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United Nations: US Must Return Stolen Land to Native Americans May 5, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Genocide, Human Rights, Racism.
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Roger’s note: reading this article, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Return stolen land to Native Americans?  Well, that would be most of the country, wouldn’t it?  Can you imagine the racist US government doing anything constructive, much less returning actual real estate, to a People with little or no political clout?  And, why the UN rapporteur on indigenous rights?  Where is the UN rapporteur on genocide when you need him?

Published on Saturday, May 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

UN wraps up ‘contentious study’ of Native American communities

 
- Common Dreams staff

In an investigation monitoring ongoing discrimination against Native Americans, the United Nations has requested that the US government return some of the stolen land back to Native Americans, as a necessary move towards combating systemic racial discrimination.

A Native American at his home on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, which has some of the US’s poorest living conditions. Photograph: Jennifer Brown/Star Ledger/Corbis

 James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, “said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and ‘numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination,'” the Guardian reports.

“You can see they’re in a somewhat precarious situation in terms of their basic existence and the stability of their communities given that precarious land tenure situation. It’s not like they have large fisheries as a resource base to sustain them. In basic economic terms it’s a very difficult situation. You have upwards of 70% unemployment on the reservation and all kinds of social ills accompanying that. Very tough conditions,” Anaya stated.

“I’m talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what obviously they’re entitled to and they have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not divisive but restorative. That’s the idea behind reconciliation.”

* * *

The Guardian/UK: US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says United Nations

A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combating continuing and systemic racial discrimination.

James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes.

Anaya said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and “numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination”.

“It’s a racial discrimination that they feel is both systemic and also specific instances of ongoing discrimination that is felt at the individual level,” he said.
Anaya said racism extended from the broad relationship between federal or state governments and tribes down to local issues such as education.

“For example, with the treatment of children in schools both by their peers and by teachers as well as the educational system itself; the way native Americans and indigenous peoples are reflected in the school curriculum and teaching,” he said.

“And discrimination in the sense of the invisibility of Native Americans in the country overall that often is reflected in the popular media. The idea that is often projected through the mainstream media and among public figures that indigenous peoples are either gone or as a group are insignificant or that they’re out to get benefits in terms of handouts, or their communities and cultures are reduced to casinos, which are just flatly wrong.”

* * *

Inter Press Service: U.N. Wraps Up Contentious Study of Native American Communities

A United Nations special envoy on Friday called on the U.S. government to step up efforts to address historical injustices that continue to affect the country’s indigenous population.

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, warned that historical wrongs, particularly the loss of land, continue to have an overriding impact on the well-being of Native American communities.

Anaya has just finished a 12-day research mission probing the current status and experience of the U.S.’s roughly 5.2 million-strong Native American population.

The trip marked the first time that the U.N. has waded into the contentious issue of U.S. treatment of its indigenous communities, one of the poorest and most marginalized populations in the United States.

The unemployment rate for American Indians has typically been double that of the white population. On reservations – self-governed tracts of land given to Native American communities by the U.S. government – Anaya reported a 70 percent unemployment rate.

Native Americans have also long suffered from disproportionately low statistics in health and education, as well.

* * *

Reuters: UN official: US must return control of sacred lands to Native Americans

The United States must do more to heal the wounds of indigenous peoples caused by more than a century of oppression, including restoring control over lands Native Americans consider to be sacred, according to a U.N. human rights investigator.

James Anaya, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, just completed a 12-day visit to the United States where he met with representatives of indigenous peoples in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. He also met with U.S. government officials.
“I have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that indigenous peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced,” Anaya said in a statement issued by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva Friday.

That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.

Anaya welcomed the U.S. decision to endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 and other steps the government has taken, but said more was needed.

 

Senate Bill 2109 Seeks to Extinguish Navajo and Hopi Water Rights April 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, First Nations.
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Ed Becenti in Native Condition. Discussion »

TUBA CITY, ARIZONA – Senators Jon Kyl, Arizona – R, and John McCain, Arizona – R, will be in Tuba City on Thursday, April 5, 2012, to persuade Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal leaders to give up their peoples’ aboriginal and Treaty-guaranteed priority Water Rights by accepting a “Settlement Agreement” written to benefit some of the West’s most powerful mining and energy corporations.

Ed Becenti - NavajoEd Becenti – Navajo

They are doing so by trying to persuade the Navajo Nation and Hopi leaders to support and endorse Senate Bill 2109.

Senate Bill 2109 45; the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012″ was introduced by Kyl and McCain on February 14, 2012, and is on a fast track to give Arizona corporations and water interests a “100 th birthday present” that will close the door forever on Navajo and Hopi food and water sovereignty, security and self-reliance.

S.2109 asks the Navajo and Hopi peoples to waive their priority Water Rights to the surface waters of the Little Colorado River “from time immemorial and thereafter, forever” in return for the shallow promise of uncertain federal appropriations to supply minimal amounts of drinking water to a handful of  reservation communities.

The Bill – and the “Settlement Agreement” it ratifies – do not quantify Navajo and Hopi water rights – the foundation of all other southwestern Indian Water Rights settlements to date – thereby denying the Tribes the economic market value of their water rights, and forcing them into perpetual dependence on uncertain federal funding for any water projects.

Senators Kyl and McCain know well that without water, life is not possible. Yet, their Bill and the “Settlement Agreement” close the door forever to any possibility of irrigated agriculture and water conservation projects to heal and restore Navajo and Hopi watersheds (keeping sediment from filling downstream reservoirs) to grow high-value income and employment-producing livestock and crops for Navajo, Hopi and external markets; and to provide once again for healthy, diabetes – and obesity-free nutrition and active lifestyles for all future generations of Navajo and Hopi children.

Senators Kyl and McCain demand that the Navajo and Hopi people waive and give up all their rights to legal protection of injury to surface and ground water supply and quality in the past, present, and future – yet the Navajo and Hopi peoples do not even know the full extent and nature of the rights they are being pressured to waive because the details of the “Settlement Agreement” are not being shared with the public.

This is wrong.

Navajo and Hopi water and public health have already been damaged severely by past uranium and coal mining in and upstream of Navajo and Hopi communities. Senators Kyl and McCain are trying now to take away all rightful legal protections against the present and real danger of such contaminations occurring again.

S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to assess comprehensive long-term water needs of every community, village,  and watershed; and deny the resources and means to plan for, and develop sufficient domestic, municipal, industrial and agricultural “wet water” projects essential to the permanent well-being, prosperity and health of their homelands and children’s children. This is absolutely counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1908 Winter’s Doctrine that explicitly reserves and safeguards the water needed for that permanent well-being and prosperity.

S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to bank their own waters, or to recharge their aquifers depleted and damaged by the mining and energy corporations that S.2109 benefits. S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually – without any compensation – and to force the extension of  Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development.

This is coercive and wrong.

Ed Becenti, Navajo, has lived on the Navajo Reservation his entire life. He grew up on tradition and culture taught by his elders in the Navajo language. Mr. Becenti serves as a spokesperson Navajo people in the political environment challenging sensitive Native issues in local, state, and national government. Presently, protecting sacred tribal water rights has become personal priority for him; not only on behalf of Navajo people, but for the neighboring Hopi Nation. He resides in Window Rock, Arizona.

posted April 4, 2012 7:57 am edt

EL CÓNDOR AND YASUNÍ: TWO EMBLEMS OF THE STRUGGLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY AND PACHAMAMA March 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, Latin America.
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On 5 March 2012, President Correa slapped the faces of the Ecuadorian people and the international community by signing Ecuador’s first big mining contract. Unconstitutional and riddled with irregularities, the contract – with the Chinese-owned company Ecuacorriente (ECSA) – is for operations in the Cordillera del Cóndor

Adding to the insult, Correa signed the contract on Yasuni Day, exactly three years after indigenous peoples, municipal authorities and NGOs came together to announce their support for the initiative to keep oil in the ground in Yasuni National Park in the west of the country as a first step toward a post-petroleum Ecuador.

Yasuní and the Cordillera del Cóndor are two sides of the same reality. Both are indigenous territories and zones of high biodiversity – perfect locations for building sumak kawsay. But both have the misfortune of holding underground resources of great interest to international capital, oil in Yasuni and gold and copper in the Cordillera del Cóndor.

Both regions, too, are in the sights of the new Chinese capitalists. “The more they can lend us, the better,” Correa said on 16 February. “If they can make long-term loans to me, there are no limits.

China has a “surplus of liquidity and a shortage of hydrocarbons,” Correa went on, “while we have a surplus of hydrocarbons and a shortage of liquidity. China finances the USA and could pull Ecuador out of underdevelopment.”

If Correa is unlikely to allow the exploitation of Yasuni-ITT this year, it is only because to do so would endanger his re-election. But if he is returned to office, the area is probably doomed to an oily future.

The government has apparently learned nothing from the Texaco case and the high costs of reparation for environmental damage. Nor, seemingly, has it learned anything from the continent’s mining disasters, nor its experience of the close relationship between impoverishment and extractivism. The government’s actions are systematically in breach of the new Ecuadorian constitution, and Correa’s supporters continually display their racism and disdain of the indigenous world with slogans like “Down with those that want to continue living on top of a gold mountain!

Nevertheless, we will continue working against the new 21st century extractivism. We hold to a different vision – of mobilization, popular consultations, and resistance.

THE YASUNÍ WEB PAGE IS OFF-LINE AS A PROTEST AND SIGN OF MOURNING ON THE OCCASION OF THE IMMENSE TRAGEDY OF THE SIGNING OF THE FIRST CONTRACT FOR LARGE-SCALE OPEN PIT MINING IN ECUADOR. WE WILL BE BACK ONLINE AT THE TIME OF THE ARRIVAL IN QUITO OF THE SOUTHERN PEOPLES’ MARCH DEDICATED TO RECLAIMING A COUNTRY OF PURE WATER, FORESTS, FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AND LIFE.

_______________________________________________ Yasuni_en mailing list Yasuni_en@listas.amazoniaporlavida.org http://listas.amazoniaporlavida.org/listinfo.cgi/yasuni_en-amazoniaporlavida.org

In Paraguay a Familiar Story is Playing Out September 17, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, First Nations, Genocide, Human Rights, Latin America, Paraguay.
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Saturday 17 September 2011
by: Sean O’Leary, Council on Hemispheric Affairs                 | Report

In Paraguay, the Ayoreo people are fighting for their very survival. These indigenous people are struggling to save their ancestral home in the Chaco region from cattle companies, farmers and religious sects who are moving into the region and clearing the land. New arrivals do this to make the land suitable for farming and grazing cattle. The combination of burning and then bulldozing the land leaves the region barren.

The Chaco region in southwestern Paraguay is one of the most inhospitable lands in South America; while it composes 60 percent of the country’s area, it is inhabited by only two percent of the Paraguayan population. Popular filmmaker and conservationist David Attenborough has praised the beauty of Chaco calling it “one of the last great wilderness areas left in the world” and called for its protection due to the many plants and animals that inhabit its dense forests.

The preservation of forested areas is not only vital to sustaining the region’s biodiversity; the survival of the Ayoreo people also depends upon it. It is not simply a matter of the Ayoreo people moving somewhere else. The territory called Eami in their language, is tied to their history and very identity and thus valued as sacred. As one of the members of the Ayoreo point out, “Our history is etched in every stream, in every waterhole, on the trees…our territory expresses itself through our history because the Ayoreo people and our territory are a single being.”

While the Ayoreo people were legally awarded some disputed land by the Paraguayan government, two Brazilian beef corporations, BBC S.A and River Plate S.A are refusing to hand over the land until they are sufficiently compensated. These companies are seeking permission to clear a large area of land bordering on the Ayoreo’s. This will mean fencing the Ayoreos in to a smaller area, marginalizing them even further. Although many Paraguayan officials support expanding the cattle and farming industries throughout the Chaco as a means to boost the economy, the long-term damage to the nation from both a human rights and an environmental perspective would be catastrophic. The practice of slash and burn agriculture will only bring short-term benefits at the expense of Paraguay’s ecology and the destruction of the Ayoreo people.

The Ayoreo-Totobeigosode, a sub community of the Ayoreo, is one of the last uncontacted groups in the world, Brazilian beef corporations, wealthy farmers, and Mennonite communities seeking remote areas in which to live a life based on a literal translation of the bible are encroaching on the Ayoreo lands. In the 1950s, the Ayoreo people lived in an area 2,800,000 hectares; now they claim only 550,00 hectares – a loss of nearly 80 percent. According to the BBC, over 1 million hectares have disappeared since 2007. Moreover, the new arrivals into the Chaco region have brought diseases, such as measles that were previously unknown to the Ayoreo people.

Both BBC S.A and River Plare S.A have been caught twice by satellite imagery of illegallyclearing protected forestryin Chaco. Yaguarete Pera, another Brazilian cattle corporation in the region was found guilty of deforesting the region and concealing evidence of the displace Ayoreo’s former presence. No stranger to controversy, Survival International awarded Yaguarete Pera their 2010 ‘Greenwashing Award’ for “dressing up the wholesale destruction of a huge area of the Indians’ forest as a noble gesture for conservation.”

Survival International issued a report to the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on 10th August, 2011 stating that the Ayores-Totobeigosode face the “imminent danger” of extermination. There are only 5,600 Ayoreo Indians left today with about 3,000 living in Bolivia and 2,600 in Paraguay. The Ayoreo people were lured out of their homes and into modern society with promises of a better life; many were dragged out forcibly. As Aquino Picanerai, a member of the Ayoreo recalled, “they brought us to the world of the white people and locked us up in this concentration camp.” Lacking the necessary skills to thrive in modern society and disenchanted with their situation, these indigenous people have since returned to their more traditional way of life. Others rejected modernity from the start, opting never to leave the forest, hoping to remain hidden and unmolested from the outside world. Sadly this will not be the case. Rising beef profits and the availability of cheap land continues to bring speculators seeking fortunes into the region.

Certain government officials in Paraguay have expressed the need for investment and claim that the human rights and deforestation situation has been exaggerated. Paraguay’s weak laws facilitate the wholesale destruction of the forest. Under current Paraguayan laws an individual or corporation is allowed to clear forest on up to 75% of its land. They may then sell the remaining 25 % to another entity who is entitled to clear 75% of that plot. The process leads to the complete destruction of that land. Last year, Paraguay’s congress failed to pass a law that would have placed a ban on deforestation in the Chaco region.

In an attempt to explain public silence on injustices being perpetrated in the Chaco region, Benno Glauser, the Director of Iniciativa Amotocodie explains “public opinion has no opinion on the matter”. The Chaco is at the periphery of a country of little international importance. Even in Paraguay, the Chaco does not embody the homogenous Guaraní society composing the majority of the population – more than 98 percent of Paraguayans are either mestizo or of primarily European descent. In contrast, the wilderness of the Chaco is sparsely populated by indigenous tribes and religious isolationists. In the public discourse, the cause to save the Ayoreo remains an obscure impediment to economic development. If this matter continues to fall on deaf ears then the allure of profits at the expense of humanity will prevail.

Bolivia sets new global high mark for indigenous rights January 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
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bolivia-voterBOWLERS IN BOLIVA: Aymara women went to the polls to vote on a new constitution Sunday. It passed.
Enrique Castro-Mendivil/ Reuters

Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Critics say Mr. Morales is dangerously dividing the nation and merely following in the footsteps of populist leftist allies Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, who have also rewritten their constitutions to invest the executive branch with more power.

True or not, something more is happening: This is a victory for Latin American indigenous groups marginalized since the Spanish conquest 500 years ago, say analysts, and some see it as a global human rights and racial-equity landmark.

“Bolivia’s successful referendum process is precedent-setting with respect to indigenous empowerment worldwide,” says Robert Albro, an expert on social and indigenous movements in Latin America at American University in Washington.

Exit polls show that almost 60 percent of Bolivians voted in favor of a new magna carta that recognizes 36 different indigenous groups and secures a place for them in Congress.

“It is really an unbelievable moment in Bolivian history,” says Mr. Albro.

He attributes Morales’s success in Bolivia, starting with his election in 2005 and capped by this referendum, to the urbanization of Bolivian society and the growing political clout of the indigenous, which has created an indigenous elite.

The obligatory vote on Sunday was peaceful, free of the sometimes deadly confrontation that has marked other moments leading up to constitutional reform in Bolivia – with Morales and his opposition, mainly based in the mineral-rich, tropical lowlands, locked in battles over regional autonomy and control over gas reserves.

The new constitution contains over 400 articles but its centerpiece is the effort to “decolonize” Bolivian society.

The indigenous comprise the majority of the poor, in the poorest nation in South America, and were only granted the right to vote less than 60 years ago.

The new constitution reserves seats in Congress and in the Constitutional Court for smaller indigenous groups, and grants all of them autonomy that will, among other things, allow them to practice community justice, according to their own customs.

In one of the more controversial articles, Bolivia now guarantees freedom of religion, extending the same recognition to the Andean god Pachamama, the Earth god of the Andes, as it does to the Christian God.

The current Constitution “recognizes and supports” the Roman Catholic church.

Sunday’s vote included another referendum that asked Bolivians if they wanted limit the size of land holdings to no more than 5,000 or 10,000 hectares – in a government effort to more equitably distribute land. Official polling results aren’t expected until Feb. 4.

Still, Morales supporters expressed jubilation at the outcome. “We are getting back everything we lost: money and culture,” says Paulina Quiñonez, an Aymaran street vendor in La Paz. “They have robbed so much from us.”

This vote comes as other nations in Latin America have moved, since the 1990s, toward constitutional revisions that recognize “plurinational” states, beginning with Colombia in 1991, says Albro.

The Zapatista movement in Mexico, which emerged in 1994, gave rise to a transnational movement, and presidential candidates Ollanta Humala in Peru and Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala have also given the movement a boost.

Around the globe, countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have also gone a long way toward recognizing the “cultural rights” of native peoples. But Albro says that Bolivia’s new constitution sets a precedent because of its degree of detail to guarantee the political, cultural, and economic rights of the majority indigenous population by a president of indigenous descent. “Usually such constitutional reforms have been carried out to better ‘recognize’ indigenous peoples but by largely nonindigenous governments,” he says.

It was a goal that teetered on the brink of failure.

At one point, Bolivian opposition groups boycotted the process and protests turned deadly. In the end, a final draft constitution was only made possible via a series of negotiations and concessions made on the part of Morales and his political party (MAS). Of more than 400 articles, more than a quarter of them were modified.

Morales remains widely popular despite a strong opposition. He won 67 percent of support in a recall referendum in August, higher than the passage of the constitution. But the new constitution allows him to run for another consecutive term, which would end in 2014.

Some worry that the changes are simply a tool to hold onto power. Critics compare Morales to Mr. Chávez in Venezuela, who is holding a referendum next month to allow indefinite reelection for heads of state. “This is a clear victory for the poor,” says Hugo Campos, a retired businessman in El Paz. “But this is too much like Chávez. They are just trying to dominate, and create divisions between [Bolivian] society and even with the US so they can dominate more.”

Opposition forces say that the new constitution is further dividing Bolivian society. “This creates two types of citizens, one that is of [indigenous] origin and one that is not,” says Luis Eduardo Siles, a former congressman and fierce Morales critic. “There was not this hatred in our society before.”

And he says battles are bound to continue. For starters, it is unclear how the constitution, which leaves vast space for more protest and wrangling, will be implemented. “This doesn’t solve any of the real problems. It will just create more fights,” says Mr. Siles.

Indeed, to impliment the reforms outlined by the new constitution will require the passage of dozens of new laws. To get those through Congress, Morales will have to work with the oppostion.

Miguel Centellas, an assistant political science professor at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland who writes a blog on Bolivian politics, says that not only will the sides dig in their heels, but new factions have arisen out of the process.

The opposition parties have splintered over negotiations over the constitution.

Some Morales supporters are angered by the concessions.

“I see this as yet another crisis in a series of crises,” Mr. Centellas says. “I don’t think the referendum will solve anything. … The country will remain just as polarized.”

bolivia-election-posters

CHÁVEZ, CASTRO, AND MORALES: A Bolivian woman walks past an Evo Morales campaign poster that includes the leftist leaders of Venezuela and Cuba. Morales denies any financial support from Venezuela.
David Mercado/Reuters

 

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