Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 22-28, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of April 22-28, 2009

Brazil: Amazon Indians Rebel Against Dams

Brazil's Enawene Nawe Indians are demanding a halt to the construction of a series of dams along the Juruena River in the Amazon which they say could deprive them of the river resources which they depend on for their survival. Glenn Switkes reports.

Brazil's Enawene Nawe Indians have finally said 'enough is enough' to destructive development projects, and have demanded that dam construction on the Juruena River in the western Amazon come to a halt.

On October 11 last year, about 120 Indians burned the Telegrafica Dam work site in Sapezal, Mato Grosso. The project is part of the Brazilian government's Growth Acceleration Plan, and is being built by a consortium that purchased the project from the Maggi Energy company. This company is linked to soy king Blairo Maggi, now governor of Mato Grosso state. Eight of the 11 projects being planned for the Jurena have received a go-ahead from Mato Grosso environmental authorities.

No prior consultation took place with indigenous peoples who depend on the fish and other resources of the Juruena basin for their survival. The indigenous people became incensed when they learned at a meeting with indigenous protection officials that more than 80 prospective dam sites on the Juruena are being evaluated, including sites close to the Enawene Nawe reserve. Read more about the Enawene Nawe Indians here....

India: University To Be Set Up In Rangamati

A public university will be set up in Rangamati to facilitate higher education for indigenous people living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, said Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid at a seminar yesterday.

The university campus will be built in a way that will resemble the distinctive nature of hill tracks, he said, adding that the students from the indigenous groups will feel like home at the university.

The education minister said this at a seminar marking the Global Action Week on Education. Research and Development Collective (RDC) organised the seminar in association with Oxfam at the National Press Club in the city.

Speakers at the seminar talked about different problems of students from ethnic groups in getting admission in universities. Their problems in primary and secondary level of education were also discussed at the seminar.

"Students from indigenous communities who get admission in universities get chance in low profile subjects which have little use in their practical lives”, said Rabindranath Saren, general secretary of Jatiya Adivasi Parishad. Read more about the Chittagong Hill Tracts university here.... For other universities offering indigenous peoples programs, visit here.

Laos: Resettlement Of 158 Hmong Lao Refugees In Thailand Leaves Thousands More In Despair

At a press conference last week, Thai Foreign Minsiter Kasit Piromya Kasi made the announcement that 158 Hmong Lao refugees will finally be allowed to resettle in other countries.

This followed a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The refugees being allowed to resettle have spent more than two years in over-crowded prison cells in Thailand’s Immigration Detention Center (IDD) at Nong Khai, despite international intervention, the outrage of human rights groups, and offers from Australia,Canada, New Zealand and the United States to resettle them.

The refugees have United Nations documentation confirming that they are indeed political refugees – something the 5,000 other refugees, currently residing in camps in Thailand, do not have.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been unable to provide such documentation because Thailand never ratified the UN Refugee Convention and has not allowed the UN agency to interview them to document their refugee status.

According to Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya Kasit, those 5,000 Hmong asylum seekers, who are currently living in Petchabun’s Ban Huay Nam Khao refugee camp, do not qualify because they are “economic” refugees. Read more about the Hmong refugees here....

Peru: Indigenous Peoples Block Amazon Tributary To Resist Oil Operations

A large number of Kichua and Arabela indigenous people have for two weeks blockaded one of the Amazon's main tributaries, the Río Napo, in response to the violation of their rights by oil companies and Peru's government. The protesters have blocked the Napo with canoes and a cable to stop oil company vessels getting upriver at Santa Clotilde, Napo district, Maynas province, Loreto region. According to Survival International, two boats, including one from the Anglo-French company Perenco, have managed to break through the blockade. Three shots were allegedly fired at the Indians who chased after them.

The blockade of the Napo is just one of many protests currently taking place across the Peruvian Amazon. Coordinated by Peru's Amazon indigenous organisation, AIDESEP, the protests are in response to government policies that threaten communal land rights. AIDESEP is demanding more democratic consultation with indigenous peoples over local development, and the creation of new reserves for uncontacted tribes. Perenco is working in a part of the Amazon inhabited by two of the world's last uncontacted indigenous peoples. The company does not acknowledge the tribes exist.

The government has responded by sending police and soldiers to areas where protests are taking place. AIDESEP has criticized these measures, calling them "intimidation" and saying that the protests are peaceful. Read more about the blockade in Peru here....

Bolivia: Water People Of Andes Face Extinction

Its members belong to what is thought to be the oldest surviving culture in the Andes, a tribe that has survived for 4,000 years on the barren plains of the Bolivian interior. But the Uru Chipaya, who outlasted the Inca empire and survived the Spanish conquest, are warning that they now face extinction through climate change.

The tribal chief, 62-year-old Felix Quispe, 62, says the river that has sustained them for millennia is drying up. His people cannot cope with the dramatic reduction in the Lauca, which has dwindled in recent decades amid erratic rainfall that has turned crops to dust and livestock to skin and bones.

"Over here used to be all water," he said, gesturing across an arid plain. "There were ducks, crabs, reeds growing in the water. I remember that. What are we going to do? We are water people."

The Uru Chipaya, who according to mythological origin are "water beings" rather than human beings, could soon be forced to abandon their settlements and go to the cities of Bolivia and Chile, said Quispe. "There is no pasture for animals, no rainfall. Nothing. Drought." Read more about the Uru Chipaya here....

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

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