While the United Nations buzzed with activity this week, another, quieter indigenous revolution—this one involving finance—was taking place just a few miles away, tucked unobtrusively under the Brooklyn Bridge.
On Friday September 26 the World Summit on Indigenous Philanthropy wrapped up its conference at the Marriott Hotel just south of the iconic span after three days of discussion on how to fund indigenous projects, workshops profiling groups that are working to build better lives for Indigenous Peoples, and panels on topics ranging from violence against women to climate change.
"One of the most successful sessions I've seen," said Evelyn Arce, executive director of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP), the group that held the summit. She noted its focus on discussing sustainable models of investment, and the value of bringing potential investors into contact with indigenous organizations.
And there were many of the latter. One panel profiled the Iramoo Zone, which seeks to reach 90,000 aboriginal men and enlist as many of them as possible to lead violence-prevention efforts in their communities in Australia. Another addressed the lack of female representation in decisions affecting climate change policy, even though women are often affected the hardest. There were also workshops on culture and on selling indigenous fashion without selling out.
On Wednesday September 25 the Sacred Fire Foundation presented its Wisdom Fellowship Award to Tarcila Rivera Zea, a longtime Quechua activist from Ayacucho, Peru. The award honors "the work of an elder who has demonstrated lifelong achievement in bringing wisdom, leadership and learning to their people and their community," according to Sacred Fire's website. "Elders all over the world are the keepers of tradition, of that deep relationship with the living world and the Sacred," Sacred Fire said. "They are the ones who look out for their communities, bringing wisdom and learning to their peoples. The work they do is vital, not only to their communities, but to the world."
In 2012 the award went to Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation and member of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. Lyons was on hand for the gala dinner on Wednesday, as was Tom Goldtooth, head of the Indigenous Environmental Network, the group that led the Native contingent of the People's Climate March.
Rivera, whose work has spanned more than 20 years, has focused mainly on women's rights, although she also served with the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the formation of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations and helped draft the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"This fire, this flame that we carry inside us and that we show off to the world, we carry for all of humanity and to show the dignity of indigenous women and indigenous people," Rivera said in her acceptance speech. "We are not beggars. We have profound wisdom, and we have profound contributions to make to development—and also for safeguarding this world for future generations. And so I call upon us all to feed the fire that we carry within, and within our hearts."
Below is a video of her accomplishments.