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‘They’re killing us’: world’s most endangered tribe cries for help

The Awá are one of only two nomadic hunter-gathering tribes left in the Amazon

Logging companies keen to exploit Brazil’s rainforest have been accused by human rights organisations of using gunmen to wipe out the Awá, a tribe of just 355.

It is a scene played out throughout the Amazon as the authorities struggle to tackle the powerful illegal logging industry. But it is not just the loss of the trees that has created a situation so serious that it led a Brazilian judge, José Carlos do Vale Madeira, to describe it as “a real genocide”. People are pouring on to the Awá’s land, building illegal settlements, running cattle ranches. Hired gunmen – known as pistoleros – are reported to be hunting Awá who have stood in the way of land-grabbers. Members of the tribe describe seeing their families wiped out. Human rights campaigners say the tribe has reached a tipping point and only immediate action by the Brazilian government to prevent logging can save the tribe.

Their troubles began in earnest in 1982 with the inauguration of a European Economic Community (EEC) and World Bank-funded programme to extract massive iron ore deposits found in the Carajás mountains. The EEC gave Brazil $600m to build a railway from the mines to the coast, on condition that Europe received a third of the output, a minimum of 13.6m tons a year for 15 years. The railway cut directly through the Awá’s land and with the railway came settlers. A road-building programme quickly followed, opening up the Awá’s jungle home to loggers, who moved in from the east.

It was, according to Survival’s research director, Fiona Watson, a recipe for disaster. A third of the rainforest in the Awá territory in Maranhão state in north-east Brazil has since been destroyed and outsiders have exposed the Awá to diseases against which they have no natural immunity.

“The Awá and the uncontacted Awá are really on the brink,” she said. “It is an extremely small population and the forces against them are massive. They are being invaded by loggers, settlers and cattle ranchers. They rely entirely on the forest. They have said to me: ‘If we have no forest, we can’t feed our children and we will die’.”

But it appears that the Awá also face a more direct threat. Earlier this year an investigation into reports that an Awá child had been killed by loggers found that their tractors had destroyed the Awá camp.

“It is not just the destruction of the land; it is the violence,” said Watson. “I have talked to Awá people who have survived massacres. I have interviewed Awá who have seen their families shot in front of them. There are immensely powerful people against them. The land-grabbers use pistoleros to clear the land. If this is not stopped now, these people could be wiped out. This is extinction taking place before our eyes.”

What is most striking about the Funai undercover video of the loggers – apart from the sheer size of the trunks – is the absence of jungle in the surrounding landscape. Once the landscape would have been lush rainforest. Now it has been clear-felled, leaving behind just grass and scrub and only a few scattered clumps of trees.

Such is the Awá’s affinity with the jungle and its inhabitants that if they find a baby animal during their hunts they take it back and raise it almost like a child, to the extent that the women will sometimes breastfeed the creature. The loss of their jungle has left them in a state of despair. “They are chopping down wood and they are going to destroy everything,” said Pire’i Ma’a, a member of the tribe. “Monkeys, peccaries, tapir, they are all running away. I don’t know how we are going to eat – everything is being destroyed, the whole area.

“This land is mine, it is ours. They can go away to the city, but we Indians live in the forest. They are going to kill everything. Everything is dying. We are all going to go hungry, the children will be hungry, my daughter will be hungry, and I’ll be hungry too.”

In an earlier interview with Survival, another member of the tribe, Karapiru, described how most of his family were killed by ranchers. “I hid in the forest and escaped from the white people. They killed my mother, my brothers and sisters and my wife,” he said. “When I was shot during the massacre, I suffered a great deal because I couldn’t put any medicine on my back. I couldn’t see the wound: it was amazing that I escaped – it was through the Tupã [spirit]. I spent a long time in the forest, hungry and being chased by ranchers. I was always running away, on my own. I had no family to help me, to talk to. So I went deeper and deeper into the forest.

via ‘They’re killing us’: world’s most endangered tribe cries for help | World news | The Observer.

indigenous communities asserting themselves across the americas

Indigenous politics tend to be understood as local anecdotes, rather than political events of international significance. So it is of little surprise that the funeral of Bernardo Vásquez in San José del Progreso, Oaxaca, Mexico, generated little international attention. Vásquez was the second anti-mining activist shot dead in the past two months in the small Zapotec community, while many other opponents have been seriously injured in the Ocotlán Valley.

Mine-related violence is certainly distressing but far from rare, extending from Chile to the Arctic. What is less ordinary is the extent and intensification of anti-mining mobilisation across Latin America. The past month in particular has seen a swell in protests defending land and water resources. Between World Water Day, annually celebrated on March 22, and the International Day of Peasant Struggles on April 17, this spring has seen resistance against mega-projects gain solid ground.

The incidents in Ocotlán, simultaneous with larger mobilisations in other locations, are indicative of a broader turn in which indigenous movements are leading coordinated efforts to defend natural resources. Indigenous movements may be locally rooted, yet as its contest reframes governmental agendas, it ineluctably impacts transnational politics as well.

‘Conga won’t go’ in Peru

On World Water Day, thousands of people gathered around the Blue Lagoon in the Peruvian highlands of Cajamarca to protect their water resources from mining exploitation and contamination. The Conga Mine, a $4.8bn project involving US-based Newmont Mining Corporation and Peruvian company Minas Buenaventura, would be the second largest gold mine in the world and affect five sources of drinking water.

Residents of Cajamarca have been insistently protesting the Conga Mine project, approved in 2010. Neither President Humala’s 60-day state of emergency and increased military presence nor the external review of the environmental impact study were able to undermine the intensifying civil unrest. In fact, mobilisations gained momentum since Cajamarca’s regional vice president, César Aliaga Díaz, issued regional ordinance 036, declaring the Conga project unviable, thereby lending official support to the mobilisations. The uncontroversial alliance between local protesters and Cajamarca’s government against the Peruvian state and international mining interests suggests a multi-layered, and certainly transnational, political scenario.

via The significance of indigenous mobilisations – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

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Resilience in Ecuador

Ecuador’s March for Life, Water, and the Dignity of Peoples was as extensive as it was enduring, gathering marchers for more than 400 miles from International Women’s Day (March 8) to World Water Day. When CONAIE’s[Esp] president Humberto Cholando led thousands of indigenous peoples into the capital on March 22, thousands of non-indigenous protesters had also joined in. The government, in turn, organised pro-government countermarches, accusing the march of being fomented by prior coup participants, and to be supported by the country’s right for electoral motives.

Despite obstacles and shortcomings, this national mobilisation symbolises the re-unification of all indigenous groups in Ecuador around one common political agenda, echoing the massive mobilisations of the 1990s. Using the same slogan as the anti-Conga movement: “Life is worth more than gold,” the march emphasised protecting water and opposing mega-mining projects. The 19-point demand, however, was broader and included other issues, including opposing the expansion of oil frontiers and demanding labour rights as well as the respect of sexual rights.

This march did not achieve formal negotiations with the state. Yet it did achieve another important goal: to demand – and to practice – the de-criminalisation of social protest. In that sense, this mobilisation represents the resilience as well as the agility of an indigenous movement that has remained the leading force of opposition over the years, surviving political censorship and intimidation, as well its own internal fractures.


Thousands enter Guatemala City

Days after Ecuador’s march, more than 10,000 people entered Guatemala City – an impressive crowd for a capital of about one million inhabitants. The march lasted nine days, covered much of the country, and involved a diverse array of social sectors. Called the “Indigenous, Campesino, and Popular March for the defence, dignity and of the Earth and Territories”, this mobilisation was explicitly national and geared to address social concerns beyond indigenous concerns. The agenda encompassed land rights and territoriality as well as fundamental civil rights such as a Law for Community Media to legalise community radios. Just like in Ecuador, Guatemala’s anti-mining march is relevant because it is embedded in politics at large.

Leaders issued a declaration of the march for resistance and dignity in defence of the earth and territory, in which they demand, among others things, the cancellation of concessions for mining, petroleum and hydroelectric plants, and mono-culture agriculture – as well as the end to persecution and criminalisation of indigenous people fighting for their rights (eight indigenous women in San Miguel Ixtahuacán have arrest orders against them for speaking out against the Marlin Mine). Such forceful mobilisation convinced President Otto Perez Molina to negotiate the demands posited in the protesters official declaration.

TIPNIS redux

In Bolivia, indigenous mobilisation is also at a peak. The protests that brought international attention to the construction of a highway through the Indigenous Territory and National Park Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) are far from over. The 61-day march in the autumn of 2011 generated widespread support for originary peoples, pushing the government to abide by a law protecting the TIPNIS and interrupting the construction more than once. As conflict over the TIPNIS holds, political strategies grow increasingly complex, intricate, and transnational. The UN offered to mediate the stand-off, whereas the Brazilian National Bank for Social and Economic Development (which is financing most of the project) is demanding that the construction firm and the Bolivian government reframe the contract.

Despite political retaliation against protesters and harassment against leaders – such as against the president of the Bolivian Confederation of Indigenous Peoples (CIDOB), Adolfo Chávez, and the president of the TIPNIS, Fernando Vargas – coordination strengthened and even expanded to urban areas. In fact, Bolivia’s IV Indigenous National Commission just ratified the start of the IX March in Defence of the TIPNIS for April 25, from Chaparina to La Paz. It will reiterate resistance against the road construction through protected territories, as well as to defend natural resources at large, respect for constitutional rights, and insist on the democratic practice of consultation.

The various marches in defence of the TIPNIS evolved beyond a mobilisation for and by indigenous interests. It made tangible a national political discontent beyond protected territories, bringing international visibility to the internal fissures of the Morales government.

The smaller and larger indigenous mobilisations taking place simultaneously across Latin America are inevitably local, in that they contest projects in their communities, but they cannot be trivialised as isolated or anecdotal incidents. These mobilisations are of international relevance because they have successfully mobilised thousands of peoples, indigenous and non-indigenous, over long periods of time and across territories, crafting political demands, and often forcing governments to reframe policies. Most importantly, indigenous mobilisation has been able to bring environmental politics to the streets, turning natural resources, water, and consultation into public political issues. The growing constellation of mobilisations across the region points towards deeper societal changes in the making.

India’s Jarawa tribe faces extinction

A reclusive tribe in India dating back to the stone age is feared to be on the brink of extinction.

Only 400 members of the Jarawa tribe, who still hunt with bows and arrows, remain in the country’s Andaman Islands.

Al Jazeera’s Kathy Hearn reports on increased threats to their way of life caused by poaching, logging and tourism.

american holocaust film documents how u.s. inspired hitler’s “final solution”

The powerful and hard-hitting documentary, American Holocaust, is quite possibly the only film that reveals the link between the Nazi holocaust, which claimed at least 6 million Jews, and the American Holocaust which claimed, according to conservative estimates, 19 million Indigenous People.

It is seldom noted anywhere in fact, be it in textbooks or on the internet, that Hitler studied America’s “Indian policy”, and used it as a model for what he termed “the final solution.”

He wasn’t the only one either. It’s not explicitly mentioned in the film, but it’s well known that members of the National Party government in South Africa studied “the American approach” before they introduced the system of racial apartheid, which lasted from 1948 to 1994. Other fascist regimes, for instance, in South and Central America, studied the same policy.

Noted even less frequently, Canada’s “Aboriginal policy” was also closely examined for its psychological properties. America always took the more ‘wide-open’ approach, for example, by decimating the Buffalo to get rid of a primary food source, by introducing pox blankets, and by giving $1 rewards to settlers in return for scalps of Indigenous Men, women, and children, among many, many other horrendous acts. Canada, on the other hand, was more bureaucratic about it. They used what I like to call “the gentleman’s touch”, because instead of extinguishment, Canada sought to “remove the Indian from the Man” and the Women and the Child, through a long-term, and very specific program of internal breakdown and replacement – call it “assimilation”. America had it’s own assimilation program, but Canada was far more technical about it.

Perhaps these points would have been more closely examined in American Holocaust if the film had been completed. The film’s director, Joanelle Romero, says she’s been turned down from all sources of funding since she began putting it together in 1995.

Perhaps it’s just not “good business” to invest in something that tells so much truth? In any event, Romero produced a shortened, 29-minute version of the film in 2001, with the hope of encouraging new funders so she could complete American Holocaust. Eight years on, Romero is still looking for funds.

American Holocaust may never become the 90-minute documentary Romero hoped to create, to help expose the most substantial act of genocide that the world has ever seen… one that continues even as you read these words.

santorum speaks for white christian males everywhere

in this stunning, succinct excerpt from some political interview show (face the nation?), rick santorum says caring about the environment is the opposite of christian belief.

i think these white folks in power here in the u.s. – and their “house servents” – have it backwards – they only worship satan, carnage, death, ruin, with money as their supreme godking…

I wasn’t suggesting the president’s not a Christian. I accept the fact the president’s a Christian. I just said that when you have a world view that elevates the world above man, and says that we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the Earth by things that are frankly just not scientifically proven, like for example the politicization of the whole global warming debate, I mean this is just all an attempt to centralize power and give more power to the government. This is not questioning the president’s beliefs in Christianity. I’m talking about the belief that man should be in charge of the Earth, and have dominion on it, and be good stewards of it.

via Santorum: Obama ‘Elevates the World Above Man’ – Politics – The Atlantic Wire.

Ngabe engaged in a life and death struggle against the big business

Panama’s largest indigenous group, the Ngabe, had decided to take a stand against the unlawful encroachment of their homeland. Since the time of the conquistadors, the Ngabe have been pushed to the margins of the country – forced to live on the land that no one else wanted. Twenty years ago the Panamanian government finally ceded what was considered a useless tract of land to them. The Ngabe had in fact lived there for centuries, so by rights it has always been theirs.

But now this land, rich in mineral deposits and rivers, is considered priceless. And Ricardo Martinelli, Panama’s authoritarian president who is a close friend of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, wants it back.

His plan is to open the Ngabe heartland to foreign mining companies and push hydroelectric power projects onto an unwilling population. The problem is that the Ngabe have nowhere else to go. So the scene was set for a dramatic showdown, which started when the Ngabe closed the Pan-American Highway in Chiriquí province in the west of the country – bringing Panama to a standstill.

Their demand: an audience with the president. Martinelli’s response was extraordinary for this relatively peaceful country with a constitution that forbids the formation of an army. The police, who human rights observers say have become increasingly militarised since Martinelli became president three years ago, launched a vicious crackdown, cutting communications with the outside world, and allegedly shooting innocent bystanders as well as peaceful protesters.

Harrowing reports surfaced of rapes and the mistreatment of detainees, as scores of Ngabe men, women and children were arrested. At least two people were killed and many more were injured. The crackdown lasted for three days and proved so unpopular with Panamanians, that Martinelli was forced into negotiations with the Ngabe.

Opening fire

The talks were taking place at the National Assembly building in the centre of Panama City and dozens of Ngabe families had set up camp nearby to show support for Silvia Carerra, their elected leader who is known as the Casica.

It was here that my crew and I set up our camera on my first day in Panama to interview some of the people who had travelled hundreds of miles to make their point. We had just started to interview a young woman and child when gun shots rang through the air. The police had opened fire at the demonstrators. There were several shotgun injuries, none serious, but nasty all the same. It seemed inexplicable. Why fire into a crowd filled with women and children, particularly at a time when their leader was negotiating with the government?

It is possible that the government was never that keen to talk to the Ngabe in the first place and that this was an attempt to provoke a reaction which would force the cancellation of the talks. If that was the plan, it did not work. The Casica had no intention of letting the government set the agenda and the talks continued.

But as I flicked through the channels in my hotel room later that night I was given an insight into the less than perfect relationship between the government and the media here. Panamanian TV media carried the police’s version of events – that drunken Ngabe youths had gone on the rampage. It was a story that I knew for a fact was far from the truth.

from al jazeera – Panama: Village of the damned

dying for oil: trucks killed seven native children and youths

The trucks of the oil and gas industry are responsible for the deaths of seven children and youths, while the oil and gas drilling is destroying the land, water and air at Fort Berthold, land of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, in North Dakota. Still, Three Affiliated elected tribal politicians continue to push for more death and destruction.

Those oil and gas semi-trucks have resulted in the deaths of seven children and youths in the past the three years, including two children who were three and five years old.

Speaking at the Rights of Mother Earth Gathering, Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, said the energy companies are spending money on propaganda in North Dakota, and her people are dying.

“They have billions of dollars to run campaigns with their propaganda.” Mossett said even though North Dakota is among the windiest states, the oil and gas industry continues to be the focus.“It is all about oil. People are dying where I come from, literally being killed by semi-trucks.”

Mossett said seven youths have been killed in the past three years, and two of them were only three and five years old. (Listen to the video below.)

She pointed out that the US and tribal officials are now talking about expediting the process.

Mossett was referring to the push by tribal officials to Congressional committees to expedite the oil and gas industry that is destroying the land, poisoning the water and air and killing the people.

US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced new initiatives in April to expedite the oil and gas industry, following a meeting with Chairman Tex Hall who has been pushing for more oil and gas drilling. Hall has also pushed to remove regulations for fracking.

The truth about the oil and gas expansion on tribal land in North Dakota, and the effect of tribal leaders pushing for more drilling, are among the most censored issues.

Listen to Kandi Mossett on this video from the open mic session at the gathering:

Native Historians Write Back: Decolonizing American Indian History

No matter what you know about Lewis and Clark, the Hopi Snake Dance, the occupation of Wounded Knee village, or the Seminole Freedmen claim, you have never before seen those and myriad other historic episodes from these perspectives. In this first-of-its-kind anthology, American Indian scholars examine crucial events in their own nations’ histories. On the one hand, these writers represent diverse tribal perspectives. On the other, they share a unifying point of view grounded in ancestral wisdom: the Cosmos is a live being, Earth is our Mother, the North American tribes are engaged in national liberation struggles, and Indigenous realities are as viable as any other. Fanciful? Read this book and see whether you still think so.

“There is no question that Native Historians Write Back is right on target with its truth seeking and truth telling. This anthology must be commended for its intelligence, courage, integrity, and grace.” —Simon J. Ortiz, author of Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing

Contents

The Origin of the Indigenous Paradigm in Historiography | Susan A. Miller

The Indigenous Paradigm in American Indian Historiography | Susan A. Miller

The Lewis and Clark Story, the Captive Narrative, and the Pitfalls of Indian History | Elizabeth Cook-Lynn

Hopi Culture and a Matter of Representation | Lomayumtewa C. Ishii

The United States Has No Jurisdiction in Sioux Territory | Vine Deloria, Jr.

Wahtohtana héda Ñyút^achi Mahín Xánje Akípa: The Year the Otoe and Missouria Meet the Americans | Matthew L. Jones

Calling Badger and the Symbols of the Spirit Language: The Cree Origins of the Syllabic System | Winona Stevenson (Winona Wheeler)

Looking after Gdoo-naaganinaa: Precolonial Nishnaabeg Diplomatic and Treaty Relationships | Leanne Simpson

Removing the Heart of the Choctaw People: Indian Removal from a Native Perspective | Donna L. Akers

Decolonizing the 1862 Death Marches | Waziyatawin Angela Wilson

The United States v. Yellow Sun et al. (the Pawnee People): A Case Study of Institutional and Societal Racism and U.S. Justice in Nebraska from the 1850s to the 1870s | James Riding In

The Ruby Valley Indian Reservation of Northeastern Nevada: “Six Miles Square” | Steven J. Crum

Chairmen, Presidents, and Princesses: The Navajo Nation, Gender, and the Politics of Tradition | Jennifer Nez Denetdale

Seminoles and Africans under Seminole Law: Sources and Discourses of Tribal Sovereignty and “Black Indian” Entitlement | Susan A. Miller

Countering Colonization: The Albuquerque Laguna Colony | Myla Vicenti Carpio

Six Pawnee Crania: Historical and Contemporary Issues Associated with the Massacre and Decapitation of Pawnee Indians in 1869 | James Riding In

reposted from Unsettling America

vanuatu has a traditional, alternative economy that still works

With the world rocked by economic turmoil, Dateline explores an alternative financial system that’s secure, stable and has stood the test of time.

Officially Vanuatu is one of the world’s ‘least developed countries’, but this is misleading. 80% of the population have almost no need for cash at all – they live on their own land and grow, fish and hunt for their food.

When they do need money, they simply make their own – traditional currencies like woven mats and pigs with tusks can be used to pay school fees and medical bills.

On the island of Pentecost there’s even a traditional bank that accepts deposits of pig tusks and claims to have reserves of $1.4 billion.

WATCH – See Amos’s insight into life on Vanuatu.

from sbs dateline – vanuatu’s piggy bank

mapuche community under attack for defending themselves against settler violence

Hours after a police officer shot during a search of a Mapuche Indian community in the southern region of Araucania died of his wounds, Chilean officials announced a special committee to address the problem of violence in the area.
Sgt. Hugo Albornoz of the Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police – died Monday night at the hospital in Temuco, Araucania Gov. Andres Molina said.

The sergeant was shot while providing cover for a search of the Mapuche community of Wente Winkul Mapu, commanders said.

Werken.cl, a Web site associated with Mapuche activists, said residents of Wente Winkul Mapu have been trying to recover Indian land currently held by three forestry companies and land baron Juan de Dios Fuentes.

Monday’s search came two days after at least six hooded men shot at a Carabineros post set up to protect Fuentes’ estate.

The head of the Carabineros, Gustavo Gonzalez, told reporters at the scene of Albornoz’s fatal shooting called the assault an ambush and said that two other officers were wounded.

via Latin American Herald Tribune – Chilean Cop Shot During Search of Indian Community Dies.

of course, when corporations and wealthy landowners steal from and murder indigenous people, the media takes little notice. when the threatened communities fight back, they are terrorists.

according to liberacion total, ten houses were ransacked by the thugs in uniform – which included members of the GOPA – the special operations unit of the police forces. all that was found were a shotgun and a balaclava – enough “evidence” to detain two women who occupied the houses where the offensive hunting weapon and mask were found.

the article goes on to say that the local mapuche community has been fighting to prevent the racist land owner and timber companies from illegally taking mapuche land.

Sargento de carabineros muere tras ser baleado durante allanamiento a comunidad mapuche en La Araucanía