Increasingly, land trusts and environmental organizations are seeking to build meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities, who hold deep reservoirs of environmental knowledge as the original stewards of the land. However, the long, painful histories of Indigenous populations and knowledge gaps within the land trust community can pose barriers to successful partnerships.
In recognition of the critical role Indigenous peoples play in land management and stewardship, the Open Space Institute (OSI) partnered with the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and other experts to launch Pathways to Partnership with Indigenous Communities. Through this initiative, OSI is providing land trusts in New York State and related organizations with tailored training, tools, and resources to improve relationship building and allyship with Indigenous communities.
OSI was awarded a $75,000 Conservation Partnership Program grant by the Land Trust Alliance and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to support the work of land trusts with Indigenous groups.
Recognizing the importance of this groundbreaking and sensitive work, Jessica Watson, Director of OSI’s Conservation Communities program, is hopeful for the partnership’s evolution. “Partnerships blossom when we foster common understanding,” she says. “By helping land trusts become better listeners and communicators, we are creating opportunities to engage with Indigenous communities in ways that are equitable and mutually beneficial and will provide long-lasting value.”