Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March 4-10, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of March 4 - 10, 2009

United States: Penobscot Journalist Rhonda Frey Dies

Rhonda Mitchell Frey, a Penobscot activist and the sole American Indian journalist working in Maine, died Feb. 8, leaving the community saddened and shocked at her sudden unexpected passing.

Frey was born Dec. 30, 1955, the daughter of the late Matthew and Juanita (Nicholas) Mitchell of Indian Island.

She graduated from the University of Maine, Orono, where she received bachelor degrees in journalism and history. She worked as a producer for Channel 5’s 11 o’clock News at WABI-TV in Bangor. During the 1970s, she served as a police officer for Penobscot Nation. For the past several years she was the human resources coordinator for Penobscot Nation, Indian Island.

Frey was a member of the University of Maine Oratorical Society and St. Ann’s Catholic Church Voices of the Dawn Choir on Indian Island.

She served as consultant to the Abbe Museum, assisted in curriculum development for the Maine Native American History program’s secondary educational unit, and was an advocate for child protective services.

Frey’s great love was for journalism and she was the only Native journalist working exclusively in Maine. She was a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and the creator, producer and host of Indigenous Voices, a bi-monthly radio broadcast for WERU radio, in Orland, Maine, with simulcast on Bates, Bowdoin and Colby colleges and Maine Public Broadcasting Network radio stations.

According to Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis, Frey was a tireless and dedicated fighter for Native rights. Read more about Frey's career here....

Nepal: Tharus To Continue Strike Until Madheshi Label Erased

The agitating Tharu community and indigenous nationalities on Monday said that they will continue their strike unless the government revokes the ordinance that recognizes them as Madheshis.

Leaders of the groups forwarded such preconditions while speaking at a protest rally and corner meeting at Bhadrakali in the capital today, saying that the cabinet meeting this morning failed to address their demands despite Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's assurances yesterday.

"We won't sit for dialogue unless the government retracts the ordinance brought in with the intention to make expansionists happy," said Laxman Tharu, coordinator of agitating Tharuhat Struggle Committee (TSC).

The government has chosen Minister for Physical Planning and Works Bijaya Kumar Gachhedar to pay a facilitator's role to hold talks with the agitating groups.

However, today's cabinet meeting had prepared a draft to meet the Tharus demands and had decided to finalize it after discussing with representatives of the agitating groups. Read more about the Tharu's protest here....

Nigeria: Abuja People Seek More Constituencies

A member of the House of Representatives from Abuja who represents Gwagwalada, Kuje, Abaji and Kwali Federal Constituency has said that Abuja people would take advantage of the constitution review to seek more constituencies and ensure they get full compensation as a result of relocation of the federal capital to their land.

Isa Edgah Dobi expressed concern that while only 20 percent of Abuja indigenes were compensated by the Federal Government during the relocation of the federal capital to Abuja, the plight of indigenous people is pitiable requiring urgent attention from the Federal Government

"Very few people, not up to 20 percent, were compensated by the Federal Government. The records are there. Officially, very few people from Maitama, Wuse and some parts of Bwari were compensated and moved out of their area," he told journalists in Abuja yesterday.

He said while the decision to relocate the nation's capital to the present day Abuja would have been done in good faith the fact remains that the indigenous people were not properly taken care of.

"Their life is miserable. They live in poverty while others live fat because of that land. How do you come and take away our father's land, build houses worth millions of Naira, enjoying light, steady water supply with sufficient infrastructure and good healthcare services and then build sub standard two and one bed-room houses for the indigenous people whose lands were taken away by the government," he said. Read more about the Abuja people here....

Canada: Do Local Governments Have A Responsibility To Consult Indigenous Peoples?

The issue of whether municipalities, like Brantford have an obligation to consult and accommodate indigenous peoples before permitting development on Native "land claim" area seems to be a crucial consideration in the current conflict over development in Brantford.

The Canadian Supreme Court has said in Taku River and the Haida Nation that the Crown has a duty to consult/accommodate Natives where rights and/or title may be adversely impacted by proposed developments.

Canadian provincial and federal governments are the Crown, according to the court and have such obligations whereas third party proponents like developers, forestry and mining companies do not.

The court was not specific on whether local governments like municipalities are also deemed to have such an obligation. There appears to be growing consensus though among Canadian legal minds that local governments indeed have an obligation to consult and/or accommodate aboriginal people.

In Ontario the provincial government is now directing third party proponents to carry out consultation with aboriginal people to the province's satisfaction.

Private energy developers for example, are now required to carry out consultations with affected aboriginal peoples as a condition of their service contracts with the province. Read more about local governments consulting indigenous communities here....

Guatemala: Indigenous Guatemalans Resist Mega-Mines And Hydropower Dams

Amidst the growing controversy surrounding foreign-controlled resource extraction and mega-development projects in Guatemala, populist leader Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, together with a group of community leaders, is demanding a two-year moratorium on the granting of mining concessions by the Guatemalan government.

In the municipal capital of San Marcos in northwest Guatemala, Ramazzini, with several hundred of his supporters, took to the streets last Tuesday to call on Congress for a two-year halt to the sale of mineral rights to international companies. This pause would give the current government enough time to review a petition to reform the existing mining code.

"A moratorium would be most sensible, given all the conflict generated by the subject of mining," the Bishop told "Prensa Libre," a national daily newspaper.

Ramazzini and numerous local and international organizations contend that the current mining law does not properly consult local communities as defined by the International Labour Organization's Convention 169, which guarantees the right of indigenous people to exercise control over the form of development that occurs in their traditional territory.

Guatemala signed onto the ILO 169 agreement shortly after the affirmation of the Peace Accords in 1996.

Critics of the current government led by President Alvaro Colom argue that the existing mining law fails to address issues surrounding water usage and the low requirement of royalty payments to the state, which stands at one percent of the revenue earned. Read more about Guatemalan resistance to mines here....

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

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