Eleven-year-old Caden Jakesta is standing up and speaking the truth.

Photo from Rhoda Jakesta.

Photo from Rhoda Jakesta.

AGE: 11
HOMETOWN: Iskut, British Columbia

“Caden Jakesta is 11 years old and is amongst the strongest of leaders I know who is taking action to address environmental and social justice”, says Desiree Wallace, Caden’s nominator.

In Caden’s hometown of Iskut, B.C., Tl’ab’ane (more recently referred to as the Sacred Headwaters) is where three vital salmon bearing rivers (Stikine, Skeena and Nass) are born in close proximity providing sustenance to individuals and organisms downstream. It is in this community, and for Tl’abane, where Caden is a dedicated leader of environmental and social justice. In 2006, Elders and Families in the area created the Klabona Keepers to protect the Sacred Headwaters against Royal Dutch Shell from building a proposed coal-bed methane project. Caden stood with them when they were successful in 2007. Desiree describes this moment as something that “defined where Caden would go next.”

In 2013, it came to the attention of the Klabona Keepers that Fortune Minerals had plans to begin exploration drilling for a 160 km2 open pit mine on the Tahltan peoples’ traditional hunting grounds and cultural center. Caden, along with many other community members set up camp in the area under threat. “Caden stayed up there for several weeks, inspiring others with his youthful enthusiasm and love for the land. He would be up at six every morning to join the hunters as they went out daily looking for moose, porcupine, groundhog and caribou,” says Desiree.  

Caden and the Klabona Keepers were successful in halting the drilling, a victory that shows how a small group of individuals with enough passion and drive can create change. However, as Desiree describes, “these were families at the poverty line. Sacrificing jobs, coming home in debt to spend seven weeks to save an area that should be sacred to us all.” In spite of all this hardship, this amazing young individual has continued his fight to “pave a path towards justice both environmentally and for indigenous people.”

“…When a 10-year old boy stands up and speaks the truth…I am given not only a colossal amount of hope, but an understanding of a completely different way of being human. What I’ve been taught by Caden is that we have responsibilities to land and water. It is astounding to me that a person his age can have such a deep understanding of the systemic issues that are depreciating to the earth, to humanity and take action furthermore, work towards solutions that confront them”, says Desiree. “It is truly amidst the most honourable of things I have witnessed in this world”.

It is for his outstanding courage, his drive, his passion, and especially his unwavering conviction for the protection of the environment and his way of life, that The Starfish Canada is happy to award Caden Jakesta the number three spot on our 2015 countdown.