The Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF) is proud to announce that in 2023 we awarded over half a million dollars in small grants to support Indigenous projects on issues related to community empowerment for land defense and autonomy; the transmission of Indigenous knowledge; traditional medicine and Indigenous spirituality; food sovereignty and Indigenous economies; and the various forms of resistance to mining for the "green" energy transition.
In total, 72 Indigenous projects and collectives were financed for a total amount of $543,605. The funds were sent directly to Indigenous communities, collectives, and grassroots organizations in 21 countries.
At Cultural Survival, we value cultivating long-term relationships with our partners. Therefore, we awarded 22 grants to organizations that had received grants in prior years, representing one-third of this year's total. Following our programmatic priority of supporting Indigenous women and youth, 16 organizations led by Indigenous women and 9 projects either led by or directly supporting Indigenous youth were financed.
The Keepers of the Earth Fund is an Indigenous-led fund at Cultural Survival designed to support Indigenous Peoples' advocacy and community development projects globally. Since 2017, we have supported 310 projects in 41 countries through small grants and wrap-around support totaling $1,603,307. Grants go directly to Indigenous communities, collectives, organizations, and traditional governments to support projects designed by them and in accordance with their Indigenous values. Predicated on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Survival uses a rights-based approach in our grantmaking strategies to support grassroots Indigenous solutions through the equitable distribution of resources to Indigenous communities.
The demand for minerals such as nickel, lithium, cobalt, and copper is predicted to skyrocket as countries transition from fossil fuel economies. Indigenous territories contain significant amounts of untapped heavy metal reserves around the world, putting Indigenous lands and communities at risk. Of 5,097 mining projects globally that involve some 30 minerals used in renewable energy technologies, 54% are located on or near Indigenous Peoples' lands and territories. In the United States, 97% of nickel, 89% of copper, 79% lithium, and 68% of cobalt are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations.
Every day, Indigenous leaders risk their lives to protect their territories from mining. From 2010-2020, there were 495 human rights allegations made against all 115 companies involved in transition mineral extraction. In 2022, 41% of attacks against Indigenous Peoples were related to mining.
Meet our grant partners living in resistance to transition mineral mining for the “green” energy transition.
International Indigenous Fund for Development and Solidarity Batani - (Dolgan, Nenet, Nganasan, Evenk, Enet, Sami), USA
Activities related to the transition to the green economy are posing a direct threat to the land and ecology of Taimyr Peoples in Siberia, whose Indigenous and human rights are being violated by the Norilsk Nickel Mine. Due to the difficult political situation in Russia, Batani works from Turtle Island for the defense of ancestral lands. Together with the Securing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Green Economy (SIRGE) Coalition, Batani is working to secure international cooperation for the Taimyr Indigenous communities to create a system to protect their rights.
Red Chacha Warmi - (Kolla, Quechua Aymara, Atacama, Chicha, Afro-descendant), Argentina
The Chacha Warmi Network was created in 2016 by a group of women from various Indigenous communities in the Puna and Yungas region of the province of Jujuy, and is made up of women and non-binary people, mainly migrants, who take pride in their Indigenous identities. With an anti-racist, anti-patriarch, anti-extractivist, and anti-colonialist approach, they support Indigenous communities of Jujuy who are facing various problems related to the defense of their environment, human rights, children’s rights, and Indigenous women’s rights. With the support of a KOEF grant, they are providing legal, administrative, and technical advice to communities, and organizing trainings and workshops on the impacts of mining extractivism, economic autonomy, gender violence, racism, community land tenure, and protection of territories.
Research and Applied Technologies Center for al Qullasuyu (CITAQ) - (Aymara), Bolivia
The community of Ayllu Yaribay have engaged in salt production since the time of the Incas, but with the industrial exploitation of the Uyuni Salt Flat, the demand for their salt has declined drastically. The producers of Ayllu Yaribay have had difficulty satisfying the iodization, milling, and packaging processes that are required for the commercial production of salt. In 2023, CITAQ, with the support of the Keepers of the Earth Fund, is working to strengthen the community’s traditional methods of salt cultivation with the operation of a new mill, iodine dosing machine, and packaging machine. In addition, trainings will be conducted to raise awareness about the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the defense of territory against threats of mining exploitation.
Copiapó Commune - (Colla), Chile
Copiapó Commune is made up of 53 representatives of the Colla Indigenous Peoples, whose territory, located in the rural sector of El Bolo near the Maricun Salt Flat, is under threat by lithium, copper, and gold extraction activities. With the support of a KOEF grant, the community will build a House of Memory to raise awareness about the struggles they are facing while also strengthening their cultural heritage and incorporating the participation of youth and children with oral storytelling activities about the community. In doing so, the community aims to transform the colonial perspective of Chilean museums.
Wixárika Regional Council for the Defense of Wirikuta (CRW)- (Wixárika), Mexico
Faced with the ongoing threat of mining exploitation in Wirikuta, the ancestral territory of the Wixárika Peoples, the Wixárika Regional Council has been fighting since 2011 for their protection and land rights through political management, legal defense, and regional community organization. With the support of a KOEF grant, the Council is tracking the nomination of their territory as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to ensure that the Wixárika people are incorporated into the management plan for the sacred site.
Ekvn-Yefolecv - (Maskoke), USA
The Ekvn-Yefolecv collective aims to expand the agriculture and aquaculture operations in a Maskoke community in Alabama, where the river, waters, and land are threatened by a proposed open-pit graphite mine. With the support of a KOEF grant, they will enlarge their sturgeon aquaculture facility and increase bison and small ruminant pasture paddocks. These expansions will strengthen the community’s food sovereignty and ensure the health of the community by creating a regenerative source of income for generations to come.
Native Village of Ambler Traditional Council - (Nunatchiaq, Ipnatchiaq, Katyaak, Sinġaqmiut, Laugviik, Qiqiktaġruk, Napaaqtuġmiut, Nuurvik, Akuligaq, Shungnak), USA
The Native Village of Ambler Traditional Council created the Giving Voice for Our Kuuvanmiut Culture Project in response to a proposed road that would be built on top of Tribal lands and pose a threat to the Alaska Native communities’ cultures, subsistence, and lands. With the support of a KOEF grant, the Council plans to arrange a meeting with state and federal officials to discuss the problem, submit written comments, and conduct in-person or virtual consultations about the communities’ concerns.
People of Red Mountain - (Paiute, Shoshone), USA
A proposed open-pit lithium mine in Peehee Mu'huh (Thacker Pass), Nevada, is threatening the sacred land of the Paiute and Shoshone Tribes. Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) are responding by creating a project to protect their sacred land through organizing awareness raising events in the region, providing educational booths, publications, billboards, and engaging at conferences to spread the word about their struggle.
Angosto El Perchel Indigenous Community - (Kolla), Argentina
The Angosto El Perchel Indigenous community is made up of 79 families in the Quebrada de Humahuaca region. It is important to the community to promote collective participation and dialogue with other nearby communities to address issues of environmental and water protection and large-scale extractivist activities, among others. A grant from the Keepers of the Earth Fund will enable them to build a multipurpose sports center to hold meetings, assemblies, and other community activities so that children, youth, and adults can actively participate and strengthen their networks.
Union of Yagecero Doctors of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC) - (Inga, Kamentsa, Siona, Cofán, Corebajú), Colombia
The Union of Yagecero Doctors is a network of Indigenous spiritual authorities belonging to five Indigenous Peoples in the Andean-Amazonian Piedmont. Their objective is to strengthen the social ties of Indigenous women living in communities affected by the armed conflict, who have been forced into confinement and have seen their traditional ways of life weakened. With the support of the Keepers of the Earth Fund, the women of UMIYAC will hold three meetings in the territories of each participating Indigenous Peoples, as well as a general meeting to exchange experiences and knowledge, build collective memory, weave stories of courage and resistance, and construct plans for safeguarding each town in the context of threats to their territory due to mining and violence.
Laevas Sameby Community - (Saami), Sweden
Min Ođđa Giron is a Saami project of the Laevas Sameby and Gabna reindeer herding communities in the city of Kiruna, Sweden. Mining activities, deforestation, and climate change have impacted the reindeer population. Following the recent discovery of rare earth minerals on their traditional territory, the threat of further mining expansion led the community to take action to protect their land. With the support of a KOEF grant, the community created the Min Ođđa Giron project and began organizing youth-led demonstrations and gatherings, workshops, and capacity building trainings to halt mining activities, demand compliance with their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
Marka Tahua Community - (Aymara), Bolivia
The Uyuni Salt Flat is comprised of several islands, one of which has become a tourist attraction. In this project, the Marka Tahua, made up of 13 Aymara communities, will develop tourism on a second island, either Qujiry or Isla del Pescado, that will prominently feature Aymara culture. The community will first ensure basic services and organize the administration of the project, and later will establish two scenic viewpoints. The development of culture-focused tourism strengthens the economic sovereignty of the community, whose livelihood is threatened by the expansion of lithium mining in its territory, in a way that is harmonious with Pachamama and thus compatible with the Aymaras’ model of buen vivir.
Gavilán Community - (Huötüja), Venezuela
In the Cataniapo River basin, illegal mining has become one of the worst problems facing local Indigenous communities, who have been invaded and even displaced from their territories by miners. With the support of a KOEF grant, the Huötüja Gavilán community seeks to defend and protect their environment through entrepreneurship. Traditional planting, harvesting, and production of products derived from bitter cassava is an alternative source of income for the community with minimal environmental impact. Participants will be trained in entrepreneurship and awareness raising workshops about the problems caused by illegal mining.
Aldeia Cinta Vermelha Community - (Pankararú, Pataxó), Brazil
Facing problems stemming from mining, the people of Aldeia Cinta Vermelha have been discussing how to strengthen their training and cooperation between villages. With support from the Keepers of the Earth Fund, this Pataxó community in Minas Gerais will continue their training about Indigenous rights and impacts of mining for transition minerals. They will meet with leaders and will hold conversation circles to exchange experiences with other impacted communities. The project will strengthen the collective organization and the security of their territories.
Union of Huötüja Indigenous Peoples and Communities of Pendare (UPCIHURPA) - (Huötüja), Venezuela
Mining has been affecting the Indigenous population of Parhuaza region for years, as forced migration and environmental degradation have created divisions among the Huötüja People. UPCIHURPA is working on a mass communication and public awareness campaign about the impacts of mining, intended to reach as many people as possible, with a series of workshops and talks on Indigenous rights and the risks of mining expansion in their region. The initial group of participants will be entrusted with repeating the information in their communities.
Quilombola Community in Girau - (Quilombola), Brazil
The lithium exploitation fever has negatively impacted local agriculture while spreading violence and pollution on Indigenous lands in Girau. The Quilombola community in Girau wants to expand their fields to produce more vegetables to gain profits from their cultivation. They are working to improve their living conditions and secure food sovereignty and economic sustainability.
Aranã Kaabok Peoples from Araçuaí and Coronel Murta - (Quilombola and Caboclo), Brazil
Members of the Quilombola and Caboclo Peoples living in urban areas are denied their rights because they do not have access to land, even if they live in the cities not by choice but because of historical discrimination, dispossession, and violence against their ancestors. In this project, families mobilized themselves to rent a space for collective use for trainings, meetings, and support to those who come to the city and need a place to stay. The space will give them more visibility in the region and strengthen their fight for recognition.
Collective of Kabok Women from Araçuai - (Kabok), Brazil
In the context of mining for lithium and niobium, the Kabok people are fighting for their lands. They are also looking for official recognition, as the Brazilian government does not recognize them because they are living mostly in an urban context. This group of Indigenous women will hold meetings with sisters from other regions and share about the impacts mining for lithium is causing in their territory. They will also organize workshops on herbs and medicinal plants, crafts, body painting, and traditional desserts.
Three Defenders of Land and Indigenous Rights
The need for emergency support for defenders of Indigenous Peoples is growing globally. This year, Cultural Survival has provided emergency funds to several Indigenous rights and land defenders, including three Indigenous leaders who face serious threats related to their community work securing land and Indigenous rights. The violence against them includes physical attacks, imprisonment, and political persecution. Keepers of the Earth funds were utilized for medical and psychological care, legal defense, security and food, and other urgent individual, family, or collective needs.