Tribal Community Members and Academic Researchers Gather for a Weekend of Listening and Collaboration

Project: Coordinating Advocacy to Protect Native Lands and Rights

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By: Kahea Pacheco, North America Program Team Member
“How do we sustain?  How do we become as adaptable as possible?  How do we work smart?  Thatis what this weekend is all about.” –Tribal Community Session
The pressing need to sustain, adapt, and work smart was the impetus for a gathering on October 20-21, 2012, when tribal community members and researchers gathered at the University of California, Irvine for the Southern California Tribal Listening and Strategy Session on Environmental Issues.
This convening, a collaboration between the United Coalition to Protect Panhe, Women’s Earth Alliance, and UC Irvine’s Environment Institute, American Indian Resource Program and Office of Civil and Community Engagement, aimed to build the capacity of Indigenous leaders, students, advocates and tribal communities, as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous academic and nonprofit researchers, local planners, and land and water use professionals to engage more effectively and efficiently with one another to protect Indigenous lands, waters, and natural and cultural resources.
During these two days, tribal community participants were trained on how to conceptualize environmental and cultural resource protection challenges as research projects, and then to design such research projects to meet community needs.  Participating researchers were also introduced to the concept and emerging methods of community-engaged sustainability scholarship.  Once these trainings were complete, participants gathered together to explore possible partnerships between the research needs of community members, and the capacities of attending researchers.
The weekend started with ceremony, with recognition and thanks given to the Acjachemen people, upon whose traditional lands we gathered, and with prayers for the learnings and meaningful conversations we hoped to share over the next two days.  These conversations began immediately as tribal members were brought together to discuss the environmental challenges and needs their communities faced.  These included the desecration of sacred and ancestral lands, the pollution of estuaries and waterways, the power imbalance between what is healthy for people and the environment and what is profitable for developers, as well as the spiritual impacts of being disconnected from the earth and the loss of traditional knowledge when it is not passed down to youth.
“We as a people are trying to protect whatever’s left of our sacred sites, trying to conserve them.  This is a commonality between us all—we see our communities reflected in one another.” –Tribal Community Session
There was also space for tribal community members to brainstorm and envision what it would mean to have healthy, sustainable communities, and share personal experiences with research conducted in their communities, much of which often led to the continued invisibilization and disempowerment of tribal peoples.  Resting on this knowledge and history as a foundation for forward movement, Miho Kim, Executive Director of the Oakland-based Data Center, supported participants as they took steps to frame their current community needs as possible research projects.
“If Native peoples were to take control of their own learning about who they are and what their practices are, what do we think we would learn?  What would we learn if we drove the inquiry?” –Tribal Community Session
Meanwhile, educator and activist Nadinne Cruz led participants in the research track to explore concepts of research justice, and the crucial practice of recognizing and subverting traditional power dynamics between researchers and communities within academic research.  Participants also practiced listening skills, with UC Irvine Sustainability Researcher and environmental human rights attorney Abigail Reyes, who is also a member of the WEA Advocacy Network.
Finally, on the last day of the Listening Sessions, tribal community members gathered with the researchers in attendance to share their needs and lay the groundwork for equitable community-engaged sustainability research projects.  These conversations occurred within the full group, as tribal members expressed their concerns with as well as their needs for research, and on a smaller scale, during one-on-one discussions focused on true collaboration and Indigenous-led projects.
It is our hope that the groundwork laid during this Listening and Strategy Session will lead to many long-term, strategic, regional, inter-tribal partnerships, which will secure a more just and sustainable future for Southern California tribal peoples for many, many generations to come.
WEA would like to thank our 2012 Advocacy Fellow Angela Mooney D’Arcy (Acjachemen), who initiated and developed this Listening Session to address WEA’s goal of engaging more effectively with California grassroots Indigenous people.  We would also like to thank Abigail Reyes, from UC Irvine’s Environment Institute, for her leadership in implementing this convening. 

GWWI Women and Water on Wednesdays: Solar CooKit – Using the Sun to Clean Water

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One of the cheapest and greenest ways to clean water is to harness the heat of the sun! As Mama Solar, GWWI Solar CooKit Trainer says, ‘the sun is free and we here in Africa have plenty of it!’   The sun’s heat is used to pasteurize water which has the same effects as boiling, but is much cheaper and is less damaging to the environment. Boiling is one of the easiest and most widely practiced water treatments promoted around the globe, but is prohibitive in developing countries for several reasons. 1) fuel or coal is costly for families making less than a $1 a day 2) wood collection contributes to deforestation 3) burning fuel, coal or wood creates air pollution.

Carrying wood
Carrying wood


The process of boiling requires the water to heat to 100 Celsius. Once it reaches this high temperature, it kills disease-causing germs. Pasteurization, however, requires the water only to be heated to 60 Celsius, but at a longer sustained heat. This can be achieved by putting contaminated clear water in a covered black pot (which can be painted with simple chalkboard paint) to attract heat, enclosed in a large clear plastic bag to contain the heat, and placed inside a Solar CooKit to intensify the heat.

Solar CooKit with bag
Solar CooKit with bag

The Global Women’s Water Initiative introduces the Solar CooKit as one of the core technologies women learn at our Women and Water Trainings. On Day 1, women make their own Solar CooKit! Made simply with recycled cardboard boxes, reflective material (aluminum foil, the inside of juice boxes etc), cloth for lining and reinforcing the edges, and glue. In just a few short hours the women have their first technology completed and ready to use!

The finished Solar CooKits!
The finished Solar CooKits!


During the rest of the Training week, they set the CooKits up in the morning if it’s a sunny day to clean their water, share recipes and cook delicious food. They leave them to sit in the sun while they spend the rest of the day in training sessions and building other technologies. When they return after a few to several hours (depending on the strength of the sun that day) their water is clean and their food is cooked!

Food made with the CooKits
Food made with the CooKits


There are so many reasons to love the Solar CooKits. All the materials to make the CooKit are available locally.  Women have less dependence on coal and fuel and reduction in deforestation. Once they have the technology, cooking is free – on sunny days of course! And most important, women are freed up to do other things while they are cooking and cleaning their water. WIN for the women, WIN for the environment, WIN for family health!

You can make one too! Download the instructions and recipes here from the Solar Cookers International website.
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Mama Solar Shines with Solar CooKit

Project: Safe Water Solutions for Sub-Saharan African Women

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Mama Solar Shines

Faustine Odaba, or Mama Solar as she has been so aptly named, is the Sun Queen  – teaching women all over Africa how to cook and pasteurize their water using simple solar technologies. She is the award-winning Founder and Director of Natural Resources and Waste Resource Alliance dedicated to promoting eco-friendly technologies. Her motto, “Waste No Waste” embodies the work she does by teaching grassroots women to pasteurize water and cook using the solar technology, conducting simple water tests using the Portable Microbiology Lab, and making bags, mats and other household products crocheted out of used plastic bags.

Mama Solar has been one of GWWI’s core trainers, having joined us at our Women and Water Training in 2008 in Kenya, 2010 in Ghana and again in Uganda 2011.  We first met Mama Solar at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006. We were researching and laying the foundation for our first Women and Water Training and connecting with Wangari Maathai, the Green Belt Movement and GROOTS Kenya, who ultimately became our partners for our 2008 Training.  Mama Solar’s bright smile and infectious spirit not to mention her delicious corn bread amongst the 100s of thousands of people, drew us into her tent where we discovered one of the most intriguing and simple technologies.  She introduced us to the Solar CooKit as an affordable technology to using fuel and firewood for cooking and boiling water!

The Solar CooKit is one of the few free ways to treat water by pasteurizing it with the sun. The process of pasteurization doesn’t require the high heat of boiling (100deg Celsius) but rather a sustained lower heat for a longer period of time. With a sunny day, a black pot to increase the heat, a plastic bag to place the pot to trap the heat and the Solar CooKit, women can treat their water. Its free and because they just put it in the CooKit and leave since it requires no tending, they have time to do other things like chores or even avail of livelihood opportunities.

cooking with the solar cookit

The Solar CooKit is made simply out of cardboard, glue and reflective materials. Its can be used anywhere there is sun. Mama Solar has brought the technology to women in refugee camps in Somalia and the Sudan, slum dwellers in Kenya, and rural women all over Africa. She has stories of women collecting old boxes and the foil from cigarette packages and inside juice boxes to make their own CooKits.

With women like Mama Solar who shine as powerfully as the sun, the future of women and water in Africa is bright and full of hope!

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WEA Advocacy Training: Building Bridges for Dialogue and Collaboration

Project: Convening Advocates for Protection of Indigenous Lands and People

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This November 4th – 6th, WEA hosted our first Advocacy Training, in partnership with Indigenous Environmental Network. We’re proud to share that the Training was a success.
Our Training took place at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA, which is located on Ohlone territory. Muwekma Ohlone elder Ann Marie Sayers opened the Training on Friday morning with a welcome and blessing.
Over the course of these three packed days, participants formed new partnerships, shared intensive dialogue, and learned key tools and strategies for advancing environmental justice with Indigenous peoples. The Training also yielded several mandates for WEA’s integral forward motion, as we continue deepening our relationships and our legal and policy advocacy work for environmental justice in collaboration with grassroots Indigenous women leaders.
The Training engaged approximately 35 advocates as new members of the WEA Advocacy Network – a great boon to the stability and longevity of our work. Participants were almost entirely advocates who were not previously involved in the Advocacy Network. Our participants came from all over the United States, representing some of the following organizations: Center for Biological Diversity; Earthjustice; International Accountability Project; NAACP; Three Degrees Project; University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic; and many more.
2011 GEAG/WEA India Women, Food and Climate Change Training
2011 GEAG/WEA India Women, Food and Climate Change Training
I just wanted to extend some gratitude for having the opportunity to take part in such an enriching and wonderful event. I left the training forever changed. I look forward to being part of the vibrant and wonderful advocacy network and also continuing to take part in the other elements of WEA.
– Kimaada LeGendre, Vermont Law School, advocate/ participant
We were honored by participation and presentations from representatives from 18 Indigenous-led groups, and 7 non-Indigenous groups with a history of strong alliances with Indigenous peoples. Presenters and facilitators provided critical, foundational knowledge to participants on the process of building successful alliances, tools and strategies for success, and current needs for legal and policy advocacy support.
As a Native person, a practitioner, and an attorney, I found it very inspiring and helpful to strategize in a way that’s real and that’s culturally grounded – this is something very rare, and has given me a lot of hope for the work that I do.
– Kapua Sproat (Kanaka Maoli), Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, presenter
Many of the Indigenous groups represented at the Training, as well as several others, shared requests for advocacy collaboration through our docket. Already, first-level discussions have been initiated towards 11 collaborations between grassroots Indigenous activists, with the legal and policy advocates who participated. Please stay tuned for more details about the specific advocacy initiatives that arise from the Training, and the next steps for WEA’s North America program.
Thanks to WEA’s organizational partner, Indigenous Environmental Network; Steering Committee members – including Jihan Gearon (Dine’) of Black Mesa Water Coalition, Debra Harry (Kooyooe Dukaddo) of Indigenous Peoples’ Council on Biocolonialism, Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) of Honor the Earth, Toby McLeod of Sacred Land Film Project, Tia Oros Peters (Zuni) of Seventh Generation Fund, Carolyn Raffensperger of Science and Environmental Health Network; our lead facilitator Roberto Vargas, all the WEA staff and volunteers who produced the Training, all those who contributed financial resources towards the Training, and most of all, everyone who attended and gave so much of themselves towards the success of our first Advocacy Training.

November 4: Steadying the Seasons

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Photo by: Phillippe Ponchaux
Photo by: Phillippe Ponchaux
Women’s Earth Alliance is preparing to host our first Advocacy Training, November 4th – 6th, 2011, here at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.  With guidance from our Steering Committee and organizational partner, Indigenous Environmental Network, we’re convening 75 advocates and activists for three days of dialogue, learning and collaborative action towards environmental justice for Indigenous peoples.  The training will prepare advocates – from large law firms, national NGOs, and major universities – to use tested and emerging advocacy tools; build capacity for effective cross–cultural partnerships; and generate strategies for action on health and environmental justice.
We’re thrilled that this long-anticipated event is coming to fruition!  Please stay tuned for updates leading up to, and after, the Training, about the impacts of our work and the new initiatives emerging from this convening.  We honor the talented and dedicated advocates who are joining us to learn and participate.  As Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network, commends our participants: “thank you for standing strong in defense of the sacredness of Mother Earth and for our future generations.”
How can you be a part of our work with Indigenous peoples towards the protection of health, culture and sacred land?
On Friday, November 4th, join us for Steadying the Seasons: Indigenous Peoples on the Front Lines of Climate Change in North America.   This dynamic evening will include storytelling from three leading Indigenous climate justice activists, as well as a short film about the Athabascan tar sands and their impacts on Indigenous peoples and the climate.
Please see our website for more information and to buy tickets.  The evening begins with a reception at 6:30 PM; please arrive by 7:15 for the program.  2150 Allston Way in Berkeley.
See you there!