The Yurok Tribe receives the Equator Prize in recognition of sustainable development leadership in California and beyond


We are excited to spread the news that the California-based Yurok Tribe is a 2019 Equator Prize Winner.

The Equator Prize recognizes extraordinary community-based initiatives for their efforts in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Yurok Tribe joins the ranks of over 200 Equator Prize winners selected by United Nations Development Program over the past fifteen years.

The Yurok Tribe, along with 21 other winners, was selected from a pool of nearly 850 nominated initiatives − all outstanding examples of local, nature-based solutions to the challenges of sustainable development and climate change.

With more than 5000 members, the Yurok Tribe is currently the largest Tribe in California. For millennia, the Yurok People have inhabited and sustainably managed the forests, rivers and coastline of northern California. Today, their mission is to continue their stewardship of the Yurok lands, while exercising their sovereign rights, preserving their culture, reacquiring their ancestral territories and promoting economic development for the Tribe.

The Yurok Tribe is a leader in sustainable development, recognized both local and globally. They successfully fought for removal of four dams along the lower Klamath River to help restore dwindling salmon populations that are central to the Yurok livelihoods and culture. In 2011, the Yurok Tribe became the first tribe to partner with the state of California as part of the domestic forestry offsets program initiated under California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Through this program, the Yurok Tribe’s sustainably managed forest projects not only contribute to California’s climate change mitigation efforts, but also bring important financial benefits to the Tribe that support a range of initiatives advancing the Tribe’s goals for sustainable livelihoods and territorial security.

Beyond California, the Yurok Tribe has cultivated alliances with indigenous and local community organizations, government representatives and civil society organizations in the Global South. As part of their outreach efforts, the Tribe has hosted delegations eager to learn more about their experiences in advancing their goal of tribal sovereignty, cultural resilience, improved well-being and food security.

In 2017, Earth Innovation Institute was proud to partner with the Yurok Tribe to bring leaders from indigenous and local community organizations, subnational governments and civil society organization in the Tropics to the Yurok Territory to advance collaboration for sustainable development. Since then, the Yurok Tribe has become a reference point and inspiration for many of those participating organizations, and shown the immense power of partnerships in tackling deforestation and climate change.

By honoring and recognizing the Yurok Tribe, we hope that the Equator Prize inspires more people to learn more about their work for the Yurok people and the planet.

Javier Kinney is the Director of the Office of Self Governance of the Yurok Tribe in California. In this interview with EII, Javier discusses indigenous autonomy and the importance of indigenous peoples in having a seat at decision-making tables. He also discusses the Yurok Tribe’s involvement in the California’s carbon market in order to reclaim its ancestral territory.