An Indigenous Approach to Caring for and Repairing the Earth
First Nations’ Tribal Lands Conservation Fund is built on a cultural- and people-centered Native approach to environmental conservation and ecological stewardship that combines Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Tribal Sovereign Jurisdiction, and Native genius and practice.
Right now, there is an opportunity for Native communities, philanthropic partners, and environmental advocates to join First Nations in further shaping this fund and putting financial resources in the hands of the Native people who can best conserve and steward Native lands in ways they always have.
Understanding the Challenge
Today there is an ecological conflict between humans and nature. Climate change has highlighted the immediate and long-term dangers to mankind and the world as a result of degradation and marginalization of water, plants, and animals and the bio systems and bio regions that support them. Adding to this challenge is that Western approaches to conservation and stewardship, while well-intentioned, are not always effective and in some cases are more harmful than helpful.
A Values-Centered, People-Centered, Cultural-Centered Solution
Native Peoples make up 5% of the global population, yet they protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity. They have for centuries been the best keepers and ecological stewards of the land, yet they have been left out of conservation conversations and investments. When Native-led ecological work has been supported, it is often by Western funders who insist Native organizations implement practices based on Western science.
Yet, Native communities bring a host of core competencies that are difficult to match by other conservation organizations – a culture- and people-approach, tribal sovereign jurisdiction, and the genius of highly resilient peoples who have used their beliefs, traditions and practices to preserve and protect the earth. They understand the relationship man has with Earth is essential for their survival and the survival of their non-Native neighbors.
This Tribal Lands Conservation Fund is an investment in these Native ways by creating a new (actually many millennial old) model of conservation and stewardship, using accepted Native tools such as conservation easements, land trusts, voluntary carbon offsets, activism, and scholastic inquiry. The fund makes it possible for Native communities to not only best care for and repair earth, but also strengthen their own economies, offsetting the over-incidence of poverty, high unemployment, poor social determinants of health, and high mortality rates that is experienced throughout Indian Country.
There is an immediate need to invest in these traditional stewards. First, the effects of climate change and global warming are rampant, with key indicators increasing regularly. Second, Native Peoples in the United States, the long-time stewards of some of the most conservation-prioritized regions, continue to occupy the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Right now, the need is critical to not only protect the earth, but also find economic avenues for Native communities that are traditional in approach to stewardship and that put control in the hands of the Native peoples themselves. In this way, the Tribal Lands Conservation Fund is both a solution to conservation and to economic injustice.
More information about the Tribal Lands Conservation Fund and opportunities to support this work will be available soon.
- Learn more about the Stewarding Native Lands program.
- Read more about Environmental Justice in Indian Country and the role of philanthropy.