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Cultural Survival Q








Free, Prior and Informed Consent Protecting Indigenous Peoples' rights to self-determination, participation, and decision-making

Vol. 36, Issue 4 • December 2012 US $7.50/CAN $9


D e c e mb er 20 12 V olum e 36 , Issue 4 Board of Directors President & board Chair

Sarah Fuller

Photo by Danielle DeLuca

Vice Chairman

Vincent Nmehielle (Ikwerre)


Nicole Friederichs Clerk

Jean Jackson Karmen Ramírez Boscán (Wayúu) Laura Graham James Howe Edward John (Tl’azt’en) Cecilia Lenk Pia Maybury-Lewis Les Malezer (Gabi Gabi) P. Ranganath Nayak Stella Tamang (Tamang) Jeff Wallace

Daniel Pascual, leader of Consejo de Unidad Campesino, lights a candle with his daughter in Tecpan, Guatemala during a celebration of the Oxlajuj B’ak’tun cycle. December 21, 2012 marks the end of the 5,128 year cycle in the Mayan calendar. See page 27.

F e at u r e s

12 Justice for All

Agnes Portalewska An interview with UN Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Survival Board Member Grand Chief Edward John.

FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival 215 Prospect Street Cambridge, MA 02139 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 2769 Iris Ave., Suite 101 Boulder, CO 80304 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 5ª calle 14-35, Zona 3 Apartamento 202 Edificio Las Tapias Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 09001 Cultural Survival Quarterly

Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Production Manager: Agnes Portalewska Copyright 2012 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Printed on recycled paper in the U.S.A. Please note that the views in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Survival.

Writers’ Guidelines

View writers’ guidelines at our website ( or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Cultural Survival recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have long been exploited by photographers and publications. This publication does not pay photographers for images and makes no money from publishing them. We also make a tremendous effort to identify every Indigenous individual in the images that appear here. From time to time, however, such identification is not possible. We apologize to the subjects of those photos and to any reader offended by the omission.

ii • www. cs. org

14 Free, Prior and Informed Consent: Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination, participation, and decision-making Cultural Survival’s board members weigh in on what Free, Prior and Informed Consent actually means in practice.

16 Lost in Translation

Gregory Ch’oc Maya in Belize hope to set a historic precedent for Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

18 Hear Us! Ana Lucía Fariña Mam people of Guatemala express their voices through community consultations.

22 Reviving Passamaquoddy: A Community Finds Healing in Its Own Words

Meg Holladay A Passamaquoddy community in northeastern Maine works to recover its language after three generations of English-only schooling.

24 We, Maasai

Daniel Salau Rogei Language loss is happening at an alarming rate all over the world. The Maasai of Kenya are racing against time to revitalize Maa and transmit traditional knowledge.

27 Celebrating 2012, Maya Style

Danielle DeLuca The final installment in our 2012 series. And we are still here….

Departments 1 Executive Director’s Message 2 in the News 4 Indigenous Arts Writing Remembrance in Guatemala 6 Women the World Must Hear Power to the People: An Interview with Mililani Trask 8 Climate Change Climate Change, Forest Privatization, and Apocalyptic Prophecies in Mexico 10 Rights in Action I Am the River and the River Is Me: The Implications of a River Receiving Personhood Status 26 Bazaar Artists Investing in Women and the Future of Uganda 28 Take Action Take action with the Garifuna people as they recover ancestral lands in Honduras.

On the cover Margarita Videa, a member of Honduran Fraternal Black Organization (OFRANEH) board of directors, uses traditional incenses in a ceremony to the ocean and the land in San Juan Tela, Honduras. Learn more about Garifuna people’s struggle to defend their territories on page 28. Photo by Tim Russo.

Executiv e Director’S message

Cultural Survival’s 40th Year

Supporting Indigenous Peoples in Exercising their Rights to Self-determination


ll over the world, Indigenous Peoples are increasingly exercising self-determination by drawing upon their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Over the past two years, Cultural Survival has held strategy sessions at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues with key Indigenous leaders to identify how we can contribute to the full implementation of FPIC. We heard many voices, but the most compelling was by a participant who stated, “The most important element of Indigenous Peoples’ ability to claim the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent is to have informed and organized communities.” To this end, Cultural Survival is implementing a new project to produce and distribute a series of radio programs on topics related to FPIC, and to facilitate face-to-face networking and resource exchanges between Indigenous communities who are engaged in a process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Look for our continued reporting on this exciting work in the months ahead. This issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly is devoted to discussions on Free, Prior and Informed Consent. While we could only highlight a few of the many who tirelessly work on these issues, we began with Mililani Trask, who describes her innovative Nativeto-Native energy development model as being “established on a belief that Native people are the best to work with other Native people because we have certain cultural affiliations.” The model takes “the heart of the Declaration, [and] using Western law, put it into a format that would facilitate protection of rights and benefits to Native peoples.” Grand Chief Edward John, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, echoes this idea when he says, “The quality of life in our community—housing, bilingual education, health, language— is the cultural survival aspect of our people as Indigenous Peoples. Our survival depends on our ability to act as the resources that people depend on.” Gregory Ch’oc, Executive Director

of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, tells about the long fight the Maya in Belize have waged to protect their lands from extractive industry development. There is no doubt that Indigenous Peoples will assert their right to FPIC. As Grand Chief John says, “FPIC is a right. It’s not simply a concept; it is a right to a process.” Throughout these discussions of FPIC is an embedded understanding of the intrinsic relationship between land and the natural environment. Indigenous languages carry within them an intricate web of relationships with the natural world that must be in place to sustain life. To fight for FPIC is to fight for Indigenous languages that exist in all of our relationships, and which remind us of the sacred responsibilities to honor them. Fighting for the land and its spiritual being is fighting for language, and fighting for language is fighting for land. The recent acknowledgement of the Whanganui River as a living, integrated whole with legal rights based on interdependent relationships with the Whanganui Iwi is a significant step in the right direction. Cultural Survival appreciates and supports all language revitalization efforts taking place in Indigenous communities. Cultural Survival envisions a future where all Indigenous Peoples live by their inherent rights deeply and richly interwoven in the aboriginal lands, native languages, spiritual traditions, and dynamic cultures, and whose rights are honored through selfdetermination. Free, Prior and Informed Consent may be one of the most challenging rights to implement in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But the UN’s adoption of the Declaration in 2007 is a major step forward in recognizing and protecting Indigenous rights, as it represents the ongoing aspirations and declarative process for building international legal norms and pressures states to commit to moving towards them.

Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)

Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Danielle DeLuca, Program Associate David Michael Favreau, Bazaar Program Manager Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Cesar Gomez (Pocomam), Content Production & Training Coordinator, Community Radio Program Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Rosendo Pablo Ramirez (Mam), Program Associate, Community Radio Program Alberto ‘Tino’ Recinos (Mam), Citizen Participation Coordinator, Community Radio Program Patrick Schaefer, Director of Development Miranda Vitello, Development Assistant Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota), Endangered Languages Program Manager Ancelmo Xunic (Kachikel), Community Radio Program Manager

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Erica Adelson, Jennifer Bucolo, Don Butler, Meg Holladay, Daniel Horgan, Curtis Kline, Danielle Kost, Yunmee Kyong Ava Berinstein, Linguistics Advisor


Copyright 2012 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Printed on recycled paper in the U.S.A. Please note that the views in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Survival.

2012 Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation

1. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 2. Publication Number: 0740-3291 3. Filing Date: September 15, 2012 4. Issue Frequency: Quarterly 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: Four 6. Annual Subscription Price: $45.00 7. Mailing Address of Publication: 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 8. Mailing Address of Publisher Headquarters: 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 9. Full Mailing Address and Complete Names of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor-Publisher: Cultural Survival, Inc. 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139, Editor/Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska, Cultural Survival, 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 10. Owner: Cultural Survival, Inc., 215 Prospect St. Cambridge, MA 02139 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Securities: None 12. Tax Status: The purpose, function, and nonprofit status for federal income tax purposes has not changed during the preceding 12 months 13. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: December 2012-Issue 36, Volume 4 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: a. Total Number of Copies: Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 3200; Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: 3000 b. Paid and/or Requested Circulation-1. Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541: 1800; 1750 2. Paid In-County Subscriptions: 230; 250 3. Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution: 600; 500 4. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS: 70; 55 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 2700; 2555 d. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution 1. Free or Nominal Rate Outside-County 50; 20 2. Free or Nominal Rate In-County : 30; 10 3. Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes 40; 40 4. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail 100; 90 e. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 220; 160 f. Total Distribution: 2920; 2715 g. Copies Not Distributed: 280; 285 h. Total: 3200; 3000 i. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 92; 94 16. This Statement of Ownership is printed in the December 2012 issue of this publication 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete: Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager, Cultural Survival, Inc.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 1

i n t he new s Land Title Rights Victories for Four Queensland Peoples

The Shibipo of Peru are renowned for their intricate geometric patterns on textiles, pottery, and in beadwork. Teresa Rango pictured.

Fall 2012

The Pitta Pitta, Wik, Wik Way, and Jangga peoples in the state of Queensland of northeast Australia won historic victories in gaining non-exclusive rights to hunt, fish, gather, travel, and hold ceremonies on a combined total of approximately 61,000 square kilometers. The settlement of these long-standing claims restores access to the economic, cultural, and social claims held on this land by Aboriginal peoples.

Bangladeshi and Indonesian Governments Ban International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples August 2012

Despite orders by the Bangladeshi and Indonesian governments to disallow celebration and participation in the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, many Indigenous Bangladeshis and Papuans of Indonesia tried to go forward with the activities. The day was marked by protests, clashes with police and military, and several arrests.

Indian Government Takes New Steps to Protect Adivasi and Dalit Lands September 2012

Two new rulings by the Indian Supreme Court assert that Adivasi and Dalit lands cannot be bought by corporations or other third parties in an effort to shield Indigenous Indians from corporate interests. At the same time, seven bauxite mining leases have been withdrawn in the state of Andhra Pradesh by the Tribal Affairs Minister to preserve tribal rights.

Shipibo & Ese’Eja Com- munities Make Gains Over Resource Exploitation September 2012

A group of approximately 400 Shipibo people gained control of nine oil wells from a Canadian company in their community in an effort to re-assert their rights and make their dissent public. 2 • www. cs. org

Photo by Howard G. Charing

On the heels of the takeover, Peru’s Supreme Court affirmed Shipibo and Ese’Eja communities’ right to seize a road being constructed on their land by illegal miners and loggers that were operating without prior consultation. The court also vacated the sentences of four community leaders fighting against the illegal exploitation.

the court ruled. The defeat was a disappointing blow for the many Mapuche who travel to the land for rituals and view the environmental destruction as an affront to their sacred land.

Indonesian Government Claims No Indigenous People in Its Population October 2012

Peruvian Amazon Bids Farewell to Talisman Energy and ConocoPhillips September–October 2012

The oil company Talisman Energy announced its imminent departure from the ancestral land of the Achuar people in the Peruvian Amazon, much to the delight of many residents. Soon after, following protests and a direct appeal from the regional government’s president, ConocoPhillips announced that it too would abandon its exploratory drilling projects in the Upper Nanay- Pintuyacu-Chambira Regional Conservation Area. The area’s fragile watershed provides over 90 percent of the drinking water to some 500,000 residents of the Iquitos area.

Mapuche People Lose Court Case for Land Access and Protection October 2012

The Chilean Supreme Court deemed claims by the Mapuche people for protection to a piece of land they call Ngen Mapu Kintuante from logging and for ceremonial access invalid. Under current Chilean law, the land does not qualify as “Indigenous” and therefore is not subject to Mapuche demands,

The Indonesian government announced again that it has no “Indigenous” citizens at the prompting of the UN’s request to respect Indigenous rights. The state maintains that of its 365 ethnic groups, several fit the category of “geographically isolated customary law communities,” but do not qualify as “Indigenous.”

Yoruba Organizations Promote Regional Autonomy October 2012

In an effort to combat the effects of colonization that destroyed the power held by the Yoruba kingdoms, several Yoruba organizations in their traditional lands of southwest Nigeria have begun campaigning for regional autonomy to regain their place in governance.

K’iche’ Protests End in Deadly Violence October 2012

Eight K'iche' activists from the city of Totonicapán, Guatemala were killed and more than 35 injured after military forces opened fire on a protest that had closed the Inter-American highway. Activists were opposing several new government measures including electricity rate increases, unilateral changes to the constitution, and challenges to education access.

Global Response

Campaign Updates Cameroon: Stop Oil Palm Plantations from Destroying Africa’s Ancient Rainforests Herakles Pulls Out of Sustainability Certification Herakles Farms withdrew its application in August from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, eager to move forward with its oil palm plantation project with disregard to the internationally recognized social and environmental standards. In October, Cultural Survival’s Executive Director Suzanne Benally sat down with Herakles CEO Bruce Wrobel to deliver local signatures of local opposition to the project and restate Cultural Survival’s commitment to making sure that a process of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the local people is carried out.

Guatemala: We Are All Barillas- Stop a Dam on Our Sacred River! Justice Needed for Political Prisoners Twenty-three leaders of the Q’anjob’al community of Barillas, Huehuetenango continue to be sought for charges of alleged crimes against the Spanish hydroelectric company Hydro Santa Cruz. Of 11 leaders imprisoned, only one has been released after spending five months incarcerated with no evidence against him. Ten of the original 33 arrest warrants were thrown out by a judge in September for procedural violations. Carlos Bezares, the lawyer representing the defense, stated, “the concept of innocent until proven guilty has been absolutely obliterated in this case. There was no impartial investigation and no due process...not to men-

tion the illegal detentions and a series of other gross anomalies. In the case of Barillas, the justice apparatus has been fine-tuned to oppress the innocent.” Lawyers have brought the case to the attention of the United Nations in a petition to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva. Russia: Pipeline Threatens Sacred Highlands Pipeline Approved Despite Legal Concerns Officials from Russia’s Altai Republic have approved construction of a pipeline that would bisect the sacred Ukok Plateau carrying natural gas from Siberia to China. The August 2 decree gave Gazprom and its contractors permission to conduct work on the Ukok Plateau despite violation of several local and federal laws. Reports from local organizations show that work on the Ukok Plateau took place over the summer, even though the decree did not take effect until August 17. We must put pressure the governments of the Altai Republic and Siberia to meet their legal obligations and to respect and protect the sacred Ukok Plateau from dese- cration by the gas pipeline.

Cambodia: Help Us Save Prey Lang (“Our Forest”) Four Concessions Cancelled but Illegal Logging Continues In August, four concessions that had been authorized in Prey Lang were cancelled. The concessions, totaling nearly 41,000 hectares, were considered to be “game over” for Prey Lang if they had gone through. Kuy activists celebrated this success,


but report that they continue to encounter illegal logging operations in the Prey Lang forest during their community patrols. In October, the courts dropped the investigation of the murder case of anti-logging activist Chut Wutty, who was shot by police at a military checkpoint while leading two journalists to illegal logging activity in the forests of Cambodia. United States: Block Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline Natives Call on Candidates to Withdraw Support for Pipeline Construction has begun on the southern leg of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Protests have surged in Texas, where activists have chained themselves to machinery to stop the progress of construction. On October 2, Indigenous activists joined together in Colorado to call on Mitt Romney and President Obama to withdraw support for the pipeline. Tom Poor Bear, Oglala Nation vice president, called the pipeline “a 1,800 mile snake that’s going to bore itself into Mother Earth and start spitting black venom at our water, which our future generations are going to drink someday.” TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline, claims that it has “no legal obligation” to consult with tribes. Poor Bear counters: “These are treaty lands and the treaties were signed with the promise of undisturbed lands. This was an agreement between the great Sioux Nation and the US. It is a treaty violation.” Learn more and take action on Global Response campaigns at take-action. Sign up for our e-newsletter and read more news at

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 3

i ndi geno u s a r t s

Writing Remembrance in Guatemala T h e P r o c e s s o f P o e tr y

Cassandra Euphrat Weston


Above: Nicolasa Pablo, Mam, (right) interviews Rigoberta Gonzalez (left) about her experience as a combatant in Guatemala's Civil War.

Right: CS Staffer Rosendo Pablo Ramirez, Mam, of Todos Santos Cuchumatantes, contemplates ideas for a poem. 4 • www. cs. org

n July 7–8, 2012, representatives from community radio stations across Guatemala gathered in San Mateo, Quetzaltenango, at Radio Mujb’ab’l Yol (Meeting Place of Expressions) to participate in a workshop led by Cultural Survival staff exploring historical memory and the Guatemalan civil war. The armed conflict formally ended with the Peace Accords in 1996. Many of the younger participants had no memory of the civil war themselves, while those who had directly experienced the conflict had previously lacked forums in which to pass on their stories. The workshop addressed complicated questions: How can a person heal from a trauma when any discussion about it, other than the most rudimentary recognition of its horrific events, is perpetually stifled? Even more vexing, how can a person heal, or even understand, a trauma not experienced firsthand? One way to begin answering these questions was via self-expression. After a morning of factual presentations, participants spent an afternoon writing poetry in exploration of their personal relationship to the conflict. Another session explored a new question: How could such vast and difficult experiences be contained by language? Before beginning their poems, the group read two published poems by Indigenous Guatemalan poets Humberto Ak’abal (K’iche) and Gaspar Pedro Gonzales (Q’anjobal) touching on topics of conflict and loss. They discussed the ways each poet had used poetic language to convey emotional resonance more effectively than a simple description of facts could have, and then responded individually to creative prompts inviting similar poetic expression. Each poet presented their poem to the group for feedback. The finished poems were then recorded for radio broadcasting and collected for publication. These moving words capture the complex relationships between present and past, between personal experience and collective, between love and grief, between history and memory. — Cassandra Euphrat Weston was an intern over the summer with Cultural Survival’s Guatemala Radio Project.

The following examples showcase the variety of experiences and expressions that the poets brought to their work.

Untitled Ana Luisa Catalino (Mam) Stereo Acodim, Nampix Ixtahuacán, Huehuetenango Atzan tuj paxil jatuma ateqa xnaq b’ix x’uj aq’nal xjal. Tuj chik’ul b’ix tze’ nchi tzen ixytzan ni b’ech b’ix ikytzan ch’it nchi bitzan tuj chik’ul, jun prim o chi kub’ b’iyon qa xjal nchanq’in b’ix nti kyu’n ti twitz kyil tzan o chi kub’ b’iyon— Ikytzanjajo. Guatemala, a country where hard-working men and women live in harmony, in those mountains and forests, smiling like the flowers in the gardens, just like the birds with their songs in the mountains; but one day they killed those human beings without knowing what they had done Why did they have to die this way?

Untitled Idelfonso Ambrocio (K’iche) Radio Nojibal Stereo Aldea La Ceiba, Suchitepéquez You belong to me, but I don’t belong to you Why do they invade my homeland? Why do they want to take over your name? When will they let me speak? I want to speak In your beautiful name I see myself Sometimes they kill each other born from the same blood Weeping is heard in the furthest corners Of your mountains. In your name I will give my life for this struggle. At wech, inawetaj Jaschech kin nelsax chuwach ri wulew Jaschech kuxla’n taq winäq kkaj kkalaq’aj ri ab’i’ Janipa’ kya b’e chuwech kin ch’awik Ruk’ ti je’lalaj ab’i’ kin k’utunsaj ri un b’antajik Tz’ikin rech ri uwakaj ka kikamsajkib’ Pataq ri k’achelaj kintawi ri oq’ej kech ri e qati’t qa mam Ruk’ ri ab’i’ kin ya ri un k’aslemal chech ri ato’ik

Nan Pix Pix Rigoberta González Sul, Radio Ixchel Olga Mercedes Ajcolón Tuís, Radio Juventud Alma Temaj, Radio Doble Vía Un pedazo de tierra con árboles, montes y un hermoso tanque de agua El lugar mas hermoso del mundo, donde sólo los pájaros y los animales lo habitan uno que otras casas de adobe y pajón. Pero llegó aquel día en que el cerro Pix Pix gritaba, lloraba, auxiliaba ante los balazos que mataba una por una a su gente. Aquellos niños, aquellos ancianos miraban el atardecer, al sol esconderse con lágrimas en los ojos. Pensando a donde ir, a refugiarse por el temor, en los hermanos con un fusil en la mano sin saber ¿qué pasará mañana? A piece of land with trees, mountains and a beautiful cistern of water The most beautiful place in the world, where only the birds and the animals live, houses of adobe and straw here and there. But the day came when the pig Pix Pix screamed, wept, cried for help before the bullets that killed its people one by one. The children, the elders watched the late afternoon, watched the sun hide with tears in its eyes. Thinking of where to go, of taking refuge out of fear, of the brothers with a rifle in hand without knowing, what will happen tomorrow?

Rigoberta Gonzalez, Kakchiquel, of Sumpango Sacatepéquez translates a poem into her native language.

Why I Support Cultural Survival For four decades, Cultural Survival has stayed true to its mission of standing with Indigenous Peoples in defense of their human rights. Its many partnerships and projects with Indigenous groups, its global interventions in a variety of human Tim Sieber, Professor rights debates, its of Anthropology, dedicated work on UMass Boston the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and its programs point to an organization that has worked assiduously to promote the empowerment efforts of Indigenous Peoples for self-determination. Cultural Survival has never given up, truly walks the talk, and is more incisive in its work today than ever.    To learn how you can support CS, visit:

All photos by Danielle DeLuca

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 5

women th e wo r ld m u st hear

Power to the People A Rights-Based Approach to Energy A n I nter v ie w w ith H a w aiian A cti v ist M ililani trask

Agnes Portalewska (CS Staff)


er voice is warm, assertive, and iconic; her passionate tone and straightforward message are instantly recognizable. With an internationally renowned reputation as an Indigenous expert in international law and human rights, Mililani Trask has been advocating for the rights of Native Hawaiians and Indigenous Peoples worldwide for over three decades. Trask comes from a long line of activists for Hawaiian sovereignty and Native Hawaiians’ rights for self-determination. “My father was an attorney and my mother was a Hawaiian. Both raised me to understand our history, the overthrow, and the loss of our lands, what happened with the Hawaiian people. That gave me a certain initiative to right those wrongs for Hawaiians, and for others as well who are in the same position,” Trask says. For nearly 20 years, Trask was the executive director of the Gibson Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assists Native Hawaiians in attaining home ownership. She has served as a trustee at large in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and as the interim prime minister of Ka Lahui Hawaii (the Native Hawaiian Nation) for 11 years, among numerous other roles in state and local government. Working through and at the UN, Trask has contributed to the international discourse on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. “I started working with the UN in the 1980s with Hawaiians 6 • www. cs. org

Photo courtesy of Innovations Development Group

Mililani Trask

who were going up to represent the community interests. [In the] 1990s we were receiving word that no progress was being made at the UN level on passing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous I decided to go up to the UN myself to use my legal degree. When I came into the arena, there were many other Indigenous Peoples there, and so we began work that took 22 years to pass the Declaration. One of [many] good things that came out of that work was that a strong, global caucus was built.” When the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was created in 2002, Trask was nominated from the Pacific and served as the first Pacific basin representative. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, and Trask had a heavy hand in its passage. Encouraged by longtime friend Winona Laduke, Trask has recently focused her efforts on renewable energy development projects in Native communities, especially around geothermal energy development through the Innovations Development Group (IDG), a majority-owned Native Hawaiian company dedicated to increasing the prosperity and well-being of all by developing sustainable energy resources in ways that preserve vital cultural traditions. The company is a model for how the Declaration can be implemented via the private sector. “Hawaii is the most energy-insecure and food-insecure state in the Union,” Trask says. “I decided that I would work with other Hawaiians to develop a good business model so that we could look at economic development, focusing on renewable energy, in a way that would be respectful of Indigenous human rights and bring about change in terms of the development of renewable resources in Indigenous territories.” This is how the Native-to-Native model for development was born; it is the fundamental operational guide for IDG. Trask explains: “It was established based on a belief that Native people are the best to work with other Native people because we have certain cultural affiliations. It took the heart of the Declaration, [and] using Western law, put it into a format that would facilitate protection of rights and benefits to Native peoples.” The Native-to-Native model challenges the current approach to how energy is developed by governments where, as Trask says, Native peoples are expelled from territories, their title to their energy resources is denied, contracts are negotiated giving exclusive development rights to the company, and energy is sold at the highest market price. “The Native-to-Native model is very different. It begins by establishing four criteria for development: culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable and clean, socially responsible, and economically equitable. We have built into our model ways for community benefit-sharing. [For example], if you come into a community and you’re Background photo courtesy of Manoj Pulala

Development in the Pacific If you come into a community and you’re developing geothermal energy, you’re making money! You have a business opportunity and you have a product that is energy, so what do you owe that community? Number one, you owe them a share of the revenue every year. developing geothermal energy, you’re making money! You have a business opportunity and you have a product that is energy, so what do you owe that community? Number one, you owe them a share of the revenue every year.” The model is gaining traction; the Office of Hawaiian Affairs adopted it last year. Additionally, the Hawaiian state legislature has introduced legislation requiring that there be an economic and social benefit whenever state resources and lands are being developed. The model is also being considered by the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Homelands. Though based in Hawaii, IDG has worked on projects across the Pacific, including several geothermal projects with Ma-ori in New Zealand. “We have totally shifted the paradigm. When we were first working with Ma-ori 10 or 12 years ago, we were negotiating with folks who were developing geothermal, and they had a great deal of power. When we’d sit down to negotiate with the Ma-ori, [the developers] would just kind of laugh and dismiss us and say, ‘you know, we don’t really do business that way. We recognize that Ma-oris have this land, but what are they doing with it? They have sheep on it. It’s our money, our know-how, our technology… so we’re gonna give them a long-term lease and we’ll be paying them rental at the value of sheep-grazing.’ Well, we had to sort of turn that around on them and point out to them that it’s Ma-ori who own the land. They own not only the surface with sheep on it, but they also own the subsurface resource rights. We had to point out that the actual evaluation of energy in the Pacific market, and in the global market, as set by Wall Street, is not the price of sheep. When you talk that kind of talk with somebody like Chevron, they very much change their approach.” IDG is uniquely positioned as its management team is made up of Native Hawaiian professionals and entrepreneurs who know and understand the global energy market. They bring an extensive network of business contacts that span the financial markets of the US, as well as Asia and the South Pacific, but are first and foremost sensitive to the needs of Indigenous Peoples and devoted to the economic advancement of the communities they serve. Trask maintains a global focus while continuing to work as a tireless advocate for policy change in Hawaii. In addition to her work with the Ma-ori, she is working on renewable energy initiatives in Indian country that include wind, solar,

and geothermal; she serves as a member of the International Indigenous Caucus on Biodiversity; and is encouraging UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to respect Indigenous people’s rights when recognizing new World Heritage sites, among many other initiatives. For Trask, the tasks at hand—and the urgency of accomplishing them—are clear. “All over the world we have a pressing crisis as a result of climate change…and we don’t have time to waste bickering and fighting. If you look at the Indigenous territories all over the world, you’ll see that there’s vast renewable energy resources available. So we need to move rapidly to have states, the World Bank, and others working in this area take a look at other models. “The Declaration says that we have a right to give our Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Well, that tells me we have to be at the negotiating table, we have to request disclosure, we have to ensure that consultation is meaningful. The challenge to implementing the Declaration is that we have to step into the driver’s seat. We have to say, based on protocols, what this means to have culturally appropriate development.” To learn more about the work of the Innovations Development Group and the Native-to-Native model, visit

Support Cultural Survival Today! For 40 years Cultural Survival has worked with Indigenous Peoples all over the world, from the Anuak people in Ethiopia to Maya communities in Guatemala. As we look forward to our next 40 years, it is essential that we continue to have your participation in our mission.

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Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 7

c l i mat e ch a n g e

Climate Change, Forest Privatization, in Quintana Roo, Mexico is suffering from increased periods of drought associated with climate change. The drought inflicts enormous pressure on the community’s resources—the forest, wildlife, traditional agriculture—and is causing greater dependency on government subsidies. It is also resulting in migration to the “Riviera Maya,” where Maya are forced to seek work in the tourism industry that is often temporary and without benefits. Faced with these difficulties, local leaders are questioning the prospects for future generations. As a people that have endured profound struggles, including invasion and war, the Maya tend to respond with an apocalyptic sentiment—one that has nothing to do with the 2012 doomsday prophecy nonsense perpetuated by the media—but much to do with a history of colonization and socioeconomic disenfran- chisement. A History of Conflict and Change

José E. Martínez-Reyes, Ph.D.


ensions are brewing in the Máasewal communities of central Quintana Roo (known as Zona Maya) between those who want to continue the current system of ejido and those succumbing to the pressure to sell their ejido rights. Ejido was established during the Mexican Revolution as a system of communal land tenure that bestowed land rights to peasants and Indigenous groups. Since 1994, individuals have been permitted to sell their land titles. Contributing to the community’s strain is the recently formed de facto partnership between one of Mexico’s wealthiest couples and the United Nations program, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The program issues carbon credits that are intended to help mitigate the effects of climate change, but so far their primary effect has been increased privatization of land and disenfranchisement of local Maya (the program imposes various compliance restrictions that dictate what they can do with their land in order to receive the credits). Additionally, Zona Maya 8 • www. cs. org

Most inhabitants of the Zona Maya are descendants of the rebel Cruzo’ob Maya who fought against Yucatecan elites during the Caste War from 1847-1901. Known for being fierce warriors, they kept Mexican capitalist extraction companies at bay until the Mexican army arrived in 1901. After the Mexican army took control of the region, it began constructing schools and other public institutions in order to quell the Mayas’ resistance. This was followed by a chicle (chewing gum) industry boom that opened the area to extensive forest exploitation. In the 1930s President Cárdenas implemented agrarian reform, and ejidos continued to be organized through the 1950s despite the fact that the Máasewal already had communal access to land. In the 1970s, the Mexican government began to promote tourism as a tool for economic growth. Spearheaded by the creation of Cancún, today Quintana Roo is one of the fastest growing states in Mexico. The tourism industry profoundly transformed the coast between Cancún and Tulum by creating tourist spaces along virtually every beach and re-conceiving it as the “Riviera Maya” for promotional purposes. The tourism boom has had enormous repercussions on Máasewal communities as many have journeyed north to work, abandoning their milpas (cornfields) and prompting changes in the quality of their nutrition and their relationship with the environment. By 1986, the landscape had been significantly altered again—this time by biodiversity conservation efforts, in particular the creation of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. In principle, nature reserves are a positive response to the rapid decline of biodiversity caused by the global expansion of extractive capitalism. However, the implementation of these reserves has been problematic. Those with ejido lands surrounding the Biosphere were pressured by NGOs to participate in oft-ill conceived “alternative development projects” in the hopes of deterring them from their traditional agriculture

and Apocalyptic Prophecies A Maya farmer, Ol Canul, in his milpa (cornfield).

Climate Change, Privatization, and Apocalyptic Visions

The Máasewal are directly experiencing changes in the environment. They are acutely perceptive of variation in the climate —particularly to rainfall—as agriculture on the Yucatan peninsula has always been difficult due to the lack of surface water. While acknowledging that life in the forest is never easy, many farmers attribute their declining yields to climate change. In addition to less rain, they see changes in the tree canopy and character of the soils. “A long time ago, between one and three hectares [of corn] would last all year; now we plant five or more and it doesn’t produce enough for the whole year,” says a farmer. There are explanations for the Máasewals’ hardships that extend beyond climate change, however. Elder leaders see outside influences as an additional cause of many problems. One community remember recalled: “I remember when I was a little boy, my grandmother telling me that the huaches (white foreigners) were going to build a four-lane road and that would be the beginning of the end of the world.” This vision was retold in 2009 during the expansion of the TulumFelipe Carrillo Puerto road. While massive development has yet to reach Zona Maya, the highway’s expansion has opened the gates for unprecedented land privatization. Community leaders also point out the consequences of selling ejido rights, which they predict is “a signal of the end…[We] don’t know if today, tomorrow, or in 10 years, but nevertheless, the end.” Prophecies Fulfilled?

The concerns of the Tres Reyes ejido community are coming to fruition. Recently, ex-banker Roberto Hernández bought

eight ejido rights. (Each ejido member has access to approximately 400 hectares of land.) While this is a large amount of land, most of the ejido is forest cover, and the traditional agricultural practice amounts to only a few hectares in production each year. In addition to what he purchased from these farmers, Hernández has acquired other ejido lands. The local press claims he used family members to buy the majority of the Pino Suarez ejido, south of Tulum; it is believed that Hernández intends to accumulate land in order to take advantage of newly devised economic programs for ecosystem services on protected lands. These programs will benefit Hernández’s foundation at the expense of the local Maya and violate the spirit of REDD+, which declares that it “will require the full engagement and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities.” Maya leaders worry that farmers will lose access to the land “that God has given us,” as they attest. By selling their ejido rights, they are conceding all future rights to land that has served as a safety net and cultural resource. Many Maya have worked in the tourist industry; in low seasons many returned and worked their land. If privatization continues, it will lead to further economic insecurity for the Masewalo’ob. Not all community members have succumbed to the promise of what they view as a lot of money, however. For many, life in the forest is a source of pride and a way to continue traditions. “I will never give up my rights. My tatich (grandfather) said that he who gives up his land, gives up his future. This is land for my grandchildren. Why would you give up the land of your grandchildren?” — José E. Martínez-Reyes, Ph.D. is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. To read the extended version of this article, visit:

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 9

Photos by José Martínez-Reyes

practices, and instead generating income from the “sustainable use” of forest resources as defined by UNESCO. Such projects included organic agriculture, parrot husbandry, and the creation of ecotourism trails, rustic furniture, and crafts. However, funding for these projects frequently fell through and communities never realized the benefits.

Privatization signs along Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

r i ght s i n a ct io n

I Am the River and the The Implications of a River Receiving Personhood Status Brendan Kennedy


hen an agreement recently signed in Aotearoa (New Zealand) proposed the acknowledgement of the Whanganui River as a legal person, many saw it as an innovative resource management solution. Indigenous Peoples around the world often struggle with governments that do not recognize their view of the natural environment; when natural resources are involved, Indigenous worldviews are often in direct conflict with non-Indigenous notions of property ownership. Viewed in this light, the agreement is even more compelling—because it is an agreement to define a natural resource according to the worldview of Ma-ori, the Indigenous people of Aotearoa.

A Resource for Profit or Te Awa Tupua?

The natural resources in Aotearoa are often viewed through two different lenses: Ma-ori and non-Ma-ori. Honorable Peter Sharples, noted Ma-ori academic and cabinet minister, describes these competing views best: “Holding a title to property, whether Crown or private, establishes a regime of rights—to capture, to exclude, to develop, to keep. Rangatiratanga (Ma-ori sovereignty or absolute chieftainship) is asserted through the collective exercise of responsibilities— to protect, to conserve, to augment, and to enhance over time for the security of future generations. Both seek to increase value, but the question is, how do you value the resource? [By] the profit you can make? Or the taonga (treasure’s) contribution to the survival of the group?”

Whanganui River, New Zealand

Photo by John Steedman

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River Is Me The answer, in this case, is the latter: the Whanganui River will be defined and governed by the Ma-ori view of the river. Whanganui Iwi, the Indigenous people that possess rangatiratanga over the Whanganui River, and the river itself will be considered a living, integrated whole, or Te Awa Tupua. This view encompasses more than chieftainship, however. As explained by the late Niko Tangaroa, a Ma-ori elder, Whanganui Iwi have an interdependent relationship with the river: “The river and the land and its people are inseparable. And so if one is affected the other is affected also. The river is the heartbeat, the pulse of our people....[If the river] dies, we die as a people. Ka mate te Awa, ka mate tatou te Iwi.” This unique relationship is not a concept that can be easily understood by non-Ma-ori because its value exists outside of the profitgenerating notions of property. According to Honorable Tariana Turia, a member of parliament who is affiliated with Ngati Apa/Wairiki, Nga Rauru, Tuwharetoa, and Whanganui Iwi, the Whanganui River has always been a protected tribal resource—so the Whanganui Iwi do not accept the argument that everyone and no one owns it. In fact, prior to signing the agreement with the Crown, Whanganui Iwi argued that assigning non-Ma-ori ownership rights to the river were the only way that their unique relationship, identity, and rangatiratanga could be protected. So if Whanganui Iwi view the river differently from non-Ma-ori, how did Iwi get the Crown to agree to define it as they always have, as Te Awa Tapua? Also, why did Whanganui Iwi agree to have their rangatiratanga protected through a non-Ma-ori guardianship model where the river is considered a legal entity? The answers, not surprisingly, are complex. Defining the River According to the Worldview of Ma-ori

Ma-ori chiefs and agents of the British monarchy began their official partnership when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The partnership continues between the Ma-ori and the Crown today, though it is the Treaty’s principles that govern the duties and obligations of this partnership rather than its explicit text. Although these principles will inevitably change to reflect the transforming needs of the country, the courts have found that the Treaty’s principle of partnership imposes a duty of good faith and reasonable conduct between Ma-ori and the Crown. Additionally, the Crown has a duty to make informed decisions and to protect Ma-ori property rights. The spirit of the Treaty also imposes the principle of redress, where the Crown is required to provide active and positive redress for past breaches of the Treaty. In such a case, the settlement process usually begins by the Ma-ori filing a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal; then Ma-ori negotiate with the Crown directly so that Ma-ori can get compensation for proven breaches of Treaty principles. Whanganui Iwi have been engaged in this process for decades. As both parties

continue to negotiate a final settlement, the agreement recognizing the river as Te Awa Tapua is an important step forward. Tu-tohu Whakatupua: A Cause for Cautious Optimism

The agreement that defines the Whanganui River as a legal entity, to be protected by appointed guardians, is titled Tu-tohu Whakatupua. It states that Ma-ori values of the Whanganui River be central to a final settlement in which the Crown will appoint one guardian, Whanganui Iwi will appoint one guardian, and both guardians will act together for the benefit of the river. If the guardians have to protect the Indigenous property value associated with the river, then they must promote and secure the river as more than just a natural resource. In other words, the guardians must also promote and secure the spiritual and cultural rights of the river— not simply the physical and ecological rights. Although Tu-tohu Whakatupua is neither a settlement nor a decision with any independent binding authority, if the terms are followed then the final settlement will be governed according Whanganui Iwi values—values that define the river as a treasure contributing to the survival of the group, rather than a profit-generating resource. However, Whanganui Iwi rights to the river may also end up being restricted by the recognition of the river as a legal entity because once the guardians have been appointed, Whanganui Iwi, like the Crown, will have no power to influence them. While the guardianship model ensures that the Whanganui River will not be owned by anyone, thereby promoting the Crown’s view of natural resources, the Whanganui Iwi maintain that the welfare of the Whanganui River is the most important part of any settlement. As Che Wilson, affiliated with Whanganui Iwi, notes, “the recognition of [the river] as its own legal entity goes a long way to us as descendants of the river [in] ensuring that the protection of the river is upheld and its sanctity is maintained.” It is difficult to speculate on the full implications of the agreement because its details have yet to be fully fleshed out. But Tu-tohu Whakatupua is arguably cause for cautious optimism as Indigenous Peoples continue to fight for the recognition of their views of the natural environment. ­— Brendan Kennedy was born and raised in Aotearoa, and is currently a third year law student at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts. Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 11

justice for all An interview with Grand Chief Edward John Agnes Portalewska (CS Staff)


the work of our Board

was born and raised in a fairly remote part of Western Canada in British Columbia in the territory of my peoples, in a community where the only language spoken was Dakelh, or Déné, of the Athapaskan language family. Our families and communities were heavily dependent on the land for food and for livelihood. It was a strong connection to our history, culture, values, and the land.” Tl’azt’en Nation, “People by the edge of the bay,” is a First Nations community in north central British Columbia, Canada. They call themselves Dakelh (“We travel by water”), though Europeans popularized the name “Carriers.” The population of the Tl’azt’en Nation today is around 1,300. Of these, approximately 800 live in one of the main communities of Tache, Binche and Dzitl’ainli, and K’uzche. Tl’azt’en people still live off the land, hunting for moose, deer, bear, caribou, and mountain goats. They still set nets for salmon, white fish, trout, kokanee, spring salmon, and Lingcod, and still go to campgrounds in the summer to gather food for winter storage, much like their ancestors. Grand Chief Edward John’s proud heritage and upbringing have made him the man he is today, a prominent First Nations political leader and Indigenous rights lawyer in Canada. For his service, he was awarded the title of Grand Chief of Tl’azt’en Nation. He helped to create the First Nations Summit, the organization representing the British Columbia First Nations involved in treaty negotiations with Canada and British Columbia. For over 30 years, he has been a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights. In January 2011, John began a three-year term as the North American Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and in 2012 he was elected Chair. Cultural Survival has the great honor to have Grand Chief John on its board of directors. “The essence of what I bring forward to advocate for Indigenous Peoples is the historic and cultural connection to our teachings, to everything we see around us that is interdependent,” John says.

members, Cultural Survival

Killing the Indian Inside the Child

is honored that Grand Chief

The seeds of John’s resistance were sown early on when John was subjected to mandatory residential schooling. As he tells it: “When I was a child the only schools available to us were the Indian residential schools, located far away from our communities. As 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old children we were bused away every year in September to these schools. We didn’t practice any of our cultural traditions; instead [we] were indoctrinated into anything but our own ways. We were literally there for 10 months of the year. “As children, we didn’t realize the schools were instruments of the state operated by church groups, the purpose of which was to ‘educate’ us and ‘civilize’ us...[the] purpose identified [in] a state document was to ‘kill the Indian inside the child,’ and that meant that we could forever lose our connection to our culture, to our language, traditions, to our land.” These experiences led John into the Anglo legal system in order to seek justice, not only for his people, but for all Indigenous Peoples. “A sense of injustice means you have to find a way to address these things,” said John. “My late grandmother said, ‘we’re sending you to school so you can speak the language, so you can deal with the crooked manager at the local store.’” Much of John’s work has centered around treaty negotiations and economic and social rights of his people. “The quality of life in our community—housing, bilingual education, health, language—is the cultural survival aspect of our people as Indigenous Peoples. Our survival depends on our ability to act as the resources that are what people depend on.

Cultural Survival board member Grand Chief Edward John Photo courtesy of First Nations Summit

In our series spotlighting

Edward John (Akile Ch’oh), chair of UN Permanent forum on indigenous issues, took time out of his schedule to speak with Cultural Survival Quarterly about his background and current work.

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“The other big issue is the legal matters related to our title of lands and territories. We have very few agreements and treaties in this part of Canada. We were dispossessed from those lands by legal means from the Crown in the 1840s and ’50s . . . [so] there’s been 150 to 160 years of long-distance fighting for our legal interest. This underlying issue is very important for our survival.” Restoring Connections

John, who is fluent in Déné, is one of the few people con- sidered an eloquent public speaker in the language. He was the founding president of the Yinka Déné Language Institute, which works to revitalize the Yinka Déné language and culture that has suffered under Canada’s Indian residential school system. “[The residential schools] attacked our linguistic connections, our cultural connections. Not many people still speak our language—mostly [people] in their fifties and sixties. The younger people of course hear that, and pick some of it up, but it’s not as deeply entrenched as it needs to be to survive. “One Indigenous language dies every two weeks, so it’s a challenge not just to Indigenous Peoples of North America, but globally as well. There are very small groups of people who continue to speak the language and it is really difficult to see and hear when the last speaking member of that language family is gone. Every government and every state needs to work with Indigenous people to keep those languages alive, because when they are gone, that whole stream of cultural connections to that part of civilization is gone forever.” John says that the Institute has been making important inroads to sustaining Yinka Déné. The Tl’azt’en Nation currently runs a daycare, a Head Start program, and a communitybased elementary school. Additionally, the Institute is actively working with elders to document and promote their language, stories, and cultural practices and integrate them into curricula. It’s an uphill battle since there is no state support and “funding is minuscule,” according to John; the government allots approximately $1 million per year for 630 tribes across Canada.

We Have a Responsibility

John was closely involved in the negotiations and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly five years ago, and is now the chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “I was there and fought for the provisions in the declaration. The critical standard is the issue of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, in particular where development is to take place in or on the territories of our peoples.” Canada first voted against the Declaration in 2007, then reversed its position by endorsing it in 2010, but implementation is a slow process and raising awareness about the Declaration in Indigenous communities is critical to its success. “Many will read the Declaration and see. . . that their words are reflected in it,” John says. The Declaration is being translated into Indigenous languages as well; it is an international standard and a point of reference for all of the work being done on Indigenous issues. As to how supporters of Indigenous rights can contribute to implementing the Declaration, John says: “Dialogue is important. Greater dialogue leads to greater awareness and a degree of development of a critical mass of thinking and greater degree of acceptability of the issues. “There are those in Canada who, for example, deny that Indigenous Peoples exist, and those that deny that Indigenous Peoples have any right to their territories and resources. Generally, most people are not aware of Indigenous issues . . . so we have a responsibility to continue to talk about it. Regardless of what anybody says or what anybody thinks, we have to be our own strongest advocates.” — Grand Chief Edward John currently lives in Coast Salish Territory (Vancouver, BC). To learn more about the legacy of residential schools in the US and Canada and what is being done to address prior injustices, read our Cultural Survival Quarterly issue on Truth Commissions Photo by Grand Chief Edward John

Another one of those incredible sunsets in Tl'azt'en traditional territory, near Tache, British Columbia. Cultural Survival Quarterly December 2012 • 13

Photo by Danielle DeLuca

Maya women of the community radio movement in Guatemala present their demands at the October 12, 2012 March of Resistance in Guatemala City.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent F Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination, participation, and decision-making ree, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is an emerging standard in the dialogue on Indigenous Peoples rights; some argue that it is becoming part of customary international law. At Cultural Survival’s recent board meeting in October, Stella Tamang (Tamang) from Nepal, Grand Chief Edward John (Tl’azt’en) from Canada, Vincent Nmehielle (Ikwerre) from Nigeria, and Nicole Friederichs weighed in on what this concept actually means in practice. They see FPIC as an important standard Indigenous people can use to claim their rights to self-determination, consultation, and

Photo by Felix Horne

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participation in decision-making. Governments and corporations can no longer ignore these principles. FPIC is a standard protected by international human rights law. It states that “all peoples have the right to selfdetermination” and “all peoples have the right to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” In the words of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya (excerpted from Indian Country Today), “We need to return to the origins of the discussion about [FPIC...having] to do with identifying Indigenous Peoples’ rights of self-determination over lands and resources. With those rights come certain safeguards, and one of those safeguards is that those rights can’t be affected or impacted or diminished without consultation and free, prior and informed consent. “Anybody with property understands that you can’t just take the property without consent, unless there’s some over-arching governmental purpose. Because of this special significance of lands and resources to the cultural survival of Indigenous would have to meet a very, very high burden of justification. [In] other parts of the world, companies or governments are saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to get your consent’… [but] very often not in the most equitable terms and very often in ways that diminish the rights of those involved.” Oil palm seedlings are replacing Cameroon’s ancient rainforest vegetation on the homelands of the Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bayang peoples in southwest Cameroon. Herkales Farms has ignored the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the local population by planting oil palm, which is destroying the local livelihoods.

“Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is one of the most important principles that Indigenous Peoples believe can protect their right to participation. It is embedded in the right to self-determination. The duty of States to obtain Indigenous Peoples’ FPIC entitles Indigenous people to effectively determine the outcome of decision-making that affects them, not merely a right to be involved.” UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

(Left to right) Grand Chief Edward John, Stella Tamang, Vincent Nmehielle, Nicole Friederichs

FPIC is protected under the International Labour Organization Convention (ILO) 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, where it is specifically mentioned five times (Articles 10,11,19,28, 29). The duty to consult is further reflected in Articles 19 and 32. ILO 169 Article 6 also requires that consultation with Indigenous Peoples be carried out through institutions that are representative of Indigenous communities, and specifies that Indigenous people should control the process by which representatives are determined. The Meaning of FPIC

���In plain terms, FPIC is knocking on somebody’s door and asking for permission before you come in,” explains Grand Chief John. A central element of FPIC is genuine inclusion, disclosure, and respect for Indigenous Peoples decisionmaking processes. “Many times Indigenous Peoples are accused of being anti-development, but the only claim Indigenous people are making is that they really want to be part of the decision-making,” maintains Tamang. After centuries of exclusion, dispossession, and discrimination, Indigenous people want their voices heard. Under current international law, governments are obligated to consult Indigenous communities before any development affecting their lands and resources takes place, and even more broadly, any decisions directly affecting Indigenous Peoples and their self-determination require their consultation and consent. The final study on Indigenous Peoples and the right to participate in decision-making by the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples advises on the proper implementation FPIC: “The element of ‘free’ implies no coercion, intimidation or manipulation; ‘prior’ implies that consent is obtained in advance of the activity associated with the decision being made, and includes the time necessary to allow Indigenous Peoples

to undertake their own decision-making processes; ‘informed’ implies that Indigenous Peoples have been provided all information relating to the activity and that that information is objective, accurate and presented in a manner and form understandable to Indigenous Peoples; ‘consent’ implies that Indigenous Peoples have agreed to the activity that is the subject of the relevant decision, which may also be subject to conditions.” Nmehielle, who is an Indigenous rights lawyer and international law professor, elaborates. “FPIC is a concept based on autonomy of the individual. Indigenous Peoples’ rights have been so violated in the past by those who felt they knew what’s best for Indigenous Peoples, it becomes a concept to allow them to make the decision on their own as to whether a project or action is beneficial to them. It’s like taking a referendum: do we really want this or not? We want to make sure Indigenous Peoples are not taken for granted, are consulted regularly, and make decisions based on what they know to be true—the positives and negatives about the particular initiative that affects them. That is the bottom line.” Friederichs, a law school clinician, adds, “When you are talking about FPIC, you are talking about the broader duty to consult and then the overarching principle of participation. The way I read the Declaration is that states have a duty to consult with Indigenous Peoples and the goal of consultations should be to obtain their FPIC. Participation is about remedying centuries of denying Indigenous Peoples access to decision-making that was happening without their voice at all. This is a way to make sure that the states recognize they have an obligation to actually bring Indigenous people to the table and listen to them.” A Process Right vs. Substantive Right

As Grand Chief John sees it, “FPIC is a right. It’s not simply a concept; it is a right to [a] process. In many cases the natural Cultural Survival Quarterly

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Free, Prior and Informed Consent relation is to lands, territories, and resources. If somebody’s coming in to your territory to put a pipeline or a mine, then they should talk to you and determine what it is that they’re planning. [There are] those who just go to the state government or national government and then come and say, ‘we got a permit from the government to put a pipeline in here.’ What they need is permits from the Indigenous people themselves.” Many governments pay lip service to the UN Declaration, but as Grand Chief John says, “when the issue of land rights comes to the fore, suddenly people start backing off and saying, ‘hey, wait just a minute, we didn’t mean that you people have any rights to your land. We stole it fair and square, and you don’t have it anymore.’ That’s why I come back to the Declaration, as a remedial instrument to right the wrongs of the past; these rights are recognized in an international instrument to the UN. These rights, and these processes containing their rights, are designed to remedy the historic injustices.”

FPIC in Practice



n 2005, Novatek, the second largest natural gas company in the Russian Federation, working in the autonomous district of Yamal-Nenetz, designed a socio-economic program for and with the Nenetz peoples affected by its activities, drawing on meetings with community members and leaders. In November 2008, an agreement was signed with the local Nenetz organization defining the terms of cooperation between the company and Indigenous Peoples. The company provided support for infrastructure and allowed Indigenous people to maintain their traditional livelihoods and economy while benefiting from job opportunities in oil and gas developments. Source: Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ final study on Indigenous Peoples and the right to participate in decision-making.

FPIC in Practice



n Bolivia in 2010, the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy coordinated a consultation process on a proposed hydrocarbon exploration project in the Indigenous territory of Charagua Norte and Isoso, located in the Santa Cruz region. Ultimately, the process resulted in a signed agreement between the government and the Guaraní Peoples Assembly of Charagua Norte and Isoso documenting community consent prior to the initiation of exploration activities by the company Pluspetrol of Argentina. The consultation process reached a positive outcome largely thanks to the willingness of the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy to respect the use of traditional Guaraní institutions and systems. Importantly, the process originated from the proposals of the Indigenous communities themselves and guaranteed free, prior, and informed consent for affected communities. Source: Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ final study on Indigenous Peoples and the right to participate in decision-making.

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When Is FPIC Required?

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples be obtained in matters of fundamental importance for their rights, survival, dignity, and well-being. As written in Article 19, ”States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.” Some argue that FPIC is required in every case concerning Indigenous Peoples, their lands, or their resources, such as when new legislation is being considered. Tamang gives an example: “In Nepal we are not limiting FPIC only to development projects. FPIC is not merely informing and getting consent: it is about the effective and meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples, including Indigenous women. We are now drafting a new constitution and lobbying for the meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples, and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure their participation in the decision-making process." Others see the need to obtain consent as especially vital when the following conditions are set to occur: relocation of Indigenous Peoples from their lands; storage and disposal of hazardous waste on Indigenous Peoples’ lands; removal of cultural, intellectual, religious, and spiritual property; and when large-scale development projects would have a major impact on the lands and survival of Indigenous Peoples (for example, the flooding of traditional territories and sacred sites from the construction of a dam). Limits of FPIC

There are differing ideas about whether FPIC extends beyond the right to be consulted to also include veto power. In Nmehielle’s opinion, “It’s not about veto power, it is about meaningful engagement: if it’s a development project, it has to be sustainable. Indigenous people have to benefit from it and be included in the whole process in accordance with what affects them positively rather than adversely.” For example, “has an environmental assessment been done? What is the 20-year effect going to be? What benefits and values accrue to us as a group?” According to Nmehielle, a few Indigenous communities, such as the Royal Bafokeng Nation in South Africa, have turned development into something they want to do on their own terms and have worked with the developers to benefit from the projects. The skeptics of FPIC often point to the UN Declaration as being a “soft law” document, meaning that it is aspirational but not legally binding. However, as Nmehielle states, “For anyone to be able to explore the non-bindingness of the Declaration, they are not ready to do something good. There are parts of it that are considered customary international law. FPIC is a piece of it…whether or not there’s going to be a veto depends on the circumstances of how powerful that particular group is relative to the issues contended.” He continues: “The companies are not usually the problem; it’s the countries, it’s the states. Because at the end of the day, [companies] tend to get their licenses from the states, and then get [empowered] by the state to either ignore Indigenous people or engage with them. If a state says you have to engage

be copied and pasted into each community; it is imperative for developers to understand the context of the communities, and based on that understanding, to develop and adapt the protocols as needed for the best use of the community in their specific environments. The process of creating a community protocol can make communities aware of international human rights standards and help develop their negotiation skills in asserting their rights. Slides courtesy Nicole Friederichs

with Indigenous people, life becomes easier in a development situation. But Indigenous people can [also] press some of these issues and possibly go to court to obtain the maximum consultation necessary, to ensure that their consent is not taken from them.“ The objective of consultations is to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Every day we hear about cases where corporations say they consulted Indigenous Peoples by holding a single meeting (sometimes not in their own language) and informing them of what is being planned. But a PowerPoint presentation with a Q&A is not the same as obtaining FPIC. In many cases it is clear that while documents were signed supposedly giving consent, the vast majority of the Indigenous community were uninformed about the consent process or did not want to give up the resources in question. In short, this process is often egregiously manipulated. As the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples defines it, “consent is a significant element of the decision-making process obtained through genuine consultation and participation. Hence, the duty to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples is not only a procedural process but a substantive mechanism to ensure the respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.” So what does a meaningful consultation process look like? A true consultation with a goal of obtaining FPIC takes time. It has to respect the local governance and decision-making processes and structures, and it has to occur in Indigenous languages, on Indigenous people’s time frames, free of coercion and threat. Mapping Indigenous territory from Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives is another essential element. Indigenous people are the ultimate judges on whether the consultation process has been meaningful. Several communities around the world are working on establishing their own protocols on how to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The idea of asserting a protocol, a guideline a community establishes as to how outsiders should communicate with them about the proposed outside use of community resources, is an effort to ensure that there is a fair dialogue in agreements and negotiations. It is important to realize that in the process of asserting FPIC, one has to be aware of the political, economic, social, environmental, and even spiritual factors. There is no one formula that can

Cultural Survival’s FPIC Initiative The most important element of Indigenous Peoples’ ability to claim the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent is to have informed and organized communities. Cultural Survival has launched a new initiative with the goal of strengthening Indigenous Peoples’ capacity to implement FPIC by increasing awareness and understanding of this right through community media and community exchanges.  We are producing and distributing a series of radio programs on topics related to FPIC to inform Indigenous listeners about their rights. Initially, programs will be produced in English, Spanish, and several Indigenous languages for distribution to Indigenous Peoples around the world. Along with the radio series, we are planning communityto-community exchanges (see page 18 to read about one of the participating communities) as another valuable and appropriate means of sharing information. These exchanges will include the development of appropriate context-based community FPIC guidelines, which will further strengthen awareness and understanding of those rights. To learn more, visit:

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 17

Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Lost in Translation? Maya in Belize Hope to Set Historic FPIC Precedent

Gregory Ch’oc

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Gregory Ch’oc speaking at the Environmental Impact Assessment consultation in Sunday Wood in October.

to be ‘primary’ or ‘pristine’ forests are likely remnants of ancient Maya agroforestry systems.” For a country that prides itself on low deforestation, trees in the Toledo District were already being felled at a rate of 10 percent a year even before Prime Minister Dean Barrows made his infamous vow, “drill we will.” The government had already handed out leases to 41 percent of communal land to commercial loggers and other interests, even when communities were actively farming the land. In hindsight, the prime minister’s off-handed comment to the press about drilling constitutes the only direct, official word Maya communities have ever received about the government’s intentions for their land. Back in 1997, the elders were told it was necessary to legally establish the communities as park “co-managers.” At first they thought giving a permit to explore for oil was a strange way to protect a park. Since their communities were the most

Photo courtesy SATIiM

Sphagnum moss that was burned in seismic trails in Conejo’s land.

Photo courtesy SATIiM


magine this scene: a bus hurdles over the dirt roads of thick, tropical rainforest in southern Belize. It travels from village to village picking up Maya who are panicked and confused about oil drilling on their ancestral lands. Instead of going directly to the meeting, the Maya must first listen to a two-hour presentation by the oil company. Once they finally arrive, they gather for a traditional blessing, which is how they start every meeting. They are told there is no time for that. In fact, they have only one minute. As the appointed representative, I start to speak. After 60 seconds, a government official, backed by police and military personnel, pries the microphone out of my hands. Apparently, the meaning of “consultation” is lost in translation from English to Q’eqchi’. The story I am about to tell is more than an ordinary parable: it is a tale with implications for a people’s survival or extinction. The Maya of Belize established the first legal precedent for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now we are ready to do the same for the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The true beginning of this story is the morning in 1997 when several Maya villages woke up to learn that their ancestral land had been declared a national park—and that it had been so designated for three years. Community elders wondered why it had taken so long for the government to let them know. Five years later, they know that secrecy is official government policy on Maya land. The Belize government has long recognized the area between the Sarstoon and Temash Rivers as the “least disturbed wildlands” in the country. Following the state’s designation of the Sarstoon Temash National Park, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands classified its 42,000 acres as land of “international importance.” More recently, researchers have uncovered a rare and entirely new ecosystem in the park. Research acknowledges that the Maya have managed these forests for millennia, to the point that we are considered responsible for the wide diversity of tree species. As the National Geographic Society recently noted, “What might appear

impoverished in the country, they certainly understood the economic pressures on Belize; the skeletons of failed government experiments in cash crops on Maya land—all of the withered fields abandoned on the side of road—speak to the futility of shortsighted schemes. So, they created the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) as their administrative body to meet their co-management obligations. Imagine their surprise to learn four years later that the government had entered into a Production Sharing Agreement with the local subsidiary of a small energy exploration company based in the American southwest, US Capital Energy. The company was granted the exclusive right to conduct petroleum operations within a 12 square mile area of the park called Block 19. SATIIM’s park rangers reported that dynamite explosions had cleared paths wide enough for jeeps to drive across to the Guatemalan border, giving poachers and loggers access to virgin forest. Upon this discovery, the elders held community meetings long into the night. They decided that SATIIM would object to the permit as a violation of the National Park System Act. In response, the government simply ignored its “partners.” So in 2006, the elders reluctantly instructed the Institute to file a lawsuit to stop the activity. The Supreme Court of Belize ultimately decided that an environmental impact assessment was prerequisite for an exploration permit, and the permit was temporarily put on hold—but for how long? In the meantime, the elders were advised to legally establish their right to land they had occupied for millennia. In 2007 the Supreme Court decided a landmark judgment that gave the nearby Maya villages of Conejo and Santa Cruz full legal ownership over their lands and its resources. In 2010 the remaining Mopan and Q’eqchi villages in Toledo District won similar land recognition. These historic judgments made international news when the Maya held the Belize government to its commitments under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, setting a new legal precedent as its first domestic application. The government’s appeal resulted in an injunction that prohibited activities on Maya lands until the appellate court decided the case. During this time, the Maya realized that they also needed to

In January 2013, as part of our FPIC Initiative, Cultural Survival is teaming up with SATIIM to coordinate a one-on-one community exchange to share FPIC experiences and best practices in community radio programming between Indigenous leaders from Guatemala and Belize. Community radio operators will create radio content about FPIC. Stay tuned!

take their case to the people of Belize. They organized a national oil summit to discuss the issue on all sides. Ultimately, all major organizations publicly condemned oil drilling on protected lands. Yet the government acted as if public opinion and consistent court rulings simply did not matter and secretly granted a new permit in late 2010. In 2011 the Maya woke up to another surprise: the sound of explosions right outside their village. Without any warning, US Capital Energy had cleared some four miles of forest for a seismic path. Additionally, seismic testing ignited a massive fire that destroyed more than 400 acres of the newly discovered ecosystem. Panicked Conejo residents asked SATIIM to assess fire damages, and independent experts were contracted to research the concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. It became evident that the government was obligated under both domestic and international law to obtain consent for oil activity on Maya lands, which it clearly had not done. Meanwhile, US Capital Energy started to court certain villages, painting school rooms and offering services of trash disposal and limited contract employment. But the company showed its true colors after media reports on the environmental damage it had caused: it threatened the Institute with legal action. We now reach the final chapter of our story, although this ordeal is far from over. This past October, under the guise of “consultation,” Maya villagers were asked to review a 300-page environmental impact assessment document—in English—at the height of the harvest season. When the Institute requested to move the review date by a few weeks, the government refused. At this point, the elders feel they have exhausted all good faith options. The Institute and the four communities likely to be affected by the exploratory drilling have retained a major US law firm. So, we are left with a question. Will another lawsuit, writing another Maya chapter in the history books, be enough to save us from extinction? Photo courtesy SATIiM

Fire damage in Conejo’s land.

Cultural Survival’s FPIC Initiative

— Gregory Ch’oc (Q’eqchi’) is executive director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 19

Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Hear Us!

Mam People of Guatemala Express Their Voices Through Community Consultations Ana Lucía Fariña


he survival of Indigenous Peoples’ heritage depends on their ability to assert equal civil rights, including the right to participate in decision-making processes. Some of the most pressing limitations faced by Indigenous people worldwide, including those in Guatemala, are linked to the protection and ownership of their lands, which are frequently and increasingly being usurped for purposes of mining, development, or other environmental exploitation. Guatemala is a multi-ethnic country; along with the Xinca and Garifuna, there are 21 different Maya groups making up an estimated 51 percent of the national population and speaking 26 Mayan languages. There are dozens of Maya municipalities in the department of Quetzaltenango alone; this is the story of one, Cabrican. Bibiana Ramirez is a Mam community leader from Cabrican. Her story begins when her community became aware that the government of Guatemala was authorizing licenses for mining companies in the area without consultIndigenous people in Guatemala struggle to defend their rights in the wake of increasing repression. In October in Totonicapán, their protests were met with a brutal crackdown. Military forces opened fire on a peaceful protest, killing eight and injuring more than 35 people.

Photo courtesy of Bibiana Ramírez

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ing the local population. From this discovery arose an urgent need to start organizing and informing the community about the situation; a need to develop what she calls, lucha en defensa del territorio (fight to defend the territory). The community began organizing into several groups: teachers, youth, authorities, and ecclesiastic figures, each led by a representative. Their intention was to gather and discuss a possible process of consulta, or consultation. Ramirez explains consulta as the communities’ assertion of their right to participate in decision-making, as well as the act of voting for or against a project that would affect them. The goal of the group meetings was to inform the population about the advantages and disadvantages of the mining projects. Ramirez refers to this stage as the proceso de sensibilización, or the process of building awareness. In total, 62 community consultas have been held throughout Guatemala. Ramirez says she was inspired by communities in Huehuetenango and San Marcos that had previously held similar consultations, including public forums for the community to vote for or against the initiative in question. However, unlike the others, her community decided to use paper ballots to create hard proof that the consultation had occurred. Out of a total population of approximately 25,000, more than half—13,610 people, a number that includes both children and adults—voted against the mining project slated for their lands. “It was a great turnout,” she recalls.

Bibiana Ramírez sharing with the Wayuu of Colombia the FPIC experience in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Bibiana Ramírez

In spite of the popular mandate, due to various legal loopholes Guatemala insists that these consultas, which frequently result in communities rejecting mining and hydroelectric development projects, are not legally binding. Although it is obligated to conform to the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, the state claims that it lacks a legal framework to host consultations with communities. In the hopes of avoiding this roadblock, the community leaders in Cabrican presented a document summarizing their consulta to government officials in Quetzaltenango with the intent to obtain formal legal recognition of their consultation process. A delegation of 70 community leaders then traveled to the nation’s capital to present the documentation to the president and the minister in charge of approving the mining licenses. When asked if she believes that Cabrican’s consulta was successful, Ramirez replied, “Not completely, since there are still mining companies coming and the current mining companies are only giving us 1 percent of their earnings.” She added, “the good thing is that we are defending our rights, our resources, and that we are not negotiating our lives.” Ramirez underscored that the community wants to protect its water resources; at various Canadian-owned mines in Guatemala, the use of arsenic to extract heavy metals (predominantly gold, silver, zinc, copper, and titanium) has contaminated local rivers and groundwater, making clean water scarce and leading to serious health repercussions for the local communities. Within the Mam community there are eight municipalities, and so far seven have asserted their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent by virtue of the consulta process. Representatives from each of these municipalities (including Ramirez) have become part of Consejo de Pueblos del Occidente, or Western People’s Council, an organization that was created to defend Maya communities’ rights in the western region of the country. Following the consulta in Cabrican, several community leaders were invited to share their stories and experiences with Wayuu communities in Colombia and to assist and advise in the process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as the Wayuu confront coal mining in Guajira. On November 16–18, 2010, a workshop was presented to approximately 200 attendees from 41 different communities. Council members spoke of the obstacles they encountered during their own consulta, including their learning processes around community organization, engagement, and empowerment. The presenters

National Indigenous movement in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Bibiana Ramírez

related stories of their protests against the government and their ongoing work to defend their lands. While the consulta process is invaluable, it can also be expensive. The consulta in Cabrican involved the mobilization of thousands of people, and Ramirez says it was difficult to obtain funding. The question of financing notwithstanding, she believes her community was successful because the people had clear information on their rights. Specifically, leaders were educated about their land rights and the laws that protected them. This knowledge in turn helped them educate the larger community about the dangers and consequences of mining and their rights as Indigenous people, and allowed them to inspire, gather, and organize people in the community to assert their own rights. In short, education empowered their leadership skills. Ramirez also discussed the importance of the “power of voice,” leaders empowering and engaging people to take action. “They have to trust you,” she says. “The leaders have to believe in their rights and in themselves, and be able to convey a clear, inspiring message. We are talking about defending our rights to live. I always tell them, what future do you want to leave for your children?” Ramirez believes that her role is to motivate and inspire people; not to educate, but to emphasize something they have forgotten they possess. Although there is still plenty of work to be done, the Mam communities have successfully stopped the provision of new mining licenses. Licenses previously issued for exploration in the department of Quetzaltenango have mostly been left to expire, with one exception: a GoldCorp subsidiary, Entre Mares, was issued a license for gold mining in Cabrican and two other municipalities in 2007 under the auspices of a project titled “ELUVIA.” Its development has been halted, for the moment, thanks to a petition filed by the municipality of Cabrican to the Department of Energy to have the license revoked. As the community waits for a final resolution, the people of Cabrican continue to work with the Western People’s Council to organize community leaders to carry out more consultations around Guatemala, asserting their rights for their lands and creating a future of their own making. — Ana Lucía Fariña as part of her Masters in Environmental Leadership program at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, did her internship at Cultural Survival, researching Indigenous communities that had successfully asserted their rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 21

reviving Frank Tomah and Raphael Sockabasin discuss muskrat trapping during a Language Keepers conversation in Indian Township, Princeton, Maine.

Meg Holladay


he first school was built in Motahkomikuk, a Passamaquoddy community in northeastern Maine, in the late 1930s. St. Ann’s Indian Mission School, run by Catholic nuns, enrolled children from Motahkomikuk and nearby Sipayik, the two reservations where most Passamaquoddy live. When the children arrived at school they found that English-only was required, and they were brutalized for speaking their native language. The pressures on Passamaquoddy students to assimilate, reinforced by the violent treatment that they suffered in school, would eventually cause English to supplant Passamaquoddy as the community’s dominant language. Those who had been abused at school wanted to spare their children from a similar fate, so they would often speak Passamaquoddy but require their children to reply in English. As a result, the next generation grew up as only partial Passamaquoddy speakers. Now, two generations later, nearly all Passamaquoddy children are monolingual English speakers, and like many other Native American languages, the survival of Passamaquoddy is threatened. Elder Allen Sockabasin writes, “[Passamaquoddy is] the heart of our identity and the foundation of our spirituality.” But times are changing. Since the start of the Language Keepers video project six years ago, many of those abused at the mission school (who are now grandparents) have begun to speak more Passamaquoddy. They once again sing childhood songs, are regaining vocabulary, and have begun to speak their language to their grandchildren. Tribal members who moved away from the reservations are returning and have started to hear Passamaquoddy in their homes again. Enthusiasm for the language is flourishing. The Passamaquoddy language is technically a dialect of Passamaquoddy-Maliseet, also spoken by the neighboring Maliseet people. In total, about 500 Passamaquoddy and 600 Maliseet currently speak the language; nearly all of them are over 50 years old. At one time Passamaquoddy was so present in the community that its loss didn’t seem like a possibility. But when the community realized its language was endangered, the remaining speakers swiftly took action. First was

A Community Finds Healing in Its Own Words the compilation of the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary, co-edited by speaker David Francis and linguist Robert Leavitt. A product of 30 years of work, the dictionary was published in 2008 with over 18,000 entries as well as a searchable online edition. The most comparable resource, the web-only Ojibwe People’s Dictionary, has 10,000 entries. Following the success of the dictionary, in 2006 the Passamaquoddy began the Language Keepers project. The project, which produces videos of people conversing in Passamaquoddy, is a partnership between the community and Ben Levine and Julia Schulz. Levine and Schulz are also producers of the 2003 film Réveil – Waking Up French, which documented the revival of French language skills among former New England francophones whose communities had abandoned the language after suffering from hate crimes at the hands of the KKK. Levine and Schulz were pioneers of a language reacquisition program that helped speakers work through their trauma; Passamaquoddy language leaders thought the pair could help their community as well, especially in addressing the loss of public discourse. The Language Keepers project produced a series of 95 videos of Passamaquoddy people speaking to each other about subjects entirely of their choosing. Subtitled in both Passamaquoddy and English, speakers discuss topics ranging from porpoise hunting and cranberry picking to spiritual experiences and childhood memories. In the project’s online version, many subtitles include hyperlinks to the words’ dictionary entries, which in turn provide lists of other videos where the words occur. Levine hopes this cross-referencing will help people see how ideas relate in culturally specific ways, such as when people who are discussing muskrat trapping first talk about the the animals themselves, and then flagroot (a plant they eat) and its medicinal uses. The videos have created a priceless record of Passamaquoddy language and culture. For linguists, they represent a new model for documenting language. In contrast to “elicitation,” a method in which linguists ask speakers questions to learn about a language, Language Keepers videos show how the language works in practice. They also document traditional culture, activities, and the Passamaquoddy worldview, as when Grace Davis talks about the healing possesomuwinuwok

All Photos courtesy of Language Keepers Project

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Passamaquoddy (star people) that she finds in ocean water at night. The video project has also been a healing experience for the community. In one session, while playing cards, a speaker brought up St. Ann’s School. Out of this came nine videos in which the elders recall their abuse in horrifying detail. When they spoke Passamaquoddy, which some nuns called “the language of the devil,” they were variously beaten with rulers, erasers, and switches, shut in the closet, and sometimes choked. Speakers say that they found these group conversations deeply therapeutic. Levine says that the videos’ online presence has brought the language “back into visibility,” sparking new, positive associations for speakers who had previously thought of the language as “a symbol of ignorance, backwardness, and poverty,” or, more recently, had felt ashamed that they hadn’t taught it to their children. The project has also ignited new language use, as many partial speakers watch the videos to get the language “back into their systems.” Those living far from the reservations can now hear it in their homes any time they want, which they say gives them “a whole new lease on life.” All of this offers the community new hope for the revitalization of their language. Another project currently underway is the recording of native Passamaquoddy speakers pronouncing every word in the dictionary, along with an example sentence. Since many speakers are not literate in Passamaquoddy, a team of volunteers, often young adults, go to the houses of elders and read them the words and phrases to be pronounced. The elders correct their pronunciation and have been cheered by the volunteers’ interest in the language. Donald Soctomah, the leader of the recording project, reports that elders are now less resistant to speaking the language to young people. Says Apt, “I am always speaking to [my grandchildren] in Passamaquoddy and they understand and respond.” When spoken

to cherished grandchildren, Levine observed, Passamaquoddy becomes a “language of love.” Soctomah said the tribe is also planning an immersion program that will pair partial speakers with elder fluent speakers. Together, they would speak the language for hours a day while engaging in activities from basket-weaving to grocery shopping, as well as learn to read and write Passamaquoddy. According to Soctomah, the combination of activities and literacy education would put the program “one step beyond” most apprentice language programs, and the language would get the younger fluent speakers it needs in order to stay vibrant. Meanwhile, the nearby Penobscot tribe is working on projects to revitalize its language, which is similar to Passamaquoddy, and Levine and Schulz continue to work on revitalization projects similar to Language Keepers for three additional languages. Although these endeavors have reinforced the use of the language, so far they have not generated any new speakers. But all of this effort and creativity may yet turn the tide for the Passamaquoddy. For a community that once felt a great deal of fear and shame about its past, its language has become a great source of pride—and hope—for the future. —Meg Holladay is a former Cultural Survival intern. The Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal is at The Language Keepers Project can be found at

To learn more about language revitalization efforts around the country, visit our new site Language Gathering:

Joan Dana, Passamaquoddy, in her home with Ben Levine in the background filming a conversation about traditional healing practices.

Ben Levine and Julia Schulz of the Language Keepers Film Project film a conversation between Imelda Perley and Raymond Nicholas at the Tobique Maliseet Reserve in Tobique, New Brunswick, Canada.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 23

Many Maasai community members increasingly worry about the future of their language and culture.

we, maasai W Daniel Salau Rogei

e, Maasai, still have much of our culture, customs, and tradition as we did thousands of years ago. Because the Maa society does not have a clear written history, it is difficult to say precisely where it originated. According to linguistic research, the Maa language is hermetic and not one of the numerous Bantu languages on the African continent. It is believed that the Maasai originated somewhere in the Middle East and came down the Nile River to our present territory, the plains of East Africa. This is confirmed by the numerous Maa-named places dotting this route. Over the years, we have built a rich Indigenous knowledge system that has allowed us to survive in harsh environments and seasons. However, the Maasai, like many other Indigenous Peoples, are fast losing our languages and cultures. Maa is an oral language that has not been documented and is therefore vulnerable to extinction. Other written languages, such as English and Swahili, are quickly finding their way into our communities through formal education, religion, and globalization. Elder Parkesian recalls, “Our fathers never wanted us to go to school but the British colonialists insisted and a few were reluctantly sent. They knew we would lose our language and culture and then get lost.” Today, many Maasai regret that the Maa language was not passed down to them. Sharoni Nangurai, a college graduate and a current student of Maa language voices this regret: “I lost the dream opportunity of getting [an] internship and working with UNEP simply because I couldn’t speak Maa, and

Revitalizing Indigenous Language and Knowledge for Sustainable Development in Maasailand, kenya

yet [I] am a Maasai by birth. I blame my parents for this.” Globally it is estimated that a language dies every 14 days. If the current trend continues, by 2100 over half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain. Much of what humans know about nature is encoded only in oral languages. Indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years often have profound insights into local lands, plants, animals, and ecosystems—many still undocumented by science. Studying Indigenous languages and cultural practices therefore benefits environmental understanding and conservation efforts. Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who depend entirely on their natural environment and traditional sociocultural, economic, and spiritual life skills that are encoded and orally passed from one generation to another, are at a great risk of assimilation and subsequent extermination. Every time a language dies, we lose part of the picture of what our brains can do. Every fallen sage is tantamount to a burnt library! To address this threat, the Center for Indigenous Languages and Cultural Studies, a project of Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO), a nonprofit community-based organization working with the Indigenous Maasai pastoralists of Kenya and Tanzania, was established. Based in Ngong Hills, the Center for Indigenous Languages and Cultural Studies seeks to revitalize and promote spoken and written Indigenous languages. It also seeks to streamline traditional knowledge and Indigenous practices to complement the conventional approaches to combating poverty in a bid to achieve

All photos courtesy of Simba Maasai Outreach Organization

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Cultural Survival is excited to host SIMOO at our winter Bazaars. See

sustainable development. Chief Daniel Sankale says, “This is the best and sustainable way to preserve our culture. . . by teaching the youngsters the language and culture and documenting it for posterity.” Protecting, preserving, and promoting a language is no easy task. The Center conducts research related to culture and development to establish the relationships among culture, peace, development, and environmental sustainability. Funded by the International Society of Ethnobiology, we are researching and documenting Maasai cultural practices such as rituals and ceremonies for posterity. The research is then compiled into materials and used for teaching and reference. This provides a basis for a rights-based approach to advocate for favorable policies both locally and internationally. We have been organizing a cultural field day where school children and parents come to participate in an annual three-day event where cultural presentations are staged to inform the community about their rights and connections to global issues. Elder Mary Sakuda, 86 years old, says, “When we lose our land, we lose our language and then we lose our culture. . . we become like slaves of others.” The Center is also documenting culture, language, songs, and other cultural practices for posterity. We do this in printed and/or digital form by developing short videos, audio phrases, and online materials. School children conduct interviews with elders and translate from oral to written form. Story books are being compiled to preserve oral knowledge as elders pass on. Ole Kurraru, a 90-year-old elder, praises the program: “This initiative needs to be encouraged. Unless something is done, at this rate of alien encroachment and assimilation, there will be no Maasai [speakers] in 50 years to come.” To address the need to revitalize threatened languages and cultural practices, the Center offers linguistic lessons, cultural orientation, and experiential learning. Classes are currently offered for Maasai who have lost fluency in the language. Teaching and reference materials have been compiled to serve as resources in the classroom, and the development of a Maasai–English dictionary is underway. During the holidays, the Center offers camp-based experiential learning for urban students. In addition to learning the Maa language, the students are exposed to environmental education that will allow them to understand and identify the role of plants and animals in

the Maasai culture. Students also gain appreciation for aspects of the Maasai way of life such as herding and bead work, and get to live its spirit. Edward Simel, an early student of the Maa language class explains: “It is very embarrassing to have a Maasai name and lineage but not be able to speak the language. I was brought up in Nairobi where my parents worked and where I went to school. I lost touch with my community, I lost the language and I lost the beautiful culture. This is a great opportunity for me and my kids to learn the language and some aspects of the culture again.” The Center also has a global goal in mind, to promote global understanding of the Maasai culture. Cultural exchange among people of diverse backgrounds is important for harmony, peace, and sustainable development. Exchange programs involve Indigenous Maasai visiting other parts of the world to share their culture, or international students coming for internships in Maasailand. The international exchanges are supported by Frogpond Production in PA. We, the Maasai, like many other Indigenous Peoples, are on the verge of losing our language and the rich Indigenous knowledge inherent in it. This will be a big loss to the global biocultural diversity and will be devastating to the environment. Safeguarding Indigenous languages is also a recognition of the existence of such communities as well as a promotion of their human rights. Unless Indigenous languages are protected, the gains made globally that have culminated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be reversed. Sustainable development can only be realized if and when Indigenous Peoples are given an opportunity to exercise their right to cultural practices, including promotion of their native languages. For the Maasai, this is an invaluable legacy that we will be happy to bequeath to future generations. — Daniel Salau Rogei (Maasai) is a founder of the Simba Maasai Outreach Organization in Kenya. To learn more, visit: To learn more about what is being done around the world to revitalize Indigenous languages, visit our Language Gathering site:

Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 25

B az aar A r t i s t s : project ha v e hope

Investing in Women and the Future of Uganda “I have really changed. I am now a doctor for coldness by providing sweaters. I can now support my family.” — Adul Doreen, vocational training graduate


he first thing you notice upon entering the booth of Project Have Hope are the colorful strings of recycled paper beads—and then the remarkable photographs of children and women by photographer Karen Sparacio, who is also the executive director. Project Have Hope, a nonprofit organization that works with 100 women in the Acholi Quarter of Uganda, has been a presence at Cultural Survival Bazaars for six years and counting. Through the sale of their beautiful, handmade paper bead jewelry, the women can feed their families, send their children to school, and look forward to a richer future. Residents of the Acholi Quarter, a neighborhood located on the outskirts of Uganda���s capital city Kampala, are internally displaced persons who have fled from war-torn Northern Uganda. These individuals experienced unimaginable atrocities at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Led by the infamous Joseph Kony, the LRA has wreaked havoc throughout central Africa for over 20 years. It is known for its brutality, abductions, and use of child soldiers. The majority of the women involved with Project Have Hope have been deeply affected by the war: some were abducted and escaped; many lost family members and witnessed horrific violence; all have lost their homes in Acholiland. As the women struggle to rebuild their lives and regain their livelihoods, Project Have Hope strives to support them by providing a source of sustainable income and educational and vocational training programs.

Project Have Hope’s Impact

 “When asked what my dream was, I did not even know what it meant. But after two classes, we were taught about dreams and visions and that we should base all our thinking on those two. I have since then developed a motto that says ‘I can.’ This has made me think big!” said Lanyero Jenifer, an adult literacy program participant. In 2011, Project Have Hope supported 104 children in school; 100 women received microenterprise loans; and 34 women received vocational training. “With profits from my motorcycle business, I have bought land and oxen to help me produce simson (a staple food).  And now even if I am not here, the asset can help my children,” says project member Ayoo Jennifer. In addition to microloans and vocational training, Project Have Hope runs adult literacy programs and has also trained Acholi women how to cultivate balcony gardens and food such as tomatoes and mushrooms. Last year the organization supported local members by constructing a greenhouse; the women have been able to feed their families and generate additional income by selling the produce at the local market. Project Have Hope has just launched a new line of jewelry featuring the “Hope Cures” collection: cancer awareness bracelets made from the iconic recycled paper beads. These bracelets allow the wearer to show support for women with The 2012 CS Bazaar cancer, survivors, and their caregivers. series raised over Additionally, one dollar from the sale of $445,749 for Indigenous each Hope Cures bracelet is donated to artisans and their communities. the Ugandan Child Cancer Foundation to Find a Bazaar near you! Visit: support young patients at the Uganda cer Institute. 26 • ww w. cs. org

All photos by Karen Sparacio

Colectivo Noj youth group performs a traditional Ixil dance at the festival to celebrate Oxlajuj B’ak’tun. (All photos by Danielle DeLuca.)

Celebrating 2012, Maya Style Danielle DeLuca (CS Staff)


ecember 21, 2012, the end of the Oxlajuj B’ak’tun cycle of 5,128 years—not the end of the world, as commonly, falsely interpreted—is fast approaching, and for Maya in Guatemala, that means it is time to start celebrating. To commemorate Oxlajuj B’ak’tun, the Waqib’ Kej Indigenous Youth Council held a festival of art, music, and dance on September 22 on the grounds of the ancient Maya city of Iximche, outside modern-day Tecpan, Guatemala. Iximche was the capital of the Kakchiquel empire, founded in 1465 and part of what archaeologists term the post-classical period of the Mayan empire. As Alex Ulul, community guide at the ruins, explains, “Post-classical is the term archaeologists use, but that implies an end to Maya civilization. We measure time in b’ak’tun. This city was built at the end of the 11th b’ak’tun.” Oxlajuj, meaning 13, is the last b’ak’tun. According to Maya priests, the next cycle begins again at 1. The festival also marked the conclusion of a two-day conference for Indigenous youth focusing on a re-establishment of the State of Guatemala in this new era. “We have thought deeply about the reality that we’re living, and what we can propose to the state of Guatemala. We demand real change in this country,” said a presenter at the opening of the festival. Indigenous artists, musicians, poets, and dancers gathered from across the country to represent, via artistic expression, what Oxlajuj B’ak’tun means for them. Eduardo Santiago Reyes, from San Juan Comalapa, won first place for his painting about Maya spirituality and hardships. “I am so grateful to have the chance to be here. Being involved in this movement and painting about these topics has been a huge challenge to me,” he said. Reyes’ father forbids him from painting about injustices Indigenous Peoples have faced out of fear of repercussions. “Talking about these issues is like a death wish,” his father has told him.

But Guatemala’s Indigenous youth are ready to take on this challenge. “It’s our turn to construct a new government,” said Reyes. As a result of the conference, youth leaders published a statement demanding a state that reflects the multi-lingual and multi-ethnic Guatemala that Indigenous youth live in today. “Along this long historic path of struggle and resistance, we, Indigenous youth, are discussing, deliberating, and articulating our struggles, on the eve of Oxlajuj B’ak’tun, as a moment for a new dawn for the people,” the statement begins. A musician summed up the sentiment at the festival: “Seeing this many young people, working together for positive change for Indigenous Peoples in our country, gives me an incredible hope for this new era.” Read the rest of our five-part series on 2012 at

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Cultural Survival Quarterly

December 2012 • 27

w o N n o i t c A e k Ta

December 2012

The Garifuna people have faced generations of abuse, and now even more so at the hands of the Honduran government. In the last three years since the 2009 political coup, 65 small farmers have been killed in the Bajo Aguan region as they were attempting to reclaim illegal landholdings from giant palm oil plantations growing biofuel for export. In 2010, the Garifuna grassroots organization OFRANEH, the Black Fraternal Organization of Hondruas, teamed up with Cultural Survival and three other Indigenous groups in Honduras to try to stop a Chinese company from damming the Patuca river, territory of the Pech and Miskitu peoples. Now, OFRANEH and the Garifuna people need our help to ensure their safe recovery of their ancestral lands.

CampaignHonduras Alert Margarita Videa, a member of OFRANEH’s board of directors, uses traditional incenses in a ceremony to the ocean and the land during the opening of three days of activities on defense of land and territory in San Juan Tela, Bahia de Tela, Honduras.

Cultural Survival endorses Grassroots International’s campaign to protect the Garifuna people’s land rights and lives. Across the globe, from Indonesia to Cameroon to Honduras, palm oil is being touted as a a green solution to a growing energy demand. But when palm oil agribusiness results in the eviction of Indigenous Peoples from their titled ancestral lands, complete disregard for their lives and their human rights, and monocropping in precious, biodiverse tropical rainforests, we know that it is not sustainable.

Global Response


Stand with the Garifuna People as They Recover Ancestral Lands


n Vallecito, Honduras, the Afro-descendant Garifuna community is threatened by agribusinesses intent on developing their ancestral land for palm oil production.    In late August, 200 Garifuna families from a dozen different communities mobilized to reclaim 2,500 hectares of their ancestral land earmarked for development by large agribusinesses. The families set up camp, staking claim to the land that they intend to recover through non-violent protests as part of their right to self-determination.   The lands legally belong to the Garifuna people; in 1997 they sought and received land titles from the National Agrarian Institute. But powerful elites, such as local business magnate Miguel Facussé, did not accept the decree. Facussé usurped the Garifunas’ land, planting 100 hectares of oil palm. Today, his territory completely surrounds Vallecito. In total, 86% of Garifuna land has been seized by non-Garifunas over the last 18 years, despite a Supreme Court ruling upholding the Garifunas’ title to the land.   Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed by Honduras, states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.” But paramilitary groups, allegedly hired by local agribusinesses, Facussé, or others, are threatening Garifuna for attempting to recover their land. Politically motivated killings, kidnappings, and death threats against farmers and Afrodescendant leaders have increased steadily since the 2009 coup. In the Lower Aguan region, 65 small farmers have been killed as they reclaimed illegal landholdings from giant plantations that will produce biofuel for export. These small farmers simply want to grow food to feed themselves and their communities.

Take action today and tell Honduran officials to protect Garifuna communities. With your 28 • ww w. cs. org can be part of a growing movement to protect Garifunas’ land rights and lives. support, we

“Against their weapons, our drums are all that we have.” — Alfredo Lopez, vice president of OFRANEH and founder of the first Garifuna community radio station

Biofuel over Food

The recent anxiety in the United States and Europe over the need for clean energy has set off an explosion of land grabs to farm African palm. In Honduras, campesinos are being forced off their land to make way for mono-cropping, leaving them without land to farm even for their family’s own consumption.    Palm oil is being touted as a new miracle solution for climate change mitigation. What is much less publicized is the fact that the best terrain for growing palm trees is tropical rainforest. Scientists have noted that using palm oil for biofuel can only slow climate change if it does not promote deforestation, especially in tropical regions where forests store large quantities of carbon. Rainforests are the earth’s largest sinks of carbon, safely storing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Yet rainforests are being razed at an alarming rate to create industrial palm oil plantations, releasing massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Miriam Miranda, President of OFRANEH, stands before a line of riot police during a demonstration in Tegucigalpa just days after the military coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. OFRANEH are pressing for the recognition of communal land titles despite the constant military abuses.

Charter Cities

Miguel Facussé is not the only culprit displacing the Garifuna and other Honduran campesinos off their land. American economists are promoting a controversial new initiative that would construct new, privately owned, autonomous city-states in Honduras. These “charter cities,” or Special Development Regions, would have their own legal systems, police forces, tax codes, and trade policies. They are essentially what has been called “the neoliberal dream of an investor-owned city operating outside of Honduran law.” Investor-owners would also decide who is allowed to reside in these cities, and who is not.    Part of the Honduran government’s stipulation for charter cities is that they be located in “uninhabited” areas. Yet on September 4, the government signed a $15 million US contract with an investment consortium to begin construction on the first charter city, located between the Trujillo Bay and the Sico River: an area considered the cultural sanctuary of the Garifuna people, and home to 24 communities. Miriam Miranda implores, “We are not only up against the interests of organized crime; we’re up against the interests of a government that—without consulting us—makes decisions about our territory.”


The Garifuna people have a long history of forced relocation. Their story began on St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean, where they were shipwrecked in 1635 after crossing the Atlantic as captured slaves. The only Africans to arrive in the Americas as free blacks, they were taken in by the Carib and Arawak peoples, and through intermarriage formed the people today known as the Garifuna. In 1797 they were again relocated by English colonizers to Roatan, on Honduran soil. The Garifuna then migrated to fishing territories around the Sico River and Trujillo Bay. They had settled into the Vallecito Valley 17 years before the Spanish granted Honduras independence in 1821.   Miranda explains what her community is seeking. “We’re asking for something very simple: that the state come and say,

Cultural Survival

Spiritual leaders of OFRANEH perform a ceremony to the ocean and the land during the opening ceremonies of the Gathering of Indigenous and Black Peoples for a New Constitution in San Juan Tela, Bahia de Tela, Honduras.

‘Yes, we issued that land title to you in 1997 and we are reiterating that this is your land.’ Now we are up against the silence and complicity of the state, the government, these groups with power, and their plans. For us, this is very serious.”    Please take action by calling on the government of Honduras to uphold the Garifunas’ land titles and rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for any projects on their land. Urge the government to ensure the safety of the Garifuna and other campesino activists as they face some of the worst human rights conditions in the world.

Take action and make your voice heard! Tell Honduran officials to protect Garifuna communities. Visit: and

Cultural Survival Quarterly

All photos by Tim Russo via Upside Down World

December 2012 • 29

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36-4 December 2012