Posts Tagged ‘unpfii’


How to Maximize Your Effectiveness at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Reposted from Cultural Survival Quarterly Issue 38-4 Indigenous Rights Protect Us All (December 2014)

By Joshua Cooper

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council that meets annually to discuss Indigenous issues related to economic and social development,culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights. The intensive 10-day session brings together Indigenous Peoples, member states, UN agencies, programs, and funds as well as academics and activists at UN headquarters in New York to exchange best practices on advancing Indigenous Peoples’ rights. For many delegates, the personal measurement of successful participation is the delivery of an intervention on at least  one agenda item, optimally with their specific situation being cited in the Forum’s concluding observations. Adopting a strategy to prepare for the Forum can result in tangible improvements in the daily lives of Indigenous Peoples. Following are specific steps to help create a successful Forum experience.

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

[photo credit: Cultural Survival]

The Expert Group Meeting

Each January, the Expert Group Meeting invites Indigenous leaders, independent scholars, and UN officials to address a specific theme, launching a dialogue on the legal and moral issues raised at the previous session. Specific language is then drafted for the official study to be presented at the upcoming session. The 2015 theme is “Dialogue on an Optional Protocol to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” You can prepare a paper for presentation related to the theme to have a voice in determining the direction of the study. Consult your community to examine the significance of the specific study and how it could contribute to changing your local situation. Proposals can include bold and specific language that will prove valuable to Indigenous Peoples. If it is not possible to attend, one can still follow the meeting and discuss the papers presented. This will allow for better preparation for the actual Forum and for drafting intervention that can contribute to the final discussion.

In-Country Preparatory and Regional Meetings

Experts gather to meet with the Forum secretariat and witness firsthand the Indigenous situation at the invitation of a host country’s government. This meeting suggests How Maximize Your Effectiveness at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues specific agenda items to be featured at the annual session. Additionally, regional preparatory meetings usually take place a couple of months prior to the actual Forum. Each of the seven Indigenous regions hosts a meeting with  Indigenous Peoples on a regional position paper addressing specific agenda items. These meetings allow for a collective conversation about how each agenda item relates to Indigenous Peoples’ experience, and can be a space for drafting interventions and seeking out specific speakers to contribute to the main stage of the Forum. Offering personal, regional examples to the global stage will illuminate the urgency of the issue.

Organizing a Side Event

The regional preparatory meetings are an opportunity to identify side events that would be valuable to improving Indigenous rights. Be sure to include Indigenous voices directly. Brainstorm the UN agencies, programs, and funds as well as major civil society actors that have a mission or mandate to be able to partner for a side event, and will also follow up to protect fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples. Prepare the necessary paperwork to request rooms for side events and register for the Forum well ahead of the deadlines.

Maintain the Momentum

As the Forum’s popularity increased over the past decade (over 2,000 delegates attended the most recent session), it became increasingly clear that it would be impossible to accommodate the ever-increasing number of Indigenous nations arriving at the doorstep of the diplomatic world. The Forum secretariat, member, and chairs realized that the regional meetings could serve as essential preparation for prioritization of specific language for interventions. The measure allowing regions to speak first on each agenda item has encouraged Indigenous Peoples to work together prior to the session to survey their regions for specific, common situations and develop a set of recommendations to share. In the months leading up to the Forum, it is important to maintain the momentum generated from the regional preparatory meetings.

Participate in Caucuses

Youth and women have added to the traditional regional collaboration to guarantee a unified voice on each agenda item. The Women’s Caucus has continued to expand its engagement with increasing days of preparation, while the Youth Caucus continues to professionalize its participation with weekend training and the creation of core groups todraft interventions. Indigenous Peoples with disabilities have also created a caucus that continues to increase its presence at the Forum. It is important for Indigenous delegations to participate in these regional caucuses, but also to participate in the thematic caucus to offer alternative avenues for advocacy.

In the month prior to the Forum, it is crucial to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with officials from UN agencies, programs, and funds that participate in the session as well as other institutions that haven’t attended but have mandates pertinent to promotion and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. You can arrange meetings with these organizations when in New York, as most have offices located within a block of UN headquarters. These meetings are an opportunity for two styles of “asks:” one to immediately cease a project that has been harmful to Indigenous Peoples, and one to propose a specific new program that would enhance respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights. It is also a good idea to request specific contact from the organization in-country upon return to one’s homeland.

Special Rapporteur: Register Early

It is important to register early to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only short time slots are available, so you should come prepared with documentation supporting the most pertinent points. Read recent thematic reports ahead of time so you can provide examples for the current reports being compiled. The meeting can also be used to request a future country visit and to begin mapping out that schedule. This is an opportunity to share latest developments and to request specific actions including a press conference, a letter to the government requesting response, or a condemnation of specific rights violations.

Finalize the Intervention

The intervention should be drafted in close consultation with your community prior to the Forum. When preparing an intervention, it is imperative to lead with recommendations. Research whether any recommendations were adopted in previous sessions, and note the progress on implementation of these recommendations. New recommendations should be followed with example paragraphs that exemplify the essence of the recommendations. It is important to think through the entire Forum process, connecting recommendations with the UN agencies whose mandates deal with the agenda item and including specific actions the UN should take to assist Indigenous Peoples in realizing the recommendations. Final edits with the most current examples and related research can take place immediately prior to the Forum.

Utilize All Resources Available

The Forum is comprised of 16 independent experts functioning in their personal capacity, who serve for a term of 3 years as members and may be reelected or reappointed for 1 additional term. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and eight are nominated directly by Indigenous organizations in their regions. It is vital to meet with the Forum expert from your region. Building a relationship with the rapporteur is also important as this person prepares the first draft of the report released on the final Friday of the session, to be read before the entire Forum assembly. The actual 10-day session is the culmination of an annual campaign offering actions and implementation of recommendations.

A weekend training prior to the Forum providing historical analysis and how-to advocacy action, including drafting of interventions for first time Forum attendees, can strengthen the entire process. The actual session is a whirlwind two weeks with side events, concurrent conferences, rights receptions, and film festivals. The more preparation that is done in advance, the more it will be possible to accomplish on each agenda item during the Forum.

Next year’s session of the UNPFII takes place April 20–May 1 2015. Keep track of dates and deadlines at the UNPFII website:


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.


Courage, Creativity, and Vision: Co-recipients of the 2014 FIMI Leadership Award

Reposted from Cultural Survival

In May 2014, the Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas (International Indigenous Women’s Forum) awarded its annual Leadership Award to two extraordinary and committed Indigenous women: Joan Carling, a Kankanaey activist from the Philippines, and Rosalina Tuyuc, a Kaqchikel leader from Guatemala, received the honor due to their creativity in addressing social issues with exceptional leadership and courage. By defending Indigenous women’s rights, these women make significant impacts on community, national, and international levels. According to the Forum’s program coordinator, Mariana Lopez, the award celebrates Indigenous women “who have implemented creative ways to address pressing social issues, demonstrating courage, creativity, and vision.”

Carling hails from the Cordillera region of the Philippines. She has over 20 years of experience working on Indigenous issues including human rights, sustainable development, environment, and climate change, as well as on the application of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Her work with International Financial Institutions, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, REDD+ related mechanisms, UN agencies, and mechanisms relating to human rights and sustainable development in advancing the issues and concerns of Indigenous Peoples in Asia has led her to be elected twice as the Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, where she has represented 47 member organizations in 14 countries. Appointed by the UN Economic and Social Council as an Indigenous expert member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for 2014-16, Carling is an exemplary model of an Indigenous activist who has dedicated her life to the causes of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.

Photo credit: Cultural Survival

Photo credit: Cultural Survival

On receiving the Leadership Award, Carling said “it came as actually a big surprise. I did not expect this award, but I am very much humbled.” Carling works with Indigenous women in Asia and cooperates with FIMI on the participation of Indigenous women at the global level. While her work includes all Indigenous Peoples, she coordinates a program specifically for women with a policy of gender equality encouraging their participation to ensure that their concerns and rights are acknowledged. Such programs give Indigenous women the platform to embrace their needs and to fight for equality and justice.

Indigenous women are a vulnerable portion of an already vulnerable group. In addition to human trafficking and numerous human rights abuses, women must also deal with forced relocation from their lands. According to Carling, “because of the violation of our land rights, land grabbing is taking over . . . not only causing displacements, but also weakening the traditional knowledge of women and the contribution to resource management. We know that it’s women actually [working in] sustainable resource management, and they have the knowledge how to use resources in a sustainable way. We’re going to lose that if they’re going to lose their lands.”

The majority of the world’s Indigenous Peoples currently reside in Asia, and many are invisible in the eyes of the government, so Indigenous Peoples are increasingly asserting and defending their rights underground. Carling advises keeping an eye on the Philippines and Asia as a whole, since, as she explains, “the economic growth center of the world at this stage is Asia. There are a lot of infrastructure projects and a lot of foreign investments without any information or consultation with Indigenous peoples. That’s the kind of attitude that is prevailing, so we need to change that. We need to let people know that we exist and we want to manage and control the resources in our territories. We want to be able to practice our cultures, we want our young people to stay in our territories so that they will learn how to manage their resources for the future generations. It’s time to really develop, train, and then let the young people take more challenges. The youth are our hope, and so we need to ensure that they are there with us together and side by side.”

Co-recipient of the award, Rosalina Tuyuc was born in San Juan Comalapa, Chimaltenango, Guatemala. She is a nurse by profession, as well as a mother of five and grandmother of four, and one of the founders of the Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas de Guatemala (National Coordination of Widows of Guatemala). From 1988 to 2010 she served as general coordinator, helping to guide the organization’s transition to a leading Guatemalan human rights organization. Her key role in Guatemala’s peace processes led her to serve as president and rapporteur of the Commission on Victims of Violence from 1989–1992. From 1993–1995, she was a member of the International Committee Pro-Decade for Indigenous Peoples of the World, and in 2001, she co-founded the Asociación Política de Mujeres Maya (Political Association of Mayan Women). In 2004, as a member of the National Commission on Peace Accords, she was appointed president of the National Reparations Commission. Tuyuc has also held several public offices, including congresswoman and judge, and was a board member in the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala.

Tuyuc expressed profound gratitude for the support of grassroots organizations as she recalled her fights against racism, discrimination, and all forms of oppression that women have suffered. She recognizes the force of individuals and groups as deciding voices in the fight against injustice, oppression, and discrimination. On the current state of international conventions on Indigenous Peoples, women, youth, and environmental matters, she says “the only thing missing is goodwill on the part of the governments, on the public sector workers . . . so that we no longer have reason to protest, reason to cover the streets . . . [that] there is no longer a need to bring people to justice.” Recently in Guatemala, many public sector workers denied the genocide of Guatemala’s past. But Tuyuc affirms that “we have our own truth. The crimes of genocide must not be accepted, tolerated; must not be hidden. When there are committed people and due process, we see an opportunity for the justice system.”

In addition to the Leadership Award, Tuyuc has received various other awards including the Niwano Peace Prize. Throughout her life, she has trained generations of Indigenous youth. She is an exemplary teacher and spiritual guide. Committed to finding the good in people, Tuyuc recognizes the power of alliances. In her vision of Guatemala’s future, “there is still a long journey where racism and inequality affect us profoundly, along with the lack of participation and exclusion of Indigenous Peoples. Unfortunately the laws are not at the service of all and instead are at the service of a few, but little by little we have made change.” Her message to the women of Guatemala, and for the world’s people struggling for recognition and for rights that have been neglected for hundreds of years is as follows:

“I encourage them to keep staying unified and continue striving to demand justice, to defend their rights both as individuals and as a collective unit. I also tell them that today is when the women should continue rising up so that our rights are never violated. Women should keep being a mosaic of a force of knowledge that unites us with so much cosmic energy. Women connect, we connect very much with the air, with the earth, with the moon, and with the stars: this is to say that we are not alone. We keep working and we also keep transcending borders to assert our rights.”


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What Is Important: Indigenous Youth Speak

Reposted from Cultural Survival

At this year’s UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Cultural Survival radio producers interviewed dozens of delegates about the issues pertaining to their communities and their work. The following are excerpts from three interviews with youth delegates.

wakinyan_right_is_thorne_by_tiana_lapointe(Photo by Tiana LaPointe, from Cultural Survival)

Thorne and Wakinyan LaPointe

Thorne (23) and Wakinyan LaPointe (24), Lakota brothers of Rosebud, South Dakota, are American Indian Movement (AIM) West delegates whose community development efforts aid youth “to further their goals in their communities and reflect their values as Native Peoples” by reconnecting them with the land. In their words, the brothers want to “develop and integrate relevant cultural aspects as well as build political, economic, and social bodies that will provide the influence and political power that Indigenous youth need.”

Thorne explained: “We want to remind young people that Indigenous People are strength-based. We show them the strengths that our people have had since time immemorial on these lands. We seek for our youth a transformative experience, the experience that our ancestors had before us…Too often our youth are too focused on the deficits that they say we have. They say that we’re the poorest of the poor; that’s all that our youth grow up and see. They internalize it. We want to teach them to grow our nations in a sustainable way.”

Wakinyan added, “One of our education programs with Indigenous youth in the Minnesota area is a long-term project called Mde Maka Ska; to the Dakota that translates to ‘White Earth Lake.’ It’s part of a body of water that they hold sacred. What we aim to do is simply help reconnect youth with the importance, the sacredness, of water and also the land. Often in the urban areas that these Dakota children live in, there’s a diminishment of that relationship to the land. So enhancing their experiences with the water through canoeing, through visiting with their elders near the water, or interacting with other Native youth from different tribes on land and sharing stories—learning and re-learning to visit again is the most sustainable way that we see in strengthening the values of the Dakota people.”

When youth go into nature with the LaPointe brothers, Wakinyan said, “they learn that the sort of values they picked up in an urban, artificial environment are not sustainable. They’re forced to re-evaluate what they do and who they are in relation to the natural world; what kind of choices they want to make that are sustainable to them and their families. They derive that sense of future from the interactions and relationships they’ve built with the land and its life forms.”

The brothers impart their traditional values, language, and stories as a way of strengthening the impact of this education. “We’ve found what really sticks with them is their language,” Wakinyan said. “When we take them out into a natural setting and use even just one word, you tell a story to that word, reconnecting youth with their origin. Their stories provide them with experiences to give a basis for their values as Indigenous people. We see the international human rights framework as a base to help support that continued learning for Native youth.” Thorne added, “Engaging them in the natural world and showing them how to fight politically, legally for their rights as well, that’s a very powerful thing.”


a445f666e41e36713487daf94a653225(Photo from Twitter)

Alexey Tsykarev

Alexey Tsykarev of the Russian Federation represented the Republic of Karelia. A member of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, his role is to maintain Indigenous youth voices. He also serves on the advisory body of the UN Human Rights Council and is leading studies on access to justice for the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, with a special focus on youth with disabilities and Indigenous women.

Tsykarev recently attended the World Conference on Youth and was impressed by the attendance: 1,500 participants representing every country in the world, including the UN President of the General Assembly; Special Envoy on Youth of the Secretary General; and the President of Sri Lanka. The main topic of the conference was the post-2015 development agenda; in Tsykarev’s words, “how youth, including Indigenous youth, can contribute to the preparation of sustainable development goals. I hope that Indigenous voices will be heard through this very important document.”

Tsykarev stressed the importance of language for youth development; he and his colleagues recently submitted a study on language and culture for the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. “For me, it’s a very important study,” he said. “Language and culture are very important for mentality, for self-identification as Indigenous persons. In my movement of Indigenous Peoples, we come to build language preservation and language development and we, as Indigenous communities, need support from the UN. In my republic, we have so few families in which parents transfer our Native language to children, from generation to generation. We have so few youth who can speak our language.”

Tsykarev said he has faced backlash for his efforts to incorporate Native language into school curriculums. “If we teach Native language to children, the government is concerned that these children cannot go to school and learn effectively because we have no education in Native language. They can learn Russian everywhere. But they should get also Native language, because this is very important for the development of a child. It’s good for their brain. In language exists a code for culture, for mentality.”

7398999006_3af404668c_z(Photo found on Flickr)

Ta’Kaiya Blaney

Ta’Kaiya Blaney (13) of the Sliammon Nation, British Columbia, traveled to the Permanent Forum with her own funds to advocate for Indigenous youth rights. There, she shared her aspiration to establish an Indigenous Children’s Fund in collaboration with the Permanent Forum.

Blaney’s passionate speech highlighted the challenges faced by Indigenous youth today: “Children under 18 account for 61 percent of the Indigenous population, the true majority and foundation of Indigenous societies. For centuries, our nations have sustained the familiar cycles of poverty and cultural extinguishment, as well as inadequate healthcare and education, infant mortality, drug abuse, language loss, distance from self-sustaining traditional practices, and suicide. Due to the continuation of historic exclusion, attacks on our cultures, and discrimination, Indigenous youth are subjected to colonization and the devastating after-effects of residential and boarding schools. Indigenous youth are a product of our communities, and so these negative factors become parts of our identity and discriminate against our human rights.”

Blaney proposes an Indigenous Children’s Fund specifically to address culture and language: “because when a language dies, the sense of community and belonging, especially in a youth perspective, dies along with it;” health: “because all Indigenous children are most likely to die under the age of five than live to be an adult in all regions of the world;” education: “in 2009, over 60 percent of Indigenous youth had not completed high school in Canada;” environment, poverty, and well-being: “isolated Indigenous Inuit youth communities alone commit the highest rates of suicide in the world;” and sport: “[this is] a fundamental human right integral to maintaining healthy human relationships [and] a way to help disputes between states.”

The children’s fund incorporates “all essential elements of a youth’s medicine wheel of healthy living: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical activities.” As Blaney explained, “Our elders are dying before they can effectively pass down the culture. [And so] we recommend the creation and establishment of the Native Children’s Survival Indigenous Children’s Fund, which includes an elders, youth, and children advisory board to exchange wisdom, tradition, and opportunity between the generations. Indigenous Peoples are in a constant hidden war with governments, and children fall victim to such hidden wars.” Blaney hopes to fill a void where existing programs have failed, as she said, “to recognize the essential importance of re-establishing culture in the lives of Indigenous children so we may become successful.”

To read more about Ta’Kaiya Blaney’s activism, visit: listen to the full radio interviews and hear programming on Indigenous rights, visit:



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


Filipina Activist Named New Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples


By Britnae Purdy

The United Nations has named Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Filipina Indigenous leader and activist, as the next UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Corpuz, a member of the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines, will be the first woman to hold this position.

Corpuz has been a leader in Indigenous issues for decades. Corpuz joined the Indigenous Peoples movement in Cordillera in the 1970s and headed the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) from 1992-1994. Corpuz lobbied before the United Nations for more than 20 years to bring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to fruition, and was the first Filipina to hold the position of chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in 2007. Corpuz cofounded Tebtebba: the Indigenous Peoples’ International Center for Policy Research and Education in 1996, and is a convener of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network.

“Vicky’s lifetime commitment and passion in her own country has been evident in the way in which she has supported the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her ability to emphasize, network, and support other Indigenous Peoples across the world as well as working collaboratively and constructively with governments globally makes her an excellent choice,” says Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.

Corpuz was chosen from 14 other candidates for the position; Corpuz herself says she is surprised she was chosen because most of the other nominees had obtained Masters or Doctoral degrees, while Corpuz holds an undergraduate nursing degree; she identifies her many years of work in the field as her best qualification for the job.

“The local Indigenous Peoples movement will have a hearing ear to their complaints and whatever is reported to me, based on strong evidence, I will reach out to the necessary authorities and actors who should address these,” says Corpuz.

Corpuz says that while she holds this position she will focus on the impact of big business, such as mining, plantations, and narco-trafficking, on the rights and land of Indigenous Peoples. Corpuz is expected to be formally appointed to the position on March 28th, the last day of the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council, taking place now in Geneva. Corpus follows current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, a Native American lawyer and professor who was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

(Photo from:


A Business Reference Guide to UNDRIP

In December 2013, the UN Global Compact released A Business Reference Guide to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the second annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva.  The Guide aims to help companies comprehensively understand the rights enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and recommends practical actions for respecting and supporting them.

The Guide is the product of an 18-month collaborative process in which thousands of stakeholders from around the world were invited to provide input.  The process included an in-person consultation workshop with Indigenous leaders at the twelfth annual UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the convening of an Advisory Group comprised of experts on issues pertaining to business and Indigenous Peoples’ rights.  The UN Global Compact’s deliberate inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the process bolsters the legitimacy and validity of the Guide.  The Guide should serve as a valuable reference point for companies seeking to develop best practices regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Sources: UN Global Compact


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!



Does UN REDD+ Help or Hurt Indigenous Peoples?


The United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program garnered conflicting opinions at the recent UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), held May 20-31 in New York City.

Under REDD+, in return for not allowing extractive industries to destroy forests, countries are granted monetary rewards equivalent to what they would have received from those industries. The UN report on the program, released in February, states that “REDD+ can be a mechanism for achieving sustainable development outcomes that benefit tropical forests and their populations while simultaneously delivering climate change mitigation benefits. For indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities concerned with securing rights and enhancing sustainable livelihoods, REDD+ may offer both a promising new policy environment and access to resources that enable those rights and livelihoods to be realized.”

The report lists many potential downsides for indigenous communities stemming from the program, including:

–   Violation of customary land rights

–    Increased political marginalization

–    Denial of the right to participate in financial benefits from the program

–     Inability to participate effectively due to lack of information

–     Exploitative carbon contracts

–     Money directed to fraudulent participants

–     Decreased local food production, loss of livelihood, and threats to food security

–     Increased tension between indigenous groups and the government

It also admits that “whether the impact of REDD+ policies and activities on indigenous peoples will be positive or negative will depend largely on the recognition of their rights, their level of participation, and the nature and effectiveness of safeguards to be applied at the international and national levels,” though it offers no path to address this ambiguity.

Seeing the list of potential harm to indigenous peoples resulting from REDD+, it is difficult to see how the UN managed to remain upbeat in their report. Nonetheless, they insisted that the possible positive benefits such as recognition in legislation and public policies of indigenous land tenure rights, enhanced respect for and implementation of indigenous knowledge regarding ecosystem protection, increased revenue, new modes of income, and enhanced maintenance of regulatory ecosystems to help manage the effects of climate change far outweigh the negative.

However, the report made an unfortunate misstep in classifying indigenous people who oppose the REDD+ as “radical.” Bruce “Tom” Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, took exception to this and addressed it at a UNPFII meeting:

“Mr. Chairperson, we do not believe it is radical to oppose a market system that allows multinationals to continue to pollute our peoples in the north with the expansion of fossil development with tar sands and its web of pipelines, coal mining, shale gas, hydraulic fracturing, polluting refineries and the like, while threatening the very identities and rights of our brothers and sisters in the South,” he said. “The implementation of [REDD+ program] in California, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia are doing just that.”

Many indigenous groups argue that many countries participating in  REDD+ programs do not adhere to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). Of the 16 UN-REDD countries with national REDD programs, 10 of them have violated FPIC. “Vietnam has received 4.38 million USD from REDD+ without even recognizing indigenous peoples, much less their land tenure,” Goldtooth pointed out. Goldtooth’s statement was support by the Seventh Generation Fund, American Indian Law Alliance, and Tonatierra.

Goldtooth argued that the UN report demonstrated “cultural chauvinism” and the “same paternalism that accompanies colonization.” Some indigenous groups, such as the National Coordination of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama (COONAPIP), have withdrawn support for REDD+ entirely and urged other indigenous groups to “proceed with caution and take the necessary measures to avoid being tricked by United Nations bodies and officials.” At another meeting, Joan Carling of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) cautioned that just as she could not speak for all indigenous peoples collectively, NGOs also had to be careful not to speak for the indigenous communities: “We notice that a lot of NGOs are working, so called working, closely with indigenous peoples but are imposing their ideological views. And yet at the end of the day, what happens to the forests will affect the lives of indigenous peoples.”


(Photo by Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay)


UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

From May 20 to May 31, over 2000 Indigenous Peoples from around the world gathered in New York for the twelfth annual session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).  UNPFII is the UN’s central coordinating body for matters pertaining to Indigenous Peoples.  It consists of sixteen independent experts appointed to three-year terms by governments and Indigenous organizations, acting as an official advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council.  Throughout the session, UNPFII members heard from thousands of representatives from Indigenous communities and organizations about their rights, development, culture, health, environment, and education.

The impacts of economic development on Indigenous Peoples were important components to this year’s discussion.  The 2013 agenda featured an official session to discuss the impacts of extractive industries on Indigenous Peoples, with a special report on the mining boom in Australia.  Another session was held featuring over 30 delegates from five major multilateral lending institutions – the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the African Development Bank – to discuss the safeguards for Indigenous Peoples’ rights contained in their operating policies.  In addition, side sessions were held on land rights and FPIC by First Peoples Worldwide, Cultural Survival, and the International Land Coalition.

In addition to attending UNPFII and hearing firsthand accounts of Indigenous Peoples’ positive and negative experiences with corporations, First Peoples Worldwide hosted an event on corporate leadership and Indigenous Peoples.  The event was attended by both corporations (including Shell, Hess, Rio Tinto and Anadarko) and investors (including Boston Common Asset Management and Rockefeller and Company), and marked the first official convening of corporate leaders to discuss issues specific to Indigenous Peoples during UNPFII.  The workshop explored the value of direct and culturally-appropriate engagement with Indigenous communities, and highlighted methods of incorporating Indigenous values into contemporary business models.

UNPFII was established in response to concerns that existing UN structures lacked Indigenous representation and were not well-suited to comprehensively address Indigenous Peoples’ issues.  Discussions surrounding the creation of the forum began in the late 1980s, and several planning workshops were held throughout the 1990s.  In 1995, establishment of the forum became an objective of the first UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1995-2004).  The first session of UNPFII took place in May 2002.  UNPFII’s most notable achievement was the 2007 passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with widespread support from the UN General Assembly, which references Indigenous Peoples’ right to FPIC six times.


Remembering the Lenape, the Indigenous People of Manhattan, During UNPFII


At the 12th session of the UN  Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held May 20-31, indigenous peoples from around the world came to New York City to attend workshops, panels, training events, and more. The city no doubt warmly welcomed these visitors with its vast displays of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues – but it’s important to keep in mind that New York City was, and in fact still is, indigenous land.

Broadway, New York City, is the street known around the world for first-class theatrical performances. But long before shows like Wicked and Les Miserables brought in millions of dollars, Broadway was used for a much different kind of commerce – it was the primary trading route of the Lenape Indians, the original inhabitants of Manhattan. The Wickquasgeck Trail, as it was known, ran 15 miles through swampland and thick forest. It was New York City’s first North-South thoroughfare and the Lenape, also known as the Delaware, used it to trade with other Native American tribes as well as with the French, English and Dutch settlers who inhabited the city. The Lenni Lenape (“The Real People”) were matrilineal and matrilocal, organized into clans based on the mother’s descent. This gave women in the Lenape community considerable power, though men were the official leaders. The Lenape practiced farming (including the Three Sisters agriculture technique) as well as hunting and fishing. The Lenape had no system of land ownership, but did regulate land use rights. They originally spoke three dialects belonging to the Eastern Algonquian language group – Unami, Munsee, and Unalachtigo. Unfortunately, these languages have become endangered due to forced migrations, population loss, and political reorganization.

Originally the Native and settler groups coexisted peacefully – in fact, the settlers, unaccustomed to the weather and environment of the so-called New World, learned many useful survival tactics from the Native tribes. However, in 1624 the newly-established Dutch colony began encroaching on Native territory. In 1626 the Lenape supposedly “sold” New York City to Dutch governor Peter Minuit for $24 – in actuality, the tribe perceived this transaction as allowing the Dutch to share the land with the Lenape, not as a transfer of ownership. Assuming the land was now legally in their possession, the Dutch named their new territory “New Amsterdam.” In 1660 the English settlement began to grow – Wall Street, now the financial sector of the city, was originally, in fact, a walled street built by the Dutch to keep both British and Native Americans off of their land. The English acquired most of the former Dutch colony, renamed it “New York,” and in the early 1700s forced the majority of the Native American population to relocate to Oklahoma. Today, around 87,241 Native Americans, primarily of Algonquian and Haudenosaunee descent, live in New York City.

In such a fast-paced, high-tech, and cosmopolitan city, it is difficult to think back to a time when the skyscrapers were gone, the flashing billboards non-existent, and indigenous people carefully inhabited the unspoiled wilderness, but in order to fully respect the city (and especially in light of events such UNPFII), it is important to try. Luckily, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) serves as a monument to the indigenous cultures of New York as well as those across North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean.

The museum, which has a sister museum in Washington, D.C., is now housed at the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, the site where the fateful transfer of land from Lenape to Dutch occurred in 1626. Originally the private collection of George Gustave Haye (1874-1857), the museum was incorporated into the Smithsonian system in 1989, making it free to the public.

The museum boasts over 825,000 items spanning 12,000 years of history and 1,200 indigenous cultures throughout the Americas. The museum represents all tribes in the United States, most tribes in Canada, and a significant number of Central, South, and Caribbean tribes. 68 percent of its items are from the United States, 3.5 percent from Canada, 10 percent from Mexico and Central America, 11 percent from South America, and 6 percent from the Caribbean. The museum’s items are primarily archeological (55 percent), but also it boasts ethnographic items (43 percent) and modern and contemporary indigenous art (2 percent). In addition to artifacts, the museum is in possession of 324,000 photos, 12,000 film clips, and 1500 square feet of documents, all dating back to the 1860s.

In an effort to respect and maintain indigenous culture, the museum actively participates in the process of repatriation, in which all human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony are identified and, to the best of the museum’s ability, returned to their respective tribes for safe-keeping. To spread knowledge of indigenous culture to the public, the museum hosts a variety of film screenings, educational programs, speakers, and performers throughout the year.

The Smithsonian NMAI was one of our partners for Proud to Be Indigenous Week. We’re so honored to work with them to promote the respect for and preservation of indigenous cultures!

(Photo, Lenape knife and sheath, courtesy of NMAI)