This profile was prepared when Dune Lankard was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Dune is conserving precious ecosystems by restoring Native control over land and developing new economic incentives for conservation. These tools include: payments which offset the economic “benefits” of clear cutting and strip mining, local philanthropic models, and coalitions that bring together local and national support for a new look at conservation. Among the organizations under the umbrella of his Cultural Conservation Initiative (CCI) are the Native Conservancy Land Trust (NCLT), the Eyak Preservation Council (EPC), and the Fund for Indigenous Rights and the Environment (FIRE Fund). Initially focused on his own Eyak tribe, Dune is now working to educate and engage younger generations and indigenous people outside Alaska, so that their problems are collectively shared and their solutions sustainable. For the native corporations which own the land, Dune’s solutions are more powerful than any act of civil disobedience. They are implemented through an integrated web of organizations and coalitions that address the legal, political, environmental, and most importantly, the financial angles of the problem. For thousands of years Native Alaskans have relied on their traditional knowledge of the sea, ice, land, and animals to thrive in a harsh environment. The plentiful natural resources of Alaska provide a basis for the survival of these communities. By convincing Native communities and policymakers that it is in their long-term economic interest to preserve renewable sources of food, energy and water, Dune is helping indigenous peoples protect some of the world’s last wild places with strategies that are environmentally, culturally and economically sound.