Archives for June 2012

Living Roots Breaking Ground on Cultural Center/Marketplace

Living Roots is excited to announce that ground has been broken on a Cultural Center/Marketplace in the mountain community of San Javier, which is the oldest continuously cultivated mission orchard in the Californias, rich with grape vines, pomegranates, dates and several of the oldest olive trees in the Americas.

Living Roots has been working with the community of San Javier and the surrounding ranches since June 2010, when the community identified the desire to protect their unique, self-reliant culture while developing a direct connection with a market for traditionally Baja sierra-made products and rural tourism.

Through helping the community incubate a regional marketing association, Raices Vivas San Javier, and facilitating the collaboration of the municipal and state governments, along with the foreign resident community in Loreto, Living Roots has helped turn San Javier’s vision into a reality with the creation of the Cultural Center/Marketplace.

The space will be an exhibition of San Javier history and culture, a store for regionally-made artisan food and craft and a tourism hub for visitors interested in mule rides, interpretative medicinal plant walks, rock art etc. With Living Roots assistance, the Raíces Vivas Marketing Association, primarily governed by women, has set the goal of forming as a legal entity by May 2013, with the aim of fully taking over fiscal and administrative reasonability for their community-driven enterprise.

Living Roots has also been pleased with the success of their youth programing this spring. As part of a series of Sierra Heritage Skills workshops inviting local master craftsmen into the school system to re-teach traditional skills, Living Roots organized a several month Leather Work course. Students learned in a hands-on setting the entire process, from tanning to making small bags and wallets how the unique regional leatherwork has been made for generations.

Excited about this opportunity, secondary school students and teachers alike were eager to explore more ways to learn from local experts. Their enthusiasm has led to the creation of a “Jovenes Documentalistas” program which will launch this fall. This year-long program will begin with professional training for youth in how to use cameras and audio equipment to capture the stories and know-how of the elder generation. Teams of students will then hike and ride to remote ranches, learning to identify useful plants and the essential skills of traveling through their arid back yard landscape, and arriving to interview and learn from these local living legends. Older ranchers are thrilled with the idea of being able to tell their stories and impart their knowledge before it is too late.

 For more information, to get involved or to make a donation to Living Roots, please to go our website: or follow us on Facebook Living Roots/ Raíces Vivas.

New Online Course: Community-driven Dispute Resolution

Village Earth is offering a new course, Community-driven Dispute Resolution, as a part of the Colorado State University Community-based Development Online Certificate Program.   This course will cover community mediation, facilitation, collaborative problem solving, conflict resolution, conflict transformation and even conflict transcendence. Looking more closely at these processes and practices, we will explore their social and cultural significance and applicability in various communities. We will explore the power dynamics of disputes and their contexts and how we seek to find our own center in relation to such disputes. The course will be largely issue-focused, with an eye toward working with indigenous communities and in other sensitive cultural contexts.  This course runs 5-weeks with the next session running July 13 – August 17, 2012.  The deadline to register is July 8.  Register online:

The course instructor, Lee Scharf, has worked as a mediator in community mediation, peer mediation in public school systems, court-ordered mediation within tribal, federal and community mediation contexts, has conducted large national facilitations and worked in environmental conflict resolution in all media. She has a Masters’ degree in Environmental Conflict Resolution and over twenty years’ experience as a mediator working with tribal nations. Ms. Scharf’s environmental conflict resolution taxonomy and annotated bibliography was published by the American Bar Association in 2002. She worked for the Environmental Protection Agency from 1991 until 2006, first in the Superfund Enforcement program and then in the Office of General Counsel in Washington, DC. From 2000 until 2006 Ms. Scharf was the National Tribal Mediation Lead for EPA through EPA’s Conflict and Prevention and Resolution Center. She is a Coordination Committee member of the Native Dispute Resolution program for the United States Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. Ms Scharf is currently an Associate Fellow at Colorado State University’s Center for Collaborative Conservation in Fort Collins, Colorado, and is a member of the Executive Advisory Committee for this Center.

For more information:
You may also contact the instructor for more information:  [email protected]

New Resource for Lakota Land Owners

Today, Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project is proud to announce the launch of a new resource for Lakota lands owners on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The Pine Ridge Land Information System (PRLIS), is online mapping tool that allows members of the Tribe to locate their allotted lands and view other data about land use and management. The resource was developed by Village Earth with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Village Earth also developed a companion website to house the tool an other related information at

The Pine Ridge Reservation encompasses 2,788,047 acres including all of Shannon, Jackson and Bennett Counties in South Dakota and a portion of Sheridan County, NE. This land is divided into 20,507 different parcels, 44% of which are owned in-part or in-whole by individual Tribal Members, a total of 1,067,877 acres. These are lands that were allotted to individual tribal members as a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887 (also known as the Dawes Severalty Act) and have been passed down to each subsequent generation. Most of these lands however, are not being managed by the land owners. Rather, a century of discriminatory policies enacted by the Federal Government have functioned to alienate the original allottees and their heirs from their lands to make them available for lease by non-tribal members for a fraction of their fair market value. Few people realize that on Pine Ridge and on Reservations across the country, these policies have meant that the Indian land owners have been separated from their allotted lands, in many cases, for generations. In fact, many Tribal land owners know very little about their lands; where they’re located, how they’re being used, who they share ownership with, etc. This has had devastating impacts on the ability of land owners to benefit from their land-based resources – economically or culturally. According to the USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture for American Indian Reservations, the market value of agriculture commodities produced on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 2007 totaled $54,541,000. Yet, less than 1/3 ($17,835,000) of that income went to Native American producers. Despite the widespread leasing, over 70% families on Pine Ridge would like to live on and utilize their lands. This is according to survey data collected by Colorado State University.

Short Video about the PRLIS

Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project was started out of this expressed desire from the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Since 2003, the Lakota Lands Recovery Project has worked alongside tribal members moving in this direction. Our approach has been to provide direct support to Lakota families who are utilizing Reservation lands, providing fiscal sponsorship, small grants, loans, and releasing over 100 head of buffalo onto Lakota family ranchers. Our other complimentary approach has been to provide advocacy, information and tools to those who would like to begin to move in that direction. In 2008, with support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation we developed the Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book and distributed it through Strategic Land Planning Workshops held in each of the Nine Districts on the Reservation. The map book, addressed a particular challenge expressed by tribal members, accessing information about their lands and the options available to them. This is a common problem across Indian Country and is a serious obstacle for Native American’s wanting to utilize their lands. According the Indian Land Working Group:

Over the past 100 years, the government has implemented their “highest and best use” management policy by leasing Indian Land to non-Indians. This continues today, as is evidenced by the fact that of the 9 million acres of trust land classified as agricultural, 6 million is lased to non-Indians. A leasing cartel has been created because Indian landowners have had limited access to information and resources necessary to use and manage allotted trust lands.

To begin to address this need, Village Earth’s Stategic Land Planning Map Book provide full color aerial photos with parcel information for the entire reservation, sample forms and step-by-step procedures for doing land exchanges, partitions, gift deeds, and other tools that Tribal land owners can use to gain greater control over their lands. It was very well received across the Reservation but it was costly to print and distribute. Furthermore, land owners could only get a limited view of their lands. This new tool supports both of these strategic directions while making it more accessible and dynamic.

Using the PRLIS, tribal members can:

  • Search for individually allotted and Tribal owned trust lands using the Tract ID found on their government land reports.
  • View, print and share a web link for the boundaries of specific land tracts.
  • View Pine Ridge lands with various base layers including Google and Bing aerial photography, Google and Bing roads, Google and Bing Hybrid, and terrain.
  • View a Landsat TM Image which can be used to assess the management and of lands on Pine Ridge.
  • View a map of the Range Units that are leased across Pine Ridge.
  • View the Boundaries of the Reservation today and as defined in the 1851 and 1868 Treaties.
  • We plan to soon add other demographic, cultural, political information to the PRLIS.

Village Earth has developed this as a demonstration and is open to consult with other Tribes interested in developing their own low-cost online land information systems. For more information about the Pine Ridge Land Information System or the Lakota Lands Recovery Project contact David Bartecchi at [email protected]

The Jenzerá Working Group: Working in support of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-Colombians and Peasants in Colombia since 1998

The Jenzerá working group is currently finishing training activities for the second cohort of its Interethnic School for Conflict Resolution and is supporting the Embera Katío indigenous community of the Lower San Jorge River in Córdoba (Colombia) with local governance efforts.

The second cohort of the interethnic school met five times to discuss issues of human rights, conflict resolution, territorial governance, land and natural resources. The group of forty leaders, most of them young men and women, wrapped up their work for the school by collecting oral histories from their community elders. They then shared this valuable information on local history, culture, customary rules and traditional land-use practices with their peers. They participated in the People’s Congress, a large national gathering of ethnic groups and rural communities in Cali, Colombia (November 2011). Such political events facilitate networking with leaders and organizations and serve as information-sharing forums. Finally, some of Jenzerá’s “students” as we fondly call people who have gone through our training workshops also participated in last month’s “National Meeting of Black Community Councils” which assembled about 700 people from traditional Afro-Colombian communities and black organizations in Bogotá for three days.

In February of this year, Jenzerá began activities in support of the Embera Katío community in the Lower San Jorge River. This community moved here in the 1990s after their ancestral lands were flooded by the URRA hydroelectric project in the Sinú River. The project was wrought with corruption and gross human rights violations, including the assassination by paramilitary forces of a number of Embera Katío leaders and their allies, most notably Kimi Pernía Domicó. Jenzerá staff has been carrying out short and long-term visits to the area in support of community leaders. The activities are led by Aquileo Yagarí, Governor of the Karmata Rua Emberá Chamí Indian reserve, Jenzerá member and participant of Jenzerá’s first Inter-ethnic School.

Jenzera continues to visit schools in Bogota to raise awareness among urban children and young adults about the plight, but also achievements, of Colombia’s indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. The organization has an active research agenda and has published various manuscripts (you can “befriend” us in Facebook (in English) or go to (in Spanish) to find some of these resources). More recently Efraín Jaramillo, Jenzerá director, published a set of essays on Indigenous Communities and the State in Colombia and Marcela Tobón Yagarí (Jenzerá “student” and working group member) presented findings on the crisis of teenage suicides in Colombian indigenous communities in a comparative study that included work on Brazil and Peru.

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