Tuesday, January 6, 2009

December 31, 2008 - January 6, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of December 31, 2008 - January 6, 2009

Australia: Indigenous Publishers Give Voice To Previously Unheard Stories

Two decades ago, the seeds of Kimberley publishing sprouted from the bush banana, or magabala, known in scientific circles as Marsdenia viridiflora. The Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre gave the name to Magabala Books, the region's first tentative publishing venture.

Magabala was born out of frustration: Aboriginal elders had gathered at a culture centre bush ceremony in 1983 and lamented that their stories were not being published or, if they were, only through the filter of non-indigenous publishers.

So Magabala became a permanent fixture and its first substantial book appeared in 1987. Mayi: Some Bush Fruits of Dampierland by Merrilee Lands was the first account of the Kimberley's extraordinary botanical riches as seen from an indigenous point of view. Whitefella science no longer had a monopoly on interpreting the fauna and flora of the Kimberley region.

Twenty-one years later, Broome-based Magabala is celebrating its coming of age. It has survived the vicissitudes of the economy and steadily publishes seven or eight books a year. Mayi is still in print. "Lots of people still ask for books about bush plants and food," says Magabala's publisher Suzie Haslehurst.

Above all, Magabala has stayed true to its original mandate "to publish works which have major Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or South Sea Islander involvement".

Other indigenous publishers have since appeared on the scene. In Alice Springs, IAD Press was set up as the publishing arm of the Institute for Aboriginal Development, while in Canberra the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies established Aboriginal Studies Press. Read more about Australian Aboriginal publishers here....

Philippines: A Different Way To Greet The New Year

Indigenous people in Sierra Madre mountain abhor the traditional practice of lowlanders of greeting New Year with a big bang from all sorts of firecrackers and pyrotechnics.

"The practice of lowlanders of exploding firecrackers to welcome the New Year is a big no, no to the natives. We abhor the use of all sorts of firecrackers. Its not only dangerous, its only a waste of precious money," Ramcey Astoveza, Agta tribal leader, said Monday in a mobile phone interview from the Tribal Center for Development building in Infanta town in northern Quezon.

He said for generations, tribal leaders have been encouraging the practice of creating "unpolluted noise" to welcome every New Year.

"We heartily shout as loud as we can, play our transistor radios with full volume, bang cans and pots, blow horns made from indigenous leaves. But no pla-pla or Diablo or sinturon ni Hudas," Astoveza said, referring to the banned fireworks that usually greet the New Year for most Filipinos.

For the mountain people, the intrusion of unwelcome noise to disturb the peace and silence of Sierra Madre is an "abominable act."

"The deepening blast of firecrackers is like the roars of power saws by illegal loggers and outburst of gun fires from the military and the NPA [New People’s Army]. They are all unwanted in Sierra Madre. They are all disrespecting the holy silence of the mountain," Astoveza said philosophically. Read more about the indigenous Philippines New Year here....

Nicaragua: Titling Of Native Lands Marks Crucial Step For Indigenous Rights Declares UN Expert

An independent United Nations human rights expert has praised the Nicaraguan Government for giving the indigenous Awas Tingni community the title to its traditional lands, marking the culmination of a decades-long struggle by the group to gain recognition and protection of its ancestral territory.

“This affirmative step by the Government of Nicaragua represents an important advancement in the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya.

The Government, in a ceremony on 14 December, gave the Awas Tingni – one of the many indigenous communities that populate theThis affirmative step by the Government of Nicaragua represents an important advancement in the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide country’s Atlantic Coast region – the title to its ancestral territory, which consists of some 74,000 hectares of densely forested lands.

The long-awaited move was several years in the making and follows a historic August 2001 decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua. Read more about the indigenous Nicaraguan land titles here....

International: In 2008 Trickledown Economics Goes Global

Atlas Greenspan shrugged, recognizing a possible flaw in his market ideology. To say finally that hard rains must fall on everyone just won’t do.

Comparisons drawn from the natural world cannot describe the last gasp of Western free market capitalism. This was a philosophy and an enforcing apparatus that separated human endeavor from any natural order, including the natural order of animal presence and household and community provisioning. Just as we’ve stopped taking account of the four-leggeds and winged beings and fish who can offer companionship and guidance to our otherwise isolated human species, what has happened in today’s market is that it’s stopped taking account of human nature. But unlike poor marginalized animals, it is more human nature to fight back.

The fight that compels me here is populist backlash. If tens upon tens of millions of decent, middle-income citizens figure out that they’ve been duped by bail-out taxes that still have left them penniless, jobless, homeless, healthless and half-educated – anything could happen. That is why the first item on President Obama’s Native agenda should be a serious, sonorous, respectful and seemly apology. This is a great country built on the richness of diverse cultures. When they choose to hold governments accountable, they will find that the honor of this nation remains in a mutual relationship with the indigenous Nations. Middle-class America is just waking up to the special interests that run government, the same interests we’ve all seen grab our resources in the past. Well governments set precedents, good and bad.

In the past year, Canada apologized for drafting Native children into boarding schools; the Australian prime minister apologized to the “Stolen Generation” of Aborigines; Malaysia granted its first-ever recognition of indigenous land rights; Guatemala formally recognized indigenous peoples, including the Mayans; and in a development some of us thought we’d never see, given Japan’s long denial of ethnicity on its islands, the Japanese Diet passed a resolution recognizing the indigenous Ainu and calling for their support. The U.S. can get in step with these developments through an apology to its first peoples. Read more about trickledown economics here....

United States: Bush Administration Put The Wreck In Federal Recognition

While no whistleblower has come forward – yet - to confirm definitely that the Bush administration’s unwritten federal recognition policy was not to acknowledge any more American Indian tribes, one thing is obvious: The last eight years have put the wreck in federal recognition, and 2008 was no different.

Interior began its year of denial in March with a final determination rejecting federal acknowledgement to the Steilacoom Tribe of Indians, a 600-plus member tribe in Steilacoom, Wash., whose name might hint at the tribe’s historical existence and its ancestral territory southwest of what is now Tacoma, Wash. “Steilacoom,” according to the tribe, is the Anglicization of an indigenous word for the name of a local creek and a local pink flower.

The Steilacoom is one of five bands living in the Tacoma Basin area. They spoke a separate dialect of the Puget Sound Salish languages, according to its Web site at www.steilacoomtribe.com.

The tribe was harshly affected by Manifest Destiny – the American spinoff of the 15th century Doctrine of Discovery that justified genocide and ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples by the delusional belief that God ordained Europeans to “discover” and occupy any land that was not inhabited by Christians, enslave its inhabitants and claim its wealth.

The American version pushed settler colonists from sea to sea, leaving a trail of broken treaties and indigenous peoples herded into Apartheid-style reservations. Read more about federal recognition and the Bush administration here....

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

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