The Homegirl Project interviewed Jazmine Wildcat on her journey developing as a young activist on many fronts. For our full essay on Jazmine, click here.
By Aishwarya Babuji
How did your activist journey begin?
My activism began when I was 10 years old when I became more interested and aware of what was going on around me. At that time, I helped lobby for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Then, in 2017, I attended the Women’s March in a town two hours away from mine. [I had to do this] because the town I live in isn’t super accepting of the idea of a women’s march and is VERY conservative.
What are you currently advocating for?
A few of my current projects are advocating on behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities by initiating a Spread The Word To End The Word campaign in my high school, giving presentations on climate change, and educating young children on how to save the bees and plant their own wildflowers. I also worked to spread the word on missing and murdered Indigenous Women by raising funds for the Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. My latest activity has been advocating for safer gun laws so that we can all migrate towards eradicating gun violence.
What inspired you to start advocating for safer gun laws?
What inspired me to start appealing to lawmakers for better and safer gun laws was the desire to not stand idly by, but to be a part of the movement to make a change. Seeing all of the violence on the news and how it [was] impacting all different types of people [made it] hard for me to just sit back. My grandpa threatened to take his life via his gun. If he was checked to see if he was mentally capable of possessing a gun [before purchase] [he wouldn’t have been able to get one since] he [developed] PTSD from Vietnam. [I had] to take matters into my own hands, and I wanted to show that no matter how shy you are, there is always a way to get your voice out there and advocate for change.
Has your identity as a Native American teen guided your activism in any way?
I feel that being a teenage Native American female does guide my activism. I find that I am able to draw strength and empowerment from [the experiences of] my ancestors. They survived horrendous atrocities and were still able to keep on going. I do everything that I can to not fall victim to any of those labels. When I advocate for any issue, I do get some weird looks and, it seems like people don’t believe [that] it is a Native teen speaking out for these things. Because of that, I push myself harder [to] make sure I am heard by everyone.
Do you ever receive hate or backlash for your stances?
I have faced a LOT of opposition in my conservative town of Riverton, Wyoming. One of the worst parts of facing negative responses to my activism is that it can come from any age. It has come from peers and many adults that I have never even met. When Native News Online posted a picture of me at the Denver March For Our Lives, adults were quick to call me names. “Weak and worthless,” “imbecile,” and “ignorant” [are] a few examples. This was coming from the mouths of adults! It’s even worse [when youth said things] because I had to face them everyday. They never said anything to my face but, they posted some pretty terrible stuff targeted at me. They would repost my pictures with negative captions calling me “stupid” and “dumb.” Some would even say that I should die.
Who supports you through your activism?
My parents support my activism tremendously. My mother especially [supports me] because she helps me push through all of the hate I get from kids and adults in my community. I know that some of the hate scares my parents, but they do all that they can to support my activism. My best and greatest supporters besides my family are some of my friends. Only one or two of my friends are very supportive of me because the main topic I advocate for is gun control [and most] others do not want to get any hate [from association]. I also have one teacher that [has] stood behind me the whole way.
What advice would you give your fellow young activists?
I want them to know that no one lacks power. Everyone has the potential to do great and wonderful things. Just because you’re young doesn’t make you any less than a person older than you. If you are shy and feel like no one will listen to you speak, I recommend that you write. Writing can make just as big of an impact as speaking. I was, and still am, pretty shy and not that big of a fan [of] public speaking. I wanted to be heard, [and] that’s where my writing came in. The second thing that I would recommend is to get educated on the topic. Regardless of my age, people listened to me because I was able to converse knowledgeably on the topics at hand. [My third piece of advice is] most important: DON’T GIVE UP! One person can make a change, and it could be you!
Who inspires you every day?
I fight for a better world for future generations and especially for my sisters. I have one older sister and two younger ones, and I hope that I can be a good role model for them and make the changes needed so they don’t have to struggle as they grow up. I want my sisters and other youth growing up to enjoy their childhood and not have to be afraid to go to school.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?
If I had the chance to end one global issue, it would probably be global warming. I do know that there will always be global warming from climate change, but we as humans need to do our part to address it. I may not be able to end it completely, but I want the chance to get people to change their mentality surrounding the issue. Instead of slowly destroying The Antarctic, we should owe it a big thanks and do everything we can to preserve it because The Antarctic is the reason that the Earth is habitable in the first place. I hope to be able to get people to understand what we are doing to Mother Earth.
The Homegirl Project is all about female empowerment. What does it mean to you to be a "homegirl?"
I feel honored to be a “homegirl!” Females spend so much time tearing each other down these days [when] they should be building each other up. [In my culture,] the Native women are the ones who are the foundation of our homes and communities. I believe that it is our females [who] are innately strong. Females need to empower each other, and The Homegirl Project is doing just that by creating a sisterhood and network that we can all be proud to be a part of.
Do you feel as though this dedication you have for making the world a better place will influence the type of job you would like to have in the future?
My dedication for making this world a better place has influenced the type of occupation I want to pursue in the future. I never thought I could make it in anything because I “wasn’t smart enough” or “it wouldn’t make a difference.” I knew that I couldn’t sit back and not do anything. I [saw] people protest and advocate for change, [so] that is why I have decided to go into politics. I want to be a part of the group that makes [a] policy to change the world and make it a better place. With the support that I have gained from advocating for change, it has made me feel like I am smart enough and that I can make a difference. As a Native teen breaking the stereotype, I feel empowered everyday. A Native American female making [it] in politics is amazing and only makes my dedication for making change and pursuing a position in government stronger.