Fisherman on ice near water

Our Values

Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of their own homes

Feet adorned with decorations while dancing

Indigenous peoples uphold many of the planet's healthiest ecosystems, rich in biodiversity, and systems essential to the security of global food production, fresh water, and ultimately, the Earth's climate.

We believe that the peoples who call these places home are the best guardians of their cultures’ vital birthplaces, and that supporting the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples, and following their leadership, is critical to the health of our planet as a whole.

multiple flat gray rocks
Indigenous peoples uphold many of the planet's healthiest ecosystems, rich in biodiversity, and systems essential to the security of global food production, fresh water, and ultimately, the Earth's climate.

We Believe

Indigenous peoples uphold many of the planet's healthiest ecosystems, rich in biodiversity, and systems essential to the security of global food production, fresh water, and ultimately, the Earth's climate. We believe that the peoples who call these places home are the best guardians of their cultures’ vital birthplaces, and that supporting the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples, and following their leadership, is critical to the health of our planet as a whole.

The Necessity of Guardianship

Remarkable places within Indigenous territories persist because of what we call guardianship:

Time-earned knowledge systems and place-specific technologies linked to the right, responsibility and capacity to sustain vital natural systems.

Enormous pressures threaten guardianship around the world, and Indigenous peoples are seeking recognition, partnership and support to counter these forces. Nia Tero exists to help make that happen.

The rights of indigenous peoples and local communities include vital eco systems, good governance, and collective territory.

The inner overlap of the three colored circles represents the nexus of where Nia Tero will 
focus its efforts. The outer circle represents the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities—indicating that these rights are the stepping off point for everything we do.

Shared Commitments

Nia Tero works in areas where Indigenous peoples sustain large-scale ecosystems within their collective territories.

We support existing and potential systems of governance that can secure successful guardianship of these territories. Our relationships with Indigenous peoples and local communities revolve around shared commitments for guardianship. These commitments are put in practice through agreements that lay out mutual obligations to secure the well-being of peoples and places and to provide durable, long-term financial and technical support. Each agreement follows an explicit process of planning guided by humility and a principle that all participants are equals.

Creating Conditions for Success

To ensure that our partnerships and shared commitments endure

Nia Tero will support improvements in their “enabling conditions,” including policy frameworks, ecosystem and social monitoring systems, and long-term financing. Further, we will help propel locally relevant enterprises, infrastructure, and other projects integral to the well-being and earning power of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

The Value of Collective Territory

Collective territories are places where people can share a purpose and achieve things at a scale not otherwise possible.

That includes nurturing vast natural ecosystems, managing life-giving natural resources such as fish and maintaining revered sacred sites. Nia Tero will focus all its work in places where Indigenous peoples and local communities hold territories collectively.

Group of people with hands held high facing a waterfall

The Power of Story

Nia Tero's site-based and regional partnerships alone won't be able to achieve the global scale of guardianship necessary to secure humanity’s shared home.

To scale up global support for Indigenous guardianship, Nia Tero and our partners will amplify the power of Indigenous storytelling across multiple media platforms, both close to home and globally. By doing this, we hope to reach audiences ranging from local communities to policymakers and major global development funders. Nia Tero will also facilitate exchange among Indigenous peoples to share their knowledge, ingenuity, and solutions across cultures and places.

A woman staring into the distance in front of water

Guiding Principles

PURPOSE

Below are the values, principles, and protocols that guide Nia Tero’s work and partnerships. These guiding principles are meant to ensure that all of our initiatives and relationships root in reciprocity, respect, and trust, while aligning with our organizational commitments.

ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENTS

These values and principles underpin the below organizational commitments.

MISSION

Nia Tero works in solidarity with Indigenous peoples who sustain thriving territories and cultures to strengthen guardianship of Earth and all beings.

VISION

Our vision is of an Earth where Indigenous guardianship of thriving homelands and waters is ENABLED everywhere possible on Earth.

ASPIRATIONS

Over the next decade, we UPHOLD a network of place-anchored partnerships with Indigenous peoples that demonstrate the power of Indigenous guardianship to sustain a vibrant Earth. Building upon and working alongside this network, we also EXPAND recognition and support for Indigenous guardianship globally.

INDIGENOUS GUARDIANSHIP PARTNERSHIPS

All of Nia Tero’s work is grounded in guardianship partnerships. We define these partnerships as place-anchored with the people living in a collective territory or place, and their partners and chosen allies, to secure a self-determined vision for guardianship of thriving territory. The term is specific to Indigenous peoples who share biophysical geographies of place, history, and sustenance as well as metaphysical spaces tied to identity, the sacred and home. Specifically, our place-anchored partnerships are with peoples who share (a) history with a common place, (b) reliance on and reciprocity with the physical features and living diversity of that place, (c) decision-making directly linked to that place, and (d) spiritual, cultural, and social ways and means specific to that place.

IDENTITY

We are a US-based nonprofit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide. We have an inclusive culture guided by Indigenous wisdom, practices, and protocols. Our governing bodies, leadership, and staff are built upon diverse, non-Indigenous and Indigenous identities and life experiences. As a bridging organization, we view this diversity as a source of our strength.

INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS

Our guidelines and principles respect and honor the following international commitments:

FIVE PRINCIPLES THAT GUIDE OUR WORK

1. Sovereign Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a steppingstone for all of our work. And our mission, vision and aspirations for impact all center the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples to care for thriving homelands and waters in their own ways.

What this means for our work and partnerships:

All of our work is rooted in upholding honesty, equity, reciprocity, and trust in our engagement with Indigenous peoples. These values manifest in principles of practice that guide everything we do:

  • Follow and respect Indigenous peoples self-determined priorities and decision-making processes to achieve guardianship.
  • Fund Indigenous organizations directly. When this is not possible, fund only non-Indigenous organizations identified as trusted partners by Indigenous peoples.
  • Provide direct technical support only when requested and unavailable in local or regional organizational networks.
  • Follow the guidance of Indigenous leaders at a regional and global level.
  • Never take credit for the efforts of Indigenous peoples or speak on their behalf, unless explicitly requested to do so by Indigenous peoples themselves.
  • Prioritize responsive, phased, and efficient service to Indigenous peoples in all our processes.
  • Whenever possible, commit to partnerships that can span human generation times.

What this means for our funding partnerships:

  • We and our funders honor and respect Indigenous peoples’ autonomy, free choice, and right to self-determination.
  • In some cases, Nia Tero may need to step back from a decision-making role, because our perspective or that of our funders could constrain our Indigenous partners’ ability to exercise self-determination.
  • We and our funders honor and respect the right of our Indigenous partners to withhold their consent for any partnership they deem to be detrimental to their interests.
  • We and our funders honor and respect Indigenous partners’ right to participate in a thorough consultation process on any project or development that might impact them.
  • We conduct consultations through the Indigenous people’s own institutions and representatives, supported by adequate resources and good faith.
  • We and our funders invest in building the capacity of Indigenous partners.
  • We and our funders have zero tolerance for coercion or threats against Indigenous peoples.
  • Additional “Guidelines for Funding Partnerships” can be found at the bottom of this "Guiding Principles" overview.*

2. Respect for the Full Spectrum of Life on Earth

All of our work and partnerships support Indigenous guardianship that sustains thriving places with an outsized benefit to diverse and abundant communities of life otherwise diminished or threatened elsewhere.

3. Accountability

What this means for our work and partnerships:

  • We and our funders are transparent, take responsibility for mistakes and correcting them, resolve conflicts impartially, monitor activities inclusively, and improve approaches accordingly.
  • We document our fundraising work in ways that are culturally responsive and appropriate; establish conflict-resolution strategies before problems arise; and collaboratively implement and consistently revisit co-developed plans.

4. Equity, Justice, and Inclusion

What this means for our work and partnerships:

  • We and our funders demonstrate respect for Indigenous value systems and choices.
  • We and our funders respect the fact that Indigenous value systems are not monolithic. Equity and justice are place-based and dependent on local context.
  • When cultivating relationships with Indigenous peoples, we and our funders share power, opportunities, resources, and benefits.
  • We invite Indigenous partners to participate in the donor-engagement process as early as possible, to build direct relationships between funders and our Indigenous partners.
  • We and our funders demonstrate a commitment to listening to diverse voices.
  • All of Nia Tero’s forums, structures, and processes are non-discriminatory; culturally responsive; accessible; and physically and emotionally safe for people of all identities.

5. Overarching Good Faith

What this means for our work and partnerships:

  • We and our funders conduct our work with honesty, respect, humility, integrity, and in the spirit of service.
  • We and our funders listen early, listen often, listen consistently, and apply learnings each step of the way.
  • Additional “Guidelines for Funding Partnerships” can be found at the bottom of this "Guiding Principles" overview.*

Other organization-wide manifestations of these principles and commitments:

  • We partner deeply with Indigenous peoples, organizations, and communities as well as non-indigenous partners who are prepared to work in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. In working with those have global or regional voices, influence, and reach, we maintain equitable and just partnerships through the use of guidelines and open, and transparent communication.
  • We believe that Indigenous peoples have the cultures, the wisdom, and the territories essential for humanity to escape the current global ecological crisis. They do not have the resources required for the security of these three interconnected assets. Vastly increased access to financial assets is essential.
  • We elevate and support the passing of experience, training, and capacity to the next generation of Indigenous peoples and their chosen allies. We believe in fellowships to provide openings and opportunity for Indigenous peoples.
  • We believe that all decisions and policies that affect Indigenous peoples and their territories must be made with Indigenous peoples present and heard.
  • We are committed to elevating and amplifying Indigenous voices. Our stories feature the reciprocal relationship between humanity and nature, among other personal stories told by Indigenous storytellers.
  • All our knowledge and information and learnings are open sourced so that others benefit, whether they are Indigenous or non-indigenous organizations.
  • We believe that to scale impact we must create communities of learning and sharing that are led by Indigenous peoples and enlightened non-indigenous allies.

ENDNOTE

Everything mentioned above does not supersede any human rights obligations that Nia Tero has committed to or may be subject to. Rather, it is intended to help formalize and operationalize the values, methods, and practices through which we honor our commitment to doing our work in full, equitable partnership with Indigenous peoples.

FOUR GUIDELINES FOR FUNDING PARTNERSHIPS*

To repair the damage from centuries of abusive extractive practices, we and our Indigenous communities seek trust-based philanthropic partnerships. We use the following guidelines to help us to assess which partnerships make sense for us to pursue:

  1. Alignment with Mission and Values: The donor must demonstrate an overarching commitment to Nia Tero’s mission and values and express interest in authentically and equitably engaging with the organization and our Indigenous partners. Philanthropic engagements must be consistent with and respect the understandings of Nia Tero’s Indigenous partners, founding partners, and communities. We avoid all engagements that present conflicts of interest or even the appearance of conflicts of interest (e.g., accepting money from those whose wealth comes from extractive or other damaging industries).
  2. No Endorsement: Nia Tero’s relationship with a company or donor is in no way an implied or real endorsement of the company, individual, or industry. All public communications regarding philanthropic donations are subject to prior agreement by Nia Tero and our partners.
  3. No Private Benefit: The engagement must not confer any private benefit to an individual or corporate entity.
  4. Overarching Impact: The engagement’s benefit must outweigh the risk of damage to Nia Tero as a whole or any Indigenous partner.

If Nia Tero chooses to engage in a funding arrangement that does not perfectly fit the above guidelines, we make clear our expectations for changes and improvements over time.