Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 21-27, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of January 21, - 27, 2009

Bolivia: Bolivians "Back New Constitution"

Bolivians have backed a new constitution that aims to empower the country's indigenous majority, partial results from a referendum show.

With about 30% of the vote counted, some 53% of the voters supported the changes, electoral officials said.

But at least four of Bolivia's nine regions voted "No".

President Evo Morales claimed victory in the referendum that would also allow Bolivia's first indigenous leader to stand for a second consecutive term.
Addressing supporters outside the presidential palace, he said the result marked the birth of a new Bolivia.

"Brothers and sisters, the colonial state ends here," President Morales, an Aymara Indian, told crowds in front of the presidential palace in La Paz after results emerged.

"Now Bolivia is being re-founded," he said.

"Here we begin to reach true equality for all Bolivians."

Support for Mr Morales was highest in the western highlands where indigenous people form the majority. Read more about Bolivia's constitutional vote here....

Philippines: Mangyan, Aeta Indigenous People Write Own Storybooks

Why did they become poor and oppressed when their ancestors used to live in an Eden-like setting that was vast, verdant, rich and peaceful?

These questions are answered in the storybooks for children written and illustrated by the Mangyan and Aeta peoples themselves.

Poverty and discrimination have long defined their lives. Considered a breed apart, they lived on the edge of society. Whoever wrote the song “Negritoes of the mountain, what kind of food do you eat?” for Filipino schoolchildren of the post-American era did not realize then that it widened, rather than narrowed, the gap between the aboriginal Filipinos and the rest in society.

And so they wanted to write their own book, tell their own story. Pepito Caquipotan, an Alangan-Mangyan, did just that. So did the Aeta elders of Quirino and the Alangan Mangyan elders of Mindoro.

Three storybooks for children, told, written and illustrated by the Mangyan and Aeta themselves, have been published by the Pamulaan Center for Indigenous People’s Education in partnership with indigenous community schools. Read more about Mangyan and Aeta books here....

Peru: Cusco Government Slams The Door On Biopirates

Indigenous people in Peru are celebrating a major victory in their long-time struggle to protect the land from outsiders hoping to exploit it.

On January 14, the Regional Government of Cusco enacted a law that bans the practice of biopiracy, or “the appropriation and monopolization of traditional population’s knowledge and biological resources.”

“Worldwide, national governments and international bodies such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization have failed to protect indigenous people’s traditional knowledge and associated genetic resources from biopirates,” says Alejandro Argumedo, the Director of Asociacion ANDES, an Indigenous group based in Cusco.

“The new law enacted by the regional government of Cusco is a good example of how local governments can create the appropriate legal and institutional framework, as well as the mechanisms to implement it, to ensure that biopiracy does not prey on the creativity of indigenous peoples and local communities,” he adds. Read more about Peru and biopiracy here....

Australia: Aboriginal Leader Mick Dodson Is Australian Of The Year

Indigenous leader Mick Dodson once described himself as a "persistent bugger" in his unending quest to secure a better future for his people.

Today his tireless work to build bridges between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians earned him the honour of Australian of the Year.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement on the lawns in front of Parliament House, in Canberra, this afternoon.

"Mick Dodson has been a courageous fighter for reconciliation and for closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians," Mr Rudd said.

"His efforts truly show that if we work together, we can achieve real progress."

Victorian philanthropist Pat La Manna OAM was named Senior Australian of the Year 2009, Queensland victims support worker Jonty Bush was named Young Australian of the Year 2009, and Western Australia's sea safety campaigner Graeme Drew was announced as Australia's Local Hero 2009. Read more about Australian Aboriginal leader here....

Reindeer Herding, Indigenous People And Climate Change

The Sámi are keenly aware about climate change, and are thus concerned about their future. Hence, the existence of the International Polar Year (IPY) project called EALÁT involving scientists, Sámi from Norway/Sweden/Finland, as well as Nenets from Russia. The indigenous people in the Arctic are closely tuned to the weather and the climate. I was told that the Sámi have about 300 words for snow, each with a very precise meaning.

It is important get a fusion of traditional knowledge and modern science and adopt a holistic approach. The indigenous people often have a different world view, in addition to having invaluable knowledge and experience about nature. Furthermore, if the end results are to be of any value beyond academic, then the stakeholders must be involved on equal terms. For instance, remote sensing data from NASA - for better understanding of land-vegetation - can be combined with traditional knowledge through the use of geographical information system (GIS).

The big challenge facing reindeer herding peoples in the Arctic is the ability to adapt to a climate change, according to a recent EALÁT workshop that was held in Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino), with representatives from the US, Russia, Sweden, Finland as well as Norway. Read more about the Sami and climate change here....

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

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