I am a member of the Haudenosaunee, meaning People of the Longhouse, or more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy. As part of our way of thinking, we recognize the importance of human consciousness and values of reciprocity that extend to the larger web of life that we exist in. At this time, I believe we have lost many of these values as a human race, and are facing a critical time in our global decision making process. And, I believe the depth and wealth of Indigenous knowledge on biocultural territories is essential for shaping practical climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies globally and locally.
With this in mind, I have spent much of my professional career working to strengthen the role of traditional ecological knowledge on land resource management and climate change mitigation on a local scale and in international policy development. In doing so, I have worked with community members and leaders living on the most fragile ecosystems in the world to understand how this knowledge can be captured and transpired to a global understanding.
As part of a global multi-media campaign called Conversations with the Earth, I collaborated as part of a team of Indigenous rights leaders, activists, artists, and filmmakers to bring an exhibit showcasing Indigenous voices on climate change to thousands of individuals at the National Museum of the American Indian in NYC and DC. Internationally, I have worked with the Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA) to bridge global and local dialogue in United Nations fora on climate change. In a strategic campaign involving local Indigenous leaders from across the globe, I facilitated workshops to generate a collective voice and action to inform policymakers and ensure that environmental and human rights policy is inclusive of Indigenous viewpoints. I have also served as an expert working group member at the United Nations Convention on Bio Diversity (CBD) on policy regarding local resource management, access to benefit sharing, customary law, and Indigenous territoriality.
Most recently, my area of focus has expanded to include the importance of Ancestral foodways and traditional land management practices as a way of enabling community-based responses to socio-economic development, health and nutrition, climate change adaptation, and loss of heritage. As part of The Cultural Conservancy team, and in partnership with the College of Marin Indian Valley Organic Farm and Conservation Corps, we are working to develop an ethnobotanical teaching garden using Indigenous land management practices. We hope to provide the Native and non-native community the opportunity to grow culturally-appropriate food, learn cultural practices and traditions, promote sharing between Native youth and Elders, and institute food sources that are healthy, sustainable and economically feasible.
Kaylena co-organised the North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange in October 2013 with Inanc Tekguc (2011) and resource person Susannah McCandless, and is collaborating with Vanessa Reid (2013), Yuki Yoshida (2013), Susannah and resource person Emily Caruso on the Wellbeing Initiative. Both projects are funded by the Alumni Innovation Fund.