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A Sustainable Vision for a Threatened Rainforest
$5,492 raised
6% of $90k goal
51 contributors
0 days left
Ended May 23, 2017

Deep in the Heart of the Last Untouched Rainforest

It’s September 2016, and I’m standing up to my knees in mud, deep in the rainforest of Southern Belize, on a twelve hour expedition. I’m traversing through the heart of the last remaining, untouched rainforest in the Americas. I am with Maya leaders dressed in traditional Maya shirts, baseball caps and rubber boots. I’m the only woman on this expedition and the only one without a machete.

We’re in the jungle because of a momentous occasion, not only for Belize and the Maya people, but potentially for the world.

This rainforest, rich in resources, has been wanted by hungry developers for decades, but the Maya fought for 30 years to save their lands and to have a say in its stewardship.

On April 22, 2015, the Maya people won their final appeal in the Caribbean Court of Justice and affirmed their rights to their hundreds of thousands of hectares of beautiful rainforest, and its natural resources. This “land-judgement” was a game-changing victory for indigenous people, a first. But it set the stage for an even bigger challenge. 

“You can’t eat a land-judgment.”

The Maya people need to develop their land and they wish to do so based on their vision of eco-tourism, renewable energy resources, biodiversity, and environmentally-friendly business projects. They want partners and collaborators who respect their Indigenous heritage, culture, and values. The Maya people have a well-developed vision of how to be good stewards of the rainforest. But, time is running out on them.

The government of Belize is eager to develop Maya lands as these lands are extremely rich in natural resources. Concessions have already been issued to an oil company; a hydro dam has been built on sacred lands, collapsing thousand-year-old sacred caves; and an agreement with a large cruise line has been signed for access to sacred temples, already fenced off from the Maya people in their own village.


So what?

There are two ways the development of this hundreds of thousands of hectares of beautiful rainforest can go.

One where the land is developed based on a profit-only mentality, where sacred, resource rich territory is ultimately traded away for greed and short-term gains.


A plan that develops the land based on a vibrant, sustainable, profitable and sacred model - a model that not only benefits all the people of Belize, but also shows the way for the rest of the world. We already know what raping a rainforest for profit looks like. We can’t let it happen in Belize.


But the Problem Is...

The problem facing the Maya, the land-owners, is shockingly that they don’t have a seat at the development table! How is this possible, you ask? Well…. This is a sensitive subject but one that has to be known if we’re to help.


Here’s How I Know...

I have been visiting the Maya people of Belize since October 2015. I was invited by James Anaya, the former “United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” to work with the people of Belize to mentor them to achieve their development vision. I have sat in ceremony with the Mayas. Done countless workshops with them. Eaten with their families in their villages. Climbed temples with their children. And I have met with government officials and company leaders. Prior to this, I worked for years with the Indigenous People of Peru.

In other words, I’ve had my rain boots on the ground for years now across the Americas helping Indigenous People. And I’m only one member of our team. Our work is supported by our incredible Chief Peacebuilding Officer, Martina Paloheimo who bridges people and interests. But the real rock stars of our organization are our Aboriginal Advisors, led by our co-founder, Canadian former Chief, Jerry Asp. These leaders have transformed their communities, chartered new policies for Canada and changed the legal system for Indigenous Peoples. They are mentors and the agents of change in the work that we do.


No Seat at the Table Because…

We have to help the Maya People have a seat at the development table for their own lands because…

The government doesn’t believe the Maya are capable of development. That’s the ugly truth of the matter. Indigenous People are stereotyped as only capable of “doing fancy bead work and carving totem poles.” So it is wrongfully assumed that the Maya would either never develop the resource rich lands or be incapable of negotiating agreements, and making development happen.

And so, development decisions about their lands, are happening without their voice! 

How We Change The Game

We give the Maya their seat at the decision making table by giving them ethically-driven assistance to be the drivers of the development.

We fund them to build their capacity to take control over sacred sites and natural resources. We fund them to build their capacity to negotiate equitable partnerships with companies, from a position of strength.

We fund them to complete and refine their unique long-term vision of growth so that they may become authors of their own history.

Lastly, we fund them to develop effective materials and networks to raise the funds they need to move forward with their vision and plan.

And all this becomes an even bigger game, together we help create a Nation Building Model that can later be applied in other Indigenous communities around the globe!


Who We Are

The Global Indigenous Trust has signed a memorandum of understanding to assist the Maya people lead the Building Maya Economies project over the long-term. We were selected from hundreds of organizations and advisors who wanted to work with the Maya people. The mentorship of our Aboriginal Advisory who have lived it and come out successful on the other side, creates a unique opportunity for a truly indigenous driven approach to development. Global Indigenous Trust is a Canadian Aboriginal-led non-profit economic development organization. We are working to support Indigenous Peoples around the world to be decision-makers in the development of their lands and natural resources.

The 25,000 Maya people that make up the 39 Maya communities of Toledo, in Southern Belize comprise two linguistic subgroups, the Q’eqchi and Mopan. Among Belize’s ethnic groups, the Maya constitute its poorest demographic. Furthermore, the Maya people are systemically excluded from the greater Belize society and, like many other Indigenous Peoples around the world, face extreme racism, marginalization and discrimination.

Yet, the Maya Peoples are strong and resilient. They have existed for thousands of years. Today, the Maya are prepared and ready to meet these challenges. They believe that everyone has something to contribute to the betterment of our society. The Maya are determined to realize their unique vision of prosperous, sustainable, and equitable development of their own lands.


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$10 CAD
Plant a Tree in Canada for Belize
  • 30 claimed
Donate $10.00 and YOU will plant a tree that works to help reforest Canada’s Northern Boreal Treeline. For every ten dollars donated we will purchase a tree through Outland Reforestation that will be planted in one of their spring projects in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba or Alberta. Plant a little good here at home, to support a big cause abroad.
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$25 CAD + shipping
Tote Bag Donation
  • 3 claimed
Ships Worldwide
When you give $25.00 towards creating a Maya Economy we will send you this beautiful tote with your donation.
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$35 CAD + shipping
T-shirt for the Cause
  • 4 claimed
Ships Worldwide
Purchase a t-shirt with our Creating Maya Economies logo.
This way you can donate to our cause, spread our message and look good all at the same time. Sponsored by the local Toronto Screenprinting shop The Baitshop.
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$60 CAD + shipping
Handmade Maya Bag
  • 2 claimed
Ships to Canada
Purchase a one of a kind hand made bag by the Maya communities of Southern Belize, and directly support their handiwork, and traditional crafts. As well as receive a beautiful bag!
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$500 CAD + shipping
Moccasins from Tahltan Nation
  • 1 claimed
Ships Worldwide
As a symbol of our appreciation we would like to send you a pair of these handmade moccasins from the Tahltan Nation.
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$12,500 CAD
Fishing trip with former Chief in Northern Canada
  • 0 claimed
Live the Northern Aboriginal Experience through the eyes of our founder Jerry Asp. Visit the wild and mountainous North and spend time enjoying the great outdoors, fishing and learning from traditional Tahltan Community. *Please note this trip includes up to $1,000 of the cost of airfare, and is a quoted price for one person.
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$12,500 CAD
Once in a lifetime trip to the Maya Rainforest
  • 0 claimed
This a personalized trip to Belize. Come Explore the rainforest through the eyes of the Maya and when you donate to their cause. This will include a one of a kind trip to visit Maya Communities as you explore with them their ancient lands, sacred sites and waterfalls. This will be a custom 7 night trip to visit and stay in traditional territory.

The Maya People of Southern Belize would like to cordially invite you to spend a week under the Mayan Sun, learning from the ancient moon, planets and stars. YOUR donation will further the effort to develop a sustainable Maya Economy and will help build local ecotourism in Belize. The Mayan Communities of Toledo, Southern Belize. You will spend time within the communities and experience appreciate firsthand the wisdom of the Maya people, the beauty of their land. Please note* this trip includes up to $1,000 for the cost of Airfare, and is priced for one person.
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