Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 5-11, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of November 5 - November 11, 2008

Taiwan: Indigenous Peoples Welcome Chen Yunlin

Indigenous peoples of Taiwan extended their welcome to Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) who arrived in Taipei yesterday.

In a half-page advertisement on the front page of the United Evening News, the indigenous peoples pointed out they are the “true masters” of the island who want the ARATS chairman to feel their “warm hospitality” and “friendship.”

Chen is in Taipei at the head of a 60-member delegation for talks with his counterpart P.K. Chiang to further improve relations between Taiwan and China.
“We the indigenous peoples of Taiwan — who are the true masters of Taiwan — are happy to see anything and everything that will be conducive to the future development of Taiwan,” said the advertisement by ten indigenous tribes. They include the Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Taroko, Tsou, Saisiyat, Kamaran, Rukai and Thao. Read more about indigenous people and Chen Yunlin here....

Philippines: Groups Unite in Calls to Find Balao

World church representatives meeting here [Baguio City, Philippines] to forge new links with indigenous peoples groups have lined up to condemn the disappearance of leading local activist James Balao, blaming the authorities for his abduction.

Balao, 47, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and president of the Oclupan Clan Association, disappeared on September 17 [2008] in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet, 15 kilometers from here.

Eyewitnesses claim he was abducted by several men who jumped out of a van and handcuffed him as he was making his way home.

Reports claim the kidnappers told onlookers that Balao was “a drug pusher” and was being taken to Camp Dangwa, the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The police deny responsibility for his disappearance.

The CPA claims state complicity in Balao’s disappearance, maintaining it to be part of “a systematic and desperate move of the State against members and officers of the CPA in its ‘counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency’ campaign.” Read more about the abduction of Balao here....

Philippines: International Group Protests Mining in Macambol

INTERNATIONAL group Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) protested the alleged irregularities committed by the two mining companies in their mining operation in the City of Mati.

The protest action was conducted in United Kingdom last week and a launching of its report is set in Davao City on Thursday.

In its report entitled "Kept in the Dark", Cafod accused BHP-Billiton and its estranged local partner, Asiaticus Management Corporation (Amcor), of committing errors in getting their Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous community in Barangay Macambol, where the mining area is located.

"The process between 2001/08 to secure approval for the project from Macambol's indigenous peoples, as required under Philippine law, was so seriously flawed that it cannot be considered valid.

The authority of the indigenous leader who gave consent for mining is in question.

This indigenous leader was allegedly on the payroll of Amcor, BHP-Billiton's joint venture partner.

Individuals were prevented from speaking out and some indigenous groups known to oppose mining were deliberately excluded from the process," the report stated. Read more about mining and indigenous people here....

Taiwan: Yami: Culture At a Crossroads

The Yami, also known as the Tao, inhabit Orchid Island, located off the coast of Taitung. The population of this tribe is nearly 3,000 according to Council of Indigenous Peoples statistics. It is not necessary to spend much time on Orchid Island to sense that the Yami (Tao) tribe is at a crossroads. Many of the elders do not make much effort to hide their disdain for tourists from Taiwan. However, the younger members of the tribe realize that the livelihood of many of the people on Orchid Island is tied to tourism. In the meantime, as employment and higher education opportunities are scarce on Orchid Island, a significant proportion of young people live on Taiwan proper.

The Yami are thought to have come to Orchid Island some 1,000 years ago from the Batan Islands of northern Philippines. Since 1998, there have been increasing exchanges between the peoples of Orchid Island and the Batan Islands, which are said to still share many similarities in their languages and traditions.

There are six villages on Orchid Island: Yeyou, Yuren, Yeyin, Hongtou, Langdao and Dongcing. If arriving by boat at Kaiyuan Harbor, Yeyiou is the first village that you will come to. This is the center of activity on the island, as it is the administrative center. Yeyin is of interest for its collection of traditional semi-submerged homes. Some of these homes are inhabited by the island's elderly who insist on following "the old ways". Permission should be obtained from the occupants before entering or photographing a home or its residents. Look for large flat stones standing vertically outside of these homes, as these are "chair backs" for sitting and admiring the ocean view. Some of the homes may have a separate building nearby which most likely is a workshop. Read more about the indigenous Yami here....

Ecuador: Whither Ecuador? An Interview with Indigenous Activist and Politician Monica Chuji

Monica Chuji is an indigenous Kichwa activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon. She served as an Assembly Member from President Rafael Correa’s Alianza País party in the National Constituent Assembly, drafting Ecuador’s new constitution. Prior to Chuji’s election to the Assembly, she was Correa’s Secretary of Communication and spokeswoman. In September, she broke with Correa and left Alianza País, the culmination of months of increasing conflict between the President and Ecuador’s social and indigenous movements.

Colombia’s March 1st bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory and moves to seize the property of bankers responsible for the 1999-2000 economic crisis have strengthened support for Correa. But acrimony between the President and the Left has increased over social, economic and environmental issues. Social movements were shocked when Correa declared a state of emergency in November 2007 and violently repressed protests at oil installations in the Amazonian town of Dayuma. In July, longtime social movement ally Alberto Acosta broke with Correa. The former Minister of Mines and Petroleum, Acosta resigned as President of the Constituent Assembly over procedural and political disputes with Correa. Over the past month, there have been recent signs of rapprochement between the two wayward friends.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and other groups criticize Correa’s support for large-scale mining and development megaprojects. Social movements unsuccessfully pushed for the inclusion of constitutional provisions that would recognize communities’ right to "prior consent" before mining or oil exploitation projects take place on their land. Another pressing issue is the Manta-Manaus project, which would build a multimodal transportation infrastructure between the Ecuadorian and Brazilian coasts, causing massive destruction to the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous Assembly Members also clashed with Correa’s allies over a proposal to make Kichwa Ecuador’s second official language. The dispute was settled by a compromise making Kichwa "an official language of intercultural relation" along with Shuar, the implications of which are unclear. Read more of Chuji's interview here....

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

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