By Ellen Lomonico
This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, learn how these five organizations are making a direct and positive impact on indigenous communities through grassroots activism. Located around the world, the following NGOs are either run or advised by past recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize.
Led by Goldman Prize recipient Ruth Buendía (Peru, 2014), the nonprofit CARE provides legal representation and support to the Asháninka people, who have endured a long history of violence in Peru, from colonization to civil war to current threats to their natural resources. A member of the Asháninka and mother of five, Ruth was the first female president of CARE.
UCRT has championed community land rights and sustainable development in northern Tanzania for the past 20 years. As the NGO’s leader, Edward Loure (Tanzania, 2016) developed a creative approach to land management for the Maasai—an indigenous group in Tanzania and Kenya—allowing entire communities to secure land rights instead of the conventional Western model of individual ownership. UCRT has protected over 200,000 acres of rangeland, and its unique community land ownership model is being replicated in other countries.
Often called the “American Serengeti” for its natural richness and diverse of ecosystems, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska has also long attracted those seeking to exploit its vast oil and gas reserves. Members of the Gwich’in First Nation, Sarah James, Norma Kassi, and Jonathan Solomon (United States, 2002) won the Goldman Prize for defending the region from oil drilling. Today, the Gwich’in continue to face threats to their land and culture, as the Trump administration seeks to open up the refuge to extractive industries.
FENAMAD seeks to maintain the biodiversity and culture of indigenous peoples in the abundant rainforests and wilderness of the Madre de Dios region of southeastern Peru. The NGO supports the small indigenous communities of the Madre de Dios, many of which engage in subsistence living and find their livelihood threatened by deforestation. Goldman Prize winner and indigenous leader Julio Cusurichi (Peru, 2007) serves as chair of FENAMAD’s board of directors.
Natives of the central and southern regions of Chile and Argentina, the Mapuche (meaning “people of the land”) are an indigenous group fighting to preserve their territory, culture, and autonomy. Among their leaders is Alberto Curamil (Chile, 2019), a major champion of environmental activism and Mapuche rights. Alberto has led ATM’s efforts to preserve ancestral lands from hydro-power projects and forest plantations.
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