It has been a full year since I joined Cultural Survival and just five months into my journey, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and affected our lives in more ways than one. 2020 has caused unprecedented health, political and economic crises across the globe and this pandemic has deeply affected many Indigenous communities, causing an immediate threat to our well-being and survival. Cultural Survival, without missing a beat pivoted to supporting our partner communities and their responses to the virus.
We are fortunate to be based in 9 countries and have strong connections to Indigenous communities across the world, so transitioning to this virtual world was smooth. I am extremely proud of the work our team has accomplished. In addition to our COVID response work, we started an inclusive and participatory strategic planning process and hosted our first virtual Bazaar. It hasn’t been easy though—our team has experienced personal challenges, with some staff addressing childcare and partners’ loss of income, while others directly battled COVID and suffered the loss of their loved ones.
This pandemic has taught Cultural Survival many lessons, and it is through deep internal inquiry, introspection, deep listening, grief, adaptation, analysis, and making proactive choices that has allowed us to remain strong and resilient. In addition to our regular programming, Cultural Survival has carried out a robust COVID-19 response project that features a holistic, multilayered approach including redistributing financial resources and developing, distributing and translating life-saving information. We have made 47 impactful grants to 31 communities and 21 radio stations , and have helped bridge the digital divide by developing and sharing nearly 500 informative and life-saving materials in Indigenous languages that aid in keeping Indigenous communities healthy and safe. We are also documenting COVID-19 cases and related human rights violations in Indigenous communities using Google maps technology, enabling Indigenous Peoples to share their own factual data and bring awareness to the violations occurring amid the global pandemic.
I have to underscore that our accomplishment is a function of our community. We have been able to do this work because of all the people who believe in us, support our work, and uphold our vision. However, the need in Indigenous communities persists, and more needs to be done. We are gearing up for the second phase of our COVID response work and hope that we can count on you to join us in this next phase. These hard times have shown us that we need our allies, our relatives, to stand with us and support us more than ever. Indigenous rights are being threatened and at risk as governments continue to abuse their power under the cover of the pandemic. Our Indigenous leaders are being murdered for protecting their lands and resources which keeps their communities safe and healthy.
I am grateful for our partnership and call on to our community for support. If you’re able, please donate, even $10 goes a long way! Investing in Indigenous communities is an investment in a better world for us all.
In solidarity and gratitude,
Galina Angarova (Buryat)