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To sow the seeds of cultural awareness among the children is to prepare them to stand firmly on their tradition and indigenous identity. This is what the Partnership for Culture-creating Schools of Altai in Russia embarked on with their Education Through Action project which focused on the sacred Karakol Valley.

Through a film showing (“Standing on Sacred Ground”) in five Altaian villages; a contest on Traditional Knowledge projects (drawings, photography, carvings, etc.); and a summer camp program, interest was stirred and awareness was shaped about  traditional cultural values.

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“This is the project that I have been waiting for so long!” Mrs. Peenee Moonkul, a Karen leader and Chairperson of a weaving group in Maewang district, Chiang Mai, Thailand expressed the sentiments of the participants in the project of the Indigenous Women’s Network in Thailand (IWNT) which aimed to highlight indigenous knowledge designed and deeply imbedded in traditional handicrafts such as weaving and embroidery of indigenous women in the country.

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The Mandaya tribe in Barangay Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental in Southern Philippines noted that some of their indigenous ways and practices that are beneficial to their community have been lost with time, such as the ligad and pasoot, which ensure food security. Ligad means “on the side” where the farmer plants root crops or vegetables on the side of his rice or corn field which will augment food supply while waiting for harvest. Pasoot means undercropping, where the farmer plants wakag or ube (yam) underneath the corn. This was a realization while the project was ogoing.

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There is no better way to revitalize and promote cultural heritage and cultural rights; transmit indigenous knowledge and build peace than through innovative artistic expressions and explorations. The Guyasa CBO embarked on this endeavour and reaped valuable results in Isiolo, in northern Kenya, particularly in Kinna community which is mainly occupied by the pastoralist Waso Borana. The customary institution and traditional governance system called Dee’da is composed of elders, and youth and women representatives who mandated to oversee resource management and governance in the community.

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The Buryats who number approximately half a million, are  one  of  the  largest  indigenous peoples  of  Inner  Asia.  They have a rich and ancient culture with their history, spirituality, worldview, lifeways and a shared landscape. However, during the past century, the Buryats as a nation have experienced disturbances and disruptions that continue to threaten them to this day.

The deeply divisive  political  power  struggle has forcibly driven the previously strong  Buryat  union  of  nomadic  Mongolian-speaking  tribes  into the  three  neighboring  nation-states:  Russia,  China  and  Mongolia. Today,  many  communities  of  the divided  Buryat  nation  are  facing  serious  issues  of  self-determination and loss  of  traditions. Massive and effective assimilation has resulted in the loss of sense of identity and very importantly, the Buryats’  native  language.

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"It is worth dreaming of," were the thoughts of the Palotes of Quechua, Aymara and Shipibo indigenous groups and members of a network of Indigenous Youth. They had experienced and suffered discrimination for speaking, dressing, dancing, singing or eating differently.

In one of the last meetings of the network, they had expressed,  "Our vision, conviction and commitment, is to contribute to build a society that respects diversities, in which indigenous youth, as part of our peoples, fully exercise  our collective and individual rights.”  They added that  as a network, they aim to contribute to the country’s consciousness where the affirmation of one's identity, self-determination, mutual respect without discrimination and the recognition of cultural diversity are the fundamental bases of the Peruvian nation."

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According to the United Nations there are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. Indigenous communities are present in all geographic regions and represent 5,000 different cultures.  There is a growing understanding by the global community that indigenous lands and waters represent 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, that Indigenous Peoples are effective stewards of these areas, and that these ecologically intact areas of the Earth are a vital strategy for tackling climate change. Indigenous women play a vital role in the transmission of traditional knowledge, cultural practices and are often leading the protection of the world’s biodiversity and environment.  Adopted in September 2007, after thirty years of advocacy by Indigenous Peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples marked a milestone in the struggle for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. However, as a result of discrimination and failure to recognize the identity and rights of Indigenous Peoples, there are significant gaps in the recognition of Indigenous rights and the realities experienced by Indigenous communities on the ground.

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Institutional philanthropy, in a nutshell, is a Western construct. Often it can seem transactional, likened to a business deal when funders strategize about returns on investment and the ever-present question of scale. Wealth remains in the hands of few, who are disconnected from the realities of Indigenous communities fighting oil pipelines, extracted mining, and large-scale development projects. Newly released statistics confirm the reality of the unrelenting violent attacks against Indigenous Peoples defending their way of life: in 2017, nearly four environmental defenders were killed every week for standing against ranchers, poachers, mines, and large infrastructure projects.

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The jumia/jhumia are cultivators engaged in hillside agriculture which has been a traditional practice in Chittagong Hill Tracks in Bangladesh. Jum or shifting cultivation has been the  only  livelihood  means  for  around  50% of the marginal and  landless  farmers  living  in  the  remote  hills, which has been regarded by the  government and some sectors as a  harmful  practice. 

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The Waiapu catchment is the sacred ancestral river of the Māori people. The symbiotic relationship of the catchment and the indigenous people’s cultural wellbeing is of primary concern. When the  New Zealand government was established in  1853, and  subsequent  local  governments were formed, the management and decision making for the freshwater  and  natural  resources of  the river  was  taken  away  from the people.

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Sharing stories through traditional chants and dances is an important and meaningful interaction and learning process. The participants looked back with gratefulness at this project as they saw the relevance of these cultural forms breathed life to the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.  In the island of Oahu in Hawaii, traditional practitioners nurture this, to aspire for “Ola a Laupaʻi,” or that which lives and continues to thrive and flourish. The hālau which is the traditional  Hawaiian  dance  school and the Hālau  I  Ka  Leo  Ola  O  Nā  Mamo or the  hula  school  of  the  living  language  of  the  descendants  are the centers where traditional  cultural  dance  experts build the capacity  of young  students as a means  to  preserve  traditional  ways  of  knowing. 

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In the spirit of this principle, the Tengri School of Spiritual Ecology and the “Experiment” Youth Initiative Group implemented a project to preserve the indigenous Altaian peoples’ sacred sites in Russia that they regard as markers of their ancestors’ holistic knowledge. The project’s initiators protected the integrity of the sites so that their spiritual and ecological significance could be appreciated by new generations.

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The Indigenous peoples or First Nations of the Northwest, particularly in British Columbia are renowned for their epic wood sculpture and carvings, notably their totem poles. This artistic tradition can be traced to their ancient ways of transmitting their genealogies, cultural knowledge and native science.  When a group of  Northwest Coast Artist / Knowledge Holders were presented with the opportunity to join the Native American Academy’s project to create a Sculpture Garden devoted to the study of Native Science, they did not hesitate.

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For a long time, the communities in Preah Vihear province of Cambodia were  completely  dependent  on  natural  resources  that  provided  them  sufficient  food and other needs. There was solidarity among the people. But in recent years, climate change caused drought, floods, storms, irregular rainfall and temperature throughout the year, severely affecting food production, cultural and livelihood activities. Food insecurity stalked six villages with around 500 indigenous Kui families.

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The partners of Pawanka Fund have been doing inspiring work in promoting, protecting and enhancing traditional knowledge as integral to indigenous peoples’ culture, ways of life and innovations. Each partner has a story to tell.

The Pawanka Calendar 2019 illustrates some of the work of its partners and indigenous wisdom and thoughts to draw inspirations from or to reflect upon as we advance the partnerships of indigenous peoples based on trust, solidarity and reciprocity.

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The Tara Bandu as a practice and traditional knowledge is transmitted to the younger generation for continuity. This intergenerational  transfer  of  knowledge is an educational experience for the entire community and awareness  raising  for the youth  and the  general  public. The active participation of the communities to secure and sustainably manage their resources was enhanced

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The spirits of indigenous peoples’ forebears who nurtured their lands for many generations in the three regions of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia  must be delighted that their descendants have shown determination in safeguarding the traditional territories or wilayah adat.  With its consistent advocacy for customary land rights, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia  (Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia) or JOAS spearheaded a project on community mapping where indigenous peoples, particularly the youth, learned to trace and mark their territorial legacies, especially at a time of development threats. Initially, the matter of land mapping had to contend with blocks such as diverse understanding and interpretation of traditional land rights concepts, boundaries and delineation.

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If one were to google the indigenous group Dura, an interesting but alarming fact about them is the near extinction of their language. In fact, the Dura language is spoken by a few, or nearly none at all. Being a marginalized group in Nepal, the Duras not only have to contend with this threat to their culture, but more so, to face the challenge of revitalizing and promoting their traditional knowledge and customary practices as a means to protect their natural and forest resources which are their lifeblood.

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Gather indigenous youth with the fervour to learn and re-acquaint themselves to their indigenous roots, then let them listen to the words of wisdom of their elders. Give them the opportunity to travel and encounter fellow indigenous youth of other cultures and countries, and let them immerse in the issues and concerns of indigenous communities.

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Salante Leburkash, the Chairwoman of Merilosho Cultural Manyatta has lived through many droughts in her village in the vast North Kenyan pastoralist territory. In fact, this climatic disaster had wreaked havoc on planned activities in the community. But she and her village mates were determined to push through with the project. She rued, however, that many families were not there with them in these activities. They had moved in search of refuge and relief from the punishing drought. Those present will someday share the knowledge and skills gained in these workshops, she assured herself. 

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