Underreported Struggles #10, January 2008

Underreported Struggles #10, January 2008

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February 1, 2008

Things are getting worse for the world’s indigenous people. It’s no longer a matter of a few companies doing whatever they want to gut a region at the direct expense of a culture, or about some government that’s more than willing to crush down a people so the company can do it without interruption. The problem is that it’s being done more and more and more. It’s developmental genocide on a global scale and it won’t be letting up anytime soon.

And so I echo the Zapatista call for us to struggle on all fronts at the same time. We are after all being encroached upon and invaded in such away.

So too must we act. We must breathe, think, speak, and walk as our own people; start implementing short- and long-term solutions; and confront all these problems on a local, National, and International level.

The situation in Canada, America, Australia, Africa, and the Philippines also speaks loudly for the need to strengthen our own communities. Governments and corporations habitually exploit us on a community level because we are so divided amongst ourselves, and kept in the dark about what’s really going on. We ourselves must change that.

If we do not start to move forward like this, then we can only expect things to get worse… for history to repeat because nothing’s been learned from it.

Underreported Struggles for January

January 31
Oromo: When Migration Results in Degradation
Since 1991, more than 40,000 Oromos have fled their homes because of persecution by Ethiopian authorities. “We used to have our own independent state, but Ethiopia besieged our land 120 years ago,” comments a leader of an Oromo community. Today they are oppressed and exploited. Many continue to flee their homes, while others are attempting to claim their sovereignty and form “a political union with other nations on the basis of equality, respect for mutual interests and the principle of voluntary associations.” The Oromo are approximately 25 million in number.

January 30
Petroleum Industry Destroys Reindeer Herding Culture
As the petroleum industry in the Russian North is experienced major growth, the Nenets are being systematically forced onto reservations, and ripped from their reindeer-herding culture. “We are outsiders in our own lands, outlaws of the tundra”, they say. A Nenet without reindeer is a dead Nenet. “He can be shot in a snow bank any time, just like a dog.”

Kenya’s Ogiek tribe caught up in violence
Today, Survival International released an alert explaining that Kenya’s honey-hunting Ogiek are being targeted in the escalating post-election violence in Kenya. “An Ogiek leader said today, ‘We the Ogiek people have suffered police shooting, intimidations and threats…. Currently five of our youth have been shot and injured as hundreds of families fled their homes…. We cannot access food, shelter or medicines.’ There have been allegations of rape of Ogiek women by police, and Ogiek houses have been burned down.”

Indigenous peoples win conservation successes in Chile
After struggling for nearly 20 years for land rights and conservation of their rare Araucaria forests, an indigenous Pehuenche community of the Andes range won a title grant to 22,000 acres of land in southern Chile.

January 29
Chile’s Mapuche Indians in new battle for lands
Groups of the Mapuche, which means “Earth People” in the Mapudungun tongue, have occupied and burned forestry and farming lands in recent weeks and cut off highways to demand territories they say were stolen from them over the past 500 years. Faced by mounting protests and a well publicized hunger strike by a jailed indigenous rights activist, Chile’s government agreed on Monday to create a high commission for indigenous rights. The activist, 38-year-old Patricia Troncoso, then ended the 110-day hunger strike during which she lost 26 kg (57 pounds) and was kept alive by intravenous drip.

Homeland Security sues Lipan Apache Eloisa Tamez for land for border wall
Homeland Security filed suit against Eloisa Garcia Tamez, Lipan Apache, on Tuesday, Jan. 29, to seize her land for the border wall in Texas. Tamez has been leading the resistance to the border wall in Apache communities. Tamez said she only has three acres, but it is all she has. All across South Texas, mayors and legislators have united to fight the border wall. Since towns on both sides of the border rely on their neighbors’ shopping, eating in restaurants and other commerce, business owners in South Texas say the already financially-strapped communities will suffer economically. (Petitions available here and here)

January 27
Dams in Burma to displace thousands
The Tasang is the largest of 4 dams currently planned for the Salween River, in Shan State, Burma. Once the Tasang is operational, thousands of Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan, Wa, Pa-O, Lahu, Padaung, Akha, Lisu and Palaung – face displacement at the hands of the Burmese Military. As you would probably guess, there’s never been any type of consultation, public discussion, or effort to compensate the effected peoples. Nor will there be any. Unfortunately, the same is true for the other 28 dams currently planned for Burma.

Curbs on indigenous people’s rights planned
Despite repeated pledges to guarantee ethnic minority rights, the military-controlled interim government of Bangladesh has taken a move to curb democratic rights of indigenous communities, according to an official document obtained. For starters, authorities are now seeking to prevent intellectuals and eminent personalities from attending functions organised by ethnic minorities which were mainly aimed at drawing attention to the discrimination and negligence they are being subjected to.

January 25
Philippine Indigenous step up land protection effort
Indigenous Communities in the Philippines have been recently forced to step up their efforts to defend their lands against foreign mining interests. There were two separate blockades last month, both in Nueva Vizcaya, Northern Luzon. The first blockade successfully prevented Australian-based OceanaGold from accessing their lands. The second blockade was set up a few days later, against another Australian company, but it would seem the previous blockades’ success made the second one unnecessary. Royalco never showed up.

January 24
Russian seaport expansion threatens indigenous villages
The government of Leningrad Oblast (Saint-Petersburg Region) is planning to expand the Ust-Luga Seaport, which is to become the largest seaport in Russia. According to the plan, all villages nearby the construction site are going to be demolished, and their population will be offered appartments in other areas.

Highway means death to the Jarawa
The Andaman Trunk Road, a 200 mile-stretch of concrete that breaks through one of India’s most pristine landscapes, is being used now more than ever. This is quite strange because the Indian Supreme Court ruled six years ago that the road must be closed for threatening the Jarawa tribe. Right now there shouldn’t be any traffic on Andaman Trunk Road.

January 23
Risk of Violence Against Opposition to Phulbari Mine
With the Asian Development Bank preparing to give a $100 million loan and $200 million political risk insurance package to GCM Resources’ open pit coal mine in Phulbari, Bangladesh – the future of the entire local population becomes evermore uncertain. If the mine goes ahead as planned, upwards of 50,000 will be displaced from their land, with 500,000 more effected.

The Australian Intervention Moves to Brazil
There’s a new law being debated in Brazil that threatens to undermine the rights and livelihoods of all Indigenous people in this South American nation. Through twisting the letter and intent of International Labour Organisation convention 169, among other International agreements and National legislation, this law proposes that Brazil perform a state-wide intervention campaign to “save” indigenous children from bad treatment, neglect, abuse, exploitation, and infanticide.

The Lajamanu Warlpiri community and the democratising power of YouTube
After Police entered a restricted ceremony area for the Lajamanu Warlpiri, a video was quickly produced and then posted on youtube explaining their position and frustration over the incident. Shortly after the video wasposted, Northern Territory police apologised for the incident.

January 22
Atayal woman revives full facial tattooing tradition
A woman from the Atayal tribe in Taiwan has had an elaborate tattoo ingrained on her face, marking the first time an Aboriginal woman in Taiwan has had her face tattooed in nearly a century. Japanese colonial rulers banned the traditional custom 95 years ago, but the government does not outlaw the practice today. The custom of tattooing faces is believed to date back about 1,400 years and was practiced by several of the nation’s Aboriginal tribes.

China To Resettle Over 52,000 Tibetans this year
Moving along with its pleasant-sounding “comfortable housing program,” a lofty endeavor that aims to forcefully move 250,000 Tibetans into featureless apartment blocks under the auspices of ‘protecting the environment and boosting living standards,’ the Chinese Government announced it will relocate more than 52,000 Tibetan herders and farmers this year.

January 18
Carmacks project violating indigenous rights
There is yet another mine set to be developed on indigenous territory without the consent of the people—a mine that has been so poorly engineered that it threatens an environmental disaster. According to a Press Release by the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, Western Copper’s proposed Carmacks mine “includes a heap leach pile built on the side of a mountain” that “would be filled with sulphuric acid, copper, cadmium, lead and selenium, among other chemicals.” Chief Eddy Skookum warns, “If their cheap collection dam breaks – and chances are that it will some day – we’ll see an environmental disaster unlike any we’ve seen in Canada before.”

Canada’s Mining Continuum
It is an open secret that throughout the Americas and the world, people are struggling against the intrusion of Canadian mining companies and their short term “get the gold and get out” strategies. The backlash against Canadian mining companies has, in some cases (particularly in Guatemala and Peru), strengthened broader social and political movements re-vindicating local control over land. In Oaxaca, Mexico, the struggle against a Vancouver based mining company is unifying an isolated Zapotec community, and bringing their struggles to state and nation-wide attention.

January 16
Shan: New Dam Threatens Salween River
Construction of the Tasang Dam (the tallest dam in South East Asia) has begun, potentially threatening the ecology of the Salween River and the livelihoods of thousands of people who face eviction at the hands of the Burmese Military. Increased militarisation has already led to an increase of reports of torture, extrajudicial killing, and other human rights abuses in the Tasang area. See http://www.salweenwatch.org for more information.

January 14
Lumad People facing more and more Military
Last week, Environmental groups from the Philippines cautioned against the government sending in larger deployments of police and military to protect mining operations such as the one headed by the Australian mining giant Xstrata in Tampakan, Mindanao. The groups warn that doing so “would give rise to even more conflict and human rights violations against mining-affected communities.” At the moment, a military build-up is being observed in more than a dozen areas in Mindanao, making the future ever-more daunting for the Lumad.

Six Nations boosting demands in land claim dispute along Grand River
Six Nations leaders near Brantford are putting towns and cities upstream of Caledonia on notice that some of their land is under dispute. Native leaders have written to all municipalities along the full 200 kilometres of the Grand River west of Toronto — all the way from Lake Erie to Grey County — demanding a say on all future developments and a share of development fees as they continue to press their land claims with the federal government.

January 13
Peasants Successfully Block Pesticide Use
On Jan. 7, about 100 campesinos successfully blocked the spraying of pesticides on soy fields in the Ybypé community of the department of San Pedro, Paraguay. Riot police were mobilized to protect the fumigation tractors, but in a rare and inspiring turn, the campesinos convinced the officers of their right to resist the spraying. The police then refused to break up the blockade.

January 11
Protests escalating against dams in Panama
Earlier this week, there were confrontations between police officers and indigenous People in Panama who are opposed to the development of a hydroelectric dam on the Cobre River. On Saturday, about 250 demonstrators closed the Pan-American highway, but were suppressed half an hour later and attacked with tear gas by the National Police.

January 10
Army, Paramilitary Build-Up in Zapatista Stronghold
The Zapatista and their supporters in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas are experiencing the worst onslaught by state forces in the last 10 years. According to a Chiapis-based NGO, “Around 30 Zapatista communities are under enormous pressure from the military, the paramilitaries and the authorities, with the intention, we presume, to undermine the strength of the EZLN. This has not happened since 1998.” Also, agrarian reform institutions have initiated an “irregular” distribution of land that had been occupied by indigenous people when the EZLN rose up in arms for two weeks in January 1994. Title deeds to about 250,000 hectares are being distributed, but Zapatista sympathisers are being excluded.

January 3
The path from caring to taking action should be straightforward
An article by Julie Michaud that discusses

Videos of the Month

Ever Decreasing Circles
This is a trailer for the film Ever Decreasing Circles, a documentary that outlines the ongoing health crisis and human rights disaster that’s been thrown on the backs of one traditional farming community in Berezovka, Kazakhstan. The community has been exposed to dangerous toxins for over 25 years.

Poison Wind
The following video is six-minute clip is from Poison Wind, a documentary that examines the devastating impact Uranium mining has had on Indigenous People in the four corners region of New Mexico and Northern Arizona. “As a government’s cruel secret is carried on the face of the wind,” writes Jenny Pond, one of the film’s co-producers, “Poison Wind tells the story of a corrupt government, unconscionable greed and a policy of destruction aimed at the Aboriginal Homelands of Indigenous People from the 1940’s until today.”

On The Edge: The Femicide in Ciudad Juarez
For more than a decade, the cities of Chihuahua and Juarez, near the US-Mexico border, have been killing fields for young women. Over 400 women have been murdered and an additional 4000 women have gone missing since 1993. This clip, from the documentary entitled On The Edge, examines the social, cultural, and economic factors that have created this situation – and which allow it to continue.

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