Posts Tagged ‘Proud to Be Indigenous’


FPIC 101: An Introduction to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent


What is FPIC?

The world’s Indigenous territories are rich in natural resources. Governments, corporations and non-governmental organizations have historically used the lands of Indigenous Peoples for their own purposes and profit—drilling for oil, selling land for large farming plantations, or claiming areas for conservation purposes. These projects are too often undertaken without the consent of those who live on and are sustained by the land, resulting in physical, cultural, spiritual and environmental damage to the communities and the planet.

If a corporation, along with representatives of your government, came to your house and wanted to drill for oil, you would expect them to ask your permission first. You would also expect to be told of all the potential benefits and risks of the project, and if you agreed to the plan, partake in the profits. You wouldn’t expect to be completely ignored, or worse, violently removed from your own land without so much as an explanation. And yet that’s what Indigenous people are experiencing all over the world.

In other words, Indigenous people are not given the chance to give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to companies looking to make use of their land. The consequences are dire—because governments often use force to ensure that companies can proceed unhindered, FPIC is literally a matter of life and death. Without control of their land, these communities suffer abject poverty and the unraveling of their traditional cultures, all because they are denied a right that most people living in Western-style democracies take as a given.

Over the last few decades, the concept of FPIC has increasingly been used by Indigenous rights advocates to guide negotiations between Indigenous communities and outside interests. The principles of FPIC were first formally laid out by the 1989 International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO 169). Articles 6, 7, and 9 of ILO 169 establish that consent must be acquired before indigenous communities are relocated or before development is undertaken on their land. The FPIC concept was strongly reinforced by the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which outlined a host of scenarios in which FPIC should become the standard “best practice” for negotiations between indigenous peoples and any other entity. UNDRIP articles 10, 11, 19, 29, 30, and 32 all argue for the inclusion of FPIC in negotiations regarding land, culture, property, resources, and conservation.

Why do we need to define FPIC?

While the United Nations is an international organization with 193 member states and its declarations carry enormous weight, they are not legally binding. FPIC is simply a guideline and “best practice” for negotiations. So why focus on defining the concept in such detail?

FPIC can be used to alleviate misunderstandings about land ownership, safeguard indigenous sovereignty, ensure fair dealing, and formulate relationships built on trust. The FPIC guidelines established by UNDRIP have been used by Indigenous Peoples and their supporters to pass laws at the national level. However, since FPIC is not binding, it can be distorted for the purposes of manipulation, inequitable bargains, and poor representation for Indigenous Peoples. Without clear definitions of what qualifies as “consent,” outside actors can claim the legitimacy of FPIC even if its true spirit has not been upheld, making their projects even more difficult to challenge.

Even when outside interests fully intend to acquire FPIC before beginning their projects, it can be difficult to know how to secure FPIC from a community. For instance, there are multiple decision makers and opinions in every community, and consent from one faction may not represent the desires of the entire group. The more practical and unequivocal the international definition of FPIC, the stronger its implementation will be on the ground and the easier to follow for companies, governments and NGOs.

Defining Free, Prior and Informed Consent


Communities must be free to participate in negotiations that affect them without force, intimidation, manipulation, coercion, or pressure by the government, company, or organization seeking consent.


The community must be given a sufficient amount of time to review and consider all necessary information and to reach a decision before the implementation of the project begins. Because every community is different and has different decision-making processes, the community and only the community must decide how much time it needs.


The interested parties must provide adequate, complete, relevant information to the community so that it can assess the potential pros and cons of a particular action. Information must be provided in a form that is easily accessible to the community, including translated documents and media and descriptions of proposed actions that can be understood by a layperson. Scale models, videos, maps, diagrams and photographs can only do so much in depicting complex, large-scale changes that the community may never have experienced and are hard to conceptualize. Ideally, representatives of affected communities are able to visit similar projects in person and enter into dialogues with people who have experienced similar developments firsthand. It is also crucial that the community have access to independent, neutral counseling and the necessary legal and/or technical expertise to understand all of the potential results of the proposed action.


The community must have the option of saying “yes” or “no” to the project before planning begins, along with a detailed explanation of the conditions under which consent will be given. This decision must be respected absolutely by all interested parties. The community must also be given the opportunity to provide feedback at every stage of project development and execution to ensure that the conditions of consent are met. If the conditions of initial consent are not met, the community must have the option of withdrawing its consent and all interested parties must immediately cease any part of the project to which the community had not agreed.

What’s next?

Even these definitions leave much to be desired. A detailed manual on FPIC is needed, something that Indigenous groups all over the world contribute to and build from their collective needs and experience. First Peoples is working on creating a database of FPIC guidebooks – disturbingly, we’ve so far found that only 25 percent of FPIC sources are actually produced by Indigenous organizations.

All this week, First Peoples is focusing on FPIC, leading up to the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on Friday, August 9th, when we’ll also be hosting a webinar with Proud to Be Indigenous Coalition members Cultural Survival and the International Indian Treaty Council. The webinar, which will start at 11am EST, is entitled Engaging FPIC: Understanding, Interpretation, and Self-Determination – register online here!


(Photo from Amazon Watch)


First Peoples Worldwide: How We Pass the Talking Stick

Why traditional land is special

As a leader in the global Indigenous movement, First Peoples is proud to be an advocate for protecting endangered and disappearing Indigenous languages. Our languages are dying out, our people are isolated from each other, and cultural, social, economic, and technology barriers keep Indigenous voices from being heard. Through a vast communications network, we honor the profound importance of language and its use in building meaningful and lasting relationships—between people, between tribes, and between Indigenous communities and the rest of the world. Language is the lifeblood of Indigenous culture. It is our identity. It is how we pass down knowledge from elders to youth, how we share our stories, how we make decisions, how we maintain sacred bonds with each other.

Here’s some of what we do here at First Peoples to overcome communication barriers:

Our small-grant fund, Keepers of the Earth Fund, was named, designed and tested by Indigenous people from all around the world. We honor Indigenous Peoples’ preference for verbal communication by enabling grant application submissions via phone, Skype, and video. Sometimes the only way for communities to request funding support is to submit their request in their native language, so we make every effort to translate their stories and our responses, and work to facilitate understanding between First Peoples and these grantees. But some communities prefer written communication, and so we bridge traditional and contemporary communication by offering a written application form.

Many of our Keepers of the Earth grants are preserving and protecting Indigenous language and culture through positive communication. Our grant to Cultural Survival helps them unify and strengthen communication among Mayan communities in Guatemala through community radio—bringing broadcasts to otherwise isolated rural villages in the local Indigenous languages so that people there can learn about the concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and its implications for their communities. Our grant to Waa’gey in Micronesia helped elders teach young apprentices the traditional craft of canoe building, using their own Indigenous words to describe each tool and technique. Keeping this traditional skill alive will help the community adapt to and prepare for rising sea levels and other environmental changes caused by climate change. Our grant to Longhouse Media in the US state of Washington helped to fund the production of four videos to promote inclusiveness and cultural pride among Samish community members, many of whom are spread across the Pacific Northwest and no longer live on their traditional territories.

We’ll close this post with a story about our convening at last year’s United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. We gathered 21 Indigenous leaders from 10 countries for an extensive training session in which we planned to lead several activities to help develop the leadership capacity of this diverse group. But once the workshop began, our grantees began to share their stories, to talk with us and with each other about the challenges they face in their communities, the strengths of their people, and their plans for the future. The conversation took on a life of its own, and we ended up using the entire workshop to simply share experiences and ideas. This was an exciting and eye-opening experience—we realized that our leaders had badly needed the opportunity to share in person, not only with us but with each other.


P2BI Kicks Off at UMW Multicultural Fair!





On Saturday, April 12th, First Peoples was thrilled to officially kick off the 2014 Proud to Be Indigenous campaign at the University of Mary Washington‘s Multicultural Fair. We had a ton of telling people about our work, interviewing possible interns, planting bean seeds with our younger visitors, and most of all, getting people involved in our “Proud to Be” photo contest! We asked students and visitors to tell us what they were most proud of about themselves – it was a surprisingly difficult question to answer! The participant with the photo with the most “likes” wins a gift bag packed with First Peoples swag – but voting ends Sat. 19th at midnight, so be sure to check them out now!)

And yes, Proud to Be Indigenous (P2BI) has officially kicked off! Between now and P2BI Week (May 11th-17th), be sure to send us your P2BI photos. Our theme this year is “Pass the Talking Stick” – we plan to flood the internet with loud and proud Indigenous voices! Join us today!



Announcing The Second Annual Proud to Be Indigenous Week!

P2BI Square Collage

Proud to Be Indigenous Week starts Sunday, May 11th. Are you part of it yet?!

Indigenous Peoples from around the world will be descending on New York City for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) from May 12- 23rd. While most of us can’t make it to New York, our voices need to be heard! Our goal is to create a storm of online activity during UNPFII so that Indigenous voices everywhere are heard.

 This year’s theme is “Pass The Talking Stick.” We’ll be focusing on language and all that it encompasses – history, stories, music, communication, connections, and more. We want Indigenous People to post photos and videos expressing why they are Proud To Be Indigenous with the hashtag #Proud2BIndigenous or #P2BI on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We want people to share stories and celebrate their Indigenous culture. And we want Indigenous People from around the world to connect with each other. Proud to Be Indigenous is about you, and making your voice heard.

How can you get involved? It’s easy, no matter where you are:


Take a photo of yourself with your homemade #Proud2BIndigenous sign. Then post them on the Proud To Be Indigenous Facebook page with a message telling us your name, your People, and where you live.

If you are on Twitter, tweet your photo using the hashtag #Proud2BIndigenous or #P2BI and we will retweet it.

And if you only have email, just email the photo to and we will share it for you.

Not Indigenous? We still want you to join us! We believe that everyone has the right to be proud of their communities, heritage, and traditions. Unfortunately, this right has been denied to Indigenous Peoples for so long. We all need to join together to celebrate and protect our common humanity and all the beautiful cultures of this earth. So take a picture with a sign saying that you’re a proud supporter of Indigenous Peoples and we’ll post it too!



During P2BI Week, we’ll be focusing on a different topic every day. Check out the schedule so you can join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, or email us your stories and experiences so we can share them!

Sunday (5/11) – Kickoff Celebration

Monday (5/12) – Share Your Music!

Tuesday (5/13) – Protecting Endangered Languages

Wednesday (5/14) – Share Your Wisdom!

Thursday (5/15) – Celebrating Community Radio

Friday (5/16) – Powerful Words

Saturday (5/17) – We Are Proud to Be Indigenous!



Follow this link for a super-easy way to join our campaign – you can create your own custom P2BI photo! You can also share your photos using Facebook and Twitter, and even add your own Facebook cover photo!

And make sure you are following us on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog because during the week, we will be sharing Indigenous stories and news coming out of UNPFII.



If you are associated with an organization, please let us know so that we can add you to our coalition! Coalition members help support  P2BI by spreading the word to your audience. Additionally, if you plan on hosting any events leading up to or during UNPFII, we will gladly help spread the word about them! Just email with the details.


Thank you for your support! And thank you to the Proud To Be Indigenous Coalition: First Peoples WorldwideCultural SurvivalSmithsonian’s National Museum of the American IndianIndian Country Today Media NetworkAmazon WatchNative American Rights FundUnited Nations Global CompactA World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (AWISH); Action Communautaire pour la Promotion des Défavorisés Batwa (ACPROD-BATWA); Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group; Bajoh Indigenous Development Association; Bible Hill Youth Club; Borena Amara Wetatoch Mehaber (BAYA); Borneo Project; Buffalo Nickel Communications; Conscious Living; Council of the Maya Ancestral Authorities of the Ixil Region; ELEMENTALEnterprise Development & Enterprise FacilityFundación Paso a PasoGlobal HandGulu Deaf AssociationGwich’in Steering CommitteeHiga-onon Ha Migsabuwa Ta Lanao, Inc.; Il’laramatak Community ConcernsIndigenous Peoples Issues and ResourcesIndigenous WavesInternational Indian Treaty Council (IITC); Literacy Action And Development Agency (LADA)Longhouse Media; Maya Leaders Alliance, Mindanao Fish, Wildlife Degenders and Parks Association; Mengbwa: Actions Jeunes (MAJE)Native Arts CollectiveNumi Organic Tea; Organisation d’Accompagnement et d’Appui aux Pygmées (OSAPY); Organization of Indigenous Communities of Masisea (OCOIM); Peopleriver; Pikhumpongan Dlibon Subanen, Inc. (PDSI); Pueblos Indígenas Chorotega (CPICh); Pwani Leadership Council (Kenya); Pygmy People Association for a Sustainable Development; Red Alliance Media; RunaSATIIM – Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management; Sundarbon Adibasi Munda Sangastha (SAMS), sweetriotTankaTebtebba; Toledo Alcaldes Association; Uganda Gender Rights Foundation; Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Urunji Child-Care Trust; and Vision Maker Media


Top 10 Indigenous Stories of 2013


It’s that time of year again – time for Top 10 lists. It’s been quite a year for Indigenous peoples around the world, filled with stories of success, hardship and almost always inspiration. First Peoples enjoyed covering many of them on our blog so here is our Top 10 blog posts of 2013, ranked by the number times you, the reader, read them. The topics range from GMO to football to women’s rights and more, enjoy! (Click on the title to read the full story.)

  1. Three Reasons You Need to Support Indigenous Peoples, Even If You Are Not Indigenous: Look, we get it – everybody has an issue that they care strongly about. For us, that issue is the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. For you, it may be something different. You may even be of the mindset that if you are not Indigenous, then you have no reason to be concerned with Indigenous issues. But we strongly believe that the values and beliefs of Indigenous Peoples can be effectively applied to a wide range of modern-day concerns. Here are the top three reasons to support Indigenous Peoples even if you are not Indigenous.
  2. Proud To be Indigenous Week Starts Next Week – May 20th! : Indigenous Peoples from around the world will be descending on New York City for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). While most of us can’t make it to New York, our voices need to be heard! Proud To Be Indigenous is an online campaign for Indigenous People to share their stories. The Proud To Be Indigenous coalition includes over 40 Indigenous and Indigenous-friendly organizations, large and small and from all over the world, that will be sharing photos, videos and stories about Indigenous, Native and Aboriginal people online during UNPFII (see the full list of coalition members below). But most importantly, Proud To Be Indigenous is about you, the Indigenous People from around the world, and sharing your story and voice.
  3. Idle No More Calls for Day of Action, Oct. 7th 2013: Idle No More is calling for an international Day of Action to be held in communities around the world on October 7th, 2013. The announcement comes towards the end of the popular Sovereignty Summer campaign, launched on June 21, Aboriginal Day in Canada. Sovereignty Summer is a campaign of coordinated non-violent direct actions to promote Indigenous rights and environmental protection in alliance with non-Indigenous supporters.
  4. Dine Nation Declares GMO and Pesticide-Free Zone: The Diné Nation has now been declared a GMO and pesticide-free zone. The declaration is the result of the “Corn is Life” Gathering held September 19-21 at Diné College, Tsaile, Arizona. The conference was hosted and presented by the Black Mesa Water Coalition, the Diné Policy Institute, Traditional Diné Farmers, and the International Indian Treaty Council. The conference’s stated goal was to discuss the impacts of climate change, genetic modification, pesticides, and extractive industries on traditional growing practices. At the end of the conference, participants agreed to stand against these harmful practices.
  5. First Nations Sign Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands and Keystone XL: Representatives from indigenous nations across the United States and Canada recently met to reaffirm a centuries-old collective-security treaty in defense of their homelands and reassert its authority in the face of a modern-day threat. These representatives, participants in the January 23-25 event “Gathering to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands and Keystone XL,” formally agreed to “mutually and collectively oppose tar sands projects which would impact [their] territory, including but not limited to the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, the Enbridge Northern Gateway, Enbridge lines 9 and sixty-seven, or the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline and tanker projects.”
  6. Aboriginals Create the World’s Newest Government: The world is welcoming its newest government – the Republic of Murrawarri, a nearly 82,000 square kilometer territory stretching across northern New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, has declared its independence as a sovereign nation. Murrawarri’s independence comes after a long diplomatic process. The republic, which has around 4,000 residents, officially declared their continuing independence and statehood on April 3, 2013.
  7. Top 10 Indigenous Must-Reads for Summer: It’s summer  – the perfect time to start working through that pile of books you “meant to read” a long time ago. Forget about that pile. We have a reading list for you unlike ones you’ve likely seen before – gathering suggestions from our staff members, we’ve compiled a “must-read” list for Indigenous issues. This list is by no means comprehensive – we’ve tried to include books that are geographically diverse, engaging, and easy to read (no textbooks here!). I am sure we have missed some of your favorites – please comment below and let us know!
  8. “Redskins” Is a Racial Slur Dating Back to 1755: The Washington Redskins are again facing criticism over their racially-insensitive name.  Both a case with the Federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and a bill originating in the House of Representatives are urging the team to rethink the name. The team has long been under fire from Native American organizations who claim the team name is a shameful racial slur, and that it should not be allowed to remain the football mascot of the nation’s capital. Opponents of the change say that the name is meant to honor, not disparage, Native Americans.
  9. “They Have Been Loved, and Now They Are Missing” – New Exhibit Honors 600 Murdered Indigenous Women: In the past 20 years in Canada, over 600 mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, and best friends have gone missing. That’s six hundred lives that have suddenly, mysteriously ended – no note, no motive, sometimes hardly even a clue, leaving behind questions, uncelebrated birthdays, motherless children, heartbroken partners, and emptiness. 600 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered, and often it seems as though nobody even cares. “There has been an awful silence around this,” says Otipemiswak/Michif Nation artist Christi Belcourt, of Espanola, Ontario. “There has been a silence by the government, by police and by dominant society; it’s as though Indigenous women’s lives aren’t considered important.”
  10. Violence Against Women Act Adds Protection for Native American Women: But Is It Enough? : The newly-reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) includes new protections for Native American women who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Despite attempts by House Republicans to pass a watered-down version of VAWA that limited these Native American provisions, as well as eliminating protection for lesbian and gay victims, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Obama on March 7th, just in time for International Women’s Day.

And one more, our favorite feel-good story of the year:

11. Cree Youth Journey 1,100 km For Unity:  On January 16, seven Cree youth, led by two experienced guides, departed their community of Great Whale on the Hudson Bay to begin The Quest of Wisjinichu-Nishiyuu (Quest For Unity), a journey that will take them across 1,100 km to reach Parliament Hill, Ottawa, the seat of Canada’s federal government. Inspired by the Idle No More Movement, they seek to promote unity and a refocusing on traditional values.

Which one was your favorite story? What would you like to see us reporting on in 2014? Let us know, and have a happy New Year!



Not Your Average Cup of Tea

Enshi girl with tea

Imagine a delicious substance with the ability to relieve allergy symptoms, provide an energy boost, and help heal damaged skin. On top of that, it’s caffeine-free, packed full of antioxidants, and safe to ingest every day with no adverse side-effects. Sounds like a miracle pill, right? Actually, we’re referring to rooibos, an ancient form of tea first discovered and cultivated by the indigenous people of South Africa.

The Khoi, or Khoikhoi, meaning “real people,” originated in Northern Botswana and migrated to the cape of South Africa around 2,000 years ago. The Khoi were nomadic pastoralists, raising sheep, goats, and cattle. The group has a history of violent conflict with European settlers and merchants that has threatened and diluted their culture, but today part of their territory, Richtersveld, a mountainous desert landscape, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the unique lifestyle of the Khoi people who continue to raise livestock there.

The Khoi discovered rooibos, which is made from harvesting the leaves off the spiky aspalathus bush. The type of bush that produces rooibos is one of two hundred species of aspalathus that exist only in South Africa, and is the only one of those species with recognized health benefits.  Traditionally, the leaves are chopped with axes, crushed with hammers, fermented in heaps, and then dried in the sun, where oxidation turns the tea a distinctive red color. The drink remained solely within the Khoi community until 1772, when they offered it to traveling Swedish Botanist Carl Humberg. The tea did not gain popularity until Russian immigrant and tea maker Benjamin Ginsberg began commercially marketing it in South Africa as “Mountain Tea.”

Today, rooibos is enjoyed all over the world, and is just one of the five types of tea produced by Numi Tea. A Proud to Be Indigenous coalition member, Numi Tea is committed to producing high quality tea bags, loose leaf tea, and other tea products that celebrate and respect the rich cultural traditions of the beverage.

Numi Tea was founded in 1999 by brother and sister combo Ahmed and Reem Rahim. The two were inspired by numi, a favorite drink that they enjoyed growing up in Iraq. Numi means “citrus” in Arabic, and refers to a popular and healthful drink made from steeping dried lime.  Numi prides itself on attention to detail and beauty – Ahmed, who spent a decade working in European tea houses, is the company’s master tea blender, while Reem, as Creative Director, produces original artwork for all boxes incorporating photographs from Ahmed’s scouting trips as well as unique stains made from the tea itself. The company is committed to environmental health – all of their packing is recyclable, made from 85 percent post-consumer waste, and printed with soy-based ink. They offset their carbon emissions through the Big Tree Climate Fund and hope to eventually be a zero-impact business. Perhaps most importantly, Numi only uses organic tea, which has not been treated with fertilizers or pesticides. This is crucial – in addition to being harmful to tea pickers, these chemicals will leach directly into your cup of tea as you steep it, because traditionally tea leaves are not washed at any point during harvesting and production.

Numi is also committed to Fair Trade and Fair Labor practices. Half of their tea blends and 80 percent of their raw materials are Fair Trade Certified, and they forge direct relationships with all of their suppliers regardless of their certification. Fair trade ensures that the farm workers are paid a minimum fair wage, and the communities vote on where to spend their fair trade premiums, choosing initiatives to promote local health, education, enhance business skills, or protect the environment. This philanthropy is echoed within the California-based offices of Numi as well, where employees receive four paid hours per month to complete community service related to food, environment, social services, or education, as well as participate in a quarterly company-wide community service project. Numi currently direct sources their tea from seven tea farms across China, India, and Africa, including Dazhangshan, China, where traditional tea farmers have been cultivating tea plants chemical-free for over 1,200 years, and Enshi, China, where the Tujia (“local people”), an ethnic group with over 2,000 years of indigenous agricultural knowledge, work the farm and collect 40 percent higher wages than neighboring farmers.

Numi Tea’s commitment to safe environmental practices, fair trade and labor, and philanthropy is impressive, as are their high- quality products. Numi Tea has successfully marketed the complex beauty and appeal of tea for mass consumption while still preserving and respecting the unique indigenous cultures and communities that were the very first master tea blenders.

(Photo by Wen Lin, Xinhua News Network)


Native Artists – Join the Riot!


Do you have some sweet Native art that you want to show off? Allow us to introduce you to SweetRiot. They’re looking for “contemporary, modern, colorful, vivid, interesting, and unique” artwork to feature on their products for the next couple of months, and we’re betting that there are some amazing Native artists out there who fit that description perfectly.

SweetRiot is a business committed to social responsibility, fair trade, and environmentally-friendly practices. The business’s stated mission is to “work to create a more just and celebrated multicultural world for our next generation.”  On top of that, the company’s primary product is surprisingly healthy dark chocolate-covered cacao nibs and chocolate bars that come directly from their farming partners in Latin America. Does it get any better than that?

SweetRiot, one of our partners for Proud to Be Indigenous Week, describes itself as a “joyful celebration of culture, diversity, and understanding.” The company makes it a priority to support non-profits with similar values through in-kind donations or speaking engagements. “It’s not about writing checks,” says founder Sarah Endline on the company’s website. “Social responsibility is so much deeper than that. We do have a social mission because we want more than just profit to guide us – we rioters believe we can change the world!”

The company also embraces and promotes culture through its innovative Rock the Art program. Every couple of months the organization invites artists to submit their artwork for the chance to be featured on all SweetRiot tins and wrappers for three to four months. Winning artists will see their art displayed on collectible tins in retail stores across the United States, including Whole Foods, World Market, Wegmans, and even the MoMA Design Store, as well as displayed at tradeshows and events such as the Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest, and featured on the SweetRiot website and blog.

Join the riot by attaching 9-12 original images and a Rights and Usage Agreement in an email to Artwork will be screened by SweetRiot’s panel of judges and two to three finalists will be featured on the website. After that, it’s up to the public to choose their favorite artist by popular vote. We highly encourage you to take this opportunity to help promote, celebrate, and bring attention to the outstanding creativity, tradition, and beauty of Indigenous artwork.

See here for full submission guidelines and details, and to satisfy your socially responsible chocolate cravings, check out SweetRiot’s online store!

(Featured artwork by Lindy Gruger Hanson via


Call for Native Films and Programs: Join with Vision Maker Media!

By Britnae Purdy and Olivia Hildebrand


During our Proud to Be Indigenous Week campaign, we were introduced to several organizations that are providing platforms on which native peoples can share their unique stories. Vision Maker Media, a non-profit organization funded primarily by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a member of our Proud to Be Indigenous coalition, is one such advocate for the preservation and celebration of indigenous culture through film and media. Since 1977, they have shared stories that represent the cultures, experiences, and values of American Indians and Alaskan Natives while simultaneously encouraging the involvement of youth in media careers.

Select films are broadcast live online or on PBS and are available for purchase for home or educational use on Vision Maker Media’s website, Current coming attractions include Bridge the Gap to Pine Ridge, in which host Chris Bashinelli (MTV, The Sopranos) follows a day in the life of the Oglala Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and Clearwater, a film about the health of the Puget Sound and the unique relationship of the tribal people to the water, which is now suffering ocean acidification. Vision Maker Media hosts or partners with a variety of different film festivals throughout the year and also provides educational resources for teachers and students. In addition to an extensive film collection, Vision Maker Media also offers two Podcast series; Native Sounds features American Indian musicians, while Producer Profiles provides a behind-the-scenes look at Native film productions.

Independent American Indian and Alaskan Native filmmakers or public television producers are invited to submit provocative and engaging completed programs that address current issues and reflect the changing nature of indigenous communities. Programs can be documentaries, performances, cultural or public affairs pieces, or even animation so long as they are of national public television broadcast quality. Submissions are accepted throughout the year and reviewed quarterly. If you are interested in submitting a piece, please carefully review the submissions guidelines. Contact with any questions.

(Photo by Shirley K. Sneve, Rosebud Sioux, on the set of Growing Native)


Proud To Be Indigenous Recap: Language

By Olivia Hildebrand

Last Tuesday, during Proud To Be Indigenous week, we focused our conversation on native languages. It has been said that language is the map to one’s culture and we are alarmed at the rapid rate at which precious First Nation tongues are disappearing around the globe: one indigenous language dies every two weeks. We are up in arms to reverse this cultural destruction and you joined us in our battle cries last week.

We asked you what your language is called and to share your favorite word. We got several responses, from “Rohayu”, meaning “I love you” in Guarani to “Nunanirnaqvaa”, meaning beautiful land in Yupik. We sought after stories about how you and your community are preserving one of the most precious pieces of your people’s identity and we were inspired by your innovative solutions.

Keeping the spirit of unity among indigenous cultures alive, we asked you to teach us how your people say “unity” and “love” in your indigenous language. We received two beautiful responses that we simply had to share:

“Akewekon enska etitewahwe’non ni ne onkwa’nikon ra”, meaning “we all join together in our minds” in the native Mohawk language.

“Ar scath a cheile a maireann na daoine”, meaning “people live in each other’s shadows”, an old Irish proverb.

Check out our P2BI: Language board on Pinterest and share it with your community. We are always on the hunt for more content, so if you come across a story about indigenous languages that you think needs to be shared, send it our way on Facebook, Twitter, or email it to and we will add it to our collection.

We are also still collecting pictures to celebrate the movement as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) continues this week. Photos have been pouring in from all over the world and we want to include yours in the mix. Flip through our Facebook album to have a look for yourself, then join in on the fun if you haven’t already!


Celebrating and Preserving Indigenous Language!

There are approximately 7,000 different languages spoken around the world today. That is approximately 7,000 different collections of sounds and symbols developed by groups of people to uniquely describe their daily lives, surroundings, emotions, needs, and experiences. These 7,000 languages hold the capacity to build peace, negotiate understandings, spark conflict, create unions, build families, tell jokes, raise children, practice spirituality, and pass on knowledge, lore, and tradition to future generations. Of these 7,000 languages, 5,000 of them are spoken by indigenous peoples representing just 6 percent of total world population.

Horrifically, 90 percent of these languages are in danger of becoming extinct within the next one hundred years. One language dies every two weeks.

Languages are threatened when a population becomes victim to systems such as imperialism, colonialism, global economic development, and militarism that emphasize the cultural dominance of one group of people over another.  Language loss has always occurred as large groups come into contact with smaller groups, creating dominant and minority languages, but the rate at which languages have disappeared has accelerated rapidly over the past century. The loss of a language represents the loss of much of that community’s cultural heritage, autonomy, power, and connectivity.

First Peoples is proud to have partnered with Cultural Survival, a Massachusetts-based NGO, for Proud to Be Indigenous Week. Cultural Survival, along with its many partners, works diligently to preserve Native American language through funding language-immersion programs, awareness-raising, training teachers and leaders, and advocating for political support for language-preservation programs. Cultural Survival feels that preserving native languages enhances the quality of life of both individuals and entire communities. Their findings show that “when language is revived, it tends to lift whole communities. Children’s performance in (and attendance at) school improves when their identity is positively affirmed and enforced, and they tend to graduate and go on to college at much higher rates.”

Cultural Survival’s efforts focus on Native American languages. Originally, 300 different languages were spoken by 600 different tribes in North America; today, only about 139 Native languages remain. Of those languages, the vast majority are spoken only by middle-aged or elderly adults. Only 20 of these languages are widely spoken by children, and 55 of them are spoken by only 1-6 people. When these speakers pass away, the language literally dies with them.

Cultural Survival attributes the rapid loss of Native languages in North America to the once-common practice of removing Native American children from their homes and placing them in Western-style, church-run boarding schools in order to forcibly “civilize” them. As Cultural Survival says, “If children dared to speak their languages at school, they were severely punished, and often beaten. When these children grew up, they chose not to speak their indigenous language to their own children in order to protect them from discrimination and abuse, and the languages began to die….taking with them tens of thousands of years of accumulated cultural heritage, sophisticated environmental understandings, spiritual traditions, and a unique aspect of humanity.” Oklahoma is the most language-diverse region of America, reflecting the United States’ brutal history of conflict with Native Americans – the languages spoken in Oklahoma belong to both the original tribes of the state as well as the numerous tribes that were forced to relocate to reservations there in the 1800s. In other areas of the world dominant language policies entirely outlawed the use of native languages – for example, the Soviet-era “Russian-only” policies contributed to the loss of indigenous languages across Eurasia and even created hybrid languages, such as Mednyi Aleut, which contains both Russian and Aleut languages features. In some cases, even without specific policies, native speakers transitioned to the dominant language for the widespread utility and accompanying prestige of the “imperial” language.

National Geographic’s Enduring Voices project has done great work with recording and preserving endangered languages. Their interactive map provides information on a variety of language “hot spots” around the world, as well as extensive information on preservation programs and linguistics specificities. National Geographic is also in the process of producing a number of talking dictionaries, which allow users to explore recordings of several endangered languages, including Matukar Panau, a language in Papua New Guinea that prior to 2009 had never been written nor recorded, Ho, spoken by one million residents of India but incapable of being typed on a computer, and Remo, an Indian language that has been previously undocumented. Many indigenous languages are threatened because they do not exist in a written form, making it easier for certain words to be lost if not used frequently. For example, when the !Kung people of Namibia and Botswana switched from a hunting and gathering lifestyle to cattle-herding, the traditional words used for hunting and gathering knowledge fell into disuse. In Africa, 80 percent of the 2,000 different spoken languages have no written form.

The danger of language loss is ecological as well as cultural. As National Geographic states, “much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, animals, plants, and ecosystems – many still undocumented by science. The Tufa people of Siberia, for example, are traditional reindeer herders. Their language, now spoken by only 30 elderly people, has extensive vocabulary for describing reindeer. The language of the Yami, residents of the tiny Irala Island in south Taiwan, identifies over 450 different types of fish and strictly regulates which fish may be consumed and by whom. Another fascinating example is Kallawaya, a language spoken by medicinal farmers in central South America. This language, used primarily to describe the medicinal uses of local plants, has been kept secret, passed down only from father to son or grandfather to grandson. Many of these descriptive words have no translations in other languages.

Though the threat to native languages is severe, there are success stories. In 2002 the Mandi people of Papua New Guinea met to collectively design an alphabet for their language, Wiarumus, and have been actively promoting language use among their children since then. Native news networks such as Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources and Vision Maker Media, two more Proud to Be Indigenous Week partners, support the belief that “cross-cultural communication, cooperation, and understanding – as well as easily accessible information and resources – is one of the keys to helping indigenous peoples maintain their language, culture, and identity,” and provide native-language new stories, films, radio broadcasts, music, and more. Cultural Survival has launched two websites to promote language preservation. The Language Gathering provides a common place for language programs to share their stories and seek advice from other groups, while Our Mother Tongues provides a wide array of educational material including native language e-postcards, a North American language map, and video recordings of native speakers. Some recent short film productions such as Cry Rock and History is Unwritten have addressed issues pertaining to language preservation.

It is critical that we protect and rehabilitate native languages around the world. Doing so is critical to strengthening individual communities as well as preserving the cultural diversity necessary for maintaining a fascinating, complex, beautiful, and healthy world. Now is the time to speak up!