Underreported Struggles #66, September 2012
In this month’s Underreported Struggles: Shipibo villagers take control of nine oil wells on their territory; The Amoonguna tell the Australian government to go away; Sixteen indigenous Nations join forces to oppose Brazil’s anti-indigenous moves; the Yoruba begin to push for regional autonomy.
After standing strong for more than 140 days, the Musqueam People are celebrating a decision by the B.C Government to cancel a controversial 5-story condominium project at cusnaum, an historic village and burial site located in the heart of Musqueam’s Traditional, unceded Territory. The developers behind the project will likely challenge the basic-indigenous-rights decision.
The Yanomami organization, HORONAMI, issued its final public statement on the matter of illegal Brazilian miners in the Upper Ocamo region of Venezuela. HORONAMI was relieved to learn that massacre had not taken place, however, it rejects claims that ‘all is well’ in the region. The 16-point statement also rejects attempts to internally divide the organization, to link it to opposition actors and to exploit their previous allegations.
Five Mapuche activists entered their fifth week of an “open-ended” hunger strike at Angol Detention Center in Chile’s Araucanía region. One Mapuche, Daniel Levinao Montoya called the hunger strike after he and Paulino Levipan Coyán were convicted by a military court in mid-August. The men are protesting the militarization of their land in Chile’s south and calling for the release of all Mapuche political prisoners.
The Chumash Nation raised numerous concerns over the proposed Diablo Canyon Seismic project off the Central Coast of California. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) intends to carpet bomb approx. 580 square nautical miles of sea floor with powerful Air Cannons that will blast every 10 to 20 seconds for 42 days straight. The 260db sonic blasts, which will travel through the water and 10 miles into the earth’s crust, will devastate the local marine ecosystem and possibly destroy fragile and sensitive Sacred Chumash Cultural Sites.
The government of Indonesia responded to the UN’s recommendations to recognize the rights of its indigenous peoples by asserting, once again, that no indigenous peoples live in the country. The government recognizes exactly 365 distinct ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, however, it explicitly defines them as “komunitas adat terpencil” (geographically-isolated customary law communities). The concept of Indigenous Peoples, according to Indonesia, cannot apply to any of these communities, whether it’s the Manggarai, Leragere, Kedang or the Peoples of occupied West Papua.
Hundreds of tribal members from the Lummi Nation gathered to announce their opposition to the construction of a facility that would be used to ship coal imported from the Powder River Basin. During the gathering, the Lummi burned a symbolic check to make a statement that no amount of money could buy their support for a project that would destroy their village and burial sites.
About 200 people from all over Nova Scotia gathered to protest the imminent threat of fracking on the shores of Lake Ainslie. The action included a partial blockade led by Mi’kmaq from Cape Breton and the Nova Scotia mainland.
A group of Naso protestors blocked access to the Bonyic Hydroelectric project in Bocas del Toro province, western Panama. The protestors, who issued an urgent plea for international solidarity, say that a new road will cut through an ancient archaeological site, which has already been damaged by bulldozers. They say the site is extensive and that they have collected a variety of ceramic shards, implements, huacas (pre-Colombian ornaments) and a piece of human bone from the area, indicating it was once perhaps a burial ground.
Protests continue to challenge China’s 12th Five Year Plan, which, as of January 2011, had already forcibly moved approximately 1.43 million nomads into unfamiliar urban environments. Over the next five years, the state intends to settle another 1.5 million nomadic pastoralists in Tibet, Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. In each concerned region, nomads are responding to the plan–to end their way of life–with resistance and protest.
The Kuki National Assembly formally requested the cancellation of a proposed Tiger Reserve on the Kuki’s territory in Assam, India. The proposed sanctuary would be placed in an area that the Kuki use for their traditional method of allied farming, which they depend on for survival.The National Assembly states that, while Tiger’s need to be protected, it is “cruel, inhuman and agonizing” to do so at the expense of the Kuki.
Several Indigenous Nations along the North and Central Coast of British Colombia, Canada, declared a ban on trophy bear hunting in their traditional territories. “We will protect bears from cruel and unsustainable trophy hunts by any and all means,” said Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation Chief Doug Neasloss. Because the Province is negligent in their responsibility to monitor the trophy hunt the Coastal First Nations will now assume responsibility for bear management on the Coast, he added. “We will now assume the authority to monitor and enforce a closure of this senseless trophy hunt.”
Over 400 Shipibo villagers in the Ucayali region of Peru took control of nine oil wells, belonging to a company that has been exploiting Shipibo lands with impunity for the past 37 years. The action sent a clear warning to all foreign and domestic oil companies now invading indigenous homelands throughout the Peruvian Amazon: enough is enough!!
Following the Shipibo protest, though not directly related to it, Peru’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Shipibo and Ese’Eja community’s right to take control of a road that illegal miners and timber cutters were building through their territory. The ruling cited Peru’s new prior consultation law, which requires the government to consult with indigenous communities before making decisions that directly affect them.
Elsewhere in Peru, the Achuar Peoples won a major victory in their own struggle against another oil company. In a move that caught everyone off guard, the Canadian company Talisman Energy announced that it will be withdrawing from the Achuar’s ancestral territory, just as soon as it finishes some ongoing commercial transactions. Essentially, the company got sick of not making any money off the Achuar’s homeland. The company tried and failed for eight years.
Herakles Farms, a subsidiary of the New York-based investment firm Herakles Capital, withdrew its application to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) after a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations called attention to the reality of its proposed 73,000-hectare palm oil plantation in Cameroon. They exposed the project for what is: bad for the environment and bad for the people.
The Amoonguna people in Australia’s Northern Territory issued a statement requesting the removal of all government workers from their community by the end of September or face charges of trespass. The Amoonguna are also refusing to sign another five-??year lease after being forced to accept the first one (along with 5 dozen other communities) in 2007 as a part of the government’s draconian ‘intervention’ programme.
Several Yoruba organizations (the Yoruba General Assembly and the Yoruba Elders Forum among them) recently started to push for regional autonomy in the south-western area of Nigeria, the homeland of the Yoruba people. As observed by Aderemi Suleiman Ajala, an expert on Yoruba nationalism, the Yoruba ruled several powerful kingdoms prior to European colonization; but now that power base is all but gone.
For the first time in several hundred years, non-Indigenous peoples were invited to participate in the last two days of the week-long Wabanaki Confederacy Gathering. Speaking about the invite, Harry LaPorte, grand chief of the Maliseet First Nation, told the Media Coop, “We’re going to rebuild the Wabanaki Confederacy… We also invited some non-Natives…to come and be with us and to help us build an alliance, so that when we…come into conflict with the government and some of their decisions and policies…to have them stand beside us and to let their government know that it’s not only Native people who are worried about the water, the land, the air. But it’s also people from their nation that are concerned.”
Sixteen different indigenous Nations in Brazil came together to show their outrage against the government’s controversial Decree 303 (which essentially extinguishes indigenous rights to land) and what they are calling the “scrapping” of the FUNAI, Brazil’s Buerau of Indian Affairs. As part of the protest, the indigenous peoples blocked access to two major interstate highways, BR-174 and BR-364 – stepping on the economic nerve of the state of Mato Grosso. Sadly, there was almost no English media coverage of the protest.
Videos of the Month
The Herakles Debacle – This short film gives you a good look at Herakles Farms and their plan to destroy 73,000 hectares of rainforest in Cameroon for palm oil.
Buried Voices – provides insight into the Ohlone, Miwok and Yokut Peoples’ ongoing struggle to protect one of their most sacred places, an area near Livermore, California, now known as Brushy Peak.
The Demarest Factor – This film is part of an ongoing investigation that exposes US military mapping of communally-owned indigenous land in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.