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International STEM Day: Indigenous wisdom and technology

We spoke with the Indigenous student who hopes to merge technology with ancestral wisdom.

Día-Internacional-Stem

To celebrate International Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Day, we share the story of América Anayelli Olguín, a young Indigenous woman from Zacatlán, Mexico who will soon begin a postgraduate degree in Geographic Information and Science Systems, with the support of the FSC Indigenous Foundation through its IPARD program. America will study for a postgraduate degree at UNIGIS Latin America, in Geographic Information Systems, tools that allow capturing, storing, analyzing and visualizing geospatial data to make location-based decisions. This program has a high content related to the STEM educational approach that addresses the integration of knowledge through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. America’s goal is to apply geographic analysis for territorial development, agriculture, and environmental conservation in Indigenous territories.

In recent years, America has focused her work on documentation in defense of her territory and the dissemination of culture through social networks. Currently, she collaborates with the Union of Ejidos of the Sierra Norte de Puebla, where she supports local communities in the sustainable and legal use of their forests, and in their internal organizational processes. In addition, she is part of the network of communicators of the MOCAF Network and the youth movement of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests. She is also an active member of the Regional Collective in Defense of Forests and Territory of the Sierra Norte de Puebla. Her contributions will have a significant impact, including the development of Land Management Plans and participatory rural assessments in support of forest communities in her region. Find out more about how Indigenous ancestral wisdom is combined with science for the benefit of communities in this interview.

What motivated your interest in this course to learn about GIS?

Given the area in which I have worked in recent years, in supporting local communities in their timber harvesting, I have discovered the great work that the communities of the region have done in the preservation and restoration of the environment, something that unfortunately is not recognized by the general population, which in many cases is usually from ignorance of the activities and benefits that community forestry brings. So I want to promote a dissemination campaign on this issue that will consist of presenting materials with geographic information that is easy to understand for everyone but contains truthful information and adequately expresses the message. I believe that when the population knows and understands its region, with all its characteristics, a first step is taken to defend the territory. Having the skills to process information with Geographic Information Systems can be a powerful tool to strengthen and support the process that communities carry out for this objective that we have in common in the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

What will you learn in the course?

The course will be both broad and complex; the topics that are of most interest to me are geographic analysis and how we can relate it to issues such as territorial development, agriculture, and the environment because they are day-to-day issues in my family and community.

How will you apply this knowledge in your community and beyond?

One of my goals is to disseminate what the forest communities of the Sierra Norte de Puebla are doing, so I hope to be able to apply my knowledge to support the communities in planning their development, for example with the development of Land Management Plans or Participatory Rural Appraisals; also to support them in obtaining financing or capacity building projects before Mexican government agencies, since it is increasingly complex for forest owners to access these supports.

How will you share the knowledge gained with the communities?

One way to support the communities is to give them the tools so that they can promote their projects and raise their voices. I can share the knowledge through the Mexican Network of Peasant Forestry Organizations (REDMOCAF) because, given the reach they have, we can promote projects for trainings with young people from all over the country who are members of the organizations that belong to the network.

Why do you think it is important for Indigenous Peoples to work in science and technology?

Bringing technology and traditions together can have many benefits, the first being the documentation of these traditions and an approach for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to monitor how their territory is developing and trending towards change.

How can GIS help Indigenous communities?

It helps to manage the resources we have which, with inherited knowledge, creates impact in the fight for the environment and climate change.

GIS are tools that allow us to chart a path to a future. With geographic information, we trace a legacy in maps, but also in culture and resilience. They also help us protect our lands and prepare for the natural challenges that life presents us because we are custodians of our home.

Do you have any other messages you would like to share?

GIS gives us the power to chart our own destiny, it gives us the ability to plan, build, and care so that future generations will inherit a world enriched by our traditions.

With the support of GIS, our voices are louder, and our decisions clearer. Together, we forge a future that protects the legacy we will leave to our descendants.

In short, GIS is a powerful tool that lights the way to firmly defend our territory and heritage in the Sierra Norte de Puebla. The knowledge you acquire in this course will be the foundation with which we will protect our land.

News

FSC Canada and the FSC Indigenous Foundation welcome Satnam Manhas as Senior Manager, Indigenous Capacity Support Canada

Satnam’s wealth of experience and dedication to Indigenous empowerment will play a pivotal role in advancing our shared mission of responsible forest management and sustainable practices in Canada.

FSC Canada and the FSC Indigenous Foundation are pleased to welcome Satnam Manhas as our new Senior Manager, Indigenous Capacity Support Canada. 

Raised in the Tsimshian territories along the lower Skeena River in British Columbia, Satnam brings over 30 years of experience as a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) in B.C., with a strong focus on culturally appropriate economic development and stewardship for Indigenous communities nationwide. 

Having departed Ecotrust Canada in 2019, where he served as the Director of Forest & Ecosystem Services, Satnam oversaw the organization’s FSC initiatives in western Canada and spearheaded a groundbreaking carbon project in partnership with the Lil’wat, Squamish Nations, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler. With a degree in Natural Resource Management and minor in Environmental Planning, coupled with a Forest Technologist Diploma, Satnam’s expertise will be pivotal in implementing FSC Canada’s Indigenous Strategy. 

In this new role, Satnam will play a crucial part in demonstrating the invaluable benefits of FSC certification to Indigenous Peoples and provide essential support to key First Nation certificate holders and other organizations interested in pursuing FSC certification in Western Canada. He will also work with FSC Canada’s Indigenous Chamber to strengthen Indigenous-led efforts within FSC.

Satnam has assumed this role on an interim basis as the Indigenous Foundation conducts a search for a long-term candidate. In the meantime, Satnam’s wealth of experience and dedication to Indigenous empowerment will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in advancing our shared mission of responsible forest management and sustainable practices in Canada. Satnam can be reached at s.manhas@fsc.org 

News

Latin American and the Caribbean Climate Week 2023: Indigenous Women and Their Powerful Messages on Climate Change

Indigenous women from around the world are on the frontline against climate change.

Indigenous Women on the Frontline Against Climate Change

The “Latin American and the Caribbean Climate Week” is approaching, and Indigenous women from all over the world have joined our campaign, ‘Indigenous Women on the Frontline Against Climate Change,’ to highlight their crucial role in the fight against this environmental issue that currently jeopardizes life on Earth. We united their voices from diverse regions of the world.

The series of climate weeks  leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, makes its stop in Latin America, with Panama as the host, from October 23 to 27. 

Panama is one of our primary hubs where we are implementing our Indigenous Peoples Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) Program. Here, we will continue to demonstrate that Indigenous solutions are a key strategy to address climate change and prepare for COP28 in December.

In this context, we have been showcasing the strategic work carried out by Indigenous women globally. We have gathered  messages that demonstrate that, despite being one of the most affected populations by this issue, they lead the implementation of climate solutions. Their knowledge of Indigenous solutions that have existed for millennia is essential in the current effort to reverse the damage to our Mother Earth. Listen to some testimonials!

Empowered Indigenous women against climate change

Mataal Magdalena Pérez – Maya Poqomam (Guatemala)

She highlights the essential role of women in preserving mother tongues and their connection with nature, serving as a pillar of resilience against environmental devastation and climate change.

Olga Kostrova, a member of the Chulymtsy People (Russia)

She discusses the role of women in her community in monitoring changes in nature and raising awareness about environmental issues that affect both the forests and the food security of the community.

Anne Samante – Indigenous leader from the Maasai community (Kenya)

Anne highlights the critical role of Indigenous women, who are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts due to gender disparities and resource scarcity.

Gloria López, member of the Lenca Indigenous People (Honduras)

Gloria discusses the pivotal role of Indigenous women in guiding their families to adopt positive actions and the valuable work carried out by Indigenous women’s organizations in transmitting ancestral knowledge, which serves as a source of climate solutions.

Indigenous young women are also on the frontline against climate change

Jeptoo Kibichum – Endorois Indigenous People (Kenya)

She discusses the multifaceted role of Indigenous women who are active in areas such as preserving ancestral agricultural knowledge and collaborating on adaptation strategies.

Kandra Ehrman – Guna Indigenous People (Panama)

As a young Indigenous woman, she stands out as the first diver in her community and as an activist for climate change. She also works towards the empowerment of Indigenous women.

News

The process of strengthening the traditional governance of the Indigenous Peoples of Panama continues 

Four Indigenous territories in Panama initiated a process of collective elaboration of new Organic Charters and Internal Regulations.

Started in October 2022, the traditional authorities of four Indigenous territories in Panama (Comarca Naso Tjër Di, Comarca Kuna de Madungandi, the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién, and the National Congress of the Wounaan People) began a process to strengthen their territorial governance systems through the collective drafting of new Organic Charters and Internal Regulations.

For Indigenous Peoples an Organic Charter and Internal Regulations is a legal document that organizes and establishes: 1) Criteria for the election of local, regional or general authorities; 2) Uses and rights over the land and the conservation of nature; 3) Social norms related to traditional and plant medicine; and 4) Mechanisms that ensure gender parity in the representation of authorities.

In May 2023, the four territories that initiated these processes have suceeded in validating the drafts of their Organic Charters and Internal Regulations before their local and general authorities and in the presence of government representatives. 

The Kuna Comarca of Madungandi approved through an assembly/workshop the Internal Regulations of its General Congress in the community of Ibedi on May 10, with the participation of 50 sahilas (local Kuna authorities) and their argar (interpreters of the sahilas).  

Act of validation of the Internal Regulations of the Tuira Region of the Emberá, Wounaan and Eyabida Collective Lands of Darién, community of Pijibasal.

A week later, the same process was carried out in the community of Pijibasal in the province of Darien, in the Regional Congress of the Tuira, which belongs to the Embera and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darien; with the participation of 50 local Embera, Wounaan and Eyabida authorities (known as Noko, Chi Pör and Buru according to each community).

Thirty people from the community also participated in both workshops, including children, youth, women and elders with a voice and vote to contribute to the disucssion, as the workshops are open to the general public.

COMARCA KUNA DE MADUNGANDI

In the last 8 months, the technical team of the Madungandi General Congress analyzed, together with sahilas and argar, more than 100 articles that establish, for example, the main functions of the community authorities (sahilas, argar and sualibed or community police), their reasons for dismissal and election, and developed the rights to land, hunting and family from the Kuna way of thinking.

To reach a consensus on the content of the document, two four-day workshops were convened between October and February 2022-2023, attended by more than 30 authorities and officials of the Madungandi General Congress, both of which were held in Akua Yala, the capital of the comarca.

A significant challenge was to transcribe all the procedures, functions, methods and other elements that already exist and are used by the Kunas of Madungandi into the final document that will be submitted to the Ministry of Government for approval.

View of the bridge over Lake Bayano from the Madungandi General Congress offices in the Akua Yala community.

Vista del puente sobre el lago Bayano desde las oficinas del Congreso General de Madungandi en la comunidad de Akua Yala.

EMBERÁ, WOUNAAN AND EYABIDA COLLECTIVE LANDS

In Panama, the title of Collective Lands is granted to Indigenous communities that were left out of a Comarca when the Comarcas were created. The title of Collective Lands represents the ancestral right to the sovereignty of their territory for the people who inhabit it.

Such is the case of the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién, where the Eyabida people have also been living for some years.  The Eyabida were persecuted by the internal conflicts in Colombia, where they originate. The process of elaboration of the Internal Regulations of the Tuira Region served then as a propitious moment to officially establish the Eyabida People as inhabitants of the Collective Lands.

Law student Benicio Domicó participated in the last two workshops and his contributions from perspective of the Eyabida identity were essential in drafting the Internal Regulations.

At the workshops, first held in the community of Mercadeo in November 2022 and a second in the community of Bajo Lepe in March 2023, more than 30 traditional authorities, mostly Nokora (Emberá) and to a lesser extent Chi Pörnaan (Wounaan) and Burura (Eyabida), analyzed and interpreted the text that mandates ways to administer justice, certify authorities and marriages, establishes collective rights over the use of natural resources and restrictions on activities of outsiders within the territory.

REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN

Although there are few women in decision-making positions in both territories, the drafting of the Internal Regulations provided an opportunity for Emberá and Kuna leaders to create spaces where their proposals and needs could be heard within their General and Regional Congresses. 

In Madungandi, a territory where there have not been any women Sahila, it was agreed that the women would have a representative in the General Congress, who would be elected by the women themselves and would have the right to speak and vote in the Congress.

In the Tuira Region, two key leaders participated in all the workshops: the deputy general cacique, Lucrecia Caisamo, and the Noko of the Pijibasal community, Lucia Flaco, who contributed to the consensus on issues related to land care, traditions, and the community economy.

From left to right: Pijibasal’s Noko, Lucía Flaco, talks with the deputy cacique general, Lucrecia Caisamo, during the workshops in the Bajo Lepe community.

DISPUTED TERRITORIES

The population of the Kuna Comarca of Madungandi and the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién have been strongly affected by megaprojects imposed on their territories.

Akua Yala, capital of Madungandi, is a relocated community. Their ancestral territory was completely flooded as a result of the construction of the Bayano Hydroelectric Dam in the 1970s. Likewise, the Alto Bayano Collective Lands, which include the communities of Ipetí and Piriatí Emberá in East Panama, were also relocated.

The disappearance of native forests and the poor quality of the land in the areas to which they were relocated has caused significant cultural losses. Without forests, these Peoples cannot practice or adequately transmit traditional knowledge about land use, medicinal plants, or ecosystem conservation.

Another example is the Bajo Lepe community, site of the second workshop, whose location is affected by the concession of 325,000 hectares from the State of Panama to the oil company Sinclair Panama Oil Corporation in 2018, as denounced by community members on the way to the workshop.

During the trip to the community of Pijibasal, one could see fields stripped bare by illegal and indiscriminate logging.

IMPACT OF THE PROJECT

The collective work of the communities to organize their governance and develop social, cultural, economic and conservation norms based on discussions open to the entire community have served to raise awareness among young people, local leaders, elders, and authorities about their rights as Indigenous Peoples.

Throughout the process of drafting the Organic Charters and/or Internal Regulations of the four territories benefiting from the Strengthening the Indigenous Agenda Project (FAIP), the communities demonstrated interest in knowing and understanding the rules that govern them.

FAIP aims to strengthen the political structures of the Comarca Naso Tjër Di, the Comarca Kuna de Madungandi, the Emberá and Wounaan Collective Lands of Darién, and the National Congress of the Wounaan People by drafting and publishing their organic charters or internal regulations.

FAIP is funded by USAID and FSC, implemented by the FSC Indigenous Foundation and framed within the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance for Rights and Development (IPARD) program, executed in coordination with AMPB, CMLT and AMARIE.

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