Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Weeks of August 13 - August 19, 2008
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: U.S. and Canada Found Guilty of Racism
The international community now fully recognizes the native peoples' right to protect their lands and live distinct lifestyles. Yet, most of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples continue to face abuse and injustices at the hands of state authorities and commercial concerns.
"We must look at the substantial successes we have been able to achieve, but also reflect on how far we have to go," Ben Powless of the Indigenous Environment Network told IPS on the eve of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.
Though pleased with the U.N. General Assembly's decision last year to approve the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, Powless and other activists say they have no reason to believe that those who have occupied their native lands are willing to change their behavior.
"Governments in the past have been complicit in genocides, land seizures, massive environmental degradation, and many other human rights abuses because [indigenous peoples] were denied their fundamental rights and freedoms," said Powless, a Mohawk whose nation's territory is now divided between modern-day Canada and the United States.
Last year when the 192-member U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, both the U.S. and Canada were among a handful of countries that voted against it. Read more about racism towards indigenous peoples here....
Guatemala Appoints Mayan Ambassador to Indigenous People
In the midst of increasing conflict between Guatemala's indigenous people and transnational corporations, Mayan elder Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj was appointed Aug. 9 as Indigenous Peoples Ambassador for Guatemala by President Alvaro Colom.
''We don't want any more war, any more death,'' he said. '''We will contribute for the good of the country, because we are all hungry, we are all sick and needy, there is a lot of inequality. The great wealth that we have in Guatemala is the indigenous people.''
Perez Oxlaj was appointed to his new post as part of the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day in Guatemala, where 60 percent of the inhabitants are indigenous, primarily Mayan.
''The Mayan cosmovision is not how many folkloric acts the government does,'' said Colom, who has been a student of Perez Oxlaj since 1994. ''The Mayan cosmovision lives in every second, in every day, with 20 life principles and a respect that is lived under a system of profound consensus.''
Perez Oxlaj, 80, is a 13th generation Quiche high priest and president of the Mayan Council of Elders, a body of 440 men and women who represent Guatemala's 23 different ethnic groups. His Mayan name, Wakatel Utiw, means ''Wandering Wolf,'' and he has traveled throughout the world with his wife and interpreter, Elizabeth Araujo, speaking about Mayan prophecy and cosmovision. Read more about Guatemala's Mayan ambassador here....
Canada's Mercury Pollution on Indigenous Lands
If a thermometer breaks in a classroom, spilling mercury, most children are taught to stay away. “That's all it takes to poison an entire body of water,” teachers will tell them. Many children also read Alice In Wonderland at school, and are familiar with the Mad Hatter. Few, however, know that the crazy character in the children’s story is suffering from "mad hatter's syndrome," or mercury poisoning. Even less likely to appear in schoolbooks is the fact that there are hundreds of sites in Canada contaminated with this highly toxic metal, many of them on Indigenous land.
In 1970 the government of Canada informed commercial fishermen and tourist-lodge owners along the English-Wabigoon River system in north western Ontario that the fish were testing for extremely high levels of mercury and that the rivers were poisoned.
Soon after the announcement, the source of contamination was discovered: Dryden Chemicals Limited had been dumping its untreated mercury wastewater into the river. All told, the company released more than 20,000 pounds of mercury-contaminated wastewater between 1962 and 1970. Read more about Canada's mercury pollution here....
PARAGUAY: "Today a New Country Is Born," Says New President
Former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo was sworn in Friday as president of Paraguay in a ceremony charged with emotion that broke with protocol, promising to rebuild this impoverished landlocked South American nation that was ruled by the rightwing Colorado Party for 61 years.
"We are putting an end to the elitist and secretive Paraguay, notorious for its corruption. Today a new country is born, where the authorities will be relentless with those who steal from the people," said a visibly moved Lugo, addressing a crowd of around 20,000 people in the square in front of Congress, where he took his oath of office.
Lugo succeeded President Nicanor Duarte of the National Republican Association, better known as the Colorado Party, which has been in power for six decades, including the brutal 35-year dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner, that ended in 1989.
Instead of a suit and tie, in the ceremony the new president wore a simple white shirt made of "ao po’i", the Guaraní name for a traditional Paraguayan cotton fabric, and his trademark Franciscan sandals, underscoring the image of austerity that he has said would characterise his five-year term.
A survey published Friday by the First Análisis y Estudios polling firm found that Lugo is beginning his term with a 93 percent popularity rating -- which was reflected Friday in the excitement of the crowd in front of Congress. Read more about Paraguay's new president here....
Indigenous Jobs Plan Must Come With Flexible Leave
Remote Aboriginal communities are excited by the prospect of huge jobs growth - as long as it doesn't come at the expense of family and cultural life.
Indigenous workers say a plan to create 50,000 jobs within two years for indigenous Australians will bring a welcome boost to remote communities.
But they say the contracts must include flexible leave conditions to accommodate cultural and family obligations.
News of the Government-backed plan is beginning to filter through to communities in the Northern Territory, like Wallace Rock, in the dusty red desert of central Australia.
Carita Coulthard, of the Aranda people, is eager for her four children, aged between nine and 24, to have job options in the future.
But Ms Coulthard, who, along with her eldest daughter, works in Wallace Rock, is torn between encouraging the children to stay at home under her supervision, or leave the community of 100 people to look for work.
"Young people have got to find a job, that's what they need," Ms Coulthard, told AAP in the scorching midday desert heat. Read more about Australia's aboriginal job plan here....
Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Weeks of August 13 - August 19, 2008
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