Indigenous custodians of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories are our best guides for protecting natural and cultural land and seascapes, nurturing biodiversity, and reconnecting to the spiritual dimensions of Nature.

Bagungu Sacred Site Custodians offer a blessing on the shores of Lake Albert, Uganda. Photo: Ben Gray

We can all benefit from listening to their wisdom as we grapple with climate chaos, environmental governance failures and how to re-imagine conservation.

From 3-11th September, Gaia will join Indigenous allies from around our living planet at the congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to highlight how biodiversity conservation, the rights of Indigenous custodians and the rights of Nature, go hand in hand.

From the Altai mountains, the African Great Lakes, Benin’s sacred forests, watersheds of northern Colombia and California, and the Brazilian rainforest, our Indigenous allies have travelled to Marseille to demonstrate to decision makers why Indigenous ways of knowing and being must be at the heart of the radical conservation measures we need at a time of multiple crises.

Together with this delegation, we will build on more than a decade of collective advocacy at the IUCN, encouraging member states to respect and implement IUCN’s own guidance on safeguarding “Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and areas conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCAs)“ and “all categories of protected areas as ‘no-go’ areas for environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development” (WCC-2016-Rec-102).

The main highlight of our advocacy will be a hybrid event:

Custodians of Life: Indigenous Defenders of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories.

This will take place on Tuesday 7th September 2021 11am-12.30 (CEST), with translation into English, Spanish and French available.

Our speakers will be:

  • Danil Mamyev (Altai/Central Asia) – spiritual leader and geologist from the Altai Republic of the Russian Federation, and founder of Uch Enmek Ethno-Cultural Nature Park.
  • Appolinaire Oussou Lio (Benin) – Prince from Tolinou community, founding director of Groupe Recherche pour la recherche sur le Bien-Etre (GRABE).
  • Benki Piyako (Brazil) – leader from the Ashaninka community of Apiwtxa, State of Acre, Brazil, President of the Yorenka Tasorentsi Institute.
  • Caleen Sisk (N. America) – Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, whose ancestral territory includes the McCloud River watershed in northern California.
  • Dennis Tabaro Natukunda (Uganda) – founding director of the African Institute for Culture and Ecology (AFRICE).
  • Ati Viviam Villafaña (Colombia) – Arhuaco woman from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world’s highest coastal mountain range, and a youth climate activist.
  • Liz Hosken (South Africa / UK) – co-founder and director of The Gaia Foundation, and activist for reviving indigenous biocultural diversity and protecting sacred lands. Moderator
  • Toby McLeod (N. America) – filmmaker, writer, director of Sacred Land Film Project and producer of landmark films such as the ‘Standing on Sacred Ground’ series. Moderator.

IUCN attendees can tune in to this event – and many others – live.

Click here to register.

If you can’t attend, follow Gaia on social media for updates from this event and the congress in general.

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