Sacred Stories: Indigenous-led Conservation of Lands and Waterways


On March 7, 2023, the Center for American Progress, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and the Biodiversity Funders Group hosted a panel of storytellers discussing Indigenous-led conservation of lands and waterways. I gave brief remarks, welcoming our guests to our office. I'm posting them here for posterity. The video of the event is embedded above and linked here.

Hello and welcome to the Sacred Stories! My name is Angelo Villagomez, I’m Chamorro from the Island of Saipan, and on behalf of the Center for American Progress, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and the Biodiversity Funders Group, I’m so glad you could join us today for this special occasion. We are here to celebrate and honor the stories of our ancestors, our cultures, and our lands. Stories that connect us to each other and to the Earth. Before we start, I’d just like to acknowledge some of the leaders who have joined us today. [Calls out VIPs]

We are here to acknowledge and support the efforts of Indigenous-led conservation, which is the most effective and equitable way to safeguard habitat, reverse wildlife loss, and reduce climate change. Indigenous-led conservation is not a new concept: many of our communities have cared for their territories and waters in a sustainable way for millennia. But the approach has recently found increased support through several initiatives of the Biden Administration, and of course, many of the people in this room.

The America the Beautiful initiative, is a national call to action to work collaboratively to address climate change, improve access to nature for all Americans, and conserve and restore 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The initiative recognizes that conservation is not only about protecting nature, but also about enhancing quality of life for people. That’s why it makes the sovereignty and rights of tribal nations a core part of its vision

The America the Beautiful initiative also supports another historic commitment by President Biden: the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable housing, clean water, and other investments go to disadvantaged communities. The Justice40 Initiative is a whole-of-government effort to confront and address decades of underinvestment in communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.

These initiatives are examples of how we can work together across sectors, cultures, and geographies to create a more just and sustainable future for ourselves and generations to come. They are also examples of how we can learn from Indigenous wisdom and leadership in caring for our common home.

Thank you for being here today. I hope you enjoy listening to these sacred stories as much as I do. And I hope you feel inspired to take action in your own way to protect our precious planet.

Now I would like to invite Eric Stegman, our event co-host and executive director of Native Americans in Philanthropy up to the stage.

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