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Underreported Struggles #65, August 2012

by on September 3, 2012
 

In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Tahltan set up roadblock against the Red Chris Mine; China announces plan for a $4.7 billion Tibetan theme park; Bangladesh suppresses Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations; Dongria Kondh renew opposition to UK mining company.

August 2012

There is grave concern surrounding the safety of Garifunas who are taking part in a new land recuperation project in the region of Vallecito, Honduras. The Garifunas possesses legal ownership title to the land, however, there are many outside interests who want the land for themselves, including agri-business oligarchs like Miguel Facusse (the largest landholder in Honduras). According to Honduras Resists, paramilitaries have since mobilized on motorcycles and 4 x 4 vehicles. Armed to the teeth, the paramilitaries appear to be ready for a Garifuna massacre.

Concerned members of the Tahltan Nation have set up a road block in opposition to the Red Chris Mine, a project that is being constructed in a senstive area that’s home to many species of animals including Stone Sheep, Mountain Goat, Moose and Caribou. The Tahltans depend upon these animals for subsistence and believe that the mine will destroy the animal’s habitat and calving grounds that is sacred to the Tahltans.

The fight for the rights of the indigenous San people in Namibia received a major boost with the formation of the San Support Organisations’ Association of Namibia (SSOAN). SSOAN brings together international, national and community-based NGOs, multilateral and bilateral donors, and research and training institutions to promote the rights of the San in Namibia, improve coordination of the various San support initiatives and harmonize the approaches to San development.

An entire Yanomami community is believed to have been wiped out by illegal gold miners (garimpeiros) in southern Venezuela near the border with Brazil. An initial investigation led by local Yanomami uncovered the remains of several charred bodies, prompting the government to carry out its own official investigation. That investigation came to a close after a mere two days. The investigators, unable to find any kind of evidence, abandoned their search. It’s important to note that, while they didn’t find any proof of a massacre, they also didn’t find the village where the massacre reportedly took place. The government has since issued a formal statement claiming that the whole thing was a media plot aimed at causing ‘uncertainty.’

The Chinese government recently announced that it intends to launch a USD $4.7 billion theme park project in Tibet to attract tourists. The Tibetan Theme Park – located on the outskirts of the city of Lhasa – will occupy some 800 hectares of land. Tibetans have described the project as the “Disneyfication of Tibet“ rather than a genuine sharing and preservation of Tibetan culture.

The Dongria Kondh, who’ve all but faded away from the international community’s gaze, renewed their opposition to Vedanta Resources’ plan to mine a sacred mountain for bauxite. Ahead of Vedanta’s AGM in London, the Dongria Kondh sent a strong message to the company’s chairman Anil Agarwal, “Even if Anil Agarwal himself comes here, we won’t leave our land. We will use all our strength to make them leave this place. Let us live our lives in peace”.

The Lower Elwa Klallam, a federally recognized Indigenous Nation located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, have had much to celebrate in the last month: the discovery of a ‘Legendary’ sacred site, the uncovering of archaeological evidence for ancient inhabitation of the Elwha river area, and the return of the salmon run to the Elwha’s middle range. All of this has been able to take place because of the removal of an almost-century-old dam.

The Aché community of Kue Tuvy reported that peasant groups are attempting to seize portions of their ancestral lands in northeastern Paraguay. According to the community, the peasant groups are also engaging in illegal logging activities and they are threatening to kill any Aché who try to stop it. Journalists who have attempted to cover the story on the ground have also been threatened.

A Barabaig community in Tanzania has teamed up with the Indigenous Knowledge Project (IKP) to develop a sustainable economy that works for the people. The initiative is a rarity, founded on the ideals of sharing, autonomy, participation and sustainability. In the words of IKP co-founder Heather Cruise, it has to be “heart-to-heart, grass roots, participatory.” In this special series, Intercontinental Cry takes a look at the project, its purpose and the people involved in it.

The Guarani community of Arroio Korá was attacked by a group of gunmen in southwestern Brazil. According to available reports, the gunmen terrorized the community for several hours, shooting guns, shouting threats and burning crops in an attempt to expel the community from their ancestral lands. One community member was dragged away during the attack and has not been seen since. According to the community, the gunmen spent “hours” terrorizing the community, shooting their weapons, shouting threats and burning crops. One indigenous person, Eduardo Pires, was also kidnapped by the gunmen. He has not been since.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) accepted the Nigerian government’s Hydro-carbon Pollution Restoration Programme (HYPREP) for the clean-up and restoration of areas devastated by oil pollution in the Niger Delta. A major question remains however, among the Ogoni Peoples and all international observers: will the government carry out the programme, or will it fade into nothing? Time will tell.

The Ktunaxa Nation is attempting to challenge the British Colombia government’s recent approval of a controversial year-round ski resort that will sit in Qat’muk (GOT-MOOK), a profoundly sacred area to the Ktunaxa Peoples in southeastern British Columbia.The Ktunaxa are now in the process of applying for Judicial Review of the approval.

An International Fact-Finding Mission (IFFM) recently confirmed that the Philippines-based A. Brown Company, Inc. never had the right to open a palm oil plantation in Opol, Misamis Oriental in Southern Philippines, where it displaced hundreds of families from the Higaonon Peoples. The IFFM has since issued a call for A Brown to immediately pull-out of Opol and respect the farmers’ and indigenous peoples’ right to their ancestral lands.

The Canadian government is getting ready to introduce legislation that would allow individuals to own private property on reserves, effectively abrogating collective ownership of reserve land for any First Nations that adopts the law. The government claims this will encourage economic development; but the reality is far less economical. As Pam Palmater observes, the new law will open the floodgates for the gradual takeover of indigenous lands by non-First Nations peoples, including land-holding companies, banks, corporations; heck, even bored Canadians looking for an adventure!

Three indigenous Mapuche women occupied the UNICEF headquarters in Santiago, Chile for over one week. The women were requesting that the organization ask the Ministry of Interior to withdraw police forces from Mapuche communities in southern Chile.
The Bangladesh government placed an official embargo on the celebrations of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Aug 9. Despite the imposed restriction, however, Indigenous Peoples throughout the country attempted to celebrate the event. At least one clash followed in Joypurhat district, with police carrying out baton charges on a group of peaceful protesters. Elsewhere in Bangladesh, police set up blockades to prevent people from reaching any celebrations.

Bangladesh wasn’t the only government to lash out against Indigenous Peoples on the International Day. Indonesia similarly Indonesia refused to let Papuans take part in any kind of celebrations; and when Papuan leaders in Serui proceeded to move forward with their plans anyways, they too were confronted. On Aug 9, the combined forces of Brimob (Police Mobile Brigade), Densus 88 and TNI (Indonesian Army) blocked access to Mantembu District and destroyed several houses. At least eleven people were arrested, including a pregnant woman. Elsewhere, peaceful demonstrators were terrorized by the police, forcing many to seek refuge in the jungle.

Videos of the Month

The Demarest Factor – This film is part of an ongoing investigation which has exposed US military mapping of communally owned indigenous land in the Southern Sierra in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Unis’tot’en Action Camp – This is the second video subMedia.tv has produced about the struggle to stop a natural gas transport project called the Pacific Trails Pipeline or PTP.

La Badil (No Other Choice) – a new documentary that was filmed undercover in the Moroccan controlled territories of Western Sahara, on the eve of the second anniversary of the 2010 uprisings at Gdeim Izik.

Broken Anvil – Broken Anvil takes you deep inside the Miskitu coast of Honduras, to ground zero of the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.)’s Operation Anvil in which four innocent people were killed.

 
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  • September 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    So what it comes down to is either civil society mobilizes against indigenous genocide, as it did against slavery and apartheid, or indigenous peoples will perish. The neoliberal options of becoming either a caricature or a corpse, of course, are not an accident, but rather a logical consequence of EU, US, and UN policies against collective ownership. With the accelerated theft of indigenous properties, instigated by the IMF and World Bank, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is becoming a tragic farce. Were it not so, we could expect UN peacekeepers to defend indigenous communities, rather stand aside while organized violence by NATO, state and federal police, and domestic paramilitaries wipe them out.

    Reply

  • ajit vadakayil
    September 6, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Hi,
    Punch into google search BAUXITE MINING, NAXALITE MENACE, JOSHUA CONSPIRACY- VADAKAYIL.
    Find out who is bleeding india.
    Find out the stake of Church of England in Vedanta.
    Be shocked!
    Check out how to uproot naxalite menace for ever.
    Capt ajit ajit vadakayil
    ..

    Reply

  • September 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I’ve been thinking alot about your words, Jay. I completely agree that a serious mobilization could/would make all the difference in the world. The question is, how do we make it happen given how fickle, compartmentalized and myopic civil society is (especially when it comes to international solidarity)?

    Reply

  • September 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    By mobilize I mean both resources and the networks that need resources to function. People often mistakenly think mobilizing means organizing large demonstrations or spectacular events, but in my experience effectiveness depends more on strategic use of resources and networks of committed individuals engaged in research, education and communication–much as we’ve done at Public Good Project. As people shed the illusion of institutional protection through philanthropic foundations and large NGOs — that largely consist of public relations marketing and little else — they might come to realize that contributing regular donations to networks is a better way to go. When they begin doing that in large enough numbers, researchers, analysts, activists and independent journalists will have the means to sustain the human rights movement, including that of indigenous peoples.

    Reply

    • September 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks for the clarification, Jay. I was thinking along the lines of a solidarity movement that would help pressure governments, corporations, and institutions into doing the right thing. That too would have to be a strategic effort; the ‘whatever we want’ approach that most NGOs and activists use is extremely ineffective and unpredictable.

      Back to what you are saying, I think it still begs the question: how do we go about getting people to start giving resources to the networks (and even the campaigns) that need it? One thing’s for sure, they would need to be directed to those networks.


  • September 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    It’s mostly a learning curve for well-meaning people who’ve never personally experienced organized conflict firsthand. What most have experienced is secondhand participation — mostly through writing checks or letters to the editor or marching in some parade — in public diplomacy. What some have cynically referred to as “whining their way to power.”

    It doesn’t work, of course, but it feeds into their sense of pseudo-revolutionary identity, and it is relatively risk free since it poses no threat to the powers that be. This ineffectiveness is apparently fine since these people aren’t the ones fighting for their lives, as are most Indigenous peoples. For them, playacting is an unaffordable luxury.

    Since global conflicts between Indigenous societies and institutions that do the bidding of markets are life and death struggles — not good faith negotiations — those who approach these conflicts for what they are are more likely to succeed. While pressuring institutions to enforce and live by international humanitarian law is good, it is far from enough, given the zero sum game of the Fourth World war.

    Our networks and efforts are no secret, but as long as liberals are politically illiterate and organizationally infantile, they will continue doing what the philanthropic sector and other institutions (like most unions) tell them to. As liberals begin to see their privileges and security crumble, they might start looking for answers elsewhere. When they do, networks like ours are ready to educate them so they can organize more effectively.

    One hopeful sign is independent media like Real News and IC, as is popularly accessible analysis as exemplified by Wrong Kind of Green, where the non-profit industrial complex is rightly and roundly criticized.

    Reply

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