Underreported Struggles #40, July 2010

Underreported Struggles #40, July 2010

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July 30, 2010

In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Botswana’s High Court rules against the Kalahari Bushmen; Indigenous Peoples take over Task Force meeting in California; 20,000 Papuans demand their lawful right to self-determination; Barriere Lake Algonquins set up peaceful blockade on their territory

The Arara and 10 other Indigenous Peoples detained nearly 100 people in Mato Grosso, Brazil, after an energy company dynamited an Arara cemetery, without anyone’s knowledge. “This was a big cemetery, with all our ancestors, many generations of our tribe…. It is a sacred place for us,” said one Arara leader. Everyone that was detained has since been released, “but with so many dams proposed and under construction in the Amazon, the next confrontation is only a matter of time,” notes International Rivers.

A Washington company is getting ready to ship 150,000 tons of garbage from Honolulu to a Washington landfill near the Columbia River. However, the Yakama Nation, which has treaty rights to fish in the Columbia River, is concerned that the garbage could contaminate the region. The Yakama also say that the federal government failed to consult them over the garbage plan.

More than 80 indigenous Yukpas held a protest vigil in front of the Venezuelan Supreme Court in Caracas on July 21. The protesters demanded a ruling on an appeal introduced last February to determine whether or not three arrested Yukpas can be judged under indigenous law instead of the national legal system.

On the same day of the Yukpa protest, more than 300 people from 50 Indigenous Nations took control of the Marine Life Protection Act’s (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in California, USA. At the meeting, the Indigenous peoples explained that the MLPA will undermine their access to mussels, seaweed and other ocean resources for sustenance and ceremonial regalia. In effect, it “decimates our ability to be who we are,” said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok citizen and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition.

Despite their promise to Indigenous peoples, the Palawan Provincial Government gave its endorsement to nickel mining operations “in one of the best conserved biocultural paradises found in the Philippines”, the Palawan Biosphere Reserve. The controversial move, which violates several domestic and international laws, brings Palawan–the land and its Peoples–one step closer to the harsh realities of unsustainable development.

The Botswana High Court issued a shocking decision that the Kgeikani Kweni–more commonly known as the Kalahari Bushmen–do not have water rights in their ancestral lands. The Indigenous People have been struggling to gain access to a single waterhole on their territory, since their right of return was acknowledged in 2006. They now have to truck in water from the nearest settlement 300 miles away. Meanwhile, just a few miles away, a tourist resort and a diamond mine enjoys near-unlimited access to groundwater. An appeal is now underway.

A group of Barriere Lake Algonquins set up a peaceful blockade on the access road leading to their reserve, about 300 km north of Ottawa, in the Province of Quebec. The defensive action was aimed at stopping a government-appointed electoral officer from holding a nomination meeting on the reserve for the government’s highly-controversial imposed Band Council Election.

The new Zealand government announced that it would no longer pursue mining in the country’s conservation areas. ”This is a historic victory for the record number of New Zealanders who stood up to protect our most treasured places and for a vision of a truly sustainable and progressive 21st century economy for New Zealand,” said Greenpeace Senior Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer

Testimony collected from an indigenous Mayan-Qeqchi community in Guatemala has prompted a formal Human Rights Complaint against the Canadian company Hudbay Minerals. According to the testimony, collected by Rights Action and students from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in May 2010, the company is directly involved in serious Human Rights Violations including illegal forced evictions and the gang rape of several women from the community.

A group of 20 imprisoned Mapuche endured their first week of a hunger strike aimed at Chile’s judicial system. According to the press, the Mapuche are protesting the States’ implementation of the Antiterrorist Act on Mapuche activism. They are also condemning the government for applying military proceedings to their trials. A number of Mapuche representatives have also travelled to Geneva to file a lawsuit against the government before the UN Human Rights’ Commission.

Pollution from a copper mine in China’s southeastern Fujian province has severely contaminated a major waterway, leading to the poisoning of up to 1,890 tonnes of fish. More than 60,000 people depend on the waterway for their drinking water.

The ‘Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suwet’en Nation organized a rally in British Colombia to assert their title and rights on their ancient lands. The rally was joined by several supporters and grassroots allies, including the Tsilhqot’in, Lubicon, Athabasca Dene and Mikisew Cree. The ‘Unis’to’t’en also set a permanent camp on the Morice River to stop the construction of two major oil pipelines through their territory.

In the days leading up to the protest, a vital door was opened by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that gives way for a possible class action lawsuit against the tar sands. On July 6, the Court handed down its decision on Smith v. Inco Ltd., the very first court decision of its kind in Canada. The Court found that Inco must pay $36,000,000 in damages for emitting nickel particles at their refinery for 80 years. “There was no proof that Inco ever operated illegally or negligently, or failed to comply with its provincial permits for air emissions”, notes an Ontario Lawyer. However, Operating the refinery was, according to the court, a “non-natural” use of land. Tar Sands projects are, by all means, just as non-natural.

In Cambodia, roughly 256 families held a peaceful sit-down protest to stop a sugar company from clearing their farmland. According to one villager, the company wanted everyone within a 7 kilometre radius to simply ‘clear out’, so they can do business. “We did not allow them to begin clearing the land because they did not talk to us; they just want to take over our land and have us move on,” the villager stated.

As many as 20,000 Papuans gathered in Jayapura to demand that Indonesia and the international community finally grant West Papua its lawful right to self-determination. The protesters peacefully occupied the parliament grounds on July 8, where they stayed until the military issued an ultimatum to leave voluntarily or face violence. Fortunately, before the protest ended, an agreement was drawn for a discussion about the failure of special autonomy, which will be followed by a special session in parliament. the session could conceivably end with an endorsement for independence.

A Tailings dam collapsed in central Peru, forcing nearly six million gallons of toxic waste into the Opamayo River. According to the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI), the spill has affected more than 10 indigenous communities. A general strike was held one day after the collapse in order to expose the incident and call attention to the failure of environmental authorities to properly address the situation.

An Indian Member of Parliament (MP) called for the forced removal of all children from the Indigenous Jarawa People on Andaman Island, so that they can be indoctrinated into living and behaving like Indian citizens. The disturbing proposal, comparable to the aim of Canada’s residential school system, has drawn criticism from Indigenous peoples around the world.


Voices in the Clouds – Voices in the Clouds is an intimate exploration of one man’s quest to understand his indigenous heritage. At the heart of the film lies the celebration of family and cultural preservation.

Maya Land Rights Affirmed in Belize – A celebration by the Maya of Southern Belize on June 28, 2010 in honor of the landmark judicial decision granting them full rights over their ancestral lands. The celebration includes the Cortez Dance at Indian Creek Village.

Where Are The Maya? – The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism presents “Where Are The Maya?” a new 15-minute documentary film that strikes at the heart of Mexico’s tourism industry.

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