Thriving Peoples. Thriving Places. artwork in Auckland (Aotearoa). Photo courtesy of Amplifier.
While people around the world increasingly experience the alarming effects of climate change, solutions to healing the planet have been right in front of us all along.
Countless Indigenous Peoples have lived in reciprocity with Earth since time immemorial. Despite centuries of colonization and ongoing threats to their sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples collectively sustain 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity today, including ecosystems essential to our global climate, fresh water, and food security. Indigenous practices offer a critical pathway to healing a planet in crisis, and a unique global art project is recognizing inspiring Indigenous women leaders upholding both Indigenous rights and guardianship of collective territories.
Thriving Peoples. Thriving Places. is the latest in a series of collaborations between Nia Tero and Amplifier, a nonprofit design lab that makes art and media experiments to amplify the most important social movements of our time.
Expanding upon the 12 portraits commissioned in 2021, this year’s four new portraits are a collaboration between illustrators Tracie Ching (Kanaka Maoli) and Cindy Chischilly (Diné). The art will be available digitally and at public art events in cities including Seattle (USA), Auckland (Aotearoa) and Manila (Philippines). The project celebrates the vibrant and ever-present leadership of Indigenous women in protecting biodiversity and leading grassroots movements to drive action for the health of the planet.
This year’s activation launches on October 10, 2022, Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Turtle Island (North America). Like International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples in August, activities on this day recognize the harm of colonialism and the importance of Indigenous land sovereignty.
The Indigenous women featured in the portraits this year are activists, educators, and climate experts working not for personal gain but for collective thriving, rooted in their ancestral homelands across Turtle Island, Africa, and the Global South. Each carries forward traditional knowledge honoring their ancestors while shining a path for future generations.
- Alisha "Diinashii" Carlson (Neets’aii Gwich’in) follows in the footsteps of her Ancestors’ creativity and imagination. Carlson co-created a film in the Gwich'in language that uplifts her culture, ensuring that Gwich'in ways of being continue for future generations. She is also the mother of two children and works for the Arctic Village Tribal Council.
- Rosa Marina Flores Cruz (Afro-binnizá/Afro-Zapotec) is from Juchitán, Mexico, an Indigenous town in the state of Oaxaca. She is an activist empowering Indigenous Peoples, and her focus is on women’s rights, land rights, agrarian rights, and environmental education.
- Flor Palmar (Wayuu Iipuana) is a leading figure in Venezuela’s effort to develop bilingual, multicultural education for the nation’s diverse Indigenous Peoples. In addition to having worked in Venezuela’s Ministry of Education as coordinator of Programs in the Office of Bilingual Intercultural Education and serving as a member of the National Commission on Curriculum within the Ministry of Education, she has authored, and co-authored international publications related to the history and practice of Indigenous education. She is also a storyteller.
- Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Mbororo) is a member of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad. She is an expert in the adaptation and mitigation of Indigenous Peoples to climate change. Oumarou Ibrahim serves as a Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues and was one of 15 women highlighted for championing action on climate change by Time Magazine in 2019.
As we head toward the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Canada, it is crucial to remember that climate solution conversations don’t just happen during state-led meetings. The women honored in this initiative and many more like them are driving change daily and weekly, locally and regionally, and across cohesive networks of Earth guardians.
This year’s Thriving Peoples. Thriving Places. campaign continues to elevate the importance of women in movements toward Indigenous sovereignty and participation in climate solutions. Despite facing gender-based violence, educational barriers, and economic hardships, Indigenous women unfailingly show up, inspiring action and creating change.
The Indigenous leaders recognized here are reticent to put themselves in the spotlight. Instead, they work tirelessly and in reciprocity with the planet and the communities around them. Their work never stops – and nor should our support of them. This Indigenous Peoples’ Day – and every day – is a good time to ask: “How can I support what these dedicated women are doing? And how can I create a brighter future for my community and Mother Earth alongside them?”