Saturday, April 5, 2008

Indigenous Peoples Summary Part II: Society for Applied Anthropology 2008

As discussed in the last post - Society for Applied Anthropology 2008: Indigenous Peoples Summary - this post continues highlighting some of the great panels and discussions that were delivered at the annual meetings in Memphis last week.

Another fascinating panel was held on Friday by Octavio Pimentel (Texas State-San Marcos) entitled: Engaging Education in Mayan Communities: Educational "Cuentos" from Guatemala. Ana M. Juarez (Texas State-San Marcos) contextualized the discussion for us with her paper on race, class, and gender in Guatemala, and then Amy Dawson (Texas State U) talked about parent's roles in schooling their children (Gritos mejor que Libros - Discipline before books). Silvia Patricia Solis (U Texas-Pan American) gave a very interesting talk on Ka'che women's sexuality in Guatemala (for more, I suggest one read: Health Care in Maya Guatemala), and Tanya Romo (Brigham Young U) continued on the theme by looking into Guatemala's changing gender discourses. Finally, Jennifer Vasquez (U Texas-San Antonio) concluded with a tale of the early educational abandonment practices of Ixtahucana women.

Later the same day, I attended the panel: Indigenous Communities and Anthropologists: Creative Applications of Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology in Addressing Indigenous Concerns. Chaired by Miguel Vasquez and Walter M. Vannette (Northern Arizona University), the panel provided a number of important points to think and act on. Natasa Garic (Northern Arizona University) opened up the panel with her talk on intergenerational learning of Hopi history and culture, while April Perry (Northern Arizona University) talked about traditional ecological knowledge and how it applied to environmental justice organizations in the American Southwest. Chelsea Lunders (Northern Arizona University) continued expanding on the same paper, while Nathaniel O'Meara (Northern Arizona University) and Esther Mae Bodie (Traditional Bahamian Farmer) brought us some case specific examples from the Exuma Cays, Bahamas and the dynamics between swidden agriculture and ecological sensitivity.

The American Indian, Alaskan and Hawaiian Native, and First Nation Topical Interest Group held its annual open discussion on Saturday. We learned that the National Park Service may be trying to squash their Applied Ethnography program. The top position for the program has been open for three years now, and we learned from inside sources that the Park Service has decided to terminate the position - despite funding and a clear need for the program. The word on the street was that "ethnography" is simply public relations. This is what happens when politics takes over from science - ethnography is a methodology to gather empirical qualitative data that can be used in policy and agency actions. It is NOT simply a public relations tool. All those concerned with the Park's activities should send a letter or email to:

Secretary of the Interior
Dirk Kempthorne
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Let's let the National Park Service know that there are citizens who value the types of data ethnography provides and believe it is an important program for the Park to continue supporting.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Society for Applied Anthropology 2008: Indigenous Peoples Summary

Over the last week and a half I was in Memphis, TN for the annual Society for Applied Anthropology meetings. The theme of this years meeting was "The Public Sphere and Engaged Scholarship: Opportunities and Challenges for Applied Anthropology." The meetings were a smashing success - I received a lot of positive feedback about not only Indigenous Peoples Issues Today and the work everyone has put into it, but also about the new project: Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources.

Of course, there was the Intellectual Property Rights, Technology, and Indigenous Peoples: Perspectives from and on the Public Sphere session that I chaired on Wednesday. Although late in the day (5:30 pm), there was great turnout as Kathy M'Closkey talked about how rugs are being woven in Mexico and sold in the United States as Navajo and Nancy Parezo discussed intellectual property rights and images available over the internet. Tressa Berman, another participant, delved into Aboriginal "signatures" and the intellectual property issues behind "authorship" in indigenous people's art. Finally, Tom Greaves provided a lucid discussion summary - pointing out that great strides have been achieved via collaborative efforts between applied social scientists and indigenous peoples.

Another great session was held on Friday entitled "Understanding Bio and Cultural Diversity in the Andes: The Potential for Traditional Knowledge to Shape Local and Global Policy." Chaired by Patricia J. Hammer, the panel covered lessions in traditional Andean nutritional knowledge (by Megan M. Bond), how tuberculosis and respiratory infections are traditionally dealt with in rural Andean communities (by Alexander Fehr), and various current mechanisms for discussing and including Andean indigenous traditional knowledge.

More is coming in the next post:

- The American Indian, Alaskan and Hawaiian Native, and First Nation Topical Interest Group discussion and concerns over the National Park Service's actions.

- Indigenous Communities and Anthropologists: Creative Applications of Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology in Addressing Indigenous Concerns.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

March 17 - 23, 2008: Five Key Indigenous People's Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of March 17 - 23, 2008


Peru Indigenous Tribe Battles Oil Giant Over Pollution

It is a familiar story. Big business moves into a pristine wilderness and starts destroying the environment and by turn the livelihoods of the indigenous people who live there. But in a reversal of plot, there are now cases of people living traditional lifestyles who are now invading the territory of the big companies and taking them on at their own game. The story of the Achuar tribe living in the Amazon rainforest of north-eastern Peru is one of them. Read the rest of the story here...


Tar Sands: Environmental Justice and Indigenous First Nation Native Rights

The application of treaty rights as a legal strategy implemented by the First Nations themselves must be the key focus in efforts to challenge Big Oil in Alberta. Resources and effort must be placed into building the knowledge and capacity amongst First Nations and M├ętis leadership, including grassroots, elders and youth, to engage in both an indigenous-led corporate-finance campaign and in decision-making processes on environment, energy, climate and economic policies related to halting the tar-sands expansion. Canadian policy makers need to understand that there is an inextricable link between indigenous rights and energy and climate impacts. Read the rest here...


Uganda: High Court Clears Balaalo Eviction

Pastoralists who roam around Uganda yesterday lost a crucial bid in the High Court to block their planned eviction from parcels of land in the western district of Bulliisa. Justice Akiiki Kiiza dismissed the case filed against six government officials on grounds that the pastoralists commonly known as Balaalo used a wrong law and procedure to go to court.

This means the government is now free to either evict or relocate the pastoralists from the land they have been occupying in Buliisa District. Find out more here...


Safeguarding Indigenous Abelam Culture

My first encounter with Abelam art was in 1974, when a group of men from the Maprik district of East Sepik province came to the University of PNG to paint a facade at the University Library, now the Sir Michael Somare Library. In 1978 I had the next encounter with Abelam art, when I commenced post-graduate studies at the Australian National University (ANU), and met my program supervisor, Professor Anthony Forge, whose area of interest and expertise was Abelam art.

From the understanding I have developed over the years of Abelam art, it is one of the most intricate, elaborate and spectacular in the country. This art culture is now becoming iconic to Papua New Guinea. Read the rest here...


Coca Crackdown and Indigenous Peoples in South America

The Incas chewed it. For the last 3,000 years the indigenous peoples of Bolivia and Peru have chewed or drunk coca tea without any apparent harm to their health. It is also used by healers and in ceremonial offerings to the gods. Pope John Paul II even drank coca tea on a visit to Bolivia in 1988. Now a UN body wants to ban it.

The INCB (International Narcotics Control Board) has decided to crack down on the culture of coca among the Indian population of the Andes as part of the increasingly futile efforts to stem the flow of cocaine to western countries. According to the INCB report, "Consuming the raw, unprocessed leaf abets the progression of drug dependence." No credible scientific evidence has been advanced to support this hotly-contested claim. Read the rest of the story here...


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

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