Indigenous peoples’ very existence has been threatened by development for hundreds of years. Today, their efforts to maintain their customs and protect their ancestral territories are frequently challenged. Governments and industries pursuing logging, oil drilling, mining, and the exploitation of other natural resources often compromise the rights and health of indigenous communities.
As the oldest caretakers of our earth, indigenous peoples hold unique biological knowledge and practice sustainable resource management on their lands. They care for much of the planet’s biodiversity, and they do so in a way that balances human and ecological needs. Sadly, their calls to protect their traditional ways of life are not heard by powerful governments and corporations.
You can help raise the voices of indigenous peoples around the world by investing in their campaigns. By giving to our Indigenous Peoples program, you are seeding social justice and environmental protection through our planet’s most experienced stewards.
“We must address a complex system of historic power dynamics in order to secure the basic rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. To overcome this, indigenous peoples need to enhance their traditional institutions and increase their capacities as leaders. This will be a long process, and strategic assistance is needed. Small grants are a perfect match. They allow indigenous peoples to truly own their endeavors – this is real empowerment.”
Edtami Mansayagan, Greengrants Alliance of Funds Advisor
Land is a fundamental element of indigenous identity and culture. However, gaining official recognition of ancestral territories requires overcoming strong resistance from economic and political interests.
Worldwide, indigenous peoples number between 300-500 million
Greengrants supports indigenous groups working to secure their land rights through a variety of activities, including:
Mapping of territories—a key step in collecting evidence to present to authorities
Launching national and international legal campaigns
Educating communities and governments about the need to respect indigenous peoples’ collective rights
Raposa Serra do Sol
The Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous territory in the Amazon state of Roraima, Brazil, represents 1.7 million hectares and is home to nearly 20,000 members of five indigenous groups. For years, however, conflicts with agricultural interests over land use were a serious threat to the reserve. Greengrants awarded two grants to the organization, one for $5,000 in 2001 and one in 2008 through our Brazilian partner, the Center for Socio-Environmental Support, to protect indigenous peoples’ traditional territory. Our 2001 grant enabled the groups to take a case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The resulting ruling to upheld the demarcation of the territory. Then, with the help of CASA’s 2008 grant, indigenous leaders won a final ruling by the Brazilian Supreme Court to protect the territory. Today, the indigenous rights to the territory are firmly established.
Weak laws and government development policies have meant that indigenous peoples’ lands are frequently targeted by oil companies, loggers, miners, and even conservationists—without the informed consent of the indigenous communities who live there.
Indigenous peoples embody and nurture 80% of the world’s cultural and biological diversity and occupy 20% of the world’s land surface
Small grants enable indigenous people to participate in decisions. Grants can support the collection of evidence of rights abuses, legal representation, and network-building among groups facing similar problems, giving groups the means to effectively demand their rights.
Kemerovo Regional Public Organization of Indigenous People Teleut “Nabat”
In Kemerovo Oblast, in Eastern Russia, large-scale open pit coal mining is in direct conflict with the Teleut indigenous settlements in the same region. Mining activity continually violates local people’s land rights, exploiting their resources and damaging their environments.
The Nabat organization works to preserve and promote the cultural, environmental, and social well-being of the Teleut indigenous community. In 2009, Greengrants awarded the organization with $2,500 to combat the effects of the mining industry. With the help of grant funds, the organization assessed the socio-environmental impacts of mining activities on indigenous Teleut villages, including demonstrating mining companies’ violations of traditional land rights and their degradation of natural resources in the area. The organization the publicized the resulting report to government and media.
Indigenous Rights and Resources – Download this feature brochure on how indigenous peoples are connected to the environment, and how protecting their rights often also means protecting our planet.
Fighting for Their Rights: A Discussion Around Indigenous Groups in Siberia and Northern Canada – Indigenous peoples around the world are holders of incredibly valuable environmental knowledge. Their very identity is linked to the land they have inhabited for generations—land that is threatened by oil and gas development, mega-dams, climate change, and other socio-environmental issues. The unfortunate reality is that many indigenous peoples often lack the legal rights to protect their resources from corporate and government development, as is true in the very remote northern regions of Canada and Russia. Listen to this conference call recorded on November 18, 2009.