In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Q’eqchi community destroyed by police, security forces in Guatemala; Tanzania government grants land title deed to the Hadzabe; Burma’s president suspends work on the controversial Myitsone dam; Elder Mamos express profound concern over proposed ‘eco-friendly’ hotel on sacred lands.
Underreported Struggles, October 2011
Israel’s adoption of the controversial “Prawer Plan” earlier this month has set the stage for the seizure of more than two-thirds of the Bedouin’s total land base in the Negev desert; the destruction of 37 Bedouin villages; and the forced relocation of the indigenous inhabitants to an area beside a garbage dump. The first phase of the eviction is expected to begin as early as January 2012.
On October 26, the entire Q’eqchi community of Paraná was destroyed by the Guatemalan police and private security forces in Panzos, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. According to Guatemala Solidarity Project, the attack was directly overseen by a wealthy biofuels investor: Carlos Widmann, brother in law of ex-President Oscar Berger. All houses in the community were destroyed in the attack.
In an historical event, the Tanzania government has offered a traditional land certificate to the Hadzabe, an Indigenous People that even now, some believe to be extinct. The move, hailed by the villagers and supporting organizations, will ensure land tenure for the nomadic tribe. This is the first time in Tanzania’s history the government has provided a land certificate to a “minority tribe”.
A United Nations expert has urged Norway to reject the proposal by one of its parties to repeal key laws and policies designed to protect indigenous groups, saying its approval would represent an “enormous setback for the recognition and protection of human rights in the country.” The proposal would take away many of the land ownership, self-determination and protection rights of the Sami people, Norway’s largest indigenous group, which also inhabits parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Hondeklipbaai, a small community located on the northwest coast of South Africa, is trying to stop the world’s largest diamond mining company from getting out of its promise to rehabilitate the land it has exploited for almost 80 years. De Beers is trying to sell the mine to a consortium led by Trans Hex Diamonds. However, the community of Hondeklipbaai says Trans Hex simply doesn’t have the financial clout to carry out a rehabilitation programme of this magnitude.
The Elder “Mamos” or Spiritual leaders of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, have expressed profound concern over plans to build a new seven-star hotel on their ancestral land within the Tayrona National Park in northern Colombia. The Mamos warn that the site for the proposed hotel is located on sacred lands that are supposed to be held inviolate.
Indonesian forces opened fire on the Third Papuan People’s Congress, dispersing the peaceful gathering that had attracted thousands of Papuans to Jayapura city, the capital of West Papua. Thankfully, the “tough response” seems to have backfired. As noted by New Matilda, the indiscriminate repression has served well to strengthen the Papuan voice and attract much needed support from around the world.
Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), a massive iron ore mining company based in Australia, is trying to get out of a state order that forces the company to protect any burial sites they encounter on Yindjibarndi lands in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The company also wants to avoid its legal obligation to consult the Yindjibarndi. “There are 250 [sites] or more in this country, some very important places for our religious ceremonies,” says Michael Woodley, chief executive of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC). Any number of those sites could be at risk.
Indigenous Peoples and supporting NGOs are calling on Philippines President Aquino to take back his decision to let mining companies fund and organize their own private militias to secure their operations. In no uncertain terms, It is the indigenous peoples and rural communities that are in dire need of protection from violence and attacks, not mining corporations.
In the last 6 weeks, Moroccan police forces have brutally assaulted peacefully-protesting Saharawis on two separate occasions, injuring men, women, and children. For the past 36 years, the Saharawis, Western Sahara’s indigenous population, have been forced to endure illegal colonization, resource theft, abuse and discrimination by Morocco, as well as nearly twenty years of waiting for a referendum on the status of Western Sahara as promised by the UN. The ongoing conflict gets little international exposure, since Morocco maintains a virtual media blackout in the occupied region and has banned NGOs from operating there.
For the first time in 300 years, a sacred place near the Mohawk River is back in the hands of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Cohoes Falls property, as it’s commonly known, is a key site in the story of the Great Peacemaker, Deganawida, the visionary who formulated the Great Law of Peace or Kaiienerekowa.
The recently-elected government of Papua New Guinea has promised to get rid of all draconian amendments to the Environment Act and restore the rights of the country’s indigenous landowners. The controversial amendments were a not-so-subtle attempt by the previous administration to stop a lawsuit against the equally-controversial plan to dump mine waste off the Rai coast.
Armed with bows and arrows, the Ache community of Chupa Pou has successfully removed a large group of Brazilian farmers from their ancestral lands in eastern Paraguay, near the border with Brazil. Fortunately, there are no reports of bloodshed and the farmers left without any resistance; however, the farmers have said they will return to the Ache’s land.
The expansion of coal mining operations in Jharkhand’s Northern Karanpura Valley poses a major threat to the region’s Indigenous population, their local environment and a precious cultural heritage that dates back more than 8,000 years. According to FIAN International, more than twenty new coal mines have been slated for the valley.
Two Saami communities have said they will do everything in their power to stop a mining company from exploiting their internationally-protected lands in Northern Sweden. The Saami communities of Girjas and Laevas recently found out that Kiruna Iron AB, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Australian company Scandinavian Resources Ltd., wants to develop two iron mines in the Kalix River Valley. Both of the proposed mine sites are located within the Saami’s nationally-recognized reindeer herding grounds and the European Union’s Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas.
Hundreds of Namibians welcomed the return of 20 skulls that were taken to Germany during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide more than a century ago. Sadly, the return did not include any kind of apology or reparations from the German government, even though it was more than called for: The skulls, uncovered from German medical archives in 2008, were used to investigate the rather absurd theory of white supremacy by Eugen Fischer, teacher of the infamous Nazi physician Josef Mengele.
Burma’s president unexpectedly suspended construction of the controversial Myitsone dam project “to respect the will of the people“. The dam, located in one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, would have displace 12,000 people and irreversibly affect Burma’s central river system and rice-growing area.
!!!This land is ours!!! A tale of land theft through violence and laws – In this guest article, Frauke Decoodt examines the ever-growing land rights struggle of the Maya-Ixil Peoples in Guatemala. The Ixil’s ancestral land was usurped by the State government in 1984 during the genocide in Guatemala; however, it was not until May 2011, when a government representative told them they were living on ‘state property’, that the Ixil understood the scope of the historical theft. Now, the Ixil are doing everything in their power to right the historical wrong and restore their land rights.
Videos of the Month
We struggle but we eat fruit – a loving portrait of the Ashaninka Peoples and their efforts to protect their threatened forest lands and preserve their way of life.
Cycles of the Element – an upcoming documentary film about the effects of colonization on indigenous nations, and how to spark change from within to rise above it.
Strategies of Struggle from Below – an experimental documentary exploring diverse forms of social organization throughout the beautiful, unique but complex country of Colombia.
Blood in the Mobile – a 2010 documentary film that exposes the connection between mobile phones and Democratic Republic of Congo’s bloody civil war.