Welcome to the First Peoples Worldwide Blog. First Peoples is the first and only Indigenous-led organization working to restore Indigenous Peoples’ control and authority over their assets by making grants directly to Indigenous communities, and by engaging directly with corporations and investors to promote Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. Our Mission is to build upon a foundation of Indigenous values to achieve a sustainable future for all. Visit our main site at www.FirstPeoples.org for more information about our grants and how to apply.

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“Connection of Compassion” Tribes and Natures Defenders

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By: Katie Redmiles| First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

Tribes and Natures Defenders joined forces with the Higaonon and Manobo Tribes to raise their people up from oppression wrought by government mistreatment and by severe devastation caused by natural disasters. The community is located at the center of the mountains of Sagayan and Tambulan on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The land is vital to their survival — their lives and livelihoods that sustain them through farming, and for their protection against the sometimes harsh destruction from natural occurrences. Yet, without any dialogue or consent, the government executed numerous extractive mining and logging activities resulting in gross deforestation. Not only does the environmental damage affect the community’s ability to survive on their ancestral lands, but it also erodes their traditions and culture.

On November 8, 2013 disaster struck. Typhoon Yolanda killed 5,924 people, with 1,779 reported missing, and environmental damage that left survivors fighting for their lives. UN relief and aid provided by many countries never reached the mountain communities and left them with no food and no permanent source of income. Mountains denuded by mining and logging activities amplified the effects of the typhoon, resulting in massive landslides and soil erosion, and making farming land unusable.

Yet what remains undamaged is the tribes’ unfaltering hope for their communities and people, their hopes for a sustainable life again manifested into the project named “farming recovery towards food security of the typhoon affected Indigenous communities for cultural survival.” The tribal elders believed that help would come; that the cry for compassion would be heard. Elder Eladio Sangcoan said, “I believe that the sun is still rising to shine its radiant of hope for us. Only those kind people who felt the connection of compassion will hear us as the tribe of the mountains and do not lose hope and just wait for the right time.”

Tribes and Natures Defenders mobilized resources for the tribes and garnered support and funding from organizations such as First Peoples Worldwide. Having started in September 2014, the farming recovery project is well underway and gives the communities hope for the tribes’ futures.

The Higaonon and Manobo tribes alongside TRINAD are a true testament to the revitalizing empowerment produced by unyielding hope.


Reducing Illegal Resource Development

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Law enforcement agencies and Indigenous Peoples in Pará, Brazil have entered a partnership to stop illegal logging in the Amazon. Under the agreement, communities use their knowledge of the land to guide police officers to remote illegal logging camps on or near their territories. So far, the collaboration has shutdown numerous operations, yielded 24 arrest warrants, and shed light on one of the largest illegal logging networks in the Amazon.

Illegal resource development is sometimes perpetuated by licensed corporate activities in close proximity, which create infrastructure and market access for illegal resource development to thrive. Companies might consider this model to reduce illegal resource development in areas where they do business.

Sources: Ecosystem Marketplace


US Government Publishes Human Trafficking Data

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In July 2016, the State Department published its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which rates governments on their efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking in their countries. The report can serve as a resource for companies to use when assessing Country Risk, since human trafficking is one of the worst social impacts tied to many industries. However, some of its findings may be misleading.

For example, Canada and the US received the best ratings possible despite the widespread connection between resource extraction and human trafficking in both countries. Additionally, the report improved the ratings for the Philippines and Thailand, two countries with thriving sex industries and well-known problems with forced labor. Some human trafficking watchdog groups allege that politics played a role in the scoring, since both countries are key US allies.

When companies research social indicators, they should reconcile government statistics with those provided by credible NGOs and other third parties to ensure accuracy and identify loopholes. Additionally, companies should ensure that data specific to vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous Peoples, it not subsumed within countrywide data.

Sources: Huffington Post, Reuters, Trafficked Report, Trafficking in Persons Report


Avoiding Human Rights Checklists

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An article in the Foley Hoag CSR and the Law blog provides guidance on how companies can avoid turning human rights due diligence into checklist exercises that fail to yield good practice on the ground. The article suggests that human rights information, instead of being compiled into a single report once a year, should be up to date and tailored to appropriate internal audiences. For example, data needed by managers overseeing supply chain risks may be different from data needed by managers responsible for public disclosure.

The article also advises companies to steer clear from assigning the task of human rights due diligence to a single individual. Instead they should ensure the “right people across the company feel ownership over and responsibility for the management of human rights considerations.”

Sources: Foley Hoag


Saving the Tuuli: The Sain Tus Center’s Program to Save a History

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By: Hannah Stack  | First Peoples Worldwide Communications

For the Uriankhai tribe of Duut Sum, Mongolia, the spread of majority culture and modernism

has placed a great strain on several established traditions. Just over 40 miles from Khovd City,

the community increasingly feels the negative influence of urban factors. For one particular

tradition, the Tuuli, this outside influence serves as a constant threat to its preservation.

Regarded as a living encyclopedia of Mongolian history and traditions, the Tuuli comprises a

series of epics that recount tales of the past eight centuries. Performed with the musical

accompaniment of the Tovshuur, a type of Mongolian lute, each epic contains hundreds to

thousands of lines and reflects benedictions, eulogies, spells, idiomatic phrases, fairy tales, myths

and folk songs. Yet with no written copy of their lyrics in existence, the lengthy epics must be

recited and performed orally, and singers must rely on exceptional memorization skills to

perform successfully.

The Tuuli has long been an integral part of the Uriankhai culture, but modern factors –such as

increased globalization and the dying usage of the Uriankhai dialect– combined with the

complexity of the Tuuli memorization process, have placed the songs on the brink of extinction.

Today, only three individuals in all of Mongolia can recite the epics, and the tradition is at an

ever increasing risk of being lost forever.

While a 2009 UNESCO designation as “in urgent need of safeguarding” has brought more

attention to the issue, much must still be done if the tradition is to be revived. With this in mind,

the Sain Tus Center, a non-governmental organization that seeks to empower disadvantaged

groups in Western Mongolia, is working to help the Uriankhai people.

With a grant from First Peoples Worldwide Keepers of the Earth Fund, the Sain Tus Center has

created a new initiative aimed at preserving and reviving the long-standing Tuuli tradition.

Through the creation of a documentary and the filming of a television interview based on the

Uriankhai tribe, the organization is working to arouse widespread interest and awareness.

Moreover, through the formation of a Tulli class for Uriankhai youth, the organization seeks to

perpetuate the tradition throughout the Duut Sum community. The class, intended to educate its

secondary school aged students in both the Uriankhai dialect and the epics, will be taught by one

of the three remaining Tuuli performers. While success will not come overnight, the Sain Tus

Center hopes that, through this multifaceted initiative, new life can be given to the Tuuli



“Go UNESCO: Mongolian Tuuli”

< http://www.gounesco.com/mongolian-tuuli/>

“UNESCO: Mongol Tuuli”

< http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/USL/00310>


Rights, Sovereignty and Self-Determination: the Continued Work of the International Indian Treaty Council

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By: Hannah Stack  | First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

“Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as

individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter

of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international

human rights law.”

Article 1, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007

Even before the UN adopted its historic declaration regarding Indigenous rights, the International

Indian Treaty Council (IITC), founded 1974, was campaigning for the increased protection of

Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination and human rights. The organization, originally

established in response to generations of treaty violations committed by the United States

government, was created as a way to resist the oppression occasioned by discriminating majority

powers. Internationally renowned, the IITC has been granted General Consultative Status by the

United Nation’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for its long-standing promotion of

Indigenous participation within the UN. Today, the organization continues to support and defend

Indigenous rights worldwide and to enable greater Indigenous participation at both the local and

international level, by means of publications, training programs and support for grassroots


With a grant provided by First Peoples Worldwide through the Keepers of the Earth Fund, the

IITC is reinforcing its mission by means of a workshop-based Leadership Development Program

centered on human rights. This regional program, already a great success in other parts of the

world, is based in Central Mexico and provides training for 25 to 30 community and organization

leaders from the country. Both educational and empowering in nature, it strengthens participants’

knowledge of the human rights guaranteed them by the UN Declaration on the Rights of

Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and by other international decrees. While the Declaration is a

source of empowerment in its own right, it stands to accomplish much more when the individuals

it represents have a thorough understanding of its ideas and assurances. Through participation in

this training program, individuals are given the tools and capacity to address prominent political

issues and challenge acts of government mistreatment on a legal basis. Through the program’s

promotion of increased native participation within international bodies that affect Indigenous

rights, lifestyles, and survival, the organization seeks to advance international standards and

uphold established rights.


“International Indian Treaty Council”


“United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Declaration on the Rights of

Indigenous Peoples”



Hui Mālama I Nā Kūpuna O Hawai‘i Nei Repatriate Ancestors to Restore Balance to Native Homelands

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By: Hannah Stack  | First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

Na makou e malama i na iwi o ko makou kupuna

Nana mo`o e malama i kou makou iwi

A ho`omau ka lokahi o kakou

We will care for the bones of our ancestors

Our children will care for our bones

As we continue this interdependency.

For Native Hawaiians, – or ‘Ōiwi as they refer to themselves – honoring the remains of ancestors

who have walked on is a long-standing tradition. Through proper burial procedures, they believe

that the spiritual essence – or “mana” – contained in the bones of the deceased can be preserved

and imparted to the living. In turn, the living then assume the responsibility of protecting their

family burial plots and spiritual essence. In this manner, a system of interdependence is created

between ancestors and their living descendants: while the ancestors protect and empower the

living, the living care for the remains and integrity of the ancestors.

Despite the importance and sanctity of proper funerary practices, several Hawaiian burial

grounds have been desecrated over the years due to archeological digs and land excavations for

property developments. As an even greater disruption to the sacred system of interdependence,

many of the unearthed remains have been removed from their homeland and relocated to

museum displays around the world. Greatly disturbed by this disregard for their culture and

religion, Hawaiian natives founded Hui Mālama I Nā Kūpuna O Hawai‘i Nei, a non-profit

organization that works globally to repatriate and rebury skeletal remains and funerary materials.

In this manner the organization ensures that proper care is given to sacred ancestral bones.

Over the past decade and a half, Hui Mālama I Nā Kūpuna O Hawai‘i Nei has been working

with the Oxford University, Museum of Natural History (England) to identify and repatriate

Hawaiian ancestral remains. In 2010, the organization identified four skulls among the Oxford

collection, three of which were later determined to be of Hawaiian heritage. With the help of two

Keepers of the Earth Fund grants from First Peoples Worldwide, the organization was able to

secure the three skulls from the museum and return them to their native homeland. Upon their

arrival, a prompt ceremonial burial was conducted for the remains, finally allowing the deceased

to be once again laid to rest. Through these efforts, Hui Mālama I Nā Kūpuna O Hawai‘i Nei has

been able to honor Hawaiian ancestors and ensure the perpetuation of interdependence.


Ayau, Edward Halealoha. “Rooted in Native Soil.” Hui Malama I Na Kupuna ‘O Hawai’i.


Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii.


“Native Burials: Human Rights And Sacred Bones.” Cultural Survival.




The Importance of Inclusiveness

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The proposed Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal is causing rifts within the Lax Kw’alaams Band in British Columbia. Last year, the community made headlines by unanimously rejecting a $1.2 billion benefits package offered by Petronas, the main company behind the terminal. Since then, a new chief has been elected who supports the terminal, on the condition that an environmental oversight committee is established. Meanwhile, two separate groups of hereditary leaders have taken a stance, one in favor of the terminal and the other against it.

One of the most damaging, yet overlooked, social impacts of resource extraction is the divisiveness that emerges when different factions have different development visions. Mapping the full range of community leadership at the start of engagement can help companies ensure an inclusive approach.

Sources: Globe and Mail, Indian Country Today


Fighting Relocation with Mapping: DITSHWANELO’s Initiative for the Basarwa/San Peoples

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By: Hannah Stack  | First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

For the Basarwa/San Indigenous People living on the Central Kalahari Game Reseerve (CKGR)

within Botswana, culture and lifestyle have been threatened in the name of conservation. For the

group, which relies heavily on hunting and gathering for sustenance, a hunting ban has declared

its sustainable practices to be “poaching” in the eyes of the law. While diamond mining persists

within the reserve, the government has chosen to evict the Indigenous Peoples from their land,

declaring their practices to be inconsistent with the conservational intent. Despite a 2006 court

ruling proclaiming the relocation of the Basarwa/San unconstitutional, the government has not

ceased in its efforts, and has used hunger – through the perpetuation of the hunting ban and the

removal of smaller livestock– to keep the Indigenous Peoples off of their ancestral lands.

DITSHWANELO, or the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, is a human rights advocacy group

that has come to the aid of the Basarwa/San Peoples in their time of need. Founded in 1993, it

seeks to “affirm human dignity and equality irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual

orientation, social status or political convictions”. While the organization looks to be

comprehensive in its scope of work, special attention is given to particularly vulnerable groups –

such as the Basarwa/San– that are generally unsupported by other advocacy organizations.

Through education, research, counseling, and mediation, DITSHWANELO hopes to create a

society in which human rights are strongly reinforced and every citizen is equal before the law.

As a member of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve NGO Coalition, DITSHWANELO

maintains its human rights-based mission by working to alleviate the tensions between the

CKGR authorities and members of the Basarwa/San Indigenous group. With help from First

Peoples Worldwide’s Keeper of the Earth Fund, the organization has implemented an innovative

mapping project aimed at protecting the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Basarwa/San and

countering their forced migration from the CKGR area. Through the initiative, the first of its

kind for the region, DITSHWANELO is measuring land usage and creating a new plan for

sustainable management, one that will allow the CKGR authorities and the Indigenous group to

live in greater harmony. The project, which also seeks to determine alternate food sources within

the region, will support the Basarwa/San lifestyle by giving the natives a larger role in the

conservation process. Enabled to work with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in its

anti-poaching endeavors, the members of the Indigenous group will be able to protect their

native lands from the generally tourism-based hunting practices.

While the involuntary relocation of the Basarwa/San Indigenous Peoples has been detrimental to

the group’s traditional lifestyle, DITSHWANELO’s initiative is enabling the natives to reconnect

with their ancestral lands. Looking forward, the organization hopes its efforts will not only aid in

the cessation of the relocation movement, but also empowering the Indigenous Peoples with a

renewed sense of hope and steadfast resilience.



< http://www.ditshwanelo.org.bw/>

“Survival International: The Bushmen”



More Violence in Brazil

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In June 2016, gunmen attacked the Guarani Kaiowa Apika’y community in Brazil, killing one person and injuring six others. A few days before the incident, the community was given an eviction order from a judge, at the request of farmers who claim to own the land on which the community resides. The community refused to leave, claiming they had been promised the land. The violence is likely related to the conflict between the two groups.

Given Brazil’s history of conflicting land policies, it is likely that both the farmers and the community were promised the land at some point. The frequency of these events led Global Witness to rank Brazil as the deadliest country for environmental and human rights defenders, with 50 murders in 2015. Many of the attacks towards Indigenous Peoples are tied to the agriculture sector.

Sources: Indian Country Today, Reuters, Global Witness