How Two Young Climate Activists Are Tackling Water and Food Insecurity Across North America

With a name derived from the Lakota tribe’s historical Tokala Society—a group of warriors who showed bravery and leadership from a young age—Tokala is a photography series spotlighting the next generation of BIPOC climate activists. Here, in part three, meet two activists working on the eastern shores of Canada and the US to improve water and food security within their own communities and far beyond.

Makaśa Looking Horse (Mohawk Wolf Clan and Lakota)

Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada

Makaśa Looking Horse. Looking Horse wears a vintage Gucci dress layered with her own beaded top and ribbon skirt.

Photographed by Carlos Jaramillo; Styled by Marcus Correa

When Makaśa Looking Horse took a weeklong canoe journey in 2019 along the Grand River—the largest watershed in Southern Ontario, Canada—she saw for the first time just how dirty the waterway concentrated around her home on the Six Nations of the Grand River truly was. 

She quickly realized that where upstream it ran beautiful and clear, the water began to develop a green film and pungent scent once she canoed downstream to Brantford, the northern city closest to her Indigenous community. Seeing the pollution from industrial waste and agricultural runoff, it began to make sense to Looking Horse why the Six Nations’ waters are murky and don’t flow as fast. 

But most importantly it served as a stark reminder of exactly why the community was water insecure. Many of the on-reserve community members—of which there are more than 12,000—cannot drink the water that flows from their taps and have to buy drinkable water to fill their wells or holding tanks. Only 10% of the residents can access water from the Six Nations water-purification plant since there isn’t funding for the infrastructure to connect more homes to the water lines. And all this is despite being a short drive to cities like Toronto; Six Nations is far from an isolated community.

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