Indigenous peoples make up only 5% of the world’s population, but they inhabit about 30% of the earth’s surface. Given this, it is essential to acknowledge the role of Indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous knowledge is the unique, local knowledge developed through history, experience, experiments, and understanding of the environment. How can funders use Indigenous knowledge and engage these communities in disaster response and prevention? 

To help answer this question, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) recently hosted a webinar, Using Indigenous Knowledge to Prevent and Respond to Disasters. CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund Program Manager Heidi Schultz moderated the discussion, and panelists included: Chele Rider, disaster state relations director at American Red Cross; and Patricia Velásquez, president and founder of The Wayuu Taya Foundation.

Trusting relationships with well respected and culturally understood sovereign partners is the formula for success. Invest in this time and good medicine. Build future-looking goals together. Wisdom will follow.

- Post-webinar Survey Response

Here are some key takeaways for donors from the webinar:

Invest the necessary time to build relationships. Nothing about this work is quick or easy. It is essential that funders are accepted into a community, which takes time. CDP staff has worked with some Native communities for a year before getting to the point of developing a grant proposal together. Velásquez said, “When you have trust from the Indigenous communities and trust from the donors itself, the results are limitless.”

Repair past wrongs and build new future relationships. As Rider mentioned, Indigenous knowledge is based on concepts such as 100 years or seven generations, where the past, present, and future are all connected. Funders may not have done harm themselves, but the righting of the wrongs is theirs to do now. It is about more than money; it is about building a just relationship.

Trust Indigenous knowledge. Velásquez talked about the ideas and roles of the Wayuu women in developing the grants they did with CDP and others. This work and these projects are based on more than just science. They are based on the history of the women and their knowledge of past practices and activities.

Support Native solutions through symbiotic partnership. Of all philanthropic funding by large U.S. foundations, only 0.4% on average is directed to Native communities. Rider said, “The solutions are all there, they’re internal to the tribe, it’s just a matter of resources and funding and knowing who to ask or having the very specific holistic group of stakeholder agencies, like CDP and the Red Cross, all of us as a collective, coming to the group and asking what is needed and asking how we can symbiotically partner to meet those needs.”

Watch the full webinar on Indigenous knowledge at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.