North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange 2017

Global Diversity Foundation North America convened the North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange (NACELE) in Sonora, Mexico in February 2017. The theme for this exchange was “Collaborating in the Face of Change: Strategies for Biocultural Protection and Defense.” This 4-day event provided a space of training, network development, and discussion for Indigenous community leaders in northwestern Mexico on the theme of biocultural landscape protection.

Our Collaborators and Participants

NACELE 2017 was hosted by the Comcaac community of Socaaix (Punta Chueca) and the Prescott College Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies. The event was co-organized by GDF North America, Conservación y Manejo Cmiique (Comcaac Conservation and Management), Dr. Laura Monti of the Kino Bay Center, and Claudia Camacho of Anima Mundi. NACELE 2017 was our largest community exchange to date, convening 65 Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants and workshop leaders, from 12 Indigenous nations.

NACELE 2017: Objectives

Across Mexico, we recognize a strong recent history of events and actions around territory defense and Indigenous sovereignty. NACELE 2017 built on this national and regional movement by offering an event tailored to the Northwestern Mexico context that combined three key elements integral to the protection of biocultural landscapes:

  • Building knowledge and alliances with Indigenous communities and other key contacts. NACELE 2017 broadened and deepened participants’ knowledge, networking, and communication skills through peer-to-peer exchange of cases and strategies, site visits to innovative tribal and collaborative initiatives, and skill-building opportunities.
  • Sharing stories and strategies of territory defense. Participants and facilitators discussed ongoing actions to protect and restore lands, waters and traditional foodways, and through these, culture and sovereignty. Participants shared insights and challenges from their work to foster wellbeing while engaged in struggles for territory defense.
  • Training on specific topics relevant to the protection of biocultural landscapes. NACELE 2017 offered participants workshops and seminars from facilitators with expertise in the following core themes: territory defense, communications, food sovereignty, art and transformation, biodiversity, and local economies.

With these three objectives grounding the event, NACELE 2017 created a space for Indigenous community leaders and allied supporters to strengthen their efforts to protect territories and waterways in Northwestern Mexico.

NACELE 2017: Outcomes

Key outcomes of the exchange include:

Enhanced competencies and skills on a range of topics related to the protection of biocultural landscapes. Participants received training on the themes of territory defense, communications, food sovereignty, art and transformation, biodiversity, and local economies.

Membership into the Global Environments Networkthrough which participants connect with over 220 environmental changemakers around the world. GDF NA is also building a North American Alumni Fund, which will offer NACELE participants an opportunity to receive funding for collaborative projects post-NACELE.

The construction and development of alliances and relationships among participants, which will further efforts toward territory defense and provide a mutual support network. This included the inaugural meeting to plan a response network with protocols to immediately address human rights infractions against GEN network members, and violations of indigenous territory in northwestern Mexico.

Please see the story on NACELE 2017 for specific outcomes of the event, including participant reflections, and learn about one young NACELE 2017 participant’s work for biocultural diversity in Supporting work to strengthen biocultural landscapes in Mexico: Tojol-Ab’al language revitalization.

We are grateful to the Christensen Fund and Prescott College Kino Bay Center for their support for this event.