbying against Pebble Mine, a copper mining project that will negatively affect surrounding waterways and destroy salmon fishing in the area if it ends up coming to fruition. She became involved with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help local community residents write testimonies about the decades-long battle that continues today.
Miller has also appeared on a global stage through participating in various U.N. convenings, She has spoken about decolonizing and indigenizing the international space at the U.N.A. Global Engagement Summit, the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and at U.N. Youth, according to her bio on Sustain U.S. This past December, she attended the U.N.’s COP25 climate change conference in Madrid along with activists from around the world. In September 2019 at the U.N.’s climate action summit, she spoke to NowThis News about how crucial prioritizing Indigenous women’s voices in discussions about climate justice is. She said the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women is directly tied to the exploitation of Indigenous land.
“When we’re talking about climate change, we are not just talking about environmental issues. We are talking about women’s rights,” she said. “We are talking about cultural rights, religious rights. Climate change affects everyone in just about every way.”
Connect with KCET
Top Image: TURNAGAIN, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA, UNITED STATES - 2009/06/18: Coastal sunset scenic. | Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
Sneak into The Autry's galleries to catch an intimate acoustic performance by Guatemalan American singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno as part of the museum's "Best of Los Angeles" series.
Black voters could in many ways be the decisive eco-voters of the most high stakes election in American history.
Nine parents of Los Angeles Unified children filed a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging that distance learning plans are inadequate and violate students' rights to a basic public education. It also alleges minorities are disproportionately impacted.
The Hollywood Bowl’s fireworks are a booming exclamation point on an evening spent under the stars. But how do they come together?
- 1 of 358
- next ›
Climate change and urban development have significantly altered ocean conditions and our ability to access the coast, making it more and more difficult for the Tongva tribe to carry on their long-held seafaring traditions.
Scientists and doctors are embracing alternative concepts that Indigenous peoples have practiced for thousands of years, by using medicinal plant knowledge that informed much our pharmacopeia.
The environmental costs of timber extraction and damming have reached a tipping point in the North Coast region of California.
California’s Native peoples have lived with drought cycles for millennia and today, the Paiute are shepherding conversations around access to water resources, raising key questions about how our snowpack, streams and aquifers are used and maintained.
This episode journeys to the Smith River near the Oregon border to discover how the Tolowa Dee-ni’ are reviving traditional harvesting of shellfish while working with state agencies to monitor toxicity levels.
- 1 of 2
- next ›