Grants Awarded 2008

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In 2008, grants from Keepers of the Earth Fund totaled $135,250.

North America

Environmental-Aboriginal Guardianship Through Law and Education (EAGLE) (Canada) - This organization serves First Nations communities across Canada through workshops that promote traditional values, rights, and laws to aid in better decision-making about, and stewardship of, Indigenous assets. These workshops were primarily focused on water, an important asset providing livelihoods for all Indigenous communities and central to daily life. Beyond this, water plays an important role in religious or cultural ceremonies. By sharing successful community models, EAGLE provided the training necessary for solid leadership based in sacred tradition. Using traditional Indigenous knowledge and laws to protect the environment, EAGLE encouraged and supported the understanding of Indigenous rights and responsibilities to the stewardship of the earth, and built Indigenous Peoples’ capacity for careers in environmental protection.

Organization for the Advancement of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (Canada) - This organization is carried out through the First Nations Centre (FNC) of the National Aboriginal Health Organization. First Peoples was thrilled to make this grant to create, promote, and share health information and research in Canada’s First Nations while helping FNC further develop tools and processes that assist in capacity-building and knowledge-sharing. FNC is devoted to the protection, recognition, and affirmation of First Nations’ traditional knowledge and healing practices and, in partnership with the Elsipogtog Health and Wellness Centre, shared these holistic practices while educating First Nations’ youth during a traditional healing gathering. Participants from across Canada participated in a week-long gathering to educate people to have more control over their health and share traditional knowledge with other communities. Both elders and youth from communities across Canada came together to share stories and practices to further the promotion and practice of traditional medicine. The gathering culminated in a traditional shaking tent ceremonial rite where spirit healers cure people from physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual illnesses. By enhancing current medicinal practices across all First Nations, the FNC fits with the tenets of the Keepers of the Earth Fund by protecting and promoting Indigenous knowledge at a community level.

Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations (CT6FN) (Canada) - In partnership with the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), CT6FN worked to further their mutual goal of insuring that the terms, spirit, and intent of Canada’s Treaty No. 6 of 1876 are honored and respected along with First Nations’ right to self-determination. To meet this end, the CT6FN coordinated a workshop in Alberta, Canada, divided between the Enoch Cree Nation and the more remote Beaver Lake Cree Nation. The workshop focused on the assessment of community food-related assets and applications of the Cultural Indicators for Food Sovereignty as a community assessment tool. Members of both communities were strongly encouraged to participate in some capacity during the three-day workshop and a total of 350 participants—primarily from the two host locations, but also from other First Nations from across Canada—took part in the workshop.

Friends of the Akwesasne Freedom School (USA) - This group supports traditional cultural education in the Akwesasne Mohawk community. First Peoples is passionate about this grant not only because of the impact it has on Mohawk youth by helping them learn and retain their language and culture, but also because of the larger impact it has on the whole community to strengthen local culture. This school was founded more than 40 years ago as a response to the concern that Mohawk children were losing their language and culture. In an effort to protect these valuable assets, the teachers at the school teach Mohawk language and culture to students from pre-kindergarten through grade eight to provide a strengthened sense of cultural identity before students go out into the world. The curriculum is guided by the principles of Skennen (Peace), Kasatstensera (Power), and Kanikonririo (Good Mind) with the ultimate mission of supporting and encouraging a process for each child to learn his or her role and responsibility as Haudenosaunee through an understanding of the Ohenten Kariwhatekwen as the core of the learning experience. The project continues to be driven by clan mothers and faithkeepers and involves over 25 people on an annual basis. In an extension of the school to encompass the community as whole, traditional Longhouse teachings are also taught to parents and other adults to further strengthen the local Mohawk culture. Language is a crucial cultural asset, unique to each Indigenous community, and the protection of language ensures that a vital piece of Indigenous heritage is protected.

Central America

Asociación de Jovenes Comunitarios de Region Sarstun (Guatemala) - Made up of recent graduates of Ak’Tenemit’s rural middle and high schools, this group aims to become a leading local-level Indigenous organization in natural resource management by promoting communication, collaboration, and coordination of environmental conservation within the area and across borders. Through the promotion of natural, cultural, institutional, and human assets comprising Indigenous conservation, the Asociación is creating an extensive network of Indigenous natural resource managers comprised of Indigenous community-based NGOs and small farmers. The Asociación works within this network on issues of access to and use of resources and utilizes the strength of community knowledge and established organizations to attract and delegate community resources to increase co-management of the local protected area with outside entities, and increase protection against government evictions through civic participation and understanding of rights to land and resources. First Peoples was pleased to fund this unique youth-led organization due to the strong interest of young people in furthering traditional values and supplementing these values by sharing with and learning from other successful organizations and communities. Keepers of the Earth funding helped to further the mission of the Asociación de Jovenes Comunitarios de Region Sarstun by funding a seven-day exchange trip on natural resource management between Indigenous community-based organizations and small farmers in the Sarstun region.

Fundación Tradiciones Mayas (FTM) (Guatemala) - FTM works with Mayan women and their families to preserve the ancient technique of back strap weaving and the knowledge and use of medicinal plants, which reinforce cultural identity and survival. FTM’s goals are directly in line with those of Keepers of the Earth, as they protect and promote Indigenous medicinal knowledge and exchange this information among communities while sharing best practices and technology. Indigenous medicinal knowledge is vital to communities as a mode of protecting traditions, preserving knowledge, and promoting culture. FTM’s dynamic Community Health Program promotes preventative health and treatment of common illnesses through the use of medicinal plants and education with Maya families while simultaneously rescuing and preserving invaluable ancestral knowledge.

Indigenous Permaculture Program (El Salvador) - The Nahuat community in El Salvador is creating a sustainable community, meeting basic needs with limited resources all while leveraging funds to obtain appropriate technology for community use. This includes solar pumps, composting toilets and associated usage training, and funding for reforestation. Keepers of the Earth funding was used to extend these projects in more communities, reaching between 60 and 100 people, a large network First Peoples was eager to support not only because of the community achievements to date, but also because of the expanded local capacity that community-to-community relationships achieve. Where previous community-to-community connections were too weak to maintain a network of Nahuat communities, after four years of work in their community, IPP helped these connections to thrive and flourish as local communities worked together to exchange information and knowledge as a means of helping others advance toward sustainability. This project furthered the goals of the Nahuat community and Keepers of the Earth as communities shared best practices and the technology to grow sustainably, and become increasingly self-sufficient while promoting resource stewardship. This project promoted Indigenous-to-Indigenous networking and empowerment, staying “green,” and using modern sustainable energy to maintain and uphold culture.

South America

Federación Indígena de la Nacionalidad Cofán del Ecuador (FEINCE) (Ecuador) - The Cofán repatriated information that had been extracted from their Ecuadorian communities by NGOs, the government, universities, corporations, and others. The impact of this grant on Cofán communities was the empowerment to protect and access their assets as they deemed appropriate. The Cofán recovered maps of their territories and assets that were housed outside of the Cofán community, from Ecuador’s capital city of Quito and beyond. FEINCE compiled these maps and provided copies to 10 Cofán communities. FEINCE also developed workshops to introduce the maps and information to Cofán communities to strengthen their understanding of their assets. With this valuable knowledge, this innovative project led the Cofán communities to be better informed about their assets and make informed decisions about how to utilize their assets in the most effective and efficient manner, both within their communities and while engaging with outside interests, from corporations to conservationists.

Fundación Territorio e Identidad - Comuna Santa Elena (Ecuador) - Ecuador’s Comuna Santa Elena hosted a workshop for Indigenous participants from 14 different Latin American countries to gather and discuss Indigenous Peoples and Conservation. This workshop served as a follow-up to the Second Latin American Congress on Protected Areas and as a precursor to the World Conservation Congress by meeting the needs of local Indigenous communities to collectively strengthen their proposals for conservation programs, land restitution, and resource management. Keepers of the Earth supported all 18 participants from 14 Latin American countries for the greatest representation possible. Representatives from each country shared their peoples’ experiences with conservation and community conserved area management, as well as best practices. They helped to define the position of Indigenous Peoples in the region regarding the proposed concept of Indigenous Territory Conservation as a new category for protected areas by the IUCN. First Peoples Worldwide jumped at the opportunity to send two participants to this workshop to learn directly from Indigenous communities about their issues, and gain Indigenous practitioners’ contributions to an Indigenous Territories Atlas for South America.

Creative Visions Foundation (Peru) - Originally funded in 2007, Creative Visions continued to offer training workshops to teach photography skills to Asháninka People for use in future land claims. By recording their valuable culture, the Asháninka are able to better engage in community and political discussions at a local level, promote Indigenous land-management practices through documented successes, and educate the general public about their culture. This grant supported the Asháninka’s ongoing efforts to map their land and gain communal land rights.


Native Solutions to Conservation Refugees (Ethiopia) - This grant was to provide ongoing technical capacity in utilizing satellite telephones and an email-ready laptop system. This technology helped the Mursi network together in order to protect their land and negotiate co-management agreements with the government and other interested conservation parties.

CIVICUS Global Call to Action Project (Across Africa) – This group received a small grant to document six months of Poverty Hearings in 19 African countries and provide more in-depth support to a group of five sub-Saharan countries.  A brief but comprehensive report was developed to document the key learning, lessons, and analysis gathered from the poverty hearing process at national, regional, and global levels. One thousand copies of the report, published in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, were distributed to GCAP coalitions in Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, Asia, and North America.

Mission Shalom International (Senegal) – This is an Indigenous-led, community-based organization that was created by the local community to address their most urgent needs. Its mission is to raise awareness among the Indigenous Diola Peoples of the Casamance region and assist them in resisting eviction from their ancestral lands. The Diola have faced eviction and violent conflicts in their homelands over many years of conflict, which destroyed school systems, health care, and other community infrastructure. Many Diola harbored horrific memories of years plagued by internal war and violence, but the training provided through this grant helped the people to move forward with hope for their future and the communities to begin to reestablish themselves through joint community programs, which included farming, fishing, reconstruction, educational activities, and vocational trainings.

Native Solutions to Conservation Refugees (Kenya and Ethiopia) - With the help of the Global Justice Ecology Project, Native Solutions received a second grant in 2008 for Indigenous conservation and natural resource management programs in both Kenya and Ethiopia. The first grant to support the Mursi was used to help community representatives obtain necessary identification documents and passports to enable international travel. The remainder of the grant supported the logistical aspects of these endeavors and travel from Mursi territory to neighboring Kenya for an exchange visit with the Maasai, Samburu, and Rendille community conservancies. This visit was the first of its kind and allowed Mursi representatives to observe community conservation in Kenya and discuss how they are able to manage and cope with conservation on their territories. Because the Mursi are faced with the threat of two national parks claiming their territory, one government-sponsored, and one proposed by a large foundation, the Mursi challenge is two-fold in dealing with both government and non-government bodies. The Mursi live in relative isolation, and these meetings were crucial to help them gain support and learn from a larger network of Indigenous Peoples.

Environmental Research Mapping and Information Systems in Africa (Kenya) - The Sengwer are a hunter-gatherer community of approximately 5,000 people living in the Cherangany Sacred Forest in Kenya. The forest is the only remaining piece of their ancestral territory and they rely on it for their continued survival. Because the Sengwers’ ancestral land claims have been challenged and they have limited documentation to verify their claims, they fear eviction resulting in the decimation of their culture. The Sengwer worked together with ERMIS Africa to document their territory and prove Sengwer traditional ownership of their land. With this knowledge, the Sengwer staked official and indisputable claim to their territories and took crucial steps toward safeguarding their territories, culture, and common property. They generated a three-dimensional model of their ancestral areas. One hundred fifty youth and elders represented their clans in teams to complete the initial mapping. They shared the information in traditional Sengwer language among their community, development partners, and the government in a final report entitled “Sengwer Indigenous Minority People.” The report documented their territory, tenure, and traditions for use in advocacy, negotiations for customary tenure rights to land, co-management of the Sacred Forest, and revival of cultural traditions. Land is Indigenous Peoples’ most important and extensive asset. With maps, the Sengwer can definitively prove their tenure on their homelands and retain their lands and culture.

Maasai Women for Education and Economic Development (Kenya) - MAWEED is organized to support Maasai women’s efforts to participate in their own capacity building. The Keepers of the Earth Fund provided local and national-level training workshops on Indigenous rights, specifically for advancing the social, political, and cultural rights of Maasai women and girls. These workshops were intended to be a starting point for Indigenous communities to work together to ensure that the constitution of Kenya would reflect, protect, and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was First Peoples’ first gender-based project, and a unique model for empowering trainees to become teachers, creating a veritable network of Maasai women who are increasing their education and protecting Maasai culture in Kenya.

Koiyaki Guiding School and Wilderness Camp (Kenya) - This unique school is owned and managed by the Indigenous Maasai community and is located in a wildlife-rich region adjacent to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The Koiyaki Guiding School used funding from Keepers of the Earth to implement a culturally appropriate safari guide curriculum that would equip local Maasai people with skills necessary for their full participation in the conservation and management of wildlife. Maasai youth are trained to staff highly competitive positions at local tourist camps, where a majority of staff are outsiders lacking traditional knowledge about environment and conservation in the region. The Koiyaki Guiding School and Wilderness Camp teaches a sustainable business model that directly benefits the Maasai community affording them independence from others while protecting Maasai land and local flora and fauna.

Mara Widows Development Group (Tanzania) - This group works for and with Indigenous Peoples in rural areas to improve their social and economic well-being, particularly women and children, through social and economic empowerment. The group seeks to revive traditional conservation practices. These practices include pruning trees instead of cutting them, protecting large trees that provide shade for gatherings or habitat for bees and beehive placement, and preventing herds from grazing in protected areas where the community wants trees to grow. Furthermore, some forests cannot be cut because the Wagimba, or rainmakers, conduct cultural activities there to make rain. Anyone who has an open wound, is menstruating, or recently gave birth is not allowed to fetch water from wells. With Keepers of the Earth funding, the Mara Widows Development Group sponsored learning exchanges to share best practices and support Indigenous communities in traditional land and natural resource management.

Volunteers for Development Association (Uganda) – This group’s practice of looking at culture as a tool for development in Uganda is used to empower Indigenous communities by restoring traditional practices and cultural values to their communities. Working in the Mukono District, VODA taught girls who had dropped out of school a craft that would generate income. The girls were trained by elders to make shopping bags out of palm trees and bark cloth, both local sustainably grown materials, to reduce pollution from plastic bags. This program directly responds to Uganda’s widespread problem of environmental degradation. In addition, elders participated in revitalizing the traditional Kojja (Maternal Uncle) and Senga (Paternal Aunt) systems for helping young adults manage reproductive health, gender roles, habits, socialization, pre-marital counseling, and education. Through the reestablishment of these systems, VODA helped several Indigenous communities to address common issues such as HIV/AIDS, early pregnancy, and addiction. More than 800 people participated in these two programs. Restoring traditional knowledge and cultural assets to the Indigenous community makes this grant an exact fit for Keepers of the Earth.

Union of Associations for Gorillas Conservation and Community Development in East DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) - The Batwa of the DRC have been evicted from their homelands, forced to live on the periphery as squatters enduring horrible conditions and second-rate citizen treatment. First Peoples previously helped the Batwa ensure their own survival so that they could work to regain rights and access to their homelands, with the ultimate goal of beginning local Indigenous conservation programs. The Batwa are a heavily discriminated minority group and they continue to struggle without access to their land. This follow-up grant supported 162 Batwa households by providing basic food support and large containers to carry and transport water.

Lower Zambezi Conservation Trust (Zambia) - Through the Chiawa Leaseholders Association, this organization completed a first-of-its-kind protected farming project in the Chiawa community as a model in Zambia. The Goha Goha Peoples in the Lower Zambezi region have largely been ignored by development, and many community members hesitated to venture forward with yet another development project. The community offered their hard work to clear the land, providing sweat equity in exchange for a share in farm ownership, and for the first time, their labor was honored with the promised reward. The shareholders worked on the farm selling locally grown produce and other goods to local lodges that imported all fresh goods for an exorbitant cost. Additionally, fences were installed to reduce the risk of human and animal conflict in an area where elephants and other large animals often consumed crops before they grew to fruition. The 10-acre farm employed sustainable methods such as hydroponic growing and using compost-rich soil. Although beyond the one-year grant period, the total annual revenue was expected to reach $60,000-$100,000 per year after the initial 18-month start-up period. This farm is a model for production and the possibility that lies within the Chiawa community. Increased economic empowerment in the Chiawa community reduced poaching activities in the region and allowed the community to help provide for the needs of their families, conserve resources, protect the land against further degradation, create jobs, and provide education.

The Komku Trust (Botswana) - Komku Trust aims to redress and reverse the evictions of San Peoples following the 2004 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings and works to enable the San of the Central Kalahari Game reserve (CKGR) to take part in nature conservation, income-generating activities, advocacy, cultural preservation, and negotiations about land tenure and access to resources. With funding and technical assistance from First Peoples Worldwide, the Komku Trust carried out numerous trainings and advocacy projects, and increased local and national networking and awareness among the San people and support organizations. Through negotiations with the government and other stakeholders Komku worked to draft and put into practice an agreement to allow the San to participate in nature conservation projects and access traditional assets in the CKGR. 


Karen Human Rights Group (Burma) - Continuing the work supported in a previous grant, the Karen Human Rights group continued with its Village Agency project, reporting not only the abuse suffered by villagers in Burma, but also their responses and resistance against abuses and control by powerful groups. The Village Agency project enabled Karen villagers to resist being treated as helpless victims and alienation from political negotiations. (See 2007 grants for more details.)

Samata (India) - The Adivasis are the “original inhabitants” of India. Like other Indigenous Peoples, they struggle to lay claim to their land and resources. In this grant, Adivasis worked with Samata in the Andhra Pradesh state where traditional farming and forest-resource-based livelihoods are still practiced. Comprised of many small tribal groups, the Adivasi community has a limited voice in Indian society and is often overlooked by larger players. Samata is a grassroots Indigenous Peoples’ rights organization run and managed by the Adivasi Peoples with the mission of advocating for the land and natural resource rights of their people. Because the Adivasi have long been denied their rights to obtain legal entitlements to their lands as outlined in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act of 2006, Samata hosted capacity-building workshops to ensure that the Adivasi Peoples understand their rights and receive legal title to land while avoiding threats of eviction or criminal trials. At a state level, Samata worked with advocacy organizations to highlight problems in the Scheduled Tribes Act that hinder advancement of the rights of Adivasi Peoples, and conducted trainings in four areas to map 50 Adivasi villages in the Andhra Pradesh state.

Human Resources Development Organization (HURDO) (Bangladesh) - HURDO works to restore the traditional livelihood practices of hunting, gathering, livestock herding, and crop growing to the Mandi People of Modhupur. Until the 1980s, the Mandi People held claim to their land in the Modhupur region, but toward the middle of the decade, suddenly their rights were denied, and the Mandi were told their land was turned over to the government’s Forest Department as forest land without any consultation. Following the change in land titles, the Mandi people were evicted from their land, and forced to live on the perimeter as legal squatters. After false accusations of illegal wood cutting, trespassing, and other offenses, HURDO was inspired to seek the legal recognition of Mandi Peoples’ land, livelihoods, and rights as forest dwellers while mitigating the conflict between the Mandi Peoples and the Forest Department. HURDO held two workshops for 150 Mandi people to involve them in local conservation initiatives and train women in rearing livestock.

Mirror Foundation of Thailand (Thailand) - The Mlabri tribe, also known as the Yellow Leaf People, live in Thailand and Laos. Formerly living a nomadic lifestyle deep in the jungle, they were rarely seen, but quickly identified by the yellowed banana leaves they used to create temporary shelters. Due to an increase in agriculture and logging, the traditional land of the Mlabri people was reduced so extensively that there was not enough jungle remaining to support their traditional lifestyle, forcing them to work as farm laborers and be exploited by tourism.  Between 180 and 200 of the estimated 300-400 remaining Mlabri people worked with the Mirror Foundation to construct a museum to give a focal point to keeping their culture alive and celebrated. The purpose of the museum was twofold; to celebrate the people and provide a beneficial alternative to exploitative tourism. This project included plans for the Mlabri people to begin running their own tourism operation. With the start of their museum at Baan Huay Yuok the Mlabri also hoped to found a stationary village for their people. Community development and training for women and future leaders ensures that the Mlabri will be able to control their own destiny in a way that they deem to be culturally appropriate as they move forward.


Cordillera Peoples Alliance (Philippines) –With this grant, the Binongan Indigenous Peoples hosted the 24th Annual Cordillera Day, a grassroots gathering to facilitate knowledge exchanges, build capacity, and celebrate culture and solidarity among all Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines’ Cordillera region. The celebration served to promote the collective assertion of Indigenous ancestral rights in the region and carry these into the future. During the three days, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was shared with attendees to promote the understanding of Indigenous rights. This celebration and the learning it encompassed are very important for Indigenous Peoples in protecting their inherent rights to culture and assets, particularly from extractive industries.

Philippine Association for Intercultural Development, Inc. (PAFID) (Philippines) - This group supports the Community-Based Participatory Geographic Information System (PGIS) Research in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Over the course of the grant period, 17 Indigenous villages mapped their territories to determine how the region has been affected by proposed exploration and mining operations. This mapping project was an exciting opportunity for communities to collect valuable data about their assets. Community members actively engaged in PGIS to create accurate geographic records of the extent and coverage of mining operations. PAFID provided technical assistance in each of 17 villages so that the community could undergo the mapping process and further use the information to enter informed discussions about the exploration activities in the region. The information generated was vital to the Indigenous community because there was almost no current data on land use, tenure, and vegetation cover. The Indigenous communities rely heavily on citrus cultivation and if this is diminished by mineral exploration, Indigenous communities would be adversely impacted.


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