Underreported Struggles #5, August 2007

Underreported Struggles #5, August 2007

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John Ahni Schertow
August 31, 2007
 

With Indigenous Peoples Day swiftly passing by, Indigenous People throughout the world continue to be subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of offenses by militias, governments, and corporations alike. Efforts to assimilate the People into mainstream society has increased twofold this month, while corporations increasingly work to criminalize, alienate, and divide communities; even make them into enemies to their own ways of life.

At the same time, indigenous peoples and movements continue with their efforts for Justice and accountability, for their rights to be respected—and to ensure their land, identities, and histories remain intact.

News of Struggle for August

August 30
Expansion of Agricultural Frontier Endangers Native Communities
Encroached upon by the expanding agricultural frontier and facing the indifference of the state, indigenous communities in the northeastern Argentine province of Chaco have problems of access to water, food and their natural medicines, and are heading towards extinction.

Ute Mountain Tribe opposes Desert Rock
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council took a stand against the new power plant called Desert Rock to be built on the Navajo Nation’s reservation. The Ute tribe unanimously passing a resolution opposing construction of the proposed power plant.

Mangyan Societies Threatened by Strip Mining
Last week the Guardian published the details of a proposed strip mining operation, which is planned for the highlands of Mindoro Island, where several Mangyan societies, including the Buid, subsist. The paper indicates that a vast strip mine will clear vegetation and top soil from 37.5 square miles and force the relocation of at least 5,000 indigenous people from their homes and farms. The object is the wealth from nickel and cobalt in the rock strata.

August 29
People Affected by Dams Stop Hydroelectric Works in Brazil
More than 400 people occupied the entrance of the hydroelectric central Foz do Chapecó, in the Uruguay river, in the border between Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina state, to the south of Brazil. The demonstrators demand the federal government and the consortium in charge of the works to meet with them. The activists are members of the families that will be affected by the works of the dam. According to the website of the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), the works will affect nearly 3,500 families.

Ashaninka threatened, prepared to take action
On a recent expedition to supervise the Peru-Brazil border, the Brazilian Ashaninkas received death threats from a task leader of the Peruvian company Venao Forestal—raising concerns about the possibility of violent clashes in the future. Venao is also manipulating and creating conflict among the Ashaninka, exploiting them for wood.

Phillipines – Scores hurt as residents, militiamen clash at mine site
Scores of tribal men and women were injured as paramilitary forces clashed with villagers in upland Kasibu town who were manning a barricade to prevent the entry of a mining company in the area Wednesday afternoon.

Achuar Block 39 New Oil Wells on their Territory
Achuar indigenous communities in the northern Peruvian Amazon were celebrating a major victory over the oil industry after the Argentine company Pluspetrol agreed to forego drilling 39 proposed new wells on Achuar land.

Grants for Indigenous communities effected by mining
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and the Western Mining Action Network (WMAN) have begun a grant program for Indigenous communities and grassroots organizations in the U.S. and Canada who are working on issues related to mining.

August 28
Chiapas: more evictions from Montes Azules
Mexican federal agents and Chiapas state police evicted several families Aug. 19 from the predios (collective farms) of Nuevo Salvador Allende and El Buen Samaritano, in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. Six family heads were detained, accused of environmental crimes and property damage; another 39 were taken to a shelter in the town of La Trinitaria. The relocation was undertaken after the residents of the predios—Tzeltal and mestizo peasants—refused to negotiate with the Agrarian Reform Secretariat, asserting that they had been living in the zone for 30 years. (La Jornada, Aug. 19) The following day, two other small communities were similarly evicted from the reserve. (La Jornada, Aug. 20)

Aug 27
Violence against Indigenous People in West Papua
Reports have recently come out of West Papua that indigenous people from the Muyu tribe have clashed with employees of Korindo, the Korean and Indonesian owned logging and oil palm company—resulting in the destruction of four Korindo company trucks, and the death of atleast one local Papuan.

Aug 26
House-to-house raids in Alice Springs Indigenous Community
Two of the senior women who toured major cities speaking out against a uranium waste dump on their traditional lands have been raided by the AFP on warrants issued by a Federal Magistrate in Canberra, their furniture slashed with knives, belongings damages, laptops and mobile phones seized, and phones tapped. I was told by one of the women that the warrant gave 12 hours access to her home, and that she was told that the measures were justified because of the security crackdown for APEC ministers. One of those women is an elderly grandmother.

August 24
First Nations Leadership Council Supports Protection of Amazay Lake (pdf)
A mining company, Northgate Minerals Inc., proposes to open a new open pit mine five kilometres from their existing mine and submerge the acidic waste rock and tailings into Amazay Lake, totally annihilating the aquatic life in and around the lake. Amazay (meaning mother caribou in the Sekani language) is a six-kilometre long fish-bearing lake that has been an important gathering place throughout the history of the Tsay Keh Nay People.

Zimbabwe: Woza Activists Arrested During Door to Door Raids
Police in Bulawayo reportedly abducted six women and a baby from the organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise during early morning raids. WOZA coordinator Jenni Williams said the group received an alert around four in the morning from the children of the arrested women, saying police officers were going door-to-door arresting the activists.

Aug 23
Chilean Authorities Approve Mining Exploration in National Park
The Reserva de Vicuña National Park, in Chile’s 1st Region, is amid great controversy; the Environment Regional Commission granted a license to Sociedad Contractual Minera Vilacollo SA, to carry out exploration activities in the reserve. Several actors have criticized the decision, including the Aymara National Council of the Arica community and the Indigenous Human Rights Commission. The groups claim the authorization was illegal and benefits mining corporations instead of indigenous peoples and biodiversity. Representatives also oppose the project and threat to take measures if the project goes on.

Social movements invade Brazil mine facility
Brazil’s largest mine company Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) said on Wednesday that the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and the Movement of People Harmed by Dams invaded and took over one of its subsidiaries and took two employees as hostages. The company said after Minas Gerais’ State Police stepped in to negotiate with the movement leaders, the hostages were released.

Shell blockaded in Sacred Headwaters
On Tuesday, Aug 21 Shell attempted to resume its coalbed methane operation in the Sacred Headwaters, despite previous warnings of a possible conflict if they attempt to do so. 100 People promptly came together and set up a blockade, preventing Shell from entering. Now an injuntion is being sought by Shell against them.

Aboriginal people need to be part of mainstream: PM
Aboriginal people must become part of Australia’s mainstream society if they are to have a future, Prime Minister John Howard has warned. “And that is whilst respecting the special place of Indigenous people in the history and the life of this country, their future can only be as part of the mainstream of the Australian community,” he said.

August 21
Peru: toxic pollution linked to US corporation
Peru’s President Alan Garcia, “afraid of foreign investors,” is sitting idly by as a U.S. corporation devastates the city of La Oroya. Missouri-based Doe Run’s toxic lead smelting operation has children breathing sulfur dioxide pollution up to 300 times the level permitted by the World Health Organization.

August 19
Zapatista Communities under siege
Zapatista communities are increasingly subjected to violence and threats, incicated by two recent events. The first, a Mother’s house in the community of Francisco villa was ominously burned to the ground. The whole community is being threatened, because some want them off the land. The second incident occurred in the Municipality “Olga Isabel,” where a father and son were confronted by 13 armed individuals, members of the absurdly named “Organization For the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights.” A short while later, the father was shot 6 times.

August 17
Australia Legislates Assimilation/Invasion
Well, the bills which grant the government of Australia power to encroach upon, invade, and determine the lives of Indigenous People in the Northern Territory came to pass in a near-unanimous vote of 56 to 6. Also See here for Voices of Resistance

Aug 15
Fort Chipewyan rally calls for oilsands moratorium
People in Fort Chipewyan, a community of 1,200, say they have noticed an unusually high number of deaths from cancers in the past year, including colon, liver, blood and bile-duct cancers. Chief Roxanne Marcel of the Mikisew Cree First Nation said she and other aboriginal leaders want the Alberta government cease approving oilsands development permits, at least until a health study is done. “Our message to both levels of government, to Albertans, to Canadians and to the world, who may depend on oilsands for their energy solutions, that we can no longer be sacrificed any longer,” she said.

Mexican Peasants Said ‘No’ to La Parota Dam
This past Sunday an assembly was held in the Acapulco municipality of Guerrero, Mexico to decide upon the fate of La Parota Dam…. This occurred a little over a week after Senator Felix Salgado Macedonio said the People who would be effected by the completion of La Parota must be allowed to do just that: decide on whether or not la Parota may be completed.

August 8
Rohingyas shown they cannot be safe or free anywhere
For Years, Malaysia has been considered a sort of a safe haven for refugees coming from Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and elsewhere — but now the government of Malaysia is making it clear that most of these refugees will not be finding any safety or freedom in this country.

Tribal People in India Want to Protect Indigenous Way of Life
Tribal villagers from the eastern state of Orissa in India claim the planned expansion of a mine and mineral refinery in their region threatens their way of life. So they sent representatives to London to ask shareholders at Vedanta Resources’ annual meeting for help. They did not get it. Now the villagers’ last hope is a ruling from India’s Supreme Court. The villagers want the court to ban any commercial development in the region.

August 4
China Bans Reincarnation of Tibetan Lamas
The Times of London reports that the China has issued a new ban designed to prevent Tibetans from recognizing reincarnations of the living Buddha without the approval of the Chinese government. The edict, which will enter into force on September 1st, states that the “so-called reincarnated living Buddha” is “illegal and invalid” without the approval of the government,

August 2
Paraguay: Rural activists in danger
The export-oriented development model based on agriculture present in Paraguay leaves large areas of land in the hands of very few individuals or companies, which not only affects campesino communities but also indigenous ones who face the loss of their land and forced displacement. Large plantations are also managed by illegal groups — often tied to the political class — where there are marijuana fields and clandestine runways for contraband trafficking, including the illegal logging trade. Amid this, thousands of Campesinos are displaced, murdered, tortuered and ‘disappeared’. The traffickers and the politically powerful are the ones behind it.

Uncontacted tribes flee “Red Gold Rush”
A group of previously-uncontacted Tribal People from the East Coast of Peru have recently appeared at a village in Brazil. The people fled from their territory, it is thought, because of illegal logging activities on their land. Loggers are currently sweeping through it, in search of an exceedingly rare kind of Mahogany tree, commonly referred to as “red gold”

August 1
The Mohlohlo Facing Encroachment, Refuse to Leave
The Mohlohlo, a People located in Limpopo, South Africa—are currently facing the steady encroachment of Anglo Platinum. The mining company apparently ‘negotiated’ for the land on which the Mohlohlo live on, in exchange for their relocation. However the Mohlohlo say the negotiation was fraudulent, and they have for some time now refused to leave.

Underreported struggles is a monthly round-up of largely overlooked news that focuses primarily on the struggles of Indigenous People around the world. If you would like to view previous months, please click here

Movies for the Month

For the sake of interest and education, here’s a few movies I came across this month.

George Ayittey on Cheetahs vs. Hippos
Here’s an excellent “grab-you-by the throat” speech by Ghanaian economist George Ayittey, at a conference put together by TED. George goes into the details and sources of corruption and economic exploitation in Africa—and moves on to explore Africa’s Traditional Governing systems

Our Land, Our Life
The following 25 minute video focuses in on the struggles of Carrie and Mary Dann, two Western Shoshone Grandmothers who have since 1972 been working to protect their lands from the United States’ gradual encroachment and utter usurpation.

Sweet Crude
Sweet Crude, a documentary now in post-production, tells the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta and the struggle of the People in the region. For 50 years, the people in the region known as the ’south-south’ have lived a life of hopelessness and desperation as they watch the land become devastated, and their own lives become unsustainable.

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