Sharing indigenous wisdom and culture in support of Mother Earth and global healing.
Since 1996, the Tribal Trust Foundation (TTF) has been identifying sustainable grass roots projects which will help preserve the living arts and traditional wisdom of indigenous people. Tribal Trust partners with local organizations whose experience and existing relationships can sustain these joint initiatives over the long-term. When the projects are in politically hostile environments, TTF seeks partners who have the political expertise in these high tension areas to insure support and the sustainability of the initiatives. The focus is on capacity building and empowerment processes wherein communities are able to initiate the holistic change they wish to see manifested in their villages and surrounding environment.
National Reconciliation Movement
for Native Americans
The Tribal Trust Foundation supports the creation of a movement of apology to and reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of the United States. We also offer a Statement of Reconciliation as a model for articulating the processes of reconciliation and forgiveness between all peoples where past wounding or violation has occurred.
Indigenous Peoples Day
The Tribal Trust Foundation is leading a group of local allies in proposing that the City of Santa Barbara replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. We will join 22 other cities across the nation who have already made this change. With this change we honor, celebrate and support the rich and diverse cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples. Locally, we will be recognizing and honoring the Chumash people as the first people of this region, who have contributed so much richness and wisdom to the environment, culture and community of Santa Barbara.
Traveling Photo Exhibition
~ Photo Exhibition ~
‘Mbuti, Children of the Forest’
Democratic Republic of the Congo
This project sought to bring international recognition to the beauty and importance of BaMbuti art, music, dance, and showcase their indigenous response to life … in order to help defend the Mbuti “Forest People” from enslavement, displacement, murder, and genocide. The Tribal Trust Foundation sponsored the journey resulting in an museum caliber photo exhibit, “The Mbuti: Children of the Forest” featuring 30 original photographs by internationally renown artists, Molly Feltner and Eliot Elisofon; a 5 minute film by Molly Feltner and an optional array of framed three-dimensional art and artifacts by the Mbuti people. This award-winning exhibition is now available for a community presentation in your town. This simple action will continue to contribute towards raising the awareness for supporting the long-term survival of the Mbuti people.
Documenting the Monpas People of Bhutan
Black Mountain Forest, Bhutan / 2014 to present
The Monpa are a tribe of indigenous hunter-gatherers living sustainably in the Black Forest, a remote area in Central Bhutan. The difficult terrain and the scattered nature of their communities make it very challenging to access social services and markets. Change is happening fast in the Black Forest. Modern values are intruding and young people are leaving their villages for access to better education and economic opportunities … many do not return. The elders are concerned that their unique language, traditional wisdom and core conscious will disappear very soon.
Goal: Provide basic costs for transportation and translation services for the documentation of the Monpas’ language, songs, traditional weaving arts, plant medicines and history.
Contribution: In Bhutan TTF is working with the Tarayana Foundation, founded by The Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, to help the remote Monpa people preserve their language and ancient traditional wisdom. TTF funding specifically helped support the Monpas initiative to reintroduce bamboo and nettle back into their environment and preserve their artisan tradition of weaving with these native plants.
Benefit: Working in remote, hard to reach, rural villages brings about holistic community growth and development serving the neediest of Bhutanese communities. These initiatives support the Monpas to instigating the decisions for change they want effected in their villages. The younger Monpa tribal members learn and integrate the ancient traditional skills taught by their elders as highly valuable tools for their future, promoting their self-empowerment, social mobilization and capacity building, while reenforcing the importance of serving their community in ways which honor their ancestors and strengthen their tribe.
Learn more: Tarayana Foundation
Past Projects & Collaborations
~ Standing Rock ~
Lakota Sioux Territory, North Dakota / 2016
The first camp of Standing Rock Lakota Water Protectors, the Spirit Camp of the Sacred Stones, was established on April 1, 2016 at the convergence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in North Dakota as a peaceful and prayerful resistance to the 1100 mi. Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) endangering their Water. The movement escalated very quickly in size and intensity during the fall of 2016, drawing in thousands of protectors, creating several camps and resulted in nearly 800 arrests and human rights violations by a militarized police force. And the world watched, mostly through the efforts of independent social media journalists, despite their being targeted for arrest. Even as DAPL was being pushed through regardless of the public pressure, the Water Protectors vowed to remain through the cold northern plains winter.
Goal: Help raise funding for critical winter supplies and rising legal defense costs.
Contribution: TTF worked with the Standing Rock tribal leadership to raise funds for crucial winter supplies for hundreds of protesters who spent the frigid winter at Standing Rock, and for much needed legal defense funds to deal with the wholesale arrests of peaceful protesters that are rising because of abusive and legally questionable trespassing arrests by the state and county police. Additionally, TTF pushed for declarations and petitions, as well as donations in support of Standing Rock using social websites such as OurRevolution.org, CREDO, MoveOn.org, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. To date, we raised over $55,000.
Benefits: The many issues involved in the #noDAPL resistance go to the core reasons why TTF exists and what it does. For several months in 2016, the prayer “Water is Life” brought the world’s attention to the plight of the Indigenous Americans and their consideration for the Sacredness of Water. The unified indigenous voice was heard across the global as never before. This brave action rallied support and greater awareness for the state of distress the Mother Earth and all Life dependent on her pure Water are facing in our modern society. The unfolding of this resistance has been a wake up call for many concerned citizens and it is inspiring a much broader environmental justice movement to protect the World’s Water.
Learn more: Camp or the Sacred Stones
Maya Cultural Preservation Project
Tulum – Environmental Stewardship
Tulum, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico / 2012
The pristine natural wonder of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum, Mexico, the 2nd largest coral reef and ocean preserve, is being threatened by terrible pollution, primarily by debris deposited from cruise ships in the Caribbean basin. The pollution eventually flows onto the Yucatan Peninsula and the Sian Kaan, an ancient Mayan and noted UNESCO World Heritage Site. The accumulative negative impact of corporate greed, corrupt government, drug cartels, and uncontrolled tourism is destroying the environment by polluting water, killing wildlife, destroying trees, and cementing acres of land for development, while the indigenous Maya of Tulum are being evicted, displaced, disenfranchised, and even killed in the third largest travel destination in Mexico.
Goal: To create an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural environmental curriculum, along with supporting educational materials, drawing upon culture, biology, geology, history, and ecology as a way to inspire the conservation of indigenous ancestral lands and natural resources, while empowering a new breed of environmental leaders in the youth of both Mexico and the United States; bring recognition and awareness of ancient Maya wisdom with an end goal of generating a societal imperative for deeply connecting humanity to our Earth.
Contribution: In responding to the Maya request to help preserve their traditional and sustainable way of life, we are addressing the need for environmental justice for the Maya, the original people of this sacred, ancient land. With this campaign, TTF is raising global awareness of the Maya understanding for the need of interconnected balance between all Life on Earth and provide opportunities to experience a life-changing interaction with indigenous Maya children and Elders, with environmental activists and educators from around the world.
Benefits: Greater awareness of the Maya indigenous world view ~ that we are all connected ~ as a global model for promoting whole-systems environmental stewardship guiding the modern world towards finding solutions that work for all; honing the critical thinking and practical problem-solving skills of the Maya community of Tulum to focus on global preservation and cross-cultural decision-making; activate the youth in becoming ambassadors of ecological stewardship, championing indigenous values of sustainability within their families, community, and environment.
Learn more: Maya Culture, Tulum, Mexico
Vanishing Cultures, The San Bushmen
The San Bushmen of the Kalahari
Kalahari Desert, Namibia / 2000 – 2006
Songs, dances, hunting and gathering skills, as well as the beginning of the male initiation ceremony, including at least three dances that had never been seen before by Western eyes were filmed; photographed each member of the tribe, babies and elders a like; unedited documentation was placed in trust to the San at the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and to the Namibia Museum in Africa; co-produced a dramatic and inspiring documentary showcasing the San culture.
Goal: To instigate fundraising events in order to fulfill the request of the Juhoansi chief, G/a’qo Kaeqce, to document songs, dances, and traditions and help facilitate the male initiation ceremony of Ju’Hoansi.
Contribution: Funded medicine men and elders from Botswana for travel to the Ju’Hoansi ceremony; provided food and supplies for the ceremony; brought international awareness of the existence of the Ju’Hoansi community living in Namibia, as well as opening the dialog for the importance of land rights and hunting rights of San with non-indigenous hunting organizations.
Benefits: Several fundraising events, such as the Tribal Cup Polo Tournaments secured much needed funds for several initiatives. This contribution helped preserve the culture and rekindle interest among the San youth to learn the ways of their elders, keeping the ancient traditions alive.
Vanishing Cultures Documentary
Springbok Films, in association with the Tribal Trust Foundation, produced the award winning documentary Vanishing Cultures: Bushmen of the Kalahari. The film visits the troubled San community whose once thriving culture is now facing extinction.
Learn more: Kalahari Peoples Fund
Note: On behalf of the Tribal Trust, Barbara Savage traveled to Botswana and Namibia at the request of the San and various NGOs. She interviewed game wardens, lawyers and activists to understand the immediate crisis. A lawsuit was filed and in 2006 the Botswana High Court judges awarded the former occupants of the game reserve the right to reoccupation as well as the right to hunt in the reserve. As of today, the government of Botswana has not implemented the decisions that had been reached.
Voices of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers
Global / 2007
There is a growing awareness of what the world stands to lose through the assimilation of Earth-honoring indigenous cultures into the dominant monoculture. Dynamic and diverse, these living cultures hold vital reservoirs of knowledge, expertise and imagination about the human experience, the natural world and the cosmos. For millennia, they have maintained a symbiotic relationship with their environments, which now are being rapidly destroyed by global exploitation. The ability to respect and receive the grounded wisdom that indigenous Grandmothers offer will increase the beauty and possibility of our survival as a species.
Goal: Honoring and preserving the wisdom of indigenous women elders globally
Contribution: Partnered with Wisdom Speaks Org in a cultural preservation initiative to spread the message of the “Thirteen Grandmothers. Each Grandmother was presented with an honorarium to use for herself or her people as she wished.
Benefit: These wise women believe “the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future.” The Tribal Trust helped to cover the cost of convening the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers and offering honoraria to the Grandmothers for their service and attendance.
Learn more: www.grandmotherscouncil.com
Native American Student Financial Literacy Program
Santa Barbara, California USA / 2007
Efficient financial literacy is a skill that every young person would benefit from as they begin their journey into adulthood. However, it is especially valuable for the Native American youth, as many are coming from lower income families and might not have the opportunity to learn practical money management.
Empower students with financial guidance and education in how to manage money.
The Tribal Trust Foundation in partnership with the American Indian Cultural Services Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Bank of Santa Barbara provided expertise and support to the students in a workshop where students learned fundamentals of money management.
Students in the EOP, as first time recipients of financial aid and confronted with issues involving money for the first time in their lives, learned valuable lessons in money management. Students who receive monthly dividend checks from their tribal communities learned to manage money as well as to think in terms of their financial stability in the future. Through this philanthropic initiative, the next generation will be empowered to preserve their cultural heritage and help make a difference in the lives of their people.
Learn more: UCSB Equal Opportunity Program
Navajo Interpretive Educational Program
Navajo Nation Museum & Navajo Monument, Arizona, United States / 2007
The Navajo are a Native American people of the southwestern states of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. After the Cherokee, they are the second-largest federally recognized tribe in the United States, but like most Indigenous Americans, the deep knowledge, connection and respect for their rich cultural wisdom is being eroded by the modern world. The movement to authentically preserve this legacy is growing.
Goal: Support the Navajo National Monument as an entity for education of ancestral pueblo cliff dwellings, to reach out to local Native American students to attend interpretive educational programs about their history, present, and future.
Contribution: The Tribal Trust Foundation, in partnership with the American Cultural Resource Center of the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) raised money for cultural preservation projects for the Navajo Nation. Funding provided certified teachers to the Navajo National Monument as paid interpretive rangers during the summer break.
Benefits: The local youth of Navajo National Monument, (who have been stream lining with Western society and held to the standards of the American non-native ways and education curriculum for about a century), learned about plants and their traditional uses, saw the night sky through native eyes, and learned about the arts and science of their ancestral native people.
Learn more: Navajo National Monument
Navajo Astronomy Preservation Project
Navajo Nation Museum & Navajo Monument, Arizona, United States / 2006
Traditional Navajo astronomy, including their constellations offer a unique glimpse into the cultural lineage of Navajo people through their view the cosmos and their place within it.
Goal: Help preserve oral tradition of Navajo Nation; mentor local Native American students in both astronomy and philanthropy.
Contribution: The Tribal Trust Foundation, in partnership with the American Cultural Resource Center of the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) raised money for cultural preservation projects for the Navajo Nation. Funding provided support for the Navajo Nation Museum and the Navajo Monument’s winter long presentations on Navajo Astronomy for children and adults.
Benefit: The local youth of Navajo National Monument, learned about the night sky through native eyes of their ancestral people.This highlighted an oral tradition of cultural significance, which was on the brink of extinction and now is being carried on to future generations.
Learn more: Navajo Constellations
Maya Cultural Preservation Project
El Pilar Forest Gardens
El Pilar, Guatemala & Belize / 2003 – 2006
The El Pilar Program works to link the conservation of the great Maya city of El Pilar and the canopy of the forest garden to the local population. Our collaboration helps to raise the visibility of the forest garden practice as a living art and a vital part of the conservation strategies to save the Maya forest, connect the traditional practices to the growing education programs and the adventure tourism of the region.
Goal: Bring greater awareness of the living arts of the Maya forest; integrate the heritage of the Maya forest and the forest gardening traditions into the contemporary education of the youth in the El Pilar area.
Contribution: Created children’s forest gardening program: Funding helped support a shared intention of empowering the indigenous children to be a part of the conservation strategies to save the Maya forest; develop Maya Forest Garden Coloring Book: Helped develop and fund the production of a children’s coloring book about the Maya forest.
Benefits: Conservation of the great Maya city of El Pilar, the heritage of the Maya forest and the forest gardening traditions are being integrated into the contemporary education of the youth in the El Pilar area. The El Pilar Maya Forest Garden Network (mayaforestgardeners.org) have established a demonstration garden at the Santa Famlia Primary School in Cayo Belize to help children to learn about biodiversity, useful plants, cultivation skills, and protection of soil; Alfonzo Tzul, founding member of the U Kuxtal Masewal Maya Institute of Belize, has translated the Spanish edition of the coloring book into the Mayan language.
Learn more: El Pilar Forest Garden Network
Fundasaun Harii Au Metan Cultural Initiative
East Timor, So. East Asia / 2001 – 2002
East Timor was occupied by Indonesia for 24 years. They killed the majority of the indigenous men who fought for democracy, leaving thousands of orphans, known in East Timor as “Freedom Children.” The women took up the fight to rid the country of cruel foreign occupation. The women were critical in getting the vote for independence. The country remains one of the poorest in the world.
Goal: Promote East Timor’s cultural renaissance by reviving the near-extinct indigenous women’s sacred traditions in music, song and dance; support a grassroots initiative to rekindle the growing of traditional foods and manufacturing of consumer products.
Contribution: Identified grassroots project and indigenous partner, Fundasaun Harii Au Metan; fund women elders to travel to remote areas of East Timor for teaching of sacred ceremonies, using their ‘gong’. These ceremonies included initiations and child birthing; provide seed funding for farming and manufacturing of products which included candles, baskets and soap
Benefits: Empower women by enabling elders to travel and teach cultural traditions; inspired the youth to honor their culture and carry on their sacred traditions; reintroduced healthy and sustainable nutritional habits; established micro enterprise.
Learn more: Fundasaun Alola, Timor-Leste Woman Rights
Yolngu Aboriginal Tribe
Yothu Yindi Foundation
East Arnhem Land, Australia / 2001
An aboriginal tribe located in the northeast corner of northern Australia, the TTF worked with the Yolongu to identify a successful and sustainable way for indigenous people to practice and preserve traditional dance, song, and ceremony.
Goal: Identify a model for preservation of indigenous culture in politically hostile environments.
Contribution: Financial contribution to the Garma Festival produced by the Yothu Yini Foundation; consulted with Aboriginal leaders; participated in Garma Festival.
Benefits: Identified a successful and sustainable way for indigenous people to practice and preserve traditional dance, song, and ceremony. Supported the Yothu Yini Foundation in their efforts to support and further the maintenance, development, teaching and enterprise potential of Yolngu cultural life on Yolngu lands in Northern East Arnhem Land.
Learn more: Yothu Yini Foundation
Becoming: Cross-Cultural Female Initiation Program
Santa Barbara, California, USA / 2000
Goal: Introduce girls to the world of spiritual and cultural values through indigenous teachings and practices.
Contribution: Support with funding and participation: research, training, and development; support Ines Talamantez in organizing and directing the program; fund Sponsors (i.e. Elder Apache Women who are “Godmothers”) as consultants; engage the local indigenous community in a cross-cultural preservation initiative; document this historical project.
Benefits: Girls become exemplary women in their own culture, taking care of themselves in a sustainable manor. Specifically, the Chumash tribe will be able to reintroduce the female initiation ceremony, that was once prominent in their hunter and gatherer culture. We will be advancing the conversation for the importance of the women’s roles both in their indigenous cultures and in the dominant culture.
Learn more: Chumash History
Tharu Sustainability Project
Chitwan, Nepal / 1996
The Tharu people are a people of the forest. In Chitwan, Nepal they have lived in the forests for hundreds of years isolated in their own localities. Since the 1950’s pressure from other populations migrating into their region has forced the Tharu into a situation of landlessness and poverty.
Goal: Help support the indigenous people of the remote rainforest in Chitwan to be sustainable.
Contribution: Identified a grassroots sustainable project that would help the once nomadic tribe support themselves in a confined area. Partnered with Heifers International to send a flock of goats that could survive on the jungle to the Tharu community.
Benefits: These original hunter-gatherer people, who are now displaced and disenfranchised, have another means to provide food for themselves. Contributed to international awareness that unmarried Tharu women are forced into prostitution and slavery.
Learn more: Nepal Indigenous Development Society (NIDS)