by April Ingham, Executive Director, Pacific Peoples’ Partnership (PPP) and Member of the Indigenous Led Funds Working Group hosted by IFIP
On behalf of the peoples of the South Pacific and Indigenous peoples in Canada, Pacific Peoples’ Partnership (PPP) organization is Canada’s oldest NGO committed to the peoples of the South Pacific and in working with Indigenous peoples. Over our history we have supported the elimination of nuclear testing in the South Pacific, helped to secure the freedom of East Timor and shed a bright light on the human rights abuses against the peoples of West Papua. We are turning 45 this year and our rich history is one of solidarity and impact. Despite our small size we are resilient and powerful like the peoples of the South Pacific.
April Ingham checks out a LÁVVU (Sami teepee)
PPP works in partnership with our allies in addressing community identified challenges head on through self-determined processes. In 2015 our organization responded to a climate catastrophe in Vanuatu. We helped trusted organisations who were filling gaps in the recovery from this extreme weather event. Through our combined efforts in partnership with South Pacific diaspora and with the support of our Canadian allies and partners, we raised funds for community projects including storm shelters, traditional food security workshops, resupplying hospitals and rebuilding infrastructure. After several subsequent campaigns we branded this as an ongoing effort and named it Pacific Resilience Fund, with the goal to increase support throughout the South Pacific.
Detail of Reindeer mural at the Ájtte, Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum
Given our geographic focus, I never thought I would ever find myself in the Arctic! But here I found myself as a student and an observer of an Indigenous Led fund model in action while at Pawanaka’s, meeting in Sampi Territories this past February. Pawanka Fund is an Indigenous Led Fund comprised of representatives of seven geographic regions. This is why I am thrilled to serve as an observer of the fund’s guiding committee. Every one of the committee members is a respected Indigenous global leader or ally, and together they are committed to transform philanthropy through administering Indigenous led funds through self-determined processes. Each is committed to ensuring a global way of knowing and learning initiative as central to this process.
Slow Food Sami Traditional Foods and Value Added Project (presentation)
Founded in the four R principles (Relationship, Responsibility, Respect and Reciprocity), like IFIP, Pawanka embodies Indigenous worldviews, values and ways of being at its very foundation. At the meeting, Indigenous peoples of the world were conferencing together, sharing best practices and resources, celebrating accomplishments and critically determining future program directions as well as visioning for future steps–this was innovation in action. As our Samoan President Muavae says, “the heart of our work is the people”. Thus, we understand and deeply value the importance of knowledge and cultural exchange, bonding and mutual learning. We know that the best solutions lay within our communities.
The number of tropical peoples within our 20-person delegation was significant. As a mixed blood Canadian, I was raised experiencing winter, so I was fortunate to share my knowledge with those who were doing so for the first time. They were very especially brave as they donned snowmobile suits, snow boots, gloves and toques to cope with the cold! Our delegation was also fortunate to meet Sami leaders through our host Gunn-Britt Retter, a Sami Arctic Climate leader and Pawanka Guiding Committee member. She secured opportunities for us to meet with the peoples, experience the cultures, histories and lands within this Sampi region. This included showcasing impacts achieved directly through Pawanka funds including meeting Enni Similä a youth leaders that attended a recent UN Youth Arctic forum; a volunteer run slow-food / value added economic development initiative in support of the reindeer herding families; and a Supreme Court win with nation-wide impacts. To cap it off we experienced a place name App that showcased geo map locations in the Sami language – imagine that wherever you go in the Sampi Arctic Territory, you can now find yourself according to Sami place name in this App!
Myrna Cunningham, the chair of Pawanka Fund, is also a member of the IFIP Indigenous Led Fund (ILF) working group, and I am immensely honored to work alongside her, Jim Enote and the IFIP Secretariat for this purpose. Myrna talked about the importance of traveling to the seven geographic regions as a reminder of the diversity of Indigenous peoples worldwide. I couldn’t help but reflect with immense gratitude about how Pawanka, the Guiding Committee and their allies, were working together to actualize an Indigenous vision for transformed philanthropy, and further, that they would share their hard-earned knowledge and best practices, strategic guidance and support with each other and, with me on behalf of Pacific peoples. What generosity!
Throughout the meetings I heard people talking about what Pawanka means for them. I wondered as I could not find a concise description. I asked Carla, Pawanka Fund’s Administrator, and she shared “Pawanka is a Miskiu word (Indigenous language from Nicaragua), it means something that is growing.” As it should!