Photo courtesy Britnae Purdy

A Recap of Proud to Be Indigenous and a Glance Into UNPFII

Simon Moya-Smith
5/17/14

As the Second Annual #Proud2BIndigenous Week comes to a close Saturday, it’s time to take a look back and revel in the majesty that is indigenous pride.

Launched this year by First Peoples Worldwide – a nonprofit organization that focuses on funding local development projects in indigenous communities across the globe, the #Proud2BIndigenous campaign garnered significant online participation. Just check out the Twitter feed, which continued to punch out more comments and photos late into Saturday night.

RELATED: 12 More Candid Photos From Proud to Be Indigenous Week

Also this week, the United Nations held its 13th annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City. Indigenous leaders from across the globe have congregated at the U.N. to discuss the rights and concerns of indigenous peoples. The forum will end May 23.

ICTMN spoke with two individuals – one of the #Proud2BIndigenous campaign and also an indigenous delegate to the U.N. – about the achievements over the past week.

Britnae Purdy, communications manager at First Peoples Worldwide, said her organization received content from as far as Guyana and that next year they aspire to reel in big name activists and allies so as to facilitate the growth of the campaign going into the future.

What were the high points of this past week?

The high point of the week, as it was last year, was just seeing the amazing amount of people pulling together and joining us in celebrating Indigenous heritage. Every time I checked my email or logged onto Facebook or Twitter I would have new messages from people in Uganda, Kenya, Montana, Guyana, etc. This year's theme was communication, and we worked closely with Cultural Survival. One particularly exciting submission we received was an original song from SATIIM, in Belize. One of my favorite days was Friday, our "Powerful Words" day. We asked people to tell us how to say words like love, family, and peace in their native languages, and to share their favorite words or phrases. We had people connecting and communicating in so many different languages - it was amazing to see. The most exciting part of that for me would be when someone sent a tweet or a message saying that they’ve been encouraged by this event to learn more about their Native tongue or Native languages, or to tell us about a language program that has been started and is working in their community. I've also attached some of my favorite photographs.

What kind of numbers did you have regarding participation, i.e. photos, videos, stories submitted?

We still need to figure out exact numbers, but as of now we've received at least 150 pictures and a couple dozen stories, videos, and messages from people belonging to at least 50 different heritages. We continue (to welcome) receiving submissions throughout May. 

What’s on deck for next year?

Next year we’re really hoping to call upon the Proud to Be Indigenous Coalition. In its first two years, P2BI was created and steered by First Peoples (with some great help from Cultural Survival this year!) but we really want to expand and give our coalition members more autonomy and a larger role in the event. We’re hoping to get more and more well-known activists, media outlets and organizations involved. As more and more people realize that they have a stake in Indigenous rights and that their voice can bring power to the movement, P2BI will continue to grow. P2BI is first and foremost a chance for Indigenous peoples to celebrate their culture and heritage – something they may not always be encouraged to do – and it’s also a way for different diverse groups to connect around the world. We hope to expand these connections in future years. For a final thought, I'd just like to say how proud I am of First Peoples Worldwide, Cultural Survival, and our grantees and partners around the world for the hard work they do.

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ICTMN also spoke with United Nations North American Youth Delegate Tessa McLean, Ojibwe, about the UNPFII. McClean said while at the U.N. she felt it necessary to recognize the indigenous peoples who used to reside on the island of Manhattan before European settlement.

How would you describe your time so far at the UNPFII?

I have noticed the global language is smiles and prayers – good human being interactions. I lead a prayer in the Global Indigenous Youth caucus so we can all work together in a good way. We recognized the original owners of this land who are the Lenape or Delaware, and much more good words were spoken. It was a great moment where the global youth caucus stepped out of our diplomatic mindset and back into our moccasins. It was awesome! Those of us fighting at the U.N. are proud to be indigenous and Anishinaabe akiing (territory) defenders.

Gale Courey Toensing contributed to this report.

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