HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois
Adrien “AJ” Pochel is Saulteaux and Lakota. He is a member of Chi Nations Youth Council and singer with Shki-Bmaadzi, an inter-tribal youth drum in Chicago. AJ has nearly a decade of experience advocating for Native youth within the city of Chicago. In 2012, AJ helped lead an Idle No More rally in downtown Chicago. In 2016, AJ became the first male Youth Ambassador for the Chicago Public Schools American Indian Education Program. AJ has been featured in a Buzzfeed episode titled “What Happen After Standing Rock.” Prior to Standing Rock, he advocated against race-based mascots and imagery by taking part in the Change The Name Rally in Washington DC, as well as, in his hometown protesting the previous relationship of the Chicago Blackhawks and The American Indian Center-Chicago.
AJ’s advocacy work has been keystone in securing the First Nations Garden located on Chicago’s Northwest side as a direct response to ongoing issues of gentrification in the Albany Park neighborhood. AJ’s personal goal of growth and healing centers reconnection to the land and land-based knowledge. The First Nations Garden is a collaboration with Chi-Nations Youth Council. It was opened in the Spring of 2019 and has served as a healing space and refuge for Native Peoples since its opening while simultaneously providing space for local neighbors to grow food.