Cuso International has a long history of working with Indigenous peoples worldwide. Underpinning this work has been our belief in the importance of Indigenous self-determination. This continues to be the core of our approach today. Added to this, our values – partnership, respect and integrity, and accountability – guide all of our work and have proven to be in line with the goals and aspirations of our Indigenous partners.
The historic injustices Indigenous peoples have suffered, due to colonization and the dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, have been a barrier to pursuing their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests. Cuso International works with Indigenous partners to overcome these injustices. Indigenous control over Indigenous development can revitalize Indigenous institutions, cultures and traditions. This approach also ensures that development is sustainable, equitable, and environmentally sound.
As an organization, Cuso International supports the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and especially Canada’s decision in May, 2016 to remove its objector status – without qualification – to the Declaration. This key document, along with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, provide us with essential guidance as we continue our work with Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad.
A fundamental shift in public understanding is needed to end poverty in Canada. It is too often said that Indigenous issues are “complicated” or “political”, that the problems are so big that it is hard to know where to start. This discourse is used by many to justify inaction, and effectively ignores the many viable recommendations proposed by Indigenous leaders and organizations across the country, and those issued by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Auditor General of Canada and, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Change in Canada is possible. It is not a question of solutions, but rather of public will.
Partnerships within Canada
Our current partners deliver locally-driven services and programs that seek to redress power imbalances and eradicate poverty and inequality in their communities. As all of our partnerships are based on mutual learning and growth, we continually seek to expand our own understanding of Indigenous issues and engage in decolonization as an organization.
Our most recent Indigenous organization partner, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata has spent three decades working with Indigenous communities in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Using Indigenous ways of knowing, they build the strength and brighten the future of those they serve. This includes: children in care, at-risk youth, survivors of sex trafficking and families dealing with violence. Our work with Ma Mawi, entitled ‘Mino Stat An’ (Cree for “Making Things Right”), involves creating a partnership based upon the shared goals of reconciliation and growing a vital community institution. Another project related to the well-being of Indigenous youth, involves volunteers being placed with the Beaufort Delta Education Council & South Slave Divisional Education Council, through a program Cuso International accepted from the Frontiers Foundation. Through this initiative we work in partnership with communities and volunteers to improve education supports in the Northwest Territories.
Cuso International also worked in 2017 with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), an organization responsible for the health of First Nations in British Columbia, has a strong economic development focus. Together, FNHA and Cuso International created a volunteer placement aimed at increasing sustainable and culturally relevant economic opportunity in the field of healthcare. Similarly, our work, completed in early 2016, with Reconciliation Canada involved transferring business development skills to several members of the Namgis First Nation in British Columbia.
We are very excited about the growth of our Canadian program and the opportunities to work with, and alongside, Indigenous peoples in Canada.