Mary Kathryn Nagle
Mary Kathryn Nagle

Nagle: “I think it’s important to listen to Native people when it comes to climate change and environmental issues because this isn’t new to us. We have – since before 1492 – known that protecting the environment is important and critical to the generations that come.”

That’s Mary Kathryn Nagle, a lawyer, playwright, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

She was studying environmental law at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.

She saw the connection between the storm and climate change which can cause stronger hurricanes. And she says people have destroyed many coastal wetlands that once served as storm buffers.

Nagle: “When we live out of balance with the land, when we inflict violence and harm on the land – that threatens the viability of the generations not yet born.”

But Nagle still hopes people can change. She wants to create a cultural shift by telling stories about environmental injustice.

For example, she wrote a play set during hurricane Katrina. It follows two Native American law students who grapple with the causes and effects of climate change in their communities.

Nagle: “As a playwright, I do feel it’s very important for Americans to hear about climate change from a Native perspective.”

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy. Background image: Courtesy of Mary Kathryn Nagle.

Editor’s Note: Mary Kathryn Nagle is the founding executive director of Yale University’s Indigenous Performing Arts Program.

Topics: Arts & Culture