Posts Tagged ‘First Peoples Worldwide’


ANNONCE DE FINANCEMENT: Gardiens de la Terre Auto-gouvernance et d’initiative FPIC

First Peoples Worldwide (First Peoples) est heureuse d’annoncer sa nouvelle initiative de auto-gouvernance et le Consentement Préalable, Libre, et Éclairé (CPLE), une possibilité de financement pour créer ou renforcer le dialogue entre les communautés et les entreprises autochtones existantes en matière de droits autochtones et ressources.

La période coloniale a provoqué de profondes blessures parmi les communautés autochtones; les colons qui cherchaient profiter des atouts riches, utilisaient par les peuples autochtones, systématiquement dépouillaient leur terrain, leur culture, et leurs droits d’eux.

Displaced Maasai. [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Displaced Maasai. [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Depuis lors, les communautés autochtones font face au défi et doivent surmonter la crainte de s’exprimer et d’être entendu pour mettre fin à ce mépris flagrant de leurs droits de l’homme.

En 2007, les Nations Unis ont adopté la Déclaration des Nations Unis sur les Droits des Peuples Autochtones (la Déclaration) et a été ratifiée par 143 pays qui donc établissent une norme mondiale pour le traitement des peuples autochtones.

Cette déclaration vitale, mais pas juridiquement contraignant, aiderait à garantir les droits des peuples autochtones au niveau mondial, et le CPLE, qui fait partie de la Déclaration, a été utilisé comme les lignes directrices informelles permettra les communautés autochtones d’approcher leur objectif de garantir l’auto-gouvernance.

L’objectif principal de l’auto-gouvernance et d’initiative CPLE est d’habiliter communautés autochtones d’utiliser leurs connaissances et de gouvernance traditionnels structures, les processus décisionnels, et des alliances avec d’autres communautés, à développer des approches stratégiques de travailler avec les entreprise empiéter sur leurs terres et leurs moyens de la vie.

Afin de promouvoir davantage le développement de la politique CPLE, cette initiative permettra de renforcer l’organisation autochtone de la communauté, la capacité de formulation de la politique, et les efforts de communication avec les gouverneurs ou les autorités de l’entreprise.

Grâce à ses Gardiens de la Terre programme de petites subventions et de fonds, les peuples autochtones favorise l’auto-gouvernance et la capacité autochtone d’exercer CPLE. Les demandes de subvention seront acceptées sur une base mensuelle jusqu’au 31 Octobre, chaque année.

Pour les lignes directrices et les demandes de subvention, s’il vous plaît visitez le site Web des First Peoples ( ou contacter

To apply for the grant, please visit:


FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT: Keepers of the Earth Fund Self-Governance and FPIC Initiative

[photo credit: Dzomo la Mupo]

First Peoples Worldwide (First Peoples) is pleased to announce its new Self-Governance and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) initiative, a funding opportunity to create or strengthen existing dialogue between Indigenous communities and corporations with respect to Indigenous rights and resources. The colonial period left Indigenous communities deeply scarred; their land, culture, and rights were systematically stripped away by colonists looking to profit from the rich assets utilized by Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples have struggled in the modern world to have their rights and traditional cultures acknowledged by their respective governments, countries, and the world at large. Now, Indigenous Peoples are speaking up to stop this blatant disregard for their rights, and they are being heard.

In 2007, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration), which has since been ratified by 143 countries and sets a global standard for the treatment of Indigenous Peoples. This vital, though not legally binding, declaration is helping to secure Indigenous rights worldwide, and FPIC, which is part of the Declaration, acts as an informal guideline to bringing Indigenous communities closer to securing self-governance.

The primary purpose of the Self-Governance and FPIC initiative is to empower Indigenous communities to use their traditional knowledge and governance structures, decision-making processes, and alliances with other communities, to develop strategic approaches to working with corporations encroaching on their lands and ways of life. To further promote FPIC policy development, this initiative will strengthen Indigenous community organizing, capacity in policy formulation, and communication efforts with governing or corporate authorities.

Through its Keepers of the Earth small grants program and fund, First Peoples promotes Indigenous self-governance and capacity to exercise FPIC. Grant applications will be accepted on a monthly basis through October 31st, annually.

For guidelines and grant applications, please visit First Peoples website ( or contact

To apply for the grant, please visit:


Indigenous Workshop: “Shareholder Advocacy & Leadership Training”

First Peoples Worldwide will hold a “Shareholder Advocacy and Leadership Training” Workshop for Indigenous Peoples facing corporate development at this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Please see the flyer below for details, and we hope you can join us!

Unfortunately, First Peoples Worldwide is unable to provide travel expenses or travel document assistance for this event.

UNPFII Leadership Workshop Invite


Introducing FPW’s Indigenous Leadership Regional Network Program!

Indigenous Leadership Regional Network (1)

Indigenous leadership has its own unique cultural context. Indigenous leaders often arise out of necessity rather than by election or a sense of personal ambition. Leadership itself is a collective effort in Indigenous communities, a cumulative gathering of wisdom and experience in deference to the greater good. This lack of formal structure builds trust and solidarity within a community, but it does not necessarily cultivate bonds between leaders in one community and those in another – the Indigenous movement is made up of thousands of grassroots efforts acting in relative isolation. In an increasingly globalized world, with large-scale problems such as climate change and the spread of international industries, Indigenous leaders need community beyond their communities.

To begin to identify and bring these Indigenous leaders together on a global and regional level, First Peoples Worldwide is excited to announce the launch of the Indigenous Leaders Regional Network Program, an initiative to enhance and amplify cultural leadership through trainings, shareholder advocacy, and network building.

The Indigenous Leadership Program will work to cultivate a globally connected Indigenous leadership network through training on social media and a new online networking platform for Indigenous Leaders: the Celebrating Indigenous Leaders: Knowledge and Wisdom Facebook group. Celebrating Indigenous Leaders is a place for Indigenous leaders across the globe to share information about their communities, challenges they face as Indigenous leaders, and development solutions that are working in their region.

On a regional level, the Indigenous Leadership Program will help to build internal and external capacities of Indigenous organizations, through Shareholder Advocacy and Leadership Training Centers (SALT). Regional SALT Centers will serve as platforms for determining leadership needs, sharing technical assistance, and building regional networks among Indigenous Leaders. First Peoples Worldwide will establish SALT Centers in Argentina, Mexico, and Canada, and will hold the first shareholder advocacy and leadership workshop at the 2015 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 25, 2015.

Through establishing robust regional and global networks among Indigenous organizations in the Americas, the Indigenous Leadership Regional Network Program will begin to amplify the voices of local and regional Indigenous leaders, and provide them a space for growth and development.



How We Make Progress, How We Have Change: Rebecca Adamson

Reposted from the Cultural Survival Quarterly

By Agnes Portalewska


Her voice reflects her passion. Her work reflects her commitment. Her legacy is an inspiration for many. Rebecca Adamson (Cherokee) is a businessperson and Indigenous rights advocate. She is the former director, president, and founder of First Nations Development Institute and the founder of First Peoples Worldwide. Born to a Swedish-American father and a Cherokee mother, Adamson grew up in Akron, Ohio and spent summers with her Cherokee grandmother in North Carolina. Reflecting on these early years, she says, “My journey and my vision has been driven by knowing we could solve our own problems and really wanting to listen to the ways our cultures helped us and supported our problem solving.”

Early in her career Adamson was hired by the coalition of five Indian Controlled Schools in the country. As she tells it, “the schools sued [then-President] Nixon to release the Title IV Indian Education funds. Title IV provided funds for parental involvement, among other things.” With the release of that money, the Coalition of Indian Controlled Schools were able to help tribes start their own schools. “All of this dovetailed into the Indian Education Self Determination Act. After they won and then they hired me, and I got to work in our communities, and it was amazing.” She also worked to get the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 passed, giving tribes authority for how they administered the funds.

Adamson’s background was in philosophy, a field she entered with “an undying belief that as Indigenous Peoples, we needed our own models. People constantly look at our systems and they talk about them being quaint. We get pushed back on two things: one is that the principles that I call ‘fundamental design principles’ are called romantic notions in Western thinking. But then they get caught up thinking that we’re saying individual Indians are better than individual Westerners. Both of those are just wrong. We [have] built systems that actually incentivize the good behavior.”

Later, as she pursued a graduate degree in economics and “began really looking into the finances of it,” she says, “what really hit me was how all the models that we were taking out into our communities carried Western values—they weren’t our values. So I thought if we had a development process that really listened and brought the technical and the resources together with the brilliant thinking and problemsolving of Indigenous peoples, we would get new models.” This is how the idea for First Nations Development Institute was born in 1980.

Initially, the primary purpose of First Nations Development Institute was to create a development process for Native people to do their own problem solving. The Institute created the land consolidation model, the tribal investment model, marketing, arts, food sovereignty, traditional food processes, agriculture, and the first micro-loan fund in the United States. The first 15 years were devoted to exploring Indigenous economics domestically, and the Institute began global outreach in 1994. Their first international field project grew into First Peoples Worldwide.

Since 2007, First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund has awarded nearly $1.5 million to Indigenous communities around the world representing 427 Indigenous groups in 53 countries. “Making that international transition has been extremely rewarding,” Adamson says. “It is magnitudes more difficult, more violent, and more discriminatory internationally, with what other Indigenous groups are facing. The grants are really what bring the energy and excitement and the heartbeat into our work.” She adds that the fund has supported projects that are “really struggling in dealing with huge global corporations and the pressure of being surrounded by the extractive industries and the governments that want the resources. In those cases we may be the only funder out there that is funding our communities to make their own decisions. One-third of our grantmaking portfolio had never had funding before. So we’re building those links back up to national and international groups so that we build that political machinery, bit by bit.”

For Adamson, getting corporations and governments to respect Indigenous rights requires a multipronged approach. “In the long run I think the activist groups keep the heat on. Social media has absolutely been bringing attention to it. If corporations want to manage by headlines, we’ve got to get them headlines. The activist groups are doing good work on that. Legal and rights groups are trying to get legal precedents set. What hasn’t really been approached in all this is the market. That’s why First Peoples Worldwide did the Indigenous Rights Risk Report (see page 14), to try to get one more strategic tool out there that we could all use. I think it really will bring more power and augment what we’ve already got underway,” she says.

Forward progress, however, isn’t always linear: “We don’t have a silver bullet anywhere. We could win a court case and the government decides not to uphold it. We could win an activist and media campaign, and as soon as the headlines die down they turn around and do it again. We make progress and then we slide back. [But] that is how we make progress and that is how we have change. “

After concluding its risk assessment of US-based extractive companies, First Peoples Worldwide is now turning its attention to Canada; Adamson estimates that about 70 percent of the global equity capital financing oil, gas, and mining comes from the Canadian exchange. “What we hope to do is bring the Indigenous groups in areas where we’re researching together with the other groups in the areas we’ve already researched. That’s the idea, to really start sharing this information among ourselves,” she says.

To aid in this information sharing, First Peoples Worldwide is currently developing curriculum on shareholder advocacy and planning to organize Indigenous shareholder advocacy leadership training centers in Indigenous areas where resource extraction is rampant. “We are organizing these centers so that our people in those places have the accountability they need to really negotiate and control their destinies with these corporations and with the government,” she explains.

Getting resources and information to the grassroots is a must for Adamson. “Real successes have been primarily [achieved] by us, by Indigenous people. We’ve got thousands of grassroots groups out there, and we need to be able to link them with the international and national groups. We have an ability to build the political machinery globally that we need to achieve change. We need more local capacity. Funders right now tend to build somebody else’s capacity, to study us, to work for us, to be an intermediary with us, but never fund us.” She cites the adoption of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a prime example: “We saw hundreds of thousands of dollars going out to non-Indigenous groups to do FPIC studies. The Indigenous groups are the ones having to figure out how to implement it, and yet all of the resources went to other folks to study us in doing it.”

Adamson believes that Canada, at the epicenter of so many protests and recent controversies around FPIC and Indigenous rights, “is really the microcosm of all of this. What the First Nations have made [Prime Minister] Harper’s administration understand is they can stop his resource development agenda.” She also points to the Amazon region, which “has had the lowest bids on concessions in its history,” a cause she attributes directly to protests and work stoppages. “We can stop the production and the extraction of these resources and get heard, but it’s a path that could lead to violence, which in many cases has been a struggle for our lives,” she says.

As the First Peoples’ risk report illustrates, in-country risk is one of the biggest drivers of corporate risk. “Corporations want to go to where there’s the least risk, and if it’s working with us, we can be at the table directing the government to title our land, uphold our rights,” Adamson says. “We are finding out through the risk report that it’s good business when countries uphold Indigenous rights. My hope is that we can get the results into the market quicker; that we can prove that countries that want economic performance have to uphold our rights to get it, and companies that want profit have to uphold our rights to get the profit. We’ve got to get that message out more and more.”

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.


Indigenous Women as Development Practitioners: conducting equality-driven projects without sacrificing cultural significance

By Elizabeth Gunggoll

The encroachment of Western culture on Indigenous communities has posed a myriad of consequences for Indigenous peoples – Indigenous languages are increasingly endangered; western education is replacing traditional knowledge; youth are moving to urban areas in droves. What starts as marginalization of an entire community by the government or state can turn into a power struggle of the sexes. More often than not, Indigenous women find themselves losing the social status they traditionally held, to have it replaced by a role that gives them less influence in their household or community.

In this way, Indigenous women are marginalized twofold: one, as being Indigenous, along with the rest of their community, and two, as women. For example, non-Indigenous women across Africa lack rights to inheritance, property/livestock ownership, and land tenure. The same lack of rights for Indigenous women, paired with ethnic and political marginalization that all Indigenous peoples face, predisposes them further to situations of poverty, gender-based violence, a lack of education, and other disadvantages.


Ma’an – The Forum for Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Negev

For the Negev Bedouin community in Israel, women have lost their traditional respected status and societal roles due to increased discrimination from the state, to the point where many Bedouin villages are considered “unrecognized”. This marginalization from the state gave rise to the marginalization of Bedouin women from their own community. Bedouin women face a multitude of gender-based challenges, including polygamy, domestic violence, child marriages, and a patriarchal family and community structure that has lasting consequences into adulthood. For Negev Bedouin women, their greatest limitation is a lack of both individual and community awareness of rights and entitlements. So the question is: what could be done to help Indigenous Bedouin women regain their autonomy, and restore their ability to trust others?

Ma’an – The Forum for Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Negev works to provide spiritual, emotional, and physical healing for Bedouin women who are or have been subjected to domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. In a community where seeking help is often discouraged, trust is developed between those reaching out for help and those lending “first aid”, by offering sympathy as well as practical solutions to their struggles. The fact that most of the volunteers are Bedouin women with similar experiences offers a degree of comfort to those seeking help, because “they themselves [face] the traditional and patriarchal codes.” With the help of First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund, Ma’an has created a comprehensive system for women’s protection, which involves a Hotline, the Ma’an legal team, and staff to address the welfare and wellbeing of Ma’an’s beneficiaries. Such an attentive project enables an environment where Indigenous Bedouin women can work toward their own security.

“With guidance and support the beneficiaries will develop to be able to effectively advocate for their rights within the community, so creating and contributing to an inclusive society by participating in decision making processes that impact upon their lives and that of the wider community.” – Ma’an– The Forum for Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Negev

Ultimately, Ma’an’s goal is for Indigenous Bedouin women to regain the respect, strong social footing, and economic capabilities they once held alongside their male counterparts. By promoting women’s rights and status in the Negev Bedouin community, the project will build on the community’s traditional values and strengths of respecting women’s roles.


Kakenya Center for Excellence

While some Indigenous women’s groups are trying to return to their traditional gender roles, others are looking to transcend traditional values in order to broaden their horizons. As a young girl growing up in a Maasai village, life is usually predetermined according to cultural traditions, and girls are expected to halt their schooling at a young age to become wives and mothers. Young Maasai women might not consider more prosperous and enlightening opportunities, simply because they aren’t aware of them. This cycle of marginalization is reinforced from one generation to the next, as a combination of doubting teachers and tribal elders “dictating [their] present and future without considering [their] social, financial, or emotional well-being”. So, while young Indigenous girls are essentially dissuaded from continuing their education in order to assume the role of the childrearing homemaker, they lose the opportunity to gain important insight into their rights.

This is where the Kakenya Center for Excellence, another Keepers of the Earth Fund recipient, comes into play. Kakenya Ntaiya, born and raised in the Maasai village of Enoosaen in south Kenya, diverged from the traditional path of women in her village to attend higher education in the United States. After completing her studies, she returned to Enoosaen to create a school which works to “empower and motivate young girls to become agents of change in their community and country.”

[photo credit: Kakenya Center for Excellence]

[photo credit: Kakenya Center for Excellence]

“Girls are a valuable part of the community, and since the entire community is connected and thrives when each individual thrives, it is important to invest in girls as crucial members and contributors of society rather than only wives and mothers.” – The Kakenya Center for Excellence

The center works to reinforce the fact that women are independent, and therefore capable of carving their own path, however it does so without sacrificing traditional Maasai values. To do this, KCE provides an environment where the girls can thrive. The teaching of leadership skills and the spreading of knowledge in order to make informed decisions about reproductive health forms a curriculum that not only empowers, but also enlightens. In the Maasai village of Enoosaen, as in many rural villages of Kenya, Female Genital Mutilation is a rite of passage into adulthood that also traditionally prepares them for marriage – however the procedure is extremely painful and often inflicts lasting physical damage to young girls. Instructors in the center let the girls know that FGM is not an obligation while also maintaining the spirit behind the ritual, and the ushering into adulthood it represents, through their own graduation ceremony. All in all, the Kakenya Center for Excellence demonstrates that it is indeed possible to hold on to cultural values while still developing one’s community in a direction of gender-equality.


Highland Women’s Association

Indigenous women living in microregions of Guatemala are confronted with similar challenges. The Maya population, making up much of the country’s rural poor, suffered genocide from the Guatemalan government during their civil war. In 1992, four years before the end of the war, AMA, or the Highland Women’s Association (Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano), started working with widows and orphans in the Quiche region, one of the most affected by the armed conflict. AMA’s goal was to help the most isolated and marginalized women living in the highlands of Guatemala through community organizing, educational instruction, utilization of economic resources and production, and partnership that allows for a life of dignity, while initiating sustainable developmental processes.

“The mission of AMA is to break cycles of dependency by providing accompaniment and support to grassroots community leaders to foster transformational processes with Indigenous women.” The transformational process, meaning lifting people out of poverty through social change and economic dependency, is facilitated through small organized women’s circles led by trained community organizers, often of Maya descent. Empowerment and leadership skills are developed through a curriculum organized around four focal areas: self-esteem and mental health programming, education, civic participation, and private enterprise.

Traditional Maya practices and values are not lost with the installation of these new programs.

“In our meetings, we try to harmonize the material aspects of our daily lives with our spiritual life through our Maya worldview taught to us by our grandparents.” Guadalupe Ramirez Blevins, Directora, Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano

This is in part a large reason for their success as a system of development practitioners. The Indigenous Maya women are able to regain pride and empowerment in their traditional values, as opposed to distancing themselves from the culture that sparked a civil war wishing to extinguish their existence.

AMA’s success has helped to re-instill freedom of expression among Maya women as more respect is being given to Indigenous Maya communities since the end of the civil war. Three generations starting from AMA’s founder, Doña Carmen Romero, her daughter Alejandra, and now her granddaughters Jesica and Yolanda are able to vouch for the success and empowerment that AMA has brought to Indigenous Maya women. They say that community organization is required for community development, for having a voice and power in community decision making, and also in order to inspire other women to be active among their own group of women – whether they are serving in their local school, community committees, or being an active member in their church.


Pastoral Women’s Council

Safeguarding cultural values while escaping gender inequality continues to be an important factor in other community development projects as well. The Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), based in Northern Tanzania, implements a variety of programs with this goal in mind. Not only does PWC work towards providing an education for Maasai girls, but it also lifts marginalized Maasai women out of poverty through exposure to property ownership and opportunities for income generation, while preserving an ancient Maasai practice of livestock herding.

[photo credit: Pastoral Women's Council]

[photo credit: Pastoral Women’s Council]

Aside from working with the Maa Council of Elders to lift the ban on women as livestock owners, exposure to women in leadership has had a great effect on the women of the Maasai community. Additionally, women are encouraged to openly discuss the positive and negative aspects of Maasai culture, to act on their findings, and to mobilize local efforts and resources. These factors, on top of increased awareness of their individual rights, caused Maasai women to finally feel empowered. The encouragement of such expression lets the Maasai women know they have a voice worth hearing, and everyone is capable of being an agent of change.

Since becoming a Keepers of the Earth Fund grantee, PWC has been able to undertake community meetings and gain community support, acquire and vaccinate livestock for Maasai women to breed, therefore facilitating economic independence, and train women on the diagnosis and treatment of livestock diseases.


All women, Indigenous or not, feel the effects of gender inequality on a daily basis. However, for women of Indigenous communities, the effects are often compounded by the unique marginalization of their Indigenous identity. As Western culture inevitably continues to influence more Indigenous nations, it is important to bring attention to and promote Indigenous values that value Indigenous women. Feelings of empowerment grow and thrive in programs where Indigenous women are sharing education and leadership with other women from their own communities, empowering them to be autonomous, independent members of society. There is still quite a bit of work to be done, yet more and more Indigenous women are living the lives of development practitioners, and being agents of change within their communities. As it becomes more evident that the entire community thrives when each individual is empowered, the reality of gender equality within Indigenous cultures comes more clearly into view.




Indigenous Rights Risk Report Quantifies Social Risks of Extractive Companies

Reposted from Cultural Survival, originally published December 15, 2014

By Madeline McGill

Further complications between extraction industries and Indigenous Peoples have been unveiled in a new report published by First Peoples Worldwide. The report, The Indigenous Rights Risk Report: How Violating Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Increases Industry Risks, found that U.S. extractive companies expose shareholders to tangible risks in neglecting the rights of the Nation’s Indigenous.

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

First Peoples’ Indigenous Rights Risk Report analyzes 370 oil, gas and mining sites on or near Indigenous land operated by 52 U.S.-based companies. The results are eye opening. 92% of these sites pose a medium to high risk to shareholders and investors. Yet only 5 companies have Indigenous Peoples policies to guide the company for how to positively engage and work with Indigenous Peoples. Co-written by Rebecca Adamson and Nick Pelosi, the report quantifies many of the social risks posed by extractive industries. Until now, such grievances have been difficult to prove, which has made it difficult to evaluate social risks.

“The push back on evaluating social risks, or at least as far as the conventional wisdom goes, is that there are no quantitative metrics,” said Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Peoples Worldwide and author of the report.  “Meaning, social risks are considered to be ‘intangibles’ a word the market uses to ignore whatever it does not want to have to deal with, such as the environment, is intangible. However, like the environment, we are seeing much more public pressure for corporations to be responsible for their footprints: planet and society. The funny thing about ‘intangibles’ is how much attention they are getting in the market nowadays.”

Now that attention is being granted to some of these issues, the next step is to incentivize companies to implement policy that recognizes these risks.

“Indigenous Peoples are securing unprecedented recognition of their rights from governments,” the report states. “But these impressive legal gains are matched with chronic gaps in implementation, especially as they relate to resource extraction.”

One of these gaps is the failure of many extraction companies to formally observe the land and human rights of Indigenous people. Adamson believes that these injustices can be addressed by holding companies accountable not only morally, but also economically.

“If you have bad credit you pay a higher interest rate,” Adamson said. “This is how the market works. So the idea behind the Risk Report is to quantify the risk companies encounter when they violate free prior informed consent and tie it to their cost of capital. That way a company that consistently violates Indigenous Rights will be rated riskier than one that upholds our rights, and therefore it will have to pay higher financing costs.”

This, she believes, will incentivize companies to take action in a way that local, national, and international governmental bodies have not been able to successfully achieve. The Indigenous Rights Risk Report hopefully will speak to profit-based companies in a language they more readily comprehend: their market value.

“I don’t have much faith in either the national or international political leadership,” said Adamson, “many of the countries are not implementing UNDRIP, courts are slow to rule and often rulings get ignored. The activists are raising awareness and public pressure is mounting. Social media has helped catapult the issue onto national and international attention but the end game for corporations is still about keeping your stock price up and there is no incentive to change yet.  No one strategy will solve it we have to continue to build on the legal successes, look for gaps and new strategies, and get more resources flowing directly to our communities. However, using market mechanisms is a crucial void this Report intends to fill.”

Currently, the report states, action is taken to address these social risks if and only if tangible negative consequences arise. This fire-alarm method of regulation, the report finds, is beneficial to neither party.

“These informational loopholes limit the financial sector’s ability to comprehensively manage social risks…” the report states. “In the absence of market incentives for proactively addressing social risks, companies are not prompted to do so until things go wrong, and social risks become social costs.”

The Indigenous Rights Risk Report serves to evaluate these risks both quantitatively and with respect to the most pressing human rights issues affecting Indigenous people.

Looking at 52 oil, gas, and mining companies listed on the Russell 1000 Index (a stock market index that represents the 1,000 largest publicly-held companies in the US), First Peoples Worldwide identified those which overlapped with Indigenous Peoples. From there, they used five risk indicators (Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management) to rate each company on a scale of low to high risk, indicated through numbers 1 through 5.

The findings, as expected, were not positive. 330 projects were assessed for risks associated with operating country, companies’ reputation, the engaged Indigenous community, legal action, and risk management. 35% of those projects had high-risk exposure, and 54% had medium-risk exposure.

The report found that a majority of companies were not exhibiting adequate efforts to establish positive relationships with Indigenous communities. 92% of companies surveyed did not address community relations or human rights at the board level in any formal capacity.

Many found to be at high levels of risk were both small and large companies alike. Companies such as Alpha Natural Resources and Southwestern Energy were found with risk scores of 100%. Companies with risk scores of 50% included names such as Chevron Corporation and Murphy Oil.

Adamson hopes that the report will garner the attention of some of these companies, who rely on intangible assets such as intellectual property, human and social capital, reputation and goodwill, and even risk management accounting for 80% in the valuation assessment of their stock.

It is the purpose of the report, Adamson explains, to link corporate accountability to Indigenous social costs such as overburdened roads and utilities, increased crime, housing shortages, and polluted waters.

“In the case of Indigenous social concerns there will be cultural practices, sacred sites, subsistence livelihoods — all crucial elements of the social costs we face when corporations come into our territories with or without our consent. By identifying and quantifying these impacts Indigenous Peoples are better informed to make decisions and set development agendas on their own terms. And corporations are better equipped to listen to those terms.”

However, the news is not all bad. There are corporations taking steps towards social awareness. Conoco Philips, Exxon Mobil, Freeport-McMoRan, and Newport Mining all had board committees with community relations or human rights in their mandates. Furthermore, Exxon Mobil has an active and independent external body to advise and evaluate its community relations or human rights performance. While larger companies such as Exxon may be more incentivized for these actions to avoid negative media exposure, they are a step in the right direction.

Adamson believes that with the unprecedented findings of the report and a more unified front, real change could be seen in the relationship between Indigenous people and extractive industries.

“Indigenous Peoples have the potential to set a major portion of the extractive industries agenda but we have to be so much more united and organized,” Adamson said. “The data we collected for the Risk Report was sometimes erratic and had gaps so we were unable to calculate what the total production and future reserves were for Indigenous lands. However, there was a pattern that ran close to 30 % of current production was coming from Indigenous lands and up to 60% of the future reserves were on Indigenous lands. This is HUGE. If we were more united we could harness the market forces and make sure it is no longer business as usual. United we could be sure we are all heard in the corporate boardroom whether the answer is NO to development or whether it is YES. Indigenous Peoples would be the ones determining the relationship they want to have with corporations.”

Read the Indigenous Rights Risks Report here.


Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about.


New Study Finds 94% Of US Companies Ignore Rural Community Impacts

Extractive Industries neglect community engagement policies, increasing vulnerability of world’s rural poor

Community Angle Graphic

Recent community backlash against the Keystone XL pipeline, Indigenous protests against oil and gas concession auctions in Ecuador and Peru, and violent resource conflicts in Indonesia have all exposed extractive companies’ poor community engagement practices – and companies are doing nothing about it. A recent study from First Peoples Worldwide found that only 6 percent of publicly-held US oil, gas and mining companies utilize adequate risk management tools when working with communities, making people in rural areas increasingly vulnerable to extractive projects’ negative social and environmental impacts, and exposing shareholders to financial loss.

According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, 85% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Simultaneously, rural areas are where extractive industries predominantly operate – and systematically ignore one of the most marginalized groups in the world. The Indigenous Rights Risk Report, a recent study released by First Peoples Worldwide at the 2014 SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, investigated 52 U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies with projects operating on or near Indigenous territories around the globe. While the report focused on Indigenous communities, it’s findings apply to all communities in which extractive industries operate – only 8% of companies had any policy that remotely addressed community relations or human rights.

The study examined 330 extractive projects, assessing companies’ risks based on five indicators: Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management. Companies’ community engagement risks were assessed in the Risk Management category, and were based on whether they had a board committee that addressed community relations or human rights, an advisory entity on community engagement, incentives for staff to pursue successful community relations, a public feedback mechanism, a formal agreement and consultation process with communities, whether they conduct Social Impact Assessments, and other indicators.

Only four companies (ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan, and Newmont Mining) had a board committee with community relations or human rights in its mandate, and among those, only Exxon Mobil has an active and independent external body to advise and evaluate its community relations or human rights performance. Most small extractive companies, including Alpha Natural Resources, Murphy Oil, and SM Energy, are doing virtually nothing to mitigate their impacts on rural communities, nor their risk to community opposition and inevitable profit-loss.

While larger extractive corporations like ExxonMobil and Chevron are incentivized to have community engagement policies to avoid negative media exposure (which they’ve experienced plenty of in the past), smaller companies attract minuscule (if any) scrutiny from the media and NGOs – giving them little reason to affect decent policies when working with rural communities. Companies are mitigating their risk exposure to negative social impact reactively rather than proactively, often in response to actual or potential threats to their reputation. This sends the message that communities need to “act up” in order for companies to address their concerns.

Extractive industries must start accounting for the communities in which they work, by implementing comprehensive policies that respect the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.

Click here to view the Press Release.

To view the full report, click here.

First Peoples Worldwide is an Indigenous-led organization that builds upon a foundation of Indigenous values and rights to achieve a sustainable future for all. Our Keepers of the Earth Fund provides grants directly to Indigenous-led development projects. Since 2007, we’ve given $1.7 million in grants to hundreds of Indigenous communities across 58 countries. Our corporate engagement program makes the business case for respecting and upholding Indigenous Peoples’ rights through vigilant monitoring of corporate practices, affecting policy change, and advocating best practices in Indigenous community engagement.


PRESS RELEASE: The Indigenous Rights Risk Report

November 10, 2014
Contact: Katie Cheney,


The Indigenous Rights Risk Report: How Violating Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Increases Industry Risks

New report finds that US extractive companies expose shareholders to risks by neglecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – On November 10, First Peoples Worldwide released the Indigenous Rights Risk Report at the SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, a product of two years of consultations with investment analysts, industry professionals, and Indigenous Peoples. The report analyzes 52 U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies with projects operating on or near Indigenous territories around the globe, impacting some 150 Indigenous communities. These projects were assessed against five indicators (Country Risk, Reputation Risk, Community Risk, Legal Risk, and Risk Management) to determine their risk of Indigenous community opposition or violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The report found that most of the U.S. extractive companies analyzed are poorly positioned to manage the risks they face when working on Indigenous lands. Furthermore, the Report shows that poor governance and negligible policies for Indigenous peoples in host countries is bad for business. Nearly 60% of all projects operating in high-risk countries were rated as high risks themselves. You can read the full report at

When analyzing risks associated with the operating country, companies’ reputation, the engaged Indigenous community, legal action, and risk management, the report found that 35% of the 330 projects assessed had high risk exposure, and 54% had medium risk exposure. Despite these risks, the vast majority of companies and projects are exhibiting suboptimal efforts to establish positive relations with Indigenous communities, and 92% of the companies assessed do not address community relations or human rights at their board level in any formal capacity. Companies with high risk scores at 100% of their projects on or near Indigenous territories were Alpha Natural Resources, Kosmos Energy, Southwestern Energy, and Whiting Petroleum. Other companies with high risk scores at 50% or more of their projects on or near Indigenous territories were Anadarko Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, Continental Resources, Murphy Oil, Royal Gold, SM Energy, Southern Copper, and WPX Energy. A searchable database of the 330 oil, gas, and mining projects assessed under the new methodology is available on First Peoples’ website at

FPW also analyzed risks associated with Indigenous recognition by host governments, land rights, and community consultation, demonstrating how resource-rich countries’ negligible or non-existent policies towards Indigenous peoples affect the companies that work within their borders. This is becoming increasingly evident in Canada, Indonesia, Ecuador, Peru, and other emerging resource economies. In 2013, a consortium of Canadian leaders (including industry representatives) warned that Canada is “heading for a gridlock in energy development that will rob the country of future wealth unless it can solve vexing environmental and Aboriginal conflicts.” Indonesia has become saturated with violent resource conflicts, with more than 2,230 Indigenous communities requesting investigations into violations of their land rights. Also in 2013, auctions for oil and gas concessions in Ecuador and Peru encountered both vehement opposition from Indigenous Peoples and “underwhelming” interest from companies – raising speculations that the Indigenous protests influenced companies’ decisions. Poor governance is bad for business – governments that disregard Indigenous rights are propagating volatile business environments that threaten the viability of investments in their countries.

Not only are Indigenous voices becoming louder, the media spotlight on Indigenous Peoples and resource extraction is shining brighter: 126 projects were exposed to negative attention from the media in 2014. Legal risks are also becoming more prominent, as legal protections for Indigenous Peoples’ rights around the world continue to strengthen. Indigenous community opposition is an especially perilous investment risk because Indigenous Peoples have the international legal framework for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) – the right for a community to give or withhold consent to projects that may affect their lands. Over the past several decades, Indigenous Peoples have secured unprecedented recognition of their rights from governments, but these impressive legal gains are matched with chronic gaps in implementation, especially as they relate to resource extraction. Using market forces to financially incentivize business practices that respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights – including the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent – presents opportunities for communities to exert powerful leverage over corporations operating on or near their lands.

First Peoples Worldwide is an Indigenous-led organization that builds upon a foundation of Indigenous values and rights to achieve a sustainable future for all. Our Keepers of the Earth Fund provides grants directly to Indigenous-led development projects. Since 2007, we’ve given $1.7 million in grants to hundreds of Indigenous communities across 58 countries. Our corporate engagement program makes the business case for respecting and upholding Indigenous Peoples’ rights through vigilant monitoring of corporate practices, affecting policy change, and advocating best practices in Indigenous community engagement.

View the full report online at

Contact Katie Cheney at First Peoples Worldwide for media inquiries at (713) 560-6378

Learn more about First Peoples Worldwide at


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A Guide to the Indigenous Rights Risk Report

370 oil, gas, and mining sites operated by 52 U.S. companies - color coded according to risk.

370 oil, gas, and mining sites operated by 52 U.S. companies – color coded according to risk.

By Katie Cheney

One year ago, First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report exposed 52 extractive companies who are at risk of losing profits and share price – simply because they don’t respect Indigenous rights. The report looked at 52 U.S. extractive industry companies that operate 370 oil, gas, and mining sites located on or near Indigenous lands. It found that 92% of these sites are at risk of protests, negative press, work stoppages, shut-downs, and law suits – all stemming from companies poor engagement and negligible business practices with Indigenous peoples. FPW found that nearly all of the companies faced medium to high risks in at least one of their operating sites; operating in a high risk country, that doesn’t provide laws that protect Indigenous communities, is correlated to high overall risk; and 51 out of 52 companies lacked an Indigenous Peoples Policy that included Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC). Moreover, as extractive industries seek more resources around the globe, they are increasingly finding them on or near Indigenous lands.

So how did FPW rate these companies, and what do their scores mean? First, we collected company and site-specific data using public sources, corporate website and filings, and through direct consultations with the company, investment professionals, and Indigenous communities. Then, we looked at 370 project sites operated by U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies that are located on or near Indigenous lands, and scored them based on six types of risk:

  • Location. The proximity of a project to Indigenous lands.
  • Indigenous Peoples Policy. Whether or not the company has an Indigenous Peoples policy and the strength of that policy.
  • Reputation. The level of negative media exposure that the project has received, and the associated risk of reputational damage to the companies involved.
  • Country. The level of legal protections for Indigenous Peoples in the country in which the project takes place, and the degree to which they are enforced.
  • Community Climate. The level of community support or opposition to the project.
  • Legal. Whether or not there are lawsuits filed against the company over the project’s negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples.


Each risk is rated on a scale – 1 having the least risk, and 5 being the riskiest. Some of the categories are weighted more than the others – for example, location risk is 20% of the score, whereas community climate risk is 25% of the score. Once we scored each site according to each category above, we averaged each category score for their overall risk score –and made the financial case for why investors, shareholders, and corporations need to respect Indigenous peoples rights.

Look out for the 2014 Update to the Indigenous Rights Risk Report, to be released on November 10, 2014. The 2014 Update will revisit last year’s scores with an expanded methodology for even more thorough risk assessment. If you would like to receive the report when it is published on, sign up here.