Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to converge on Washington, D.C., on April 29 for the Peoples Climate March.
One of them will be Kandi Mossett, who lives between Rockvale and Joliet. But don’t assume she’ll be daunted by the cig city or the big crowds.
Mossett has traveled widely since joining the Indigenous Environmental Network in 2007, attending United Nations climate-change conferences and similar events in South Africa, Guatemala, Australia, Peru and Denmark, among other countries.
The IEN website describes her as “a leading voice in the fight to bring visibility to the impacts that climate change and environmental injustice are having on Indigenous communities across North America.”
Mossett has been living near Rockvale for four years, since her partner took a job with the Native American Development Corp. in downtown Billings. Before that they lived in Bismarck, N.D., where she was immersed in the impacts of the Bakken oil boom.
Mossett is a Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara, originally from Fort Berthold, N.D. She earned an undergraduate degree and a master’s in environmental management from the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks, and worked for a time in Bemidji, Minn., where the IEN is headquartered, before the move to Bismarck.
She used to be the IEN’s Tribal Campus Climate Challenge coordinator, working with more than 30 tribal colleges to establish environmental programs, encourage conversations about “socio-ecologic injustice” and find green jobs for young Native Americans.
She is now the lead organizer for the IEN’s Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign, which is focused on creating awareness about the environmental and social impacts of hydraulic fracturing on tribal lands. But she’s also active in helping tribes make the transition to new energy sources, in starting community gardening projects, working on coal issues and encouraging hemp production.
“Indian Country is big and there’s lots of issues all over the country,” Mossett said. “Needless to say, it’s a big task—day by day, step by step, community by community.”
She has also found the time to join marches and protests, including the long fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Mossett spent last August, September and October there with her 3-year-old child.
Although the protests eventually ended and the pipeline was approved by President Trump, “I don’t look at it as a defeat at all,” Mossett said.
She said the Standing Rock protest energized Native Americans and other people all over the country. Before Standing Rock, she said, the general attitude was that fossil fuels and nuclear power were unavoidable, something you just had to learn to live with.
“What people saw was that there are alternative solutions,” she said. “Standing Rock opened up people’s eyes and showed them there is collaboration around the world, all around the world.”
Just as energizing was the election of Trump. Mossett said his election “is sort of bringing together organizations and people that were always like-minded but didn’t work together.” She thinks Hillary Clinton, had she been elected, would have promoted fossil fuels, too, “but Trump takes everything to such an extreme. He is just out to do some major damage.”
“It’s never been more clear how industry mingles with politics,” she continued. “What do we do? That’s kind of where we are.”
The Peoples Climate March was set for April 29 because that will be the 100th day of Trump’s presidency, and the Peoples Climate Movement, made up of 50-some organizations, including the IEN, wants to protect gains made in recent years and to demand movement toward a clean-energy economy.
Mossett will be going to New York City this Friday for meetings of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, then traveling by train with 30 other people from the Indigenous Environmental Network to Washington for the climate march and related events. She is acting as the logistics coordinator for the group and is also acting as a liaison to other groups and communities.
It’s a lot of work, she said, but in her all travels she’s found that “the single most difficult thing” is keeping in touch with her family in Rockvale.