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Q&A: Rep. McCall talks climate change, food link

Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall outside of the Hollywood Community Culture Center on Nov. 17. (Photo Damon Scott)

HOLLYWOOD – Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall grew up on the Hollywood Reservation with her mother, Wanda Bowers, who was part of the tribe’s princess program for many years. Rep. McCall said she knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a part of it.

Rep. McCall would first run for Jr. Miss Florida Seminole at age 12 and Miss Florida Seminole at 17. She ran for Miss Indian World twice. Just before she turned 19 she’d capture her first crown – Miss Florida Seminole.

“I couldn’t wait to run. I thought it was so cool that they got to speak on a microphone and were comfortable up there,” she said. “I saw so much confidence [in] these teenagers. I was so motivated.”

She said the experience, and her mother’s example, taught her about leadership and to speak out on issues like climate change and health. McCall, 36, was part of a historic election in 2021 as one of four women elected to tribal leadership positions.

About five years ago, Rep. McCall became a vegan and said she found connections to food and climate change issues. The Tribune asked about her views.

How did climate change first come on your radar?

I got more informed just from living in Florida. I remember going to elementary school and waiting at the bus stop in October and we’d have to wear a jacket because it would be cold outside. In December it’d be cold in the morning and we’d wear sweatshirts to school. Now, I’ve noticed that every year it just keeps getting hotter. And we keep seeing all these horrible storms – like the hurricane in November, which is very rare.

Part of the equation, for you, has been a focus on food.

When I adopted a vegan lifestyle, that’s when I started getting really informed about what was going on with our environment. Not just here in Florida or the states, but across the planet. It made me aware that we’re the generation that needs to make change.

The biggest impact you can have to save our environment is to stop consuming as much. People need to decide for themselves – even a diet that isn’t vegan, but is vegetarian, or is simply eating less meat – would make a big difference in deforestation.

It relates to health, too?

I can only talk about my own experiences. I used to have chronic back pain that was inflamed at the drop of a hat. I had back surgery and it helped, but I was still in a lot of pain. Going vegan was the tipping point because I wanted to be healthier and I realized I wanted the planet to be healthier – it’s a byproduct of being vegan. Some people say it’s really expensive to be a vegan, but I say medical bills are also expensive.

You’re concerned about the health of tribal members?

Our tribe deals with so many health ailments. It comes back to nutrition. The people that are our Elders now – when they were younger they were walking every day; they weren’t consuming as much high fat, high protein, highly processed food. You see more and more tribal members developing cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes today.

You recently read the book “We Are Water Protectors” to Hollywood preschoolers, which is about a young Native girl who comes face to face with a black snake that is a metaphor for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Why was that important to you?

As Native people we’re stewards of the land. What’s our responsibility here? We had all those Natives go up to DAPL to protect their lands. What are we doing? If we are taking care of our planet and we’re taking care of ourselves then we’re setting ourselves up for success.

You’re sponsoring a “fireside chat” with the tribe’s climate resiliency program to discuss these issues?

I’m a question person. Sometimes I annoy people with the amount of questions I ask, but I think that’s the only way you can truly make a good decision. Climate resiliency stems from our own actions. What am I doing to my body? What am I doing to my environment? Hopefully this planet will still be here when my grandkids are here.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at