Underreported Struggles #9, December 2007

Underreported Struggles #9, December 2007

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John Ahni Schertow
December 31, 2007
 

In keeping with the patterns relayed in previous months, December was a time filled with both wanted and unwelcomed events.

On the positive side, government officials in India acknowledged the Narmada dam was illegal; and in Canada, the Ontario Government announced they will be returning Ipperwash Park to the Chippewa.

Elsewhere, in Australia, the Kuku Yalanji had 1300sqkm of rainforest returned to them in the largest freehold land transfer in Queensland’s history; and in New Zealand, there was some movement to settle the claims for the historical Treaty of Waitangi. Around the world, there was also a great deal of paper pushing to stop the ‘illegal’ logging industry.

I’m sure we can agree this is great news. But while it unfolded, governments and corporations took numerous steps to threaten and harm indigenous people tenfold over anything good that happened.

Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil are all perfect examples. Currently, each of these States are pushing forward massive state-wide campaigns that intensely undermine Indigenous Land and Rights. And let’s not forget about the Australia Intervention—the newly-elected Prime Minister recently announced this racist, draconian scheme will remain in full effect for at least another 6 months.

For indigenous people in Russia, Burma, China, Tibet, Africa, America, and Mexico: the story is much the same. One step forward, ten steps back. It’s like a wavering, full-spectrum war, and for which there are few indications that it will be letting up anytime soon.

For the sake of future generations, we have to turn this situation for the better. And we have to do it on our own terms, as our own people.

Underreported Struggles for December

December 31
Most censored in 2007: Silencing of traditional Indigenous People
The most censored issue of Indigenous Peoples by the media in 2007 was the “Silencing of traditional and grassroots’ voices by those in power,” according to readers voting on a poll at the Censored Blog. The elected councils in the United States and band councils in Canada attempted to silence Indian spiritual leaders and traditional people by way of silencing and distorting the news in 2007. Elected leaders also threatened and oppressed Indians speaking out in their own communities. Tailgating by tribal police, threats of harm and threats of membership removal increased for Indian activists, according to reports from across North America.

December 30
Criminalized for Defending Nature
The World Rainforest Movement’s Bulletin for December features an article by Guadalupe Rodriguez, a Campaigner for Tropical Forests and Human Rights, which discusses the ongoing criminalization of anyone opposed to the exploitative activities of transnational corporations in Ecuador. The article also discusses “the First Summit of Communities Criminalized for Defending Nature”, which was held on November 16th at the Catholic University in Quito, Ecuador.

Colombia to fumigate ‘illicit’ crops without consent
According to this article on Narco News, Colombia’s Anti-Narcotics Police will soon begin fumigating illicit crops inside of the country’s Indigenous Territories without the fully informed consent of the People. The chemical they intend to use is none other than Monsanto-brand glyphosate (Roundup), a herbicide that is well known to cause irreparable damage wherever it is used.

December 29
Native Residential School Activist, Nora Bernard, Found Dead
Nora Bernard, the 72-year old Mi’kmaq woman that started the first class-action lawsuit for Residential Schools survivors in 1996–believed to be the largest class action lawsuit in Canadian history–died on December 27 in what police are calling a “suspicious death.” No more information has been released to the public as of yet.

December 28
Colombian indigenous people send an SOS from Cauca
CRIC sent an SOS informing how Colombian army and police forces have attacked the protest movement of indigenous peoples on the Caloto-Corinto Road at the Department of Cauca. During the last few weeks, military tanks have been sent to the communities; indigenous leaders have been detained in their homes without legal representation and commoners (men, women and children) have been attacked with tear gas sprayed directly in their faces.

December 24
Ngati Aukiwa is fighting for their land
The Crown and Kahukuraariki Trust Board have signed an Agreement in Principle to settle the historical Treaty of Waitangi claims of Ngatikahu ki Whangaroa. The settlement offer includes acknowledgments of, and a Crown apology for, the Crown’s historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles, and the return of eleven Crown-owned sites of cultural and historical significance.

Yucca Mountain Needs Your Help
Black Mesa Indigenous Support sent out an urgent call for people to help protect Yucca Mountain. Located 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, the Mountain range is located on Shoshone territory as defined in the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The US government however refuses to acknowledge the treaty and is currently planning to make the Mountain range into a major nuclear waste repository.

Penan Headman Kelesau reported missing
A group of Penan from the Upper Baram region of the East Malaysian State of Sarawak have reported Headman Kelesau Naan has vanished without a trace. He was last seen on October 23, 2007. According to a media release by Bruno Manser Fonds, “The Penan leader, who was in his 70s, was last seen on 23 October 2007 in the vicinity of his village in one of Sarawak’s last intact rainforests. After two months, the Penan have decided to break the silence and have lodged a police report.”

December 21
Honor the Earth has funding for Indigenous Initiatives
Honor the Earth, a group that’s comprised of representatives from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and the Indigenous Women’s Network (IWN) is currently accepting proposals for funding to help Native-led organizations in Canada and the US who work in the areas of: Environmental & Energy Justice, Community Development, and Youth. The grants range from $1,000- $5,000. Proposals are due January 15th, 2007.

December 20
Batwa: Pride Restored
The Batwa people, indigenous people living in the forest of Rwanda, have seen their situation change with the increase of aid and protection on indigenous minorities. One Batwa women explains “We thought we had no right to know any other people, or to come close to other people…” “We thought we had no right to be treated in any hospital. If people gave us any food, they themselves would not eat from the food they had given us. But nowadays, here, things have changed.”

December 17
Sulfide mine violates Treaties, threatens Great Lakes
The state of Michigan on Friday handed a huge defeat to Indigenous People, environmental groups and others who have actively opposed a controversial sulfide mine that the Kennecott Minerals Company – an international mining company with one of the worst environmental records in the world – wants to build in the pristine Yellow Dog Plains near Lake Superior. Kennecott plans to tunnel below a prime trout stream and use an acid-leaching process to extract nickel and other minerals – leaving in its place hundreds of thousands of tons of acid-leached waste rock (sulfuric acid, aka battery acid).

Ontario Government To Return Ipperwash Park
At a press conference this morning, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant along with Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield announced Ontario will be returning Ipperwash Provincial Park lands to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. This announcement comes in the wake of the Ipperwash Inquiry, which was concluded on May 31, 2007.

Khmer Krom: Land Must Be Returned
Hundreds of Khmer Krom farmers protested in front of government offices to demand the return of ancestral land, arguing that they do not wish to disrupt Vietnamese society but merely want Vietnam to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

December 15
Grassy Narrows Clan Mothers Issue Eviction Notice
Following the the 5th anniversary of the logging road blockade at Grassy Narrows on December 2, 2002, another eviction notice has been given to a logging camp presently on Asubpeeschoseewagong Territory. According to this blog post on the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) website, “the women have not heard any response yet and are waiting and will continue with this land protection initiative.”

December 14
Jumbo gas pipeline to cut through unceded Lubicon land
On November 22, the construction of a major new gas pipeline to “feed” tarsands exploitation in Alberta was announced. This proposed new pipeline will cut right through unceded Lubicon Territory! The Friends of the Lubicon ask you to take a moment to support the Lubicon by writing letters, emails, and phoning in your concerns about this new plan. See this article on the UN Observer for details.

December 13
Officials concede Narmada dam illegal
A director of the government agency responsible for India’s controversial Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam has admitted that the construction of the dam to the height of 121.9 metres has led to the illegal submergence of houses and farms. The Bhil tribal people are among those affected.

December 12
Once Expelled Goldminers Come Back to Yanomami Territory
Illegal goldminers have invaded the land of the Yanomami Indians in the Brazilian Amazônia. More than a thousand of them, according to an alarm raised by Yanomami living close to the areas where the miners are operating. Their presence has been confirmed when a military plane flew over the area at the Yanomami’s request. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Yanomami suffered hugely from goldminers invading their land. The miners shot them, destroyed villages, and exposed them to diseases to which they had no immunity. Twenty percent of the Yanomami died in just seven years.

Enawene Nawe blockade dam construction site
Continuing their struggle against a large hydroelectric dam project in the Brazilian Amazon, the Enawene Nawe set up a blockade at one of the dam construction sites late last week. The Enawene Nawe maintain the dams will have a devastating effect on the breeding cycle of the fish they depend on to survive. They say the fish might not even be able to make it to their breeding grounds. The grounds themselves are of great cultural and spiritual significance to the Enawene Nawe.

December 11
Blackfeet Tribe to help the US Military
A $1.6 million grant was recently approved by President Bush, allowing Pikuni Industries, a corporation owned by the Blackfeet Tribe, to work with Radiance Technologies in developing “the Center of Expertise for Adaptive Lightweight Materials–” which will research and develop advanced structural composites for military use.

Mapuche Hunger Strikers in Critical Condition
Six Mapuche political prisoners are fighting for their lives after 62 [as of 11 December 2007] days on hunger strike. Human rights groups worldwide are urgently pleading with the Chilean government for their release, but it is having little effect.

December 10

Title triumph as heritage land is returned
More than a century after being marched off their land and on to missions by successive waves of pastoralists and cane farmers, the Kuku Yalanji people of the Daintree rainforest yesterday had almost 1300sqkm of World Heritage-listed land returned. Almost a quarter of the land is reserved for their exclusive use, in the largest Aboriginal freehold transfer in Queensland’s history.

KI will peacefully defend their land and rights
After Friday’s court hearing that accepted mining and exploration company Platinex Inc’s motion for contempt against Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), Chief Donny Morris, councilor Sam McKay, and community member Mark Anderson announced they would gladly go to jail in defense of the land and their treaty rights. “I’m prepared to go to jail for my belief in the land,” said KI Chief Donny Morris. “This is a land issue based on our sovereignty and I’m prepared to give myself up if the court decides I’ve disrespected the November ruling to allow Platinex on our land…”

Opening Up Indigenous Land to Foreign Investors
Peruvian President Alan García plans to introduce in Congress a draft law that would facilitate the purchase by foreign investors of communally owned land in rural indigenous villages. Community owned land in the villages is “idle land, because the owner has neither the training nor the economic resources, which means it is owned merely in name. That same land sold in large plots would bring in technology,” he argued.

December 6
Elders sue PacifiCorp for polluting the Klamath River
A $1 billion lawsuit filed Thursday claims that PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River produce hazardous waste in the form of toxic algae that harms salmon as well as people. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Klamath Riverkeeper, elders of the Yurok and Karuk tribes, and the owner of rental cabins along the river. “PacifiCorp is both creating and releasing this algae, and they are refusing to take responsibility for the pollution their dams are creating,” said Regina Chichizola of Klamath Riverkeeper, a nonprofit river conservation group.

December 5
Indigenous woman set free after being detained for 18 months
Magdalena García Durán, an indigenous Mazahua street vendor and mother-of-five, was set free after spending more than 18 months in custody. Magdalena was arbitrarily arrested in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, during demonstrations in May 2006. Several police officers pulled her out of a van and beat and kicked her repeatedly. She was then handcuffed, covered and forced to lie on top of other detainees in a waiting vehicle. Officers repeatedly threatened to kill her “like a dog”.

Oaxacan police kidnap and beat Woman freedom fighter
On Dec. 2, 2007, the woman Nancy Mota Figueroa, member of the August 1 Coordinator of Oaxacan Women (COMO in its Spanish initials) of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), was brutally assaulted by subjects whose faces were covered with ski masks. They put her in a pick-up truck where they covered her eyes with wet blindfolds. They had her inside the truck for half an hour, taking her to different places until they left her at near the Hotel Fortin in a vacant lot. During the time that they had her kidnapped, they threatened to shoot her while asking her about different people from the APPO.

Videos for the Month

Daechuri
Daechuri is a video that documents the struggles of the two farming communities in Pyeongtaek, Korea. In 2005, the government approved a request for imminent domain acquisition of the two villages, instantly making the farmers criminals trespassing on federal property. The people did everything they could before finally conceding to to the government, earlier this year–but they have not given up.

For the Wichi Territory
This ten-minute video, “Por el Territorio Wichi” (For the Wichi Territory) brings you to the heart of Indigenous struggle. It looks at the Wichi of northern Argentina, who’s land has been steadily invaded over the last 100 years.

All that Glitters is not Gold
This film is an informative and disturbing 6-minute video that looks at the Olympic Dam in Australia, the site of the world’s largest known uranium deposit. Currently, BHP Billiton wants the federal and state government to approve a plan to bring 40 million tonnes of the radioactive ore to the surface every year for the next 50-100 years.

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