Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 8-14, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of October 1 - 7, 2008

Russia: Indigenous Peoples Face Hard Times

Ethnic Peoples Populating the Russian North Are Extremely Diverse. But as the economic and cultural pressure to assimilate into the greater Russian population increases, their remoteness makes it ever harder for them to maintain unique identities and traditions.

Fifty thousand people—a number that could easily fit inside many sports stadiums—is the upper threshold for defining an “indigenous small nation” in Russian terms. There are approximately 40 such nations in Russia, according to Professor Igor Nabok of the Institute of Nations of the North at the St. Petersburg’s Herzen State University. These peoples—along with their larger neighbors, such as the Yakuts and the Buryats (both over 400,000 strong)—are mostly found in Siberia, the Far East, and the Far North.

The diversity among these groups is striking. The Paleo-Siberian peoples, such as the Chukchi and Itelmen, are of great antiquity and belong to a language group not demonstrably related to any other. The Khanty and Mansi, two small peoples isolated near the Ob River, are the closest linguistic relatives to the Hungarians. The Yakuts, who occupy some of the coldest territory on Earth in northern Siberia, are in fact a Turkic people. The small Tungusic peoples, such as the Udege and Nanai, are the linguistic kin of the Manchus, who conquered China and gave that country its last imperial dynasty. These nations represent a range of religious traditions—shamanistic, Orthodox, Islamic, Buddhist, and syncretistic (mixing elements of different religions). However, their remoteness from Russia’s Slavic heartland has not saved them from all kinds of economic and cultural pressure; and it’s an open question as to whether they will be able to maintain their distinctiveness.

Nabok said that it is impossible to give an objective scientific answer to the question of these peoples’ long-term survivability. However, many factors are contributing to changes in their situation. It is remarkable, given the forces acting on them in the last century or so that many of them maintain both a strong sense of identity and a dedication to a traditional way of life. Read more about indigenous peoples in Russia here....

Mexico: Marching On the Capital

Dozens of indigenous people walking naked along a main avenue in support of their demand for land, or thousands of stick-wielding teachers blocking main streets at rush hour, are almost daily occurrences in the Mexican capital.

On average, there are 250 demonstrations a month in the city. In the space of a year, an estimated 12 million people participate in protests in this sprawling metropolis with a population of 20 million.

The city government, in the hands of the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) since 1997, refuses to interfere with "legitimate" social protests. The police must only act if there is violence, it says.

From January to September this year there were 2,261 demonstrations in Mexico City, 63 percent of which were protests against the administration of conservative President Felipe Calderón. The rest targeted the city government or private groups, according to reports from the capital's Secretariat (Ministry) of Government.

In 2007 there were 2,932 street marches. But not all of these were protests: nearly 500 were for religious, sporting or cultural reasons, according to reports obtained by IPS from city hall.

The Transport Secretariat (Ministry) at city hall publishes regular alerts about marches in progress, on its website and in the media, so that pedestrians and drivers can avoid areas blocked off by demonstrators.

Lawmakers and residents are demanding some form of regulation of these demonstrations, which cause a number of different problems. There are laws that impose sanctions on those who block main streets or avenues, but they are not enforced.

The city's Law of Civic Culture states that preventing or hampering the use of the public thoroughfare, free circulation of traffic, or the action of persons in any way, without permission or due cause, is a misdemeanour punishable by detention for 13 to 24 hours or a fine of between 56 and 100 dollars.

The law adds that due cause is understood to exist if the obstruction of roads or traffic is inevitable, necessary, and does not constitute an end in itself but is a reasonable means of expressing ideas, association or peaceful congregation. Read more about indigenous people in Mexico here....

India: Continued Military Repression and Human Rights Violations in Chittagong Hill Tracts

The movement of the Jumma indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts started with a demand for self-determination in 1972. It was democratic in nature, but turned into an armed struggle from the late 1970s when the then authorities of Bangladesh rejected the demand and instead advised the then indigenous leaders to "forget their ethnic identity and become Bengali".

The armed struggle which claims, among others, at least 15,000 indigenous lives ended with the signing of the 1997 “CHT Peace Accord” between the Awami League government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS, the political party spearheading the CHT movement. The Accord provides provisions for local self-government, land right of the indigenous peoples, and demilitarization of the CHT region, among others.

The terms of the two democratically elected successive governments led by Awami League and the 4-party Islamic extremist coalition demitted respectively in 2001 and 2007 leaving the key provisions of the Accord highly manipulated and violated, and the military took over power through a silent coup since the mid January this year with a so-called Caretaker Government in place in Dhaka keeping the general elections in the country in abeyance. Read more about the Jumma struggle here....

Peru: Native Groups Hemmed in by Coca Threat

Small farmers from Peru’s impoverished Andean highlands provinces of Ayacucho are moving into indigenous land in the country’s central jungle region to grow coca.

The growing numbers of people occupying land in the traditional territories of Amazon jungle communities are driving away members of the groups, who fear drug traffickers and guerrillas that operate as allies in the area.

The areas that are being encroached upon are along the Apurímac and Ene river valleys, a region known by the acronym VRAE, which comprises the provinces of Ayacucho, Cuzco and Apurímac in southern Peru.

Amidst this explosive mixture of poverty, drug mafias and remnants of the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas, one of the areas affected by the arrival of coca-growing farmers is the village of Shimpenshariato, perched in the remote hills along the Ene river.

The commissioner for peace and development in the central jungle region, Mario Jerí Kuriyama, told IPS that he had received a number of complaints from local indigenous people about outsiders moving onto their land aound Shimpenshariato.

"Many small farmers have come into the central jungle region in the last few years to plant coca because of the higher profit margins it offers. But local indigenous people are opposed to their arrival, as they don't want strangers on their land," said Jerí Kuriyama. Read more about indigenous Peruvian struggle here....

Guam: Testimony - Harmful Effects Of Guam's Colonization

Today, a delegation of Chamorus testified in front of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) in New York City on the question of Guam's continued colonization. For the first time in years, the Committee received testimony from a Guam elected official Senator Vicente Pangelinan prepared a testimony, read by Chamoru attorney Aileen Quan. The rest of the delegation included Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero of I Nasion Chamoru, Craig Santos Perez of Guåhan Indigenous Collective, and Michael A. Tun'cap of Famoksaiyan. The delegates discussed the cumulative adverse impacts of U.S. colonization and the current military build-up, highlighting such issues as environmental contamination, Chamoru displacement, alarming cancer rates, and the infrastructural strains expected from the island's unprecedented population boom—which will make the Chamoru people a minority group in our homeland. The Chamoru delegation will be meeting this week with the President of the General Assembly, UN Fourth Committee Chairman Jorge Arguello of Argentina, and world leaders from the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Virgin Islands to discuss ways to successfully expedite Guam's Chamoru self-determination process.

Guam Senator Vicente Lino Cabrera Pangelinan’s Testimony to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee. Hafa Adai distinguished members of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) and Chairman, H.E. Mr. Jorge Arguello, Ginen y anti y espiritu yan y man fotna na taotao Guahan na hu presenta este na testimonu, yan u fan libre y taotao pagu. It is from the soul and the spirit of our ancestors that I present this testimony today for the liberation of the people today. Read the rest of the testimony here....

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

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