Tuesday September 5, 2017
In June 2016, we announced that First Peoples Worldwide would close in six months. A few weeks later, we were invited by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman to support their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Of course we said yes. It is now August 2017, over a year later. First Peoples Worldwide will close at the end of the month, but this is not the end of our work. The shareholder advocacy efforts we undertook with Standing Rock showed that market-based strategies hold promise for protecting Indigenous Peoples' rights and reducing risks to investors.
As we have seen, market pressures often exploit Indigenous lands faster than conventional rights-based strategies protect them. Challenging unwanted development in court is not a guaranteed success, and even court victories can go unrecognized or without implementation in many countries. Market-based strategies offset the gaps in protections for Indigenous Peoples within our legal system, and substantially leverage resources offered by philanthropy for Indigenous Peoples' economic, social, and cultural development. A few examples: In 1983, the Ford Foundation's investment of $600,000 into the Lakota Fund, one of the first Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), led Calvert Investments to create a new financial instrument, Community Investment Notes, which now drives a half billion dollars annually into CDFIs! In 1999, FPW partnered with Calvert to create the first Indigenous rights investment screen, and trained more than 600 brokers on its use. By 2004, the screen evolved into investment drivers used by EIRIS, MSCI, Sustainalytics, and other major ESG research houses. In 2003, we worked with US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing to co-establish the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, which is now an independent working group that coordinates research, outreach, education, and advocacy related to Indigenous Peoples and investors. In 2007, a shareholder resolution directing Newmont Mining to improve its practices and policies towards Indigenous Peoples garnered a record breaking 91.6% of the votes. In 2014, we published the first quantitative metrics for assessing corporate risk exposure to opposition from Indigenous Peoples. In 2015, we launched the Shareholder Advocacy Leadership Training program to connect Indigenous leaders with investors in companies on their lands.
Our Founder and President Rebecca Adamson will retire following 47 years (1970 to 2017) of groundbreaking advocacy. Adamson will continue to speak, write, and advise academic institutions, NGOs, and investors on tribal sovereignty, community engagement, and market reform. "I am entering my next phase at a time characterized by extraordinary clash of worldviews—one that sees all life as interconnected and interrelated, and another that sees the world comprised of fearful individuals competing for scarce resources," says Adamson. "I am elated to see this body of work continue because the need to align our economic models with the principles of nature is more important than ever. Contrary to popular mantra, markets are not values neutral. They are designed in accordance with the values of the societies they are intended to serve. Indigenous economics are rooted in values that sustained our communities for millennia, and hold many of the answers needed for the global community to be sustained."
When we announced our closure last year, our goal was to establish partnerships with other Indigenous-led organizations to ensure continuity of our work. We are pleased to announce that we met our goal. Our Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF), which has awarded $2.3 million in small grants to Indigenous communities since 2007, is now a grantmaking program of Cultural Survival. Cultural Survival has advocated for Indigenous Peoples' rights and supported Indigenous communities' self-determination, cultures and political resilience since 1972. Check www.cs.org/koef for information, and email Jackie Tiller at firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries. We are also excited to announce that KOEF administrator Jackie Tiller will transition with the Fund. Tiller states, "I am so honored to have been chosen to continue to lead the Fund as it transitions to its new home at Cultural Survival, and I am more than proud that, through the Fund, Indigenous Peoples can continue to apply their brilliance and creativity to hard-hitting development issues that urgently need their leadership. We are the first stewards of the land, and through KOEF, we will assure that issues such as climate change, food sovereignty, Free Prior and Informed Consent, and social responsibility remain at the forefront of our decision-making until these issues are resolved."
Our corporate engagement work will continue through a program of the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School, and the Center for Education on Social Responsibility at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. The program will build on our track record of researching the risks of operating on Indigenous land without consent, and engaging with business on the value of respecting Indigenous Peoples' rights. Corporate Engagement Director Nick Pelosi will oversee the transition. Pelosi says "I have worked with the American Indian Law Clinic on many projects, and witnessed firsthand the expertise, passion, and talent of the students and staff. We have a great launch pad for the next chapter of this work. Most importantly, this will result in the continued empowerment of Indigenous Peoples." For questions about the partnership, contact email@example.com.