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Photos/fotos: Claudia Andujar, Claudia Andujar, Mara Bi, Liliana Merizalde Pablo Albarenga, Yanda Twaru, João Paulo Guimarães - Casa NINJA Amazônia, Edgar Xakriabá Edgar Xakriabá, Edgar Xakriabá, Morena Joachin Perez, Pablo Albarenga

Indigenous media presence refers to the Indigenous demand to be seen, heard and known by the international community using both local and global media platforms. It also concerns the communication of cultural, linguistic, political, spiritual and environmental priorities and sensibilities of Indigenous Peoples, particularly regarding the fast-changing conditions of life within Indigenous Territories.

There is a rapidly growing appetite for narratives and images of the climate crisis related to endangered forests and Indigenous communities. However, inconsiderate media publication risks simplifying and sensationalising a complex story narrative while also isolating and burdening these communities with a responsibility to protect primary forests. Well-meaning but uncritical production and consumption of imagery in this context presents enormous risks and is also a lost opportunity for self-determination and lasting climate solutions. 

These eight principles were prepared by a team of researchers, with inputs from Climate Visuals, If Not Us Then Who, Nicolas Salazar Sutil, Jaye Renold and Leah Rangi. This online resource is based on a detailed report that contains a literature review and draws on conversations held with Indigenous leaders and photographers, media stakeholders and NGOs in 10 different countries.

Nantu is an indigenous young man from the Achuar Nation of Ecuador who leads a project of solar-powered river boats for collective transport. By installing solar panels on a specially designed boat’s roof, he is working to end Achuar’s dependence on petrol. Left: On his land, Nantu lies dressed with traditional Achuar clothing. Right: the pristine rainforest from the Achuar territory. Sharamentsa, Pastaza, Ecuador.

The research team set the frame of this project in response to the need for a best-practice guide. We set its geographic scope, of Central and South America, to focus our finite research resources on producing a set of broad yet pragmatic recommendations. These address the common issues identified by members of the diverse communities interviewed and consulted as part of this research process. 

The authors recommend that new primary or participatory research be urgently completed into parallel issues faced by Indigenous communities of Southeast Asia or in a global context – recognising that some of our existing recommendations may be applicable once verified.  Further, the authors considered incorporating advice on depictions of charismatic animal life; however, for reasons of scope, the present research focuses on forest protection within the context of land and climate justice from an Indigenous perspective.

EN: Tawna_Yanda Inayuk and Oscar Montahuano teach Piatsau Montahuano how to use a camera to capture jungle landscapes. (Sapara family). ES: Yanda Inayuk y Oscar Montahuano le enseñan a Piatsau Montahuano como usar una cámara para capturar paisajes selváticos (Familia Sapara). PT: Yanda Inayuk e Oscar Montahuano ensinam a Piatsau Montahuano como usar uma câmera para fotografar paisagens da selva (Família Sapara).

We conclude that the challenge and opportunity ahead is not how to simply improve representation but how to achieve a lasting, positive, and impactful media presence for Indigenous Peoples. Existing media representation, although well-meaning, poses significant risks, particularly through stereotyping and sensationalism; as does the continued exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from territorial, political, legal, academic, and other forms of self-determination.

The long-form report is also referenced within each principle, including hyperlinks to specific chapters of note.

Project team

Toby Smith – Project executive, Climate Outreach Visuals and Media Lead

Nicolas Salazar Sutil – Research consultant and contributing author

Jaye Renold – Picture research and contributing author

If Not Us Then Who – Stakeholder mapping and consultancy 

Kate Heath –  Project manager, Climate Outreach

Leah Rangi – Research and design advisory consultant

Ana Suzina – External reviewer and translator (Portuguese)

Ricardo Yáñez – Translator (Spanish)

Meeran Yousuf – Communications coordinator, Climate Outreach

Nuri Syed Corser – Communications coordinator, Climate Outreach

Leane de Laigue – Communications Lead, Climate Outreach

This resource draws on conversations held with Indigenous leaders and photographers, media stakeholders and NGOs in 10 countries in Central and South America.