Indigenous

Leonardo DiCaprio helps Indigenous communities tackle climate change

Leonardo DiCaprio has donated almost $800,000 through his environmental foundation toward helping Indigenous communities fight climate change. In Canada, the Indigenous Climate Action and Indigenous Leadership Initiative both were awarded grants.

'It's time that we recognize your history and that we protect your Indigenous lands'

Leonardo DiCaprio has donated almost $800,000 through his environmental foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, toward helping Indigenous communities fight climate change. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Leonardo DiCaprio has donated almost $800,000 through his environmental foundation toward helping Indigenous communities fight climate change.

Two organizations based in Canada were chosen to receive some of the funds from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation — Indigenous Climate Action and the Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

The $800,000 for Indigenous communities is part of the foundation's largest-ever portfolio of environmental grants, with a total of $20 million distributed to more than 100 organizations around the world.

DiCaprio announced the grants in a speech at a climate change conference at Yale University last week.

"We are proud to support the work of over 100 organizations at home and abroad. These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests and endangered species for future generations and tackling the urgent, existential challenges of climate change," he said.

Eriel Deranger, executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, met DiCaprio when he visited her home community of Fort Chipewyan in Northern Alberta in the summer of 2014 for his environmental documentary Before the Flood.

Fort Chipewyan is located downstream from the Alberta oilsands, which have negatively impacted their community, water source and traditional lands, Deranger said.

She has been working for over a decade toward recognition of Indigenous rights in relation to the impacts of climate change.

"It was really great to meet [the team when they came through], to hear about the great work that they're doing," she said. "Not just on climate change work, but also focusing on the climate justice initiative, where they're really trying to find ways to get funds to the grassroots people that are on the ground mobilizing."

Indigenous Climate Action is an Indigenous-led climate organization that is working to help Indigenous communities across Canada develop climate change strategies and help ensure Indigenous voices are heard by government and environmental non-governmental organizations.

"I think it's great that we're seeing not just folks like Leonardo DiCaprio, but a greater movement of people recognizing not just Indigenous people and Indigenous rights, but the critical role they play in addressing the largest and most challenging obstacle that humanity has ever faced: the global climate crisis," said Deranger.

These people are recognizing that there's a necessity to uphold those rights in order for us to reconnect with the sacredness of Mother Earth- Eriel Deranger, executive director, Indigenous Climate Action

"These people are recognizing that there's a necessity to uphold those rights in order for us to reconnect with the sacredness of Mother Earth."

The DiCaprio foundation said in a statement on its website that it supports Indigenous communities defending their lands, water, people and culture from mounting pressures.

"LDF funds Indigenous-led programs that teach local leaders how to map and document their territories, defend their Indigenous rights, implement renewable energy solutions, develop sustainable livelihoods, and increase the impact of their public advocacy efforts," the statement read.

DiCaprio, one of the world's best-known actors, dedicated his 2016 Golden Globe best actor win for his role in The Revenant to Indigenous peoples, saying it's time for Indigenous voices to be heard around the globe.

"It's time that we recognize your history and that we protect your Indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them," said DiCaprio.  

The other Canada-based grant recipient, Indigenous Leadership Initiative, focuses on strengthening Indigenous nationhood for Indigenous cultural responsibility to land, inspiring leaders, and helping communities develop skills and capacity.

Additional Indigenous grantees include the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Peoples Action Institute Project: Mni Wizipan Wakan Project, the Pine Ridge Girls' School, the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

About the Author

Brandi Morin, Métis, born and raised in Alberta, possesses a passion for telling Indigenous stories. Based outside Edmonton, Morin has lent her talents to several news organizations, including Indian Country Today Media Network and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News.

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