In this month’s Underreported Struggles: US Judge throws out the Quechan’s request for an injunction against wind project; Winnemem Wintu close down McCloud River during war dance.
Underreported Struggles, May 2012
The Wixarika (Huichol) People slammed the Mexico government’s recently announced measures to protect thousands of acres of their sacred land. Despite being hailed as a victory by the government, the media and the general public, the Wixarika leaders say that it’s nothing more than a “media ploy”, because it only amounts to one percent of their land.
The Chilean Supreme Court unanimously rejected arguments made by the Hito clan of the Rapa Nui people in a case about lands on Easter Island. The Hito clan has been trying for years to regain control over a parcel of land that was traditionally in their possession, what is currently the site for a luxury hotel on the Island. The Supreme Court’s rejection included statements that, in 1888, all inhabitants on Easter Island became illegal squatters.
The Canadian-based Anuak Justice Council (AJC) has called on South Sudan President Salva Kiir to provide safety to the Indigenous Anuak Peoples. As explained in the AJC petition, the newly-established government is cooperating with the Ethiopian government in the deportation of seventeen Anuak from the Alari Refugee Camp. Once in Ethiopia, AJC warns, the Anuak group “… are certain to face imprisonment, torture and maybe death under the dictatorial leadership of Meles Zenawi.”
A U.S. Federal judge threw out the Quechan Nation’s request for an injunction against the controversial Ocotillo Express Wind Project in California. The Quechan filed the injunction days after the Bureau of Land Management gave “fast-track” approval for the project. In their petition, the Quechan explained that, by approving the project, the Department of Interior violated a bulky set of federal laws, regulations, and policies. The 10,150-acre project area contains 287 archaeological sites and at least 12 burial sites, all of which would be likely desecrated or destroyed by the massive wind farm.
Dozens of environmental justice activists led by Indigenous activists from Haudenosaunee successfully shut down Enbridge Line 9 hearings in London, Ontario. Members of the National Energy Board had traveled to London to hear presentations from major oil conglomerates as well as environmental NGOs. After successfully disrupting meeting, Haudenosaunee representatives explained that they had not been consulted about the pipeline plans, which would negatively impact their lands.
Members of the Musqueam First Nation and their supporters shut down traffic on the Arthur Laing Bridge in South Vancouver. The action came after weeks of organizing to protect ancient burial grounds at the foot of the bridge. More actions are undoubtedly on the way, since BC Premier Clark continues to refuse to do the right thing, for the Musqueam.
A new Mining bill is being considered by the Parliament of India that would bury the rights of Indigenous communities to their ancestral lands. “The very premise of the scheme,” comments Binda Karat, “replicates the patron-client relationship, which has reduced tribal communities into recipients of charity, instead of recognition as owners of the land and its resources.”
Winnemem Wintu Tribe members joined with members of other Indian Tribes and environmental activists to shut down Lake Shasta in conjunction with the Tribe’s four-day War Dance (H’up Chonas in the Winnemem language) at the site where they have held their Coming of Age ceremonies for thousands of years. The War Dance signified the tribe’s spiritual commitment to defend at all costs the ceremony from heckling, flashing and other disruptions by recreational boaters that have occurred in previous years.
According to leaked report obtained by the Guardian, an environmental consultancy firm withheld evidence that “Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation” (so-called “Uncontacted Tribes”) are located in an area where the UK oil company Perenco is operating. The revelation comes just a few weeks after E-Tech International released a highly critical report on the company’s “1970s-era” project plans.
A peaceful demonstration against human rights violations in West Papua was subverted by members of Indonesia’s Police and military forces. The peaceful action had been organized by the transitional government declared by the newly-established Federated Republic of West Papua (FRWP). The police forces set up blockades to prevent the demonstration from going ahead, arrested several individuals, confiscated banners and attacked at least one village. Following the demonstration, the governor of Saireri under FRWP was charged with treason.
After decades of struggle, Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador will finally be recognized in the constitution – a first step towards recovering their community identity, which they have been denied by the state and by society at large. A reported by IPS News, Article 63 of the constitution will be modified to acknowledge indigenous languages and other expressions of indigenous culture.
Construction has begun at the Arizona Snowbowl ski area, near Flagstaff, Arizona. Earlier this year, Indigenous activists lost their stand against the development project which involves using treated wastewater to generate snow on the San Francisco Peaks. However, the controversial plan is now the subject of new talks between the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, following the discovery that it could threaten a federally endangered plant.
The Tao people are speaking out against a nuclear waste storage facility on Orchid Island off the coast of Taiwan. Four years after the first Taiwanese nuclear power plant was built in 1970, the Taiwan Atomic Energy Council decided to dump its nuclear waste at Orchid Island, where the Tao people (Yami) have lived for generations. More than twenty years later, the radioactive waste barrels have eroded with rust. Radioactive isotopes can now be detected outside the facility.
The ministers of the Supreme Court of Paraguay withdrew the tenure of settlers who were illegally permitted to invade Indigenous Land in the 1960s. As a result of the decision, the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe, after nearly a century, are now ensured full occupation of the territory demarcated in 1938.
The O’odham community of Gila River is coming out in full force against the proposed Florence Copper Project. In addition to ever-growing grassroots opposition, The Gila River Tribal Council has voted 15-0 to oppose the project. A resolution from the Tribal Council cites the potential for the development to impact water on the reservation.
The Paris-based Collective for the Defence of Malagasy Lands (“Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches” or TANY) asked the international community to send an urgent message to the heads of Sherritt International Inc. concerning the human and environmental impacts of the Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine in Madagascar. The construction phase of the project alone, so far, has led to at least four sulphur dioxide spills, leading to the the deaths of two adults and 2 babies.
The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni Peoples (MOSOP) has alerted the world that the Ogoni people will disengage its relationship with Nigeria in the event of another civil war targeting the natural wealth, especially sweet crude oil and natural gas deposits in Ogoniland. It would, instead, embark on a journey to regain its sovereign independence violated by the British Empire in 1901
Wolf Lake and Eagle Village First Nation are raising concerns about a proposed rare earth open pit mine on their traditional lands in Western Quebec. In a joint press statement, the Two Algonquin First Nations point to the sizable controversy surrounding rare earth mining and processing, which tends to have severe environmental impacts. They also outline their ongoing effort to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the company behind the project. In short, they want to make a fully informed decision whether or not to allow the project to move forward.
Videos of the Month
Pele’s Appeal – an award-winning documentary about the risks of geothermal drilling in the Wao Kele o Puna rain forest on the Hawai’i island.
Bringing Back Wapato – After lying dormant for 70 years, a sacred First Food has returned to the Yakama Nation: the Wapato. This small potato began growing after a decades-long restoration project transformed wheat fields back to historical wetland habitat.
A Year in the Clouds – A Year in the Clouds takes you into the mountains of Taiwan to witness the passing of a year amongst the Tayal village of Smangus.