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Decolonizing Wealth Project Redistributes $1M Towards Indigenous-Led Sustainability Efforts

The multi-year, multimillion-dollar Indigenous Earth Fund initiative will support systemic and policy-change efforts centered around Indigenous leaders and environmental solutions.

Today, the Decolonizing Wealth Project (DWP) announced the first cohort of grantee partners for its Liberated Capital fund’s latest initiative, the Indigenous Earth Fund (IEF) — which will redistribute more than $1 million in grants to 16 Indigenous-led organizations nationwide to bolster their climate change and conservation campaigns. These organizations are spearheading movement-building efforts that center Indigenous self-determination to promote sustainable food systems, land and forest management, and the protection and conservation of water sources and natural resources.

Led by Edgar Villanueva — Indigenous activist, social justice philanthropy expert, and author of Decolonizing Wealth — the Decolonizing Wealth Project works globally to disrupt the existing systems of moving and controlling capital using education and healing programs, radical reparative giving, and storytelling. Through the Liberated Capital fund, DWP moves untethered resources to Indigenous, Black and other people-of-color-led initiatives working for economic and racial justice.

The initiative is expected to be an annual grantmaking program — part of DWP’s commitment to celebrate and invest in the diverse wisdom that Indigenous communities have been cultivating for thousands of years — and will help convene Indigenous-led organizations and inter-tribal organizations and networks to elevate and discuss strategies and best practices that address the current climate crisis.

DWP’s work is part of a growing movement toward regenerative finance — a holistic approach to investment that aim to use targeted capital distribution as a tool to create healthy and equitable social and environmental systems. And as RSF Social Finance CEO Jasper van Brakel pointed out in a recent post, while philanthropic grantmaking is aimed at solving problems, the typical process maintains skewed power relationships in ways that block access to innovative ideas and reinforce social disparities. As the Black Lives Matter movement has continued to bring systemic societal inequities into sharp focus, more and more companies and finance institutions have committed to shifting resources to help level the financial playing field for historically disadvantaged and underrepresented communities of color. Awareness grows and the work continues, but things remain far from level.

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Historically, Indigenous-led organizations receive a small percentage of philanthropic climate funding and are largely excluded from regional and national discussions on both climate change and conservation, despite having ancient and traditional solutions proven to protect the environment. In October 2021, DWP invited these organizations to submit grant proposals to its fund, Liberated Capital — which raises the grantmaking dollars from its community — with the goal of providing recipients with untethered resources that enable Indigenous-led organizations and leaders to continue their important work.

“We are honored to invest in Indigenous-led organizations that are leading the fight against climate change,” Villanueva said. “Indigenous communities are guided by thousands of years of conservation techniques and solutions, arming them with the knowledge and the power to reverse climate destruction. It’s past time that philanthropy prioritize its support towards Indigenous communities, so they can continue leading us toward a more sustainable future.”

Additionally, to bridge the disconnect between policy, philanthropy and Indigenous wisdom, Liberated Capital will also invest in the wider climate and conservation ecosystem to support and drive movement-building across Indigenous communities.

The first cohort of Indigenous Earth Fund grantee partners are:

Proposals were evaluated by the Indigenous Earth Fund Advisory Committee, which is comprised of Indigenous movement leaders including Villanueva; Jade Begay, Climate Justice Campaign Director at NDN Collective; writer Julian Brave Noisecat; and Judith Le Blanc, Director of Native Organizers Alliance.

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