First Stewards: Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples & Us
Climate change and global sustainability are issues that all of us live with, and yet few manage to contribute to the conversation. Recently, MSLGROUP‘s creative studio PBJS was given the opportunity to help raise awareness of these critical issues by The Nature Conservancy of Washington.
PBJS Seattle was asked to conceive the name, messaging and visual identity for an unique event: the first ever, national-level, climate change symposium that would focus on indigenous coastal culture. We named the event First Stewards in recognition of the ownership felt by indigenous peoples such as the Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro and Refaluwasch for their native lands. This is what they have to say:
“The very fabric of indigenous societies is threatened by the over-development of coastlines; alteration of freshwater streams and lakes; destruction of life-giving watersheds; destruction of reefs; and the decline of marine and terrestrial species. These have been exacerbated by climate change, creating astonishing changes in coastal natural systems that indigenous cultures are witnessing.”
The Event: First Stewards
First Stewards: Indigenous Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change was held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., between July 17-20, 2012. It brought together climate experts, policymakers and tribal leaders from all over North America – from Hawaii to New England, underscoring the urgency of climate impact on their lands, resources and lives.
The event was hosted by the Hoh Tribe and the Makah, Quileute and Quinault Indian Nations, and co-sponsored by illustrious bodies such as the NMAI, NOAA, National Marine Sanctuaries and The Nature Conservancy.
We used an original illustration of a feather as the identity of the event. The feather evokes a familiarity with coastal ecologies for indigenous people; it connects them directly to the current climate conversation.
We then commissioned portraits of tribal leaders attending the symposium, taken by celebrity photographer and director John Keatley. He has photographed Bill Gates for Forbes, Michael Arrington and Sarah Palin among others. You must visit his blog for stunning photographs of people and places.
Our goal in commissioning the portraits, for which John very kindly donated his services, was to disrupt the conventional representation of Native Americans. We wanted imagery that is contemporary, bold and representative of the tribal leaders on the organizing committee of this event.
We also used aerial coastal landscape photographs, and overlaid them with strong sans-serif fonts to perfect the bold look and feel of the event. Take a look at more of our work at Firststewards.org
The First Stewards symposium ended successfully, bringing hundreds of influencers together in a vital and continuing climate dialogue. The event also galvanized the creation of a non-profit organization called First Stewards 501©3 non-profit organization, which recently sent a resolution to US President Obama calling for them to be consulted in matters of U.S. climate policy.