Indigenous Peoples Policy

by Annie Leonard

June 11, 2015

Rainforest near the Kebar mountains.

© Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

Greenpeace has long recognized that some of our work has negatively impacted Indigenous Peoples and we have had ongoing discussions about how to repair our relationships with these communities. The Greenpeace International action at the Nazca Lines in Peru highlighted the urgency of moving these conversations forward and led to internal staff conversations to discuss the impacts of the action on our Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies, supporters, and volunteers, as well as on our staff and our work. This was an emotional process, opening up important conversations about the history of colonialism and its continued impact on Indigenous Peoples and how we, as a large environmental organization, have sometimes been a part of that. We know our campaign positions and actions have directly and indirectly affected Indigenous Peoples and will continue to do so. For this reason, we wanted to ensure that our organization learned lessons from Greenpeace’s activities in Nazca and elsewhere and took steps to improve both our culture and our ways of working.

That’s why I’m happy to say that as of June 1st, Greenpeace USA has adopted an Indigenous Peoples Policy. The policy is one way – one step of many – to demonstrate both our respect for Indigenous communities and our intention to improve the way our organization interacts and works with them. I wanted to share some thoughts about it with you.

The policy acknowledges that Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately impacted by environmental threats, including those to which they contributed little or nothing. It also acknowledges that these communities have suffered a legacy of colonialism that continues today through corporate-led environmental destruction and abuse of power. It then lays out clear steps that Greenpeace USA commits to for future campaign work– like adhering to established processes within Indigenous communities and seeking input and guidance early in our planning processes around events or activities that will take place on traditional territories and spiritually significant sites. We trust this policy will help Greenpeace build respectful relationships with Indigenous communities and prevent the kinds of mistakes we’ve made in the past.

Consultation with Indigenous allies was a critical part of the development of this policy and we greatly appreciate the time and effort they spent on this with us.

Of course, a policy is only as meaningful as the change it brings about in practice; it must go beyond the words on the paper. Implementing the policy will require staff training, support, and intentional work on the part of Greenpeace leadership, staff, and our network of supporters so that the policy can take hold in all aspects of our work. I look forward to the challenge, for the betterment of our organization and for the collective struggle to create the world we want to see.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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