The Work of Kayla DeVault (posted May 19, 2016)
FHTE features a young woman working with her indigenous community on climate change.
My name is Kayla DeVault. I am Anishinaabe and enrolled Shawnee, living on the Navajo Reservation. I currently work for the Navajo Nation Division of Transportation as a Project Civil Engineer while studying Diné Studies at Diné College. I am a Youth Ambassador for Generation Indigenous and was a participant in the White House Tribal Youth Gathering where I served as a spokesperson on Indian Health Service and truancy topics to the Department of Justice.
In 2015, I provided the Southeast Indian People’s Center with a written presentation on U.S.-indigenous relations for the Permanent Forum in New York City. The next month, I was sponsored by the U.S. Human Rights Network and given a two-minute presentation slot to speak at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. I addressed U.S. delegates, including then-Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, with concerns about violence against indigenous women, the youth suicide epidemic in Indian Country, and the mascot issue, stressing the need to adopt the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Last year I was also inducted as a Sequoyah Fellow to the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES). Through AISES, I am a cofounder of a new “Native Engineers Without Borders” initiative that connects AISES student and professional members to tribal communities through holistic, culturally-relevant, STEM-based projects. This model is based off of my experience in West and Central Africa with Engineers Without Borders and the Humanity Exchange, but it incorporates important lessons on holistic, culturally-sensitive development that I experienced on a Global Issues & Sustainability program in India. We are continuing to work on a liaison between AISES and the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) as a result of that experience.
Through AISES and Generation Indigenous, I have become very connected to organizations like the Center for Native American Youth and UNITY. As I have also been recently named to the EPA’s Youth Perspectives on Climate Change Working Group, having experience working with tribal communities and conducting climate change research around the world, and so I frequently speak at events for these organizations to inspire youth to think out of the box, holistically, and proactively. I am also pursuing a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at Arizona State University and plan to get a PhD related to tribal policy in alternative energy development and other environmental/climate-related topics.