Kandi is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations—and a passionate climate change activist who is a compelling young voice on the global environmental stage.
This week in Paris, Kandi is the coordinator for the Indigenous Environmental Network’s delegation at the Conference of Parties (COP) 21, the global climate change negotiations. The 35-person delegation includes well-known actresses Tantoo Cardinal and Casey Camp-Horinek, as well as two 14-year-old grassroots environmentalists. It’s a tall order getting the world leaders gathered at the summit to listen to the wisdom and experience of indigenous peoples, but Kandi is unfazed by the challenge.
Kandi grew up thinking she might like to be veterinarian, but at university decided she wanted to do something to protect the environment. After obtaining her undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota in Natural Resource and Park Management, she worked at Big Bend National Park in Texas and a state park in North Dakota. Kandi quickly grew frustrated when she realized that land was being protected in one place, only so it could be destroyed in other places. So she went back to university to get her Masters in Environmental Management—and from there, to the Indigenous Environmental Network.
Kandi grew up in Fort Berthold Reservation, a grasslands area along the Missouri river named after a US army fort. The economy of fort Berthold in recent years has become heavily dependent on the oil industry. As of last year, at least 1,370 wells had been drilled and hydraulically fractured, or fracked. Indeed, these wells are pumping over 386,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of North Dakota’s output.
Much of Kandi’s work is campaigning against fracking, which she believes is destroying her community’s land, poisoning its water and air—and also causing irreparable damage to the community’s social fabric. The oil boom has dramatically increased crime on the reserve, much of it drug-related.
In opposing fracking, Kandi is going up against the oil industry and other powerful interests. But she believes that the only right path is ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and why she is willing to leave behind her two-and-half year old daughter at home to lobby world leaders in Paris. Kandi says what she wants for her daughter—indeed all the world’s children—is clean air to breath, and clean water to drink.
Watch Kandi in action at COP21
Learn more about the Indigenous Environmental Network
Learn more about COP21