Northwest Mexico Program

The Christensen Fund

Grant amount: US $50,000 - US $100,000

Anticipated deadline: Aug 31, 2019 (Pre proposal)

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit

Funding uses: Education / Outreach, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Mexico

Location of residency: Preferred: Mexico Other eligible locations: Anywhere in the world

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From peoples of the rivers and coast to desert dwellers and montane farmers, the dynamic cultures and diverse landscapes of Northwest Mexico comprise a biocultural hotspot, home to multiple distinct Indigenous communities and some of the planet’s most diverse deserts and mountain agrobiodiversity. Over the millennia the Indigenous Peoples of this area have developed incredible trans-ecosystem production capacities, creating thriving biocultural landscapes from the high Sierra in Chihuahua down to the Sonoran Desert and the Gulf of California. These rich landscapes and seascapes are home to an astounding abundance of biological resources, much of which is only known to elders and speakers of the region’s distinctive languages, such as the Yóreme (Mayo), Rarámuri (Tarahumara), Yoeme (Yaqui) and Comcáac (Seri). Expert Indigenous cultivators in the mountains of this region have stewarded some of the world’s most important crops including corn, beans, chiles and squash, honing Indigenous permaculture techniques to create fertile soil and fill their baskets with bounty. In the lowlands and along the sea, Indigenous Peoples have artfully integrated their lifeways with the fragile desert ecology, managing their resources equitably and sustainably with complex

systems of taboo and traditional governance.

While generations of outsiders have set their sights on the ancestral lands and waters of the Indigenous Peoples of Chihuahua and Sonora the communities have proven to be immensely resilient and are today adapting to rapidly changing ecological, economic and political contexts by recognizing, re-valuing, and re-embracing traditional systems of stewardship for resources and cultural life. Our Northwest Mexico grantmaking program supports Indigenous and local communities in their efforts to revitalize traditional knowledge and practices for the effective self-management of land, water, foodways and health; to revive adaptive traditional agricultural systems and to enliven participation and engagement across generations in all facets of Indigenous cultural life. We support these communities of farmers, fishers, artisans and their allies to realize the promise of Mexico’s constitutional changes through the exercise and implementation of recognized Indigenous rights to food, health and homelands.

Primary Themes

Building on a decade of grantmaking in the region, the primary theme for our Northwest Mexico Program is Strengthening Indigenous Territorial Governance, which envisions vibrant Indigenous cultures fully participating in and meaningfully contributing towards a successful and plural Mexico. This vision includes:

  • Indigenous communities having real influence in designing agriculture, education, health and justice policies that affect them;
  • Indigenous Youth who are both ways educated, conversant in traditional land use techniques and traditional approaches to health while adept in modern methods and technology;
  • traditional governors and institutions able to influence actions and policies democratically, transparently and inclusively, with meaningful participation from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organizations.

Maintaining systems of traditional resource and territorial governance requires vibrant and continuing biocultural practices. For this reason the Northwest Mexico Program supports a wide array of biocultural programming, including:

  • traditional celebrations and multicultural exchanges
  • production, performance and distribution of cultural expressions including multimedia productions
  • culturally-appropriate education, strategic legal support and linking with national and international movements to promote Indigenous culture and rights
  • community networks and nodes of exchange to foster Indigenous-driven systems of health, food, education and justice

    Priority Landscapes of Focus

     Our grantmaking in Northwest Mexico is directed toward the following landscapes, alongside some support for regional, national and international convening and networking:

      Chihuahua Sierra Madre: This mountain landscape, also known as the Sierra Madre Occidental, is home to the Rarámuri, the Rarómari (the lowland sub-group of the Rarámuri) , Akimel O’odham (Pima), and Odami (Tepehuan) peoples, and hosts the largest complex system of canyons in the world comprised of the Copper, Sinforosa and Urique canyonlands. This “Mountain Mother of the West” is a rich refugia of North America’s agrobiodiversity. More than 90,000 Odami and Rarámuri farm over ten thousand hectares of traditional crops in this area – including a diversity of ancient and important varieties of maize – while they hunt, gather and graze their animals over a 2.2-million-hectare swath of territory. These farming communities and their allies are our main partners in Chihuahua.

      The Sonoran Desert-Gulf of California: The Mexican part of the bi-national Sonoran desert and Gulf of California sea- and landscapes are the traditional territory of seven Native communities, desert dwellers, riverine and coastal peoples. It covers about 7.5 million hectares of land in Sonora State and about 600 kilometers of coastline. With the greatest diversity of vegetative growth of any desert in the world, this region is a transition zone between temperate, tropical, and subtropical eco-regions. In the Southern part of Sonora Christensen partners with the Comcáac, the Yoeme, the Makurawe (Guarijío) and the Yóreme to sustain the diversity and productivity of their land and seascape management systems, which are proving to be critical to the overall ecological health of the region.

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      • Grant-seeking organizations need to be US 501(c)(3) or a similar not-for-profit organization, government unit, university or museum either in the USA or in another country
      • Grants within the regional programs are generally directed to organizations based within those regions or, where appropriate, to international organizations working in support of the efforts of people and institutions on the ground.


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