Community Member

Seeding Sovereignty

Brooklyn, New York

For the climate movement, when the Standing Rock protest took place in late summer 2016, it felt like a spontaneous upwelling of feeling, a nexus of sorts, that pulled people out of their everyday lives to join a movement determined by a new collective voice. But it wasn’t just that it pulled all these diverse participants together; it was the way that it happened.

The rapid growth was a challenge, but the experience managing it was memorable….I did not expect that all to happen. And I was so energized,” [Phyllis] Young recalls. “People from all over the United States started coming, semi[truck] loads of food from all over the country.

Phyllis Young, organizer for the Lakota People’s Law Project

An Indigenous-led community, reciprocity and mutual aid is what inspired Janet MacGillivray, an environmental attorney, former whistleblower and social change activist, to found Seeding Sovereignty. The organization’s projects operate under the “tenets of mutual aid, community defense, emancipation through education, and solidarity with underestimated brilliant, and often marginalized populations,” and seek to amplify the role of Indigenous knowledge for environmental justice and regeneration.

Seeding Sovereignty is a women and Indigenous-led collective, seeking to disrupt the colonialist narrative and associated power through land, body, and food sovereignty work, community building, and cultural preservation.

Eryn Wise with Seeding Sovereignty

With 2018 came an opportunity to participate in a historic lawsuit meant to recognize a constitutional right to “wilderness” as a component of substantive due process. Seeding Sovereignty joined Animal Legal Defense Fund and several individual plaintiffs declaring wilderness is a prerequisite to American citizens’ ability to exercise other constitutional rights, specifically the right to privacy, free association, and autonomy. As such, the federal government has a constitutional obligation to ensure that wilderness exists and that citizens have safe access to it.

In June 2021, a large contingent of supporting organizations and celebrities, including Daryl Hannah, Riley Keough and Mark Ruffalo, filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of this revolutionary case. Find out more about the status of this lawsuit here.

In 2020, the musician Fiona Apple recognized Seeding Sovereignty with her support for their COVID-19 program. They launched a mutual aid fund in partnership with the Pueblo Action Alliance—the Rapid Response Initiative & Community Care Fund— for those needing access to testing and treatment in the Apache, Pueblo and Navajo communities in New Mexico. The program also provided personal protection equipment, food and medical personnel for essential workers and elder community members as well as books for students in lockdown.

Seeding Sovereignty’s ongoing programs include:

Ancestral Acres Farm & Garden – Food scarcity is prevalent within every city in the U.S. The pandemic, systemic oppression and escalating climate change have exacerbated existing needs. One solution to food scarcity is food sovereignty and community health. In 2021 Seeding Sovereignty embarked on our first-ever farming adventure. Welcome to Ancestral Acres Farm & Garden on Tiwa Territory in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

Medicine Wheels – Amidst an ongoing mental health crisis spurred by rising violence to gender expansive BIPOC folks and COVID-19 isolation and stress, Medicine Wheels gifts an immediate infusion of joy and a tangible commitment to those who need it most, working to provide the tools and mentorship to support BIPOC & LGBTQIA2S+ folks’ physical and mental health, create accessible, safe community spaces, and celebrate connection with the land.

MMIP – A Storytelling Project – The number of Missing and Indigenous People (MMIP) is still unknown. Despite the efforts of Indigenous communities and awareness groups, this epidemic sadly remains unaddressed. Systems in place for other communities fail ours. Often family members search on foot, sharing photos of their last seen relative on social media, communities respond in crisis, victims of violence and loved ones of murdered relatives are tragically left to try to heal alone. This is for them.

the kakichihiwewin project – The kakichihiwewin project aims to create strong bonds in Indigenous communities by continuing the healing process of those affected by the residential school system, boarding schools, the sixties scoop, foster care, and forced removal / assimilation.

Written by Michele Gielis

Learn More:

Establishing a Right to Wilderness, Earth Island, Overview of historic lawsuit to protect Americans’ right to be let alone and compel federal government action on climate change is filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon

Indigenous peoples will finally be represented at the IUCN General Assembly, Live Kindly, by Liam Pritchett, September 2021

Dozens of Diverse Public Interest Groups and Public Figures File Amicus Brief Urging Court to Hear Climate Change Lawsuit, ALDF, June 29, 2021

Study: 75% of flares on Texas General Land Office lands (state public lands) are un-permitted, Earthworks Press Release, endorsed by Seeding Sovereignty

RISD Earth Day: Zero Waste Alumni Launch with Janet MacGillivray, Rhode Island School of Design, January 6, 2021, Video

Fiona Apple Supports Seeding Sovereignty’s COVID-19 Efforts, Borgen Magazine, September 2, 2020

How to Support Indigenous Communities, The Cut, by Katja Vujić, November 26, 2020

Indigenous Youth Want Deb Haaland to Be Joe Biden’s Interior Secretary, Teen Vogue, by Cecelia Nowell, November 19. 2020

Somáh Haaland: ‘We Have a Lot to Say’, American Theatre, July 6, 2020

Indigenous activists demand removal of Iowa monuments, restructuring of historical narrative, Des Moines Register, by Victoria Yin, July 5, 2020

Michele Gielis

Michele Gielis

Michele has spent the last decade helping nonprofits raise their voice for change. She looks to make action meaningful by connecting people to the technology and messages that bring resonance and resilience. Michele is proud to support the Anthropocene Alliance working to get communities to #HigherGround


Janet MacGillivray


Social Media

Climate Impacts

Air Pollution, Drought, Flooding, Heat, Hurricanes, Sea Level Rise, Superfund Sites, Water Contamination, Wildfires


Art Activism, Community Farm/Gardens, Direct Relief and Aid, Elevation or Relocation of Homes, Fighting Industrial Contamination, Green Infrastructure, Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions, Policy Reform, Renewable Energy

501c3 Tax Deductible


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