Young Native Voice Soars at Aspen Ideas: Climate Event with Secretary Deb Haaland

March 13, 2024

CONTACT: Harper Estey,

Young Native Voice Soars at Aspen Ideas: Climate Event with Secretary Deb Haaland

MIAMI, FL – Wambli Quintana (Navajo and Cheyenne River Sioux), a 2024 Champions for Change Fellow at the Center for Native American Youth, shared the spotlight with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) to delve into the pivotal role of Indigenous communities in environmental protection during the opening plenary of the Aspen Ideas: Climate event on Monday, March 11.

A senior at Dupree High School in South Dakota, Wambli, residing on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, is passionate about expanding opportunities in sustainable energy and green practices for tribal communities to enhance sovereignty.

“Just as my grandmas have taken care of me, so has the earth. In our language Lakota, Unci Maka means Grandmother Earth, and Grandmother Earth provides a place for us all to grow as humans and for us to thrive,” said Wambli. “Just like how I want to give back to my grandma for raising me, I also would like to give back to the world as a whole. To give the care and the sustenance that it’s given me…back to the earth.”

Having served on the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Youth Advisory Council in 2023 and actively participating in its Growing into Wowachineyepi program, Wambli is deeply engaged in academic pursuits through the National Honor Society and explores his STEM interests via the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

The insightful dialogue between Secretary Haaland and Wambli centered on advancing sustainability within Native communities. Wambli sought advice on best practices for his community, prompting Secretary Haaland to recommend connecting with tribes already involved in sustainability efforts to gather insights. Their exchange underscored the value of traditional ecological knowledge and emphasized the pivotal role of youth leadership in shaping a cleaner future for Native lands.

Secretary Haaland emphasized the necessity of dedicated funding to address the climate crisis effectively and engage young individuals in essential solutions. She urged collaboration to expand programs benefiting Indigenous youth nationwide, emphasizing that collective efforts can shape a lasting legacy.

“We won’t reach our goals without substantial dedicated and transformative funding that will help us meet this moment head on to address the climate crisis and engage young people in the solutions we need,” said Secretary Haaland. “I challenge everyone to partner with us so that the department can expand this program for more Indigenous youth in more communities across America. Together the department and our partners can make their contributions part of the legacy we will leave behind.”

The event highlighted the urgency of addressing climate change and fostering sustainability by involving Indigenous youth in conservation initiatives like the Indian Youth Service Corps. The youth participants expressed their enthusiasm while Secretary Haaland provided guidance on forging partnerships and implementing best practices to support Native communities in adopting renewable energy sources and reducing waste.

Aspen Ideas: Climate serves as a platform for engaging with climate leaders whose innovative ideas are crucial for shaping our collective future. The event features a Technology Expo, Career Fair, excursions across Miami Beach, public art installations, and more.

For further information, please visit their website here.

Media representatives interested in interviewing Wambli Quintana are encouraged to contact Harper Estey at


The Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute is a national organization dedicated to collaborating with Native youth aged 24 and under across reservations, rural villages, and urban areas nationwide to enhance their health, safety, and overall well-being. Grounded in cultural values, CNAY envisions a future where all Native American youth lead fulfilling lives, are recognized as leaders in their own right, and possess the resources and empowerment to shape a world that honors their worthiness and aspirations. For more information, please visit