Underreported Struggles #64, July 2012
In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Navajo Nation Council votes down controversial water settlement agreement; Mongol herders protest against China’s resettlement plan; Nasa Peoples attempt to demilitarize traditional lands in Colombia.
The indigenous Nasa Peoples carried out a peaceful but daring effort to demilitarize their traditional lands in Cacua, Colombia. In one confrontation, the Nasa removed police trenches from an urban center and disassembled homemade FARC missiles found on their lands. Days later, Nasa forcibly removed troops from El Berlin’s mountaintop base. The Nasa were responding to a week of intense battles between Colombia’s armed forces and the FARC. It is but the latest in a long list of such encounters in a war that has stricken the Nasa to constant anguish, exploitation and abuse. Despite the effort, Colombia is now preparing to increase its military presence in the region.
Members of the Innu First Nation and the Nulhegan Abenaki were denied access to the 36th Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. While governors and premiers were discussing access to renewable energy, representatives of both Indigenous Nations entered the Hilton Hotel and asked to speak and have a seat at the table. The delegation traveled to the conference because of Hydro-Quebec development on the La Romaine River and the Plan Nord. Despite being stakeholders in these projects (who have not been consulted), the delegation was turned down.
Representatives of the Taos Land Trust have officially returned the Ponce de León Hot Springs to the Taos Pueblo Tribe. The sacred site has been used by Taos Pueblo for ceremonial activities since time immemorial. For more than a century, however, the 44-acre area had been in the hands of private landowners. According to a press release, Taos Land Trust, a local land conservation organization, received funding in 1997 to acquire the property from private landowners, to protect it from commercial development. After a 15-year search for the best entity to preserve the land and its natural and cultural resources, the organization has now transferred legal ownership to the Taos Pueblo, returning the site to its original indigenous owners.
Hudreds of Nagri villagers are struggling to regain their agriculture lands from the State of India. Vast portions of the usurped lands have been handed over to the Birsa Agriculture University, a Law University and two separate Indian Institutes. The irony, of course, is that the government had the choice to use uncultivatable land that no one would have contested; but they deliberately chose to take the Nagri’s land, which they depend on for culture and subsistence. After taking matters into the their own hands, the unarmed Nagri villagers (mostly women) were assaulted and charged with various crimes, including attempted murder.
The Sarayaku people, after waiting patiently for nine years, have welcomed with open arms a decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The court has declared that Ecuador is responsible under international law for the violation of Sarayaku’s rights to prior consultation, communal property, life, judicial protection, and other important rights. The Sarayaku say they will now closely monitor Ecuador’s compliance with the sentence and ensure that indigenous peoples’ territories be respected in the face of damaging extractive industries such as oil drilling.
The Penan people in Sarawak issued a statement against the activities of the Malaysian-based multinational logging and timber products company Ta Ann. According to the statement, Ta Ann is leasing their land for logging without prior consent or knowledge by the indigenous Sarawakians. The Huon Valley Environment Centre also released a letter fingerprinted by Penan people stating they want Ta Ann off their land. It is an unprecedented show of opposition to the company.
Mapuche leaders have warned of the presence of paramilitary groups in the Chilean Araucania region, acting surreptitiously to blame the Mapuche community for violent acts. Spokesman for the autonomous Temucuicui community of Ercilla town, Jorge Huenchullan, denounced that “the paramilitaries are the children of farmers and retired police officers that are frightening us and generating this type of situations in order to accuse the Mapuche communities.” Local analysts have issued similar warnings that private business people and big landowners are moving to declare a sort of siege on the Araucania in order to serve their interests.
Newly announced plans by China’s central government for the “resettlement” of the last remaining nomads have sparked protests in Inner Mongolia, with traditional Mongol herders accusing authorities of the illegal expropriation of grazing lands for development projects. At least four protests by Mongol herders have been reported over the last month.
Judges at The Peoples’ International Health Tribunal delivered their verdict on the case of Goldcorp’s mining operations in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. After listening to hours of testimony from affected community members about the negative social, physical, psychological and environmental impacts of Goldcorp‘s mining operations, the distinguished panel of judges found Goldcorp Guilty in all three countries. You can read the final verdict over at Health Tribunal’s website.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake won a significant victory in their long-time struggle to secure their land rights and protect the environment. Following protests and a solid letter writing campaign aimed at Resolute Forest Products, Premier Jean Charest, the Quebec government and forestry company agreed to respect an aspect of the 1991 Trilateral agreement by harmonizing logging with Barriere Lake’s use of their lands. This means logging is no longer allowed to happen where the community has hunting cabins, in areas of moose and bear habitat, sacred areas, medicinal sites and many other areas of concern to the community.
The regional government of the Altai Republic reviewed and passed a new decree to protect sacred sites from being wrongfully damaged or destroyed. “Essentially, through this decree, the governor of the Altai Republic is instructing local authorities to make laws to protect these sacred sites which are being threatened by the construction of a gas pipeline by the Russia’s natural gas company Gazprom,” says Cultural Survival. “The pipeline across the Ukok Plateau has been called a ‘moral violence against people,’ by Urmat Knyazev, a deputy in the Altai republic’s legislative assembly.”
About 60 Munduruku indigenous people burned down a police station in the Brazilian state of Para following the release of two suspects in the murder of a fellow citizen who was killed in an armed robbery last month.
The Navajo Nation Council unexpectedly voted down the controversial Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement Agreement. Navajos opposed to the settlement say it is a scheme devised by Arizona senators, corrupt politicians and non-Indian attorneys to steal Navajo water rights for the Navajo Generating Station, one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the US, and for non-Indians in Arizona to continue their lavish lifestyles.
India’s Supreme Court banned all commercial and tourism activity near the Jarawa‘s ancestral territory in the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian Ocean. The order, which bars hotels and resorts from operating within a 5km buffer zone around the Jarawa reserve, follows a short-lived media controversy in which people were filmed viewing and treating Jarawa women and children like trained zoo animals.
The M’Chigeeng First Nation turned on the switch to its 4MW Mother Earth Renewable Energy (MERE) wind project, one of 16 new renewable energy projects currently being built by Ontario First Nations. Close to 500 people attended the opening of the wind farm which overlooks West Bay on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron.
Tibet activists and supporters joined 400,000 people in the streets of Hong Kong in a protest rally against Hu Jintao, who was visiting the business hub to commemorate the 15th anniversary of its handover to China. “Chinese President Hu has tried – and failed – to convince the world that China is more open and democratic and that Tibetans are somehow prospering under Chinese rule,” said Dorothy Hui, one of the organizers in Hong Kong. “His brutal and violent occupation of Tibet, and abuses committed against his own people, clearly show the truth that China remains an unchanged, repressive and authoritarian state.”
Indonesian Police in West Papua refused to let an inter-faith prayer take place in the city of Jayapura, in response to the security situation in Papua during the months of May and June. The goal of the joint prayer meeting was to promote brotherhood between the Papuan people of all religions, for democracy and to avoid horizontal conflicts.
Videos of the Month
No Mining on Sewepemc Lands – An interview with Secwepemc Elder Irene Billy, most well-known for her defense of Indigenous land rights when she was arrested in 2001 for protesting Sun Peaks Resort. In this video she speaks about mining on Secwepemc lands.
Justice for Tataskweyak Cree Nation – The Tataskweyak Justice Alliance explains some of the serious issues facing the people of Tataskweyak Cree Nation at Split Lake, Manitoba.
Urgent message from the Zapatistas of San Marcos Avilés – This video relays an urgent message from the Zapatistas of San Marcos Avilés. The Video is in Tzeltal with English and Spanish subtitles. Below, a message from the Other Campaign (La Otra Campaña) New York.