Underreported Struggles #68, November 2012
In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Himba And Zemba Peoples march against Namibia’s human rights violations; Alberta court dismisses Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s hope for proper consultation over Shell’s Jackpine mine expansion; Thousands of non-indigenous activists mobilize to support the Guarani-Kaiowá in Brazil
Shell Security Forces reportedly opened fire on a protesting Ogoni community in the Rivers State axis of Southern Nigeria. The community, Eleme, was protesting against the presence of some Shell officials at the Ebubu Oilfield. The protest led to a clash with security forces. Following the attack, eye witnesses say that Nigerian military arrived at Eleme to take control of the area. At the time of this writing, this is the sole report of these events.
Activists from across Canada and the world stepped forward in solidarity with the Unis’tot’en, who grabbed national headlines after evicting shale gas pipeline surveyors from their territories in the interior of BC. The Unis’tot’en have made it clear that no proposed pipelines will proceed in Unist’ot’en territories and that corporations, investors, and governments have no jurisdiction to approve development on their lands.
California’s coastal regulators rejected Pacific Gas and Electric’s plan to map earthquake faults–near a nuclear power plant–by using powerful Air Cannons along the sea floor, off the Central Coast of California. The regulators said the impact to sensitive marine mammals along the coast would be too great, and they felt the company did not make the case that such testing was necessary. The Chumash warned that the sonic blasts, would devastate the local marine ecosystem and possibly destroy fragile and sensitive Chumash cultural sites.
Hundreds of Himba And Zemba Peoples went on the march to protest against Namibia’s human rights violations, including the advancement of mining and hydro developments at the expense of their lands and livelihoods. On top of raising their concerns, the Himba And Zemba are demanding the right to choose their own representatives and leaders, and to be allowed to administer their internal affairs, including their territory, according to their own customary laws and traditional courts.
The US Forest Service has dusted off a twenty-six-year-old Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the “Canyon” uranium mine, one of several operable uranium mines inside the apparently-protected million-acre Grand Canyon watershed. More than that, they’ve already decided that no new environmental review is needed before the mothballed mine is allowed to reopen. The Havasupai Tribe is opposed to the Canadian-owned mine because it threatens to contaminate their sole source of water and desecrate Red Butte, one of the most sacred areas within their homeland.
Alberta’s Court of appeal dismissed Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s plea for a review concerning the Crown’s inadequate consultation before deciding to approve Shell’s Jackpine Mine expansion project. The First Nation is extremely disappointed and is currently reviewing their options to address the lack of adequate consultation with respect to Shell’s tar sands project.
The Peoples Permanent Tribunal released its verdict on the case of Mega Dams and Forced Evictions in Mexico. After hearing several days of testimony from effected communities, the PPT, an ethical opinion tribunal founded in 1979, criticized the Mexican government’s long-term failure to observe international human rights law and its own constitution. It also called for the authorities to cease the construction of the five dams still being built and fully compensate communities. Furthermore, it accused the National Water Commission and other federal authorities of corruption after they vetted dam construction despite community opposition and environmental concerns. The PPT will reside in Mexico until 2014 to hear the claims of Mexican civil society.
More than eighty Lumad leaders from around Mindanao issued a joint declaration reasserting their rights and urging all other stakeholders in Mindanao’s peace processes to let the Lumad Peoples live in peace. The Midsayap Declaration follows a four-day consultation that brought the Indigenous leaders together with the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to discuss the newly signed Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB). The agreement signals the beginning of “enduring peace” in Mindanao, where a war or independence raged for more than 3 decades, taking up to 150,000 lives in the process. The Lumad were caught in the middle.
An indigenous community in the Brazilian Amazon state of Para has cancelled a controversial deal that would have allowed an Irish company to sell carbon credits from a project to preserve its forests. The Munduruku tribe had sealed an agreement with Celestial Green Ventures earlier this year, guaranteeing it $4 mln per year over 30 years for supplying the Irish company the right to generate carbon credits on 2.3 million hectares of rainforest. The deal was being promoted by REDD-enthusiasts as an example of how Indigenous Peoples can benefit… no longer.
Indigenous Mongolian herders, who have been evicted from their land to make way for a Rio Tinto gold and copper mine, have lodged a complaint with the World Bank which is providing US$900 million of financial backing for the project. The herders have not been adequately compensated for their eviction and loss of herd since the project began, and have their free, prior and informed consent was not obtained in the process of undertaking the project.
Several opposition groups are calling for civil disobedience against Chile’s newly-proposed fishing law. According to them, the quota system would leave small-scale fishermen and indigenous communities without quotas, while gifting fishing quotas to several industrial businesses. The opposition group consists of the National Council for the Defense of Artisanal Fishing (Condepp) representing 50,000 fishermen throughout the country, Group for the Collective Rights for the Mapuche Community (GTDC), and Centro Ecocéanos, a civil and environmental awareness group.
Activists from around Brazil mobilized for a full two weeks to demonstrate in defense of the Guarani-Kaiowá–against their expulsion by the government. The unprecedented act of solidarity involved more than 50 events across Brazil, with other actions in Portugal, Germany and elsewhere. The Guarani-Kaiowá represent one of the largest indigenous Nations in Brazil; however, in recent decades they have been the target of constant attacks by the government and private landholders. With the controversial Decree 303 still on the table, even more attacks will be on the way for the Guarani-Kaiowá.
Russia’s Ministry of Justice ordered the closure of RAIPON, Russia’s biggest indigenous peoples organization. Russian officials claim that the closure is the result of unresolved conflicts between RAIPON’s charter/operations and federal law. However, many suspect that Russia just wants to get the NGO out of the way. RAIPON is one of the strongest barriers to companies that want to extract resources from Siberia. The NGO also plays an important role in several international groups including the Arctic Council, the IWGIA and the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
The Harper government is bending over backwards to terminate as many First Nations as it can, as quickly as it can do it. The fascistic plan involves at least eight new Bills that are being forwarded with little or no consultation with First Nations; a draconian policy scheme that could eliminate as many as 93 critical negotiation tables across the country; drastic and wide-spread funding cuts to First Nation regional and national political organizations; and the cancellation of funding for advisory services for First Nation Band and Tribal Councils.
Wixarika leaders have welcomed a new government proposal to declare a Biosphere Reserve in Wirikuta. However, they warn of inconsistencies and dangerous propaganda that is being instigated by First Majestic Silver, the Canadian mining company that wants to gut the sacred territory. Once again they demand to be included in the process as the government prepares to issue a final decree.
Githabul Elders warn that one of their sacred sites will be destroyed to make way for a new basalt quarry at Cedar Point in New South Wales, Australia. Githabul Elder Rob Williams said the site is used for ceremony and initiation of boys and that on-going men’s health is directly linked to its preservation. The site is currently privately owned by a family who has signed an agreement with Graham’s Concrete to extract the basalt.
In Mexico, the general assembly of the Zoque municipality of Santa María Chimalapa declared itself an autonomous municipality until the three branches of the Oaxaca government ratify the dismissal of the mayor and the cancellation of his powers in the municipality. In a public communique, the assembly denounced the behavior of the mayor, who has not “honestly and responsibly carried out his charges as assigned to him by the People.”
14 Yupiit fishermen, who were arrested in June for violating an Alaska state- and federal government-imposed fishing ban, are struggling to defend their inherent hunting and fishing rights. These rights that are supposed to be inalienable; but they were “extinguished” in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.
The Government of Manipur is threatening to forcefully evict and relocate the villagers of Chadong and Lamlai Khullen, in the Ukhrul District of Manipur, Northeast India, to make way for the Mapithel Dam. In response, the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization and the Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur are calling for urgent action from partners and allies around the world.
Indigenous leaders from Mexico, Brazil and Ecuador traveled to Sacramento, California to urge officials not to include an international REDD project in its Global Warming Solutions Act. The visitors to Sacramento told lawmakers that they are suffering harassment, intimidation and vandalism of their homes and offices for rejecting REDD-type projects.
Videos of the Month
First Nations and Canada – In this 48 minute presentation, the respected Nehiyaw (Cree) lawyer Sharon Venne explains the Harper government’s effort to unilaterally remodel Canada’s political landscape at the expense of all First Nations.
Navajo, Hopi, Zuni: Save the Confluence! – The Navajo (Dineh) group “Save the Confluence” are opposed to the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade project at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. This video explains why this area is sacred and should be preserved in its natural state.
Crisis In The Congo: Uncovering The Truth – Crisis in the Congo explores the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the country’s massive humanitarian crisis.
Flooding Hope – Explores the widely-ignored eviction of the Lake St. Martin First Nation from their territory in order to save some non-indigenous cottagers and farmers.