RIVER is an inter-Nation-al 1 circle of people collaborating from different leverage points to revitalise and strengthen Indigenous approaches for regenerative development of land, water and all life.
Our collective is both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. We span generations and hold wide-ranging experience in the areas of law and governance, sustainable enterprise, cultural restoration, biodiversity conservation, Earth’s living systems, engineering, artistry, education, and design.
In this time, when interconnected ecological, climate, and health crises threaten our collective survival, the world is increasingly looking to Indigenous peoples for solutions. The diversity amongst Indigenous peoples’ and knowledge systems cannot be overstated - the multitude of Indigenous identities is incredibly wide-ranging. Despite this expansive diversity, a commonality that many of us share is our understanding of connection to life on Earth as kin relatives, which means that our starting place to meet global crises is relational and intersectional. A kin-centric approach shifts how we relate to the Earth and to each-other: instead of being land-owner with rights of resource extraction, we are child to Mother with responsibilities of care. In the same breath, it is important to step away from romanticised realities of Indigenous approaches and state clearly: we too, are colonised peoples. Much has been lost and the impact of our colonisation is felt in the disconnection, addiction, poor health, education and criminal realities of our day.
We as RIVER are drawn together by a shared calling for healing reconnection—to ourselves, to our languages and heritage, to our responsibilities, and most of all to our common Mother: Earth. From many leverage points, we are creating space to evolve societal systems and grow international solidarity between peoples pushing for change in our various communities.
Our relationships underpin all that we do together. As we nurture our connections, we nurture the work we create, individually and as a collective. We are mindful of the interconnectedness of everything, the veins that connect us with Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) and thereby with each other. As an inter-Nation-al collective of diverse worldviews, we manaaki (embrace) each other and the communities of which we are a part. We learn and share understandings of how we connect as people and Nations, how we connect with our beyond-human counterparts, how we welcome others to join us, and how we represent ourselves.
At this incredible time in our shared global history, we work to regain our sense of connection to and responsibility for our common Mother and our beyond-human relatives (plants, animals, water, soil, air, [...]). We are disrupting the false notion of human superiority over the natural world of which we are part. We work to see Indigenous communities empowered to fulfil ancestral stewardship responsibilities to their territories, in line with their own knowledge, practices and legal systems. At the same time, RIVER works to support all of humanity in our journey of reconnection with our more-than-human relations.
This means restoring a living and reciprocal relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.
As an emergent organisation founded on relationships, RIVER's Collective springs from three Anglo-settler nations with some significant historical and political similarities: nations colonially known as Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Although much is shifting, these three countries as well as Australia (where we are working towards building relationships) were the four initial non-signatories to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
As it becomes more widely known that traditional Indigenous territories encompass up to 22 percent of the world’s land surface yet coincide with areas that hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity 13, the world is increasingly looking to Indigenous peoples’ regenerative approaches to illuminate a path forward.
However, many Indigenous peoples face common challenges in fulfilling our ancestral stewardship responsibilities to our territories. We find ourselves working within governance, legal, and economic systems rooted in colonial worldviews.
As RIVER member Gillian Staveley explains, “An understanding of coloniality of power allows us to recognise how the “colonised were subjected not simply to a rapacious exploitation of all their resources but also to a hegemony of euro-centric knowledge systems.” Walter Mignolo identifies the effect of such euro-centric epistemologies on identity and sense of place, as being “among its most damaging, far-reaching, and least understood” 7
Belief systems rooted in a perception of humans as separate from and elevated above the rest of nature with dominion over the natural world, have far-reaching influence. Many of our Nation states’ legal, governance and economic frameworks are premised on these colonial values, philosophies, and ways of relating.
In short, colonial governance and economic frameworks don’t account for plants, animals, lands, and waters. They don’t account for the millions of other species alongside whom we walk this planet. The systems that have been created continue to result in biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change, with catastrophic physical, emotional and spiritual impacts for humans and non-humans alike.
“The traditional separation of our species from the rest of the universe has been a figment of our imaginations [...] That we construct a legal system that views nature apart from its physical reality as elements of property testifies to the degree of alienation we have achieved. Our understanding of reality is incorporated in our legal concepts, and, as we have seen, these are already in the process of transformation, escaping from the sterility of the past to a more comprehensive understanding in the future.”
—Vine Deloria Jr, Sioux author, in The Metaphysics of Modern Existence 9
In light of these shared insights and our experiences as a collective, RIVER is focused on playing a role in revitalizing and strengthening Indigenous approaches in four key focus areas:
Anthropocentrism, dualistic thinking, and lack of interrelation with (and thus respect for) more-than-human beings are rarely acknowledged. And so, these things continue to be largely invisible. Many people have little understanding of the ongoing consequences of colonization on contemporary worldviews and socioeconomic systems. For instance, the global economy has inherited the colonizing view of Earth’s creatures and ecosystems as a collection of “resources” to be enclosed and exploited, in contrast to the kincentric and relational worldview perspectives of many Indigenous communities. But where did these ideas and assumptions come from? How can we collaboratively examine their history and acknowledge the need for transformation? What is the value of exchange between Western and Indigenous science, philosophy, and rituals? How can we recover and integrate the diverse traditions of the West that have also been suppressed by colonizing forces? How can diverse members of our planetary community cultivate respect for and relationships with our living planet that is the ground and giver of all life? Our challenge and opportunity through ourIlluminating Worldviews workstream is to create an invitation for people to explore these critical topics in ways that enable true healing and transformation.
Collaborative environmental governance describes shared decision-making power between Indigenous governments and governments of the Nation State (federal, provincial, state governments), rather than decisions being made solely by governments of the Nation State. Nation State governments in colonized countries have, for the most part, not made space for Indigenous governance of our territories. However, this trend is beginning to change, and these historic power imbalances are beginning to shift. The Haida Gwaii Management Council, a joint decision-making body composed of Haida Nation and British Columbia government representatives, is one example. This collaborative governance body decreased the total amount of timber that can be harvested per year on Haida Gwaii by 48% in its first year of authority and has created revised land use objectives and orders. 14 Other Indigenous-led stewardship models include Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Guardian programs.
Across the world, Western laws are recognizing the rights of nature in constitutions, legislation, and court rooms. Beyond rights, many Indigenous people perceive these developments as a reflection of our Indigenous laws that remind us of our collective human responsibilities to the rest of nature. For this reason, we refer to this movement as “Nature’s Rights / Our Responsibilities.” For example, in recent years in Aotearoa/New Zealand, legal personhood was granted to a former national park (Te Urewera), a river (Whanganui), and a mountain (Taranaki Maunga). These natural entities, respectively, are ancestors of the Tūhoe, Whanganui and Taranaki iwi (tribes), whose people descend from and have stewarded these places since time immemorial. These legal efforts were followed by similar developments in India, which granted personhood to the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, the Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers, and Himalayan lakes, forests, and waterfalls. Additionally, rights for nature, also known as Pachamama, have been enshrined in law in Ecuador and Bolivia, and in communities across the United States.
Healthy lands and waters require healthy people. Economic development is one of the strongest drivers of biodiversity loss.7 New regenerative economic models and tools that create jobs without destroying the environment are paramount in these times. Indigenous governments are at the leading edge of these models. In Canada, the Coastal First Nations, through the Great Bear Initiative and the creation of Coast Funds, have been leading the development of a diverse, sustainable, conservation-based economy that is regenerating ecosystems and revitalizing cultures. The Indigenous Guardian Watchmen programs “have delivered a social return on investment in ranges between 10:1 and 20:1, according to one study (which measured social, economic, cultural, and economic value).” An Alaskan kelp farming initiative is organizing with Alaskan Native communities in the Exxon Valdez spill zone to grow food kelp and restorative kelp farms for food security, habitat recovery, and the re-localization of lost economy. Regenerative finance tools are also developing. Aotearoa-founded Toha is advancing the regenerative economy through building “a one-of-a-kind platform so that environmental impact can be funded, measured, valued, and traded.”
In this time of interconnected crises, the existential necessity of living in harmony with Earth’s living systems is becoming increasingly apparent. Many organisations are turning to the holistic, place-based approaches of Indigenous cultures for guidance. It can be challenging, however, to achieve reciprocal understanding and meaningful partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations and people. For example, efforts to cultivate collaborative environmental governance frameworks and climate strategies can reveal fundamentally different – and seemingly incompatible – worldviews.
How can encounters between such radically different worldviews be constructively navigated? A frequent response is to call on Indigenous participants to explain their perspectives and educate others about their life-ways. It is hoped that exposure to the rituals, practices, and beliefs of Indigenous cultures will reconcile different ways of knowing. However, such one-way sharing leaves the burden for educating on Indigenous peoples. Additionally, this one-way sharing rarely results in the depth of dialogue and understanding needed to forge deep relationships and spur lasting transformation. In our experience, it is also necessary to explore the foundations of the dominant Western paradigm. This anthropocentric worldview is rarely examined as such, particularly by those who have been raised within it. Many of us have little understanding of the ongoing consequences of colonisation on contemporary worldviews and socioeconomic systems. For instance, the global economy has inherited the view of Earth’s creatures and ecosystems as a collection of “resources” to be enclosed. But where did these ideas and assumptions come from? How can we collaboratively examine their history and acknowledge the need for transformation? Our challenge and opportunity is to create an invitation for people to explore these critical topics in ways that enable true healing and transformation.
The Illuminating Worldviews offering creates a more reciprocal approach to collaboration beyond one-sided exchanges and the undue burden often placed on Indigenous collaborators. Developed by RIVER and the Northern Council for Global Cooperation, it explores how different paradigms and practices shape perceptions of the world. We create space and provide support for participants to reflect on their core beliefs and virtues, about the role of humans, how we relate to our places and each other, and the tacit beliefs underlying dominant economic, legal and governance systems. Participants are invited to examine how ways of relating shape their lived realities, as well as the promises and difficulties of weaving Indigenous and Western ways of knowing, being, and doing. By exploring and reflecting on the differences and commonalities of their histories, beliefs, and aspirations, participants develop new capacities to create collaborative pathways towards potential futures.
The IW journey is being developed to be facilitated as a theoretical journey down a river with curated videos, media and conversations as stopover sites to explore new terrain and the tributaries that feed the river. The inspiration for the river journey as a model for IW came from Dune Lankard: "Here in Alaska, when we take people down the Copper River, they start off as one person, but when we arrive at the delta, they are a different person. They are changed.” Inevitably, people who embark on the Illuminating Worldviews learning journey together foster kinship along the way, supporting each other through challenging introspection and outward dialogue.
River Stopovers (modules) are designed to be adapted to diverse contexts. We aim for specific places, cultures, and projects to be honoured in each facilitated journey of Illuminating Worldviews through collaboration with each context’s local participants.
An IW Working Group is currently working on development of a series of foundational interactive media pieces to accompany IW journeys.
“[The worst thing that colonialist took away was our belief.] They took away our belief in our ability to make decisions for ourselves. They took away our belief that our language and culture was worth retaining. They took away our belief that our systems and ways of living were good enough.
Let’s keep believing in ourselves.”
— Moana Jackson
as written by Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes
We do not have to identify ourselves in relation to colonisation.
As we tell our own stories, we can remember that for millenia we belonged to the land.
And that the violence of colonisation is a severe disruption to our true selves.
So as we turn to the work ahead of us, we pivot from the urgent work of decolonisation – recognising that this work can be carried more by allies and accomplices to arrest the imposition of oppressive colonial systems.
And we centre the urgent work of restoration.
Restoration of our belief in ourselves.
Restoration of our values and virtues.
Restoration of our language and culture, our breath, our instinct and place in the world.
Restoration of our relationship with Earth and her living systems.
Restoration and strengthening therefore of our laws. Our ways of being and sharing.
Through the action of restoration, of healing and reconnection, we create the ability to feel abundance once more.
And through our abundance to share what is ours with all those who have arrived and call our ancestral lands home.
Here, we create space for Indigenous peoples to build relationship beyond transaction. To gather and reflect together, to learn from each other by sharing what we know and what we miss.
We support people in place, instead of adding projects to the work load, we find ways to energise the work already being undertaken. This way, the people and the work has time to extend roots and be grounded by the land and waters of their communities.
Our digital space gathers us and the tools, stories and resources as an interactive library – sharing insights and wonders we might otherwise never find alone.
We gather in each-others lands. And through ceremony and taste, touch, sight, smell and sound – we share ourselves with ourselves. Returning to the sacredness of introduction, sharing, and belonging.
As a house of learning, the Watershed finds opportunities for creativity and collaboration. The work finds common challenges and explores vast ideas for solution. We avoid pan-Indigenising, imposition and planning. Instead embracing a pluriverse of nature, multi-faceted stories and life unfolding.
This year our projects look to Evolving Governance – of RIVER, so that we may practice a restored way of being. And capturing our learnings through research on Indigenous Governance systems, modern issues arising with practice in a colonised reality – and the patterns of virtues, values and processes that may offer grounded responses and pathways forward.
Below is a summary budget of the resources required to begin to deliver on our vision in 2020-2021. As RIVER, it is integral that we extend our approach into how we fundraise. In other words, we endeavour to fundraise in a way that doesn’t uphold colonial ways of being. Predominantly, philanthropy encourages non-profit organizations to submit proposals solely for program costs. This siloing of programs from core operational costs perpetuates the struggling of organizations for core funding- funding that keeps the home fires burning.
RIVER’s programs are like streams in a braided river- they are inter-connected and indivisible. The river bed itself is our core operational/general management budget, Ahi Kaa (“to keep the home fires burning”). Our Ahi Kaa and program budgets flow together. As such, we have included the following summary budget outlining our organizational resourcing requirements as a whole. We deeply appreciate your support of this work as we journey together to ‘right relationship’ with our more-than-human kin.
General Management - including Administration, Fundraising, Reporting, Accounting & Legal Services
Organizational Liability Insurance
DevelopmentCreative Direction, Strategy, Research & Engagement
Pilot / Film Production
Watershed of Knowledge & Innovation
DevelopmentCreative Direction, Strategy, Research & Engagement
Pilot / Film Production
Shared Program Expenses
Domain Experts & Advisors, Case Study Practitioners
Communications & Marketing
RIVER is a collective of people drawn together in effort to uplift kin-centric, Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing. We gather inter-Nationally to share and collaborate, so we may each enhance transformation in our own homes and places of belonging.
The "ākau" in te reo Māori refers to the riverbanks, the solid presence along the length of the river that help to guide the water while also making way for her to receive new tributaries and release different rivulets.
RIVER Kaiākau provide this daily presence and support for our work, often leading or directly contributing to the offerings set out above.
Erin Matariki Carr is of Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa descent, and currently lives in Tāneatua just north of Te Urewera rainforest. Matariki is a project lead for RIVER, supporting the Watershed and administrative sides to our work. Matariki is a lawyer, scholar and facilitator. She completed her studies at Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Spanish. Matariki’s work experience has been in the arena of Māori legal systems and organisation, including as a solicitor in Te Waka Ture team at Chapman Tripp and as a manager in the Ōnukurani team at Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua. Matariki's main focus is on the kaupapa (topic) of constitutional transformation, inspired by Pā Moana Jackson's work, and the imaginative work required to bridge the legal and social worlds of te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā (the Māori and non-Māori worlds). Alongside her work for RIVER, Matariki also serves as a facilitator with Tūmanako Consultants, as a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland Faculty of Law and with Te Kuaka NZA.
Gillian Staveley is a Kaska Dena member, whose heritage lies in the Muncho Lake region of Dena Kēyeh in Northern British Columbia. Graduating from UBC in 2014 with a Masters in Anthropology, Gillian’s research explored the importance of multi-generational environmental knowledge and addressed issues of residential schooling, colonialism, and political ecology–all topics that are relevant to Indigenous Nations across the globe. Through the connection that Gillian has with her heritage and culture, she has actively promoted the conversation of what Indigenous Identity means in the 21st century. Gillian has worked predominantly in the resource development sector as a traditional land use practitioner, consultant, and archaeologist. Currently, in her work as a Regional Coordinator for the Kaska Dena, her goal is to ensure that through the Government to Government relationship that exists with her Nation and the Province, that the respect for Kaska Laws (Dene K’éh Gū́s’ān) and the commitment under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples are upheld in all consultations and engagements with her Nation. Gillian also serves as a Director of the Dena Kēyeh Institute, a not-for-profit society created by the Kaska Nation to empower, preserve, and protect the Kaska Dena language, oral traditions, history, culture, and traditional knowledge. The primary work that Gillian has been a part of with DKI over the past year is to work with the Kaska communities on designing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas within the Kaska Ancestral Territory. As a mother of two strong and energetic Kaska boys, her livelihood is encompassed around watching them grow, live, and experience the world around them.
Jodi Gustafson was born and raised in what is today known as the Yukon, Canada. That upbringing and later life experiences instilled a profound respect for and curiosity about the natural world, and the familial relationship of many Indigenous peoples with ancestral lands and waters. Jodi is a settler of Swedish and Scottish descent on her Father's side and of mixed Irish, Scottish, English and Labrador Inuit ancestry from the Upper Lake Melville region on her Mother's side (her Grandma Monnie Broomfield became a beneficiary of Nunatsiavut late in life and was raised disconnected). Jodi is grateful that her work provides the opportunity to work towards her reconciliation responsibilities as a settler, and to honour her Indigenous ancestors too. She has worked on environmental management projects with organizations including the International Whaling Commission, the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee, and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. Aotearoa/ New Zealand has been her second home since 2007. In 2017, Jodi joined the inaugural cohort of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. She gratefully lives between Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa and Whakatōhea lands in Aotearoa, and Southern Tutchone lands in the Yukon where she was born and raised. Jodi's role in her work revolves around supporting communities in their efforts to fulfil ancestral stewardship responsibilities, and in this capacity she has been humbled to support the Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship since 2020. Jodi continues her work to evolve governance, education, conservation and economic models beyond colonial frameworks in her role coordinating the Illuminating Worldviews offering in partnership with the Northern Council for Global Cooperation. She has a Masters in Conservation Leadership from the University of Cambridge where she studied as a Gates Cambridge scholar.
Mark Wedge, or Aan Goosh oo, has long been actively involved in economic and social development, land claims negotiations, ceremonial leadership, and dispute resolution in his community and throughout Canada and the United States. He has served as Khà Shâde Héni (Chief) of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, as Executive Director of the Council of Yukon Indians, as President and Chairman of Yukon Indian Development Corporation and däna Näye Ventures, an aboriginal capital corporation. For over 20 years Mark has held peacemaking circles in workplaces and public forums for sentencing for individual crimes, land claims disputes between First Nations and the Canadian government, and outstanding issues between victims of Mission School abuse and the Anglican Church. He is co-author of the book Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community, alongside Kay Pranis and former Chief Judge of the Yukon Territorial Court Barry Stuart. Mark has taught in communities throughout North America and abroad, and is working towards creating Circle-based forms of contemporary tribal governance in his First Nation Government. He advises several postgraduate students; most recently with Eleanor Hayman and Colleen James, he co-authored a chapter on a Tagish and Tlingit approach to water governance in the book, Global Water Ethics: Towards a global ethics charter. Mark currently sits on the Board of Directors of the First Nations Bank of Canada and on the Board of Governors of Yukon University. He is enjoying his new role as a grandpa.
Catherine Iorns Magallanes is a Professor in the School of Law at Victoria University of Wellington, in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. She has more than 25 years' experience on environmental law, Indigenous rights, international law and statutory interpretation, and has received several awards for her teaching and research on the intersection between environmental law and Indigenous rights. As well as serving as a Trustee of RIVER, Professor Iorns is the Academic Adviser to the NZ Council of Legal Education, a member of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, and New Zealand's nominee to the IUCN governing Council. She is also a member of the International Law Association Committee on the Implementation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a Board member of the New Zealand Centre for Global Studies. Prof. Iorns’ work on the power of water was recently profiled as a documentary in the ‘Water—Rapuhia, kimihia: Quest for knowledge’ documentary series and can be viewed here.
David McConville grew up in the Bible Belt of Turtle Island, raised under a strict religion inherited from his settler ancestors. Becoming disillusioned with their strange and dysfunctional beliefs from a young age, he embarked on a quest to understand the origins of their cosmology. This eventually led him to recognize the existential dangers of the anthropocentric, hierarchical paradigm that continues to dominate much of contemporary science, religion, and economics. Today, he explores the potential of art and media to illuminate this dominant worldview and to cultivate reciprocal relationships with the web of life. He is currently the resident cosmographer of Spherical, an integrative research and design studio curating and producing works about planetary regeneration. He also serves as senior researcher and board member for the Center of the Study of the Force Majeure, which brings together artists and scientists to design ecosystem regeneration projects in critical regions around the world. Previously, David co-founded The Elumenati, a design and engineering firm that creates custom display installations for clients from art festivals to space agencies. He was also co-founder and creative director of the Worldviews Network, a NOAA-funded collaboration of artists, scientists, Indigenous storytellers, and educators using immersive visualization environments to transcultural dialogues in communities across the United States. David has a PhD in Art and Media from the Planetary Collegium at the University of Plymouth.
Haimona Waititi is from Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou and Kai Tahu nations of Aotearoa New Zealand. With Te Reo Māori as his first language, Haimona grew up in the Eastern Bay of Plenty (Te Kaha) immersed in his culture and raised within a Māori worldview. He was awarded a Masters of Psychology with distinction from Victoria University and has held roles in research for Whānau Ora and Enviroschools, rangatahi development through the Tuia Trust and his Iwi, and stakeholder engagement at the University of Waikato. Haimona manages Tūmanako Consultants which provides cultural training, cultural reviews and cultural supervision to organisations and individuals wanting to build their understanding and better connect with Māori and help non-Māori connect with their Pākehatanga. He has previously led wānanga series which act as a unique leaning journey for youth, NGO's and commercial organisations. Haimona lives in his homelands of Te Whānau a Apanui in the remote East Coast with his partner and four young children.
Jocelyn Joe-Strack, Daqualama (Da-kal-a-ma), is a member of the Wolf Clan of northwestern Canada’s Champagne and Aishihik First Nation. Jocelyn is an Indigenous scientist, philosopher and entrepreneur who strives to evolve tomorrow’s policies by blending yesterday’s ancestral lessons with today’s systematic knowledge. She uses her experience as a trained microbiologist, hydrologist and policy analyst along with her cultural foundations to explore resilient approaches to challenges such as climate change, societal wellbeing and prosperity. Jocelyn is the newly appointed Research Chair in Environmental Monitoring and Knowledge Mobilization at Yukon University. Her research focuses on Youth Climate leadership, revitalizing traditional storytelling and fulfilling the Spirit and Intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement. She is currently serving as the Co-Lead for the Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship. Daqualama was born and currently lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory with her husband and two young children.
Jenni Matchett is focused on conceptualizing and designing healing ways of existing to transform current eco/colonial realities. Energy transition, and the cultural possibilities that exist under a no-carbon energy regime has been her point of departure for several years. Her deep inquiry into structural change has been influenced by a critique of her own business school education (Vancouver) and her time spent designing products for the consumer solar revolution (Boston). As an advisor to the Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief, Jenni recently worked on a regional initiative to decolonize climate and environmental policy. She is currently honing her practice as a Critical Conservation student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she is experimenting with mediums and methods that further the project of what it means to live reciprocally, regeneratively - particularly in relation to the body, the economy and the energy source. Jenni is of Scottish and Irish descent on her Father’s side, and Polish and Russian descent on her Mother’s side. For a long time, she has lived a nomadic lifestyle between the Eastern United States and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in territory in North Yukon (where she was raised and is currently placed).
Jewel Davies (Yekhunashîn/Khatuku) belongs to the Dakl’awedi (Eagle/Killer Whale) Clan of the Inland Tlingit people. She is a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, was raised in Teslin, Yukon and currently lives in Whitehorse, Yukon. Jewel is a student in the Indigenous Governance Bachelor’s Degree Program at the Yukon University and a fellow on the Yukon First Nations Climate Action Fellowship. She is passionate about her culture and seeing it become a foundational basis within our systems. Working within the field of systems transformation, Jewel is currently mobilizing her passion for her ways of knowing and being with the Illuminating Worldviews initiative, being jointly developed by RIVER and the Northern Council for Global Cooperation. Jewel is also the Youth Climate Ambassador for the How We Walk with the Land and the Water initiative, which she has been involved with on behalf of her First Nation since 2021.
The term "kautawa" in te reo Māori refers to the tributaries that feed into a larger river network, bringing with it all the nourishment and energy from its own spring. Our Kautawa or Tributaries for RIVER are the people that have contributed to RIVER from their own spring. Whether they have influenced the headwaters stage of RIVER, or been part of certain meanders, they nourish her journey with their own vibrancy where it aligns with their own work and direction.
Georgia Lloyd-Smith is a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law where she focuses on revitalizing Indigenous laws and governance through the RELAW Program (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air, and Water) and caring for our ocean as part of the marine team . Her experience includes using law to support Indigenous Protected Areas, Indigenous Guardian programs, co-governance models, and community fisheries. Georgia was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada on Coast Salish territory, and is of Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English heritage. She holds a BScH in Biology from Queen’s University (2010) and a JD from Dalhousie University (2014). She articled at the Environmental Law Centre at University of Victoria where she trained with the Indigenous Law Research Unit . She also spent a formative summer in Fort McMurray, Alberta working as a legal intern with the Mikisew Cree First Nation in the heart of the tar sands. Georgia believes in the power of human connection to affect change, and sees law as an essential component of this work. She spends her thinking time in spaces where cultures, values, and ideas converge, in particular in the fields of Indigenous, environmental, health, and human rights law. She has a newfound love of creating (some people call it art ) and is a proud aunt to a growing flock of little ones. In work and in life, she is motivated to be a good ancestor.
Mike Taitoko is of Maniapoto descent. For the past twenty years Mike has been a leading advisor in Māori and indigenous economic development and has advised iwi (tribes), government, private sector and communities with development strategies, policies and programmes. Mike has a MBA with distinction from Massey University and is the co-founder of Takiwā Ltd, a data visualisation and analytics company focused on integrating environmental science data with indigenous data and knowledge in order to improve decisions impacting land use and freshwater. Mike also co-founded Toha Foundry, an impact investment platform designed to get scaled finance to the frontline where environmental and climate-related projects are delivering measurable impact. Toha is underpinned by Māori principles and values such as kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of our natural assets. Mike is currently leading a regenerative agriculture project in New Zealand, using data visualisation and farmer engagement to show where improved land practices are improving environmental outcomes, sequestering more carbon and improving business resilience. Transparency of funding flows and proof of impact is designed into the programme to improve transparency of impact investment outcomes.
Tasman Gillies is of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu descent. Tasman focuses on how to maintain and enhance the relationships between people and the natural environment, with a preference towards action and creation. As a Tangata Tiaki, Tasman has a responsibility to sustainably manage the fisheries in the traditional area of his hapū - Ngāti Wheke for current and future generations. Tasman has a background in marine science and fisheries management, graduating from the University of Otago with a Master of Science in Zoology. Previously, Tasman worked for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the tribal authority for Ngāi Tahu. His role was to work with tribal members to monitor and enhance access to mahinga kai—traditional food gathering areas, resources and practices—including providing an environment that supports the access to these resources and continuation of traditional practices. Tasman’s time at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu saw him work as a Joint Official in the Te Waihora Co-Governance partnership, which worked to restore the mauri of Te Waihora. During his studies and work he has been a part of Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai, a network of kaitiaki, fishers, scientists, and managers who work to sustainably enhance the cultural, economic, social, and environmental well-being of Māori, and New Zealand. His career and passion for connecting people and the environment have led Tasman to take part in the First Nations’ Futures Programme at Stanford University, and south to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean where Ngāi Tahu holds cultural connections and interests. Tasman now lives in Auckland, working for Envirostrat Ltd to create and execute impact-focused projects that deliver measurable environmental outcomes.
Skye Steritz works to protect clean water, wild salmon, and traditional ways of life in the Eyak ancestral homelands of the Copper River Delta of Alaska. Skye is the Program Manager for the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC, founded by Dune Lankard), and is leading the newest program: Copper River Delta Sound Waterkeeper. In the past, Skye coordinated the nationally-renowned program Stream Watch to protect pristine watersheds on the Kenai Peninsula. Skye has designed and directed multiple environmental education programs for Alaskan youth to inspire deeper connections with the natural world and has led water quality testing excursions to empower citizen science. Her formal training is in Water Policy, Management, and Governance with a specialization in diplomacy and conflict management. Skye’s Master of Science thesis explored tools for collaborative transboundary groundwater management. She has studied and worked closely with the Indigenous Peoples of Ghana and Alaska. Skye's ancestry is Celtic, with primarily Irish and Scottish roots. She is a passionate advocate for social and environmental justice.
Lindsay Keegitah Borrows (Chippewas of Nawash First Nation) is a lawyer and researcher at the Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. Previously she was a lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, where she worked on the RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Laws for Land, Air and Water) Project. She supports Indigenous communities to revitalize their traditional laws for application in a contemporary context. She has worked with many legal traditions including Anishinaabe, Haíɫzaqv, Māori, Mi’kmaq, nuučaan̓uł, St’át’imc, Denezhu, and Tsilhqot’in. She has also worked as a legal support team member for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a researcher for the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Court in Arizona. Each fall Lindsay returns to her home community of Neyaashiinigmiing, Ontario for several weeks to co-teach land-based Anishinaabe law camps. She is also passionate about story-telling and language revitalization. She recently published a book of creative non-fiction entitled, “Otter’s Journey through Indigenous Language and Law” (UBC Press, 2018). She is a graduate of the Banff Centre for the Arts’ Indigenous Writing Program (2014), and the Writer’s Studio at SFU (Fiction, 2019). Lindsay received her J.D. from the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, and her B.A. from Dartmouth College.
Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik) has served as a manager, consultant and applied researcher for Indigenous, social and environmental programming for over 15 years. After receiving a BA in Art History at Dartmouth College, Alexis returned to Alaska, where she worked at the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center in programming. Subsequently, Alexis earned a PhD in Cultural Anthropology at UCLA, and has served as the Project Ethnographer for the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) project, and as a Senior Researcher at the FrameWorks Institute. Alexis is an accomplished researcher, writer, media-maker, and curriculum developer. She has published widely about Indigenous and environmental issues, with articles in American Indian Quarterly, the Journal of Museum Education, and American Ethnologist. Her 2015 book, “So, how long have you been Native?” Life as an Alaska Native Tour Guide” won the Alaska Library Association Award for its originality, and depth. In addition to writing, Alexis has contributed to several Indigenous-themed productions, including co-producing and writing the script for a documentary nominated for the Native American Film Awards. Alexis has developed educational material for both formal and informal learning environments including university level-courses as well as lifelong learner curriculum. She has served as the Co-Director of Indigeneity at Bioneers since 2016.
Dune Lankard is an Eyak activist, father, and fisherman. For 3,500 years, the Eyak Athabaskan people have been the stewards of Alaska's Copper River Delta and eastern Prince William Sound. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker spewed crude oil across more than 1,500 miles of the once-pristine shoreline of the Gulf of Alaska’s coastline. This preventable man-made tragedy turned Dune Lankard, an Eyak Athabaskan subsistence and commercial fisherman, into a dedicated full-time social activist with a dream to protect, preserve and restore two intact roadless sister watersheds. After the spill in 1989, Dune founded a cultural and legal defense fund, the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC), then in 2003 founded the Native Conservancy, the first Native-owned, Native-led and Native-run land trust in America. Native Conservancy helped spearhead dozens of environmental campaigns that resulted in one of the largest protected subsurface coal conservation easements in U.S. history, and with EPC helped preserve more than a million acres of coastal temperate rainforest habitat surrounded by some of the tallest coastal glacier-topped mountains in the world, and one of the last truly remaining roadless wild salmon habitats in existence.
Pekaira Rei (Ngā Ruahine-i-te-rangi, Te Āti Awa, Taranaki Iwi, Ngā Rauru Kiitahi, Te Āti Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi, Taranaki Whānui-ki-te-Upoko-o-te-Ika and Te Atiawa-ki-te-Waka-a-Maui), upholds a pivotal role as Māori Cultural Advisor with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. In this role, Pekaira provides cultural support and guidance for fellows, weaving ventures with Māoridom and ensuring a stable grounding around how to land and tread in Aotearoa. Pekaira is passionate about education and holds cultural advisory positions for the Education Council and Office of Treaty Settlements at the Ministry of Justice, while also serving as a Kaumātua for Philanthropy New Zealand, and as a Trustee for Te Muka Rau.
Stephanie Batts is of Ngati Porou, Ngāpuhi and Te Arawa Iwi descent. She is a Cultural Advisor for the Regenesis Institute, Auckland, the Director of Aro Hemp Aotearoa Limited and a Melchizedek Meditation Specialist. Stephanie has a passion for the regenerative empowerment of people, place, and systems. Her role as Kaiwhakaora Mauri focuses on empowering youth within the Auckland region to take climate change action through the zero waste initiative called Para Kore. Stephanie's work allows her to witness an increased impact for change as the youth of Para Kore share their work and mentor others their own age. As a Regenesis graduate and cultural host, Stephanie ensures that the cultural needs of programme participants are met. This allows a holistic and inclusive approach to learning regenerative practices. Stephanie's passion for protecting Papatūānuku drives her in all that she does. Her education and vision to see indigenous rangatahi connected to Papatūānuku set her apart as an authentic speaker, mentor, and kaitiaki.
Olly McMillan is of Ngāti Porou and Pākehā descent. His work focuses on contaminated land and groundwater, and indigenous environmental decision-making tools. Olly completed a Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Auckland, where his research focused on ways to address the impacts of engineering projects on mauri. He then completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Here, his research investigated novel and sustainable methods of restoring contaminated land, in order to minimise the dependence on landfills. He now works in Toronto, Canada on projects addressing contaminated land throughout Ontario, and with First Nations communities throughout Canada developing community-led environmental monitoring programs. Olly is passionate about helping indigenous communities maintain traditional uses on their whenua.
Our Co-Leads/ Kaiākau are RIVER's riverbanks of sorts. Kaiākau carry out day-to-day tasks for RIVER, nurturing her natural flow and keeping organizational momentum healthy. They serve as RIVER’s bees, flying from flower to flower, supporting offerings and program development, researching and cross-pollinating ideas, and communicating with our wider collective and partners.
Co-Leads are supported by an Elders Circle and an Advisory Circle.
Our Elders Circle provides us guidance to ensure our work is in alignment with our ancestors’ wishes and that it is authentic. Our Elders hold our hands and balance RIVER’s canoe to ensure we are navigating with all paddlers grounded in spirit. Our Elders help support decision-making, and help resolve challenges when we encounter rapids on our journey.
Our Advisory Circle houses expertise across RIVER’s focus areas. They shape our program development, keep us connected to place, and ensure RIVER remains relevant and connected to contemporary realities and developments on the many grounds and waters we serve.
RIVER has begun as a Charitable Trust registered in New Zealand. As our work evolves, we plan to establish interconnected Trusts in Turtle Island and Australia. We currently have a head office based in Tāneatua, a small town north of Te Urewera rainforest in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Three Trustees currently constitute RIVER Aotearoa Charitable Trust's Governance Board: RIVER’s Co-Leads/ Kaiākau Erin Matariki Carr and Jodi Gustafson, as well as Professor Catherine Iorns Magallanes.
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