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Indigenous activist delivers 'Hurst Earth Day address

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mercyhurst University welcomes Tara Houska, a citizen of Couchiching First Nation, tribal attorney, and advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign on Native American concerns, as this year’s Sister Maura Smith Earth Day Speaker. Her talk, which is free and open to the public, takes place on Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre. 

Houska practices advocacy across a broad spectrum of issues facing indigenous communities, with a focus on environmental justice, protection of sacred sites and institutional racism. She is national campaigns director of Honor the Earth and co-founder of Not Your Mascots, whose mission is to advance ways to honor and respect indigenous people and their culture.

She is heavily engaged in the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and has lived and worked on the frontlines in Standing Rock for the past six months. Her experience ranges from grassroots organizing to working for the White House Council on Environmental Quality and lobbying on Capitol Hill. 

“We are honored to welcome Tara Houska to the Mercyhurst and Erie communities,” said Dr. Chris Magoc, professor of history and outgoing chair of the Mercyhurst Green Team. “The struggle over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has captured the nation’s attention. Last fall thousands of Americans from around the country — Native American, white, black, veterans, and human rights activists — joined the Lakota and other native peoples in peacefully resisting construction of the pipeline. Although they have lost that fight and DAPL is moving forward, their dramatic and desperate struggle to protect native lands and water reflects a larger democratic struggle of people around the nation and world for a more just, secure, and sustainable future. Tara Houska will bring a timely and powerful Earth Day message to our community.”  

Houska has appeared on MSNBC, Comedy Central, RT America, CCTV and contributes to the Guardian, Huffington Post and Indian Country Today to elevate the conversation about extractive industries, destruction of indigenous lands, religious rights, cultural appropriation and police brutality.

Born and raised in Minnesota, she earned a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota.

Houska’s Mercyhurst visit is jointly sponsored by the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society and the Mercyhurst Green Team with support from the Mercyhurst University Office for Academic Affairs.