Underreported Struggles #48, March 2011

Underreported Struggles #48, March 2011

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April 1, 2011

In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Barriere Lake Algonquins discover a Canadian mining company working on their land; Indigenous leaders blast the Bangladesh government for not recognizing the Jumma as “Indigenous Peoples”; UK mining giant Vedanta Resources reportedly brands the Dongria Kondh “terrorists”.

The Kayan community of Long Teran finally gained recognition for their native customary rights over their ancestral lands in Sarawak. In a recent ruling, the Miri High Court affirmed Long Teran’s rights and cancelled some land leases which had been granted to the “notorious global palm oil giant” the IOI Group, by the Sarawak government of Sarawak. Just prior to the court ruling, Long Teran peacefully reclaimed a part of their ancestral lands in an act of collective resistance. For more news on Sarawak, keep an eye on sarawakreport.org.

Five Tzeltal men are being “held hostage” by the Chiapas government in Mexico. Now known as the “Bachajón 5,” the five men believe the government is attempting to force them to accept a proposed ecotourism project on their lands and abandon their support of the Other Campaign. Initially, 117 indigenous Zapatista supporters were arrested by the government; however, most of them were released after protests erupted across the country. A five-day international protest is set to begin for the Bachajón 5, beginning April 1.

A group of Barriere Lake Algonquins discovered a Canadian mining company preparing for a new mining exploration project on their unceded lands. When informed of the situation in Barriere Lake, workers on site–mostly Crees from the Mistassini and Oujebougamou First Nations–voluntarily agreed to stop working and leave. Barriere Lake community members are now planning to maintain a constant presence at the site to stop any further developments.

Eleven Mayan Q’eqchi’ women announced a $55 million lawsuit against a Canadian mining company for being assaulted and gang-raped during a forced eviction in El Estor, Guatemala four years ago. The women say they were raped by the company’s security personnel, as well as police and military during the eviction. Detailed information and background on the lawsuit can be found at http://www.chocversushudbay.com/

The Toba Qom set up a protest camp in Buenos Aires over systemic discrimination, human rights abuses, and the ongoing suppression of land rights by the Argentinian government. A follow-up to the Toba’s four-month blockade, which was violently dismantled last November, the indigenous people are now demanding to meet with Argentina’s president to denounce their case.

Indigenous women from the community of Lake Tyers, in East Gippsland, Victoria, started a blockade against the state government’s self-imposed rule over their community. The blockade officially went up on March 8, International Women’s Day, in order to stop a government-appointed administrator and his staff from gaining entry to the community. In response to the blockade, the government withdrew several services meant for the reserve.

United Native Americans, Inc. (UNA), formed in 1968 to promote the General Welfare of Indigenous Peoples in the United States, began a protest campaign against the Hearst Corporation, over the historical theft of the Black Hills and the Homestake Gold Mine (said to be the Largest Gold Mine in the Western Hemisphere). UNA believes that it’s time for the company to pay punitive damages to the Lakota Nation for the illegal theft. This Coming August 29, 2011, a gathering will be held at the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota, to Demand Reparations and Accountability. Information on the event can be found on UNA’s Facebook page.

A shocking allegation was made against the UK mining giant Vedanta Resources. According to a recent report, paramilitaries were told at meeting sponsored by Vedanta “to warn Dongria Kondh villagers not to oppose Vedanta else they will be branded Maoists (terrorists) and then killed.” The allegation stands in stark contrast to Vendata’s “enlightened rhetoric” concerning the Dongria Kondh.

Indigenous leaders and political parties in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, blasted the government’s move to deny the Jumma recognition as “Indigenous people” in the new Constitution. “They termed the move as a ‘conspiracy’ to deny the groups their ethnic status and their constitutional right to land and of self determination.”

At least a 1,000 police officers and soldiers evicted more than 3,000 Q’eqchi Mayas from lands claimed by an agribusiness firm in northern Guatemala. During the eviction, the security forces torched or otherwise destroyed the Mayas homes and crops with tractors and machetes. Nearly a dozen people were injured during the eviction.

A “serious chemical spill” was reported at the site of the Ramu mine processing plant, which sits on the edge of Basamuk Bay in Papua New Guinea. Since the spill, indigenous peoples living near the bay have observed a sudden and dramatic change in the Bay’s coral reefs: they’ve all turned white. Coral bleaching is a strong indicator that the reefs are being deprived of essential foods.

“While the rest of Panama was celebrating Carnival,” observes Cultural Survival, the Ngöbe came together to elect a new president for the Ngöbe Bugle Congress, the largest Indigenous organization in Panama. The government of Panama–who recently ratified ILO Convention 169–has been attempting to impose a new electoral system on the Ngobe since 2010. The Ngobe are widely opposed to the imposition, which violates their rights as defined by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples… and ILO Convention 169.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) approved the water and air quality permits for three uranium mines near the Grand Canyon, including the Arizona 1 mine and the proposed Canyon Mine near Red Butte. The Havasupai Nation, who consider themselves to be “guardians of the Grand Canyon,” strenuously object to all uranium mining in the region and especially near Red Butte, a sacred site the Havasupai visit to pray and perform ceremonies “for the well-being of the world”.

Members of the Blood Tribe started calling for a moratorium on hydro fracking within their reserve in southern Alberta, Canada. According to the grassroots effort, Protect Blood Land, the Blood Tribal Council gave two oil companies drilling rights to almost half of the Blood’s reserve without consulting anyone. Given the dangers of fracking, Protect Blood Land wants a moratorium until a proper referendum has taken place on the reserve. The group further raised concerns that some people are being threatened for opposing the deal and coerced into supporting it.

Traditional Authorities from the autonomously governed Wixarika community of Tatei Kie, declared the Wixarika Peoples’ “total opposition” to mining in the ceremonial center of Wirikuta in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. In a written declaration, the Traditional authorities state that “We will not hold back in the face of anything in its defense and we convoke the whole world to join the effort to avoid this terrible destruction of the sacred, definitively opposing the dark interests behind it, which seek our spiritual death.”

A new mega dam project on the Patuca River threatens to erase dozens of Tawaka and Miskito communities in Honduras. The deposed Zelaya administration previously withdrew the project as a result of community opposition. However, with the coup regime in power–at least, for now–Honduras’ “historical politics of persecution of community leaders” and development at the expense of Indigenous People is back on. On the brighter side, indigenous representatives came together in February and declared that they will “permanently rebel, watch and denounce and take collective action to defend Rio Patuca, its fishes, ecosystems, and the Tawahka and Rio Platano biosphere reserves.”

The Evenk people in northern Siberia launched a new campaign against the Russian oil giant Gazprom. The company intends to build a new pipeline through the Evenk’s territory; however, the Evenk say that doing so would threaten their traditional hunting and fishing grounds. Gazprom, on the other hand, says it would be too expense to re-route the pipeline.

A major hydroelectric expansion project in Canada’s Northwest Territories was put on hold, allegedly due to problems with the project’s “business model”. The Dene have expressed numerous concerns about the Taltson dam expansion, which would bring new transmission lines through a pristine area that they consider sacred.

Judges in the Chilean province of Arauco voted to rescind the infamous “terrorism” charges that were laid against 17 Mapuche activists for an incident in October 2008. The judges also acquitted all but four of the activists. Those same four activists are now on an indefinite hunger strike.

Videos of the Month

Oil in Eden: The Battle to Protect Canada’s Pacific Coast – “Oil in Eden” provides an essential summary of the issues surrounding “the defining Canadian environmental battle of our time:” the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.

We Women Warriors – We Women Warriors follows the lives of three indigenous women in Colombia as they strive to nonviolently defend their peoples autonomy in a climate of constant military violence.

Conservation Refugees – Expelled from Paradise – an award-winning documentary by Marketfilm and Friends of People Close to Nature, introduces us to some of these refugees and the struggles they now face as displaced peoples.

Underreported Struggles is a monthly round-up of censored and under-reported news, compiled by Intercontinental Cry. If you want to know about these stories “as they happen”, follow IC on Twitter: @indigenous_news or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Intercontinental.Cry

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