The Conservative government on Friday slammed the door shut on a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Tory MPs outnumbered NDP and Liberal parliamentarians on a special House of Commons committee to vote down a recommendation for a public inquiry as part of a special parliamentary probe. Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of Native Women’s Association of Canada, called the newly released Tory report “discouraging.” She said the recommendations are “more the status quo, but the status quo doesn’t work,” pointing to the steady increase of aboriginal women who go missing or are murdered. “It is appalling that after hearing witness after witness testify that much more needs to be done on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Conservatives could produce a sanitized report saying that everything is fine,” said NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder. Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett said the report “only contains recommendations approved by the government, and does not reflect the testimony of witnesses, is in flagrant disregard of Parliamentary principles.”
Davi Kopenawa, the leader of the Yanomami people in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, who is internationally renowned for his struggle against encroachment on indigenous land by landowners and illegal miners, is now fighting a new battle – this time against death threats received by him and his family. “In May, they [miners] told me that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the year alive,” Armindo Góes, 39, one of Kopenawa’s fellow indigenous activists in the fight for the rights of the Yanomami people, told IPS. Kopenawa, 60, is Brazil’s most highly respected indigenous leader. The Yanomami shaman and spokesman is known around the world as the “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” and has frequently participated in United Nations meetings and other international events. “The landowners and the garimpeiros have plenty of money to kill an Indian. The Amazon jungle belongs to us. She protects us from the heat; the rainforest is essential to all of us and for our children to live in peace.” — Davi Kopenawa He has won awards like the Global 500 Prize from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). His voice has drawn global figures like King Harald of Norway – who visited him in 2013 – or former British footballer David Beckham – who did so in March – to the 96,000-sq-km territory which is home to some 20,000 Yanomami.
It’s an ordinary day at Akwesasne: drones fly high overhead; Border Patrol’s presence is palpable; and cellphones are rarely used because they may be tapped. The village spans the northeastern New York-Canada border, and with listening devices, chemical detectors and X-ray equipment, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station is among the most sophisticated in the country. As Mohawks travel back and forth through their community, going to work and visiting family on each side of the border, their cars are even weighed. The people here say the government has been spying on the Mohawk Indian reservation for decades. But until recently, these concerns were mostly just suspicions. WikiLeaks has released documents revealing corporate and government surveillance of the Mohawk people’s relationships with foreign countries, as well as evidence that movements that could block corporate plans for oil and gas were tracked and that Native American communities were monitored for the U.S. Department Homeland Security. The documents — among 5 million of WikiLeaks’ Global Intelligence Files — were released this month.
In 2006, a team of geographers from the University of Kansas carried out a series of mapping projects of communal lands in southern Mexico’s Northern Sierra Mountains. Coordinated by Peter Herlihy and Geoffrey B. Demarest, a US lieutenant colonel, the objective was to achieve strategic military and geopolitical goals of particular interest for the United States. The objective was to incorporate indigenous territories into the transnational corporate model of private property, either by force or through agreements. Demarest’s essential argument is that peace cannot exist without private property. “The Bowman Expeditions are taking places with the counterinsurgency logic of the United States, and we reported them in 2009. These expeditions were part of research regarding the geographic information that indigenous communities in the Sierra Juarez possess. The researchers hid the fact that they were being financed by the Pentagon. And we believe that this research was a type of pilot project to practice how they would undertake research in other parts of the world in relation to indigenous towns and their communal lands,” said Aldo Gonzales Rojas in an interview with Truthout. A director for the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs in the state of Oaxaca, Rojas ensures that indigenous laws are being instituted and applied correctly in the state.
The parallels to the plight of the Palestinian people and Native Americans have been drawn by many. Speaking in San Francisco, Tony Gonzales of the American Indian Movement (AIM), ”with a common legacy of bantustans (homelands) – Indian reservations and encircled Palestinian territories – Native Americans understand well the situation of Palestinians.” While there are certainly diverse views on nearly every political issue imaginable within Native American communities, a growing number are beginning to empathize with and see a disturbing parallel between what happened to the First Peoples of North America, and Palestinians in the Levant. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association made news back in December of 2013 for being one of three academic groups based in North America to endorse the Palestinian campaign for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. In January of 2013, the Jerusalem Post ran a telling article, entitled: “Native Americans turning on Israel?” The article focused on an anecdote of Muscogee Creek scholar and literary diva Joy Harjo, who ignited a “firestorm of controversy when she announced on Facebook that she was leaving for a trip to Israel where she was scheduled to perform.”
The Shuswap Tribal Nations Council and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs condemned the inaction of the BC Provincial Government and the Imperial Metals Company surrounding the “disastrous breach” of the Mount Polley Mine Tailing Pond. “Like the Exxon Valdez, Mount Polley will be synonymous with one of the most disastrous environmental events in British Columbia,” he said, adding that both events were preventable. The collapse of the Mount Polley dam Monday morning caused 5 million cubic metres of fine sediment and toxic effluent to flow into the Hazeltine Creek and connecting waterways. The surrounding area, the STNC confirms, is in a state of emergency and in need of immediate action. STNC said it had, over years, criticized Imperial Metals for a lack of adequate safety procedures, and that the company ignored its agreement to contact surrounding First nation communities when the disaster did strike.
At the end of May, Mexico’s National Congress approved a political-electoral reform that will organize federal and local elections for the year 2015. Such a reform represents a step backward for indigenous towns in Mexico because it does not consider the way in which they elect authorities through their own system of “uses and customs” legitimate. Despite efforts by citizens, academics, organizations and indigenous movements, who turned in a series of proposals to senators and congress members from Oaxaca long before the reform was passed, the self-determination of indigenous towns and communities has not been guaranteed. “By not guaranteeing the right to autonomy and political representation in these towns, the diversity of political organization that exists in this country is being denied,” says Aldo Gonzales Rojas, of indigenous Zapotec descent and a director for the Secretary of Indigenous Affairs in the state of Oaxaca, where he ensures that indigenous laws are being instituted and applied correctly. “A legal gap has been created given that this other system exists, but is not recognized. Indigenous communities should have juridical certainty,” he continues.
IDEAL, South Dakota – Facing the sunrise on a frigid morning, Rosebud Sioux tribal leader Royal Yellow Hawk offered an ancient prayer in song, his voice periodically muffled by the whistling prairie wind. Behind Yellow Hawk was a cinematic scene from another century: 30-foot-tall tipis arranged in a half circle, quickly brightening in the morning light. This tipi encampment was erected this spring to be a visible and ongoing embodiment of opposition to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which, if constructed, would hug the reservation’s territory in transporting diluted bitumen oil 1,179-miles from Canada’s tar sands to Steele City, Nebraska. The Keystone XL is being built by the Canadian energy company, Trans Canada. This fourth and final phase of the project—still awaiting approval by the Obama administration—will cost an estimated $5.4 billion. Other segments of the Keystone–at an estimated cost of $5 billion—have been in operation since 2010, bringing the tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to refineries in the American Midwest and the Gulf Coast.
A Guatemalan court ruled in favor of the indigenous people of the municipality of Sipacapa over transnational mining in the area. The court says the Guatemalan government must respect the right to information and consultation with the local population before granting any kind of mining permits. A Guatemalan court ruled in favor of the indigenous people of the municipality of Sipacapa. The court says the Guatemalan government must respect the right to information and consultation with the local population before granting any kind of mining permits, according to international conventions. As a consequence the mining permit named ”Los Chocoyos” is illegal, and should be withdrawn. ”This judgment states the obligation of the Guatemalan government to respect the indigenous people’s right to information and consultation before granting mining permits in indigenous territories, in accordance with both United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and International Labor Organization Convention 169. Otherwise they are illegal,” said Esperanza Pérez, from the Mayan Council of Sipacapa during a press conference held July 23
The first time I heard about Charlie Taylor was the day he died. A friend rang to say that ranchers had attacked a group of Mayangna Indians in a forest near Musawas in Nicaragua, killing one of the Indians and injuring several others. Charlie—a 40-year old father of seven who farmed locally and panned for gold in nearby rivers—was the one who died. On April 23, 2013, Charlie was part of a group of villagers who went to investigate after hearing that ranchers were chopping down forests to clear land for pasture, in territory managed by the Mayangna. It turned out to be true: When Charlie confronted the intruders and asked what they were doing on his peoples’ land, they started shooting. Charlie was hit and died a few hours later. Since Charlie’s death, I have thought a lot about him and talked to people who knew him. What made him risk his life to defend the forest? What could I possibly say to his destitute widow, Ricalina Devis? Why are so many indigenous and community leaders being killed protecting rainforests? And how might I explain the urgency of this situation to urban friends and colleagues, who live in heated homes with running water, whose food and drugs come from stores? What do they have in common with the many millions of people who still depend directly on nature for sustenance, fuel, and medicine?
Aboriginal people in Ontario are prepared to lay down their lives to protect their traditional lands from any unwanted development, a group of First Nations chiefs said Tuesday. Five aboriginal chiefs served notice on the Ontario and federal governments, developers and the public that they’ll assert their treaty rights over their traditional territory and ancestral lands. That includes the rights to natural resources — such as fish, trees, mines and water— deriving benefit from those resources and the conditions under which other groups may access or use them, which must be consistent with their traditional laws, said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy. Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says “all those seeking to access or use First Nations lands and resources have, at a minimum, a duty to engage, enquire and consult with First Nations with the standards of free, prior and informed consent.” “All those seeking to access or use First Nations lands and resources have, at a minimum, a duty to engage, inquire and consult with First Nations with the standards of free, prior and informed consent,” he said.
Cheers of protest echoed in the streets out front of Prairieland Park in Saskatoon on Wednesday. Dozens of people holding signs proclaiming their concerns gathered to oppose Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to the city. Harper was there to speak at a Conservative Party event. Many people at the protest were calling for Indigenous sovereignty, while others criticized Canada’s relationship with Israel. Protestor Sungandhi del Canto said Wednesday she shares those concerns and pointed to a number of other issues as well. “Cutting the women’s health contribution plan, the temporary foreign workers program,” del Canto added. ”The fact that he’s slowly erasing all records of feminists from history. The abuses of human rights both within our country and what he’s allowing to happen abroad. It’s horrifying.”
“We are a diverse group of people who have come together against the Israeli occupation and against the massacre. However,” says Kash Nikazmrad, an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine, “every massacre, every occupation, every act of colonialism always has a mechanism and a supporter. The supporter in this situation has been America.” Nikazmrad is one of the organizers behind the Los Angeles “Stop The Massacre in Gaza” events. Judging by the (in)action of Congress, it is hard to dispute Nikazmrad’s claims. When it comes to Israel and Gaza, there is unanimous agreement. As Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss sums up:
In a continuing effort to build relations and stand with Indigenous peoples, CUPE sent a delegation to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) 35th Annual General Assembly from July 14 to 17. This year’s assembly in Halifax, Nova Scotia (the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq), drew more than 300 First Nations leaders, youth and elders. The chiefs in assembly discussed treaty implementation, ways to gain First Nations control of First Nations education, funding for post-secondary education, fracking on First Nation territory, reconciliation and justice for survivors of residential schools, among many other issues. The assembly delegates passed a resolution renewing their commitment in calling for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The assembly held a special tribute, standing in a “Circle of Hope” in honour of over 1,100 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls reported in Canada. CUPE fully supports the call for a national public inquiry.
The Unist’ot’en Camp, a pipeline blockade on unsurrendered indigenous land in the interior of British Columbia (BC), peacefully evicted a pipeline crew that was found trespassing in their territories earlier this week. The crew was conducting preliminary work for TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which the company hopes will carry fracked gas from north eastern BC to Canada’s pacific coast. Where the eviction took place, multiple fracked gas and tar sands pipelines have been planned without consent from the Unist’ot’en clan. The clan has never surrendered their lands, signed treaties, or lost in war to Canada or BC. Under a system of governance that predates Canada by thousands of years, the Unist’ot’en have taken an uncompromising stance: All pipelines are banned from their territories. “We’re not willing to sit down at any table with them because our firm answer is no… An official letter with the clan’s letter heading and the chief’s signature will go to the company and mention that they were evicted off our territory and that they’re not permitted back and that if they come back it’s trespass,” Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en camp’s leader, explained. If TransCanada is caught trespassing again, Unist’ot’en’s laws will be strictly enforced: “They’ll leave without their equipment.”