Underreported Struggles #59, February 2012

Underreported Struggles #59, February 2012

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February 29, 2012

In This Month’s Underreported Struggles: Malaysian communities demand halt to twelve proposed dams; Mexico judiciary rules in favor of the Wixarika; New bill proposed in Israel would turn Prawer Plan into law;new land deal in Paraguay ensures long-displaced Enxet community can go home.

Featured: Prey Lang’s Hope For a Sustainable Future – Prey Lang, ‘Our Forest’ in the indigenous Kuy language, is a precious and important example of evergreen and semi-evergreen forest. Covering 3,600 square kilometres between the Mekong and Stung Sen rivers of Cambodia, it is the last of its kind on the Indo-Chinese peninsula. It is a haven for flora and fauna, including several endangered species. It is also under attack.

Underreported Struggles, February 2012

The Wixarika people, after campaigning for seventeen straight months to protect their sacred territory, have been granted a major reprieve by the federal courts in Mexico. As of this moment, the intention to exploit natural resources through 38 mineral concessions in the sacred territory of Wirikuta is suspended; and no further mining permits can be granted as long as the core of the matter (the Wixarika’a concerns) remains unresolved.

Indigenous activists in Taiwan sent up smoke signals in a symbolic action demanding that the government make amends for wrongful policies against indigenous peoples and create an inclusive constitution for all who live on the island. The annual relay of smoke signals was taken up by 46 indigenous communities. In response, the Council of Indigenous Peoples said the government will heed the call of tribal peoples for self rule and do its best to help resolve the issue of systematic encroachment of their traditional lands.

Security forces in India shut down a series preparatory meetings where food supplies were being organized for an important religious festival in Orissa, India.. The now-famous Dongria Kondh tribe has been trying to get ready for their Niyamraja ritual, during which the Dongria take an oath never to leave their sacred mountain, which continues to face threats by the equally-infamous UK company Vedanta Resources. Survival International has also received reports of arrests and beatings.

Maasai villagers in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania [Credit: wwarby, on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.]Despite years of outcry by international human rights institutions and local activists urging the government of Tanzania to recognize and respect indigenous rights, cases of systematic land alienation and forced evictions continue to be meted on indigenous people. In many cases, the government perceives indigenous lands as simply idle or underutilized, thereby justifying it’s theft, so it can be put to ‘better use.’ Some groups also claim the government is arbitrarily dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands and other properties in order to protect the interests of foreign investors.

A Nyoongar Tent Embassy was established in response to a Billion dollar proposal by the Western Australia government that would force the Nyoongar People to surrender their land title, permanently. Many of those involved in the Embassy are local Indigenous activists who just finished commemorating the 40th anniversary of the iconic Aboriginal Tent Embassy in front of the Old Parliament House in Canberra. The City of Perth, however, considers the Nyoongar Tent Embassy to be illegal. On at least three separate occasions they’ve tried to shut it down.

Malaysian communities have asked the Malaysia government to immediately halt their plans to build twelve new hydroelectric dams in Sarawak and to hold a referendum on dam construction. The call arrived on the heels of an important conference that was organized by the newly formed Save Rivers Network. Participants at the conference similarly called for an end to the dams, which threaten to displace tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples. Conference members also called for government to start promoting micro-hydro, solar, wind and biomass energy generation instead of mega-dams.

Some members of the Keeseekoowenin First Nation blocked a road near Riding Mountain National Park to protest the desturction of fishing nets by unknown persons. “Some of the nets were sunk because the lines had clearly been cut. We’ve followed (net) tracks for miles and miles that have been pulled up by SkiDoos and we can’t recover them,” a spokesperson said. The RCMP said they’re monitoring the blockade; however, they said nothing about investigating the sabotage.

State police impeding Triqui movement @ El UniversalThe Triqui people of San Juan Copala are returning to the Palace of Governance in Oaxaca de Juárez after a series of shameful moves by the Oaxaca government. Things were finally starting to look up for the Triqui, who had finally secured an agreement with Oaxaca Governor Gabino Cué that would provide an armed escort to accompany the Triqui on their return home after being displaced by paramilitary groups 16 months ago. Unfortunately, a string of bad faith moved followed; including an unrealistic set of conditions, and, if you can believe it, a police blockade to stop the Triqui from going home on their own.

The Belize Department of Geology and Petroleum announced that it will order US Capital Energy to halt all illegal seismic work on a Maya community’s lands and remove all markers it placed along a seismic trail the company cut through it. The community is presently waiting for a written copy of the Geology and Petroleum Department’s order to US Capital.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a disappointing district court decision to dismiss a 2009 lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The Save the Peaks Coalitition had originally challenged a USFS move to allow the use of treated sewage effluent on the San Francisco Peaks, a mountain that’s sacred to more than a dozen Indigenous nations. In the decision, Ninth Circuit Judge M. Smith alleged that the “case represents a gross abuse of the judicial process” because they essentially rehashed the first lawsuit. The Court of Appeals also reversed a previous panel’s ruling that the USFS approval violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The indigenous Wapichan people of Guyana came forward with a new grassroots proposal that would allow them to care for 1.4 million hectares of pristine rainforest on their traditional territory. The Wapichan’s proposal, which is centered on a digital map they created using, would also secure their traditional economic practices as well as sites of cultural, spiritual and biological importance in the region. Given the industrial threats to Wapichan territory, the proposal comes none too soon.

Ngobe highway blockade. Photo Credit Jennifer KennedySeveral Indigenous Ngobe protesters were injured and arrested during a series of confrontations with Panamanian police forces. The demonstrators were standing up to the government’s decision to remove a law that would provide environmental protection to their lands. At least one person also died during the confrontations. Fortunately, his death was not in vain. A noteworthy agreement was soon reached between the government and Ngobe leaders in which all detained protesters would be freed, all the injured would receive medical attention, the family of the student leader who died would get compensation, and a full human rights investigation would be carried out over the way the protests were handled. Another agreement soon followed which assures that no mining exploration or exploitation will take place in the Ngobe Comarca (communal territory).

A proposed bill in Israel would turn the controversial Prawer Plan into law, paving the government’s way to disposess the Bedouin People of their lands and relocate them to impoverished townships. Sadly, the controversial bill has gone totally ignored by both local and international media.

A total of 47 villagers were arrested and another 5 needed hospital treatment after hundreds of Indian police and Vedanta security guards confronted a peaceful demonstration in the state of Orissa, India. The villagers has come together to protest against a new toxic mine waste dump that threatens to disrupt their way of life.

Tenzin Choedron, an 18-year-old Tibetan nun, is the latest Tibetan to die in protest against the Chinese government. On February 11, Tenzin Choedron set herself on fire, just a few kilometers outside of the remote town of Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in occupied Tibet. She is the 21st confirmed Tibetan to self-immolate since February 2009. The areas in Occupied Tibet where the immolations are taking place are essentially no-go zones to foreign reporters, but a British newspaper journalist has managed to enter the town of Ngaba and document what is happening there.

Enxet Children playing soccer beside the highway (2008) © Amnesty International The Enxet community of Yakye Axa–after living next to a major highway for nearly two decades without access to water, regular food supplies or land to cultivate–can finally return to a normal way of life in southeastern Paraguay. A new land deal between Paraguayan authorities and a land owner ensures the long-displaced community can to return to their ancestral lands.

On the second anniversary of a landmark ruling by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Minority Rights Group International condemned the Kenyan government’s lack of commitment to ensuring justice for the Endorois people and urged authorities to immediately restore ownership of their ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. Although the Commission recognised, for the first time in the continent, indigenous peoples’ rights over traditionally occupied land and their right to be involved in, and benefit from, any development affecting their land, the Endorois still have no land title, have received no compensation for the loss they suffered during almost 40 years, nor a significant share in tourism revenue from their land.

Members from five Mapuche-Pehuenche communities occupied a municipal government office over the lack of water in their communities. The protest seems to have been sparked by bidding process aimed at providing water to the communities. The process was delayed because of ‘irregularities’ in the bidding including possible intimidation and coercion.

Videos of the Month
The Traditional-Assimilated Continuum – Joyce Silverthorne, a citizen of the Salish Nation, discusses the fundamental conflict of living in two worlds and the struggle to revitalize traditional culture and language.

The Carbon Rush – Trailer for the much-anticipated documentary film,The Carbon Rush. “What happens when we manipulate markets to solve the climate crisis?” Discover the emerging ‘green-gold’ multi-billion dollar carbon industry & the people most impacted.”

Leading By Example: T’Souke Nation Solar Community – “First Nations have experience in living on this continent for thousands of years without use of fossil fuels. It is now appropriate that First Nations demonstrate how to live without fossil fuels once again.”

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil – This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during “The Special Period” of the 1990s. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.

Underreported Struggles is a monthly round-up of essential news and film compiled by Intercontinental Cry.

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