Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 2 - 7, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Weeks of July 2 - July 7, 2008

Plan Afoot to Catalogue 25,000 Years Of Indigenous Art from Infamous Route

KIDNAPPED, chained, and force-fed salt - Aborigines were coerced by white explorers to help them find water in the desert on an expedition to cross Western Australia in 1906.

Their knowledge of water wells was critical to the success of the expedition, led by WA surveyor Alfred Canning, who drove a herd of cattle from Halls Creek to Wiluna across terrain where many had perished before him.

Today, researchers from the Australian National University are working with the local Martu people to document the rich indigenous heritage of the Canning Stock Route, inhabited for the past 25,000 years.

The 1700-kilometer track boasts one of the country's most diverse collections of Aboriginal art, which has wrongly been attributed to lost Dutch sailors in the past. Kangaroos and owl-shaped heads are depicted on rocks, including informative art such as maps of waterholes, which allowed tribes to communicate over large distances. Read the rest about this story here....

Bows and Arrows Give Way to Tools of Modernity

It took six flights, six airports, six landing strips, each one consecutively smaller, to get me from my base in Mexico City to La Petanha, a village of about 250 people set deep in Brazil's Western Amazon. Reporting from one of the most remote places on the planet.

That is just one indication of how remote this part of the world is, and how, even in the 21st century, there are still hundreds of communities that live totally cut off from the rest of civilization.

I was traveling to meet the Surui Indians - a tribe of 1200 people indigenous to the Amazon who until just forty years ago had never had contact with anyone outside their rainforest.

I was there to document a fascinating and historic first -- a team of volunteers and engineers from Google Earth was going to transfer technology and knowledge to the Surui to allow them access to the Internet.

The Surui had a story to tell, and they wanted the world to know it. In 1969 a Brazilian government team charged with making contact with indigenous peoples in the Amazon left a small pile of mirrors, machetes and other goods in a clearing in the western Amazon, near Brazil's border with Bolivia. Read more about this story here....

Seizing Native Land In Peru, One Parcel At A Time

Activists in Peru are mounting various legal challenges to that nation's recently passed package of legislation, called ''forest laws,'' which they say will make it easier for authorities to break up indigenous communities and prevent indigenous people from obtaining titles to their land.

''These measures taken by the current government attempt to take away our collective property and intend to destroy indigenous people, who are people with rights that have existed long before the formation of the Peruvian state,'' asserted Robert Guimaraes, an indigenous leader from the Amazon, regarding the controversial laws that were decreed by President Alan Garcia May 20.

The activists also assert that the forest laws were enacted to please multinational corporations connected to Peru's free trade agreement with the United States.

The two bills that have prompted large protests and constitutional lawsuits, however, were not part of the FTA; they are Legislative Decree 1015 and Law Project 1900-2007-CR. Garcia was able to enact these laws by decree through powers given to him by the Peruvian Congress to negotiate the free trade deal with the U.S. Find out more about this story here....

Indigenous People Ask G8 For Climate Talk Inclusion

Indigenous communities from around the world urged G8 rich nations on Friday to help them participate in global climate change talks, saying they contributed least to but are most affected by global warming.

Clad in colorful traditional robes, 26 representatives from countries including the United States, Canada, and Japan, along with some 400 students, activists, and academics, met on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. The island is the venue of the July 7-9 Group of Eight summit and home to the indigenous Ainu ethnic group.

At the meeting, members of indigenous communities blamed the market-oriented economic model of the G8 nations as the main cause for climate change, a food crisis, and high oil prices. These are issues high on the discussion agenda at the G8 summit.
"As we all know, the G8 is composed of the most powerful and richest governments in the world. The G8 is the one which makes decisions ... that have direct impact on us," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Read more here....

Pope Meets Brazilian Indians and Vows to Help Protect Their Land

Brazilian Indians Jacir José de Souza and Pierângela Nascimento da Cunha from the Makuxi and Wapixana tribes respectively were received in the Vatican, July 2, by Pope Benedict XVI, who pledged his support for their struggle to defend their Amazon home.
"We will do everything possible to help protect your land," said the pope.

The tribes of Raposa Serra do Sol, in the northern Brazilian state of Roraima, where Jacir and Pierângela people live, are under attack from Brazilian farmers who have shot and wounded ten people, burned bridges and thrown a bomb into an Indian community. A video obtained by Survival International, an organization that defends tribal peoples' human rights, shows the moment gunmen hired by the farmers attacked an Indian village in May.

The Brazilian government officially recognized the indigenous territory of Raposa Serra do Sol (Land of the Fox and Mountains of the Sun) in 2005, after a long campaign supported by the previous pope, John Paul II. But powerful farmers and the government of Roraima state are trying to get the legal recognition overturned, so that the farmers can take a large piece of the Indians' land. Read more about this story here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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