Underreported Struggles #43, October 2010
In this month’s Underreported Struggles: 3,000 indigenous people stage a “silent protest” over a proposed Nuclear power project in India; Tibetan villagers confront Chinese workers for endangering sacred Mountain; over 41 thousand Mayans reject the exploitation of natural resources in Guatemala.
Some 4,000 indigenous people ended their blockade of the Marañon river in northern Peru after reaching an agreement with the government and the Argentinian oil company Pluspetrol. “After an oil spill in June, the Peruvian government had been distributing food and goods to the people most affected in the region; however, with Pluspetrol declaring the pollution problem resolved, the government has cut off aid, in spite of indigenous complains that problems continue to occur. The agreement reached maintains peace on both sides—the oil corporation and the indigenous peoples—until the government’s water authority can test the waters of the Marañon for pollution,” explains EarthFirst!
Up to 3,000 villagers are facing arrest after taking part in a “silent protest” against the Jaitapur nuclear power project in southwestern India. The villagers, upset about the lack of transparency surrounding the project, organized a “Jail Bharo” (fill up the jail) protest, by showing up at the project site to await their arrest. The government reacted by issuing “preventive arrest” warrants, prohibitory orders and setting up road blocks. According to media reports, 750 people were arrested including a former Supreme Court Judge.
Indigenous and Black Peoples from across Honduras have said they are ready to mobilize against 41 dam concessions that would violate their rights, threaten the environment and endanger their communities. The announcement came in the form of a declaration exactly one month to the day after the government passed a set of news laws that conceded the use of several rivers for the hydro projects. The declaration also states their intention to create a new organization to defend their human rights and to promote a national gathering of indigenous and black women.
The West Papuan highlands have been plunged into a state of tension and fear, as Indonesian police shot dead a member of the indigenous community security group, Defenders of the Land of Papua. Indigenous Papuan activists are operating in a state of increased repression, surveillance and militarization backed by the Indonesian state’s supporters in the US and Australia.
A new petition was set up by Survival International to call on Wilderness Safaris, the controversial holiday company, to move its tourist lodge off indigenous lands in Botswana. “Wilderness Safaris erected its luxury lodge, with swimming pool and showers, on Bushman land without first seeking their consent”, says Survival. While the tourists have been allowed to enjoy unlimited access to water, the Central Kalahari Bushmen have been strictly prohibited from using any water on their territory whatsoever. So far the petition has gained 12,278 signatures.
The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution that asks the Navajo Nation Council hold a referendum to decide the future of the controversial “Northeastern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Agreement.” The resolution is based on consideration of several important factors; among them, the “world standard” for decisions by indigenous peoples on their resources made by “free, prior, [and] informed consent.”
Over 41 thousand indigenous people rejected the exploitation of natural resources, especially mining, in two separate consultations this month in Guatemala. Both consultations were organized by concerned indigenous communities in response to the government’s failure to meet certain national and international regulations, including their right to be consulted. Equally impressive to the 41,000 that said NO, a mere 73 people voted in favour of mining.
About 50 Indigenous youths took part in a peace gathering of their own design, bringing together Christians, Muslims, traditional Lumads and others from throughout the Philippines. The six day gathering was enormously successful, providing a critical space for the youths to discuss the issues that matter to them, learn about each other’s cultures, and overcome prejudices that get in the way of peaceful living.
The government of Papua New Guinea gave the official go-ahead for a deep sea mineral mine that will sit near several hydrothermal vents roughly 1,600 meters below the surface. Also known as “black smokers,” some scientists believe hydrothermal vents to be the origins of life on Earth. PNG’s prime minister, Michael Somare, licensed the new mine to Canada’s Nautilus Minerals. Meanwhile, Barrick gold continues to harm the environment at their gold mine; and the proposed Ramu mine, despite continued controversy, ‘somehow’ keeps moving closer to a reality.
The Wixarika People in Mexico issued a statement demanding the cancellation of 22 mining concessions and a moratorium on any future exploration or extraction activities in the semi-arid desert known as the Real de Catorce. The Canadian company First Majestic Silver, who owns the concessions, wants to exploit the regions vast deposits of silver, despite the fact that it would desecrate and possibly destroy “one of the most important sites of indigenous prayer in Mexico, and possibly the world.”
In a very surprising move, the President of Panama agreed to revoke “La Chorizo” a highly controversial law that eliminated the need for environmental impact assessments in development projects, protected the police from prosecution for human rights abuses and limited the ability of labor unions to go on strike. It’s a major victory to say the least. However, there are still two more equally controversial laws that have not been revoked: Law 14 and Executive Decree 537. The latter completely removes the right of Indigenous Peoples to elect their own leaders according to their own traditions.
The Canadian company Goldcorp illegally dumped industrial waste water into the rivers of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala, raising even more concerns for local Mayans who remain opposed to the project. According to experts of the American NGO, E-tech, the water holds the unmistakable scent of Cyanide. Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and other international bodies continue to wait for the Government to shut the mine down to make way for a full investigation of the company’s practices.
The Anishinabek Nation Grand Council issued a statement opposing plans to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, because it would endanger the Anishinabek Peoples’ “constitutionally protected rights to fish, hunt, and gather lake based traditional foods and medicines.” A week earlier, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke issued its own statement, barring the ship from entering the area of the St. Lawrence Seaway that runs through the Haudenosaunee community.
Dozens of Tibetan villagers confronted Chinese work crews who are threatening to damage Naglha Dzamba mountain, a traditional Tibetan site of worship in the county of Driru, occupied Tibet. After a tense standoff, the workers reportedly left; only for the Chinese police to took their place. At least 20 Tibetans were arrested. In the days that followed, Chinese Officials went to all the villagers in the area and forced them to sign an agreement not to engage in any further protests.
One of the oldest and most important heritage sites in British Colombia may soon be destroyed, according to media reports. The Glenrose Cannery site, as it’s known to archaeologists, is believed to be at least 9,000 years old, predating even Stonehenge.The government, however, doesn’t care much for indigenous history. Which is why they’re going to go ahead with the brand new South Fraser highway.
Videos of the Month
When Two Worlds Collide – Set against the backdrop of global recession and climate crisis, When Two Worlds Collide traces the heroic journey of Peruvian indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, from the month’s leading up to Bagua, to his time in exile, and now is journey as the leader of the Alliance for the Alternative of Humanity. This film is in urgent need of funding, click here to learn more.
Asserting Self-Determination over Cultural Property – Debra Harry, Ph.D. (Kooyooee Dukaddo), member of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada, Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, speaking at Fairhaven College on October 6, 2010.
Emergency in Bosawas An informative look at the struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the natural resources of Bosawas, the largest biosphere reserve in Central America.