In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Chinese forces arrest 300 Tibetan monks in an ongoing military siege against a monastery; The Mirarr People demand the protection of a massive uranium deposit in northern Australia; Guatemala’s highest court affirms the collective land rights of a Maya Q’eqchi’ community, a first-of-its-kind decision in Guatemala.
Underreported Struggles, April 2011
At least fifteen members of the Qom community (of the Toba people) began a hunger strike in Buenos Aires over the Argentine Government’s failure to uphold its promises, mainly concerning the Toba’s land right. More than 150 Toba and other supporters have also been blocking traffic at an intersection in the capital city.
The Swedish Supreme Court upheld a decision from the country’s lower courts, recognizing the rights of the Sami indigenous people and their ancestral tradition of herding Reindeer. The case had been sitting before the courts since 1997, when 104 Swedish landowners tried to sue three reindeer herding collectives owned by the Sami in the area.
The Alberta government approved a $2.7-billion expansion of the Christina Lake oilsands project, putting even more pressure on the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, their environment, their traditional way of life; and the nearly-extinct woodland Caribou. The Beaver Lake Cree are in the midst of an ongoing legal battle against all tar sands operations within their territory.
Indigenous groups paralyzed Nepal’s capital city and other parts of the country in a surprise National Strike aimed at changing Nepal’s new constitution. The groups want the government to include provisions for the rights of Indigenous people and autonomy to better protect women and minorities from discrimination.
Toronto’s High Park, located near the edge of Lake Ontario, is home to more than four dozen Haudenosaunee burial mounds, some of which could date back 3000 years, making them older than the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Today, some of those burial mounds are being casually desecrated with the implicit sanction of Toronto’s City Council.
On April 21st, Chinese forces arrested 300 Tibetan monks from the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, eastern Tibet. Two elderly Tibetans died after being assaulted by Chinese police forces when they formed a human chain to try and stop the police from taking the monks away. The Tibetans have been protesting since March 16th, when a 20-year old monk from the Kirti Monastery self-immolated in an act of protest.
The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment delayed its decision on whether or not to allow oil drilling near the Sacred site known as Bear Butte. The board previously approved a drilling application; but then reopened the case after determining that it had failed to consider state laws concerning the protection of cultural resources related to property with an historic designation. The Board is expected to make its decision on May 18. Bear Butte is sacred to many Plains Peoples, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, Dakota, and Arapaho.
Bengali Settlers burned down at least 95 Jumma houses and injured more than fifty people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The attacks began after the Jumma tried to stop a group of settlers from illegally clearing bushes on their ancestral lands. The Jumma first sought help from police; but when they refused to help, the Jumma took matters into their own hands. The resulting clash ended with three people dead. The senseless violence could have been avoided if the Bangladesh government had fulfilled its promises to implement the 1997 CHT Peace Accord, which brought an end to more than twenty years of atrocities against the Jumma.
The Constitutional Court of Guatemala issued a precedent-setting decision in favour of a Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous community in El Estor, recognizing their community’s collective land rights, and ordering the government to take all measures necessary for issuing a land title to the community. The decision is the first of its kind in the country. It also arrives amidst two additional lawsuits in El Estor, regarding the death of a Q’eqchi’ community leader in 2009 and the rape of several Q’eqchi’ women during an eviction in 2007. Canadian mining companies are at the center of all three cases.
Roughly 150 Indigenous People and supporters occupied the ancient burial site at Glen Cove, Vallejo, California, blocking the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) from gaining entry to the site with bulldozers to begin work on a new public park. The GVRD’s plans, which involves grading a hill and building toilets and a parking lot in the area, would deface the landscape and desecrate the sacred site. The occupation is ongoing. For updates, please visit http://protectglencove.org.
The Ngobe people introduced two bills to Panama’s National Assembly in order to protect their self-governance practices and their territories. The first bill would revoke a controversial Executive Decree that violates the Ngobe’s basic right to choose their own leaders. The second bill would prohibit any mining or dam construction projects that would negatively affect Ngobe communities.
The Mirarr People renewed their opposition to the multibillion-dollar Jabiluka uranium deposit in Australia’s Northern territory, declaring their wish, in solidarity with the people of Japan, to include the deposit as part of the UNESCO world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Simply put, the Mirarr want the uranium to stay in the ground, where it can’t harm anyone, and so future generations have it to protect.
Bolivia is getting ready to ratify one of the most radical environmental bills in global history, The Law of Mother Earth. The law, which has also been tabled at the United Nations, would give the natural world legal rights, specifically the rights to life and regeneration, biodiversity, water, clean air, balance, and restoration.
With the Garifuna People just days away from commemorating the 214th anniversary of their eviction from the island of Saint Vincent in 1797, agents from the Honduran Ministry of Security began to violently evict Garifuna families from the island community of Punta Gorda, off the coast of Honduras. More than 40 families were effected by the expulsion.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) officially requested the Brazilian government to suspend work on the Belo Monte Dam complex, citing the project’s potential harm to Indigenous communities living within the Xingu river basin. The government wasted no time dismissing the request.
The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency motion to stop all tree cutting and other preparations to spray reclaimed sewer water on the San Francisco Peaks, outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. The San Francisco Peaks are sacred to 13 Indigenous Nations in the southwestern US.
Videos of the Month
Censored: FMG’s Great Native Title Swindle – Censored from Vimeo.com, this video is a record of a supposed ‘native title’ meeting staged by the Australian iron ore mining company, Fortescue Metals Group (FMG). It shows how FMG, its agents, a lawyer and an “opportunist splinter faction” tried to divide the local Yindjibarndi community in order to gain support for the company’s planned $8.5 billion Solomon Hub project, in the Pilbara region.
We Have Everything And Lack Everything – Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos in southern Guerrero, Mexico are resisting two mining projects that threaten their land and territory; their autonomy; and their enormously successful community police force and alternative justice program
Protecting Rivers and Rights: The Promise of the World Commission on Dams – The World Commission on Dams (WCD) report is still our best roadmap towards ensuring that future dams minimize social and environmental impacts, the legacy of existing dams are addressed, and affected people directly benefit from the projects. Watch this video, produced by International Rivers and EcoDoc Africa, to learn more about the promise of the WCD.
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