"Occupy Wall Street," Main Street, and a few side streets, as well… These are the headlines of our times. The contagion of the Arab Spring has captured the frustration of a growing number of people worldwide in a softer, and fortunately less violent, rebellion. People are genuinely disenchanted with the way our economic system treats us and our environment.
On November 5, many threatened to pull their money out of Wall Street. I hope they did. And, I hope they put it somewhere like Enterprise Cascadia, a nonprofit community development financial institution, or One PacificCoast Bank, the successor to ShoreBank Pacific, which Ecotrust helped start almost twenty years ago to create jobs, improve the environment, and address the needs of communities.
Ecotrust has been promoting a more "natural" model of development for twenty years now. But clearly we are doing too little, on too small a scale or there would be more people building local, resilient communities and economies, and fewer tents in city parks.
In September of this year, we assembled fifty leaders from all over the world to think about how such a model could scale up. Many of these leaders spoke of their nations' "gifts to the world."
Moving into our third decade, Ecotrust hopes to share such gifts. We will continue to push the boundaries of our work — to innovate broadly and invest wisely, and inspire others to do the same. We are dependent upon your continued generous support to do this.
Sharing Our Wealth
On November 2nd, we gathered native leaders from across our region to celebrate the 10th annual Indigenous Leadership Awards, and had the great honor of sharing Potlatch with one of the honorees, Clan Chief Adam Dick (Kwaxsistalla) of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation in British Columbia.
Chief Adam was raised from the age of four at Kingcome Inlet on the British Columbia mainland and around the Broughton Archipelago (remote areas of the B.C. coast). Adam never attended western school and never learned to read or write. Instead, when the police came to take tribal children to residential school during the peak of the Canadian crackdown on indigenous cultural and economic practices, his elders kept him sequestered and thus safe and away, where he was given intensive instruction in all aspects of traditional leadership as a Clan Chief and Potlatch speaker. Chief Adam is the only surviving member of his people to receive this training, which holds hundreds of sacred stories and songs, detailed knowledge of social and economic systems, important ceremonial aspects of life, as well as the intricacies of Kwak'wala language, geography, ecology, resource sustainability, and history.
Centered around the ideas of generosity and reciprocity, potlatch ceremonies are designed for the intentional redistribution of wealth. Two days before "Bank Transfer Day" when people across America planned to redistribute their own wealth towards more equitable institutions, Chief Adam's words were all the more inspiring.
Gifts to the World
Twenty years ago, the formation of Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees, the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected Area was an act of quiet resistance by the Haisla people of British Columbia. In choosing to forego the financial gains that a large-scale logging contract would have brought to their valley in favor of preserving not only the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world, but the cultural legacy of their people, the Haisla made the Kitlope what elders such as Cecil Paul call their "gift to the world." The Kitlope is also where Ecotrust found its beginnings in 1991, in supporting the Haisla’s efforts to make this enduring gift.
This past September, we hosted Haisla elders along with over 50 other leaders from around the world in Portland to share stories and strategies for solving the world's most pressing problems. We learned about many other gifts to the world — places such as the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a 408,250-square-kilometer area designated by the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati as the world's largest marine protected area, or Ecuador's Yasuni-ITT Initiative, a proposal by the Ecuadorian government to forego production of an estimated one billion barrels of crude oil from the country's Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini oil fields which lie under the 982,000-hectare Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Basin.
Watch: President Tong of Kiribati, Nati Greene of Ecuador, and others on their regional initiatives to build resilience and gifts to the world.
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