The Indigenous Rights Report

The Indigenous Rights Report is a weekly crash course on everything in the indigenous world.

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Indigenous Rights Report

Indigenous Rights Report

Issue #11 / Aug 31-Sept 6, 2019
West Papua, 2019

In this week’s Indigenous Rights Report:

  • Six West Papuan protesters killed by Indonesian police
  • Indigenous culture and technology is starting to be included in the story of Canadian science
  • Moratorium on deep sea mining welcomed in Papua New Guinea
  • Global Day of Action for the Amazon: Activations across six continents
  • Manitoba Metis Federation responds to continued Conservative party attacks
  • Scholar focuses on how Indigenous issues are covered in media
  • New Calgary Indigenous Court to follow peacemaking approach
  • Indigenous youth are fighting Indonesia’s fires
  • Kichwa win major victory against hydro dam after judge gets arrested
  • Far-right extremists appropriate Indigenous struggles for violent ends
  • Jair Bolsonaro seeks to open scores of military schools in the Amazon
  • Tribunal orders Canada to compensate First Nations children for ‘wilfull and reckless’ discrimination
  • Finland to set up Truth Commission for the Sami peoples
  • Indigenous communities not given their due for conserving forests: UNCCD
  • Malaysia’s Indigenous tribes fight for ancestral land and rights in a modern world
  • El Chapo wants his $14 billion dollar drugs fortune to be given to Mexican Indigenous communities
  • Queensland extinguishes native title over Indigenous land to make way for Adani coal mine
  • Kimberly Teehee is the Cherokee Nation’s first Delegate to Congress
  • Colombia’s Indigenous tribes share secrets to safeguard Amazon forest
  • More than 160 Indigenous peoples killed in Colombia since Peace Accord
  • Algonquins take action to protect Moose population
  • The first annual Latin American Indigenous Language Internet Festival
  • Argentine Indigenous peoples ask to be represented in the 2020 Census
  • IP Australia has just launched its Indigenous Knowledge Consultation Report


Anti-racism protests erupted in West Papua after a group of Indigenous students, whose dormitory was tear gassed during their detention in the city of Surabaya, reportedly experienced racial and ethnic discrimination. As many as 7 people have been killed since the protests began. In order to quell the protests, Indonesia has flown in approx. 6000 police and military police personnel, reinforcing a heavy military presence in a region that has endured decades of conflict.

West Papua, 2019

“What’s happening in Papua now and abroad was designed by a group … which I will hunt down,” national police chief Tito Karnavian asserted at a news conference from the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura. He said police had identified the people behind the unrest, accusing pro-freedom leader Benny Wenda of orchestrating the unrest ahead of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting that starts on Sept. 9 to get Papua onto the agenda “at the expense of the people.”


There is a growing effort to reintroduce Indigenous stories and traditions back to Cree and other Indigenous communities. Just as the people of early Western civilizations looked to the stars and told stories about them, so did Indigenous peoples around the world. Some of those stories are part of how Indigenous peoples made sense of the world around them—a form of science separate from, but with kinship to, the enterprise of observation, prediction, and questioning built around what we call the scientific method. In Western science, knowledge is often considered separate from the people who discover it, while Indigenous cultures see knowledge as intricately connected to people.

The Canada Science and Technology Museum has made a conscious effort to include Indigenous culture and technology in the story of Canadian science—from snowshoes to star stories.


PNG Prime Minister James Marape supported Fiji’s call at the Pacific Islands Forum for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining. The PM’s support for a moratorium was welcomed by the PNG Council of Churches at its meeting last week. However, the churches and civil society remind the Prime Minister that the environmental, social and economic risks of seabed mining necessitate a complete ban.

Peter Bosip, Director, Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights claimed, “It is very difficult to monitor and regulate the impacts of land-based mining let alone mines deep under the sea. Globally, ocean ecosystems are already under stress due to pollution, plastics, overfishing, climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss.”


Amazon Watch, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), and Extinction Rebellion mobilized dozens of demonstrations in over twenty countries across six continents in a Global Day of Action for the Amazon. These non-violent, peaceful demonstrations around the world shine a light on the cycle of political corruption and profiteering of the Brazilian government and multinational corporations at the expense of the Amazon rainforest, its Indigenous peoples, and the future of our planet.

The worldwide demonstrations are aimed not only at Brazilian embassies and consulates, but also at global corporations profiting from the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.


The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is calling on the PC Party of Manitoba to remove a misleading news release it published as part of its 2019 provincial election campaign. “Acknowledging agreements and respecting the inherent rights of the Métis People are not up for negotiation,” said MMF President Chartrand.

MMF President David Chartrand. Photo: @MBMetis_MMF

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) is the official democratic and self-governing political representative for the Métis Nation’s Manitoba Métis Community. The Manitoba Métis are Canada’s Negotiating Partner in Confederation and the Founders of the Province of Manitoba.


Dr. Cynthia-Lou Coleman, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) 2019 Fulbright Canada Jarislowsky Foundation Visiting Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies, and a professor in the Department of Communication at Portland State University, will explore the similarities and differences between how Indigenous scientific and cultural issues are covered by the media in Canada and the United States. Coleman intends to examine how scientific and cultural issues are discussed or overlooked in various communications channels, such as news and entertainment programs, websites public forums and social media. She will also explore how Indigenous Peoples, policy-makers, journalists and community members feel about how these issues are covered.

Her project is called “Comparing Science, Culture and Discourse about Indigenous Issues in Canada and the United States”. It will help inform her book Studies in Media and Environmental Communication, which summarizes two decades of her research on how scientific and cultural issues that influence American Indian communities are framed.


The Calgary Indigenous Court (CIC) will officially open during a ceremony presided over by Judge Eugene Creighton, a member of the Blood Tribe who speaks fluent Blackfoot. He says the current system of justice and the criminal code itself are not effective in dealing with crime involving Indigenous peoples and do not honor First Nations’ traditions. Sitting weekly, CIC will deal primarily with bail and sentencing hearings, focusing on a restorative justice approach to crime through peacemaking and connecting accused people to their cultures and communities.

Indigenous peoples are grossly over-represented in the justice system —making up less than five per cent of the Canadian adult population, they account for about 30 per cent of incarcerated adults, according to recent statistics. The CIC is an effort to address those numbers and to implement recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) report.


For the past two months in Sumarni Laman’s homeland of Central Kalimantan, a province in Indonesian Borneo, forest and peatland fires have been raging, in large part due to people and private companies burning deforested land to clear it for agriculture. As coordinator of the locally-based Youth Act movement of the Ranu Welum Foundation, Laman is rallying Indigenous youth not to run away from the flames but rather to take action, in the name of protecting their communities, their homes, their heritage, and the lives of others near and far.

Aside from the obvious environmental costs of carbon emissions and biodiversity loss from burned peatlands and their forests, the fires bring serious health implications for residents of the region, extending up to Malaysia and Singapore, too. Haze from the fires fills the air with fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), which in high concentrations can cause serious respiratory illnesses and even death.


The Kichwa peoples of Santa Clara won a major court victory, shutting down hydroelectric dam in construction on the Piatua river. The court’s verdict came in just two days after a major corruption scandal shook the country, as one of the judges from case was arrested by police with a suitcase containing 40,000 dollars and two bottles of whiskey for bribes. ‘Piatua cannot be negotiated with dollars or whiskey. We condemn these corrupt judges,’ said Jaime Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).

Photo: Amazon Frontlines

If built, the dam would have blocked the waterflow of the Piatua river, irreparably harming fish migration and the Kichwa’s main food source. Christian Aguinda, the president of a Kichwa community in Santa Clara, which includes 22 communities in Pastaza, said that “the construction of the hydroelectric plant on the Piatua River would transfer 90 percent of its water to another river, ignoring the fact that communities and international laws exist” against such actions. He also expressed his concern about the arrest of the judge, asking: “What moral character are judges using to dispense justice regarding our communities?”


For decades now, warped ideas about Indigenous struggles have buoyed conservative rhetoric and white nationalist fantasies and been used to justify racist violence. And while the far and extreme right share a hollow, disingenuous affinity with Indigenous peoples, their appropriation of Indigenous victimhood and rights language is providing long-burning fuel for everything from right-wing propaganda to extremist manifestos and movements worldwide.

The manipulation of Indigenous struggle and victimhood has been a part of white supremacists’ modus operandi in Europe for decades. Now, white male gunmen in the U.S. are now picking up the mantle.


Brazil’s Ministry of Education is overhauling Brazil’s indigenous education system. Earlier this year, Senator Chico Rodrigues, from the northern state of Roraima, partnered with President Bolsonaro’s nephew Leo Índio and the Ministry of Education to implement civic-military education in indigenous schools.

Under the current system, indigenous education is focused on diversity with each school accommodating the needs and customs of Brazil’s Indigenous peoples. Under the new system, teachers will reinforce Brazilian studies while military personnel will work on matters of discipline and nationalist pride. Bolsonaro commented, “You’ve got to put the importance of civic-military values into these kids’ heads the way it was during the military regime—moral and civic education, respect for the flag,” he said. Mr. Rodrigues claims that overhaul is necessary because indigenous communities are being heavily influenced by international NGOs who “distance the tribes from the rest of the country.” A total of 216 such schools are expected to be implemented across the country by 2023.


Canada’s federal government has been ordered to reimburse tens of thousands of First Nations children who were harmed by or denied of essential family services – after a landmark ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) on Friday morning. The tribunal ruled that Canada must reimburse each of the more than 50,000 children apprehended or denied welfare services with $40,000 – the maximum amount allowable under the CHRT. Compensation also applies to the parents or grandparents of the children apprehended on or after January 1, 2006, following Canada’s implementation of Jordan’s Principle.

Photo: Province of British Columbia @flckr. Some Rights Reserved

“This is about our children, their safety, their right to be with their families, kin and communities and their right to quality of care. No government should be fighting these fundamental values,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a follow-up press release.


The Sami peoples have lived since early times in the vast northern territories of Scandinavia, where some still make a living from herding reindeer and fishing. The Sami have been victim of violent assimilation campaigns. In Finland, a Truth Commission is being set up to shed light on this dark past. Norway has set an example, establishing in 2017 a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose work is ongoing. In Sweden, the project is in the making. Russia is lagging behind.

The Sami are an Indigenous peoples of 80,000 to 100,000 people spread over the most virgin territories of four countries (Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia – mainly the Kola peninsula).


Despite conserving the forests globally, Indigenous peoples almost never get their due, a report by United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said. “These communities are the custodians of around 40 per cent of protected and ecologically intact landscapes and manage nearly 300 billion tones of carbon on lands owned by them with almost negligible investment,” the report titled ‘Forest and Trees: At the heart of land degradation neutrality’ stated. Despite being of immense importance to forests, not only are Indigenous communities’ contributions unrecognized, but they are also forced to struggle for tenure rights”, the report went on to say. The UNCCD also recognized the role of women and stated that women’s management practices and knowledge also played an important role in sustaining forests.

Under the UNCCD, as many as 120 nations have decided to set a voluntary target of Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030. Under this, the world community wants to achieve a state where the amount and quality of land resources remain stable.


The plight of the Orang Asli has been in the spotlight lately, following a spate of 15 mystery deaths and numerous hospitalizations suffered by the Bateq tribe in Kuala Koh, Kelantan. Forced religious conversion, displacement from their traditional forests, lack of basic amenities and racial discrimination are among the problems faced by this small segment of Malaysians.

According to official data, there are 853 Orang Asli villages scattered throughout nine out of 11 states in the peninsula. The total Indigenous population count stood at 178,197, based on the 2010 Orang Asli Census.


Drug kingpin Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán wants to give his multi-billion dollar fortune to the Indigenous peoples of Mexico rather than forfeit it to US authorities, his lawyer has said. United States prosecutors estimated his fortune to be worth $14 billion and asked him to pay back $12.6 billion made through the sale of drugs in the U.S. Shortly after El Chapo’s July sentencing, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador argued the money belonged to Mexico and not the U.S. And now El Chapo confided to family members that he hopes his multi-billion dollar fortune will be distributed among the 15 million people that make up the 56 Indigenous groups in Mexico.

The 63-year-old founder of the Sinaloa Cartel was convicted in February of smuggling hundreds of tons of drugs, including cocaine and heroin.


The Queensland government has extinguished native title for 1,385 hectares of Wangan and Jagalingou country for the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – without any public announcement of the decision. The decision could see Wangan and Jagalingou protesters forcibly removed by police from their traditional lands, including lands used for ceremonies. W&J Council leader Adrian Burragubba, and a group of Wangan and Jagalingou representatives, had been calling on the government to rule out transferring their land, arguing they had never given their consent for Adani to occupy their country.

To mine any land under a native title claim, a miner needs an Indigenous land use agreement, essentially a contract that allows the state to extinguish native title.


The Cherokee Nation council has approved Kimberly Teehee as its first official representative to Congress. Teehee is the vice president of government relations for the Cherokee Nation and served as a senior policy adviser for Native American Affairs during the Obama administration. Pending Congressional approval, she will be the first delegate of a sovereign Native American government. Her role is a non-voting one, and may be similar to the positions held by representatives of Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. These delegates can’t vote on the House floor, but are able to introduce legislation, debate on the floor and vote within their committees.

Based in northeastern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation now counts approximately 400,000 enrolled members, making it the largest of the nearly 600 federally recognized Native American tribes.


As regional leaders gather for a summit on protecting the Amazon, where fires are raging, Indigenous leaders say they have forest knowledge politicians cannot afford to overlook. Colombia’s President Ivan Duque has said he wants the country to lead a “conservation pact” to protect forests in the Amazon basin, which is also shared by Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Bolivia, where fires are burning too. Indigenous leaders in Colombia said their voice and participation would be crucial for any regional pact to work.

The world’s largest rainforest is under growing threat from deforestation and fires, which could hamper the global fight to curb climate change.


The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) said that about 167 Indigenous leaders have been killed since the peace agreement between the Colombian State and the FARC-EP guerrillas was signed in 2016.

About 102 Indigenous leaders have been killed during this government (just over one year), reaffirming that the genocide continues in the country, stated Luis Fernando Arias, Senior Counselor of ONIC. Arias called on the National Executive to adopt measures aimed at complying with the peace agreement signed in Havana.


Despite the alarming and drastic decline of the Moose population in Quebec’s La Verendrye Park, the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (SEPAQ) has continued to issue hunting permits and is ignoring specific calls from the Algonquin First Nation communities for a Moose study and a formal conservation strategy. With Moose hunting season quickly approaching, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (“ABL”) will now take immediate action to shut down sport hunting of Moose in the La Verendrye Park.

“We will not stand by and wait for the Government to make a decision” says Chief Casey Ratt. “On behalf of our community, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will enforce our own Moose moratorium with or without the support of MFFP. We can no longer wait for an affirmative, positive response from MFFP.” Therefore, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will commence immediate unilateral protective action, specifically in ABL’s traditional geographic territory, to prevent any further exploitation and diminution of the local Moose population.


The first annual Latin American Indigenous Language Internet Festival (FLLii) is a the multi-city public event that intends to raise awareness as well as knowledge about conserving Indigenous languages. “We want to create a space for collaboration between the Indigenous and technical communities,” said Sara Fratti from the Avina Foundation, one of the organizers. In the long-run, the vision is to motivate young people to embrace their Indigenous language through internet technology. This way, they can create customized digital content.

Around 42 million people speak approximately 560 Indigenous dialects in Latin America alone. A quarter of these could vanish if groups don’t take preventative action soon, according to the World Bank. In Guatemala, this is especially relevant since there are 23 Indigenous languages, all of which have reached a critical point and many face extinction.


Several communities that make up the Tejido de Profesionales Indígenas (an Indigenous professionals’ organization) are fighting for native peoples in Argentina to be registered and have their space and rights recognized in the 2020 Population Census.

Laura Méndez, of the Colla-Omaguaca People, of the province of Jujuy, pointed out that the Indigenous people have not been taken into account either in the design of questions or the methodology of the population census to date and this, she said, can generate problems as it is not visible how many Indigenous people live in the Argentine territory, among other aspects.


IP Australia has just launched its Indigenous Knowledge Consultation Report, which is looking at ways to improve Australia’s IP system in order to promote the cultural integrity and economic potential of Indigenous Knowledge (IK). The Report is the result of consultations with Indigenous Stakeholders on issues such as control, protection, recognition of, and respect for IK.

IP Australia has identified a need to increase public awareness of the issues surrounding IK and its use as a result of these consultations. It intends to promote greater awareness of the significance of IK and the steps to prevent its misuse or misappropriation.

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