Indigenous Peoples protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity while comprising less than 5% of the global population. Strengthening and expanding Indigenous Peoples’ rights to manage their territories can reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the United States would emit by 2050. Yet, grassroots action led by Indigenous Peoples is chronically underfunded, accounting for only 1.2% of global giving.
On August 9th, the CLIMA Fund hosted a global Twitter chat to commemorate the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples and share how funding climate solutions led by Indigenous Peoples can be one of philanthropy’s ‘big bets’ in the climate crisis. We ‘heard’ from funders and frontline actors about effective support for Indigenous-led climate action and asked what the world would look like if Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous-led climate action receive the funding and support they desire.
Here are some of our key takeaways from this conversation:
- Indigenous Peoples are leading the movement. Grassroots solutions are critical for confronting the climate crisis, and Indigenous Peoples’ leadership is key to those solutions.
- Indigenous self-determination and climate justice are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Indigenous Peoples-led climate action focuses on the big picture and constitutes more than the numerical metrics associated with carbon drawdown. Such action has the ability to strengthen community rights, improve humanity’s relationship with our environment, and reduce emissions. In practice, organizing and advocacy target a constellation of injustices and oppressive systems, thus directly addressing the root causes of the climate crisis. Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination includes climate adaptation and mitigation, revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultural practices, land conservation, restoration of native plant species, reduction of environmental toxicity, and restoration of biodiversity. Grassroots groups and funders acknowledge the social and ecological benefits of landback: the governance of land and resources by Indigenous Peoples. Solidaire Network shared: “Indigenous sovereignty is climate justice…Land stewards with a multigenerational vision will lead us out of climate catastrophe.”
- There is room for improving the relationships between funders and Indigenous grantees. Participants mentioned that funders might dictate solutions to communities and fund solutions that communities did not name for themselves. There is also a lack of transparency regarding the total grant dollars allocated towards Indigenous-led climate action. The dominant model is still one of charity rather than solidarity. International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) educates, convenes, and advocates for funders to support Indigenous Peoples’ rights across issues and movements. IFIP aims to shift practice to a new paradigm of giving based on The Four R’s of Indigenous Philanthropy: Respect, Reciprocity, Responsibility and Relationships. At Cultural Survival, all grant funds are managed by Indigenous staff and decisions are made by Indigenous experts’ consensus.
- We can shift the narrative that funders are necessarily settlers and grantees or “those in need” are Indigenous Peoples. Colonialism and systemic racism are core to our economic systems, and most wealth accumulation has been along the lines of race and class. Philanthropic actors have the opportunity to acknowledge the source of foundations’ endowments and recognize that an altruistic framework for grantmaking is limited. Organizations like IFIP, Cultural Survival, and many others are improving grantmaking practices concerning Indigenous action. Over the last years, we have seen an increase in grant funds managed by Indigenous Peoples for Indigenous-led projects. Increasingly, funders are also moving towards participatory grantmaking models to ensure Indigenous Peoples are leading the fight against climate change and deciding which climate solutions receive funding.
- Indigenous Peoples can tell their own stories and own their narratives. Groups like Earth Journalism Network are supporting Indigenous media makers and journalists to share their stories both as survivors of the effects of climate change and as problem-solvers and holders of knowledge. “More Indigenous media means more nuanced, accurate & actionable journalism that can lead to change.”
- Funding Indigenous action is a step towards building a good relationship with nature and the Earth. “A new philanthropic value system can be one that better reflects the values of Indigenous Peoples, which includes relationships, respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and self-determination.” Philanthropy has an opportunity to move towards an abundance mindset and provide multi-year general support grants. Philanthropic practice based on trust supports the visions, autonomy, and expertise of grantee partners.
- Philanthropy has the opportunity to fund solutions that organizers name for themselves. Those who are closest to the problem are the ones best equipped to advance the solutions. Funding grassroots climate solutions is evidence of trust in the expertise and leadership of Indigenous Peoples to address the climate crisis. In practice, this would include following the lead of grassroots movements in setting grantmaking priorities.
Here are some of the resources shared by the participants:
- Earth Journalism Network’s Indigenous Environmental Reporting project
- Cultural Survival’s Indigenizing Philanthropy Series
- IFIP’s Indigenous Ways of Giving + Sharing – Indigenous-led Funds Landscape Scan Report
- CLIMA member Grassroots International’s approach to solidarity philanthropy
We are grateful to the grassroots actors and funders who joined us in this conversation to share their time and wisdom with us. The social and scientific evidence is clear: Indigenous Peoples are leading the fight against the climate crisis, and investing in Indigenous-led climate action is “an incredible funding opportunity we can’t afford to miss for our shared future.”