As I sit rocking my infant daughter to sleep and reflecting on my time at the recent Okanagan Environmental Leadership Camp, the most recent convening of this Global Environments Network, I find it rich with lessons. It is difficult to capture in words all I learned about transformation through reconnection to self, family, community and territory during the week. IndigenEYEZ facilitators and the Upper Nicola Band of Syilx welcomed us onto unceded Okanagan territory in the Northwest of Turtle Island.
From 10-17 June, Global Diversity Foundation partnered with the amazing Okanagan-based organization IndigenEYEZ to convene 30 Indigenous youth ages 18-30 with skilled facilitators and artists in an unprecedented Indigenous Regional Academy. Our purpose? To build leadership through these processes of reconnection. To engage with and process intergenerational trauma and healing, of bodies and territory. To reflect on the integral role of love in transforming ourselves and the Earth.
To dig deep into this work, we met with Syilx elders and culture bearers. We shared food, stories, and ceremony. We mapped both destructive impacts and places of abundance on Okanagan traditional territory on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, and explored potential collaborative strategies to respond to ongoing conflicts and destruction. We responded with joy and care to the work of a Syilx activist and knowledge holder who has located old stories of the important roles of two-spirited community members to help guide and ground the struggles of contemporary Indigenous youth living beyond the gender binary. To open ourselves to connection and healing, we explored through listening, and also, necessarily, through laughter, play, and creativity. Traditional and contemporary arts flowed and fused, on fabric, leather, and metal; in storytelling, music, beading, and shadow puppetry.
We grounded ourselves with focused time and learning on and from the land. We waited to be invited into relationship with this territory, many of us coming to nkwr'itkw, Glimpse Lake, for the first time. The standing ones--towering fir, spruce and pines, trembling aspen--held the space. Medicines surrounded us, and bloomed underfoot in low alpine meadows and forest clearing. Loons, eagles, ravens, beavers and a curious black bear greeted us from the edges of camp. Mosquitoes took their own offerings from our exposed skin. Thanks to our hosts, we ate and drank foods harvested from Okanagan territory: elk, venison, huckleberry and sxusm (foam berry).
We received these gifts with gratitude and joy, and held them in the light of the many threats and challenges to Syilx territory, sovereignty and wellbeing. The Kinder Morgan pipeline sits like a black snake poised at the edge of Okanagan territory. The effects of clearcutting, mining, ranching, development, overhunting and -fishing are compounded by climate change. As Syilx knowledge-holder Rob Edwards of the Enowkin Centre shared, they are further exacerbated by disconnects among both Indigenous and settler users of the territory in understanding that rights and responsibilities sit in relationship. Interconnected with violence to lands and waters, participants engaged the legacies of residential schooling and other tools of cultural genocide. These remain present injuries as well as painful memories, disrupting families into addiction and state care, stealing language and stories, and separating people from relationship with the land and one another.
Back at home, I sit on Western Abenaki traditional territory with my now-sleeping daughter and a new awareness and commitment to all my relations. I am grateful for the ability and willingness of our facilitators, fellow participants and the land on which we met to hold the space for us to undertake the vital work to which they called us. I ask that the time we spent together at nkwr'itkw continue to teach those who were present, and invite you, the reader, to consider your own relationships to community and place in the light of this crucial work of reflection and reconnection.
Limlempt, thank you.
All photos credit Dana Wilson, http://www.salishseaproductions.ca/, with thanks to IndigenEYEZ (https://indigeneyez.com). All errors are the author's alone.
[Texto en Español sigue abajo / Spanish text follows below]
From February 9-14, 65 Indigenous community leaders, facilitators, and allies gathered on Comcaac territory in Sonora, Mexico for the 2017 North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange (NACELE). Participants came from 12 different Indigenous nations, and the event included interactive workshops and presentations on territory defense, communications, local economies, food sovereignty, biodiversity, and art and transformation. Following up on our last report, this Global Environments Network Story includes participant reflections, photos, and possibilities for future collaborations that emerged from NACELE 2017.
GDF North America holds the nurture and support of GEN members' collaborative initiatives to protect their biocultural landscapesas a core commitment. NACELE 2017 demonstrated that GEN members in Mexico are already engaged in many dynamic, thoughtful projects situated in context, grounded in local needs, and committed to a long-term presence. In this report, we highlight one of these projects: Developing Learning Materials to Strengthen the Tojol-Ab’al Language. NACELE 2017 participant Maribel developed this language revitalization project with her classmate Diana, as the capstone of their studies at the Intercultural University of Chiapas. Both are speakers of the indigenous Tojol-Ab’al language who come from the municipality of Las Margaritas in Chiapas, Mexico.
As they found in their initial inquiry, in the community of Bajucu, Las Margaritas, approximately 50% of the population no longer uses the Tojol-Ab’al language in a fluent manner, and has some degree of ignorance regarding the Tojol-Ab’al names for words. Maribelexplains, “Unfortunately this problem principally affects children and youth.... Factors include acculturation (globalization, modernization, migration, use of technology and ideological changes), discrimination (difference and lack of interest in strengthening language) and the educational system (lack of support, lack of resources, no materials to promote the original languages). Therefore the young people already have a mentality of not using the language with each other due to shame. As well, a portion of the lack of knowledge in children is due to the lack of instruction that they receive from their parents.” The two women note that loss of the Tojol-Ab’al language also contributes to the erosion of a collective Tojol-Ab'al identity, loss of cultural patrimony, and a loss of respect for traditional knowledge.
In order to address these issues and strengthen the Tojol-Ab’al language in Bajucu, this GEN member has initiated a project with the following goals:
Maribel explains that the central values necessary to implement the project in a good way are respect, responsibility, unity, confidence, a strong sense of ethics, tolerance and patience.
In the GDF North America program, we are pleaxed to be increasingly able to offer mentorship, organizational and funding support for the biocultural landscape protection initiatives of network members. With your support through the Global Giving platform, we can continue this important work of nurturing and strengthening GEN members' work to secure a future of Indigenous well-being and self-determination in Mexico.
Texto en español:
Apoyando a iniciativas que fortalezcan a los paisajes bioculturales en México: Revitalización del lenguaje Tojol-Ab'al
Entre el 9 y el 14 de febrero, 65 líderes comunitarios, facilitadores y aliados se reunieron en territorio Comcaac en Sonora, México para la Conferencia de Liderazgo Ambiental Comunitaria Norteamericana de 2017 (NACELE). Los participantes provenían de 12 naciones indígenas diferentes, y el evento incluyó talleres interactivos y presentaciones sobre defensa del territorio, comunicaciones, economías locales, soberanía alimentaria, biodiversidad, arte y transformación. Siguiendo a nuestro último informe, esta historia de la Red de entornos globales incluye reflexiones, fotos y posibilidades para futuras colaboraciones surgidas de NACELE 2017.
GDF North America sostiene y apoya a las iniciativas colaborativas de los miembros de GEN para proteger sus paisajes bioculturales como un compromiso fundamental. NACELE 2017 demostró que los miembros de GEN en México ya están involucrados en muchos proyectos dinámicos y reflexivos situados en contexto, basados en las necesidades locales y comprometidos con una presencia a largo plazo. En este informe, destacamos uno de estos proyectos: “Desarrollar materiales de aprendizaje para fortalecer el lenguaje Tojol-Ab'al”. La participante de NACELE 2017 Maribel desarrolló este proyecto de revitalización del lenguaje con su compañera de clase Diana, como punto culminante de sus estudios en la Universidad Intercultural de Chiapas. Ambos son hablantes de la lengua indígena Tojol-Ab'al, y provienen del municipio de Las Margaritas en Chiapas, México.
Como encontraron en su diagnóstico inicial, en la comunidad de Bajucu, Las Margaritas, aproximadamente el 50% de la población ya no usa el lenguaje Tojol-Ab'al de una manera fluida y tiene cierto grado de ignorancia con respecto a los nombres Tojol-Ab'al para ciertas cosas y conceptos. Maribel explica, “Desafortunadamente, este problema principalmente afecta a los niños y a la juventud. Los factores incluyen la aculturación (globalización, modernización, migración, uso de la tecnología y cambios ideológicos), la discriminación (diferencia y falta de interés en fortalecer el lenguaje) y el sistema educativo (falta de apoyo, falta de recursos, no materiales para promover los idiomas originales). Por lo tanto, los jóvenes ya tienen una mentalidad de no usar el idioma entre sí debido a la vergüenza. Además, una parte de la falta de conocimiento en los niños se debe a la falta de instrucción que reciben de sus padres." Las compañeras señalan que la pérdida de la lengua Tojol-Ab'al también contribuye a la erosión de un sentido colectivo Tojol-Ab’al, la pérdida de patrimonio cultural y la pérdida de respeto por los conocimientos tradicionales.
Para abordar estas cuestiónes y fortalecer el lenguaje Tojol-Ab'al en Bajucu, este miembro de GEN ha iniciado un proyecto con los siguientes objetivos:
• Identificar las causas y consecuencias de los cambios lingüísticos en la comunidad.
• Realizar talleres para sensibilizar a los niños, jóvenes y padres sobre el idioma Tojol-Ab'al y su identidad cultural.
• Desarrollar materiales de aprendizaje Tojol-Ab'al con estudiantes de secundaria en la comunidad. Estos materiales incluirán:
Grabaciones de audio del alfabeto Tojol-Ab'al, partes del cuerpo y artículos del hogar
Un folleto de plantas medicinales con sus nombres Tojol-Ab'al, español y científicos;
Transcripción de relatos de ancianos de leyendas, historias, mitos y poemas en Tojol-ab'al y español;
Un diccionario de términos científicos en Tojol-Ab'al y español; y
Materiales sobre la cosmovisión y la astrología de Tojol-Ab'al.
• Enseñar estrategias para fortalecer el lenguaje Tojol-Ab'al.
• Promover el uso de las plantas tradicionales en el idioma Tojol-Ab'al.
Maribel y Diana explican que los valores centrales necesarios para implementar el proyecto de una buena manera son el respeto, la responsabilidad, la unidad, la confianza, un fuerte sentido de la ética, la tolerancia y la paciencia.
En el programa de GDF Norteamérica, se nos pide que cada vez sea más capaz de ofrecer apoyo de mentoría, organización y financiamiento para las iniciativas de protección del paisaje biocultural de los miembros de la red. Con su apoyo a través de la plataforma Global Giving, podemos continuar este importante trabajo de nutrir y fortalecer el trabajo de los miembros de GEN para asegurar un futuro de bienestar indígena y autodeterminación en México
This winter in the North American program, we focus our attention on supporting biocultural landscape revitalization in northwestern Mexico. Across Mexico and North America more generally, revitalizing landscapes requires thoughtful and conscious engagement with the Indigenous communities for whom these lands are traditional territories. At Global Diversity Foundation we understand that people are embedded within, and are not separate from the landscape. Revitalizing biocultural landscapes therefore means working to strengthen the capacity of Indigenous communities who are the caretakers of these lands.
This February, we are organizing a North American Community Environmental Exchange (NACELE) in Sonora, Mexico, on the theme “Collaborating for Change: Strategies for the Protection of Biocultural Landscapes.” This event will provide a training, networking and discussion space for Indigenous community leaders, in a context of rapid climate change and at a moment when adaptive community capacity to confront biocultural threats is crucial. Land and water grabs and extractive industry projects currently threaten the health of Indigenous territories in northwestern Mexico. This in turn threatens the well-being of Indigenous communities. NACELE 2017 will offer workshops from expert facilitators on a range of topics relevant to the protection of biocultural landscapes, including community organizing, coalition building, Indigenous rights, food and water sovereignty, and more. NACELE 2017 will be a space for participants to share stories of struggle and resistance, and will lead to media outputs that will highlight the work of Indigenous communities to care for their territories.
Participants in this event will gain membership into the Global Environments Network, comprised of a growing number of dynamic environmental changemakers working to solve socio-environmental problems around the world. As GEN members, Indigenous community leaders will have access to a strong network of support and diverse expertise that they can mobilize to enhance the impact their work in their communities and globally.
NACELE 2017 is one event in a larger landscape of ongoing actions for territory defense and Indigenous sovereignty in Mexico. For example, the Yaqui community of Loma de Bácum, Sonora is currently engaged in a struggle to protect their territory from the construction of an unwanted gas pipeline. GDF friend and NACELE collaborator Anabela is a Yaqui human rights lawyer who has been a strong community leader in this struggle. In December, Anabela and her husband were kidnapped for their community organizing work and vocal opposition to the project. They have since been released but remain in danger, along with others in the community who are working to stop the pipeline's route through their territory.
Loma de Bácum is struggling to gain international attention for their situation, and Anabela has asked for GDF's support. We are working to bring a solidarity delegation of Standing Rock water protectors to Loma de Bácum, to raise awareness, build relationships, and strengthen the bonds of Indigenous solidarity across North America. Water protectors have voiced interest in travelling to Loma de Bácum and lending a hand to maintain the momentum of Indigenous self-determination generated at Standing Rock. Donations received for this project via GlobalGiving over the coming three months will be directed to covering travel costs incurred for the solidarity delegation, and supporting Loma de Bácum with costs associated with hosting. You can read our detailed statement on this initiative here.
With your support, we continue our work to increase the capacity of environmental changemakers in northwestern Mexico and beyond.
This spring, the Global Diversity Foundation team met to discuss the growing Global Environments Network (GEN). How are members currently engaging with GEN, we wondered. How can the network become even more accessible and relevant? What kinds of opportunities, platforms and events do members want to see? And what is the lived experience of GEN? How does it function in members’ lives?
We knew that GEN members-the environmental leaders who have taken part in events and become part of the network--would have answers to these questions. In April, we began to interview members. Here, we share a few initial glimpses into their experiences in and visions for the network (for more, see my blog post on the GEN website). We'll let you know more about our findings as we continue our interviews and analyze our findings!
Ana Elia, from Spain, studies how social capital and gender shape empowerment in community ecotourism in Ghana. She attended the Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) in 2014, and went on in 2015 to co-organise the first Latin American regional academy, the Academia Latinoamericana de Liderazgo Socio-Ambiental (ALLSA). The organizers' focus on peer-to-peer learning meant that they learned new things during the event, as well.. Ana Elia shared, "At ALLSA, I learned about mapping in a way that accounts for socio-ecological interactions. I think that has been critical in shaping the way I’m going to be sharing my results with communities… because I want to develop participatory workshops and I think there are a lot of methodologies that I was not thinking about that have become more clear. Also Indigenous methodologies, or different epistemologies that since [ALLSA] I have been way more curious about.”
Gloria, from Kenya, works on sustainable resource management in dynamic cultural landscapes and improvement of community livelihoods, using local ways of knowing as a starting point. She reflected on the GESA communications exercise of creating a TED-style talk, and its importance for her professional and academic growth. “That has really helped me. I got a lot of good feedback from the talk I did in Bern. I often use the link. And then I’ve carried on those skills that [GEN founder] Gary was teaching us in giving other talks…. These days I’m very serious about what to say, how to say it, how to make the slides, how to make the story compelling, how to tie it together. No one in my life had ever taught me that.”
Interviewees also discussed how GEN events generate inspiration that fuels new work. Priscilla (Cree (Canada)) is an activist and academic working on Indigenous, women's and youth issues in Canada and Latin America who took part in both North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchanges (NACELE 2013 and 2015). In her interview she reflected that, “One thing that has happened post-event: I am putting together with a colleague... a book proposal on some of the topics that I spoke on, namely Indigenous food sovereignty. So I think in that respect [NACELE] kind of mobilized me forward. I met some amazing food sovereignty people, like Nancy (GDF US Board of Directors President), and we’ve stayed in touch... so it was a great connection and it was an inspiration that in part led to me wanting to do a book. I mean, I wanted to do a book before I met Nancy... but I think it propelled me forward in new ways.”
Conducting these interviews has afforded us the privilege to hear about the projects and aspirations of the many wonderful individuals working and collaborating for positive change in their respective contexts. Read the full story in this blog post , titled GEN Interviews: Where is GEN, where are we going, and how should we get there? You can also learn more about Angela, a GESA 2015 alumna from Canada.
In 2011, the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) organized the very first Global Environments Summer Academy. In the years that followed, four summer academies (one more in Germany and the following three in Switzerland), a regional academy in Latin America and two community exchanges in North America were carried out under the auspices of the Global Environments Network. Ever since the inaugural gathering, we have been inspired by the camaraderie displayed by the groups of individuals from diverse academic, geographical and professional backgrounds. Through all these events, the GEN alumni Network/group has grown to approximately 200 people who continue to collaborate, learn from each other and create change across the globe, building on the vibrant connections made during the events.
To assist this process, we launched a community-exclusive newsletter earlier this year, spearheaded by GESA alumna and GEN Coordinator, Silvia, who collaborates with GEN alumni and GDF. Three newsletter issues have been circulated to date.
In the latest release, we showcased GEN Director, Gary Martin, who recently received an International Planetary Award at Tage der Zukunft (Days of Future) 2016. The award recognizes people or institutions who have created outstanding initiatives in the field of innovation and in efforts of co-creation of possible and sustainable futures for humanity. He says, “I was honored to accept this award, which recognizes the efforts of all the unique individuals who are part of the Global Environments Network”.
The Updates section in the bi-monthly GEN newsletter, focused entirely on the people who are the core of the Network, announces new births (adding to the next GENeration), fellowships and funding attained, publications released and online features, ongoing projects, and many more. The newsletter also highlights opportunities to connect in person at events such as at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held September 1-10 in Hawai'i and the Climate Change COP22, November 7-18 in Marrakech. The newsletter is also intended as a space for sharing and launching Network-based projects and collaborations.
Response to the newsletter has been overwhelming, as noted by Janelle, a GESA 2015 alumna from Canada. She said, “I do have to say, I love the newsletter. I read it every time. …. I love how it is so positive, and just lifts everyone up who is in the Network. Like celebrating Jessica for her PhD, and other things like that… it’s so nice to receive all the good news.” We are appreciative of this feedback, and are excited and motivated about creating more opportunities for connection.
Full photo caption:
Christof Mauch, co-director of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, presents the International Planetary Award to GEN Director Gary Martin.
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