GWS2013: Native Participant Travel Grant Program



(Posted December 2: The deadline for applications has now passed.  Thanks for your interest in the Native Participant Travel Grant Program!)

Encouraging Native involvement in the GWS biennial conferences.

The George Wright Society, in partnership with several funders, offers travel grants to support the participation of Native people at GWS2013. Since its beginnings in 2007, the NPTG program has enabled over 50 Native people to attend past GWS conferences. 


Why are these grants being offered?

Native people have always protected their homelands, and the example of Native stewardship over the course of centuries provides a standard of care that, we think, can and should inform the management of contemporary protected areas and cultural sites.  The GWS would like to promote a continuing conversation between Native and non-Native people involved in placed-based stewardship of natural and cultural heritage. In addition, we want to offer opportunities for Native people to network among themselves.

The interface between Native interests and parks, protected areas, and cultural sites is a realm of great ferment, both in terms of policy and philosophy. To have genuine and critically enriching dialogue, there must be face-to-face engagement between Native and non-Native people.  This dialogue can lead to multi-directional learning, improved relationships, new conservation strategies, and expanded vision and planning. The GWS hopes to facilitate this dialogue by offering these travel grants.


What does the GWS Conference offer to Native people?

The GWS conferences date back to 1983.  In the past few years — based on feedback from Native attendees — we have made changes to our conference program in order to make sessions more relevant to indigenous people.  Since 2007, we have convened a Native Involvement Working Group to help plan Native-related activities at the conference.  The working group, which is composed mostly or entirely of Native people, functions as a subcommittee of the larger conference planning committee. The working group helps develop innovative sessions and activities around Native interests, such as:

  • A preconference welcoming/orientation session for Native attendees, with a traditional blessing/welcome from a representative of the people on whose lands we are meeting.
  •  A plenary or other high-profile session headlined by Native people.
  • Papers/sessions focused on tribally run protected areas, traditional indigenous ecological knowledge, sacred natural sites, community-conserved areas, traditional cultural properties, indigenous ethnography, etc.
  • "Sharing Circles" — an alternative to the standard lecturer-audience model of teaching, one that is more in line with traditional indigenous ways of knowing and learning.
  • An evening Native Film Night or other social activity.

Of course, in addition to these activities Native attendees have full access to the rest of the conference, which consists of 150–200 sessions over the course of the conference week.  The GWS Conference is a premier opportunity for Native professionals, community activists, and other leaders to engage with the cutting edge of protected area conservation.

Does attending the GWS Conference really make a difference?

Based on the feedback we have gotten from recent Native attendees, the answer is "yes."  Here, you can read the words of one recent attendee, Deanna Beacham (Weapemeoc), who says that attending GWS2011 "genuinely has determined my future."


Who is eligible to apply?

Indigenous people from Canada, Mexico, or the USA (including US Territories) who are involved in the protection, management, or study of land, its biological/cultural systems and features, or Native land rights. “Indigenous people” in this context includes people identifying themselves as American Indians, Alaska Natives, indigenous Mexicans, First Nations, Métis, Native Hawaiians, Inuit, and Aboriginals. We regret that we are not able to support attendance of indigenous people from outside of Canada, Mexico, and the USA.

These travel grants are for non-students only. If you are an indigenous person and are either (1) a full-time student at a 4-year institution, OR (2) a student at a 2-year minority-serving institution, including tribal colleges, you can apply for a George Melendez Wright Student Travel Scholarship.


How are grant winners selected?

An evaluation committee (the majority of whom are Native people) will award the grants based on a review of applications. Preference may be given to individuals who have submitted abstracts to give presentations at the conference. Financial need and geographical/cultural representation will also be considered.


What do the grants cover, and how much are they?

Grants consist of a registration fee waiver, a stipend to underwrite partial costs of the recipient's travel to the conference, and a year's complimentary membership in the GWS. The amount of the grants will vary.  


When are grants issued?

Grants will be disbursed by check (in US dollars) at the conference. No advance payments can be made, and any currency exchange fees applied to the check by the recipient’s home bank will be the responsibility of the recipient. Grant recipients may also be required to submit copies of their travel itinerary and receipts prior to the time of disbursement.


How do I apply?

(Posted December 2: The deadline for applications has now passed.  Thanks for your interest in the Native Participant Travel Grant Program!)  Winners will be notified no later than mid-January 2013.



Call the GWS office at +1-906-487-9722 or write to