In this month’s Underreported Struggles: China announces plan to extinguish the nomadic life in Tibet, Uyghur, and Inner Mongolia; Cree Nation of Mistissini issues a resounding NO to uranium development; Indigenous communities gain access to land rights in Tanzania, Panama.
Underreported Struggles, June 2012
To the shock and dismay of Indigenous Peoples throughout Australia, the Australian Senate rushed through a new law meant to extend the despicable Northern Territory intervention for another ten years.
The Xavante territory of Marãiwatsede in western Brazil was occupied by a group of armed ranchers. The invaders are said to have dug trenches in a local highway and burnt bridges to prevent access to nearby towns. The desperate action is aimed at preventing the Xavante from gaining legal recognition of their territory. A month earlier, the Regional branch of Brazil’s Federal court recognized the Xavante’s demands for the removal of any illegal invaders of their territory. The risk of violence in the situation is considered to be extremely high.
A US-based human rights group condemned the Chinese government’s plan to extinguish the nomadic way of life in Occupied Tibet, Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The so-called “Twelfth Five-Year Plan for the Project on Resettling Nomadic People within China” aims to send more than a million people to permanent settlements over the next 3 years.
A group of Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation citizens stopped a controversial treaty vote from taking place in southwestern British Colombia. The peaceful protest ignited a fairly heated debate across Canada concerning the BC Treaty process. First Nations in British Colombia are forced to participate in the treaty process, by the Canadian government. The treaties are often aimed at extinguishing sovereignty in exchange for a few pleasant-sounding promises and short term kickbacks.
Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples from the Xingu River Basin have occupied the Belo Monte Dam construction site on Pimental Island in Pará, Brazil. Initially the protest was led by a group of about 150 Xikrin Peoples; but after successfully managing to paralyze work at the construction site, the group was joined by representatives from the Juruna, Araweté, Assurini and Parakanã. Representatives from all 34 villages in the middle of Xingu River basin are now expected to join the protest.
A consortium of indigenous and non-governmental organizations have sounded the alarm over a disturbing new eco-tourism scheme by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD). The MPFD, a government agency responsible for managing all forest areas in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, says it wants to lease out 50 to 150 sq km bricks of land to interested tourism companies. Those companies would then be free to change the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples to something more ‘compatible’ with conservation.
After waiting for decades in despair, the Barbaig Peoples in Tanzania’s Mbulu district have finally secured a Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCRO) to safeguard their threatened grazing land. The CCRO, will protect nearly 38, 358 hectares of land from being encroached upon by competing land users.
Yolanda “Yoli” Oquely Veliz, a human rights and environmental activist in Guatemala, was shot three times as she left a resistance blockade near the entrance to the Radius Gold-owned El Tambor gold mine in San José del Golfo, Guatemala. She is currently in stable but serious condition.
In Oaxaca, Mexico, another two activists were shot as they casually stood with friends in front of city hall in the town of San José del Progreso. Bertín Vásquez Ruiz was shot in the abdomen and Guadalupe Vázquez Ruis took bullets in his leg and hand. Both are members of the Coalition of United Peoples of the Ocotlán Valley (CPUVO), which has been actively protesting Fortuna Silver Inc.’s Trinidad/Cuzcatlán mine. Thankfully, they, too, are in stable condition.
The international spokesperson of the KNPB, the National Committee of West Papua, announced that all members of the KNPB will surrender en masse to the police in Papua. The unprecedented action is in response to a series of violent acts that have occurred in Jayapura. The spokesperson insists the KNPB are not responsible for the acts, but are rather the work of ‘mysterious ‘ or unknown people who are now being referred to across Papua by the acronym “OTK”: Orang Terlatih Khusus or Specially Trained People.
A group of Indigenous Elders are raising questions about the possible environmental impacts of a proposed geothermal plant in the province of Kalinga, Philippines. More than anything, the Elders want to know what Chevron would do if the company’s geothermal drilling operations happen to trigger a volcanic eruption. That’s a mighty good question.
At least eight police officers and nine peasant farmers were killed in armed clashes during a land eviction in Paraguay, marking one of the worst such incidents in the country for two decades. The eviction was requested by a local businessman who complained that a group of about 100 families had invaded his property. Peasant rights groups, however, say the prime farmland was taken during the 35-year dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. Paraguay’s President promised “sweeping agrarian reform” during his election, but so far that promise has not been fulfilled.
Affected community members, scientists, spiritual leaders, journalists, human rights advocates and others will soon gather in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, Guatemala, for the much-anticipated Peoples’ International Health Tribunal (PIHT). The community-driven tribunal will address the health and social impacts of Goldcorp Inc. especially with regard to the Marlin mine in Guatemala, the Los Filos mine in Mexico and the San Martín Mine in Honduras. The entire event, which runs July 14-15, will be streamed live on the internet.
A US federal court rejected the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s attempt to store spent nuclear fuel at the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant for another sixty years. The Prairie Island Indian Community has since called on the US government to fulfill its promise and legal obligation to remove the nuclear waste from the reservation.
Barriere Lake spokesperson Norman Matchewan was acquitted of all charges stemming from a 2009 blockade that was set up to defend the Algonquin First Nation’s territory from illegal logging. A man working for AbitibiBowater, the company behind the logging, was kind enough to help the courts arrive at its decision, albeit reluctantly.
Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit to stop a controversial forest-to-vineyard conversion project in northwest Sonoma County, California, USA. The proposed land conversion–which is funded by one of the world’s largest corporate wineries, Codorníu S.A.–would devastate the local forest ecosystem, reduce local water quality and threaten the endangered coho salmon. It would also obliterate archeological sites and diminish the history, identity and cultural practices of the Kashia Pomo.
Three years have passed since the Peruvian police opened fire on a group of Awajun and Wampis protesters near the town of Bagua in northern Peru. The violent clashes that ensued left 34 dead and over 200 injured in the worst violence that Peru has seen in recent history. Despite a few minor advances, very little has changed since the tragic confrontation; least of all government policy towards Indigenous rights.
The controversial Prawer plan was recently been passed into law by the government of Israel, paving the way for the full-scale theft of Bedoiun lands and the destruction of Traditional life in the Negev desert. Israel will now move to forcibly relocate upwards of 40,000 Bedoiun to various designer settlements.
The Cree Nation of Mistissini reiterated its position on uranium development at recent public hearing organized by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The CNSC insists that a proposed uranium exploitation project in Eeyou Istchee (Cree for “The People’s Land”) is low risk. However, as far as the Cree Nation is concerned, any risk is too much risk. Chief Richard Shecapio, speaking on behalf of his community, explained that his Council will do “whatever it takes” to implement a moratorium on uranium development in the region.
Hundreds of Kumyks are holding out at a peaceful protest camp in the volatile Russian republic of Dagestan, which is close to civil war. The Kumyk set up their protest camp in April, to demonstrate their concerns of being neglected, discriminated against and driven from their territory. The camp is demanding more autonomy so they can preserve their language and culture.
After a 30-year struggle, two indigenous Wounaan communities in the eastern Panamanian province of Darién finally received titles from the government to their traditional lands. Thousands of other Wounaan and Emberá are awaiting their own titles in another 39 communities.
The Northern Land Council, which represents native title claimants in the Arnhem Land region of Australia’s Northern Territory, decided to extend the boundaries of the world-heritage-listed Kakadu National Park to include a 1200-hectare uranium deposit. The decision brings the Koongarra uranium deposit one step closer to being permanently safeguarded from the French uranium mining giant AREVA.
Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) found two grotesquely deformed, lesion-covered Fish in Lake Athabasca near the community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. The Suckerfish and Jackfish were found on the same day, at two separate locations in Lake Athabasca. They are now stored in the community and will be sent for analysis at the CCWHC lab in Calgary.
Videos of the Month
Belo Monte, An Announcement Of War – an independent, crowd-funded, feature-length documentary about the largest ongoing construction project in Brazil and the permanent struggle to stop it.
Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign – In this video, Andy Mager, the Syracuse Peace Council coordinator for Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON), talks about the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign planned for 2013
Fractured Land – Fractured Land follows the courageous journey of a modern Indigenous warrior to preserve his people’s land and culture from the forces of neocolonialism in Canada.