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Cultural Survival Q









Indigenous Women Leading the Way Toward the Future

Vol. 43, Issue 2 • June 2019 US $4.99/CAN $6.99

J UNE 2019 Vo lum e 43 , Issue 2 Board of Directors president

Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) Vice President

Steven Heim Treasurer

Jason Campbell (Spokane)


Nicole Friederichs Evelyn Arce Erickson (Muisca) Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i) Laura Graham Ajb’ee Jiménez (Maya Mam) Lesley Kabotie (Crow) John King Stephen Marks Tui Shortland (Ma–ori) Stella Tamang (Tamang) FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis

The fourth Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation on 55 Wall Street in New York City, the original New York Stock Exchange, making the historical connections between patriarchy, colonization, and capitalism (see page 6). Photo by Teena Pugliese.

F e at u r e s

D e pa r t m en t s

10 Reflecting on Being Cultural Survival’s First Indigenous Leader


Executive Director’s Message


In the News

Suzanne Benally Executive Director Suzanne Benally shares her final thoughts on her tenure at Cultural Survival.

4 Indigenous Arts

Cultural Survival Headquarters 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417

12 Nothing About Us Without Us

Santa Fe Office Mailing Address 518 Old Santa Fe Trail, Suite 1-641 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

14 As a Woman: Leading Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance

Cultural Survival Quarterly

Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska Copyright 2019 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Printed on recycled paper in the U.S.A. Please note that the views in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Survival.

Writers’ Guidelines

View writers’ guidelines at our website ( or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Cultural Survival recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have long been exploited by photographers and publications. This publication does not pay photographers for images and makes no money from publishing them. We also make a tremendous effort to identify every Indigenous individual in the images that appear here. From time to time, however, such identification is not possible. We apologize to the subjects of those photos and to any reader offended by the omission.

Dev Kumar Sunuwar Pratima Gurung (Gurung) is leading the advocacy effort for women with disabilities in Nepal.

Dev Kumar Sunuwar Rukka Sombolinggi (Toraja) was elected the first woman secretary general of AMAN.

16 The Tale of a Young South African Woman: Shanice Appels Shaldon Ferris At the age of 16, Shanice Appels (Khoe) founded the Princess Project to bring awareness about rape.

18 Indigenizing Philanthropy Daisee Francour Recognition, reflection, and a renewed value system are integral to Indigenizing philanthropy.

6 Rights in Action

Kerstin Sabene The Rab’in Ajaw in Guatemala is more than a pageant; it is an opportunity for young women to create sociocultural change.

22 Advocating for Indigenous Women’s Land Rights in Kenya

Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations Re-Occupy Europe

8 Indigenous Knowledge

Representation Matters

26 Staff Spotlight

Diana Pastor: Bilingual Education in Guatemala

24 Keepers of the Earth Fund Grant Partner Spotlight

The Red Willow Womyn’s Society: We Are the Sacred Life Givers

28 Community Media Partners

20 Rab’in Ajaw: Celebrating Maya Women as Agents of Change

Naomi Lanoi Women are leading the way to secure land titles for Indigenous women. ii • www. cs. org

La Borinqueña: Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Universe of Comics

The Women of the Communications Council

29 Bazaar Artist Transforming Palm into Art: Juan García Mendoza

On the cover 2018–2019 Rab'in Ajaw candidates in Tactic, Alta Verapaz. Rab'in Ajaw is more than a pageant; it is an opportunity for young women to make change (see page 20). Photo by Kerstin Sabene.

E xecut iv e Di rector’ S messa ge

Indigenous Women Leading the Way Toward the Future


t is fitting that this issue of the CSQ on Indigenous women’s leadership coincides with my departure from my position as the executive director of Cultural Survival. As an Indigenous woman leader who has advocated and fought for Indigenous rights, environmental and social justice, and the rights of women and children, the work of the women in this issue is important to me. I truly honor all women and the many others who are impassioned to these issues and are leading the way to the self-determined future for all Indigenous Peoples. Globally, many brave and courageous Indigenous women are on the frontlines defending and fighting for Indigenous land and resource rights since they directly depend on these to survive. Indigenous women are crucial in maintaining ecological balance to ensure local food security. Recognizing and securing land rights benefits Indigenous women in providing for their families and communities. Indigenous women are warriors, nurturing, protecting, and ensuring life. All of the Indigenous women providing activist leadership in this issue address key challenges affecting Indigenous women. We only have to look to a few, such as Pratima Gurung (Gurung), who is spearheading advocacy for Indigenous women with disabilities in Nepal and speaks of the needs for Indigenous women’s meaningful participation at all levels. Rukka Sombolinggi (Toraja), who was elected the first woman secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of Indonesian Archipelago, advocates for the recognition of Indigenous women’s rights to land use and management. Shanice Appels, a South African Khoe activist, is advocating and fighting for justice in reclaiming and securing land for farmworkers, especially women farmworkers. And Naomi Lanoi (Maasai),

a program officer for the Kenya Land Alliance, discusses how resource extraction disproportionately affects rural women and leads to violence against women. She advocates for the participation of women “in essential decision- making processes about the use, management, and political oversight of Kenyan land.” We have much more work to do as evidenced by the world’s current state of affairs and those leaders who would incite violence, oppression, racism, and genocide. As Indigenous Peoples, we are strong and resilient and our fight will continue. As I conclude my final executive director letter, I would like to extend an appreciation to the Cultural Survival Board of Directors and staff. I could not have done this job without their strength and dedication. I would also like to make special mention of the late Sarah Fuller, former president of the Board, who was also my friend and mentor. Cultural Survival has been an amazing international advocacy platform and network for me to help advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, thank you to the many friends and allies for your support of Cultural Survival. We are currently conducting a search to find Cultural Survival’s next executive director. During this transition period, Mark Camp, deputy executive director, will serve as interim executive director. To all my relatives, our friends, and allies around the world, Ahe’hee’ (Navajo for “in appreciation”) for the opportunity to serve you. In Solidarity,

Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)

Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Cultural Survival Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Community Media Program Manager Jessie Cherofsky, Bazaar Program Manager Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy Program Manager Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Maru Chávez Fonseca, Program Manager, Indigenous Rights Radio Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Nati Garcia (Maya Mam), Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Coordinator Adriana Hernández (Maya K'iche'), Executive Assistant Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Program Associate, Community Media Grants Project Danae Laura, Bazaar Program Manager Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez, (Mixe/Ayuuk ja’ay & Zapotec/Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Project Manager Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Teresita Orozco Mendoza, Program Associate, Community Media Program & Indigenous Rights Radio Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Community Media Program Coordinator Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Program Assistant Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Melissa A. Stevens, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships Sócrates Vásquez García (Ayuuk), Community Media Grants Coordinator Miranda Vitello, Development Associate

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Kate Ahern, Haley Albano, Tobias Berblinger, Brooke Gilder, Kiara Hernandez, Sarah Markos, Emilee Martichenko, Mary Newman, Weiping Niu, Allen Perez, Alondra Ramirez, Chris Swartz

There are so many ways to

S ta y c o nn e ct e d twitter: @CSORG instagram: @cultural_survival

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 1

i n t he new s Japan: Ainu People Recognized as Indigenous February

The Japanese government now recognizes the Ainu people as Indigenous. Following a history of forced assimilation, discriminatory policies, and lack of representation of cultural voice in political institutions, the recently passed legislation exceeds previous political landmarks classifying the Ainu as an official minority population and officially asserts Ainu cultural belonging to critical social landscapes of Japan.

Australian Aboriginal Communities Compensated for Land Loss March

Two Australian Aboriginal Peoples, the Ngaliwurru and the Nungali, have been compensated by the High Court of Australia under the country’s native title act to damages incurred by colonial land grabbing. The landmark legal victory awarded $2.5 million AUS for harm brought upon by a long history of colonial projects on Aboriginal lands. The award establishes a precedent for economic compensation of tangible and intangible cultural loss.

Ecuador: Victory for Waorani Contesting Drilling on Traditional Lands April

The Waorani community of Pastaza won a historic ruling in Ecuadorian court protecting 500,000 acres of their territory from oil drilling. The Waorani accused the Ecuadorian government of earmarking their lands for sale, extraction of oil without Free, Prior and Informed Consent, dishonest negotiation, and perpetuating human rights violations against the rights of the Tribe and the rights of nature.

U.S. Questioned by UN Committee on Indigenous Rights April

The UN Committee on Civil and Political Rights recently held the United States in question over its implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political 2 • www. cs. org

Waorani communities of Pastaza celebrating the protection of 500,000 acres of rainforest from oil drilling in Ecuador. Photo by Mitch Anderson/Amazon Frontlines.

Rights. Coordinated submissions from Indigenous communities include queries over the proper treatment of Indigenous Peoples; failure to protect civil rights; and concerns about justice, environmental protection, violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the inter-generational impacts of trauma.

UN to Launch Campaign Against Criminalization of Indigenous Peoples April

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria TauliCorpuz, announced the Global Campaign Against the Criminalization and Impunity of Indigenous Peoples at the 18th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The campaign aims to protect Indigenous activists from persecution, murder, and imprisonment on falsified charges for protesting against governments and corporations in defense of their traditional lands.

Cambodia: Lands Returned to Indigenous Peoples April

The agriculture ministry of Cambodia has returned Indigenous lands in the northeast province of Ratanakiri that were taken and sold more than a decade ago for the foreign development of rubber. Local communities will work to rehabilitate the land and are requesting additional compensation, primarily for waterway rehabilitation.

United States: Oglala Sioux Nation Bans South Dakota Governor from Reservation May

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council unanimously voted to tell South Dakota

Governor Kristi Noem (R) that she is unwelcome on the Pine Ridge Reservation until she rescinds her support for anti-protest legislation. The governor recently introduced two so-called “riot busting” laws, which allow the state to sue organizations that it deems encourage protest against projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and to levy penalties against those exercising their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Guatemala: Indigenous People Walk 200 km to Demand Justice May

Organized by traditional Indigenous authorities, hundreds of Indigenous people from across Guatemala began a march on May 1 for dignity, life, and justice. Marchers will cover 200 km, from Quetzaltenango to Guatemala City, in protest against corruption, land theft, and extraction of natural resources on Indigenous lands.

Global: ILO Convention 169 Celebrates 30 Years June

The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization was adopted by the UN General Assembly on June 27, 1989. Ratified by only 23 countries to date, it remains the sole legally binding international law specifically for Indigenous Peoples. The instrument has played a significant role in facilitating the development of laws, policies, institutions, and programs aimed at promoting and securing the rights and well being of Indigenous Peoples.

Advocacy Updates Canada: Coastal Gasoline Disrupts Unist’ot’en Subsistence, Ordered to Cease

Photo by Murray Bush


Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. has been found to be in non- compliance through an inspection led by Canada’s Environmental Assessment Office. The gas line, in disruption of Unist’ot’en (British Columbia) subsistence traplines, has been ordered to cease activity until June 12 for failing to provide the regulatory six-month advance notice and disrupting seasonal subsistence activities. A cease and desist letter was sent to Coastal GasLink to halt all pipeline activity. Coastal GasLink has ignored this letter, and critical subsistence traplines continue to be blocked by pipeline construction. Despite delivery of the stop-work order, CGL contractors blocked access to traplines, and continued to operate bulldozers and excavators within meters of the Tribe’s active traps. Access to land has been denied, Unist’ot’en healing center residents have been threatened with arrest, and the lifeways of local people have been adversely affected. Entire sections of traplines have been blockaded permanently by the construction of roads, effectively eliminating critical subsistence areas and threatening the wellbeing of Unist’ot’ten people.

Costa Rica: Bribri Leader and Activist Sergio Rojas Ortiz Killed March

Sergio Rojas Ortiz, Bribri leader, died after being shot multiple times in his home in Salitre, Puntarenas, Costa Rica on March 18 by an unknown assailant. Rojas was one of the most

Cultural Survival’s advocacy program launches international campaigns in support of grassroots Indigenous movements as they put pressure on governments and corporations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of their communities.

important and well known Indigenous leaders in the region and a member of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples. Due to threats from ongoing land conflicts resulting from non-Indigenous settlers occupying Indigenous territory, the Salitre community had been awarded Precautionary Measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since 2015. In 2017, Rojas led negotiations to sign a protocol for how security measures should be implemented. At the time of his death, Costa Rica had failed to implement protections for the community according to the terms established. The government has stated it is opening investigations into his death to hold those responsible accountable. U.S.: Hawaiian indigenous Coalition Requests Urgent Action from Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination April

The Hawaiian mountain summit of Mauna Kea is sacred to Native Hawai’i, and is regarded as a sacred structure that functions as a piko (umbilical cord) connecting the Creator to the people of Hawai’i. Mauna Kea is the meeting place of Wa-kea (Sky Father) and Papaha-naumoku (Earth Mother), and thus serves as the convergence point of heaven and earth. It is significant to the spiritual and cultural values and livelihoods of Native Hawaiians, and from this summit burial sights can be observed. Mauna Kea has been scheduled to be a development site for the TMT International Observatory Corporation’s Thirty Meter Telescope. This is deeply contested by many Hawaiians who believe the telescope violates the spiritual domain of the mountain. The dismissal

of the importance of these beliefs, the expectation that it will be built without consulting Native people, the environmental degradation of the surrounding area, and the lack of proper negotiation and treatment are the subject of contestation. Cultural Survival assisted a coalition of Native Hawaiian organizers to request Early Warning Measures and Urgent Action Procedures by submitting a 19-page report on March 22. U.S.: Cultural Survival Participates in 18th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN Headquarters, New York April/May

Cultural Survival staff joined thousands of Indigenous representatives gathering in New York for the 18th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, bringing together grassroots community leaders, NGOs, and State representatives from all over the world to discuss challenges and best practices for the implementation of Indigenous rights. This year’s theme was “Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission and protection.” Cultural Survival facilitated the participation of three of our grant partners to bring the voices of their communities to the UN, and to bring discussions at the UN back to their communities through community radio programming. Cultural Survival also hosted three side events on traditional knowledge and food sovereignty, community media, and international human rights mechanisms.

Read more news at

Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly June 2019 • 3

indi geno u s a rts

La Borinqueña

Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Universe of Comics Cristina Verán


n global popular culture today, the superhero reigns supreme. Though Indigenous talents are becoming more visible in this altuniverse—actor Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Taika Waititi directing Thor: Ragnarok— characters and storylines still lean toward extraterrestrial themes and European-derived mythologies. Graphic novelist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, looking to change this status quo, decided to reach back to his own Taíno heritage from Puerto Rico in order to create a new kind of hero for his people and beyond: one whose powers and values come from a decidedly Indigenous foundation. At least 70 percent of Puerto Ricans today are, in part, of Taíno descent, long affirmed by community systems and family lore across their island. The U.S. government-installed public education system, however, sought from its beginnings to counter that understanding. Indoctrinating a century’s worth of its territorial subjects in a stance that, contrary to their own oral histories, the Taíno people had actually been wiped out centuries ago, this curriculum asserted that Puerto Ricans therefore had no rightful Indigenous, historic claim over their colonized lands. Those who resisted, remaining steadfast in a Taíno-centered identity despite enduring marginalization for doing so, have been officially vindicated by recent advances in DNA testing that can not only confirm Amerindian ancestry, but actually pinpoint Taíno-specific gene markers distinct from other Native populations across the Americas. It is from this long suppressed history that La Borinqueña was born. With three comic books published thus far in an ongoing series, this new superhero has received raves from the press and sparked a nationwide speaking tour for Miranda-Rodriguez. La Borinqueña is currently enshrined at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York (part of its Taíno exhibit), and stands together with Wonder Woman and Captain America in the Superheroes exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Cristina Verán recently spoke with Miranda-Rodriguez. 4 • www. cs. org

Cristina Verán: Please explain the significance of La Borinqueña’s name. Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez: La Borinqueña is a Puerto

Rican superhero who is Indigenous to Borikén—the original Taíno name for Puerto Rico, meaning “land of the noble people.” This comic is rooted in that history, of the Taínos. Like most Puerto Ricans today, she has both Indigenous and African ancestors; being what some would call an “Afro-Taína.” I also wanted a character that was unapolo- getically patriotic, and “La Borinqueña” is the name of Puerto Rico’s first national anthem, written by Lola Rodriguez de Tió.

CV: La Borinqueña wears the colors and star of the Puerto Rican flag. What else inspired her look? EMR: Like with Superman, her costume is form-fitting but

not overtly sexualized; the only body parts you see are her hands and face. She has a muscular athletic body that, before even getting her superpowers, she [the young college student named Marisol who becomes La Borinqueña] actually developed on her own, riding her bike to school each day from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

CV: From where did you draw inspiration for the character, in terms of her motivations and values? EMR: I was inspired by real women in my life—particularly

Iris Morales, one of the original members and leaders of the Young Lords [the Puerto Rican-led civil rights and sovereigntyfocused organization, which was counterpart to the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement in the 1960s70s], and Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, a founder of El Museo del Barrio and the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York City. And of course, my mother, my wife, and so many other women I grew up around.

CV: A departure from the sci-fi blockbuster stories dominating the superhero genre today, your storylines have a real world, social justice-centered focus. Why was this important to you? EMR: The very first superhero comic books, which came

from small, independent publishers, were always rooted in such themes. Only once they evolved into corporate-owned brands did things change: instead of actual human rights issues and humanitarian crises here on earth, they became more about battling intergalactic threats. I wanted to redirect the conversation from science fictional, fantastical narratives back to real issues, real people—my people.

CV: How do you identify, in terms of “your people?” EMR: I identify as a Boricua, a term which defines me as a

son of Borikén. Many nations and narratives—not only Taíno,

All images courtesy of Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez.

LEFT: In issue #2, La Borinqueña finds herself transported back in time to when the Taíno resistance against Spanish occupation was underway.

pride in that identity, asserts a direct connection to our Taíno ancestors. I’ve come to respect and embrace this view in my own way. I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn now, where the people are often called hipsters. So, having also my own strong cultural identity and politics, I jokingly refer to myself as a “jíbster;” a hybrid jíbaro-hipster. CV: From where does La Borinqueña get her superpowers? EMR: I didn’t want her to come by them from getting bitten

by a radioactive coquí [the tiny, beloved tree frog held up as the national symbol of Puerto Rico], and she wasn’t going to come from another planet. Instead, I wanted to connect to our Taíno heritage and its mythology. The stories center around [La Borinqueña communing with Atabex], the mother goddess representing the traditional matriarchal society, and also her twin sons, Yúcahu, god of the mountains and seas, and Huracán, god of the weather, maker of storms. [Interviewer’s Note: the English word “hurricane” comes from his name.]

CV: How does one represent a god in comic book form? EMR: An image of Atabex found in ancient petroglyphs

but also from West Africa as well as from Spain—have shaped me into who I am today. CV: To what extent was your Taíno heritage imparted in your family life? EMR: I grew up in a very conservative Christian family. The

Pentecostal church culture, imported to Puerto Rico from the United States, promoted a kind of Eurocentric spiritual colonialism that looked down on Taíno (and also African) spirituality as “idolatry.” They were always on the offensive against cultural practices not in line with evangelical teachings. My parents were also products of a school system, which, by design, repressed that knowledge. The only aspect of our Indigenous heritage that my family did embrace was regarding our food. For example, we’d gather root vegetables from the ground—yuca, ñame, and yautia— to prepare traditional stews, or mash up to make pasteles. Without even being aware of it at the time, what we did, how we were doing it, was in fact the Taíno way.

CV: Given such negation, how did you find your way back to your heritage? EMR: There’s a saying, “la sangre te llama”—the blood calls

you. As a kid, I lived for a few years in Puerto Rico, in very rural communities—Ceiba, for example—made up primarily of jíbaros; that is, people living a traditional agrarian experience in the mountains and the rainforest, disconnected from modern life and the popular culture of the rest of the country. There are mixed feelings about this term on the island. For some, it’s seen in a derogatory way, like being a “hillbilly” or a “hick.” Others, however, recognize that being a jíbaro, taking

depicts her as a woman squatting, as if about to give birth, looking kind of extraterrestrial. I kept her that way, taking that original petroglyph image to the cosmos. For Yúcahu, meanwhile—whose throne is said to be atop a mountain in El Yunque rainforest—I rendered him as the mountain itself, drawn in the triangular shape of a cemí; the small, sculptural figures used to represent deities or the ancestral spirits of caciques, i.e., chiefs.

CV: Beyond the spiritual, mythological realm, this comic explores historical scenarios and figures. What should readers understand from this? EMR: The hero’s origin story links the character to a Taino-

specific history of not only resistance, but also resilience; those who stood up against the Spaniards, like Cacique Mapodacoma. They didn’t just let the colonizers take over. La Borinqueña’s story is a continuation of that narrative.

CV: With her popularity continuing to grow, what’s next for La Borinqueña? EMR: I’ll continue publishing a new book in this series every

year and a half; next in June 2020. I’m doing this all myself, without the resources of a Marvel or a Disney to publish more frequently. This series is primarily about connecting my activism to my love of comics, so instead of focusing energy around, say, making a movie, what I’m trying to create is a movement. —Cristina Verán is an international Indigenous Peoples issues specialist consultant, researcher, strategist, educator, editor, and multimedia producer. Her work focuses at the intersections of human rights, political engagement, the arts, and community development. She is a longtime United Nations correspondent and was a founding member of the UN Indigenous Media Network. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 5

r i ght s i n a ct io n

Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations Re-Occupy Europe Divestment delegates and Swiss allies during a direct action outside of Credit Suisse and UBS banks in Zurich, Switzerland. Photo by Alexander Boethius/WECAN International.

Kim Maida


n the Spring of 2018, a third Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation traveled to Europe to follow up on previous demands made on government and financial leaders who have invested in corporations and projects tied to Indigenous human rights violations and harms to the global climate and water. As a part of the DIVEST, INVEST, PROTECT Campaign, these women met with leaders in Switzerland and Germany to expose injustices and share the experiences of Indigenous communities confronting development projects on their homelands. Led by Michelle Cook, a Dine/Navajo human rights lawyer, and Osprey Orielle Lake, the executive director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, this delegation brought new faces along with former delegates to Europe. Waste Win Yellowlodge Young (Ihunktowanna/ Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) and Sarah Jumping Eagle (Oglala Lakota/Mdewakantonwan Dakota), who participated in last year’s delegations, were accompanied by new members Charlene Aleck (Tsleil Waututh Nation) and Monique Verdin (Houma Nation). Following the success of the first two Divestment Delegations, which played a crucial role in helping to persuade DNB, Norway’s largest financial services group, to sell its $331 million stake in the Dakota Access pipeline as well as being instrumental in the December 2017 decision of Norway’s DNB and Swiss multinational UBS banks to stop renewing their credit facilities with Energy Transfer Partners (the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline), the third delegation met with leaders to discuss the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, and Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline. Delegates spoke of the harmful impacts of these projects at the Credit Suisse Annual Shareholders Meeting; with Swiss government representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labor and Economics; and with representatives from UBS and Deutsche Bank. In October 2018, a fourth delegation, also led by Cook and Lake and joined by advocates Jessica Parfait (United Houma),

6 • www. cs. org

Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe), Young, and Leoyla Cowboy (Dine), traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C. to meet with Morgan Stanley Capital International and the Equator Principle Association, which has more than 90 member financial institutions. Delegates presented personal testimonies and data to these financial institutions, whose decisions and influence impact the development of fossil fuel projects around the world. Representatives of the Divestment Delegation demanded that Morgan Stanley and the EP Association make urgent changes to policies that allow for dangerous fossil fuel extraction, and instead turn to full implementation of the Indigenous rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent as well as environmental protections. Public action events were also organized with delegates and allied organizations outside of Chase Bank in Manhattan and the EP Association to deliver a powerful message of unity and support for full divestment from fossil fuels and respect for Indigenous rights. Cultural Survival spoke with delegation members who traveled to Europe in Spring 2018. Michelle Cook: This delegation was unique because

three of the women currently hold official positions within their Tribal governing structures. This is powerful as they show the diversity of political leadership, legal status, and cultural distinction of Indigenous Peoples that still exists in the United States and Canada today. This delegation was also unique in that we delivered on our promise that we could bring Standing Rock to Switzerland. When we set up camp on Credit Suisse’s doorstep, I felt the strength of our people, our ancestors, the power of our prayer and defiance against these injustices as Indian women. Setting up camp at the gates of these institutions demands that we will be visible, and the role the banks play in perpetuating injustice and harms against Indian Nations will no longer be tolerated or hidden in the darkness but brought into the light of justice and public opinion. Many banks and governments are still failing to fully acknowledge the impending collapse of the fossil fuel economy and the risks of climate change. Even fewer have recognized that securing Indigenous Peoples’ land tenure and rights is

the answer to the climate crisis and protecting the world’s biodiversity. Our strategy has been, and will continue to be, speaking life-affirming truths. [We] will continue to show how Swiss banking institutions are not neutral, but play key roles in perpetuating resource colonialism and climate chaos. On a per capita basis, Swiss banks finance more extreme fossil fuels than any other European nation. Keeping the Swiss financial institutions accountable to human rights and climate targets is therefore critical for the security and health of the world’s economy, Indigenous rights, and climate justice. Engagement with banks through direct contacts and public media relating to divestment is an innovative approach to creating racial justice, economic democracy, and human rights for Indigenous communities. It is also an opportunity for us to share our visions of more just economic structures like public banks, investments in renewables, and invest- ments in the education of women and girls. We are Nations with a right to self-determination. We, as Indigenous Peoples, are older than these banks, and so are our original systems of value, trade, and economy. We are not just requesting divestment, we are challenging racial oppression facilitated through finance. What is a fossil free world worth if Indigenous Peoples are still treated as second class citizens? Our strategy is one that seeks systemic change and equality, and we are prepared to go the distance and plant those seeds for the seventh generation to harvest. Charlene Aleck: At Tsleil Waututh Nation we have

a Sacred Trust Initiative, which is our sacred obligation to be stewards of the land, water, and air. It is our mandate to stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline and tanker expansion project. The project was approved recently by the federal and provincial governments without Tsleil Waututh’s consent. The Tsleil Waututh community will be directly affected by increased tanker and tug traffic in Burrard Inlet and the oil spills resulting from the project. Construction of the Kinder Morgan pipeline will irreparably harm our environment and cultural values. Sacred Trust’s investor dissuasion strategy targets the financial backers of the pipeline project, including Kinder Morgan shareholders and investors, and the oil companies intending to contract use of the new pipeline. Our objective short term is to create financial uncertainty by making sure the investors understand that construction of the pipeline is not a “done deal;” that Tsleil Waututh Nation actions will at a minimum delay construction, if not outright kill the project. We intend on attending the Kinder Morgan Annual General Meeting in Houston to deliver the message of the strength of Tsleil Waututh Nation’s opposition to the pipeline expansion and the Nation’s determination to stop it. Longterm hope is that this strategy will affect local and international governments in how these projects are processed with the involvement of First Nations, which will give guidance to financial institutions in how they invest. There is something very powerful in telling your own story. This storytelling brings the focus to the present and human to human.

Osprey Orielle Lake: It is far past time for financial

institutions to make the responsible action, which is an immediate, managed decline of investment in the fossil fuel industry and an increased investment in safe, clean, renewable energy—

that is what is best for our communities globally. Banks need to show leadership and dedication to ecological sustainability and human and Indigenous rights as we face the unparalleled challenges of a world plunging into climate chaos. Moreover, the Divestment Delegations have demonstrated that Indigenous women have long bore the brunt of extractive industries, and despite this, shine powerfully with solutions to the harms that come from these destructive practices. Banks need to listen to Indigenous women and adhere to their demands, which are founded on requests for basic respect for obtaining Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities as required under international law. As part of the delegation’s work in Zurich, an action was held outside of the Credit Suisse and UBS headquarters in the city’s financial district, during which Indigenous women delegates and allies raised a tipi structure and spoke out for Indigenous rights and urgent climate action. The action was a response to a promise made by delegates during 2017 meetings that if meaningful action was not taken by the bank, Indigenous women would return with their messages and symbols of their homelands. As one of the central actions of the Spring 2018 Delegation, women leaders also attended the Credit Suisse Annual Shareholders Meeting. Each woman took the floor and shared powerful testimony in front of some 1,200 executives, employees, and shareholders, exposing exactly how the bank’s money has contributed both historically and currently to egregious violations of Indigenous rights, human rights, and the health of the global climate. While obstacles are many, our Divestment Delegations have illuminated the power and potential for successful results as Indigenous women leaders meet eye-to-eye with representatives of the entities responsible for immense cultural and ecological devastation in their home regions. Financial institutions and governments should take note that there is uncertainty in upcoming pipeline projects because resistance movements are growing. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline, and Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project risks violating treaty rights of the Ojibwa peoples. The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, comprised of more than 150 First Nations and Tribes, advocates in opposition to all tar sands pipelines crossing their traditional lands and waters. Indigenous Peoples who live in these territories are fighting for their water, for their health, for their right to live their traditional way of life and not have their sacred sites destroyed. We are making visible the call by many Indigenous and environmental leaders for financial institutions to adhere to their own standards and guidelines regarding rights and environmental protections. The pretense of action must now come to an end. It is time for new social constructs of gender and racial equity; respect for Indigenous rights; transformation of economic frameworks not based on neo-liberal capitalism; and support for governance systems that respect the rights of Mother Earth. It is also clear that we need women’s leadership to generate this path forward. To learn more, visit: pages/divest-invest-protect or divestinvestprotect.

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 7

indi geno u s k n ow le d g e

Representation Matters


fter nearly a decade of conducting cultural conversations in parallel, Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) have joined forces to produce the podcast All My Relations, in which they explore their relationships to land, to cultural relatives, and to one another. Wilbur is a renowned photographer and founder of Project 562, where she has taken thousands of portraits and collected hundreds of contemporary narratives from over 300 Tribal Nations dispersed throughout 40 states, all in the pursuit of one goal: “to change the way we see Native America.” Keene is a Native scholar with a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Culture, Communities, and Education. She is a writer, assistant professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, and founder of the popular blog, Native Appropriations. Through their individual projects, and now their joint venture, the two women have been discussing the ways that Indigenous people are depicted and represented in mainstream culture, covering issues of cultural appropriation in fashion and music, as well as stereotyping in film and other media. The following excerpts are from the first episode of All My Relations, in which Wilbur and Keene discuss the importance of relationships in Native communities, and Indigenous feminism. Some passages have been lightly edited and/or condensed for clarity. Matika: “All My Relations” is a pretty popular topic throughout Indian Country. In my travels, I’ve found that our primary identity is inextricably connected to our relationships to land; that relationship to land and water is our primary way of identifying ourselves. We also see ourselves as our grandmothers granddaughters, and we see our role and responsibility and purpose directly connected to our lineage. Using that as the backbone for the podcast is really powerful because it is something that we share across Indian Country; these ideas of being relational people, of not existing without being in relationship to a place, to people, to culture. It’s always about those relationships... we have a responsibility as our grandmothers’ granddaughters to continue to carry the conversations forward. I was raised with a very strong understanding of my place in my community as a member of the Wilbur family, as a member of the Joseph family, also as a person of the tide, as a person of the salmon people. My relationship and my identity is deeply rooted in those concepts, and in our language. Adrienne: As someone who grew up without those relationships, without the connection to community, not knowing what it meant to be a Cherokee woman, to be a Cherokee person, that has been the biggest anchor in my reconnecting 8 • www. cs. org

Art by Ciara Sana.

journey is building and finding those relationships. I had to go to my friend Patrick del Persio, who works for Cherokee Nation doing translation, and ask him what the equivalent would be in our language. He gave me three phrases, and I think they all kind of relate to different aspects of this idea of “all my relations,” or “we are all related.” I love that in our community there are these ways of thinking relationally. Both of us are people who care really deeply about representations and how our communities and our families, and Indigenous people overall, are represented in media and society. Let’s talk a bit about our relationships to the idea of feminism and what it means as Native women. Matika: I don’t generally identify as a feminist because when I think of feminists, I think of white women, and I think of the ways that Indigenous women were very much excluded from the benefits of the feminist movement. Adrienne: That’s so interesting, because you are one of the most feminist people I know in terms of your desire for women and folks who are marginalized for their gender identities to be their full selves, and be able to have their roles and communities. I have very similar feelings of feminists—the self-proclaimed feminists in college were not people I wanted to hang out with. It really was reading other Indigenous feminists that brought me to my place of identity as an Indigenous feminist. People like Jessica Yee (now Danforth), who works with the Native youth sexual health network, who wrote some really amazing blog posts about what it means to be an Indigenous feminist. I realized that you don’t have to be white to be a feminist . . .“white feminism” is this idea that your identity as a woman should supersede your other identities. Patriarchy is this nebulous thing that exists, and you’re fighting against it. The difference is for Indigenous communities, we know exactly what brought patriarchy into our communities. We didn’t have this history of oppression of women in our communities prior to settler colonialism. Mainstream feminism doesn’t acknowledge that role of colonialism. To be an Indigenous feminist means that I’m not just fighting against patriarchy, I’m fighting against colonialism. Colonialism has two different forms: there’s extractive colonialism and settler colonialism. Extractive colonialism is what happened in places in a lot of different countries where an outside nation-state came in and extracted resources from this already existing place to send back to their home country. It built up the wealth and the power of that home country and they established a presence in those places and took over, but didn’t establish a new nation-state there. Versus what

happened in the U.S and Canada and Australia and New Zealand, is that idea of destroying in order to replace. Folks came in and they completely wiped out what was there in order to build a new nation-state on top of that. The phrase that I give my students for extractive colonialism is the idea that ‘Y’all left, but you left a big mess behind.’ And in settler colonialism, ‘Y’all never left.’ Matika: When you talk about Indigenous feminism and resisting colonialism, you’re talking about restoring our original identities and our original agreements with our own people, our land, relationship-based identities. If feminism is the fight for equality between men and women, I would not say that that was an issue at all, like Adrienne said, until colonialism arrived here. For me as a Potlatch person, as a Longhouse person, we had very distinct and important and prominent roles, decision making roles, power holding roles in these societies. I wouldn’t go as far to say that we were a matriarchal society, but rather that we were a balanced society. If I’m fighting for any type of rights, it’s the right to restore that balance that was here pre-1800s for us. Adrienne: A lot of the mainstream feminist icons were racist, fighting to exclude black women from getting the vote. Those values are not something that I identify with. The other misunderstanding is that often non-Native folks look at our communities and the traditional roles that were assigned to different genders in our communities, and see that as somehow being oppressive without understanding entire cultural structures, that the work of women was valued at the same level as the work of men. Also, our communities had roles for folks who didn’t necessarily fit into either of those gender roles. That’s something that settler society has not figured out...this is part of Indigenous feminism too, having a space for folks who don’t fit into a gender binary. Some of our communities had five genders. When I ask my Native high school students if they identify as being feminists, they definitely don’t. But once we talk about this understanding of what Indigenous feminism is and how it relates to our more “traditional” community understandings of gender, I think it changes the way that they think about this relationship. To be an Indigenous woman means that you understand that women have an equal position, have important roles, deserve important roles, and that your community recognizes that it’s totally fine for you to identify as an Indigenous woman. Because inherent in that is an understanding of equality and gender roles that is not in mainstream white society. Matika: In some communities the colonial thumbprint has become so deeply ingrained that at times we adopt these principles and we think they’re our own. Patriarchy is very alive and well in Indian country. Because we had to adopt a Western form of government to maintain our sovereign status, that form of government is mostly male-driven and an electoral system. Our people were equally affected by Western concepts and ideas—those belief systems have not necessarily been wiped from my memory or wiped from the way that we’re practicing as governments, as communities, as societies. I would love to see an original order restored to my own community where we move away from electoral system and

go back to more of a clan leader, a chief matriarchal system, where the clan mothers choose the chiefs. In Haudenosaunee country, they are still practicing a traditional government and the clan mothers still choose the chiefs. The best thing about that is that if the chiefs aren’t acting right, the clan mothers revoke their chieftainship. When you talk about Indigenous feminism and resisting colonialism, you’re talking about restoring our original identities and our original agreements with our own people, our land, relationship-based identities.

Left: Adrienne Keene. Photo by Brittanny Taylor.

Right: Matika Wilbur. Photo by Matika Wilbur.

Adrienne: I don’t think people realize that our Tribal constitutions were required by the federal government. The Indian Reorganization Act in the 1930s, the federal government said in order to be a Tribe, you have to have a Tribal constitution. A lot of Tribes still have this boilerplate Tribal constitution that doesn’t match their traditional form of governance at all. There wasn’t an understanding that our societies functioned for thousands of years prior to having a piece of paper that laid out this electoral system. Some of the communities that have continued to use it, it makes sense because it actually matches closely to their traditional governance system; traditionally they did have a leader and a council that function in the same way, and it was done by consensus and vote, so that made sense. But there’s 570+ different Tribes and we all had different ways of governance. Those systems come with them—the assumption of patriarchy that of course you’re going to follow the Western model, which is men are in control and it’s voted on in this “democratic” way. But that’s not necessarily matching traditional values at all. Matika: When we’re on the healing road, it starts with learning our creation story. And that goes for Indigenous people and for non-Indigenous people, because the space that we occupy has an Indigenous creation story and a place-based identity. All of us should learn the creation story of the place that we’re occupying and figure out how to contribute to the reawakening of that agreement. Adrienne: That made me think of Wayne Yang and Eve Tuck in their piece called “Decolonization is not a Metaphor.” They talk about how the difference between Indigenous people and settlers is that Indigenous people have origin stories and creation stories, and settlers have colonization stories. That is the stark difference between settlers and Indigenous people, that relationship to land and being of the land, coming from the land versus coming to it in a process of settling. All My Relations is available on iTunes, Spotify, Googleplay, Instagram @amrpodcast, and at

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 9

Reflecting on Being Cultural Survival’s

First Indigenous Leader


or the past eight years, Suzanne Benally (Santa Clara Tewa and Navajo) has served as Cultural Survival’s first Indigenous executive director. She has played a vital role in the development and success of the organization, bringing critical insight and experience needed to understand and promote the self-determination and rights of Indigenous Peoples. Under her leadership, Cultural Survival has strengthened its advocacy of the rights of Indigenous Peoples while expanding and developing community-based programming in Indigenous and human rights work internationally. We feel honored and fortunate to have worked under Benally’s leadership, and we are grateful for her wisdom, compassion, and stewardship of our organization. Before her departure, we sat down with Benally to get her final thoughts on her tenure at Cultural Survival. Tell us about your experience being an Indigenous woman executive director. As an Indigenous woman leader, I tend to think about my leadership as a holistic, carefully deliberate, and an interconnected process that is dependent on others; I think of this as a cultural form of leadership. It is challenging to practice this style of leadership in a mainstream, non-Indigenous organization, because it requires negotiating different values and helping people understand a new kind of leadership and ethos that reflect the communities we serve. That’s perhaps the most important challenge as I clarified the vision and mission of Cultural Survival, and as the staff, Board, and I discussed how we would move it forward. I overcame these challenges by intentionally working with the staff to see themselves as part of the vision, and helping them acquire the kind of knowledge and understanding that is needed to do that. Indigenous women still need to be recognized for the roles that they have in leadership. We need to hear more of their stories. Indigenous women in many cultures are recognized as leaders, but over time colonization diminished that. Today it is about intentionally providing the access, naming issues of inequity, recognizing our roles in maintaining the patriarchy, and doing something about it. It requires deliberate action: cultivating women into particular leadership roles in our search practices, reaching out and tapping Indigenous women for these jobs, and providing the kind of support for Indigenous women leaders to fully be realized. We also have to rethink how we define leadership and the criteria needed for leadership. What led you to leave academia for the Indigenous rights world? I’ve always had an interest in international Indigenous voices, policy, and UN level work. Early in my career I began to read

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about the early UN meetings and marches into Geneva and Indigenous Peoples trying to gain access and recognition by the UN. I grew up on the Navajo reservation witnessing the building of coal fired power plants that required coal mines to supply them, the devastation of uranium mining, the environmental and health impacts, the shift in community life, and the blatant racism. In my graduate work I was researching emerging literacies as political and resistance acts to colonization around the world, especially in Indigenous communities. Growing up in a community where all these issues are alive made me want to be on the ground doing the work and not just in a college classroom teaching about it. How have you seen the Indigenous rights movement change over the past eight years? Certainly the increasing recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, increasing engagement of those rights through UN bodies and agencies, NGOs, and others, and the increased naming and assertion of Indigenous rights as outlined in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I also know that resistance and struggles on the ground were already occurring, and continue to occur, outside the parameters of the UN efforts. What concerns me is that the movement doesn’t get bogged down in a UN bureaucratic process and become yet another kind of bureaucracy we have to deal with. Implementing the Declaration is important, and for that reason Cultural Survival got behind it as well as other UN efforts. But there has to be national and international policy impact, and Indigenous Peoples have to be able to benefit from it. This calls for Indigenous communities to be active in community, regional, and State levels to force change. The presence of the international movement of Indigenous Peoples is significant and dynamic. Can you speak a bit about your strong focus on promoting and developing Indigenous women’s and youth leadership? This has been a main thread across all of Cultural Survival’s work under your leadership. It is important that we address Indigenous women. We should honor women as leaders in their communities, whether they’re mothers, grandmothers, aunties, community workers, or professional women. Women provide key leadership for ensuring the well being and health of families, communities, and societies. Their roles as leaders are too often diminished, if not crushed entirely, because of sexist beliefs, attitudes towards women, and issues of gender equity. We see this reflected in the crisis of violence against Indigenous women. We have to heal from the colonizing forces that are the root of this, and we have to stand up to the practices that continue to oppress women. If we want to have healthy communities and societies, it is an imperative to pay attention and act on behalf of the well being

page 11

Suzanne Benally (center in black) with Cultural Survival Staff, Board, and Youth Fellows. Photo by Jamie Malcolm-Brown.

and health of women and children. I felt Cultural Survival should address these issues at the center of all its programs, and we set out to do that. In terms of youth leadership, youth are the future, they are the next generation of leaders; this is the world that they inherit. It is extremely important that we address their needs and concerns, that we are nurturing their future leadership and involving them in the solutions. Youth have so many new innovative ideas. They best understand the contemporary world they live in and experience its joys, pains, and concerns. We need to listen to them and offer our wisdom and support as they design and build their futures. I like the way in which we are supporting youth engagement at Cultural Survival through our Youth Fellowship program. What do you see as the most pressing issues that need to be addressed? Indigenous community media is one important area to assure freedom of expression and inclusion. We need the presence of voices of Indigenous people speaking for themselves, in their own languages, generating news along with the stories of their needs and successes, issues, and concerns. The access we provide to rural communities, the ways in which we try to be a bridge for information flow between the policy level to the ground level and vice versa is extremely important. Also important are thriving Indigenous languages, which are critically important to sustaining cultures. Our spiritual understandings and instructions were given to us in our languages. Since the beginning, you have been passionate about environmental work and Traditional Knowledge. What role can Cultural Survival play in promoting Indigenous voices for environmental protection? The issues of climate change, climate justice, and the environment are all top priorities and some of the most important issues of our time; especially the accelerated rate that we’re seeing the impact and changes, losing communities and whole cultures as a result. There is a lot of work being done by Indigenous communities on climate change in many different venues, so ways in which all of that can be brought together and discussed is important. How we enter the conversation at the policy level is also critical. We often receive invitations to share our wisdom and knowledge, but it is much more complex than that. From a Western perspective, it’s like, ‘give us what you have, give us your solutions.’ How we enter these dialogues and relationships is important. We need to be able

to influence policy. We need to talk about the solutions that we are practicing, and how they are based with relationships with the natural world. You simply cannot take those solutions and transplant them into a new, unrelated context. We also need to recognize the potential of integrating Western science as part of the solutions. How this translates into policy is going to be important, and more importantly how it translates into practice. You cannot just take and use Indigenous cultural practices if you do not have the cultural context to hold them; it is fundamentally asking for a complete shift of how we exist on this earth. Much needs understanding: how do we share our wisdom and our knowledge to be effective for all humankind? At the policy tables, there are Indigenous people pushing for understanding and demanding to be part of the conversations. We need to have access to those conversations. We have our Indigenous science, our traditional ways of knowing, and we have life. For our survival, we need to be heard along those lines. Cultural Survival can be a convener for those conversations and a disseminator of the information. Final reflections: You are highly valued by Cultural Survival Board and staff and will be deeply missed. What is next for you? It has been an amazing learning experience and journey and an incredible honor to work with Cultural Survival. I remember my first year, feeling so humbled by what I did not know about Indigenous Peoples across the world. The fight for Indigenous rights has been very important work to me. Doing this work through an organization such as Cultural Survival was rewarding and I plan to continue in other capacities. I am exploring next options and thinking about how to continue this work at a local level within my community, because there is such need. I plan to take a deep breath and a long exhale and move forward. I will to continue to support Cultural Survival and be involved. I could not have done this job without the amazing and dedicated staff. I am proud of what we have done. I began this interview talking about the challenges of being an Indigenous leader at a non-Indigenous organization, I want to recognize the staff for their good work, learning, and support. I would also like to recognize the incredible Board; their support and leadership has been very important to me. In addition, thank you to the many friends and allies of Cultural Survival for their support. We are all part of the leadership! Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 11

Nothing About Us Without Us The Struggle for Inclusion of Indigenous Women with Disabilities

Pratima Gurung. Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar.


ratima Gurung (Gurung) became disabled at the age of seven after she lost her hand in an automobile accident. She has spoken about how her parents valued education and made sure she received a quality education, a rare opportunity for most Indigenous women and women with disability in Nepal. Today, Gurung is leading the advocacy effort for women with disabilities and Indigenous women in Nepal and internationally. She is the general secretary for Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network and Nepal Indigenous Disabled Association (NIDA), chair of the National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN), and a faculty member at Padma Kanya College in Kathmandu. Indigenous Peoples comprise more than 35 percent of Nepal’s population, and persons with disabilities make up at least 1.94 percent of that population. Gurung is fighting for access, inclusion, and participation in decision making, and collective rights of Indigenous women and persons with disabilities, as the current Nepalese constitution does not ensure full and effective participation of all Indigenous Peoples at all levels due to their exclusion in the document’s drafting process. Cultural Survival’s Dev Kumar Sunuwar spoke with Gurung about her work at this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

Cultural Survival: Please give us a brief background about the challenges facing Indigenous Peoples, and particularly Indigenous women with disabilities. Pratima Gurung: If you look at the global data, we are

54 million Indigenous people with disabilities all around the globe. When it comes to my country, Nepal, we are 12 • www. cs. org

1.3 million Indigenous people with disabilities. When when we look at the overall population of women and Indigenous women in Nepal, we have about 7 million women with disabilities in Nepal. The first challenge I experience as an Indigenous woman with disabilities is about meaningful representation. It involves who you are, where you are represented. Because as soon as you are a woman, and an Indigenous woman, and a woman with disabilities, all of these identities keep you limited within the four walls. It comes to a point that your voice, your representation, your identification, and your recognition is the primary thing, and that begins from home, from the family, from the private sphere to the public sphere. The second challenge is about being disabled and the stigma associated with it. When you are a woman with disabilities, you have many serious and critical issues related with your life. The third thing is insuring your basic funda- mental needs, like education, your social background, your economic status, your employment opportunities, your accessibility. CS: What is it like to lead the Indigenous Peoples with disabilities movement as an Indigenous woman? Pratima: It has really been a challenge for me. I was working

for the Indigenous Peoples’ movement in 2001, looking over all the holistic dimensions of Indigenous women. As a researcher in the field, I was working with people with disabilities’ issues and I was not able to identify the issue of Indigenous people with disabilities or Indigenous women with disabilities. I began to realize that Indigenous women with disabilities are not able to make their voices heard. That made me question even myself as an Indigenous woman with disabilities: What am I

contributing to my community, and what is my role? That was the dilemma for me, whether to move within the Indigenous movement or to move forward within the disability movement. So, I thought, why not have intersections of Indigenous and disability. I got an opportunity to work with the International Disability Alliance as a fellow in 2013. That was the turning point for me: why not work on the issues of Indigenous people with disabilities in my own country? Nepal has so much diversity, not only in terms of religion/language, but also in terms of human diversity. That led me to move forward in working on Indigenous people with disabilities and also Indigenous women with disabilities, to also raise the issue at the global forum, in the international forum, even the United Nations. Disability has become a cross-cutting issue. How can disability issues be sensitized within the Indigenous movement and discourse, and how can the disability movement in the discourse value and integrate Indigenous values and practices? These are the things we are focusing on collectively from the ground and to the national level and international level. CS: You have been involved in Indigenous Peoples’ issues for about two decades. Could you share guidelines for how Indigenous women can take the lead? Pratima : First, I really want to highlight the effective and

meaningful participation of Indigenous women at all levels. Today we want Indigenous women at the table, we want them to make their decisions, we want them to make their concrete ideas known about the issues and concerns that are affecting their lives. We don’t want others who would make a decision and an agreement on behalf of us. Indigenous women with disabilities have to be brought to the frontlines by their effective and meaningful participation. The second thing is about the level of awareness and active engagement at the national level and at the grassroots level, to bring a collective and collaborative approach to raise the issues that Indigenous women with disabilities are facing not only within the Indigenous women’s movement, or Indigenous Peoples movement, but beyond it. We have to look at it in a very comprehensive can we collaborate and move forward to face these challenges with our government, the United Nations, and all the relevant stakeholders.

CS: What are some of the core rights guaranteed by the international human rights treaties or conventions? Pratima: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with

Disabilities (CRPD) is an evolving and recent human rights treaty body. In the preamble B, it mentions Indigenous identity. Also, if you see the number of recommendations in the concluding observations that have been provided by the CRPD Committee to a number of member states, we can clearly find the issues of Indigenous people with disabilities or Indigenous women with disabilities reflected in those documents which state that these groups are marginalized, vulnerable, and excluded within the disability discourse and movement. For example, the recent CRPD concluding observations given to Nepal and also the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) concluding observations that have been provided

to Indigenous women and women of Nepal. These two documents clearly highlight some of the emerging issues, like intersectional discrimination, and how Indigenous people with disabilities are vulnerable and in very dire situations; the earthquakes and other natural disasters and climate change have been clearly mentioned in those documents. Treaty bodies like the CEDAW are drafting a general recommendation that is specifically on Indigenous women. We also want to highlight the issue of intersectional discrimination so that other marginalized women like Dalit and Muslim women with disabilities in my country can be integrated. At the global level, we are trying to connect with the special rapporteurs so their reports and recommendations will highlight and reference these documents.

“ . . . we want Indigenous women at the table, we want them to make their decisions, we want them to make their concrete ideas known about the issues and concerns that are affecting their lives. We don’t want others who would make a decision and an agreement on behalf of us. Indigenous women with disabilities have to be brought to the frontlines by their effective and meaningful participation.” CS: What is the global situation for Indigenous Peoples living with disabilities? Pratima: We have been highlighting not only at the Per-

manent Forum, but in the global arena, that the situation of Indigenous people or Indigenous women with disabilities is very critical. Our goal is to come up with a very intensive and comprehensive global report on Indigenous people with disabilities. We have networks in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. We are also trying to push the Permanent Forum members to bring disability into the main agenda. We have been doing this followup meeting since 2012, which has brought attention to the Permanent Forum members about the sensitivity of including and integrating disability issues. By bringing these things as a main agenda point, I think we will be able to reach other Indigenous brothers and sisters in other parts of the globe, to hear their voices and issues and concerns and to network and collaborate with them. We hope still to integrate in the Indigenous persons with disabilities global network so that we can collectively raise our voices in the global arena. The Sustainable Development Goals slogan is “leave no one behind.” Since we are working on the ground, we have to keep these things in mind about who is not in the room while we are having a discussion. We need to figure out those groups, and we need to have policies and strategies to bring them inside the room so that their voices will be heard and integrated. People with disabilities are still being left behind, and we have to mainstream and integrate if we are working as human rights activists for an inclusive society. Thank you. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 13

as a woman Leading Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance

Rukka Sombolinggi. Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar.


n 2017, Rukka Sombolinggi (Toraja) from central Sulawesi, Indonesia was elected the first woman secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of Indonesian Archipelago (AMAN). Before joining AMAN in 1999, Sombolinggi worked for JAPHAMA, a network of Indigenous Peoples’ defenders—one of the main groups that convened the first congress of Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia during which AMAN was established. Also a filmmaker, she produced Standing Strong On the Tsunami Ruins in 2005, a documentary about Indigenous communities affected by the tsunami in Aceh. She continues to fight for Indigenous women’s voices to be included in multiple spheres of community. Sombolinggi spoke with Cultural Survival’s Dev Kumar Sunuwar at this year’s United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Cultural Survival: Could you tell us about your work with AMAN? Rukka Sombolinggi: AMAN was established in 1999,

shortly after the Suharto regime fell. But the movement in Indonesia started much earlier, in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ’90s. As of today, our members are 2,366 Indigenous communities. They are served by one headquarter in Jakarta, where I am. We have 21 provincial chapters and 120 local chapters working to serve our members in matters of discrimination. AMAN has also established three women’s organizations: the Indigenous Youth Front, dedicated to Indigenous women and youth; the Indigenous Women’s Union, which was created for Indigenous women to have their collective struggle and collective voice together; and an association of lawyers defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We also have education foundations for Indigenous schools, a cooperative union, a consulting company, and an ancestral domain registry where they are validating our Indigenous maps.

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CS: What is it like to be the first woman leader? What are the challenges hindering women from gaining positions of leadership? Rukka: Being an Indigenous woman and single is uncon-

ventional. Sometimes people will ask, “do you have kids?” or “where does your husband come from?” There’s an advantage because I don’t have that domestic partnership commitment that can weigh people down. I have more freedom to work, to commit myself fully for AMAN’s members. In general, Indigenous women in many different parts of the world, including Indonesia especially, face multiple discriminations. As girls, at home, in the family, and in the community, we are always treated like second-class citizens. The most challenging role for a woman is as an Indigenous woman, because when Indigenous Peoples’ communities face problems, women and children will suffer the most. Because of our domestic roles, as a caregiver of the family, of the community, it puts so much additional burden on women. At the economic level, the position of Indigenous women as caregivers, that’s their political position. It gives them meaning. But once your land is taken away, the status as caregiver . . . then you lose that. Indigenous women are the keepers of traditional knowledge, in seeds, in medicines; that gives a special role to Indigenous women, they are respected because of that role. But when land and resources are taken away, they cannot make medicines anymore. They immediately become completely powerless, and that’s where they have to go out and become workers. They still have to perform domestically as a caregiver, but they have to also work on the plantations, and then everything is measured by how much money you get from the company. It’s always the women who will suffer the most.

CS: You have been involved in the Indigenous Peoples’ movement for so long, and now you are taking a position of leadership. What has been your experience bringing women into leadership positions? Rukka: We need to narrow the gaps starting at the commu-

nity level, and also at the organizational level. At the organizational level, we have protocols and procedures to ensure women will get into those positions. If we hire for a post, for example, women will not get it [without] affirmative action. As organizations we have the privilege to have the protocols to pay attention to the specific needs of women. How do they get additional capacity-building in terms of awareness raising? This is very important because as women coming from Indigenous communities, at some point you already have the mindset that you are lower than men; you are in the inferior position. There’s a feeling of inferiority that a man doesn’t have. It’s our cultural background that a woman, no matter how good she is, always thinks that she can’t afford or that she doesn’t deserve. These are the things at the underlying emotional level (self-esteem, confidence) that we have to address first, and not many of the leaders in organizations have that understanding. At the community level, it is much more intriguing because it is repeated discrimination: How women are perceived, that all women just have to be working on the field, making decisions . . . you just have to stay at home looking after your children and cook . . . you know nothing when it comes to decision making, when it comes to the political affairs or anything, which is not true. We need to find different strategies in different communities. In some communities

it is easy to bring out women. In others, you really need to work with the elders, the male figures, the leaders in the community. You work with them, and you assure that inclusion of Indigenous women will benefit not just women but also the men, and the whole community as a whole—that’s the strategy. It’s much more of an art when it comes to Indigenous communities. But as organizations, we can actually do it. We can identify the problems, we can issue an organizational policy. As long as you enjoy the dynamic of being patient . . . we don’t push just for the sake of having a woman’s presence, but we make sure that there is no additional burden on women. Because sometimes when they go home after a meeting, they will get the intimidation or they will be mocked. Like, now your friend has gone back to Jakarta, now you go back to your corner. We are Indigenous Peoples, but we are just like other societies. We are dynamic. We are open to improvement. We cannot use the few remaining examples of matriarchal communities to justify the still-existing, extensive discrimination against women. What we can do is use them as examples of places where women play important roles and the situation of the community is much better. We use these cases to encourage other Indigenous community to improve. It’s definitely different the way they will see you as a leader if you are woman or if you are man. As women, we need to prove more and more, to do things better to get their recognition. You have to really be assertive, especially in building authority. Because authority is not given, it is built. We build authority by sowing examples, by working harder than men, by constantly reminding ourselves that we have a responsibility to become role models for other women.

Rukka Sombolinggi speaking at an International Year of Family Farming side event organized during the 22nd Committee on Forestry and the 4th World Forest Week at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy, June 2014. Photo courtesy of FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli.

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 15

The Tale of a Young South African Activist

Shanice Appels Shanice Appels at an informal settlement called "Overcome" after a wild fire left over 100 people and children homeless.

Shaldon Ferris (CS STAFF)


or thousands of years, Indigenous (Khoe) pastoralists have occupied Southern Africa. Some of the Khoe clans of South Africa include the Goringhaiqua, Corachouqua, Chainouqua, Cochoqua, Chariguriqua, Hessequa, Damaqua, and the Attaqua, among many others. In 1904, the government reclassified most people of slave heritage, along with many Indigenous Peoples, under the umbrella term “Coloured.” Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa in 1994, many people are now tracing their roots in an effort to reconnect with their Indigenous heritage. Having embraced Western religion and education for more than a century, there is currently a new sense of revivalism in many parts of South Africa. A strong call for consciousness rings in the hearts of activists like Shanice Appels (Khoe) who is a member of Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Youth Advisory Council for the Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship. Now 20 years old, she has been an activist from an early age. “I grew up on the Cape Flats. At the age of five, my late mother always took me with her to the political rallies and community meetings and instilled into me that we have to take a stand,” she recalls. “Being from Mitchells Plain, it was very difficult to speak out because of being a so-called ‘Coloured.’ It’s like your voice is always ignored. Violence is the norm here and poverty is something that everybody is victim to. My journey started with basically seeing the need and knowing that I was able

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to change my whole community. That is a big job, but I just started speaking out on issues of rape, child abuse, and gangsterism.” In 2014 at the age of 16, Appels founded the Princess Project, which operates in impoverished communities in Cape Town and strives to bring awareness about rape, to take down the stigmas about abuse, and empower young girls in becoming activists and leaders. “We were able to collect 20 kids in orphanages and we just went out and threw them a party for their birthdays. The project grew from that, but started as a birthday party that I do every year,” Appels says. “I have done workshops and worked in places like Valhalla Park, Manenburg, Heideveld, Macassar... and even the informal settlements. It was just me seeing the fact that so many political parties come in and make promises but nothing happens; me struggling myself and seeing the people around me, and just wanting to break the cycle of it. That is what what the Princess Project aims to do, empower young girls from the Cape Flats. It is very difficult, being a rape survivor. When you are a victim of rape, you are more ashamed than anything else. Like if you come out and say your uncle or even your dad touched you, your mother will tell you straight away you are ougat, meaning that you are a young girl that wants to grow up before your time. We are programmed to not speak out and to keep everything in. That was something that I needed and wanted to change,” she says. Appels’ goal is to instill pride in the girls. “We try to promote self-love, and we also speak about the effects of gangsterism All photos courtesy of Shanice Appels.

on our young girls because when we speak about gangs— especially on the Cape Flats—only the young boys are considered. We forget about the girls that fall victim to the flashy lifestyle and would get into relationships with 40-year-old gangsters. And from there, these girls would fall pregnant; some of them are even killed. That was something we needed to speak about because it’s not spoken of.” Over the past few years, Appels has assisted in court cases of young girls and women who have been raped and murdered to ensure justice is served. The Princess Project also accompanies and supports the victims’ families: “We would go out and riot with the community. We would go to every court appearance, and we would fight until justice was served. The Princess Project aims to uplift and to unpack a lot of the issues that go on within the so-called ‘Coloured’ or brown communities,” which are the descendants of Indigenous and slave people in South Africa, especially Cape Town. Under the Group Areas Act of Apartheid of the 1950s, which assigned racial groups to different residential and business sectors in urban areas, Indigenous land was taken by the government and distributed to white people. Appels has been fighting for justice in reclaiming this land, and additional Khoe ancestral territory, by working with the Surplus People Project in rural areas on land occupation cases and supporting farm workers in reclaiming their lands. The mission of the Surplus People Project, established in the 1980s as a national research project on forced removals under apartheid, is “to transform neoliberal capitalism, power, and patriarchy and for agrarian reform for food sovereignty.” Appels explains, “We go out in rural communities. Last year we were in HondeKlip Baai, Northern Cape, and sometimes we also go to urban areas like Malmesbury. We speak about the struggles of farmworkers, [particularly] women farmworkers. My mother was a farmworker, her mother was farmworker . . . so I come from that. We fight for social justice for these women. And we also are in the fight for these women farmworkers who are getting raped, abused, evicted without proper procedure, getting paid less than they deserve. We fight for the lands so that they can become farmers and not be stuck in being farmworkers.” Appels also participates in land occupations to secure land for farming purposes and housing. “We go into our own areas, like Mitchells Plain, and we occupy, riot, and some of us even would sleep outside for about 48 hours just to secure that land. It’s really difficult, especially being a brown person, to fight for land because you’re not recognized. Thus far we have had success for black and brown farmers, but not as much success with getting land for housing purposes,” she says. Appels also works with another organization, 9 Miles Project in Strandfontien, teaching children from coastal informal settlements and communities how to read, write, and surf. “The focus is women, but we do go out with young boys and we teach them how to conduct themselves by proper means so they don’t grow up to be men who assault women,” she explains. Language is important to Appels. In the colonial years, most people of color were forced to speak Afrikaans, a Pidgeon language consisting mostly of Dutch but with many Indigenous words as well as vocabulary of slaves from places such as Malaysia, Madagascar, and Java. Very few people of color can speak a Khoe language today, but this is slowly

Shanice Appels outside National Parliament in Cape Town at a march against gang violence on October 3, 2018.

changing due to the advocacy work of people like Appels. She advocates for the use of Indigenous languages in public schools to empower children and youth in honoring Khoe knowledge so that it lives forever. “When it comes to the languages, within my own project, I teach the kids Khoe. I myself have to acknowledge that I’m not fluent in Khoe. I get people to teach me and I do research on my Indigenous history to try to teach myself. I only knew about Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman growing up. [Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman who, due to her large buttocks, was exploited as a freakshow attraction in 19th-century Europe.] The adult version of me had to teach myself about my other ancestors and our rich Indigenous heritage.” As an Indigenous person in South Africa, Appels says, “you think that people can see you, but they actually cannot. You have to push, make a sound, make a glass fall out of nowhere so that they can recognize that indeed there is ‘this person.’ That is what it’s like being an Indigenous person. They say that we are living in a democratic country, but I don’t really think that it is as equal as they paint it. If it was really that equal, I wouldn’t be a 20-year-old that only speaks English and Afrikaans. For 20 years, I have been robbed and raped by a government that truly does not care. [So], I have devoted my time to fighting for the Indigenous people of my country. I have joined the fight to reclaim our stolen land and to work towards the implementation of Indigenous languages in schools to empower children and have our Indigenous languages not only acknowledged, but to live forever.” Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 17

Indigenizing Philanthropy

Daisee Francour leading a workshop for Indigenous delegates on grant writing at the Ford Foundation in New York.

Daisee Francour


hekoli swakwe·ku, Daisee ni yukyats. Ukweh·u·wé niʔí. Wakenyʌ́htʌ niwakiʔtaló·tʌ. Hello, relatives, my name is Daisee Francour. I am a Haudenosaunee woman, a proud member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and turtle clan. My journey to help transform and “Indigenize” philanthropy was one that I did not plan or anticipate. But I do believe the Creator called on to me to work collaboratively with other Indigenous Peoples to transform colonial systems like capitalism, finance, and philanthropy. Prior to working in philanthropy I spent the last decade working in nonprofits, NGOs, and my Tribal government as both a grassroots organizer and a direct service provider. My work involved supporting and serving the most vulnerable groups of Indigenous Peoples, including Native Americans with disabilities/special needs, domestic violence victims, the homeless and mentally ill, and the formerly incarcerated. I was fortunate to launch my philanthropic career at the Christensen Fund, where I was privileged to support the sustainability and preservation of biocultural diversity in the San Francisco Bay Area along with Indigenous stewards’ livelihoods, cultures, and well being. My work now focuses on Indigenizing philanthropy as a philanthropic advisor, strategist, and fundraiser. Going from one side of philanthropy as an organizer that relied on philanthropy to sustain the organizations I worked for, to then being in a position of power where I independently decided who would get funded and how, has resulted in me being in a new position of influence and

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expertise as a consultant. Along this journey I’ve learned much about how the history of the intersection of wealth, race, and gender in the United States is deeply tied to the history of philanthropy and formal charitable giving worldwide. The notion of giving, or offering gifts, is a common practice across most peoples and cultures, and has existed for generations. But with systems like capitalism, an economic model that is foreign to the traditional economies in our Indigenous communities, this offering and exchange has shifted from a reciprocal practice to a transactional act. Because capitalism is unsustainable, it must constantly rebrand itself to maintain its validity; that includes finding new ways to hoard resources and control and maintain privileges affiliated with socioeconomic status. It should be noted that most wealth that is fueled by, and contributes to, capitalism, has been built off the backs of Indigenous Peoples, including our lands, territories, and natural resources. In the United States, charitable giving became more formalized through various tax laws that have enabled the continued hoarding of wealth via foundations. In most cases, private foundations need to spend a minimum of five percent of their endowments via grants and other charitable expenses, which includes their own administrative expenses. It is clear that foundations, and particularly private foundations, have exploited a loophole and become a tax haven enabling the hoarding of resources, which stems from the extraction and displacement of Indigenous Peoples and our environments. While much of the field of philanthropy reinforces an unsustainable model of economy like capitalism, there are a handful of foundations, philanthropists, regranting All photos by Jamie Malcolm-Brown.

intermediaries (like Cultural Survival), and affinity groups (like International Funders for Indigenous Peoples), who are going against the current and changing the status quo of “charitable giving.” Amongst most of these prevalent game changers are Indigenous women. While it is certainly not easy to land a job in philanthropy, more and more of our women are stepping up and ensuring that our representation and participation are present and ongoing in such systems. Much of the fuel to our fire in these spaces stems from the phrase, “nothing about us, without us.” I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many of these system shakers. I attribute all of my success in this field to the many Indigenous women in philanthropy who have mentored me, inspired me, and taught me the ins and outs of this field. Like our women who are standing tall and strong on the frontlines to protect our lands and waters from extraction and contamination, it is also Indigenous women who are leading the transformation within philanthropy. I often find myself struggling to describe my feelings and thoughts about philanthropy. This can be somewhat attributed to using English to describe such things, because much of its words do not fully capture the philosophies, cosmologies, perspectives, and realities of Indigenous Peoples. For some time I used to think that using the term “decolonize” over “Indigenize” was more appropriate when it came to enabling a shift in this field. But I learned that decolonizing a system that is inherently colonial is impossible. Rather, we must Indigenize a system first, if we want to truly transform it. When we use terms like decolonize, we often approach a system and ourselves by pointing out the colonial attributes, which reinforces a disconnect between ourselves and the natural world. When we choose to Indigenize something, we instead focus on those connections, relationships, and innate value systems our ancestors taught us, which still run deep in our blood memories. I believe that philanthropy must start with the acknowledgment that a foundation’s resources in some way are tied to the extraction and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples and their lands, territories, and natural resources. It is undeniable that every dollar or form of currency that is connected to capitalism is, in fact, dirty money. This recognition of how these financial resources have been obtained will allow philanthropy to move toward transformation in a good way. Secondly, this recognition will enable philanthropy to reflect on its past, which will provide clarity in how it intends to build better future practices around giving. This reflection will show that the values systems that philanthropy holds are deeply tied to the values of capitalism—colonial values like divide, control, and conquer. Indigenizing philanthropy means there should be a shift in a value system that serves as a North Star in how they carry out their work. This new philanthropic value system can be of one that better reflects the values of Indigenous Peoples, which includes relationships, respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and self-determination. While recognition, reflection, and a renewed value system are integral to Indigenizing philanthropy, the process to transformation doesn’t end there. In fact, those initial steps support a transition to Indigenize philanthropy. My Oneida people taught me to always use a good mind, a good heart, and a strong fire in any and everything I do in this world. One of

Avexnim Cojti, Cultural Survival Community Media program manager, explains the steps in accessing grants at a workshop training at the Ford Foundation in New York.

my Haudenosaunee relatives, a Mohawk elder, once taught me that a good mind is about knowing where your thoughts are going before they get there. It means to have pure thoughts and good intentions, which is absolutely necessary when allocating resources into communities where those same resources have been used to cause harm at one point. This ties back to the value of responsibility, one that many foundations don’t quite understand in their grantmaking practices, unfortunately. To Indigenize philanthropy means to also completely shift the processes of grantmaking. One way of doing this is to shift internal decision making processes to external decision making processes. Rather, these processes should be led and implemented by the communities themselves. Tying this back to the value of self-determination, communities should be empowered (with additional support for capacity building and technical assistance) to decide the who, what, when, where, why, and how behind the financial resources and grants that enter their community. Some foundations and regranting intermediaries have shown these cooperative models of giving to be very successful when supporting Indigenous communities. A few foundations have even been bold enough to tie the recognition of the origin of their wealth to honoring their grantmaking as a form of reparations and reconciliation. It is important that philanthropy also supports more representation of Indigenous Peoples as staff, advisors, and experts in their grantmaking practices, especially for the foundations and institutions that are not ready to relinquish their control. Representation of our peoples at all levels of decision making should be prioritized in transforming their systems, let alone improving them. As we know, Indigenizing ourselves and these inequitable, and at times, inaccessible, systems requires a painful and long interpersonal journey of reflection and commitment. We are already seeing these positive changes in ourselves and the systems, much of which can be attributed to our women who stand tall and fearlessly to protect our peoples, traditions, and Mother Earth. The time for change is now, and it’s time that philanthropy supports the balance that our natural world needs and craves. Yaw^ko (Thank you). Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 19

Rab’in Ajaw

Celebrating Maya Women as Agents of Change 2018–2019 Rab’in Ajaw candidates seated on the steps of Iglesia Cristo de Chi-Ixim in Tactic, Alta Verapaz.

Kerstin Sabene


t the end of each July in the cloud forested highlands of Cobán, capital of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala (‘the land of true peace’), more than 100 young women from the Maya world gather to celebrate their rich traditions and Indigenous cultures in one of the most unique events of its kind, the Rab’in Ajaw. Translated from Q’eqchi, Rab’in Ajaw means “Daughter of the King.” While the event is nominally referred to as a beauty pageant, it is focused on spiritual beauty, intelligence, leadership skills, and knowledge of cultural and historical traditions. “The Rab’in Ajaw is an opportunity for young people to be able to influence socio-cultural environments. It’s an open and safe space where we can participate and help to improve some of the negative conditions that affect our youth and Indigenous population,” explains last year’s winner, Marleny Yojana Garcia Jiménez, a 21-year-old primary school teacher from Ixtahuacan, Huehuetenango. The annual pageant and coronation of the new Rab’in Ajaw is the most anticipated and well attended part of Guatemala’s National Folklore Festival. One of the greatest draws of the event is hearing the messages of the contestants; the opportunity to speak in public is what makes the Rab’in Ajaw an opening to the radical side of Maya women in Guatemala. Last year, Garcia Jiménez spoke eloquently about sexual abuse, a subject that most likely would have been taboo in this setting only a few years ago. “I chose this topic because it’s a very impactful issue now not only in Guatemala but internationally as well,” she said. Two days before the actual coronation and election, each candidate must deliver a short speech before a panel of judges, first in her native Mayan tongue (there are approximately 25 Mayan linguistic groups in Guatemala), and then in Spanish.

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Gladis Choc and Mayra Cano, president and vice president of a four-member Folkloric Committee that oversees all of the Rab’in Ajaw activities, explained that each candidate is sent a list of seven topics to choose from in advance. “Last year’s topics, prepared by three local professors, ranged in subject matter from the importance of Indigenous women’s participation in politics to the more sensitive issue of sexual violence,” Cano said. Based on their compelling speeches, 13 finalists are chosen, the identities of whom remain secret until the pageant and coronation. It is during the first part of this main event that all of the candidates are officially introduced to the audience, each of them bestowing gestures of greeting and wearing the traditional costume of her region. Once the identities of the finalists are announced, each of the 13 candidates must respond to an additional question without preparation. The winner is then chosen and crowned by the outgoing queen, who places a beautiful silver crown adorned with three long, green quetzal feathers on the incoming Rab’in Ajaw. The young women seize their time in the spotlight to express their personal views on important social, environmental, or political topics with grace and poise, delivering impassioned and articulate oratory performances. “To the heart of heaven and to the heart of earth, grandmothers and grandfathers illuminate my path,” said Eva Esmeralda Chaclán, as she took to the stage in July 2017 representing the K’iche-township of Xela, Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala. Chaclán, then 20 years old, spoke passionately about the importance of family and the role that women must continue to play to protect the physical and spiritual well being of children. She lamented the disintegration of the family unit caused by poverty, migration, and violence, and above all the loss of values ​​and principles to modern society where accumulation of wealth and consumerism have taken All photos by Kerstin Sabene.

priority. She ended by asserting that the cohesiveness of family is fundamental in protecting future generations “as the State is incapable of giving us that security.” The first Rab’in Ajaw took place in 1968, and the winner was crowned the “India Bonita Cobánera,” (Cobán’s Beautiful Indian Queen). The pageant was founded by Marco Aurelio Alonzo, an Indigenous/Ladino school teacher who championed the Maya movement of the late 1960s. “I saw the Rab’in Ajaw as a means of rescuing and bringing about a better understanding of Maya cultures, its diverse languages and sacred traditions,” he said. Today, the Rab’in Ajaw is a widely anticipated event broadcast across Guatemala on national TV and covered by a multitude of media outlets. In its early years, the pageant was not without controversy. In June of 1978, in the town of Carchá, not too far from Cobán, a local Indigenous beauty pageant was held to elect a queen who would go on to represent her community at the national pageant in July. Fidelina Tux Chub was not an average young Indigenous woman. As she approached the stage, she did not perform the required son, a native dance that is accompanied by marimba music. Instead, she began her speech by asking for a moment of silence out of respect to the fallen victims of Panzós. Just 11 days earlier, on May 29, 1978, at the height of the Guatemalan Civil War, one of the largest massacres of Maya civilians occurred in Panzós, a municipality located about 150 kilometers east of Carchá. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here with sadness. You will have noticed that I didn’t enter dancing, because our pueblo is living a tragedy. I couldn’t be happily dancing, knowing that my brothers are crying for their loved ones who have shed their innocent blood…” Tux Chub was disqualified by a mostly ladino jury, who cited her defiance of protocol in her failure to perform the required

Rab’in Ajaw candidate Eva Chaclan (center) from Quetzaltenango preparing at a Maya ceremonial site in Tactic, Alta Verapaz.

dance. Newspaper headlines and a large part of the population thought otherwise, suggesting it was her message that disqualified her. Despite her eventual disqualification, her boldness and the power of her speech nevertheless had a significant effect on the evolution of the Maya Movement. Forty years later, a self-assured Garcia Jiménez took to the stage at the Sociedad de Beneficencia in downtown Cobán where she delivered an impassioned discourse on sexual violence. “Sexual violence is a phenomenon that affects all Guatemalan people, especially women and children who are more likely to be victims,” she told the assembled crowd, later explaining that she “wanted to leave a small message of reflection for all people who were in the audience at the time, because everyone has to help improve these mafia conditions that afflict us.” Gender-based violence has reached epidemic proportions in Guatemala. Plagued by an ingrained culture of sexism and machismo, Indigenous women especially (because of their ethnicity and lack of opportunity) are under constant threat of domestic and sexual abuse. The department of Huehuetenango, where Garcia Jiménez is from, has one of the highest rates of child pregnancies in the country. Gender-based violence is also one of the biggest obstacles Maya women face if they participate in social activism. Juana Ramirez Santiago, a 57-year-old Maya Ixil community leader and human rights defender, was shot dead on September 21, 2018 in the department of Quiché. Ramirez was a founding member of an organization fighting for women’s rights and the 21st human rights defender murdered in Guatemala last year. In a country beset by poverty, violence, and migration, young Indigenous women wield tremendous power in confronting social injustice. The Maya women who compete in the Rab’in Ajaw are educated and employed or are continuing their studies; they are the agents of change. Most of them have been discriminated against at one time or another for their ethnicity, yet they continue to be significant players in resistance movements calling for basic human rights in Guatemala. They radiate hope for future generations and are seen as role models in their communities and for Guatemala.

Rab’in Ajaw candidates waiting to deliver their speeches at the Sociedad de Beneficencia in Coban.

—Kerstin Sabene is a photojournalist currently based in Guatemala. The next Rab’in Ajaw pageant will take place in Cobán on July 20, 2019, and is open to the public. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 21

Advocating for Indigenous Women’s Land Rights in Kenya

Naomi Lenoi (right) visiting a Samburu community in Kenya. Photo by Kanyinke Sena.

Naomi Lanoi


oth in law and in systems of administrative land practice, Kenyan women’s land rights are far from being equal to those of men. Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) was founded in 1999 as a membership nonprofit, non-partisan network and registered as an NGO in 2013. The Women’s Land Rights program is a subset of KLA dedicated to the realization of constitutional provisions on women’s land rights as a means of promoting gender equality in line with local, national, regional and global commitments. The program contributes to the national discourse on the far-ranging effects of equal access to sustainable land ownership on women’s economic equity and direct well being. Because land is a fundamental resource, women’s access to land in Kenya is a primary human rights issue. As Kenyan women address systemic barriers to their own social, political, and economic freedoms, they contribute to the creation of a more equitable resource management system. Current systems of land management privilege male access and perpetuate the economic circumstances preventing women from acquiring material and political independence. The Kenyan constitution largely regards land in the light of property and fails to address land as a life altering socialeconomic resource that is ultimately key to survival. In creating systems of land management that benefit women, the natural landscapes of these places also benefit, as women’s environmental knowledge contributes to the health and maintenance of Kenyan social-ecological systems overall. Indigenous women are essential to the agriculture and livestock sectors (representing 80 percent of the workforce) while carrying vital knowledge that is required to keep these sectors healthy and thriving. Just as importantly, KLA’s research has shown that Kenyan women are at a decreased risk of 22 • www. cs. org

Celebrating title deeds issued to six women in Kericho County, Kenya. Photo by Kenya Land Alliance.

abuse when they are able to independently access and produce life-sustaining resources. Reducing violence against women requires women to have ownership in natural resources and food production. Women who maintain access to sustainable land have the economic ability to leave violent domestic situations and produce their own incomes through the independent production of essential resources, such as food. Land is also a political asset, assuring inclusion in decision-making. Through a policy focus on the need to be fully accountable to women and girls, women’s equity and overall sense of well being increases. In contrast, disparity in land ownership increases risk of violence against women and reduces critical self-sustaining agency in women and girls. The extraction and exploitation of natural resources often leads to women being further dissociated from tracts of land, displaces entire communities, and increases political complexity in traditional resettlement issues. A 2018 study by KLA, Land Access Acquisition Compensation and Resettlement in the Context of Extractives on Community Land, examines the extractive policies and procedures that currently exist, potential improvements that could be implemented to mitigate obstacles for people who rely economically upon that land, and provides a list of policy recommendations. The study focused on the region of Turkana County where land is being explored for drilling by Tullow Oil. The majority of land in this county is unregistered and remains communally owned. Land equity is particularly important to the people of Turkana County, as the people directly impacted by the effects of resource extraction. Among the recommendations of the study are a national extractive policy to avoid land conflicts between local people and extractive industries; the urgent implementation of the Community Land Act of 2016 to commence the registration of communities and their lands; and direct compensation for extraction when multinational oil companies extract from locally valuable land. Resource extraction disproportionately impacts rural women and only compounds the sociopolitical obstacles to land access and ownership. The Rural Women’s Rights Charter of Kenya similarly expresses the concerns of women living in rural areas on land issues and expresses the aspirations of women, which include the realization of secure women’s land rights and the security for land-based livelihoods. Women from 24 rural counties in Kenya participated in the creation of The Rural Women’s Rights Charter. Through examining intersecting issues affecting women’s land tenure in agrarian Kenya, KLA works to ensure the equity of women’s overall outcomes and encourages collective action to improve the current political design of land tenure and systems of management. Women’s lived social, political, and economic experiences are critical, as is understanding systems of land administration, decision-making, transparency, ownership, and extractive compensation. How industry relates to local people, how corporate social responsibility relates to extraction, and the construction of contemporary legal policy are all potential indicators of sustainable progress. Understanding systems of land management coincide with understanding and implementing administrative land processes in the country. Continuing to examine the successful implementation of land management policies is essential to rural women’s land tenure in Kenya.

Artisanal women miners from Kwale County, Kenya. Photo by Naomi Lanoi.

Women taking part in essential decision-making processes about the use, management, and political oversight of Kenyan land is continually being brought to advocacy by KLA. Through advocating for the continued connection between women’s knowledge, well being, and outcomes in the maintenance of land systems, women are put into an improved socio- economic position with greater political representation and self-sufficiency in the production of critical resources. When women are financially, politically, and socially independent, they become less vulnerable to situations of extreme violence, abuse, and financial dependence. They are also more free to confidently express their voices without fear of loss of basic resources essential to survival. Through eliminating these obstacles, women find freedom in their ability to manage the land and be involved politically in systems that are put in place to benefit the larger community. Legal frameworks must be addressed and implemented in Kenyan communities through representation of women’s voices in land policy. Unless Kenyan women are able to participate equally in land management systems, these systems will continue to place women at a defined legal disadvantage and their economic outcomes will be adversely affected. Through the important advocacy work being done by organizations such as KLA, Kenyan women are being included in necessary decisions about their land and communities. Women are further advocating for the improvement of systems and policies and stating that the investments in land should be done in partnership with communities, county governments, stakeholders, and investors. Conflicts over resources would further diminish with greater transparency. These aims benefit entire systems and communities, and greatly empower Kenyan women. —Naomi Lanoi (Maasai) is Women Land Rights programme officer at Kenya Land Alliance. Throughout her career, Lanoi’s goal has been to secure the social inclusion of women into empowerment programs and activities. Her current project at Kenya Land Alliance focuses on advocating for effective implementation of Constitutional provisions to secure women’s land rights. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 23

KO E F G ra n t Part n er S potlight We Are the Sacred Life Givers

Reclaiming the Sacred Sister Hoop Patricia Dawn


he Red Willow Womyn’s Society is a grassroots, Indigenous women-led organization in the Cowichan Tribes First Nations territory of British Columbia. It was founded in 2009 as a small group of Native and non-Native women who began weekly gatherings to talk about their lived experiences with daily systemic oppressions. Through these “sharing circles,” Red Willow womyn would help each other navigate their daily barriers, and the circle grew. Today, the Society acts as a support for the wider Hul’qumi’num community. Through guided cultural protocols and teachings, they support and advocate for one another and work to strengthen families and the role of mothers as sacred life-givers. Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund is supporting the Society’s Breaking the Code of Silence: Lifting the Voices of Hul’qumi’num Families Project, which serves Cowichan, Chemainus, Penelakut, and Halalt Tribes.

old white wigged waste, bitter in its gluttonous taste. “We the Indigenous womyn are not the weakness of this Canada country,” Grandmother tells us. We are the strength of this two-spirited nation side by side red and white in relation. This Royal government built its castle upon our backs and desecration, right after we shared our home with the many settler nations, too weak to survive the Winter wind gestations. In our ancestral ways we live with respect to honour our guests and give our best—yet always we are retained as our babies are stolen, our sisters murdered, our men framed, imprisoned in pain, too shattered to defend our mothers or our name. Yet we the Indigenous womyn, we learn how to blend and mend offering our prayers through the smoke we send.

We are the Indigenous womyn of Turtle Island. We are the daughters of her soil connected to her soul. We hold her wisdom waters within our wombs, we carry the unborn future of the Great Mystery of life as it looms.

We bare the trend of historical broken government promises that pretend, while we eat bits and pieces from the side plate of Jesus, only to lend never to please us, their god they defend: they know not what they spend. They saw how we the Indigenous Womyn were honoured within our Mother rite laws, they had to destroy us killing our men right before us, then taking the land imposing upon us their Christian Santa Clause brand.

We are the Sacred Life Givers. Through us, all dreams are born. In our Indigenous way we live close to the land, we circle the cycles of the Sacred Hoop of life, held in Sacred law. A law that is of Earthbound worth and cosmic birth, reaching beyond the grasp of manmade law and its drunken mirth. The Sacred Hoop surrounds the Earth, the Nest, and our own Mother’s Breast. It’s cycles of life that circle and blend, dancing us onward there is no end. As life expands and contracts, placental as it interacts, weaving us together as One, all equal as we dance in the light of Grandfather Sun. Drumming us in from the West, dancing in the sun time our spirits we test. I call all children to come home, to life in the Sacred Circle, where all are welcome equal and known, in this unnamed time of interconnection and spiritual protection there is no fine line—we are born to be divine. Our children we hold up high giving thanks for these gifts from the Sky’s Sacred law includes all families of the Four Directions, held guard by Mama Bear’s grizzly protection. Each point a place that holds connection with each race and their golden grace, always including holding space welcoming new faces into the human family’s birthplace. We are the Indigenous womyn of Turtle Island from our land we have been stolen. They now call this stolen place— Canada—a place of disgrace warped by the ongoing holocaust of constant rape, take take take, no moral haste crippled by 24 • www. cs. org

Great Spirit please hear us: this death culture must end.

Yet still we stand proud. Speaking out loud. They cannot deny our birth power, this reckoning hour of truth gone sour. They cannot stop the waters in our wombs where our children bloom. Our babies who are held in cosmic creation by the laws of all our Indigenous nations. We are Earth Mothers of forever and to all our relations. We are the heart of our nations please come home to us soon. We love you. Indigenous Womyn in Canada, we are the Warriors of spirit. We are guided by the wisdom of our ancestors that lives right inside our bones. Blood ties that hold the life force of the Great Unknown, held by the stars above this earthly throne. Never can this be taken from us always we have known—how our Grandmothers fought for us from the heart of our clanship homes. We connect in this ancestral flow walking in balance sacred as we go. Saying ‘No!’ to the maze of the child welfare craze, joining together sisters in spirit with sisters of these modern days, always in our womynhood medicine ways. We, the Indigenous womyn of Turtle Island, carry from history the mystery of the future worlds. We carry our babies our songs our traditions our medicine teachings from the old people ways. We are the sisters of the four winds who blend in the blaze, the feminine wonder of our threefold womynhood moon time phase.

Red Willow Womyn’s Society In Western Canada, three Indigenous babies are removed from their families for State protection every day. The Cowichan community exists in a constant state of crisis, struggling with high rates of poverty, homelessness, addiction, suicide, and domestic violence, which leaves families in a continuous state of child removal. Red Willow Womyn’s Society links the issues surrounding child apprehension directly to the systemic oppressions of poverty, intergenerational trauma, and archaic legislative policies that continue to echo Canada’s Residential School system, of which the last institution closed as recently as 1996.

Patricia Dawn with Andrea Louie (Cowichan Nation). Photo by Kurt Knock.

We dance to the song of the magic fiddle, dreaming the conclusion of this colonial riddle, watching it chase its tail, missing motherhood magic and the blood memory of the womb place middle. We are persistent and resistant to the crooked stories of media mentalities, selling flat screen entertainment through false forms of our realities, made of words that are borrowed, blurred, and racially slurred. Their discriminating chants trying to disturb, yet we have shown that we are earthbound and essential—We are Sacred in our own potential, in our many shapes colors and forms for we are beyond the illusion of colonial norms, who try to separate us and keep us from being born. We are the Indigenous Womyn of Turtle Island—We are the Royal descendants, Daughters of this humble Earth. We are of the infinite design of this cosmic radical time. Returning to the throne of our Great Mother stone, we are ready to reclaim our families and our Indigenous rights to our home. I raise my hands to all my sisters near and far you are our Grandmother Moon’s Shining Stars! Hiy Hiy All My Relations — Patricia Dawn (Métis Cree) is founding Mother of the Red Willow Womyn’s Society, helping Indigenous women in British Columbia’s Cowichan Valley at risk of having their children apprehended by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (

To deal with this crisis, Red Willow Womyn’s Society endeavors companion care advocacy to support Indigenous mothers and their families directly interfacing with the Federal Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD). The trauma experienced by families receiving MCFD services perpetuates the intergenerational trauma families have survived for generations. Red Willow Womyn’s Society works to prevent child apprehension by building the capacity of parents and the family as a whole to ensure child safety by addressing the root causes of child endangerment, prior to apprehension. Their work promotes cultural teachings (called Snuw’uy’ul) and engages Indigenous women and families in reconnecting with their Elders. They provide space for open community dialogue and for companion families and mothers to engage in training, peer-to-peer mentorship, and advocacy so that women and families are informed and prepared to navigate the Ministry and courts. Central to Red Willow’s work is the process of companioning women, assuring women’s right to have an advocate present—essential for a process that occurs in a language and context of highly unequal power that was not previously recognized. Advocacy for families has improved access and serves as a tool for Ministry accountability. Through a Keepers of the Earth Fund grant, Red Willow is implementing a project, Breaking the Code of Silence, for the Hul’qumi’num community to raise their voices and be heard by the Ministry and government in order to address the cycle of child removal. Through a process of holding meetings and public forums, they create increased understanding, engagement, and peer-to-peer advocacy to initiate systemic change. In 2018, Red Willow Womyn’s Society joined in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Through advocating for an Indigenous mother to keep her baby with her at birth, Red Willow was able to encourage MCFD to consider “creative measures;” in this instance, a housing complex of six units was earmarked to be a specific safety site for vulnerable families, particularly women and children. CHMA joined in dialogue with MCFD, asking to be included when red flags for family care are being recognized. In this collaborative effort, CHMA is included in the call for family preservation. This is an initial step towards working alongside MCFD from the community level, where the “village” can respond to our relatives with dignity and respect. The first response is an equally shared act of true care.

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 25

s t af f s p o tlig h t

Reclaiming Heritage

Bilingual Education In Guatemala Diana Pastor (CS STAFF)


t was 1964, and in the small village of Paxixil in western Guatemala, a young messenger played a drum. He walked the main village roads announcing in Maya K’iche’ that, by order of the government, parents must send their children to school. My mother, who did not understand Spanish at that time, knew that the feared day had come. Although she had a great desire to learn to read and write, she was also scared. “How am I supposed to learn in Spanish?” she wondered. “How am I going to say that I know such a thing, or that I do not know another, if I am only able to speak in K’iche’?” This uncertainty was not a concern just of hers, but one of many children of Paxixil and other communities where Castellanización (Spanishification) was the first step of a mandatory primary education in Spanish, and part of a greater process of cultural assimilation to spread the language over the Indigenous regions ​​in Guatemala. Years later, my mother moved from her home to the city after marrying my father (himself Maya K’iche). From the time I was born I was educated in Spanish, partly because she moved to an urban area and partly because of pressure from my father, who did not want me to repeat the experience of discrimination he had faced due to his poor Spanish as a child worker in Guatemala City. Certainly, my father was right in his deductions: having Spanish as a first language facilitated my education and even rid me of being discriminated against. I grew up something like an Indigenous person, but camouflaged and paying a high price for it—becoming a monolingual person. A great and important part of my K’iche’ cultural heritage was lost, and it is only now that I am trying to recover that richness that was taken away due to the educational and social conditions established at that time, and which, unfortunately, remain in place today. The Guatemalan educational system continues teaching Indigenous children only in Spanish, despite the large number of legal instruments that support intercultural bilingual education. These include the Political Constitution of the Republic, which recognizes the right of people and communities to their cultural identity according to their values, their language, and their customs; the General Law of Decentralization, principles of which are respect for the multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual reality of Guatemala; and the Municipal Code, which establishes that the Municipal Council must organize commissions of intercultural bilingual education and establish the mandate of the management of pre-primary and primary education, as well as literacy and bilingual education programs. There is also Government Law 19-2003 of National Languages, which recognizes the respect, promotion, development, and usage of the Indigenous languages ​​of the Maya, Garífuna, and Xinka Peoples in Guatemala, and the National

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Diana Pastor

Education Law that establishes that education must respond to the multilingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural environment of the communities. In addition, the Guatemalan Peace Agreements and the Convention on the Rights of the Child endorse an intercultural bilingual education system. The basis to implement a more suitable educational system to the communities is there, but in practice, bilingual education has not begun because there is no political will to carry it out. In 2016, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling in which the Ministry of Education was ordered to implement bilingual and intercultural education in the 13 schools of the municipality of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, in the department of Sololá. The petitioners claimed that 99.7 percent of the population in this municipality are Maya K’iche’ speakers, so it is incongruous that they continue working on the basis of an educational system where neither the methodology nor the content being taught is culturally relevant. The following year, in 2017, the Ancestral Authorities of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán and others involved in the issue held a discussion on the progress of this ruling, stating that there had been more limitations than progress in the implementation of bilingual education. They warned that in order to improve the primary education situation in the country, it is necessary to change the teaching dynamics and stop implementing “filler” activities, otherwise students’ performance and grades will continue to decline. All photos courtesy of

Many of the teachers in schools with an Indigenous ​​ the community. population ​​do not master the languages of If they do master them, they are not able to adapt to a bilingual teaching system because they would have conflicts when using the methodology of the didactic materials. Teachers are also detached from social and cultural contexts. These, and other difficulties, explain why monolingual education in Spanish is considered to be the most logical, practical, and convenient way to educate in the country. Parents and the community not only do not demand an adequate education that adheres to their reality, but they are forced to adapt, sacrificing with it the opportunity for their children to learn in their mother languages. As a result of a racist ideology strongly established since colonial times, many people in Guatemala believe that teaching in Maya languages represents a waste of time, and instead favor the proper learning of Spanish and other foreign western languages, especially English. It is common to find Guatemalans who believe that teaching Spanish alongside Maya, Xinca, and Garífuna languages ​​is a setback for education and makes children “incompetent” to find jobs in a globalized world that demands being at the forefront, knowing other foreign languages. The language of a community is its soul, because through it, knowledge is transmitted and new generations are educated. Interrupting this dynamic systematically eliminates the cultural richness and lifestyles of Indigenous communities. It is necessary that the State of Guatemala, rather than implementing new laws, can put into practice those that already exist in a real and integral way. In the words of Pedro Monroy, teacher and principal of Cruz Ayapan primary school in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, “Different forms of education are needed so that children can learn without fear, having confidence in themselves, developing their own capacities,

All photos by Sócrates Vásquez Garcia.

enhancing their skills and abilities, practicing the values of ​​ the community, and using adequate materials with the help of trained personnel. Unification of criteria is needed in terms of how intercultural bilingual education should be, and it must be supervised to achieve real progress.” It is necessary to understand as well, that not only should the knowledge that has always been taught in school be taught in Indigenous languages, but should also include constructed and systematized knowledge from the vision and lifeways of the community, from their own worldview. The situation in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán is an example of a small, yet great struggle that can generate a domino effect in hundreds of Indigenous communities of the country, so they can demand the quality, inclusive, and adequate education that children in Guatemala deserve. —Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’) is from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and is program and communication assistant for Cultural Survival and editor of EntreMundos, an independent magazine on humans rights and development in Quetzaltenango. She studied social work at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala and at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 27

c ommun it y m e d ia g ra nts partner s potl i ght

Samia Maldonado Ruiz

Ingrid Sub Cuc

Cara Dukepoo

Announcing the

Women of the Indigenous Community Media Councils


he field of Indigenous communications needs more women’s leadership, perspectives, and participation to strengthen Indigenous self-determination. Cultural Survival’s commitment to Indigenous women’s leadership is reflected in the creation of two councils, one Spanish-speaking and one English-speaking, made up of experienced Indigenous women journalists. These Indigenous Community Media Councils have the critical role of participating in the final reviews of projects we fund though our Community Media Grants Project. The women advisors provide essential feedback on technical, financial, political, and cultural aspects of the projects to strengthen the radios’ reach, capacity, and content, and help ensure that selected projects are a stepping stone to Indigenousowned and managed media. We are pleased to introduce the inaugural council members. Cara Dukepoo (Diné) born of the Mą’íí deeshgíízhíníí, Jemez clan, and her paternal clan, Tábąąhá, Water’s edge, is also an adopted daughter of the Bear Clan of Tewa Village. She was born and raised in Shiprock, New Mexico and is now raising her family on Hopi land in the high desert in Northeastern Arizona. She received her associate’s degree in social sciences from Diné College and a bachelor’s in Sociology and Applied Indigenous Studies from Northern Arizona University. She discovered her passion for Native media when she became a volunteer at KUYI Hopi Radio, a local Native American station, in 2006. Collaborating with the Hopi Head Start program and Mesa Media Inc., Dukepoo launched the Shooting Stars Hopi Lavayi Project, a language revitalization radio project of weekly educational language shows that aligned with the Hopi Head Start language curriculum. She is also an AIR New Voices Scholar (2011), and a National Federation of Community Broadcasters Diversity Fellow (2017). “I believe communication initiatives, such as community radio, play a vital and powerful role for Indigenous people 28 • www. cs. org

Tania Ayma Calle

to proclaim, protect, and celebrate their beautiful Indigenous identity and heritage. Native media empowers Indigenous communities to inform, engage, and even protect their people with culturally relevant programming.” Ingrid Sub Cuc (Maya Kaqchikel and Q’eqchi’) is from Sololá, Guatemala. She moved to the United States at the age of 12 and is pursuing her passion for Indigenous rights and public health. She was previously involved in Cultural Survival’s community media training program in Guatemala, which involved projects on investigative journalism for Indigenous community members. “Communication is the key to unite and inform communities about their rights. Communication initiatives that allow Indigenous communities to develop in their Indigenous languages are giving them the opportunity to rewrite history and reclaim their identities.” Tania Ayma Calle (Aymara) was born in Oruro, Bolivia and currently resides in La Paz. She holds a bachelor’s of Social Communication from the San Pablo Bolivian Catholic University and a diploma in Gender and Development from Postgrado en Ciencias del Desarrollo -Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. She has incorporated women’s rights in her communications work and previously served on a project review committee of Cultural Survival’s radio programming. Ayma has also worked at the Center for Education and Communication for Indigenous Communities and Peoples where she started projects focused on gender equality, economic and academic empowerment, and leadership training for women. “I consider communication a fundamental right for all Indigenous Peoples. When Indigenous people can access their own media, the oral histories and traditions of communities are recovered and maintained. It is important to give back and provide access to education for others.” Samia Maldonado Ruiz (Quechua) was born and lives in Otavalo, Ecuador. She started her career as a clinical psychologist and later became involved in communications. In 2006 she had the opportunity to get involved at a local television station to produce a program about, and created by, Quechuas-Otavalos. Eventually she began to produce a series of documentaries on Indigenous issues. “Access to the media is essential for the development of Indigenous Peoples. In Otavalo, when Indigenous self-representation began on television, the program contents acquired a real meaning. They reflected how people really looked and thought. Indigenous media can counteract stereotypes, and can bring dignity, strength, and pride to our communities.”

B a za a r a rt ist:

Transforming Palm into Art

Juan García Mendoza


uan García Mendoza is a Mixtec artisan from San Pedro Jocotipac, Oaxaca, Mexico. His community is known for their skills in transforming native palm into products used in everyday life such as hats, sleeping mats, and baskets. He is also the founder and owner of Arte Palma, which started operations in 2010. In the beginning, García manufactured products only for local sale. But he has since diversified his products, and today he sells hats, handbags, earrings, wallets, rugs, and decorative products in international markets. Describing his process, García says, “The palm plant requires a special drying process; the drying time carefully designed to preserve the plant’s natural color, which ranges from green, light brown, dark brown, and yellow tones. The sheets of palm are saved, sorted, and the strips that are to be used are selected so that they can be used. Once the pieces are finished, each one is treated with steam to make them flexible and resistant.” He explains that the process to make a piece “begins when you start to collect the palm in the field, dry it in the sun for an average of four to five days, prepare it in rolls, clean the palm, and finally weave it.” A completed piece takes an average of one week. García says he learned to weave palm from his parents. “I started weaving when I was eight years old. In the beginning we sold baskets. Now we have expanded to gift boxes, chairs, and decorative products that have leather details.” In addition to the products of his family and the community of San Pedro Jocotipac, Arte Palma also sells the work of other artists from the nearby communities of Santa María Texcatitlan and Nodon, and has recently begun to market natural and organic products. “As a master craftsman I have done demonstrations of my work so that other people know a little more about what is behind the works of art. It is one of the most beautiful experiences I have had during these years of work as an artist,” García says. “I have also done collaborative projects with the Textile Museum of Oaxaca and with Mexican designers. And I have been an instructor in weaving workshops with palm and cordon in the

Juan García Mendoza with elder palm weavers. Photo by Erik Tlaseca.

Textile Museum of Oaxaca, in Mexico City, and in the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Nuevo León.” García works hard to make sure artists get a fair price for their work. “Thanks to Arte Palma, artisans find prices that recognize the time and work that is invested in the creation of the products,” he says. As part of its social responsibility, Arte Palma generates sources of employment for the elderly in the community who are dedicated to the preparation of the Mecca thread, the main raw material that is used in rustic furniture that has opened them to new markets such as restaurants and hotels. Speaking about challenges artists face, García says, “In my region, marginalization is a problem. There is not appreciation for our work.” Another major problem is the replacement of palm by plastic. “These products are displacing palm because it is much easier to process and the final product is much cheaper,” he says. But he also considers that being an Indigenous artisan and selling his own products has an advantage, because he can explain the entire process of creating each product. García has participated in three Cultural Survival Bazaars so far: “Bazaars offer many opportunities for artists. Being part of the Bazaars has helped me achieve my dream, to build my own workshop at home. Also I have been able to travel and see other cities.” He also runs workshops focused on transmitting the craft to younger generations. “These products have to be innovative so that young people continue to use these handicrafts and they do not fall into disuse,” he says. Meet Juan García Mendoza and see his work at our upcoming Cultural Survival Bazaars: July 20-21: Newburyport, MA July 27-28: Tiverton, RI To learn more, visit:

Juan García Mendoza weaving palm fibers. Photo by Erik Tlaseca.

Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2019 • 29

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