We invite you to sign this letter of support, in solidarity with Batani Fund and the Aborigen Forum Coalition:

In solidarity with Indigenous peoples from Russia and worldwide, we call on finance institutions and companies working with Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel) to demand respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection from their business partners. This includes asking green energy companies and international finance institutions to uphold Indigenous rights in the global supply chain by not sourcing nickel mined by Nornickel or financing Nornickel operations until the company demonstrates its ability to address standards set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

In doing so, we stand united with “Batani,” an international Indigenous fund for development and solidarity and  “Aborigen Forum,” an informal association of experts, activists, leaders and organizations of Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation. Together with 35 other organizations and entities working with Indigenous peoples to protect Indigenous rights and the environment, the Batani Fund has sent an urgent call to both international banking and credit institutions and buyers of metals from Nornickel, including BASF, Union Bank of Switzerland, and Credit Suisse Bank.

The next industrial revolution of electric cars and clean energy should not be pursued at the price of Indigenous peoples’ rights and traditional lands. Nickel is a key ingredient in the cathodes of electric car batteries, allowing them to store more energy more cheaply. Nornickel produces one third of the global supply of nickel, and operates some of world’s largest factories for copper and cobalt. Yet, Nornickel its widely known for its failures on environmental and human rights issues, resulting in significant negative consequences for Indigenous peoples in Russia. 

The Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the Arctic have been living in the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast for generations. The Sámi, Nenets, Nganasan, Enets, Dolgan and Evenk communities continue to practice their traditional way of life, and depend on a healthy environment for their subsistence. These communities suffer as a result of negative impacts from Nornickel operations on their reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, and other economic and activities, as well as their physical health and well-being.

For decades, pollution from Norilsk factories has ranked at top levels for global air pollution. Publicly available information demonstrates significant reliability and reputational problems with Nornickel. In 2009, the Norwegian Pension Fund, one of the world’s largest investors, blacklisted Nornickel due to “severe environmental damage”, with other financial institutions like Actiam and Skandia following. Furthermore, the company has a well-documented history of making empty promises to improve its operations and engaging in corruption. 
On May 29, 2020, a massive oil spill occurred when a Nornickel power plant flooded local rivers with up to 21,000 tons of diesel oil. The incident was the second-largest environmental disaster in the Arctic region, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The diesel oil polluted major bodies of water, which serve several Indigenous communities as a source of drinking water and as fishing grounds. One year later, those communities still face a shortage of food and are not able to pursue economic activities like trading fish and meat, and their traditional way of life as they could before the catastrophe.

Following this oil spill, a Russian court levied the highest fine ever imposed in Russia for environmental crimes on Nornickel. However, compensation was not paid to all those affected, and not in the amount promised. Further, Nornickel has refused to engage in dialogue with Indigenous community leaders expressing concerns about its operations, and has been unwilling to include Indigenous community demands into company plans for mitigating pollution from the spill. 

These requests are particularly important to youth leaders, who are dedicated to a just transition towards an emerging green economy. It is the next generation that will pay the highest price for continuing business as usual with companies that have proven records of environmental and human rights violations. And advocating in solidarity with Indigenous peoples is part of the Green New Deal that young people are looking for in their support for more socially and environmentally responsible business practices.   

We therefore respectfully reiterate our request for companies and financial institutions to not engage in business relations or professional contracts with Nornickel until company compliance with internationally recognized social and environmental standards, including UNDRIP standards on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), can be clearly established and validated.

Sign the letter HERE

Coalition Calls for Securing Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On August 9, 2022, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous leaders will launch a new site—www.sirgecoalition.org—as part of the official public announcement of a new coalition to Secure Indigenous People’s Rights in a Green Economy (SIRGE Coalition).

The minerals necessary for renewable energy minerals, such as nickel, lithium, cobalt, and copper are critical to the development of a green, low-carbon economy. As demand for these transition minerals is skyrocketing, increased mining threatens Indigenous rights and territories where there is not a comprehensive assessment of risks and harms to Indigenous Peoples, and complete participation of Indigenous Peoples who are impacted. 

In order to solve the growing climate emergency, a true Just Transition to a low carbon economy requires governments and companies involved in the new green economy to observe and implement the rights of Indigenous Peoples enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Cultural SurvivalFirst Peoples WorldwideBatani FoundationEarthworks, and the Society for Threatened Peoples have launched the SIRGE Coalition as a platform to champion a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy. SIRGE Coalition is calling upon government, corporate, and financial decision-makers to avoid the mistakes and harms of past resource development by protecting the rights and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples around the globe, many of whom live on lands rich in transition minerals.

A few of many examples of Indigenous Peoples currently experiencing harms and threats from unconsented development of transition minerals include:

Peehee Mu’huh, or Thacker Pass, sits at the southern edge of the McDermitt Caldera in Humboldt County, Nevada. Lithium Americas is attempting to develop a lithium mine on these lands, which are sacred to Shoshone and Paiute Peoples.

In Guatemala, members of the Indigenous Q’eqchi’ community peacefully blockaded the Fenix Nickel Mine to protest the lack of consultations and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent for the mine, which has polluted their traditional fishing grounds in Lake Izabal.

In Russia, Indigenous communities on the Taimyr Peninsula suffered food insecurity after a fuel spill in 2020 from a subsidiary of Nornickel—a mining firm that supplies some 20 per cent of the world’s Class I nickel needed for electric vehicle batteries—polluted local waterways. Despite pressure from companies in the supply chain, Nornickel has failed to respond to requests from Indigenous communities for adequate compensation and restoration of the fragile Arctic environment.

Indigenous territories contain significant concentrations of untapped heavy metal reserves around the world. In the United States, a study by MSCI estimated that 97 per cent of nickel, 89 per cent of copper, 79 per cent of lithium, and 68 per cent of cobalt reserves and resources are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations. A 2020 study found that mining potentially influences 50 million square kilometres of Earth’s land surface, with 8 per cent coinciding with Protected Areas, 7 per cent with Key Biodiversity Areas, and 16 per cent with Remaining Wilderness.

About the SIRGE Coalition

The SIRGE Coalition’s primary goal is to elevate Indigenous leadership through the creation of a broad coalition and the promotion of constructive dialogue. In accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the coalition will uphold all rights of Indigenous Peoples, including their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories, and especially their rights to determine their own priorities as to their lands, territories, and resources. Indigenous leadership is essential as Indigenous Peoples conserve about 80 per cent of the planet’s remaining biodiversity.

The SIRGE Coalition is staffed by an Executive Committee made up of representatives from each organization and is governed by an Indigenous Steering Committee made up of two representatives of Indigenous Peoples from each of the seven socio-cultural regions across the globe along with a global chairperson and the chairperson of the Executive Committee, chosen from Indigenous members.

SIRGE Coalition is calling for full implementation of the UNDRIP, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, in all endeavours related to the extraction, mining, production, consumption, sale and recycling of transition and rare earth minerals around the world.


Indigenous activists of Russia denounced as “traitors to the people”


Sharp criticism of interest groups that support Russia’s war of aggression: “Organizations whose representatives support the war and the killing of civilians in Ukraine, including the murder of indigenous people, must not represent the interests and rights of indigenous peoples at the international level.”

Von Jan Diedrichsen

The Kremlin demands unconditional loyalty; criticism is severely punished. The indigenous peoples of the North also had to experience this themselves. Official indigenous organizations support the war against Ukraine, and some officials even enthusiastically celebrate it. The damage is enormous, the credibility of these organizations has been undermined. International organizations, both within the UN and within the Arctic cooperation, must immediately stop collaborating with Putin’s claqueurs.

But there are also courageous exceptions of those who fight back, condemning the crime of Russia’s war of aggression and openly criticizing the corrupt indigenous associations loyal to Putin. By doing so, they expose themselves to the wrath and vengeance of the Kremlin, as well as to attacks from their compatriots. They, allegedly, are traitors and defilers.

A traitorous example of hypocritical taunts: “Traitors to their peoples are always welcome in NATO, and now that it wants to block Russia’s Arctic, the Alliance is creating an organization consisting of traitors to their native peoples. But there are only seven such people in the whole world. Instead of a pack of wolves, only seven little mutts could be fed…” This refers to the founding members of the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia. Such insults can be found on the Internet.

Critical organizations in Russia are liquidated, entities and individuals are declared foreign agents, and the most active representatives are forced abroad.

The Kremlin wants to avoid being confronted with representatives of Russia’s indigenous peoples on the international stage and in international organizations in view of its atrocities. The brothers Pavel and Rodion Sulyandziga are of particular annoyance to those in power. They resorted to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) to denounce Russia’s aggressive policies in general and the oppression of indigenous peoples in particular.

The loyalty of indigenous organizations and individuals is actively promoted with incentives, while people like the Sulyandziga brothers are being prosecuted.

However, courageous representatives (some of them forced into exile) do not sink to the level of attacks. Recently, a number of named has appealed to international organizations and issued warnings about Putin’s henchmen among indigenous organizations:

“On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Thousands of civilians were killed in rocket attacks on Ukrainian settlements –  representatives of various ethnic groups and confessions, indigenous peoples, including hundreds of children.

Organizations of indigenous peoples of Russia, such as the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East (RAIPON), the interregional public organization Information and Educational Network of Indigenous Peoples “Lyoravetlian” and the Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples of the Russian Federation (AFUN RF) officially supported the criminal actions President Putin to unleash a war against Ukraine.

We appeal to the United Nations, in particular to the President of ECOSOC, with a call to deprive the organizations that supported Russia’s aggression against Ukraine of their consultative status in the UN ECOSOC, and also prevent the appointment of representatives of these organizations to UN subordinate bodies, such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We appeal to all international organizations that proclaim human life and freedom as the highest value not to allow participation in their work of representatives of organizations of indigenous peoples of Russia that support Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.

We believe that organizations whose representatives support the war and, accordingly, the killings of civilians in Ukraine, including the killings of representatives of indigenous peoples, cannot represent the interests and rights of indigenous peoples at the international level.

We appeal to the international community with a request to establish an independent commission to study and prepare a report on the impact of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine on the indigenous peoples of Russia and Ukraine.“


“The Gold of Shoria”

Vyacheslav Krechetov’s documentary “The Gold of Shoria” recounts the story of environmental catastrophe in southern Siberia, where coal and gold mining companies are causing irreparable harm to the traditional lands of the Shor – a small Indigenous people of Russia living on the territories of the modern Republic of Khakasia and Kemerovo Oblast. In 2021, this film won the prize for “best film on social, economic, and cultural rights” at the Bir Duino 15th International Festival of Documentary Films on Human Rights.

We see a striking contrast in the film “The Gold of Shoria”: The sublime beauty of Siberian nature is defenseless and vulnerable before the barbaric activities of mining companies. Against this backdrop, we hear the voices of those trying to protect the right of Indigenous peoples to live on their land. These include the voices of Shor people living in Askizky District, Khakasia and Mezhdurechensky City District, Kemerovo Oblast, as well as environmentalists and experts.

“My film is about the systematic violation of the rights of an Indigenous people – the Shor living in Kemerovo Oblast and Khakasia. As they carry out their work mining for coal or gold, the mining companies ignore the fact that ethnic groups attached to the environment, are leading a traditional way of life and are endeavoring to preserve this way of life in these areas. The destruction of their living environment – the forest taiga – directly harms these ethnicities and ruins their sacred cultural sites, the graves of their ancestors, and their homes,” said Krechetov.

According to the most recent census, just over 12,000 Shor remain. Their numbers have dropped by 14 percent since the mid-20th century and are continuing to fall today. Their places of traditional residence – villages in Askizky District, Khakasia (Balyksa, Neozhidanny, Nikolaevka, and Shora) and Mezhdurechensky Municipal District, Kemerovo Oblast (Orton, Ilynka, Uchas, and Trekhrechye) were added to the Federal List of Places of Traditional Residence and Activities of Small Indigenous Peoples and must be protected from commercial exploitation. In addition, Shor lands within Khakasia were included within the borders of specially protected territories of traditional nature use, where any activity that threatens the condition of natural resources is prohibited. Nevertheless, over the past five years, the scale of land development in places where the Shor traditionally reside has increased, and today almost no untouched taiga is left. The exploitation by subsoil users of places where the Shor have traditionally resided threatens their culture and language, destroys cultural places and sites, and makes it impossible to engage in traditional activities (hunting, fishing, foraging).

River pollution resulting from gold mining is a major problem for traditional Shor territories, because the rivers are the main source of drinking water and an important element of the Shor people’s economy and diet. In May and June of 2021, WWF experts identified 30 cases of complex river pollution resulting from placer gold mining in four regions of Siberia on plots along a total length of 1,474 km. Of these cases, five occurred along 203 km in Khakasia, and five were found along 218 km in Kemerovo Oblast.

The barbaric use of Shor lands and natural resources by gold mining companies is not new. The Shor have tried to protect their lands for decades, but local residents’ complaints to the district administration, environmental watchdogs, and the prosecutor’s office are generally ignored, while the most active defenders of Indigenous rights are subjected to persecution and pressure. These defenders are presented as the opponents of progress and prosperity and accused of extremism and acting in the interests of foreign states. In 2018, the Shor activists Yana and Vladislav Tannagashev, who fought against the illegal activities of the coal companies, were forced to leave Russia with their children because of persecution that lasted several years. During filming, Aleksey Chispiyakov, the film’s author and one of its main heroes, was repeatedly arrested and subjected to searches. The Kemerovo Oblast Ministry of Culture and Ethnic Policy is waging a legal battle against Aleksey Chispiyakov for his critical position.

Amid heightened repressions against civil society in Russia, the new “foreign agent” law, and spy hysteria, opportunities for protecting the environment and Indigenous rights are shrinking. Loyal Indigenous organizations are being transformed into objects of manipulation and forced to participate in propaganda actions supporting Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. At the same time, Indigenous activists who were forced to immigrate have been clear about their anti-war position. This only deepens the split within Indigenous communities: For example, the well-known information portal Indigenous-Russia was blocked in Russia after it was checked for extremism at the request of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North and the Far East of Russia. On July 6, 2022, participants in the 15th session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva witnessed the verbal démarche of a Russian Foreign Ministry representative against the activist Yana Tannagasheva, who criticized the Russian government and mining companies operating in her native region of Kemerovo Oblast.

On July 29, 2022, an overwhelming majority of members of the UN General Assembly approved a resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The resolution was supported by 161 countries, and no country voted against it. However, Russia and another seven countries (China, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Syria, Iran, Cambodia and Ethiopia) abstained from voting.

The resolution, which is not a legally binding document, demonstrates the solidarity of the world’s countries regarding global matters of climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and environmental pollution. By abstaining from voting, Russia expressed its lack of interest in cooperating to find joint solutions to global environmental problems, which is a reflection of its lack of desire to solve these problems at home as well.

The Gold of Shoria” shows the consequences of such an attitude toward environmental problems: The lands, rich with natural resources, are becoming less suitable for the lives and traditional activities of the people who live on them. The fact that the Shor are categorized as a small Indigenous people under the special protection of Russian law should have served as a guarantee that a favorable environment will be preserved not just for them, but for all the residents of these territories. However, Shor lands are being irreversibly destroyed by gold and coal mining. For Indigenous peoples, this policy means not just the destruction of their customary environment, but also the loss of their identity, language, and culture.


Cracking the corporate code

Serving on a corporate board is a good gig – and Indigenous people are missing

Mary Smith had a plan: She was going to serve as a member of a corporate board. She already had the resume. Smith is an attorney and she had worked as the chief executive officer for the U.S. Indian Health Service, a $6 billion-a-year-operation.

“I think for most people, you’re not going to get a call out of the blue,” she said. “You have to put yourself out there so that people know that you want to be on a corporate board because there are recruiters that recruit for corporate boards. But, the vast majority of board seats are still filled through networking.”

Smith’s planning was deliberate. She “very intentionally treated it like a full-time job.” That included learning about corporate governance and board responsibilities, she developed a “board bio” which she says is different from a resume because it highlights attributes that boards are looking for (such as experience with regulatory agencies.) She also hired coaches in order to sharpen her pitch.

“I really wanted to try to get on a board and I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘Oh, I wish I had done X, Y or Z. ‘ If I had done that, I would’ve made it so.”

Smith has made a place for herself at a table where few Indigenous people have historically been invited.

There are some 4,000 companies traded on Wall Street through the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ. Each of these companies have professional board members who are responsible for corporate governance. The number of American Indians and Alaska Natives represented on those boards is far less than one-tenth of one percent.

Smith, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, now serves on the board for PTC Therapeutics, Inc., a publicly-traded global biopharmaceutical company that focuses on “ the discovery, development and commercialization of clinically differentiated medicines that provide benefits to patients with rare disorders.”

She is paid a board fee of $30,659, according to the company’s report with the Securities and Exchange Commission, on top of that she is awarded both options and stocks that depend on the success of the company and could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Smith says there is more to serving on a board than showing up to four meetings a year. “That sounds like an easy gig, but, no, it’s actually a lot of work,” she said. There are documents that must be reviewed, a duty of care and loyalty, one poor decision could result in liability.

“So, yes, you have to be very thoughtful and exercise your fiduciary duties to the corporation.”

According to the search firm Spencer Stuart and its annual report index the total average compensation for a board seat is $312,279. “This average reflects actual director compensation, including the voluntary, and usually temporary, pay cuts some boards took during the height of the pandemic crisis. More than three-quarters of boards provide stock grants to directors in addition to a fee.

Serving on a corporate board is a good gig. And the number of Indigenous people who hold board seats is too small to register; far less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

There are a few prominent Indigenous board members. Cherie Brandt serves on the board of TD Bank in Toronto. She is both Mohawk from Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Ojibway from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Indian Reserve. She was appointed last August. Kathy Hannan, Ho Chunk, serves on Otis Elevator and Annaly Capital Management.

There are also a number of Indigenous people serving on regional bank boards, utility companies, across the energy sector.

There are some 4,000 companies traded on Wall Street through the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ. Each of these companies have professional board members who are responsible for corporate governance. The number of American Indians and Alaska Natives represented on those boards is far less than one-tenth of one percent. (Photo by Mark Trahant, ICT.)

Across the board the data shows movement. The 2021 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index shows that white directors fell slightly in 2021, yet still account for eight of every 10 board members, and six of the 10 are white men. (Spencer Stuart is a firm that conducts corporate searches.)

The index also found that directors from historically underrepresented groups accounted for 72 percent of all new directors at S&P 500 companies, up from 59 percent in 2020. Female representation increased to 30 percent of all S&P 500 directors.

“Despite the record number of new directors from historically underrepresented groups, the overall representation of some demographic groups on S&P 500 boards falls short of their representation in the U.S. population,” Spencer Stuart reported. “For example, although 42 percent of the U.S. population identifies as African American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian/Native Alaskan or multiracial, those groups make up only 21 percent of S&P 500 directors.”

The 6th edition of the Missing Pieces Report: The Board Diversity Census by the accounting firm Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity is a multiyear study that found that public companies are making slow progress appointing more diverse boards. The goal of the Alliance is to have women and minorities make up 40 percent of all corporate board seats, up from 17.5 percent in 2021.

And the thing is, the Alliance for Board Diversity says based on the skill set of new board members, “women and minority board members currently are more likely than White men to bring experience with corporate sustainability and socially responsible investing, government, sales and marketing, and technology in the workplace to their boards.”

In other words: if the new framework is sustainability, especially Environment, Social, Governance, or ESG, then people of color who are appointed to board members are more likely to be prepared for the task ahead.

Native Americans are largely absent from corporate leadership.

The numbers are striking. According to Deloitte, less than one-tenth of one percent of all corporate board members are in the “other” category. There are so few Indigenous people in corporate boardrooms that there is not even a measurement. (The Spencer Stuart Board Index simply reports less than one percent for American Indian and Alaska Native representation.)

There are a couple of initiatives trying to change that. The first comes from the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, or NASDAQ, a computerized system for trading stock. In August of 2021 a Board Diversity Rule was established that requires companies to use a standard template for board representation and “have or explain why they do not have at least two diverse directors.”

And in California a 2020 law requires companies headquartered in that state to have one to three board members who self-identify as a member of an “underrepresented community,” which includes Asian, Black, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander individuals, as well as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The law allowed the Secretary of State to fine companies who did not comply. Then in May of 2022 a Los Angeles court struck down the law as unconstitutional and its application is on hold until the appeal process is complete.

But companies are acting anyway. Four years ago nearly one-third of public company boards in California were composed of all men. According to the most recent report from the California Partners Project, today fewer than 2 percent are. This year two-thirds of California public companies have three or more women directors—six times as many as in 2018.

Assemblymember James C. Ramos presenting HR 40 on the Assembly floor on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Ramos)
Assemblymember James C. Ramos of California is the first California Native American serving in the state’s legislature. (Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Ramos)

“I think it’s very important to have representation, especially from the Native American community,” said Assemblyman James Ramos, D-San Bernardino. Ramos is a citizen of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe, and is the first California Indian to be elected to the California State Assembly. “It serves two different folds, one to make sure that representation of not only California’s first people, but that the nation’s first people has a voice in driving the economics of our community, of our state, and of our nation.”

Ramos said it’s also aspirational, demonstrating opportunity.

“It definitely is right to make sure that Native American people are included in the overall discussion,” Ramos said. “When you’re putting statistics and data together, we hear it all the time: Latino, population, right? Statistics and data. African American, statistics and data. And yet we’re talking about people of color and diversity and not even mention Native American people or even California Indian people in general.”

There have been a significant number of Native Americans serving on philanthropic boards.

Sherry Salway Black, Oglala Lakota, has served on a number of such boards and she said she heard the narrative often that only one or two Native Americans served on private foundation boards. So she did a “quick and dirty” survey and found at least 28 Native people serving on 13 private foundations, and nine Native people on the boards of seven community foundations.

Sherry Salway Black
Sherry Salway Black

One area where there is a lot of Native board action is for Community Development Financial Institutions that are mission driven and focused on community building and access to capital. There are dozens of such lending institutions and it’s been especially important in the agriculture sector.

Carla Fredericks, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, is chief executive officer of The Christensen Fund, a $300 million foundation. She said it’s important to be intentional about how board members are appointed.

“This is long overdue,” she said. “Even as we’ve tried to get additional board members for our board, we are certainly aware that while there’s incredible leadership experience in Indian Country, and there’s not a lot of board experience that people have. So it’s really important to build that.”

Carla Fredericks
Carla Fredericks

Fredericks said it can be a self-perpetuating problem if boards require previous experience but don’t explore translatable experiences.

“We took a broader lens to looking at candidates,” Fredericks said. “I also think that we had a really intentional lens to recruit Indigenous people to the board. And that’s been a practice that’s been in place before I even got here. We’ve had Indigenous people on and off the board, Winona LaDuke, Rick Williams, others, throughout our history.”

Part of that means reshaping the debate about leadership.

“Many corporations now are adopting leadership structures that may be called something very fancy, but might have really strong roots in indigenous leadership,” she said. It’s the idea that there is a way to think about organizations and values that have not been previously considered.

“You kind of have to peel back the onion really, and try to understand, it’s not just who’s on the board, but who’s really engaged? And in what way, and what committee are they in charge of?” She said that’s all a part of the board governance piece and what will take for people to successfully lead and transform organizations.

ICT has been building a list of Indigenous representations on corporate boards, government-sponsored enterprises, university boards, and major nonprofits. The idea here is that there is a deep talent pool already available. When members of Congress, for example, retire or even lose an election, they are often sought after as corporate board members. That same process is not the same for tribal leaders who have been managing multimillion dollar enterprises, especially large tribes such as the Navajo Nation or the Cherokee Nation.

One part of that equation is how boards recruit new members. The report Missing Pieces, a 2021 census compiled by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, said there is an immediate impact after placing women and minorities into key positions, such as on the nominating committee.

“When they have a woman or minority as their nominating or governance chair, boards are not immediately more likely to have higher percentages of women or minorities,” the report said. “After two years, these boards are more likely to have higher percentages of women or minorities.”

Mary Smith, the Cherokee Nation citizen on the PTC Therapeutics board, said there is a need to expand the network beyond former chief executives into other areas of experience, such as tribal leadership.

“I would love to see more Native Americans on boards. And I hope that some people would start to say, ‘yeah, I could do that.’ And then try to put themselves out there to be on the radar for people being on boards. Because I think people in the Native community have a lot to contribute to corporate boards.”


First Peoples Worldwide Joins Indigenous-led Coalition that Promotes Rights-Centered Transition to the Clean Energy Economy

SIRGE Coalition Launches Website August 9 to Help Secure Indigenous People’s Rights in a Green Economy

First Peoples Worldwide is among several organizations to provide leadership to a new coalition to Secure Indigenous People’s Rights in a Green Economy (SIRGE Coalition). To commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the SIRGE Coalition will launch its website www.sirgecoalition.org on August 9.

Founded by Cultural Survival,  Batani FoundationEarthworks, the Society for Threatened Peoples, and First Peoples, the SIRGE Coalition works to ensure that the rights and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples are upheld in the just transition to a low-carbon economy.

The transition minerals necessary for new and renewable energy development, such as nickel, lithium, cobalt, and copper are found on Indigneous land throughout the globe. With demand for these minerals skyrocketing, “increased mining threatens Indigenous rights and territories where there is not a comprehensive assessment of risks and harms to Indigenous Peoples, and complete participation of Indigenous Peoples who are impacted,” the coalition said.

“We must center Indigenous Peoples’ and human rights as well as true, regenerative practices as we transition to the new green economy,” said Galina Angarova, Executive Director of Cultural Survival. “A meaningful, intentional, and truly Just Transition will require a set of solutions including improving existing standards, reforming old mining laws, mandating circular economy practices, setting standards and meeting targets for minerals’ reuse and recycling, reducing demand and accepting de-growth as a concept and a pathway, and most importantly, centering human rights and the right to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent in all decision-making.”

To promote constructive dialogue, SIRGE Coalition works with corporations, finance and government decision-makers to forward Indigenous rights in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to “uphold all rights of Indigenous Peoples, including their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories, and especially their rights to determine their own priorities as to their lands, territories, and resources.”

“Partnership with Indigenous Peoples is integral to climate-resilient development,” said Kate R. Finn, Executive Director of First Peoples Worldwide. “The SIRGE Coalition provides pathways to concrete action necessary to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and reduce material loss for companies in the rising demand for renewable energy resources.”


Kenya: UN expert hails historic reparations ruling in favour of indigenous peoples

An independent UN human rights expert on Monday hailed a decision by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, to award reparations to the Ogiek indigenous peoples, for harm that they suffered due to “injustices and discrimination.”

The historic ruling follows a landmark judgment delivered by the Court on 26 May 2017, finding that the Government of Kenya had violated the right to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture of the Ogiek, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

‘Important step’

This judgment and award of reparations marks another important step in the struggle of the Ogiek for recognition and protection of their rights to ancestral land in the Mau Forest, and implementation of the 2017 judgment of the African Court,” said Francisco Calí Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Court ordered the Government of Kenya to pay compensation of 57,850,000 Kenya Shillings (approximately $488,000), for material prejudice for loss of property and natural resources, and a further 100,000,000 Shillings for moral prejudice suffered by Ogiek people, “due to violations of the right to non-discrimination, religion, culture and development”, according to a statement issued by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

In addition, the Court ordered non-monetary reparations, including the restitution of Ogiek ancestral lands and full recognition of the Ogiek as indigenous peoples.

The Court also requires the Kenyan Government to undertake delimitation, demarcation, and titling, to protect Ogiek rights to property revolving around occupation, use and enjoyment of the Mau Forest and its resources.

Furthermore, the court ordered Kenya to take necessary legislative, administrative or other measures to recognise, respect and protect the right of the Ogiek to be consulted with regard to development, conservation or investment projects in their ancestral lands.

They must be granted the right to give or withhold their free and informed consent to these projects to ensure minimal damage to their survival, the ruling said.

Expert testimony

The independent UN rights expert Mr. Calí Tzay, provided expert testimony to the Court in the landmark case, based on the mandate’s long-standing engagement in the promotion and protection of the rights of the Ogiek.

I welcome this unprecedented ruling for reparations and acknowledge that the decision sends a strong signal for the protection of the land and cultural rights of the Ogiek in Kenya, and for indigenous peoples’ rights in Africa and around the world,” he said.

The UN expert urged the Government of Kenya to respect the Court’s decision and proceed to implement this judgement and the 2017 ruling by the court without delay.


First climate agreement to center Indigenous voices gains international support

The Escazú Agreement establishes the relationship between human rights and environmental protections. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues urged its member states to adopt it.

The first climate agreement focusing on Indigenous perspectives continues to gain international support after the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues urged its member states to adopt the agreement in its final report which was released last month.

Known as the Escazú Agreement, the plan was a recurring topic throughout the permanent forum’s 21st session, and its side events, in April and May in New York City, in which government, tribal and community leaders discussed vital issues affecting Indigenous populations throughout the world.

“The Escazú Agreement is the first instrument that includes provisions on the protection of human rights defenders in environmental matters,” the report states.

The permanent form’s annual session is considered the world’s largest gathering of Indigenous leaders and the final report provides expert advice and recommendations on Indigenous issues to the UN system through the economic and social council.

In 2000, the United Nations Economic and Social Council established the permanent forum to discuss Indigenous issues relating to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

The council is then expected to make recommendations to the UN General Assembly, member states and other agencies. It’s considered a vital instrument for disseminating information about Indigenous people on an international level.

The permanent forum’s newly elected Chair Darío José Mejía Montalvo, Zenú, talked about the agreement during his opening remarks on the first day of the session.

“Recall that in combating climate change, Indigenous people are mainstays,” Montalvo said. “This is not a fashion, not motivated by needs and trends on social networks, it’s our way of life. We value and respect all efforts to protect the planet.

“Our existence dates from before the existence of borders,” he said.

He went on to explain the significance of the Escazú Agreement, then urged those states that have not yet subscribed to the agreement to adopt it and for those that have to implement it faster.

According to environmental defenders like Patricia Gualinga the most effective way to protect rainforests, like the Amazon, is by protecting the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous people and the Escazú Agreement could potentially be a powerful mechanism in doing that.

Gualinga is a Kichwa leader from Sarayaku, Ecuador and a spokeswoman for Amazonian Women – a coalition of women environmental and land defenders, better known as Mujeres Amazónicas Defensoras de la Selva.

“It’s hard to describe the smell of such pure air when you’re in the rainforest,” she told Mongabay News in May. “When you go into these sacred forests, you feel so much closer to the forces of creation.” In these spaces, beyond encountering an incalculable natural wealth, one can connect to the basic principles of energy and equilibrium, she told the news outlet.

Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Escazú Agreement.
Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Escazú Agreement

It’s formally known as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was signed in 2018 in Escazú, Costa Rica after years of planning, preparation and negotiations between Latin and Caribbean countries. Currently of the 24 countries that have signed the agreement 12 have ratified it into law.

One of the agreement’s pillars starts with ensuring the timely generation and dissemination of environmental information to impacted communities.

“Such reports shall be drafted in an easily comprehensible manner and accessible to the public in different formats and disseminated through appropriate means, taking into account cultural realities,” the agreement states. “Each Party may invite the public to make contributions to these reports.”

The Escazù Agreement entered into force in April 2021 and a year later, as outlined, the first Conference of the Parties took place. The conference established public participation during the three days of the event, which began with tense debates on the matter.

“Eliminating the participation of the public is removing the very spirit of this agreement,” said Calapucha, a member of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, during that first meeting.

The moment was sparked by several tense minutes during the negotiations when the Bolivian delegation presented a project that would eliminate the inclusion of the public in the board of directors, according to Mongabay News. Another topic was the creation of a task force specifically focused on monitoring the situation surrounding environmental defenders, according to the news outlet.

That first Conference of Parties of Escazú – which was in Santiago, Chile – marked the first step toward effective implementation of the agreement but during one side event, hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, women voiced their lingering concerns.

Women for Climate Justice

Gualinga, the Amazonian Women spokeswoman, was one of eight featured speakers advocating for the agreement during the Escazú conference side event, “Implementing the Escazú Agreement: Opportunities and Implications for Women Land Defenders and Human Rights Advocates.”

She’s the daughter of a traditional healer who testified in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to protect their ancestral territory. She knows, first hand, when Indigenous people mobilize they have the power to halt extractive projects in their tracks but they risk arrest or even death.

“Without proper implementation there won’t be justice” Gualinga said about the Escazú Agreement, adding that Indigenous women can speak up and lead forward to a more sustainable future. Many voiced concerns about the threats experienced by female land defenders, saying they are not unusual and adding that there’s a “lack of political will” on national and international level to protect people.

“We need to use this lever as much as we can to protect defenders of land and women who are putting their bodies on the line to protect biodiverse areas,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, executive director of WECAN, the organization that hosted the virtual side event. Lake pointed to the entrenched colonial and patriarchal systems in place that will make it difficult for this “unique and transformative agreement” to provide a promising path forward.

Environmental and human rights abuses

The permanent forum’s final report urges member states to adopt the Escazú Agreement because it’s a necessary measure to ensure rights, protections and safety of Indigenous people.

“The Permanent Forum regrets the continuous killings, violence and harassment targeted at Indigenous human rights defenders, including Indigenous women, in the context of resisting mining and infrastructure projects and other such developments,” according to the report. “The Permanent Forum therefore invites Member States to honour their human rights obligations.”

According to a 2021 report, the previous year had been the worst year on record for killings of environmental defenders, with more than half of the attacks taking place in only three countries: Colombia, Mexico and Philippines.

The report was published by Global Witness, an international nonprofit organization that has been investigating environmental and human rights abuses and linking natural resource extraction with widespread attacks and killings. However, more recent data shows a dramatic increase in assassinations.

So far in 2022, 99 defenders have been killed as of July 4, according to the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace which tracks murders in Colombia. Roughly a third of those killed were Indigenous or Afro-descent.

Many Indigenous communities are attacked and displaced, forced to leave their territories due to legal and illegal extractive projects, like mining and logging, as well as narco-paramilitaries. Experts say the increased violence is spilling into neighboring rural communities.

The impacts of the agreement reach beyond Indigenous communities. It’s also gained support from multilateral banking institutions and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which recognize the importance of the agreement as a tool to generate certainty and stability in investments. Leaders are hopeful that, with support from the permanent forum, the Escazú Agreement can continue to generate support and proper implementation.


The Russian Government blocked Indigenous Russia immediately after the EMRIP session

My name is Dmitry Berezhkov, and I am the editor-in-chief of the Indigenous Russia web page. This web page was created several years ago as a small blog to follow indigenous rights development in Russia.

Today iRussia is an information center whose main aim is to deliver information about the Russian indigenous issues to international audiences and provide information back about international events for indigenous communities in the Russian Arctic, Siberia and the Far East, both in Russian and English. iRussia today is also a data center that preserves information about indigenous rights violations in Russia and keeps information for further use by human rights defenders, journalists, researchers, politicians and other interested stakeholders.

Keeping data is a critical job during times when the Russian Government is trying to stop information dissemination, cover the truth and block independent points of view. Countless times we met with the situation when Russian authorities or their vassals tried to delete or distort Internet information about indigenous rights violations or environmental pollution in Russia. That is why our small team of editors and correspondents strongly believes that such work is essential both for Russia and its indigenous peoples, as well as for the international community.

Indigenous Russia also produces reports alone or in partnership with our allies on indigenous rights for the international audience, UN human rights bodies and Russian authorities themselves. We think this is an important tool for changing and strengthening the means to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in Russia.

But because of this activity, I could say that Russian authorities, as well as big Russian corporations, don’t like Indigenous Russia. Today as Russian Federation has started a Great War against Ukraine, we can say that iRussia became the last independent media that publishes strong criticism of the Russian authorities and Russian corporations for violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in Russia on a daily basis. Frankly speaking, they even hate us for our job today. This hate became even more after the start of the Russian war against Ukraine as iRussia supported the establishment of the new international organization – the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR), which openly spoke against the war and appealed to indigenous soldiers in the Russian army to not participate in hostilities.

As you maybe know, two weeks ago, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples organized its 15th session in Geneva. On the first day of the session, one of the ICIPR members – Yana Tannagasheva, made a statement in which she critiqued Russian authorities and mining companies in the Kemerovo region and Taimyr for violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. Her report triggered an aggressive response from a high-level Russian official, the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Department of the Russian Ministry of foreign affairs Sergey Chumarev, right in the EMRIP session hall.

This unprecedented incident of aggressive play of the state official against an indigenous delegate provoked hot discussion among participants and was reflected in many publications during and immediately after the EMRIP session. Many states and indigenous representatives expressed their support for Yana Tannagasheva and protested against the aggressive behavior of the Russian state officer.

I am personally as a member of ICIPR and an editor of Indigenous Russia made a statement with the protest against such actions of the Russian state delegation during the second day of the forum. And within several hours after that, I received a letter from the legal department of WordPress, an iRussia hosting provider and one of the biggest world internet companies:


A Russian authority — the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (ROSKOMNADZOR) — demanded that we disable the following content on your WordPress.com site: https://indigenous-russia.com/.

Typically, we would comply with orders such as this to keep WordPress.com accessible for everyone in Russia.

However, we do not believe that this specific order has been submitted in good faith by the Russian Government, and so we are not complying with their demands.

For your reference, we included a copy of the complaint below. No reply is necessary, but please reply if you have any questions.

Thank you.”

I believe that was the immediate reaction of the Russian authorities to the words of truth in the UN building. The Russian Government ordered to delete the whole web page within 24 hours. Below we publish the entire Roskomnadzor’s letter, which was sent to WordPress. This is interesting that they didn’t ask to delete some definite articles which, according to their understanding, violate the Russian legislation. Instead, they demanded to delete the whole website.

To WordPress credits, it didn’t follow the order of the Russian Government, so our web page continues to work but only for the international audience, unfortunately. Two days after that letter, we started to receive messages from our Russian readers that they couldn’t reach the web page as ROSKOMNADZOR included iRussia into the list of prohibited web resources and bunned the access for the Russian audience.

This is how the Russian Government protects its own citizens from receiving “dangerous” information about the indigenous peoples’ rights. However, we continue to work for our Russian readers and international ones. We will develop our social networks accessible in Russia: WhatsUp, Telegram, YouTube channels, email lists, and other means available for remote indigenous communities.

I hope you will continue to receive unbiased, timely and accurate information about indigenous rights in Russia and international development in this sphere.

I would like to end this address at this point but must add one more unfortunate but necessary fact. As far as we know, the Russian authorities received the formal request to block Indigenous Russia from RAIPON – the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North. This is the oldest and biggest Russian indigenous organization where we all worked some years ago, whose main aim, according to its Statute, is protecting indigenous rights and which now become an obedient instrument of any orders by the Russian Government.

Dmitry Berezhkov. An address to readers.

Yana Tannagasheva’s statement at EMRIP 15th session. ITEM 9: Thematic discussion on Violence against Indigenous Women

4-8 July 2022

Oral statement of Ms. Yana Tannagasheva on behalf of
International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR)

Thank you, Madame Chair,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday, within the walls of the UN, we saw the unacceptable, undiplomatic behavior of a representative of the Russian government. This situation paints a general picture of the Russian aggression against the indigenous peoples of Russia and Ukraine, in particular indigenous women. Such aggressive actions fully paint the picture of the methods of the Russian government that means “the best defense is an attAck.” Yesterday they attacked, and today they present themselves as victims. This happened with the attack on Ukraine: they started the war first, because, supposedly, Ukraine could attack them.

The rights of indigenous women in Russia are being violated, but little is said about it. Our women know and are accustomed (to the fact that it is almost impossible to achieve justice. The rights of indigenous women in Russia are violated both at work and at home. The number of cases of domestic violence by husbands of indigenous women, especially in remote villages, is not monitored by anyone, and this is one of the serious problems in such areas. The police ignore the problem of domestic violence. Women have no one to turn to. They have no access to information and justice.

The rapid development of industrialization pushed by the Russian government and companies, has a powerful negative impact on the traditional way of life and the health of women and children. The persecution of indigenous women by the Russian authorities and mining companies, as in my case, the fabrication of cases, discrimination, the creation of a negative picture of indigenous women are part of the repressive methods of the Russian authorities. With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the situation of indigenous girls and mothers became catastrophic both in Russia and Ukraine. A representative of the Russian government aggressively asked me yesterday if I had been to Donbass in Ukraine. I have not been to Ukraine, but my friends from the Donbass tell me what kind of “peace” Russia brings: with blood, bombs and deaths.

Dear Madame Chair,

I make a recommendation to the Expert Mechanism, the Human Rights Council to take into account and investigate the incident that took place during this session, not only as a particular case of harassment against me, but also in general the situation of the indigenous women of Russia and Ukraine.

Yana Tannagasheva’s statement at EMRIP 15th session. Agenda #3 “Study on Treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements, between indigenous peoples and States”

ITEM 3: Study on Treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements, between indigenous peoples and States, including peace accords and reconciliation initiatives, and their constitutional recognition

EMRIP 4-8 July 2022

Oral statement of Ms. Yana Tannagasheva on behalf of Society for Threatened Peoples / International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR)

Thank you Mr/Madam Chair.

As a representative of the Shor People from southwestern Siberia, who has been directly affected by the Russian regime and coal mining companies, I want to draw your attention to the violations of the rights of indigenous peoples by the Russian authorities and mining companies.

Unfortunately, no treaties regarding indigenous peoples are in force in the Russian Federation. A vivid example of this is the Kazas village in Kemerovo region, where I am from. The village was burned down by the coal company 8 years ago. The case of this village and violations of the Shor people rights was considered by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The concluding observations of the Committee were addressed to Russia: to restore the rights of the Shor people. However, the rights of the Shors continue to be violated by coal and gold mining companies, and the Russian authorities have both lied in their reports and continue to provide false information. Moreover, the Russian regime is increasing pressure and repression on those representatives of indigenous peoples who openly fight for their lands, territories, the right to self-determination and, in general, openly express their position.

I express concern that the Russian authorities and mining companies are manipulating representatives of indigenous peoples, using their vulnerable position to promote the state policies and propaganda both on national and international level. This applies, for example, to the Norilsk Nickel company, whose accident occurred in 2020, which became the largest oil spill in the Russian Arctic. This caused irreparable harm to the living environment of the indigenous peoples of Taimyr, negatively affects their nutrition, health, and psychological state, especially women and children. Today, the Russian authorities and Norilsk Nickel are trying to set a positive image of interaction with indigenous peoples at the international level by promoting the implementation of the FPIC principle. However, the indigenous peoples who live there tell us otherwise.

In general, the poor situation of the Indigenous Peoples of Russia was difficult even before the war, but now it has only worsened. Today in Russia it is almost impossible and dangerous to speak openly, to express your position freely. Indigenous peoples are criminalized in various contexts. Threats and harassment are more often directed against persons involved in the protection of environmental rights, land rights, and recently against those who openly protest against the war with Ukraine.

In conclusion, Mr/Madam Chair, I would like to recommend:

  • Request the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to pay special attention in future reports to the situation of the indigenous peoples of Russia, controversial situations, the implementation of the recommendations of treaty bodies, and also to investigate issues related to the criminalization of representatives of indigenous peoples who protect their lands, territories, resources.
  • Recommend to the Human Rights Council that the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of indigenous peoples in situations of interstate conflict be established. And also include the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the list of standards of the universal periodic review.

Thank you for your attention!