Changemakers is a series that profiles young people who are making radical changes in communities across Minnesota. At 16-years-old, Rose Whipple has already had a profound impact. She is an indigenous youth organizer that has advocated for environmental justice for indigenous communities across the country. Locally, as a St. Paul high school student she has organized for student safety in the Twin Cities. Read more about Rose’s story to learn how you can join her in fighting for justice for all Minnesotans.

 

My name is Rose Whipple. I am 16-years-old from Saint Paul, and I am indigenous from the Isanti Dakota and Ho-Chunk nations.

 

 

Nancy Musinguzi: This series is about young people making change in their communities. Can you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself and the work you do to make change?

Rose Whipple: My name is Rose Whipple. I am 16-years-old from Saint Paul, and I am indigenous from the Isanti Dakota and Ho-Chunk nations. I spent almost a year fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline by organizing and attending actions to raise awareness about the pipeline and the need to stop the extraction of fossil fuels from our earth which would disproportionately affect climate change. And now that that fight is over I have been tirelessly working on stopping the Line 3 pipeline which would go through northern Minnesota and would harm some of our Great Lakes, rivers, treaty territories, and sacred Ojibwe sites. I am also one of the 13 Youth Climate Intervenors, we were granted legal standing in the Line 3 pipeline case. We have been representing ourselves in the legal proceeding by bringing in expert witnesses and questioning Enbridge, the biggest pipeline company in North America. Additionally, last summer I organized Paddle to Protect; a 250-mile canoe trip being led by indigenous youth along the proposed line 3 pipeline route. We canoed and lived off the land for three weeks and had events in the surrounding communities to raise awareness. I have also been working on stopping SRO’s (Student Resource Officers) in Minneapolis Public Schools, getting justice for Philando Castile, and raising awareness about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in America.

I have a voice too.

 

NM: What brought you to this work?

RW: Last year when I saw my people being pepper sprayed, attacked by dogs, shot by rubber bullets, having concussion grenades thrown at them at Standing Rock while just trying to protect their water, it really woke me up to things that are actually going on in the world.  Also seeing the International Indigenous Youth Council, a large group of indigenous youth at the DAPL frontline resistance camp, stand up and use their voice made me realize that I have a voice too. It reminded me of how many of my ancestors died trying to protect our land, our culture, and our entire race from genocide. I knew that my ancestors didn’t just die fighting for me to just sit around and not continue their fight.

I want our country to put its money back into black, brown, & indigenous communities.

 

NM: Can you tell us any specific things that you would like to see changed? How can other people support that change?

RW: I want to see our country, and big corporations start to care about the Earth and its inhabitants. I want our country to stop building pipelines that leak oil into our soil and water sources. I want pipeline companies to stop letting their construction workers kidnap, murder, and rape indigenous women when they put their pipelines through our land. I want our government to start caring about its Indigenous peoples enough to treat us like actual humans. I want our country to start putting its money back into black, brown, and indigenous communities instead of putting liquor stores and drugs into our communities. I want America to start funding public schools and to stop putting cops that kill us in the streets into our schools instead of funding more counselors and art classes. It is important to use your voice and invest your time to fight these struggles instead of standing by and watching as the next 7 generations are left with these same problems. Show up to actions and events that are designed to fight and end these problems. Write letters to your local politicians and urge them to create bills that end the oppression we are facing. Educate yourself, your family, and your friends on these topics as well as donate to organizations that work in creating change. There is so much you can do to create change by just simply using your voice and speaking out, because people will listen.

 

I have been lucky enough to have been mentored by adults in the movement.

 

NM: What has supported your growth as a leader, or helped you to do your work?

RW: I have been supported mainly by Honor the Earth, an Indigenous-led nonprofit organization that fights for environmental and indigenous rights. So many of its employees have helped teach me how to become a better leader, by educating me, showing me how to organize successful protests, actions, and events, and by giving me many great opportunities to do so many great things in the community. I have been lucky enough to have been mentored by adults in the movement.

Support young people by listening to us.

 

NM: Do you have any advice for organizations or policy makers about how they can best support young people?

RW: I feel as though organizations and policy makers can best support young people just by listening to us and the things we are saying and asking for. The youth are the next generation, it is important that organizations and policy makers teach us how to lead, speak out, and create change so that once we get older we would have already harnessed those skills.

Always remember that your voice matters!

 

NM: Any advice for young folks who are interested in making change in their communities?

RW: Always remember that your voice matters! You have the ability to make and create change despite your age. You are important and there will always be people and organizations out there that will support you in the ways you want to create change. You are the next generation that will take over, and we need to make sure we change this system we live in for the better so that our children won’t have to struggle.

The Creators

Nancy Musinguzi • Photography & Interview Adeeb Missaghi • Web Designer
Published on March 7, 2018