During Climate Week NYC in 2022, Indigenous leaders took the stage during the TED Salon: THRIVE event on September 22, hosting a first-ever partnership between TED and Nia Tero to highlight Indigenous guardianship globally. At the event, Indigenous leaders from different parts of the world shared their stories, experiences, and ancestral wisdom about how humanity can take care of the planet now and for generations to come.
These TED Talks are a powerful platform to amplify the leadership of Indigenous Peoples as we collectively face the climate crisis, and give us all an opportunity to uplift Indigenous guardianship of Earth and all beings.
Learn more about each of the speakers, and watch their TED Talks below.
Michael Painter and Sally Kohn host TED Salon: Thrive - September 22, 2022. (Photo: Gilberto Tadday / TED)
It all began with a simple idea: inviting Indigenous leaders from around the globe to a major global stage to talk directly to the world about caring deeply for home and place. The easy part was finding hundreds of capable Indigenous voices to join the conversation. The hard part was selecting just five - four speakers and a singer - to share their stories of Indigenous guardianship worldwide, from the Boreal forests of North America to Amazonia, Pasifika, and Asia.
As much as their territories may immensely vary from region to region, the consistent messages that each speaker brought to the stage while representing their Indigenous communities were similar: urgent, hopeful appeals on behalf of a planet severely damaged by colonization and extractive economies. Each, in their own way, was sounding the alarm, calling for the world to listen to Indigenous perspectives and learn from Indigenous knowledge – a generous attempt to show us all how to live in deep connection with our only home and the other beings who share the planet with us, if only we will listen.
The TED Salon speakers were:
Opening remarks: From Katsitsionni Fox (Haudenosaunee artist, Bear Clan) and from Nia Tero’s CEO Peter Seligmann.
Hosted by: Michael Painter (Cherokee Nation), Nia Tero’s Managing Director of Programs, and TED curator Sally Kohn.
Speakers at TED Salon: Thrive - September 22, 2022. (Photo: Gilberto Tadday / TED)
“Let Us Listen, Let Us Be Inspired.”
We invite you to take a moment to learn from Indigenous Peoples. Prepare to be inspired by values like reciprocity, collective decision making, responsibility towards the future generations, spirituality, among many others.
Meet the Indigenous leaders who spoke during TED Salon: THRIVE and watch their powerful messages:
An Indigenous Perspective on Humanity’s Survival on Earth
Wayana People | Suriname | Environmental Activist | President of Mulokot Foundation
Most of the world's biodiversity is within Indigenous territories, yet these communities often don't have a say when it comes to protecting the lands they inhabit. Environmental activist Jupta Itoewaki explains why Indigenous Peoples are best positioned to lead the world's efforts to preserve nature and maintain a habitable planet -- and reminds us of their outsized importance in charting a sustainable future.
Jupta lives in Suriname, South America, and is the president of Mulokot Foundation, a community-based organization set up to support the Wayana People and help achieve their development aims.
“We are the forests; we breathe the forests. We cannot even translate "sustainable forest management" in our own language, because to us, it's simply a way of living.”
--- Jupta Itoewaki
5 Values for Repairing the Harms of Colonialism
Kankanaey-Igorot People | Philippines | Lawyer | Managing Director of Policy at Nia Tero
Indigenous wisdom can help solve the planetary crises that colonialism started, says Jennifer "Jing" Corpuz. Her ancestors, the Kankanaey-Igorot people of the Philippines, are known for creating the Banaue Rice Terraces: centuries-old irrigated mountain terraces that illustrate the magic of humanity living in harmony with nature. Corpuz shares five values that have guided her people as they successfully fought against development aggression and invites everyone to pursue a more just, sustainable world.
Jing is a lawyer and Managing Director of Policy at Nia Tero.
“As Indigenous Peoples, we own our past, our present and our future. Private development for the gain of the few and to the detriment of the community, flies against the face of the reality of the generational existence of Indigenous Peoples.”
--- Jing Corpuz
The Sustainable Brilliance of Indigenous Design
Sepik People | Papua New Guinea | Human Rights Defender | Coordinator of Project Sepik
When human rights advocate Manu Peni returned to Papua New Guinea from abroad, he built a home for himself using modern techniques – and promptly learned a harsh lesson on how the newest ideas aren't always the best ideas. Peni calls for us all to rethink who we consider experts, particularly when it comes to building in the face of climate change, showing how Indigenous wisdom must work in harmony with new science and technology if we want to create a sustainable future.
Manu Peni is a human rights defender and climate activist in Papua New Guinea. He returned home to work with his people to defend the Sepik River system from the threat of devastation posed by a giant mining project.
“These traditions that we have, and these philosophies have guided us for 50,000 years of sustainable development and will help us in the wind of change."
--- Manu Peni
How Indigenous Guardians Protect the Planet and Humanity
Innu Community of Mashteutiatsh | Canada | Forester | Executive Director at Indigenous Leadership Initiative
"If we take care of the land, the land takes care of us," says Indigenous leader Valérie Courtois. As climate change continues to devastate the planet, Indigenous guardians are helping to honor our responsibility to the land, monitoring water quality, conducting research and working to restore key species. Courtois invites us all to support the guardians working to ensure that humanity has a future on Earth -- and to discover that healing the land can transform us as well.
Valérie Courtois is director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative and a leading expert on the national movement of Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship in Canada.
“Guardians help honor our responsibility of the land and they can create a better future for all. Because guardianship isn't just good for guardians, it's good for everyone because the land is taking care of guardians and guardians are taking care of the land.”
--- Valérie Courtois
Singer and songwriter dives into the soothing sounds of the Pacific
Tongan | Tonga | Singer-Songwriter and Activist
Singer and songwriter Mia Kami dives into the soothing sounds of the Pacific with a tribute to the unifying spirit of her Indigenous heritage with her songs "Mana" and "Salt Water".
Mia Kami is a 2020 Nia Tero Storytelling Fellow. She is passionate about the importance of Indigenous knowledge, decolonizing the mind, and climate activism. With her music, she hopes to bring light to the issues affecting the Pacific in a way only music can.
Watch Mia Kami's performance, click here.
Mia Kami performs "Mana" and "Salt Water" at TED Salon: Thrive - September 22, 2022. (Photo: Gilberto Tadday / TED)
*The TED team is committed to both helping speakers give their best possible talk and making sure the message in each talk is an unfiltered one coming straight from the speaker. Neither TED nor Nia Tero influenced the content of the four talks and musical performance. In fact, only a few individuals from the TED team, and no one at Nia Tero, even knew what the speakers were going to say until they delivered their talks live on stage in New York for filming. What surfaced from each was an impressive array of love letters to Earth from the hearts of Indigenous leaders.
Delve into highlights and stories from our speakers at TED Salon.