Shifting Power and Emboldening Indigenous-led Climate Solutions: NDN Collective on Bezos Earth Fund Grant | NDN Collective

Nick Tilsen · November 25, 2020

Shifting Power and Emboldening Indigenous-led Climate Solutions: NDN Collective on Bezos Earth Fund Grant

A message from NDN Collective President and CEO, Nick Tilsen. "Receiving this substantial grant is part of an overall [NDN Collective] strategy to shift power, decolonize wealth, and resource Indigenous people who are on the frontlines of fighting for justice and equity."

Mitakuyapi (Relatives), 

Recently, an announcement was made from the Bezos Earth Fund highlighting the first recipients of a highly publicized grant devoted to fighting climate change. NDN Collective was among those recipients, receiving a $12 million grant for climate justice work. 

As an organization devoted to building a world that is more just and equitable for all people and the planet, climate and environmental justice are essential to our mission. Yet to be sure, this work isn’t just about our mission as an organization; This work is deeply embedded in our values as an all-Indigenous team of changemakers, community builders, and grassroots organizers. We descend from ancestors who were in constant relationship with the land and all creation, and today, we continue to honor those ancestral teachings, living out the same values of being in right relationship with the land, our Mother Earth and all life.  

NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen tending to his horses on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Photo by Josué Rivas.

Receiving this substantial grant is also part of an overall strategy to shift power, decolonize wealth, and resource Indigenous people who are on the frontlines of fighting for justice and equity. That being said, we at NDN Collective are fully aware of the fact that receiving this grant is political. The Bezos Earth Fund comes directly from the wealth of the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, Founder, President and CEO of Amazon, a muti-national technology company. We will not tiptoe around the fact that Amazon and Jeff Bezos in particular have been rightfully criticized for unjust working conditions, corporate bailouts, and for directly contributing to climate change in the world. 

It cannot go without saying that it has been the pressure from frontline organizers and climate activists worldwide that have called out and called up many wealthy individuals and corporations like Amazon and Bezos to be more accountable and responsible. We must continue applying pressure, because it is working. While we give a nod to the Bezos Earth Fund for rightfully shifting power and investing into sustainable solutions, we know that the real heroes in this work are the organizers and activists who have devoted their lives to raising global consciousness about climate justice issues. 

We descend from ancestors who were in constant relationship with the land and all creation, and today, we continue to honor those ancestral teachings.

Equally, we challenge philanthropy and white supremacist power structures to continue leaning into this work while remembering the generations of Indigenous people who have paid with their lives trying to protect their lands and our Mother Earth. 

We have a responsibility to call upon global corporations and those who hold power and wealth to invest in climate solutions, Indigenous self-determination, and Black reparations, and at the same time, we must also utilize the resources we have to act with swift, innovative strategies to protect our planet and all life. To do this work, we at NDN Collective are leaning deeply into the work of dismantling white supremacy in philanthropy, moving resources from colonial, capitalistic, and white-led institutions to Indigenous and POC-led institutions. We approach this work from a culture of abundance, knowing that there are enough resources in the world to meet the needs of all people.  We just need to shift power, and distribute those resources more purposefully.

At NDN Collective, we set a goal of building the biggest philanthropic fund led by Indigenous people ever in the field, and to use those resources to invest directly into equity and solutions. Long before there was Bezos money involved, NDN Collective created a comprehensive theory of change focused on our strategy “Defend. Develop. Decolonize.”– defending Indigenous lands and Indigenous rights, developing innovative and sustainable solutions for the future, and decolonizing the way that we move through the world while uprooting white supremacy and colonial institutions that harm human beings and all life. Accepting this grant is investing directly into this theory of change which came out of our community, our movement and from our people.

NDN Collective launched the LANDBACK Campaign on Indigenous Peoples’ Day of this year. Photo by Willi White.

We are not an intermediary organization, but a movement infrastructure organization. Thus, the $12 million from the Bezos Earth Fund will be used for the purpose of building the infrastructure for our movement and funding innovative, Indigenous-led climate solutions that honor our relationship to Mother Earth and all life.

As our mission calls upon us, we remain committed to building Indigenous power, investing into Indigenous self-determination, and building a world that is more just and equitable for all people and the planet. 

The real heroes in this work are the organizers and activists who have devoted their lives to raising global consciousness about climate justice issues. 

Indigenous people have been on the frontlines of environmental protection and climate justice since time immemorial, before there was environmental or climate justice movements. It only makes sense that philanthropy invest into organizations like NDN Collective, and we hope that this investment is just one small part of a major shift towards more investment into Indigenous self-determination. The land is our relative, and we have a responsibility to see to it that we are honoring her, protecting her, and actively creating solutions to the climate crisis  so that we are ensuring  a healthy and safe planet for future generations.

Mitakuye Oyasin (We are All Related),
Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO

Nick Tilsen
Nick Tilsen

Nick Tilsen, President & CEO, is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Nick has over 20 years of experience building place-based innovations that have the ability to inform systems change solutions around climate resiliency, sustainable housing and equitable community development. He founded NDN Collective to scale these place-based solutions while building needed philanthropic, social impact investment, capacity and advocacy infrastructure geared towards building the collective power of Indigenous Peoples. Tilsen has received numerous fellowships and awards from Ashoka, Rockefeller Foundation, Bush Foundation and the Social Impact Award from Claremont-Lincoln University. He has an honorary doctorate degree from Sinte Gleska University.

May 2022 Edition

Stay Informed. Take Action.

Subscribe to the NDN allies newsletter

Sign up to get our newsletter. Delivered once per month.

We care about the protection of your data and would never sell your email or share it with anyone without your permission.

Posted 1 week ago Boycott Ramps Up With Light Projection, Support for NDN Collective From Rapid City Businesses
“We love our community, we love our people – and because of that love, we won’t back down until Rapid City creates concrete consequences for any businesses that have racist practices and policies.”
Posted 2 weeks ago NDN Collective and Local Native Organizers Provide Support for Those Impacted by Wildfires in New Mexico
NDN Collective’s Climate Justice Campaign joined with the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women to distribute dozens of air filters for those impacted by the wildfires in New Mexico. The wildfires have been raging for over a month, spurred by unprecedented winds and drought which have consumed nearly 237,000 acres so far.
Posted 2 weeks ago For the People Festival Leaves Lasting Impact in Rapid City

Brandy Calabaza

Over a thousand people came together for the first-ever For the People Festival headlined by over a dozen Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island, after an earlier planned event went awry.
Posted 2 weeks ago Take Action! Join the Boycott Against Racist Businesses in Rapid City

Sarah Sunshine Manning

NDN Collective and a growing coalition of community members are mobilizing a boycott against the Grand Gateway Hotel and all Uhre-owned family businesses in response to discrimination and racist business practices.
Posted 3 weeks ago Celebrating the Matriarchs Who Have Left Imprints On Our Hearts

Brandi Douglas

On Mother’s Day and every day, we acknowledge our Matriarchs. Every moment of action and vocalization of truth for the betterment of the collective has been a testament to the reclamation and power to lead as they always have.
Posted 3 weeks ago NDN Collective Launches Community Engagement Survey for Distributing Nearly $50M to Native People in SD, ND, and MN
“We have an ambitious goal of hearing from over 20,000 Native individuals situated in the tri-state area. Our voices and lived experiences matter - and so do our visions and dreams for an abundant future.”
Posted 4 weeks ago Meet the Collective Abundance Fund Regional Advisory Committee
The Regional Advisory Committee will be key to building the regenerative movement while supporting reciprocal relationships that are marked by collective learning, knowledge sharing and consideration of diverse insight as part of NDN Collective’s respective areas of work and commitment.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Announces “Community Action Fund” for Indigenous Frontline Organizers
Grants up to $30,000 offered to support on the ground organizers and movement builders who stand on the frontlines to defend Indigenous Peoples inherent rights to self-determination and equity for all people and the planet.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Calls for Boycott of Rapid City Businesses with Racist Policies
The goal for the ongoing boycott is to discourage community members from supporting businesses with racist policies & practices, and instead encourage them to use buying power to impact change by redirecting their dollars to businesses that stand in solidarity with Indigenous people.
Posted 1 month ago NDN Collective Responds to DOI Announcement of Reformed Onshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales
“We must carry this win forward to remain steadfast in our work to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and we must also turn our attention to reforming offshore oil and gas leasing. It is clear that the Department of Interior has been paying attention to the need for making decarbonization more accessible to Native and Indigenous homes, communities, and Tribal Nations, and we need that accessibility to extend even further."
NDN Collective
408 Knollwood Dr
Rapid City, SD 57701
P: +1 (605) 791-3999
E: [email protected]
© 2022 NDN Collective. All rights reserved.