The Investors and Indigenous Peoples Working Group (IIPWG) is a pioneering, global coalition of Native and Non-Native professionals. For more than 15 years, the group has led shareholder advocacy and other direct engagement to forward the rights of Indigenous Peoples in capital markets.
IIPWG priorities are to ensure Indigenous Peoples' free, prior and informed consent in investment and finance projects, build corporate and investor support for Indian Country, address the impact of extractive industries on the environment and Indigenous communities, and to end the use of racist images, stereotypes, and cultural appropriation in business and sports. Action encompasses shareholder advocacy, proxy voting, and educational resource development in partnership between investors and Indigenous Peoples.
First Peoples Worldwide has worked with IIPWG since the coalition first came together in 2006, and in August 2020 was named secretariat. In this capacity, First Peoples coordinates monthly calls that parse time-critical issues affecting Indigenous communities, gathers resources and relevant news updates for the group, and promotes participation and informational presentations at relevant events.
Most recently, First Peoples has worked with IIPWG members to coordinate a number of high-level campaigns, including:
- In 2017, investors representing over $685 billion AUM called on banks financing DAPL to address requests from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to reroute the pipeline from their treaty territory. Resulting divestments helped push the estimated $3.8 billion project to costs and material losses of over $12 billion, a figure that continues to increase in 2020.
- In 2019, a letter from institutional investors representing $1.2 trillion AUM called for the Equator Principles Association to correct deeply flawed draft revisions to their project finance guidelines.
- In 2020, following national calls for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd, members of IIPWG sent letters to the Washington Football Team sponsors FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo to demand the team change its racist name. The initiative was built on consistent direct engagement by IIPWG since 2009, as well as over 50 years of Native-led engagement on the issue. The team officially retired its name on July 13.
Yethiya wihe’ - We All Give to Them / We All Invest in Them
The Native name of IIPWG is Yethiya wihe’, meaning “We all give to them/We all invest in them” in the Oneida language. The Oneida Nation has long been an integral part of IIPWG, beginning with the work of founding member and former co-chair Susan White.
Before her untimely death in 2018, White was the Trust and Enrollments Director for the Oneida Nation, who spearheaded enduring efforts to promote sustainable and responsible investing in Indian Country. Her advocacy on behalf of the Oneida Nation to protect water, land, and Indigenous Peoples achieved powerful results and was recognized by the SRI Conference Service Award and the Harvard University Honoring Nations American Indian Economic Development Award.
“Throughout the field of economic development in Indian Country, there is a tireless and fiercely strong collective of Native women leading the charge for resilience and community improvement. Susan was foremost among them,” says First Peoples Director Carla Fredericks. “I treasure the time I was able to spend and work with Susan, and everyday I try to carry forth her exuberance, her kindness and her belief in the ability of all people to come together to create a better world.”
In honor of White, the Susan White Yethiya wihe Fund was created to provide support for First Peoples Worldwide.
IIPWG holds monthly calls that serve as a clearinghouse for education, news, and joint action to bridge and bring together Native and Non-Native communities on issues related to sustainable and responsible investing. Learn more.