Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 12-18, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of November 12 - November 18, 2008

Bangladesh: Indigenous Folk Art Perishing in Rajshahi

Adibashi (aborigine) folk art, originated spontaneously from the core of heart of the indigenous people, is gradually facing extinction in the Barind region. For thousands of years, the adibashi people of Rajshahi region have been nurturing the exquisite folk art which they painted on the walls of their houses, the music they sang at various ceremonies, including marriage ceremony and religious ceremony, and the stories of those which their fathers and forefathers used to tell to their children and grand children are now disappearing.

In addition to these folk-art, the charming songs, legends and sermons which have no written form and which have been preserved for ages in the mind from one generation to another are going to be vanished. The art of making of various types of handicrafts by using branches and leaves of various trees, ornaments made from mud, stones and metals by the adibashi people are also on the verge of extermination nowadays.

It is learnt, in the Barind region of the country where a huge number of aboriginal people of at least 33 separate communities live, are now virtually struggling for their ethnic and religious identity. The conversion to Christianity, migration due to poverty, NGO activities and invasion of alien culture are some of the causes that have been identified as villain for departure of aboriginal folk art, folk songs, stories, religious sermons and legends.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and local unit of Adibashi Unnayan Sangstha (AUS) and Jatiya Adibashi Sangstha (JAS), there had been 259,240 adibashi population in greater Rajshahi districts (including Barind areas) (Natore, Naogaon, Chapainawabgang and Rajshahi) in 1991. The figure increased to 349,924 in 2001 the number of total families being 62,881. Read more about indigenous folk art here....

Australia: Government Unveils New Board To Tackle Indigenous Issues

Former governor Lieutenant General John Sanderson has been unveiled by the State Government as the spearhead of a new board intended to improve the lives of indigenous people in Western Australia.

Indigenous minister Kim Hames today announced a new body to work alongside the government, non-Government organizations and business interests to assist indigenous people and their communities.

Heading it will be the former governor, who was appointed as special adviser on Indigenous Affairs by the previous Carpenter government, but was then told his work lacked focus and his contract not renewed.

That prompted Lt Gen Sanderson to hit back, saying the previous government was in crisis management, rather than trying to fix the cause of problems in Indigenous communities.

Those problems were again brought to the fore last week in the Oombulgurri community in the Kimberley, which had its alcohol cut off by a State Government ban, on the same day as four elders were charged with hundreds of sex offences against children stretching back 15 years. Read more about Australia's new board here....

Peru: Dreaded Shining Path Returns as a Drug-Financed Movement Seeking Popular Support

After years in relative obscurity, the Shining Path, one of Latin America's most notorious guerrilla groups, is fighting the Peruvian military with renewed vigor, feeding on the profits of the cocaine trade and trying to win support from the Andean villagers it once terrorized, according to residents and Peruvian officials.

The Shining Path's reemergence has stirred chilling memories of its blood-soaked forays of decades past. In October, Shining Path guerrillas killed more people -- 17 soldiers and five civilians -- than they have in any month since the 1990s. This rising death toll is largely attributed to a fresh offensive by the Peruvian military, launched under the same president who battled them in the 1980s, to try to destroy the remnants of the once almost forgotten communist rebel group.

But those who live among them, as well as those who study the secretive group, also describe other reasons for their resurgence. The Shining Path, which has its bases in two coca-producing regions of central Peru, is now heavily involved in drug trafficking and is paying for new recruits.

Experts said the guerrillas have renounced the brutal tactics espoused by their original leader, Abimael Guzmán, who was captured in 1992. Unlike Guzmán, who said 10 percent of the Peruvian population had to be assassinated for the Shining Path to take power, the new leaders tell their followers they must protect the villagers and instead target the military and anti-drug authorities. Read more about indigenous people in Peru here....

Canada: Big Oil's Pipe Dream

The Gateway Pipeline Project, proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Gateway Pipelines Inc., would snake through the unceded territories of over 40 Native communities. If fully developed, the Gateway Pipeline would transport a half-million barrels of oil per day from Alberta's tar sands through sensitive ecosystems of BC's northwest coast.

The proposed Gateway Pipeline, along with other extractive industries, has become flashpoints for resistance in BC. Dominion editor Dawn Paley talked to Dustin Johnson, a member of the Tsimshian Nation and co-ordinator of North Coast Enviro Watch.

Dominion: Is the current resource rush in Northern BC a continuation of colonialism?

Dustin Johnson: Oil corporations in northern Canada use a classic divide-and-conquer strategy of tokenism and special deals to buy off Native political elites in rural areas. The Gateway Pipeline Project can no longer expect to just bulldoze through non-surrendered, unceded Indigenous territories, so Enbridge and other corporations are looking for other sophisticated means to pacify indigenous and environmental resistance to the ecocidal threats posed by these pipe dreams. One tactic used by oil companies is to take out 100-year leases and wait a decade or two for the last generations of dissident indigenous people, knowledgeable elders in particular, to die off. Staking mining claims online has been attracting corporate invasion in BC in particular in the last few years as well. This "arm chair" staking, carried out by people who may have never set foot in the territories they are claiming, is akin to claiming territory by mapmaking, as was done in previous centuries.

D: How does international and indigenous law play out related to resource extraction projects in BC?

DJ: Over 90 per cent of BC remains unceded, non-surrendered Native land. Neither Canadian, nor international, nor indigenous laws recognize that the territories in question have been legally surrendered to non-native settlers.

D: What are some of the concerns of people in Northern BC over resource extraction?

DJ: If the Gateway Pipeline Project reaches the northwest coast, tanker traffic will increase by 300 oil tankers up and down the coast. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska is the most well-known environmental catastrophe resulting from the sloppiness of the oil industry's greed. People are worried that if the Gateway Pipeline is implemented, there could be a breach or rupture resulting in spills or leakage that would travel through the water system and negatively affect the earth and people's health. Current estimates show the pipeline crossing more than 1,000 rivers and streams. Read more about the British Columbian pipe line here....

Costa Rica: Free Trade Agreement Legislation is Finalized Without Controversial Provision on Indigenous Rights

Costa Rican lawmakers approved the last of 13 laws to implement the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA), concluding just over a year of intense debate and two postponements.

The final law —and one of the most hotly debated — originally included an article that would have risked intellectual property rights for Costa Rica’s indigenous population. But a last-minute omission of the article allowed for the law to pass.

That first version of the proposal, dubbed “the sweeping bill” for the number of issues it grouped, called for allowing private companies to limitless patents of animal and vegetable species, a clear threat to ancient knowledge, specifically of medicinal plants.

The first version was thrown out by the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica´s Supreme Court for not including previous consultation of the country´s indigenous peoples, a requirement clearly outlined by the International Labor Organization´s Convention 169 on native peoples for laws or other measures that affect their communities.

Now, CAFTA will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

When lawmakers introduced the bill to give companies open access to patent indigenous traditional knowledge and biodiversity, members of the Awapas (indigenous healers) and the Kekepa Women Council, which guards the traditional, ancestral knowledge of the Talamanca indigenous communities in southeastern Costa Rica, marched to the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 13 demanding that their communities be consulted. Read more about the Costa Rican trade agreement here....

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

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