Underreported Struggles #53, August 2011

Underreported Struggles #53, August 2011

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John Ahni Schertow
September 1, 2011
 

In this month’s Underreported Struggles: The world’s largest wine corporation pushes to destroy sacred forest; South Africa’s President announces new bill to recognize Indigenous Peoples; Shipibo communities walk away from Maple Energy’s bad faith; Southern Baptists call for the evangelization of the world’s “unreached” Peoples.

Underreported Struggles, August 2011

The Colombian government prohibited mining in 47 coffee-growing municipalities, after UNESCO recommended that such activity be halted in the region. Cultural Vice-Minister Maria Claudia Lopez explained that the decision is aimed at protecting what is known as the “Cultural Coffee Landscape”(PCC). The PCC was recently designated a World Heritage Site.

A group of Mapuche youths who peacefully occupied a municipal government building in Ercilla, Chile, called off their protest after reaching an agreement with government officials. The occupation began in response to increased violence between police officers and Mapuche communities in the area.

The world’s largest wine corporation, Spain’s Grupo Codorniu, is trying to get permission from the state of California to clear-cut more than 1,900 acres of redwood forest in Sonoma County for that most decadent of alcohols: red wine. Among several environmental concerns, the proposed “land conversion” would severely impact the cultural and spiritual well-being of the Kashia Pomo, who regard the redwood forest as a sacred place that must be preserved.

Two Shipibo communities in the Peruvian Amazon broke off negotiations with Maple Gas Corporation, over the health and environmental impacts of six oil spills on their territory over the past three years. The move comes just one month after 32 Shipibo were forced to clean up one of the spills with their bare hands.

Thousands of people demonstrated in 17 countries, following protests in 15 Brazilian cities to urge the administration of President Dilma Rousseff to end its assault on the forests and the people of the Amazon. The demonstrators, mostly self organized via facebook, called on the government to immediately halt the controversial Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River, revoke the proposed gutting of the Forest Code, and protect forest activists from a recent wave of assassinations and intimidation.

Shell and BP are mere steps away from drilling exploratory wells off the Coast of Alaska and Russia, a region that everyone’s playfully referring to as the “final frontier” for petroleum development. The notion of the Arctic being “undeveloped” or “undiscovered” probably couldn’t be more insulting to the Inupiat, Saami and other Indigenous Peoples whose cultures and subsistence ways of life evolved over centuries of living in the region.

Grassy Narrows First Nation won a major victory in their long-standing legal battle to stop clearcut logging on their traditional territory. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the Ontario Government never had the legal power to infringe on the Anishinabe community’s Treaty rights for logging and mining development. The welcomed decision may finally bring an end to clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Territory.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Peoples are speaking out against a planned quarry project that threatens a key religious and cultural area. The company, Granite Construction is seeking an agreement that would allow it to mine the quarry for 75 years. Tribal officials, however, insist that they been telling county officials about the property’s spiritual importance for years. They consider the land to be the site of creation.

Indigenous Peoples in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia began a 600-km march to Bolivia’s capital city to protest plans for a new trans-oceanic highway that would cut through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS). The decision to mount the protest march follows the breakdown of talks between the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia (CIDOB) and the authorities in charge of the road project.

The Chinese government submitted a claim of ownership to the decidedly Monglolian (ie. indigenous) tradition of throat singing. According to Odsuren Baatar, a master of the difficult practice also known as overtone singing, China produced a video using one of Baatar’s former students, which it then sent to UNESCO as a part of “China’s cultural heritage.” Baatar is quite furious over the discovery; and rightfully so. It would be like America claiming ownership of Yoga.

The Canadian company HudBay Minerals cut ties to its troubled Fenix mining project in Guatemala. The company, which recently announced the project’s sale to a private Russian company, has been named in two separate lawsuits over the brutal murder of a respected community leader and the rape of 11 women by mine security personnel. Both lawsuits will continue despite the company’s sale.

The President of South Africa announced his government is in the process of forging a new National Traditional Affairs Bill, which will provide for the recognition of Khoi-San communities, leaders and councils. It is believed the bill will be finalized by the end of the year, after a series of consultations. South Africa is also in the process of finalising its position on signing and ratifying ILO 169.

Indigenous leaders in Bangladesh burst into protest during the international day of Indigenous Peoples to demand constitutional recognition for the country’s 45 distinct Peoples. The protest stemmed directly from the government’s recent claim that Bangladesh “does not have any indigenous people.” Instead, government officials argue, the Bangla-speaking majority, mostly Sunni Muslims, are the country’s only Indigenous People.

Heavily armed drug traffickers from Peru are believed to be hunting isolated indigenous peoples in the Brazilian state of Acre on the border with Peru, in order to make way for coca-growing operations. According to latest reports, the Ministry of Defense has organized a “permanent occupation” until the crisis is contained.

Following Survival International’s report on the Peruvian paramilitary invasion of Brazil, the Southern Baptist mission issued an urgent call to evangelize all the world’s remaining ‘unreached’ Indigenous Peoples. A report by the International Missions Board of Southern Baptist Convention estimated that there are 300 potential targets in the Americas alone. A few days later, a well-known host on EWTN (an American Catholic TV network) referred to those targets as “savages”, stating, “We have a whole world to conquer for Christ. Don’t we?”

The Indigenous Telengit Peoples in the Altai Republic are turning to the international community to help stop a new gas pipeline that would cut through their sacred lands and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cultural Survival has responded to the Telengit’s call by starting a letter-writing campaign on their behalf.

The villagers of Amador Hernández are growing increasingly active in raising the alarm about the impacts of REDD, a forest carbon offset policy that is worsening land conflicts and threatening indigenous rights around the world. In the case of Amador Hernández, the Chiapas government cut off vital medical services in order to gain access to their land. This apparent act of extortion has led to the deaths of several elderly people and children.

Videos of the Month

The Canary Effect – This coming October, Intercontinental Cry will be hosting a special screening of the award-winning documentary film “THE CANARY EFFECT” by Robin Davey and Yellow Thunder Woman. The film will be available in its entirety, for one full week, starting on October 12, 2011 at 2:00 am EST.

Umoja: No Men Allowed – This film tells the life-changing story of a group of Indigenous Samburu women in Northern Kenya who reclaimed their lives after speaking out against an epidemic of rape at the hands of British soldiers.

The Yarsagumba Effect – The Yarsagumba Effect examines the ecology of medicinal plant markets, exposing issues of biopiracy, indigenous knowledge exploitation and overharvesting around the world.

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