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Indigenous Youth Fellows Are Having an Impact in Their Communities

In 2023, Cultural Survival received hundreds of applications from Indigenous youth who were interested in participating in our Indigenous Youth Fellowship Program. Our Fellowship Program supports young Indigenous leaders between the ages of 17-28, who are eager to learn about technology, program development, journalism, community radio, media, language revitalization, leadership development, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights advocacy. Since 2018, we have awarded 111 fellowships supporting 236 fellows. This year alone 49 fellowships have been awarded around the world. Several of these fellowship projects that began as an idea are now being realized under youth leadership and have advanced in different ways for the benefit of Indigenous communities. These projects have responded to diverse needs such as language revitalization, recovery of ancestral knowledge, medicine, education, and raising awareness of increased mining for transition minerals, among others.

Here we spotlight a few projects by our fellows who are committed to their communities, lands, identities, languages, and cultures.

Martha Natalia Rodriguez (Piapoco) from Venezuela

Martha’s fellowship project is aimed at strengthening skills in crafts with the purpose of being an alternative economic means for women in her community of San José Galipero. Over the past few months, she has met with community members to promote the initiative and not only encourage a new economic livelihood but also appeal to the protection of traditional knowledge and techniques that her community houses.

Estefanía Grefa (Kichwa) from Ecuador

Estefanía’s fellowship project “Reforestation and use of the urungahua palm fruit” in the Kichwa community of Unión Base seeks to restore an endemic fruit of the area and promotes its conservation by youth and children of her community. Estefanía is also looking to promote the fruit’s cultivation for the benefit of families by selling the produce. To date, she has organized four learning days for the residents of her town.

Julieth Arias (Guna) from Panama

Julieth is leading the SABGUED project, which means “conservation” in Guna and has met with leaders of the region who specialize in traditional medicine to request their support in the management of this project. She is currently working on organizing workshops on traditional medicine and producing audiovisual materials that promote ancestral knowledge in her community. Additionally, Julieth hopes to participate in and promote her project at local cultural festivals and hold an art exhibition that showcases her Guna culture.

Florentina Sri Dewi Wulan (Dayak Simpakng) from Indonesia
Dewi is implementing a fellowship project on the revitalization of the Dayak Simpakng language through documentation of knowledge in written form. Through writing, they seek to safeguard oral stories that have been passed down for generations by Elders. In this way, they will be able to bring the language to more people inside and outside their community. In addition, Dewi has been documenting knowledge and techniques for the management of bamboo in the production of crafts and other items.