From Conflict to Collaboration: Tribal Strategies for Resistance and Restoration

We are seeking a Switzer Network Innovation grant to co-fund a two-part event for indigenous practitioners that we are organizing in October 2013 – the North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange, or NACELE. Switzer fellows Susannah McCandless of Global Diversity Foundation, and Melissa Nelson of Cultural Conservancy are working in partnership with other indigenous and environmental leaders to develop the event, to be hosted by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation at their Cache Creek Casino Resort facility in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at Bioneers in San Rafael, CA. We would very much appreciate other fellows' feedback on this concept note!

Innovation Grant funds will support the convening of 15-20 invited mid-career North American indigenous environmental practitioners at NACELE, segueing into their participation in Bioneers 2013. The four-day workshop will focus on indigenous engagement in struggles to protect and restore lands and waters, and through these, culture and sovereignty, with particular attention to Idle No More, the powerful First Nations movement kindled in Canada. Participants will share the realities, challenges and contradictions of the work of resistance and restoration. They will also strategize on potential ways forward, in leadership and partnership, for indigenous peoples whose biocultural territories are presently under threat from resource extraction, or in need of restoration.

Goals: We will be seeking to flag potential pitfalls of the work of resistance and restoration in the context of the green economy, and to identify successful, reproducible strategies and opportunities to forge creative alliances, like those between anglers and tribal leaders in the unprecedented Klamath River dam removal initiative. The workshop is designed to broaden and deepen participants’ knowledge, networking, and communication skills through peer-to-peer exchange of cases and strategies, site visits to innovative tribal and collaborative initiatives, and skill-building opportunities. All participants are invited to attend Bioneers, to continue the indigenous-led learning begun at the workshop.

Site visits: We will ground our discussions with site visits to Yocha Dehe’s organic farming and green energy installations, and hear about a transformative collaboration between the casino and local Capay Valley farmers. We’ll proceed to the neighboring Cache Creek Conservancy, a powerful example of ecological and cultural revitalization through partnerships for restoration, including native plant tending and gathering gardens serving master basketweavers. The site visits will integrate a shared meal prepared by Cultural Conservancy-sponsored indigenous Chomorro participants from Eat Your Heritage, a project of Guamanian chefs sparking cultural revitalization through food sovereignty.

Bioneers: The workshop, held 14-17 October, will feed directly into the Bioneers 2013 Indigenous Forum (18-20 October), generating a panel entitled, “From Conflict to Collaboration: Tribal Strategies for Resistance and Restoration.” The panel will be an opportunity for participants in NACELE to choose rapporteurs to share emergent experiences, strategies and ideas with a wider audience. It will also allow attendees to deepen their overall understanding through active sharing and debate among the broad collective of thinkers, activists, leaders and social entrepreneurs present at Bioneers.

Products: This proposal generates several products, beyond the opportunity for intensive networking among engaged practitioners. Experiences and key findings of the workshop will be captured in a workshop report rich with case studies, disseminated through participants’ and organizers’ networks. A team of indigenous videographers trained by the Cultural Conservancy will film the Bioneers panel and conduct short interviews with participants, to generate evergreen educational video content for use in college Native Studies and environmental classrooms

We are also seeking funding support to expand videography to aspects of the workshop itself. This would create richer and more varied footage for educational use, and tell the story of transformative collaborations occurring in the Cache Creek watershed, between local farmers and the casino kitchens, and mining companies and traditional users.

NACELE Co-organizers:

Darcie Houck (Mohawk and Ottawa), specializes in Native American land use, environment, energy development, gaming, and health care as a partner at the law firm of Fredericks, Peebles and Morgan LLP;

Melissa Nelson (Anishaabe/Métis [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), President of the Cultural Conservancy and Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State, previous Switzer Leadership Fellow, and co-organizer of the Bioneers Indigenous Forum with Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Indigeneity Program Director, and Tom Goldtooth (Diné and Dakota), of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Octaviana Trujillo (Pascua Yaqui), Founding chair and professor of the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies at Northern Arizona University, longtime human rights activist, and former chair of her tribe;

Robin Marsh, Co-Director of the UC Berkeley Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program; and Susannah McCandless, GDF International Program Director, North American Regional Coordinator, and current Switzer Leadership Fellow.

Switzer network tie-ins: First, thank you for sharing ideas to stregthen this proposal. Second, as the workshop will take place in the California Bay Area, it will provide an ideal opportunity for indigenous and local Switzer Network colleagues and fellows to engage, either as NACELE participants, or with them and the co-organizers. We hope some of the many Switzer alums who are working on questions of restoration, partnerships for conservation, and resource management in the green economy will have good suggestions for potential invitees, or key recommenders we can contact. You are cordially invited to join us for the site visits and lunch on Wednesday 16 October. Given the cost and limited availability of San Rafael-area hotel space for Bioneers, we would also love to hear from nearby fellows and friends potentially willing to host participants for the two nights of Bioneers (18-19 October).

Warm regards,

Susannah McCandless '04

Melissa Nelson '96

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I have attended the Bioneers

I have attended the Bioneers on the Bay event in New Bedford, MA for the past 4 or 5 years and am a big fan. I think your ideas has merit. I used to work with tribes in Washington state in natural resource mgt -- specifically fisheries/salmon. I'm happy to help you but would be unable to attend your CA lunch. However, I would be willing to help export this to New Bedford if that would be desirable. We often have streaming presentations from the CA Bioneers. It would be nice to assemble a parallel group of New England practitioners. Here is CT where I live we have two of the largest casino operated by tribes (Mhoegan and Mashantucket Pequot).Contact me via email or phone if you'd like to brainstorm further.

Admirable and needed effort

I think this is an admirable and needed effort. While my distance precludes most kinds of help I could provide, let me know if there are ways I can assist, including further connections with indigenous folks here in Hawai`i who work on this interface.

Working with groups with similar issues

I would love to participate however I can, as an indigenous environmental resource manager and as a fellow. I work with tribal groups and organizations struggling through these same issues in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Alaska. I will be in the Bay Area during that time and would love to interact with the participants.

Thanks to all for your comments

Thanks to all for your comments and emails! I look forward to responding to you individually once I return to the office next week, and hope some of you will be able to join us at the workshop!

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