This is the Indigenous Rights Report for the week of September 7, 2019. In this week’s report:
- Manitoba and Métis in legal battle over financial agreements, Indigenous rights
- Indigenous people detain 1,000 oil block workers in Peru
- Indigenous groups concerned that proposed new NT burial laws could impact traditional practices
- EPA ignores tribal consultation on Black Hills uranium
- Brazilian official who protects Amazon Indigenous tribes shot dead
- Indigenous hunting is essential to forest sustainability
- The Gwich’in Nation vows to protect sacred lands in the Arctic Refuge
- Indigenous women in Canada are still being sterilized without their consent
- Traditional crops help Indigenous peoples curb pest attack
- Baka people protest against rainforest park funding
- Colombia’s Indigenous tribes share secrets to safeguard Amazon forest
- Cow Creek Band is reclaiming some of its traditional land – only after a wildfire sweeps through it
- Countries urged to protect property in war to save culture, identity
- Draft Aboriginal Justice Agreement released
- Indigenous Maori have words with Air New Zealand over trademark of phrase
- Mapping project seeks to secure ‘invisible’ Indigenous lands
- Rights group mounts campaign for Indigenous peoples to remain in Mau
- Gold or water: the dilemma that the natives fight in Ecuador
- Mobilizing Indigenous and local knowledge to address climate impacts and vulnerabilities in Caribbean
- Program aims to provide Alaska Native and rural students with opportunities at NOAA
- Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor now offered at Tufts University
- Presidential candidate says Indian Country is critical to his $3 trillion climate and economic justice plan
- Committee says women’s role vital to land restoration efforts
- Breath of Life 2.0 conference examines the pitfalls of digitizing Indigenous languages
The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) is challenging the Conservative government’s decision to cancel two multi-million dollar agreements made with the province’s former NDP government. The Métis say the outcome could have repercussions for future agreements in Canada. Last year Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister referred to the agreements as “persuasion money.”
MMF President David Chartrand says that decision could be costly for provincial governments and industries across the country. “There’s going to be a lot of unpredictable futures coming for industry, unpredictable futures coming for Indigenous people”. The province has said it will not reconsider its position.
Indigenous peoples close to oil block 192 in the Amazon area of northern Peru seized control of a local airport and detained about 1,000 workers to demand that the government meet its promises to grant them greater social benefits. Workers at the camp said that natives of the communities of Nueva Jerusalem and Nueva Andoas in the Loreto region continue to block the access road to the area and also took control of the Andoas pumping station, owned by the state oil company Petroperú.
Block 192 is operated by the Canadian junior Frontera Energy. The protests started on September 9.
Proposed legislation in Australia’s Northern Territory would mean those who choose to bury deceased people outside the registered burial sites without government permission could face fines of up to $31,000, and a possible two year prison sentence.
Indigenous peoples from across the Territory are concerned these new laws might hinder their ability to practice traditional ceremonies on their homelands, but the NT Government says they have nothing to worry about.
After tribal members and other residents roundly rejected the U.S. EPA’s proposed draft permits to provide Black Hills water to a foreign uranium mine project promoter, the agency has revised the wording for a new comment period. Members of the public will have a chance to testify on the revised drafts at a hearing on the Dewey Burdock Project set in Hot Springs for October 5, and the written submission period will remain open until October 10, the agency said. However, it has not conducted government-to-government consultation with tribes in the matter. All the bands of the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation, have tribal resolutions in place opposing any uranium mining in unceded 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory, which overlaps a five-state area, including the entire Black Hills.
Granting the permits would mean the Canadian-Chinese company would hold rights to use 8,500 gallons of water per minute, free-of-charge, to mine and process uranium in the Inyan Kara Aquifer, and then pump mining wastewater into the Minnelusa Aquifer. Black Hills area citizens use both aquifers for household, livestock, farming and tourism business purposes.
Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was shot twice in an apparent execution. Mr. Santos had spent more than 12 years working for Funai, the National Indian Foundation, which is a Brazilian government body that defends the interests of Indigenous peoples. Officials at INA, a union that represents Funai workers, claimed Mr. Santos was killed in retaliation for work at the Vale do Javari reservation, which has the world’s highest concentration of uncontacted Indigenous tribes.
The killing comes amid international outrage at the destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, has faced criticism from the international community for failing to do enough to protect the Amazon.
Subsistence hunting, and the traditional ecological knowledge that guides and regulates it, must be recognized as a key forest-management strategy. Indigenous people see animals and humans as integral to nature. This holistic view is often missing in contemporary, science-based forest governance and conservation strategies, which tend to focus solely on forest cover. Hunting can actually strengthen long-term environmental management, because it’s how Indigenous and forest communities assess forest health and meet their food-security and livelihood needs.
Empowering and investing in local hunter groups, providing forest and Indigenous communities with legal and practical tools to manage and benefit from their forests, could shape the practice of sustainable forest resource use while protecting the wildlife and increasing governance cost-efficiency.
The Gwich’in nation vowed to protect sacred lands after the Bureau of Land Management released a Final Environmental Impact Statement promoting oil and gas exploitation in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. According to the Indigenous Environmental Network, the document is the result of a hasty, flawed, inadequate, and secretive review process that disregarded concerns about sacred land, human rights, traditional knowledge, and the impacts of climate change. Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee said that “This document disrespects the Gwich’in Nation and all people in the Arctic and world who suffer the impacts of climate change and nonstop exploitation.”
BLM will need to wait at least 30 days to release a final Record of Decision, at which point it may attempt to hold a lease sale this year. The Trump administration’s unlawful plan promotes the most aggressive violation of the entire coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.
In the 20th century, the U.S. and Canada carried out a quiet genocide against Indigenous women through coerced sterilization. Indigenous women in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan began to come forward to say that this was still happening in Canada. More than 100 Indigenous women from various nations in the region have come forward to say they were coerced or forced into a sterilization procedure as recently as 2018. Many are part of a class-action lawsuit led by Indigenous rights attorney Alisa Lombard, which has been developing since 2017. The more than 100 women suing the government in Saskatchewan are asking not only for an accountable system, but for the damages caused by the trauma that occurs after a forced or coerced sterilization. The women are calling for sweeping reform to the health system, and $7 million (CAD) each in damages.
The women in Saskatchewan have confirmed that there is no outright law that bans forced sterilization in Canada.
The Ekalayva Foundation, which is working on watersheds in the tribal areas of Adilabad in India, has made it possible to introduce the pela jonna, and other Indigenous crops to the poor Kolam farmers.
The NGO is also keeping a track of the expenditure being incurred, especially on cotton crop by way of use of bio pesticides. “The ethnic farmers are more curious about the expenditure part as it will determine their preference for organic cultivation in future,” B. Vijay, an NGO functionary, said.
Hundreds of Baka from the Congo rainforest have written to the European Commission pleading with officials to visit them and ask for their advice and guidance before providing more funds for the Messok Dja park on their land. The European Commission is one of the main funders of the project in the Republic of Congo but the Baka say they have yet to be consulted on it.
The European Commission says it has not heard from the Baka people directly, that it is in touch with the authorities in Congo Brazzaville and the WWF, and that it has asked them to make sure that all people affected and all those who live in that area are properly consulted.
Indigenous leaders told the presidents of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador – scheduled to meet in the border town of Leticia to discuss forest fires raging in the Brazilian Amazon and to explore how best to join forces to preserve the Amazon – that their voice and participation would be crucial for any regional pact to work. “Indigenous people are a portal of knowledge, which has sustained us for millennia and allowed the Amazon to survive. As Indigenous groups, we have a responsibility to show that our knowledge can contribute to humanity,” said Indigenous lawyer Palma. 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.
The world’s largest rainforest is under growing threat from deforestation and fires, which could hamper the global fight to curb climate change.
The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians reservation lands are managed differently now than they were by U.S. agencies prior to their return. It reflects Indigenous values: an example separate from either industry or conservation groups. A 2013 study found that the federal government was not fulfilling its trust responsibility to fund tribal forestry programs, yet noted that tribal stewardship could nonetheless serve as a model for resource management and practices on federal lands. Thinning and reintroducing fire through prescribed burns would be a top priority for the more than 17,000 forested acres the tribe received through the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act in 2018.
The Act restored more than 17,000 acres of public land to the Cow Creek Band, along with nearly 15,000 acres to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.
More must be done to prevent the destruction of cultural property during conflicts, from museums to libraries, in order to preserve communities, artists and academics told a symposium called “Culture Under Attack.” Award-winning Turkish-British novelist and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak said “memory is a responsibility” and “turbulent” political times called for extra protection of physical property and cultural heritage.
Better military planning and training of troops could prevent cultural property damage, looting and vandalism during fighting, said academic Peter Stone, the first ever UNESCO Chair for Cultural Property Protection and Peace.
The Northern Territory Labor Government has released a draft of the Territory’s first Aboriginal Justice Agreement and is encouraging additional feedback from Territorians and interested organizations. The Territory Labor Government is prioritizing the improvement of justice outcomes and services for Aboriginal Territorians, including reducing the rates of reoffending, imprisonment, and engaging and supporting strong Aboriginal leadership.
The draft Aboriginal Justice Agreement is underpinned by research, evidence-based data and the testimonies of Aboriginal people collected during two years of consultations, which involved 80 communities and 120 sessions. A further six months of consultation is now underway to ensure the final NT Aboriginal Justice Agreement meets the requirements of all stakeholders.
Charges of cultural appropriation have pitted Kiwis with Indigenous Maori heritage against the national airline Air New Zealand, after it sought to trademark a logo with the words “kia ora” (which means “good health” and is used commonly to mean “hello”). Air New Zealand said it was “standard corporate practice” to trademark all its corporate logos, and that its application only referred to the logo of its in-flight magazine Kia Ora. But a spokesman for the New Zealand Maori Council said the community was “tired” of businesses using their culture and language, and threatened a boycott of the airline.
New Zealand’s patent and trademark laws include specific provisions for the protection of Maori language and knowledge, said Tania Te Whenua, principal at Te Whenua Law & Consulting.
LandMark, an online project mapping all of the world’s Indigenous lands, will help secure legal rights and alert communities to the potential threats of illegal logging and mining. LandMark is compiling maps from dozens of Indigenous organizations for its website – which it claims to be the first of its kind – and now covers 12% of the world’s land. The project includes areas recognized by governments, those with documentation or secure tenure, and those that are likely to be Indigenous lands.
Globally, Indigenous and local communities own more than half of all land under customary or traditional rights. Yet they have legal rights to only about 10%, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative. Last month, a special report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the first time recognized Indigenous land rights as important for curbing global warming.
Indigenous communities that have been living in the Mau Forest should not be evicted, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has said. Speaking in Nairobi during the Indigenous Women Regional Conference, KNCHR commissioner George Morara said it was necessary to evict only communities that migrated and settled in the forest. Morara said the Ogiek needed access to the Mau Forest in line with the African Commission ruling that gave them a right to the forestland.
Morara asserted that according to KNCHR principles, the Mau evictions ought to be guided by the United Nations laws on evictions, as well as other Kenyan laws.
Indigenous leader Yaku Perez, who is the prefect (governor) of Azuay in Ecuador, leads the “resistance” of the natives and peasants opposed to mining, and for the defense of water sources. “We can live without gold, but without water never,” said Perez. In the southern province of Azuay, half of the approximately 20,000 hectares of the Quimsacocha paramo (“three lagoons”, in Quechua) have been granted to the Canadian group INV Metals Inc. This mining company is developing a project deemed strategic by the Ecuadorian government. Last March, during an unprecedented popular consultation, the inhabitants voted against the mining activities in Quimsacocha, of which only 3,200 hectares are protected to date while it is a biosphere reserve.
The popular consultations, which must be approved by the Constitutional Court, are the way for “Ecuador to be declared a free territory of mining industry, and its water sources as well as its ecosystems, fragile areas”. Ecologists, natives and peasants won their first victory with the vote in favor of Quimsacocha paramo protection. But the government hopes that the Constitutional Court will prevent further consultations of this kind, in order to demonstrate the country’s legal security and thus attract more foreign investment in the mining sector.
Ecuador, which launched large-scale metal mining in July and is one of the world’s major deposits, will receive about $ 554 million from the Loma Larga site, according to official data.
UNESCO is mobilizing Indigenous and local knowledge to address climate impacts and vulnerabilities in Caribbean through the sponsored regional workshop. The event brought together Indigenous and local community experts as well as climate and meteorological services experts, around how Indigenous and local knowledge can boost social and ecological resilience and be mobilized for climate change adaptation.
The Caribbean, as well as all Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in other regions, are already experiencing the effects of climate change, not only in the form of extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Dorian, but also rising sea levels, coastal erosion, salination of drinking water, coral bleaching and death, ocean acidification and other ecosystemic and biological impacts.
UNESCO will continue its work of bringing together local, scientific and decision-making communities to continue the work on the inclusion of Indigenous peoples’ rights and ancestral government structures in policy decision-making spaces.
Alaska Sea Grant is partnering with NOAA Fisheries to provide opportunities to Alaska Native and rural students at the federal agency. The goal is to increase their representation in marine-related professions at NOAA Fisheries, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, formerly known as the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Partnership in Education Program Alaska fosters understanding and practical use of knowledge (including Indigenous knowledge) and policy for undergraduates entering marine-related professions.
Tufts University is offering a new minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora (RCD). Darren Lone Fight, an American Studies lecturer, said that the role of Native American and Indigenous Studies is to “engage with Indigenous history, politics, contemporary issues, and involve the students in the broad array of related conversations around those topics” such as tribal sovereignty, land rights, and literary/cultural production. “Any critical study of the Americas has to pay attention to these issues that are often underrepresented,” he said.
The Tufts minor is now one of some 112 similar programs in the United States. “Native American and Indigenous Studies is generating some of the most significant interdisciplinary humanities and social science scholarship today,” said Kris Manjapra, RCD department chair and associate professor of history.
US Presidential candidate Cory Booker says Indian Country is a critical part of his $3 trillion climate and economic justice plan. Booker’s campaign said in a news release that their plan “places tribes and Indigenous people at the center of transformational climate efforts.” The plan calls for rescinding the approvals for the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, reestablishing the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide skills and work experience for young people from Indigenous communities, and cleaning up abandoned coal and uranium mines. The statement cites that one in eight Native Americans do not have access to reliable water and more than one quarter of the nation’s abandoned uranium mines are located within or near the Navajo Nation.
Booker’s plan also calls to honor and enforce government-to-government consultation with tribes and will “require free, prior, and informed consent from tribal nations for all future major energy projects on federal lands.”
Women are the primary stewards of the global land base and supporting the role of women in monitoring land degradation to achieve the target of land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030 is among the key recommendations from independent scientists of the Committee of Science and Technology (CST) at the 14th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD CoP14).
Sustainable consumption and production patterns with low per capita consumption, renewable energy driven housing and transport, incorporation of Indigenous knowledge in land restoration, land tenurial security are also among the key recommendations.
When Europeans first made contact with tribes across the continent, more than 2,000 languages were being spoken. Today, after centuries of forced relocations, broken treaties, abusive residential schools, and other discriminatory practices, only 256 languages are spoken. A full 199 are endangered, according to the Catalogue of Endangered Languages. Yet even after everything those communities endured, they’re fighting for their words—and the ability to protect them. New technology, like smartphone keyboards, language-learning apps, and digital databases makes revitalization work easier than ever, but it also requires hard conversations about which parts of a language must be kept offline. At a recent conference called “Breath of Life 2.0”, held at Miami University of Ohio, participants explored the possibilities and pitfalls of archival databases. Those questions of privacy and security will vary from one community to the next and across the different databases and apps they use.
“The world that our community’s language was used in has been under attack for 160 years, and I’d like to see that world rebuilt. Our languages are for us to speak,” said Jerome Viles, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and part of the Southwest Oregon Dene Languages Project team Viles says.
This is the Indigenous Rights Report.
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.