The Seventh Generation Fund announced three prestigious awards recognizing a lifetime of service and achievement for Indigenous peoples during the nonprofit’s 35th anniversary celebration and Keeping the Homefires Burning gathering in the Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, June 15-17.
The annual convention provides Native organizations and projects with a unique opportunity to network, discuss strategy and learn from one another. This year’s celebration served to highlight the many years of the Seventh Generation Fund’s leading edge work in the fields of social, environmental and cultural justice.
Founded in 1977 by Native American chiefs, clan-mothers, scholars, youth, activists and tribal philosophers, the Arcata, California-based Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development strives to promote and maintain the uniqueness of Native peoples throughout the Americas.
More than 275 people representing more than 100 different Indigenous Nations and communities attended the Keeping the Homefires Burning convention this year. They participated in three days of dialogue on issues including traditional agriculture strategies for food sovereignty and self-determination, a community approach to advancing and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the protection of water, sacred sites, and much more.
The Fund created the Good Ancestor Award to honor an individual’s longstanding work and devotion for Indigenous peoples’ issues and their community projects that promote sovereignty and cultural sustainability.
The Good Ancestor Award was bestowed upon one of the Fund’s first leaders: Debra Harry (Kooyooe Dukaddo) from Pyramid Lake, Nevada. She serves as the executive director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Council on Biocolonialism. The U.S.-based nonprofit organization helps Indigenous peoples protect their genetic resources, Indigenous knowledge and cultural and human rights from the negative affects of biotechnology. Harry additionally co-chairs the North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Along with the Good Ancestor Award, Harry received a plaque, a hand-carved corn maiden necklace with matching earrings and a statue made by Zuni artist Mike Tucson.
Also at the Keeping the Homefires Burning convening, Birgil Kills Straight (Oglala Lakota) from Kyle, South Dakota, accepted the Founders Award. As one of Seventh Generation Fund’s first leaders and co-founders, Birgil continues his longstanding work as a traditional leader in the revitalization of Oglala culture and for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Seventh Generation Fund additionally honored four community project partners with its Fire Keepers Award: Manny Pino (Acoma) of the Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment, Elvera Sargent (Akwesasne Mohawk) and Taiotorake King (Akwesasne Mohawk) of the Friends of the Akwesasne Freedom School in New York, Jose Matus (Yaqui) of the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders in Arizona, and Marcos Aguilar (Aztec) of the Academia Semillas del Pueblo in California.
Pino’s New Mexico-based coalition continues the struggle with uranium mining in the Southwest to safeguard Indigenous peoples’ health and the wellbeing of our Mother Earth. Sargent and King’s Friends of the Akwesasne Freedom School ensures the vitality and revitalization of the Mohawk language and culture. The Indigenous Alliance Without Borders in Arizona affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protection of sacred sites and the free and unrestricted movement across international borders. Academia Semillas del Pueblo, founded by Aguilar, represents two charter schools exceeding the minimal standards of education by incorporating traditional methodology into the teaching framework to create more well-rounded students who can guide with ancestral clarity.
In addition, Barbara Cushing, director of grant making for the Kalliopeia Foundation and Timothy Dorsey, program officer of the strategic opportunities fund for the Open Society Foundations were also recognized. All awardees were honored with an honoring song by Phillip Whiteman (Northern Cheyenne) and an elk horn feather hand-carved by artist George Blake (Yurok/Hupa) at the Gala Banquet dinner on June 17.