Eryn, an indigenous nonprofit leader in the United States, shares how Seeding Sovereignty, a nonprofit elevating the voices of indigenous women to combat climate change, harnessed the power of the crowd to raise more than $11,000 from 180 donors in three weeks.
Communications and Digital Director, Seeding Sovereignty
Who She Is:
Eryn Wise belongs to the Jicarilla Apache Nation and Pueblo of Laguna. She is the Communications and Digital Director at Seeding Sovereignty, the creator Seeding Sovereignty's Storytellers project, and is a co-founding mentor to the International Indigenous Youth Council; a group founded during the #NoDAPL resistance in Standing Rock, ND. Ensuring a future for generations to come is a duty and responsibility to her, and she focuses the traditional teachings of her predecessors on the intersectional challenges faced by the youth and organizers she works to build community with. She aims to do all her work in homage to her ancestors whose resistance ensured her existence. She is a human being, just like you.
Q. In a nutshell, tell us about what Seeding Sovereignty does. How does crowdfunding fit into your overall goals?
A: In a time of climate crisis, Seeding Sovereignty, an indigenous women-led collective, works on behalf of our global community to shift social and environmental paradigms by dismantling colonial institutions and replacing them with indigenous practices created in synchronicity with the land.
Our work is primarily focused on land, body, and energy sovereignty and finding ways to amplify stories of indigenous brilliance and resilience that challenge antiquated and stereotypical narratives about our community.
Crowdfunding allows us to support critical programming that directly impacts indigenous communities. We are responsible for what many consider “unconventional” work, but this work ultimately allows us to reclaim our traditional indigenous ways of knowing while empowering community members to join us on our journey towards environmental and social justice and equity for all.
Q. Why is this work important to you personally?
A: This work deeply impacts the communities I am honored to represent. As a Two Spirit, self-proclaimed Indigequeer who was raised both on the reservation and in urban settings, I found navigating walking in two worlds extremely hard. When I wasn’t on the reservation, I was very ornamental and often times, I deferred to the opinion of my peers because it made life easier.
The older I get, the more I want to reach into the past and tell my younger self how important her stories are, and that she’s worthy of being invested in.
I have struggled with many of the residual effects of colonization and historical trauma that indigenous communities and communities of color have begun to heal from, and wish only to help young folks that I truly believe in see the value in themselves that I see when I look at the work they’re capable of. This work and our fundraiser is an ongoing call-to-action for anyone looking to empower the generations that will be inheriting a world dealing with the impacts of the Anthropocene.
Q. How were you able to rally an impressive 180 donors—raising more than $11,000—in just three weeks?
A: It’s really incredible and to be honest, our team was blown away. We have a strong network of support who we’re proud to say believe in the work we’ve done and an online community that’s willing to invest in our commitment to inspire more positive change within indigenous communities. We’re also lucky enough to have a team that is dedicated to relentlessly doing outreach to whoever as often as is needed. If every member of our collective wasn’t so invested in the power of our young people and hellbent on seeing their dreams come to fruition, it may have taken us a little longer.
Additionally, we created a media kit for this “campaign” of sorts and, when doing outreach, provided language, imagery, and support for anyone amplifying on our behalf. Being prepared to assist with a clear ask is definitely a cornerstone of building community at Seeding Sovereignty!
Q. Describe your most meaningful experience with a donor during the Accelerator program.
A: Our team was blessed by a person who gave their entire savings to our fundraiser citing that they believed in what we were doing, believed in our youth, and really wanted to uplift them as indigenous, LGBTQIA+ people. Seeing such a clear message of, yes—the youth matter—and it’s beautiful that they’re Two Spirit!—and I want to give all that I can! Wow. It just really hit home because we’re doing the same thing. Every bit of support counts and the generosity of our donors truly blew us away.
Q. What advice would you share with other small, indigenous-led nonprofits participating in the Accelerator?
A: I would recommend that everyone reach out to their communities and networks first! Tell your friends and family about your exciting programming and have them be your hype people! I would also recommend, as aforementioned, creating a media/press kit of sorts for your fundraiser. Treat it like a campaign. With clear visuals, defined asks, and ways to support, you provide those interacting with your fundraiser the ability to engage on the easiest level.
Join Seeding Sovereignty on GlobalGiving by applying to join the next Accelerator.
Featured Photo: Turn indigenous women into women entrepreneurs by Fundacion Mexicana para el Desarrollo Rural A. C.