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Meet the Lakota Tribe Grandmother Teaching Thousands How to Get Arrested to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline April 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Environment, First Nations.
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Debra White Plume has galvanized an international coalition of grassroots activists.

 

April 11, 2014  |

 Evelyn Nieves, http://www.alternet.org
dwhiteplumePhoto Credit: Kent Lebsock; Screenshot / YouTube.com

On March 29, a caravan of more than 100 cars plodded along the wide open roads of the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, stopped at a forlorn former corn field and prepared for battle.

Leaders from eight tribes in South Dakota and Minnesota pitched their flags. Participants erected nine tipis, a prayer lodge and a cook shack, surrounding their camp with a wall of 1,500-pound hay bales. Elders said they would camp out indefinitely. Speakers said they were willing to die for their cause.

This spirit camp at the Sicangu Lakota Rosebud reservation was the most visible recent action in Indian Country over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But it was hardly the first … or the last.

On the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Debra White Plume, an activist and community organizer involved in Oglala Lakota cultural preservation for more than 40 years, has been leading marches, civil disobedience training camps and educational forums on the Keystone XL since the pipeline was proposed in 2008.

White Plume, founder of the activists groups Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the International Justice Project and Moccasins on the Ground, has crisscrossed the country, marched on Washington and testified at the United Nations against the environmental devastation of tar sands oil mining and transport. Now, perhaps only weeks before President Obama is set to announce whether to allow a private oil company, TransCanada, to plow through the heartland to transport tar sand crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries for export, White Plume is busier than ever.

White Plume is leading a galvanized, international coalition of grassroots environmental activists, the largest and most diverse in decades, in the last fight against the Keystone XL. The coalition is planning massive actions against the Keystone XL in Washington, D.C. and in local communities from April 22 (Earth Day) through April 27. In what is a first in decades, indigenous tribes from the heartland will be joined with farmers and ranchers along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in the actions. The “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” is inviting everyone in the country to their tipi camp on the National Mall in the hopes that a show of strength will steel President Obama’s resolve to be the “environmental President.”

Since the State Department implicitly signed off on the Keystone XL pipeline in February by announcing that its environmental impact statement had found no “significant” impacts to worry about, White Plume and other environmental leaders concerned about the Keystone XL’s impact on climate change have also stepped up their plans for direct, non-violence civil disobedience. Those plans are under wraps, but blockades will surely be a major weapon in their arsenal.

White Plume talked about why the Keystone XL pipeline has become such a firestorm.

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Evelyn Nieves: Why is it so important that the Keystone XL pipeline NOT become a reality?

Debra White Plume: The tar sands bitumen inside the KXL pipeline is hazardous, flammable, a carcinogen — and deadly. When it gets into our drinking water and surface water, it cannot be cleaned up. These pipelines further the development of the tar sands sacrifice area in Alberta.

EN: Who is involved in the activism surrounding the opposition to the pipeline? Stories talk about this as a women’s movement, an elders movement and a youth movement. That means it’s pretty much everyone’s movement except for middle-aged men.

DWP: That might be true elsewhere, but all of our people are engaged to protect sacred water. I can’t speak for any middle-aged American men, but I know there are hundreds of American ranchers and farmers in South Dakota and Nebraska ready to defend their rights. Our Lakota warriors are opposing the KXL — this includes men and women.

EN: What sorts of direct action are you willing to take and what kind of support are you receiving from Indian Country in general?

DWP: We will blockade TransCanada’s KXL to protect our lands and waters if we have to. Many tribal governments and Red Nations people have committed to blockade. Our Oglala Lakota Tribal Council is meeting soon to discuss declaring war on the KXL, as is the Rosebud Lakota Tribal Council.

EN:What kind of support are you receiving from outside of Indian Country?

DWP: We have support from all over the big land (so-called U.S.A.) and so-called Canada. We do not recognize these manmade borders. Our people were here from time immemorial, this is our ancestral land, people to the north and south are our relatives. We are connected through prophecy.

EN:Where is the state of South Dakota on this?

DWP: The South Dakota state government wants the pipeline, the state government is pro-mining. They see Mother Earth as a warehouse of resources they can extract. They have no respect. The citizens are divided. The ranchers and farmers along the corridor have had their lands taken by eminent domain in South Dakota. They don’t like that. We have made allies with the S.D. citizens who want to protect sacred water. Many have come to our Lakota ceremonies.

EN: What about non-Indian border towns?

DWP:People who live in the border towns are divided about the KXL. Some hope to get a job, some hope it never comes here, many are working in alliance with us to stop it.

EN: Why is the blockade at Rosebud? 

DWP: The camp at Rosebud is not a blockade camp. The camp is on their own tribal land and no one can make them leave. It is near the location of a proposed man camp. We do not want any part of the KXL, including the badman camps.

EN:Is it because that’s the direct path on the pipeline route?

DWP: No, it is not in the KXL pipeline corridor. It is there because it is near to where TransCanada wants to put a badman camp. We refer to those camps as badman camps because of the horrendous experience the Mandan, Hidtatsa, and Arkikara Nation (in western North Dakota, where tracking reigns) is enduring because of the thousands of strangers among them, committing many crimes against women and children, and by the nature of their work, destroying Mother Earth for tar sands mining — which has to exit the sacrifice zone through the black snake of the KXL and other pipelines proposed by corporations.

EN: What are your next steps?

DWP: We continue to provide NVDA (non-violent direct action) training to communities in Indian Country that request for us to come. This is our Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance that we have been doing for three years now.

EN: What do you hope to achieve with your large gathering later this month?

DWP: We will provide training to communities who are sending their people, increase opposition to the kxl, expand our network, strengthen alliances, teach people about the sacredness of water. Allies are coming from all over to help us train community people, and other folks who are coming from all over the big land. We have many more Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance training camps scheduled. We will keep training until the decision is made. We hope President Obama will be green. Revolutionary green, and say no to the KXL and all other tar sands pipelines. Who wants to live over a snake pit?

Evelyn Nieves is a senior contributing writer and editor at AlterNet, living in San Francisco. She has been a reporter for both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The One (Dreadful) Thing They Don’t Call Themselves February 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Racism, Sports.
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1.31.14 – 3:04 PM

by Abby Zimet

Just in time for the Super Bowl, the National Congress of American Indians has releasedProud To Be, a powerful new ad that seeks to explain why the Washington Redskins name – which never gets mentioned – is a racist horror that needs to be changed. With a fascinating history of the word, from its reportedly “benign” origins to its use in 1860s bounty notices – “$200 for every red-skin sent to purgatory” – to the decades-long fight to change a name that ignorant rich people like owner Dan Snyder, all of whom should know better but somehow don’t, continue to insist is “a badge of honor.” Tell them it’s not. It’s time they join this century.

 

 

Wynne ruins Xmas in Grassy Narrows, logging plan approved December 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Ontario.
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Roger’s note: Let’s here it for Liberal governments.

GN_FB_ProfileBIMMEDIATE RELEASE Dec. 23, 2013

Grassy Narrows – Today the Wynne government approved plans for another decade of clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Territory against the will of this Indigenous community. The decision has ruined Christmas in a community already struggling with the long term health impacts of mercury poisoning. The Whiskey Jack Forest Management Plan 2012-2022 plans for dozens of large clearcuts on Grassy Narrows Territory, some nearly the size of pre-amalgamation Toronto.

 

“Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. “I call on you to intervene to repeal this hurtful plan and to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands.”

Download the plan here.

Speak out against the plan here.

The plan sets out a schedule to clearcut much of what little mature forest remains on Grassy Narrows Territory after decades of large scale industrial logging. Clearcut logging elevates mercury levels in fish – deepening the tragedy caused when 20,000 lbs of mercury poison were dumped into Grassy Narrows’ river by a paper mill upstream in the 1960′s.

This logging will further erode the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the community which depends on the forest to sustain their families and to practice their culture through fishing, hunting, trapping, medicine harvesting, ceremony and healing for all generations.

“Ontario has ignored our voices, and has added insult to injury by delivering this bitter blow during Christmas,” said Joseph Fobister. “My heart sinks because I know that clearcut logging has devastating consequences for our people. We cannot allow this.”

Premier Wynne visited Grassy Narrows in the summer of 2012 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, saying that she wanted to rebuild Ontario’s relationship with Grassy Narrows to “get it right.” Instead Ontario has unilaterally pursued this clear-cut logging plan against the will of the community and without consent

We were not properly consulted and we do not accept any application of this plan to our traditional lands. The Chief and Council along with community Elders stand united on this issue and are determined to protect the community’s way of life; Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Grassy Narrows’ case against Ontario in May, with a decision following by six months or more. The legal action argues that Ontario does not have the right to unilaterally permit logging on Grassy Narrows land due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3.
The new logging plan takes effect in April.

Grassy Narrows is the site of the longest running native logging blockade in Canadian history – an ongoing grassroots action which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. Grassy Narrows youth, elders, women, and land-users put their bodies on the line to stop logging trucks from passing.

CONTACT: Chief Simon Fobister (807) 407 0170
JB Fobister (807) 407 2745

High res photos and b-roll available: riverrun2010@gmail.com.

- See more at: http://freegrassy.net/2013/12/23/wynne-ruins-xmas-in-grassy-narrows-logging-plan-approved/#sthash.VW4IajJa.dpuf

Stuck in the Smoke Hole of Our Tipi December 26, 2013

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE REAL AMERICANS

 

Feathers Versus Guns: The Throne Speech and Canada’s War With Mi’kmaw Nation October 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi’kmaw Nation — again — this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi’kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles — not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.

The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi’kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: “In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins.”

In response, the Mi’kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.

It is more than coincidental timing — it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.

This is not the first time Canada has declared war on the Mi’kmaw. In 1981, law enforcement led an attack on the Mi’kmaw at Restigouche to stop them from controlling their own Aboriginal fishery. During this attack, Mi’kmaw suffered multiple injuries, some severe and numerous arrests.

In 1998, the government intervened in Listuguj because the traditional Mi’kmaw government shut down the logging company that was stealing timber from Mi’kmaw lands and because the Mi’kmaw started to harvest their own timber.

Between 1999 and 2001, Canada once again declared war on the Mi’kmaw Nation at Esgenoopitij (Burnt Church First Nation) in NB to stop them from fishing lobster. This was despite the fact the Mi’kmaw had proven their treaty right to fish lobster at the Supreme Court of Canada. Law enforcement rammed Mi’kmaw fishing boats, injured fisherman and issued numerous arrests.

All of these actions were done in violation of the numerous treaties between the Mi’kmaw and the Crown which were peace and friendship treaties intended to once and for all end hostilities and work together as Nation to Nation partners. Given that our treaties are constitutionally protected, Canada’s actions are not only tyrannical and oppressive, but also illegal.

Today, in 2013, the government has once again decided that brute force is the way to handle The Mi’kmaw women, elders, and children drumming and singing in peaceful protest against hydro-fracking at Elsipogtog. Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.

The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers. Yet, so far, the mainstream media has focused on the burning cars and not the acts of violation and intimidation by RCMP on the Mi’kmaw.

This heavy-handed deployment of heavily armed RCMP cops against women and children shows Canada’s complete disregard for our fundamental human rights and freedoms, and their ongoing disdain for Indigenous peoples. One RCMP officer’s comments summarized government position perfectly: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” The RCMP have it wrong — Mi’kmaw treaties never surrendered our lands and we are still the rightful owners.

Of course, this sounds eerily similar to the words of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris who was reported to have said of the protest at Ipperwash “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

And we all know what happened there — law enforcement killed a peaceful unarmed protester named Dudley George. One might wonder if history is going to repeat itself. If we look to the speech from the throne as any indication, Harper has sent Canada on a direct collision course with First Nations — all in the name of resource development.

Contrary to the Governor General’s introductory comments about Canada using its military force sparingly and that Canada responds “swiftly and resiliently to aid those in need”, the strategic wording indicates a much more ominous plan. Canada’s position vis-à-vis First Nations and natural resources is laid out as follows:

- First Nations are incapable of managing their own affairs and Canada will control them and make them accountable via legislation;

- Canada owns the natural resources and will sell them;

- Canada will make major investments in infrastructure to protect these natural resources;

- Canada will increase military strength to protect Canadian sovereignty; and

- Increased military will protect Canada’s economy from terrorism.

In other words, Canada does not recognize the ownership or rights of First Nations to their lands, waters and natural resources and will expend billions to ensure that no First Nations prevent the extraction of those resources. Canada and its military have referred to First Nations as terrorists before, and will no doubt be labeled as such when they defend their right to say no to mines or hydro-fracking, like in Elsipogtog for example.

This aggressive display of power and intimidation in Elsipogtog was not met with an equal display of violence. Instead, the women, elders and children continued to drum and chant and pray for the health and safety of their peoples, their Nation and the lands and waters for all Canadians. Instead of scaring people away, this unconstitutional show of force is being met with solidarity blockades all over Canada and the United States.

Listuguj in Quebec has blocked a bridge; Six Nations in Ontario has shut down a highway, there are protests outside Canadian embassies in New York City and Washington; and hundreds of rallies, marches, protests and blockades planned for later today and tomorrow. The horrific images of police violence at Elsipogtog inspired First Nations peoples all over Canada to collect supplies, send warriors and advocate for justice. Harper has inspired Indigenous resistance and action on the ground. There will be more First Nation protests and blockades in the coming days as well.

The Idle No More flame that he lit last year has never faded — it was just waiting to be fanned once again. The solution has always been there:

1. Respect the Nation to Nation relationship (our sovereignty and jurisdiction over our governments, lands and peoples);

2. Address the current injustices (crises in housing, education, food, water, child and family services, murdered and missing Indigenous women); and

3. Share the benefits and responsibility to protect the lands, water and natural resources like the treaties envisioned.

It’s Harper’s move now — more tanks and RCMP violence or a negotiating table?

Pamela Palmater

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She teaches Indigenous law, politics and governance at Ryerson University and heads their Centre for Indigenous Governance.

 

 

 

Protests Sweep Canada Following Paramilitary Assault on Indigenous Fracking Blockade

 

‘Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone’

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Police raid on New Brunswick fracking blockade (Photo: APTN reporter Ossie Michelin, via Twitter)

Protests are sweeping Canada following Thursday’s assault by paramilitary-style police on members of indigenous Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq First Nation and local residents as they blockaded a New Brunswick fracking exploration site.

The group had barricaded a road near the town of Rexton in rural New Brunswick since September 30 to block shale gas exploration by SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of the Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co, that is moving forward without the community’s consent or consultation.

Thursday morning, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed the protest, donning camouflage uniforms, wielding rifles, and bringing police dogs to the site. Kathleen Martens with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reports, “[a]t least four RCMP cruisers were burned” in the events following the raid.

The RCMP announced that 40 people had been arrested, citing a court injunction against the protest.

“The RCMP is coming in here with their tear gas – they even had dogs on us,” Susan Levi-Peters, the former chief of the nearby Elsipogtog aboriginal reserve, told Reuters. “They were acting like we’re standing there with weapons, while we are standing there, as women, with drums and eagle feathers. This is crazy.” The media is reporting that some protesters threw molotov cocktails at the police, who reportedly tear gassed the crowd.

In the immediate aftermath of the violence, people across Canada mobilized to show solidarity for the besieged blockade, with APTN reporting that First Nations people across the country are putting a call out for an immediate show of support for the Elsipogtog members.

APTN reports that solidarity activists blocked a bridge in Listuguj, and supporters from Six Nations blocked part of a highway near Caledonia on Thursday. Organizers with IdleNoMore in Lethbridge, Alberta held a march through the city immediately following the raid. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Washington, DC and New York on the doorstep of the Canadian consulates.

PowerShift.ca lists over two dozen actions across the country, including solidarity flash mobs and mass marches.

“Protesters in Rexton are standing up to a Texas company that wants to profit on the backs of New Brunswickers while placing the water and the environment at risk,” stated Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

As events continue to unfold, people are using Twitter to post news updates, photos and commentary:

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# # #

Students Leave the Zapatistas’ First School With Homework August 25, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Latin America, Mexico, Revolution.
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The 1700 students who travelled from across Mexico and the world to attend the Zapatistas’first school last week are leaving with an important homework assignment: to transfer what they learned to their respective collectives and movements.

A man takes notes during the Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Seminar about indigenous struggles, which began directly the Zapatistas first school on liberty earlier this month. (Photo: WNV/Marta Molina)

Some left with blisters on their hands from working in the fields with a machete for the first time. Others told stories of waking before the sun rose to prepare tortillas and beans and pozol (water with corn flour added) for their companions who were going to work in the milpa (cornfields) and to chop and carry wood. As the students prepared these meals, often for the first time, they listened to the sounds of indigenous languages like Tojobal, Chol, Tzeltal, and Tzotzil. As they ate, they shared experiences and began understanding that their sense of resistance came from their own families, from the very beginning of their childhoods.

The focus of the five-day school’s curriculum was liberty according to the Zapatistas, and students grew to understand how the home stays in Zapatista territories were an integral part of the lesson. “They care for Mother Earth because it’s what brings them food,” explained Marcos, a student from Argentina. “In the cities we buy everything in containers, and we don’t even know where it comes from. That [growing one’s own food] is also part of liberty.”

Others said that liberty lies in exercising autonomy without government help. It is the hard daily work that allows the Zapatistas to survive without the government and be free, said the students. Coherence, resistance and responsibility were words they repeated often in describing the Zapatista way of life.

“To be free is to be able to decide for themselves what lives they want to have,” said Marcos.

“What education they want. How they want to raise their children. How they want to organize. We have to go to the supermarket, go to the school that the system offers us to then reproduce that system — at university as well. We have to take the healthcare system that the system offers us and that we don’t understand,” he said.

During the school, Toño from Brazil stayed in the Rosario de Río Blanco in the Caracol La Realidad, close to the city of Las Margaritas. “It was the best school I’ve been to in all my life,” he said. Toño and other students learned how a Zapatista family can live peacefully in communities where the majority of people support the PRI, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, and receive money from government projects. “But if one day they lose their government financial support, they won’t know what to do,” said Toño.

Erwin, a student from Cuetzalan, a small town in the Mexican state of Puebla, works to build autonomy for the community where he lives, and he understands how the Zapatistas navigate relationships with their non-Zapatista neighbors.

“They have differences with their neighbors, but they don’t treat them as enemies,” he said. “The system is negatively affecting the everyday life of all, partisan, non-partisan. Even the army has indigenous people in it. And that’s what capitalism wants: for brothers to fight each other.”

Many felt that learning how the Zapatistas live alongside, and assume a non-confrontational attitude toward, people who don’t think like them was an indispensable lesson. Non-Zapatistas can even come to the autonomous clinic when they are sick, and they will be attended to rather than rejected. “In this same community we greet all people who are not Zapatistas with affection, because we are all affected by the system…The real enemy is the same, the system,” said Erwin.

The fact that oftentimes students did not speak the same language as their host families, teachers and guardians, called votanes, was not necessarily a problem. “We wound up understanding each other,” said 17-year-old Camila, who is a student at the College of Sciences and Humanities at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The texts provided by the Zapatista school were very different than those she was familiar with from college. “They explain through anecdotes, which are reflections of practice.” Camila said she hopes that a second grade will be added to the escuelita, and that, if one is, she will be allowed to attend. She said she learned over the course of those five days that autonomy exists and is possible.

The lesson that most impacted Uruguayan Mónica Olaso was when she asked her teacher why they were summoned and what the Zapatistas expected of the students. The response, Mónica recounted, was, “You know, Mónica, a bullet is not going to reach Uruguay. But our word will.” She is returning to her country, she said, with the mission to insist on organizing with the patience required to realize the commitments they make with people in her communities. She also feels the responsibility to pass along the lessons both in the books she was given by the Zapatistas and those already within her — her experiences.

“The Zapatistas wanted us to hear them, to see them, to share with them their experiences of struggle. Now, we have a mission: that every one of us, in accordance with our ways and places, continue organizing according to our context,” said Mónica from Uruguay. Toño, who is part of the Passe Livre Movement in Brazil, which helped organize the mass protests against the fare hikes earlier this summer, agreed. “Rural movements, urban movements, no matter which. But we have to learn how to be more autonomous, and therefore we will be more free. We will even live alongside the enemy itself, because if you are autonomous and free, then you can live with them,” he said.

 Alex, a student from San Francisco, Calif., stayed at the Caracol La Realidad with Toño during the school. He says that he learned discipline, listening and the importance of having a long-term strategic vision. In his opinion, these are three things that are missing from social movements in the United States. “There are two main lessons,” he said. “First, is the discipline to accomplish what you say you’re going to do. The second is being self-critic and evaluating our mistakes and victories.” He quoted the Zapatista saying — “we walk slowly because we are going far” — as he explained the longevity of the movement: the Zapatistas have already celebrated 30 years since founding the EZLN, 20 years since establishing the municipalities and starting to build their autonomy, and ten years since the creation of the autonomous governing structure, the Councils of Good Government. This long-term view, Alex said, is lacking in the United States.

In addition to organizing the escuelita, the EZLN also brought together representatives of indigenous peoples from all over Mexico to inaugurate the first Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Traveling Seminar. Held directly after the escuelita at the Centro Indigena de capacitación Integral,

The University of the Earth, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas in Chiapas, the seminar was a gathering of members of indigenous communities from around the world. The location for the inaugural seminar was significant because the Zapatistas are organizing — like so many other indigenous communities in resistance — to defend their territories from threats by transnational corporations, narco-trafficking and governments. Some students who attended the escuelita to listen and learn with Zapatista families about the meanings of liberty and autonomy also attended the Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Seminar. Indigenous participants shared their victories and organizational missteps as a way to measure of the strength of the indigenous communities that conform the National Indigenous Congress, and those who still do not belong to it.

The ongoing seminar will continue to re-convene in different regions of the Americas and is intended to create a traveling forum for indigenous voices, while the Zapatistas have announced that they will hold a second escuelita this coming winter.

Marta Molina is an independent journalist from Barcelona, Catalunya. She has written about cultural resistance in Brazil and Palestine, and now she is based in Mexico following the steps of the Movement for Peace Justice and Dignity (MPJD) against the war on drugs.

Aboriginal women exploited in Great Lakes sex trade August 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Women.
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U.S. reports outline how native women and girls are trafficked to Great Lakes sailors, possibly through Thunder Bay.



On the docks of Duluth, Minn., it’s called “working the boats.”

It means working as a prostitute, sometimes shuffling from bunk to bunk, selling sex to sailors on ships working the Great Lakes.

Some prostitutes are as young as 10, fleeing broken homes in the U.S. and Canada. The average age of entry into the sex trade is 14, according to a 2011 report titled Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota. And a disproportionate number of Great Lakes sex slaves are impoverished First Nations women and girls.

Co-author Christine Stark recently told the CBC that on this issue, “there is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth.”

The report describes hearing of “Native women being trafficked to and from reservations and urban areas” and goes on to say that “92 per cent of women interviewed wanted to escape prostitution.”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is working on providing that way out, through an ongoing task force on the trafficking of women and children in Canada.

Project director Diane Redsky explains that there are “specific vulnerabilities for aboriginal women and girls.”

“They are definitely targeted by traffickers,” she says of First Nations women. “It’s not surprising that Thunder Bay would be a city (portrayed) in that way.”

One of the goals of the task force is to help them escape violent, exploitative situations, she says, adding that housing and education opportunities can go a long way toward fighting trafficking.

But it’s a tough battle. Great Lakes sex traffic between Canada and the U.S. has gone on for generations and has its roots in poverty and discrimination, according to the Garden of Truth report, which draws from interviews with 105 aboriginal women conducted by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education.

Though noting the paucity of statistics, the report says up to 10 women and girls were prostituted by three traffickers on ships out of the port of Duluth in 2002 alone. The women may disappear onto the lakes for months at a time.

“Intergenerational harms persist, in that some girls whose mothers were prostituted on the boats were conceived during prostitution,” it says.

More than two-thirds of the women interviewed had family members who attended native residential schools, now notorious for abuse and neglect, and 77 per cent of the women interviewed had used homeless shelters.

It’s hard to know how widespread the Great Lakes sex trade is because victims are often reluctant to report crimes, says Sgt. Shelley Garr, of the Ontario Provincial Police headquarters in Thunder Bay.

“Human trafficking victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations,” Garr says, adding the OPP tries to work with the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to combat human trafficking. Still, it’s a trade that often flies under the radar.

Chris Adams, a spokesperson for the Thunder Bay police department, said he was unaware of sex traffic on ships between his city and Duluth.

The Garden of Truth findings are troubling but not surprising to Canadians who have studied abuse and prostitution in First Nations communities.

That report supports a 2008 study by the Minnesota legislature that suggested Duluth has become a major hub for human trafficking because of the presence of a sizeable First Nations population and an international port.

A 2010 Duluth police report also describes the city as “a destination for trafficking victims who are brought on board ships for exploitation by the crew.”

A 2011 study for the economics department at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, found the average age of prostitutes entering the sex trade was 14, although some girls began as young as 10.

Prostitutes can generate $280,000 each in annual profits for pimps, Redsky says. “The financial gain is to the trafficker.”

She wonders: “Who is on these ships in the first place, and why is this allowed to happen for generations?”

According to the Garden of Truth report, organized crime groups, on and off aboriginal lands, play “a significant role” in trafficking native women. “Youth gangs in Indian country are proliferating.”

Homelessness and a lack of educational options help explain why some First Nations women are drawn into prostitution, said Kezia Picard, director of policy and research at the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

She notes that some 600 Canadian First Nations women are missing, many of them thought to have been murdered, including some who worked in the sex trade.

It’s not surprising the Minnesota report mentions a sex trade involving the Port of Thunder Bay, Picard said.

“It’s always transportation hubs where these things are more visible.”

The Zapatistas’ First School Opens for Session August 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, First Nations, Latin America, Mexico, Revolution.
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Roger’s note: The Zapatistas are perhaps the most important revolutionary movement of our times.  The figure known as Subcomandante Marcos was a Mexico City academic who went to Chiapas to teach revolution to the Indigenous population.  Instead, he himself got his world view flipped 180 degrees, coming to realize that the true revolutionary spirit is indigenous to the Indigenous.  What the Zapatistas have taught us is the prime importance of the notion of “dignity,” self-governance, and that genuine revolution at a given time does not necessarily imply the necessity of winning state power.  I recommend that anyone interested in revolutionary theory and practice look into the Zapatista experience.  I also recommend a work greatly inspired by the Zapatista movement, John Holloway’s “Change the World Without Taking Power.”

 

Yesterday, 1,700 students from around the world enrolled in the first Zapatistas school, held at the University of the People’s Land of Chiapas. (Photo: WNV/Moysés Zúñiga Santiago)

Last December, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized, peacefully and in complete silence, to occupy five municipal government office buildings in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. That same day, which coincided with the end of one cycle on the Maya calendar, Zapatistas released a communiqué, asking, “Did you hear it?”

It appears that the answer was yes, because this week thousands of people from around the world are descending on Chiapas for the Zapatistas’ first organizing school, called la escuelita de libertad, which means the little school of liberty. Originally the group allotted for only 500 students. But so many people wished to enroll that they opened an additional 1,200 slots for the weeklong school, which begins on August 12.

Just as the Zapatistas have, for two decades, rejected hierarchical systems, the escuelita will also eschew traditional teaching models. Instead, it will be an open space for the community to learn together.

“There isn’t one teacher,” wrote Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesperson for the Zapatista movement. “Rather, it is the collective that teaches, that shows, that forms, and in it and through it the person learns, and also teaches.”

While attending the escuelita, students will live with a family in a rebel zapatista community and participate both in the school and in the daily life of the community. Participants will cut wood, work in the cornfields and cook and eat with their host families.

Subcomandante Marcos acknowledged that attending this type of school requires shifting one’s way of thinking about learning and indigenous communities. As he asked in a communiqué:

Would you attend a school taught by indigenous teachers, whose mother tongue is typified as “dialect”?

Could you overcome the temptation to study them as anthropological subjects, psychological subjects, subjects of law or esoterism, or history?

Would you overcome the urge to write a report, interview them, tell them your opinion, give them advice, orders?

Would you see them, that is to say, would you listen to them?

Leading up to the school, the Zapatistas published a series of seven communiqués entitled “Them and Us.” These essays illustrated the absurdities of “those from above” — those who hold coercive and repressive power — trampling the freedoms of “those from below.” The writings also spoke to the need to learn by observing and listening in order to build an alternative world. But more than abstractions, the seven publications were a collection of lessons about how everyday life in the Zapatista communities, including how people resolve problems and how they organize themselves into an autonomous networks in which the people rule and the government obeys.

The last installation of this manual, published on March 27, also announced the upcoming escuelita and outlined three requirements necessary for any applicant: “an indisposition to speaking and judging, a disposition to listening and seeing, and a well-placed heart.”

The Zapatistas are unique not only for challenging power or maintaining their resistance for nearly 20 years. What sets them apart is their ever-evolving definition of liberty, and this topic — liberty according to the Zapatistas — will be the central focus of the school. According to Subcomandante Marcos, liberty is “to govern and govern ourselves according to our ways, in our geography and in this calendar.” But the definition also shifts from generation to generation, and Marcos explains that new generations must find their own paths through rebellion and dignity.

The experience of living with Zapatistas and other indigenous families will be another central part of the school. Some students will stay with families living in autonomous rebel communities, while others will be with nearby non-Zapatistas, or even anti-Zapatistas families. These hundreds of families have all agreed on a votán, a person who, in the Zapatista movement, represents a guardian and the heart of the community. The votáns will translate for the families and the foreign students, although Marcos acknowledges that translation itself is an imperfect process.

“In legal cases, do cultures translate?” he questions. “In that sense, one understands that what they call ‘equality under the law’ is one of the greatest travesties of justice in our world.”

As for final evaluations, the school won’t, unsurprisingly, have an exam, a thesis, or a multiple-choice test. Rather, as Marcos explained, the school “will make its own reality,” and the results will be “a mirror.”

The school began after three days of festivals in rebel communities to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the councils of good governance, the Zapatistas’ autonomous governing system in which the community makes decisions and the government carries them out. During the celebrations, one could see empty buses and vans parked along the streets to Ocosingo and Palenque, waiting to transport the 1,700 students from San Cristobal de Las Casas into the rebel communities the following morning.

Earlier this summer, the Zapatistas announced that future escuelitas in the Zapatista communities will be held this coming winter.

Marta Molina is an independent journalist from Barcelona, Catalunya. She has written about cultural resistance in Brazil and nonviolent resistance in Palestine. Now she is based in Mexico following the steps of the Movement for Peace, Justice and Dignity (MPJD) against the war on drugs, and the movement Yosoy132 for the democratization of media and an authentic democracy in the country. She also reports about movements on defense of the land and struggles for autonomy in the South of México and Guatemala. You can follow Marta on Twitter at @martamoli_RR

 

Tribe Blockades ‘Megaload’ of Tar Sands Equipment August 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Nez Perce leader: ‘We need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land.’

 

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Over 250 protesters faced down police and a ‘megaload’ of tar sands equipment Monday evening on Idaho’s Highway 12. (Photo: Steve Hanks/ Lewiston Tribune, AP)

Calling tar sands development a project of “total destruction,” members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a ‘megaload’ of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig.

The Spokesman-Review reports:

After gathering at a river access point a quarter mile from where the megaload truck stopped before dawn Tuesday, protesters began hiking westward along Highway 12 to a ramp where the roadway splits from Highway 95. At around 10:30 p.m., the Omega Morgan truck that had sat idle began to rumble to life, and a fleet of Nez Perce Tribal Police, County Sheriff, and Idaho State Police vehicles began moving toward a crowd of protesters blocking the roadway.

Law enforcement officers gave protesters 15 minutes to speak out unimpeded. At one point, tribal members were informed they were creating a public nuisance by officers. To which one protester responded, ‘We’re protecting our sovereignty.’

In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting “since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011.”

The blockade broke after a police car drove straight through the group of people, Earth First! Newswire reports. “Police used the usual tactics to break up the blockade, threatening people with mace, pushing activists, separating parents from children, and so on,” they add.

Nineteen individuals, including all members of the Nez Perce executive committee, were arrested Monday evening and released on bail Tuesday.

One of those arrested, Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation (Nimiipuu Nation), Brooklyn Baptiste, told indigenous independent media site Last Real Indians that the action was taken because of tribal opposition to the economic and long-term environmental impact of the shipments—namely the development of tar sands oil which he described as “total destruction.”

“As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.”

According to Reuters, the load is one of two planned shipments by Oregon hauling company Omega Morgan.

 

The ‘megaload’ parked during the day. (Photo via @KXLBlockade/ Twitter)

A video of Monday’s blockade shows protesters chanting and banging drums in a face-off with police and the ‘megaload.’

Honduras: Where the Blood Flows and the Rivers are Dammed August 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: As a life-long Latin Americanist I have taken a deep interest in the Honduras coup and have posted several analyses.  What is particularly of interest and concern to me has been the role of (former) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and likely Democratic Party standard bearer in 2016).  Her foreign policy stance towards Bolivia, Ecuador and especially Venezuela represents a continuation of the Bush Administration’s and the United States’ historic hegemonic relationship with Latin America, dating from the days of the Monroe Doctrine.  But the role she played in legitimizing the military coup against the democratically elected Zelaya government, takes us back to the days of gun boat diplomacy, albeit using surrogate gun boats (and one is reminded of the white washing of the coup that has just happened in Egypt).  The allies of the Clinton family and the Democratic party have had a direct role in supporting the illegitimate Honduran regime.  Here is one link: http://prospect.org/article/our-man-honduras.

 

 

Dams funded by foreign investors are threatening the cultural heritage and livelihood of Honduras indigenous peoples.

 

On July 3, Hondurans demonstrate demanding a halt to crime and violence. (Photo: EPA)

It is all too easy for one’s eyes to glaze over at the headlines of yet another murder in Honduras, the country that earned the dubious moniker of the world’s murder capital. Forty-nine year-old Tomas Garcia was shot dead on July 15, just one of thousands of victims. Violence marches on unabated as observers become desensitised to the mounting human toll, comforted by the illusion that the carnage is associated with, and perhaps even justified by anti-social behaviour, a convenient misconception that provides a buffer between us and the grief for the fallen.

Yet Garcia’s murder is not the result of unrestrained gang or narcotrafficking violence, corruption or random crime, and its inclusion as a statistic obscures his murder’s political motivation and the tragedy it leaves in its wake. The unarmed Lenca indigenous community leader was shot at close range in front of a crowd of witnesses. Garcia’s 17-year-old son Allan was seriously injured. The act was not random but was instead part of a pattern of systematic and calculated repression by Honduran authorities.

Garcia was killed because he stood at the front of a peaceful protest against the Agua Zarca hydro-electric dam, which is largely financed by foreign investors and threatens the cultural heritage and livelihood of his community.  Well aware of the danger he faced but unable to turn away from his community’s struggle, Garcia’s courageous stand leaves his widow to care for their seven children.

His assassination was preceded by escalating intimidation – threats and harassment, and menacing security personnel. Garcia’s community is resisting the hydro-electric project that was enticed by Honduras’s “open for business” slogan engineered in the wake of the coup that deposed democratically-elected president Mel Zelaya.

Indigenous communities have been objecting to the illegal sale of their territory to transnational companies who seek to extract profits by harnessing and privatising communally-owned water.  Yet in September 2010, the Honduran National Congress awarded 41 hydroelectric dam concessions, during a time when the government of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s legitimacy was still questioned by the majority of Latin American governments.

A month later, a coalition of indigenous groups, including members of the Tulupanes, Pech, Miskito, Maya-Chortis, Lenca and Garifuna peoples, convened a meeting to organise in resistance to the illegal concessions, many of which were granted on indigenous territory without proper consultation and consent of the groups.

These omissions violate International Labor Organization Convention 169, which requires that “Consultation with indigenous peoples should be undertaken through appropriate procedures, in good faith, and through the representative institutions of these peoples” and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous groups have also noted that various international mechanisms designed to address climate change have contributed to the exploitation and degradation of the land for which they have served as rightful and responsible stewards for generations. These include the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and the Program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). The rights of indigenous communities to prior informed consultation and consent are being bulldozed, just like their ancestral land.

The Agua Zarca Dam project in Garcia’s community is one of the disputed concessions, part of four interconnected dams along the Gualcarque River. The project is coordinated by a partnership between the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA), which owns the concession, and the Sinohydro Corporation of China, which seeks to develop the hydro-electric power. The web of investor friendly legislation and support from the Lobo administration empowers the companies to violate human rights with impunity.  According to Berta Caceres, General Coordinator of the indigenous coalition COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations) that seeks to defend indigenous territories, the companies are supported and protected by the Honduran security forces.

Lenca residents of Rio Blanco claim that the dam threatens to degrade the surrounding environment, deplete the local water supply, diminish their livelihood and destroy the spiritual connection to the land that is foundational to the community’s history and survival.  The Lenca communities are engaging in peaceful resistance to the construction by blocking the access road, action that has drawn a swift and brutal response from the government, along with a campaign to vilify the protestors.

The conflict escalated on May 23, when police ended 50 days of peaceful community resistance by forcibly removing protestors. A day later, the repression took an ominous turn when Caceres was arrested on the spurious charge of illegally possessing a weapon, shortly after she criticised the police eviction action. Although the charge was provisionally dropped following an international outcry, the local prosecutor is appealing the dismissal, and the case is far from over.

Business friendly, taken to an extreme

The Lobo administration signaled its embrace of a neoliberal development model when it convened an economic conference in May 2011, entitled “Honduras is Open for Business”. The government sought to reassure investors that risks would be minimised and profits maximised, promising unprecedented access to the country’s exploitable resources, many of which are located within indigenous territory that is subject to the protection of various international protection schemes. The intervening years have witnessed an ambitious and far-reaching legislative agenda that gives primacy to corporate rights.

Human rights observers fear that the recently passed “Law for the Promotion of Development and Reconversion of the Public Debt” will only intensify the exploitation of resources for the benefit of foreign investors and the country’s own economic elites and exacerbate the illegal dispossession of indigenous and campesino communities. The law authorises the Lobo administration to employ the nation’s natural territory and the “idle” resources it contains as collateral to investors who can then exploit concessions for future profits.

Critics of the law note that it was pushed through with little debate and even less transparency, as the details of implementation remain shrouded in secrecy. Observers contextualise the rush to pass the law in advance of November’s national presidential election as a bold effort to entrench protections for business interests, fearing that Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed president Mel Zelaya, and head of the newly formed Libre party will implement democratic reforms.  President Lobo has tacitly acknowledged as much in recent days, opining that a Libre party victory would be a disaster that would not be well received by the business community.

The Rio Blano conflict is emblematic of broader struggle

Similar struggles are percolating across Honduras as the dispossessed seek to protect their livelihoods and their lands from the agro – and business oligarchs who partner with the military and police in meting out repression for acts of resistance to their absolute power. In the Bajo Aguan, over a hundred campesinos have been killed resisting eviction by agro-oligarchs led by Dinant Corporation’s Miguel Facusse.

The Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people along the Caribbean coast are struggling to protect their land from ecotourism and “model cities” that will strip local control and displace ancestral communities.  Human rights defenders are criminalised throughout a country with a notoriously corrupt judicial system that consistently fails to vindicate their rights.

This repression reinforces centuries of historical exploitation and suffering, but occurs in the context of a surprisingly vibrant and resilient popular movement struggling for a more inclusive, participatory and egalitarian future for Honduras. As with the rest of Latin America, foreign influence is ubiquitous, and should be held to account.

International financial institutions, including multilateral development banks, provide development aid and impose structural adjustment policies that advance the neoliberal agenda. Governments provide aid to military and police who have supported the economic and political status quo and have been complicit in the repression. Counter-narcotics efforts are increasingly militarised, and private foreign investors demand obscenely favourable conditions and returns, irrespective of the human costs.

Hondurans deserve a brighter future, free from unfettered repression, intractable corruption, stark inequality and pervasive poverty. The international community must stand in solidarity with the Honduran popular movement and its courageous leaders and demand that the country’s future be determined by the free, democratic and fair election of a government that advances the interests and rights of all Hondurans, not just its economic and political elites.

Lauren Carasik is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and the Legal Services Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.

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