Photo: Celia Panduro (Shipibo) of Masisea, Pucallpa, Peru, holds a sign that says "Stay at home" in her native language. Photo by Cecilio Soria of the Shipibo Konibo Xetebo Indigenous governance council, whose radio station was supported by a grant from Cultural Survival in 2018.
As the world faces what feels like unprecedented times, Indigenous Peoples across the globe are reflecting on the experiences of their ancestors in fighting past pandemics. They are turning to traditional knowledge, practices and values to remain strong and healthy in this crisis. When rooted in the strength of Indigenous lands, cultures, languages, knowledge, ancestors, and communities, Indigenous Peoples will be resilient– but even in their resilience, they still face disproportionate challenges and inequities in navigating this pandemic.
Centuries of colonization has impacted Indigenous access to lands, territories, and natural resources and has disrupted access to food and medicine, leaving many Indigenous communities with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, malnutrition, obesity, and heart disease. The lands where they harvest our food and medicine have been contaminated and degraded.
International solidarity is vital for the survival of Indigenous Peoples and all our relations. There is a special need to support ground-breaking initiatives managed by Indigenous governments, local community organizations, women, and youth, who know what is needed on the local level and are on the ground to carry it out.
In addition to providing our regular comprehensive programming, we have swiftly adapted to also provide emergency support to Indigenous Peoples who are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, globally. Indigenous communities experience alarming rates of inequities and systemic discrimination, including limited to no access to information, holistic medical care, medical supplies, food, housing and more. Additionally, Indigenous Peoples are nearly three times as likely to live in extreme poverty and likely to suffer negative outcomes from infectious diseases. Many Indigenous Peoples also experience disproportionate rates of malnutrition, pre-existing health conditions and lack of access to culturally relevant information, quality healthcare, housing, and clean drinking water.
Rural Indigenous communities are often intentionally not recognized by their governments, therefore do not have access to resources to support their self-determined responses to COVID-19 and ensure their communities are healthy, safe and well-informed of the daily changes of this virus. Recognizing these pre-existing and evolving barriers, we have responded by providing life-saving support, assistance and redistributing resources to the most vulnerable communities. Our Indigenous grant partners have informed us of the unique situations they are experiencing on the ground in their communities, how they are responding, and what is needed. We have a unique disposition to respond to their needs while simultaneously upholding Indigenous rights, and prioritizing health, well-being and cultural continuity during this critical time. As much of the world is being informed of what COVID-19 is and how it spreads, Indigenous Peoples are largely being left out of this conversation and this information sharing and their access to information is further complicated by language barriers. Public health information is not being made available in Indigenous languages, leaving Indigenous elders and rural communities behind, and uninformed on effective prevention measures.
Our COVID-19 response features a holistic, multi-layered approach including:
Redistributing Financial Resources
- Our Keepers of the Earth Fund has launched an emergency grant-making process that provides small, direct grants for urgent, community-centered projects that help our Indigenous partners respond to the crisis in their local communities, using Indigenous, place-based solutions. As of May 2020, 17 grants have been made to help ensure our partners’ communities remain healthy and strong during this pandemic. Through these grants, our partners are mobilizing, building on existing initiatives and networks, and establishing new projects in pursuit of food sovereignty, water security, locally developed communications strategies, mutual aid, and healthy communities.
- Our Community Media Grants Project recently provided grants to 21 radio stations that are urgently creating and distributing radio programs about COVID-19 prevention, food sovereignty, community health, social aid, economy and entrepreneurship.
Developing, Distributing and Translating Life-Saving Information & Materials
- Through our Indigenous Rights Radio program we have sourced, produced, disseminated, and translated 226 Public Service Announcements for preventative measures against COVID-19 into 92 Indigenous languages and distributed through 1200+ radio stations globally.
- We launched a Prevention Manual and Emergency Response Toolkit to support the essential activities of radio stations, including general guidelines for good communication that goes beyond prevention. Currently, it is available in English and Spanish and 29 Indigenous languages.
- We are curating the first global monitoring system for COVID-19 for Indigenous communities using Google maps technology to document COVID-19 cases and related human rights violations. Public health data focuses on cities and majority groups, not rural Indigenous communities, therefore, increasing Indigenous Peoples lack of access to resources to support and empower them to respond accordingly. This technology will also enable Indigenous Peoples to share their own factual data, rather than it being suppressed and controlled by governments and other institutions, and bring awareness to the human rights violations occurring with concerning frequency amid the opportunity of a global pandemic.
- We are developing and disseminating ongoing content and materials on COVID-19 across our programs.
Join Cultural Survival in upholding Indigenous rights, health, well being and cultural continuity during this critical time. We rely on people like you to keep our institution and communities strong. Make a financial gift today! From all of us at Cultural Survival, we thank you for your support and commitment to upholding Indigenous rights and self-determination.