Boozhoo. Asiniiwiikwe indizhinikaaz. Ajijaak indoodemn. Gaawaabaabigaanikaag indoonjibaa.
Hello, my name is Ashley Fairbanks. In Anishinaabemowin, my name is Asiniiwikwe—woman made of stone. I am from the Crane clan, and a citizen of the White Earth Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota. I’m also the Creative Director of the 100% Campaign.
In Ojibwe culture, we talk about how our ancestors dreamt us into existence. My entire life, I’ve thought of this. It grounds me to think about how, in the midst of pain, of genocide, my ancestors had enough hope to go on and to bring new life into the world.
I think about it often now as I, like so many of us struggle, with the weight of climate grief. I can feel—deep within my DNA—the resiliency I have inherited from my ancestors. It’s a solid foundation to sturdy myself upon when I feel like I can’t possibly go on. Because if they found strength, in the face of unimaginable horrors, how can I not, now?
Last year, as I worked to fight the construction of Enbridge’s toxic tar sands pipeline, I met my friend Jennifer Falcon. We bonded over our passion for storytelling, and our deep hunger to hear more from the people who often go unnoticed—women, non-binary folks, young people, all putting their bodies on the line for our planet and our people.
More often than not, the media wants to tell a single story about the climate crisis. And that story is usually white, wealthy, and laden in policy, data, and numbers.
Our dissatisfaction with that story led us to create a podcast called We Keep The Fire. Our podcast uplifts the voices of Indigenous women, queer, and nonbinary people who are dreaming our next world into existence. Whether they are making art, doing birthwork, or revitalizing our food systems, they all have important stories to tell.
We want to bring more heart and more vision into climate storytelling.
We want to find joy in our shared future. We want to sing, we want to rebuild the matriarchy, and we want to believe that our future can be better than our past.
Because so many of us in the climate movement are here because of deep connection and love for the land, we can often project our own anxieties and fear onto people, thinking it will move them to action. But research now shows that this is a failing approach. Fear paralyzes people and makes them less likely to take action. This is why our podcast is grounded in vision for the future, vision that seeks to inspire, rather than scare people.
You can learn more about our podcast, or contribute, at WeKeepTheFire.com. We are still recording episodes and will launch our first season in mid-May.
Until then, you can enjoy this project below, made with one of the Indigenous women we’ll feature on the podcast, Graci Horne. For years now, the 100% Campaign has sought to advance climate storytelling, and in this video Graci tells the story of how Dakota people made a commitment to protect the animal nations.
Ashley Fairbanks is the Creative Director of 100% Campaign. She was a member of Climate Generation’s Window into COP26 Delegation in November, 2021. She is a passionate organizer for issues like stopping the Line 3 pipeline, indigenous rights, and police abolition.
This blog is part of the Look Up: Voices to Power story series grounding us in the people of the climate movement — encouraging us to “look up” and onward toward solutions that are happening right now across our communities. Stay engaged in the series with #LookUpSpeakOut and @climategenorg.