Underreported Struggles #15, June 2008

Underreported Struggles #15, June 2008

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July 1, 2008

A Canadian court paves the way to reclassify 16 lakes as mine waste dumps; The US Supreme court issues at least three rulings against indigenous rights; Police in Australia bar Indigenous People from visiting scared site; the O’odham of Gila River become the first Indigenous Community in the US to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; The Anishinabek launched a campaign to abolish the term “Aboriginal.” You will find these stories and more in this month’s edition of Underreported struggles.

Special Feature

Indigenous Land: Canada’s Toxic Storehouse
This is a draft report detailing the amount of toxins that currently exist within the territories of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Please take a moment to read it and share your thoughts or any additional material you know about. Also, I’m writing this on my own at the moment but I’m hoping some people will come forward to help make this a substantive resource. Please leave a comment at the above link if you’d like to help.

Underreported Struggles #15

June 30
Anishinabek outlaw term ‘Aboriginal’
The Anishinabek have launched a campaign to get rid of the term “Aboriginal.” According to a recent press release, the Chiefs of the 42 member-communities endorsed a resolution during their annual Grand Council Assembly that characterizes the word as “another means of assimilation through the displacement of our First Nation-specific inherent and treaty rights.”

Mayans Denounce Violence Against Women, Children
Earlier this month, the Mayan community of San Miguel Ixtahuacán issued a public statement denouncing the recent actions of Guatemala’s National Civil Police. Acting on behalf of the Canadian-mining company Montana Exploradora de Guatemala (Goldcorp), on June 13th the police shot tear gas at local children and used force against women peacefully demonstrating their opposition to Goldcorp’s Marlin mine.

June 29
Secular, democratic govt needed for indigenous people in the CHT
Speaking at a seminar that marked the 153rd Anniversary Of the Santal Revolution, a tribal leader from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh established the call for secular, democratic government to ensure the rights of the indigenous people as well as that of tribal students. “Unless we can form a secular, democratic and progressive government, we will not be able to solve the problems of the indigenous people as well as those of the tribal students,” he said.

June 27
Mining companies indicted for human rights abuses in Ghana
The Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has pronounced mining companies in Ghana guilty of various forms of human rights abuses in their host communities. CHRAJ found evidence of widespread violations which include pollution of water sources, deprivation, loss of livelihoods, health problems, use of both state and private security to torture community members and inadequate compensation. [refers to AngloGold Ashanti, Chirano Mines (part of Red Back Mining), Bogoso Gold Limited (part of Golden Star Resources)]

Systemic Discrimination in the Supreme Court
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that literally punishes Alaska Natives for the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. The court told the company that they now only have to pay a tenth of the $5 billion in punitive damages that were awarded by a jury 14 years ago. In recent history, there have been a number of similar decisions by the court. In fact, since 1986 indigenous people have only won about 20% of their cases.

June 24
US Moves to Clean Up Uranium on Navajo Land
On June 13, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a five-year plan to start cleaning the radioactive waste left by more than 40 years of mining uranium on Navajo lands. From 1944 to 1986, companies grabbed more than 40 million tons of uranium, producing 996 pounds of radioactive waste for every 4 pounds of uranium extracted. A great deal of that waste has never been cleaned up.

June 23
Brazil: 3.8 mln acres decreed Indian reservation
Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday decreed a new 3.8 million acres Indian reservation in the heart of the Amazon rain forest’s logging frontier. The Kayapo Indians had sought the Bau reservation in Para state in their ancestral territory since 1994.

Cree remove roadblock after drivers “blast through”
Members of the Kelly Lake Cree Nation (KLCN) took down a roadblock on Saturday because “angry and dangerous drivers” began blasting through, almost running over four people in separate incidents. The KLCN had set up the roadblock to raise awareness about a number of health and safety concerns brought on by oil and gas exploration on their traditional lands. The roadblock was set up in conjunction with a three-day “emergency disaster preparedness drill” they organized for themselves.

June 20
Stop Canadian Lakes from Becoming Mine Waste Dumps!
According to a recent report by the CBC, the Federal Government is set to ‘reclassify’ 16 lakes across the country as toxic waste dumps for the mining industry. Atlest one of those One of those lakes is located in the northwestern B.C region known as the Sacred Headwaters, within the Traditional Territory of the Tahltan Indigenous People.

June 18
Another Mobilization Launched in Brazil
Three months after a week-long mobilization against corporations, Via Campesina and the Landless Workers Movement (MST) launched another mobilization in Brazil last week. According to the Associated Press, the mobilization started on June 10, with “thousands of landless rural workers invad[ing] dams, railways, plantations and corporate headquarters in a wave of protests across eight Brazilian states.”

Traditional owners locked out of sacred McArthur River site
Traditional owners in the Territory’s McArthur River region have today been denied access to a sacred ceremonial site which they say will soon be destroyed by the expansion of a nearby zinc mine. Around 100 Indigenous People went for one final ceremony, however police and mine security stopped them, saying only ‘one senior traditional owner could visit the sacred site’. The People have since set up a camp outside the mine, vowing to stay until they are all allowed to hold a ceremony.

Malaysian Indigenous People Facing Arrests at Blockade
More than a hundred indigenous Kenyah peoples from Sarawak, Malaysia are currently facing arrests. For the last month, the group has maintained a logging blockade to stop the operations of Samling Timber Company. The company encroached into their Communal land to carry out logging activities without any consultation and consideration of their livelihood.

June 17
First Convention of indigenous people held in India
Yesterday, Indigenous communities from the north eastern region of India gathered for a convention to promote peace and unity between one another. This is the first time such a convention has been held in the region. The convention resolved that all the indigenous groups in the region must unite under a common platform. It also agreed to protect the Indigenous people in a democratic way, to protect Women’s rights, and to hold cultural exchange programmes, youth festivals, and academic interactions in future.

Colombia: riot police attack indigenous land occupation
The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) reports nine were injured June 13 when a unit of the National Police Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) attacked more than 300 indigenous protesters participating in a land occupation at Hacienda la Emperatriz, near the indigenous reserve of Huellas Caloto, Cauca department. The ONIC statement said the nine protesters were receiving medical attention at a clinic in Toez village, but the attack had not broken the occupation, and urgently called for intervention from human rights monitors.

June 15
Dene Sues Alberta Over Tarsands Project
Following the massive lawsuit filed by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation last month (and the one filed by the Woodland Cree last year), the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation came forward on June 4th to file their own lawsuit against the Alberta government. The CPDFN say they weren’t consulted when the government leased away “the heart” of their traditional territory to MEG Energy Corporation for an oilsands (tarsands) project.

June 12
Tambogrande mine returns amidst two other conflicts
The Peruvian mining company Arasi has announced it plans to reactivate the Tambogrande gold mine project in the Piura Region of northwestern Peru. The mine was closed in 2003, after 14 years of struggle on part of one local community. A few days before the renewed threat, 500 people from the town of Sandia occupied the Untuca mine in Puno, allegedly taking 29 workers hostage. Amidst this, a fraudulent referendum was held in the indigenous community of Michiquillay.

June 11
Japan Officially Recognises Ainu
In a historic move, Japan’s Diet (bicameral legislature) unanimously passed a resolution that presses the government to recognise the Ainu as indigenous people. This move in the Diet means that the representatives of the majority of Japanese people agree that their country is multi-ethnic and that its laws and policies should reflect that fact. Japan has long maintained that it consists of only ‘one language, one culture, one race.’

Kayapo tribe gets trust fund for Amazon protection
The government of the Brazilian state of Pará and Conservation International-Brasil (CI) have established a trust fund to support conservation and sustainable development initiatives by indigenous Kayapó groups in the Amazon rainforest. The fund will have an initial endowment of 10 million reals (US$6.2 million).

Innu People Threatened with Evictions
Following a lawsuit filed by dozens of Innu seeking to establish title to their traditional lands, the provincial government of Newfoundland Labrador has issued eviction notices to more than 100 Innu families; giving them 60 days to “remove all structures from Crown land and restore the site to its original conditions.” If they fail to do so, the government will demolish the structures themselves and charge the costs to the Innu families.

June 9
US Defers Leasing Teshekpuk Lake to Oil Companies
The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced it will not open up the Teshekpuk Lake region to the oil industry – at least, not for another ten years. Home to more than a million migratory birds and a habitat for the 45,000-head Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd, Teshekpuk Lake is one of the most important tundra-wetland ecosystems left on the planet.

June 8
Commission Promised for Bhopal Victims
After protesting for a solid three months, victims of the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster have gained some important victories. On May 29th, the Prime Minister of India agreed to some of their key demands: that a commission would be established to carry out their medical, social, economic, and environmental rehabilitation; and that by the end of this year Bhopali’s will have safe water (it is still contaminated from the massive chemical spill which occurred 23 years ago).

Displaced villagers protest at Indian steel plant
Police in India fired teargas to disperse a violent protest against the construction of a steel factoryMore than 250 armed policemen held back hundreds of protesters at Bhushan Steel plant in Dhenkanal district in Orissa, the latest in a series of clashes between industry and the rural poor threatened with displacement.

June 7
Southern Palawan indigenous people want to manage their ancestral lands
Indigenous Groups in southern Palawan (the Phillipines) have raised concerns over a plan by Conservation International to have Mt. Mantalingahan declared a ‘protected area.’ An advisor for a tribal council in the region says the Indigenous People fear that they will be deprived of utilizing resources in the area if it’s declared “protected.”

June 5
Pipeline Divides Indigenous Lands in South America
Corpwatch reports on the Trans Caribe Antonio Ricaurte pipeline, which carries 150 million cubic feet of gas a day. Stretching for 225 kilometers, the pipeline cuts through the territory of the Wayúu. All vegetation has died around the pipeline, and so their animals like goats and cattle are wanderig off to find food elsewhere. Access to water that the Wayuu depend on has also been effected. The Wayuu say they have not benefitted meaningfully from the pipeline, though they were told many times over that they would.

Canada’s TVI Pacific Faces Tribal Justice
The Canadian mining company TVI Pacific, who operates a gold mine in the Southern Philippines, has been found guilty of numerous crimes by the traditional justice authority of the Subanon People – the “Gukom.” Since 1994, the company has occupied Mount Canatuan, a sacred site for the Subanon People. They have done so without the Subanon’s consent (FPIC). Throughout the occupation, TVI has committed numerous human rights abuses and violations of Subanon customary law.

Gila River ratifies the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples
On Wednesday the 21st of May in a precedent setting, hallmark move of commitment and solidarity with Indigenous Peoples worldwide, the Gila River Indian Community Council passed Resolution GR-126-08 which ratifies the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Thus making the Gila River Indian Community the first federally recognized tribal nation within the United States to embrace, support and ratify the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Victory for Grassy Narrows! AbitibiBowater Retreats
The industrial logging giant AbitibiBowater announced yesterday that they are retreating from the Whiskey Jack Forest, three-quarters of which is Grassy Narrows’ traditional territory. This decision comes less than two weeks after Grassy Narrows and the Ontario government start a 4-year negotiation process.


Something’s Moving
Directed by Randy Vasquez, Something’s Moving tells the story of three Residential School Survivors in the United States, and their efforts to heal themselves, to restore what was taken by force, and to allow future generations to live a life that’s free from trauma, shame, fear, and self-loathing.

The Creek Runs Red
The Creek Runs Red is a documentary about the former mining town of Picher, Oklahoma. Located on the traditional lands of the Quapaw People, the mining town of Picher was once a hub for the world’s richest source of zinc and lead (a great deal of which went to making bullets for WW1 and WW2). Today however, Picher is known as the most toxic place in America.

Radar Contamination on Mushkegowuk Territory
The Mushkegowuk Environmental Research Centre (MERC) has produced a video report that examines the issue of PCB contamination within the Traditional Territory of the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents 7 Indigenous communities in northern Ontario. Abandoned military radar sites along the “Mid Canada Line” have been steadily spilling PCB’s (and other toxic substances) on their land for the last 40 years.

Underreported Struggles is a monthly roundup of news relating to indigenous peoples around the world. You can find previous editions at https://intercontinentalcry.org/tag/underreported/

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