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Cultural Survival Q









40 Years of Advocacy Volume 36, Issue 2 • June 2012 US $7.50/CAN $9

from Brazil 1972 to Brazil 2012

J une 2012 V olum e 36 , Issue 2 Board of Directors President & board Chair James Rodriguez,

Sarah Fuller

Vice Chairman

Vincent Nmehielle (Ikwerre)


Jeff Wallace Clerk

Jean Jackson Karmen Ramírez Boscán (Wayúu) Westy Egmont Nicole Friederichs Laura Graham James Howe Edward John (Tl’azt’en) Cecilia Lenk Pia Maybury-Lewis Les Malezer (Gabi Gabi) P. Ranganath Nayak Stella Tamang (Tamang) Roy Young FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis

In April, thousands of Indigenous people and campesinos in Guatemala participated in a nine-day protest march to the capital city, covering over 214 kilometers (see page 8).

F e at u r e s

12 The Significance of 2012 for Cultural Survival

Agnes Portalewska In 1972, Cultural Survival opened its doors to Indigenous Peoples’ struggles for human rights.

Cultural Survival 215 Prospect Street Cambridge, MA 02139 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417

14 Global Response Campaign: Cameroon

P.O. Box 7490 Boulder, CO 80306 t 303.444.0306 f 303.449.9794

16 New Wedezé Indigenous Reserve Affirms Xavante Rights to Land

5ª calle 14-35, Zona 3 Apartamento 202 Edificio Las Tapias Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 09001 Cultural Survival Quarterly

Copy Editor: Barbara Ellen Sorensen Designer: Production Manager: Agnes Portalewska

Take action with the Indigenous people of Cameroon to stop illegal grabbing of community forests for oil palm plantations.

The success of the Xavante in regaining their ancestral land in Brazil, a vision that Cultural Survival founders hoped would transpire.

18 Rio+20: Demanding Accountability

Barbara Sorensen Indigenous people will demand assurance that the Rio+20 summit addresses respect for their rights and unique perspectives.

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 • www. cs. org to anyiireader offended by the omission.

20 “We Belong to the Land”: Samburu People’s Legal Battle to Save Lands in Kenya

D e pa r t m e n t s 1 Executive Director’s Message 2 In the News 4 Climate Change Arctic Village, Alaska: On the Frontlines of Climate Change 6 Women the World Must Hear A Symbol of Dignity for Indigenous Women in Panama: Silvia Carrera 8 Rights in Action Human Rights Violations in Guatemala: Hearing Indigenous Voices 28 Bazaar Artist Weaving Futures by Hand: Felicia Huarsaya Villasante

Sabrina Sameshima and Matt J. Stannard A week spent in Kenya among the Samburu people reveals the dignity, hope, frustration, and pain that accompanies the fight for Indigenous rights.

24 Spirits of the Forest: Cambodia’s Kuy People Practice Spirit-based Conservation Neal Keating A political climate of force generates transnational wealth but disregards free, prior and informed consent of Cambodia’s Kuy people.

29 2012: Business as Usual Danielle DeLuca

On the cover Indigenous and campesino protesters march to Guatemala City, Guatemala demanding their rights, April 2012. James Rodriguez,

Executiv e Director’S message

Cultural Survival’s 40th Year


he title Cultural Survival: 40 Years of Advocacy from Brazil 1972 to Brazil 2012 symbolically marks four decades of Cultural Survival’s advocacy partnering with Indigenous Peoples in defending their land, languages, and cultures. Inspired by David and Pia MayburyLewis’ early work in Brazil with the Xavante people, our work has now come full circle with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil. Cultural Survival was founded to “bear witness to a genocidal threat, to make the world aware of this process of destruction, and to try to stop it.” Today, we align our mission with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and seek to support the implementation of the Declaration through our programmatic efforts. Our current work is reflected in the Guatemala Community Radio Program which strengthens Indigenous community radio programming and supports activism demanding legislation to legalize community radio. Community radio serves as an important mechanism for asserting Indigenous rights, as Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala continue to fight against forced relocation, militarized communities, abuses of transnational companies, discrimination, and marginalization. Our Global Response Program campaigns with the Samburu and the Kuy people bring international attention to the human rights abuses and lands rights violations in Kenya and Cambodia. US observers attending recent legal proceedings in the Samburu case report ongoing violence against rural Samburu villages. We continue to support the Samburu in their resilience, courage, and actions to resist relocation and fight for their land. The Kuy people also struggle against land loss and relocation as their traditional lands are being remapped as the Cambodian

government concedes to a transnational corporation. Neal Keating in his article states (p. 24), “such encounters are devoid of anything resembling free, prior and informed consent, are commonplace throughout Cambodia.” Cultural Survival advocates strongly for the rights of free, prior and informed consent to be honored and exercised. Forty years after Cultural Survival began its work in Brazil, we celebrate with the Xavante who after decades of struggle are gaining the recognition and return of their land by the Brazilian government. As Indigenous Peoples, we return to Brazil to attend the Rio+20 conference with new voices. Our voices proclaim our struggles and environmental and climate concerns through the discourse and framework of “rights” represented in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our voices articulate the same issues that were occurring 40 and 20 years ago of environmental destruction, ecosystem loss, land loss, sacred sites loss, cultural and language loss in the face of development and globalization. We hope that the discourse of “green economies and sustainable development” truly recognizes Indigenous voices and participation in shaping state policies that assure Indigenous Peoples’ survival and self-determination. Cultural Survival’s work is not done. Looking forward, our vision is to live in a world in which Indigenous Peoples speak their languages, live on their land, control their resources, maintain thriving cultures, and participate in broader society on equal footing with other peoples. We count on your generous support to realize that vision.

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

Program Advisors Ava Berinstein jessie little doe (Wampanoag) Theodore Macdonald, Jr.

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Don Butler, Matthew Chuckran, Ana Lucía Fariña, Daniel Horgan, Erica Jaffe Redner, Curtis Kline, Danielle Kost, Natalie Magnatta, Elizabeth Rani Segran, Isidoro Rodriguez, Hope Ross, Maggie Tallmadge

There are so many ways to

Stay connected

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

W h at o u r s u p p o r t e r s a r e s ay i n g :

“Cultural Survival brings insight and social justice together beautifully. By supporting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Survival is not only doing the right thing, but supporting the survival of all people. Humanity

needs the wisdom of our diverse cultures in order to survive and thrive.” —Jeanne Grossetti Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 1

i n t he new s Cultures and the Consortium for Understanding the American Experience. The conference will bring together radio producers from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala to share resources and knowledge from expe- riences in their communities. Professionals in the media will also bring their expertise to the discussion. Through speakers, workshops and conversations, radio producers will be able to develop new materials for their community radio programming. For more information visit

Three Small Steps: Progress in the Community Radio Law in Guatemala

Summer 2012 Cultural Survival Bazaars May 26–28, Amherst Common, Amherst, MA; June 2, Copley Square, Boston, MA; July 14–15, 3852 Main Road, Tiverton, RI ; July 21–22, Peg Noonan Park, Falmouth, MA.

Don’t miss our cultural festivals that give Indigenous artists, their representatives, and fair trade companies from around the world the chance to sell their work directly to the American public. For more information visit

Cultural Survival Turns 40 Celebration October 20, 6–8pm, 2012, American Academy of Arts and Science, 136 Irving Street, Cambridge, MA

With your support of our mission, in 2012 Cultural Survival celebrates 40 years of partnering with Indigenous Peoples. These years of success would not be possible without members like

2 • www. cs. org

you. As we look forward to our next 40 years, it is essential that we continue to have your participation in our mission. Celebrate this milestone with us. For more information visit

Our Voices on the Air Conference July 31–August 2, Washington, D.C.

Cultural Survival is joining forces with the Recovering Voices Initiative at the Smithsonian Institution to facilitate endangered language revitalization by producing a conference on radio programming in Indigenous languages. “Our Voices on the Air: Reaching New Audiences Through Indigenous Radio” will involve three Smithsonian partners —the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.This project is supported with internal Smithsonian funds from the Consortium for World

Since the new government took office in February 2012, conflicts between the major political parties have paralyzed Guatemala’s Congress. Six pieces of legislation, backed by a broad coalition of Indigenous and small farmer’s organizations, remain pending from the pre- vious congress. These bills would protect sacred sites, promote community controlled rural development, and create broadcast licenses for community radio stations.    In April, frustrated by the lack of movement in the Congress, protesters marched over 100 miles to Guatemala City. The leaders of 11 different parties signed a diplomatically worded promise to make the bills a priority. On April 19, Cultural Survival staff in Guatemala joined other leaders in a meeting with President Perez Molina to follow up on the protesters demands.    Meanwhile, Cultural Survival, the Council of Guatemalan Maya Organizations, and the Association of Maya Lawyers of Guatemala prepared a petition to the Constitutional Court of Guatemala claiming that the current telecommunications law is unconstitutional because it fails to provide licenses to Indigenous community radio stations. On April 12, the court ruled against our petition. However, in the written decision, the Court implores the Congress to pass a law granting licenses for community radio stations.

Global Response

Campaign Updates PANAMA: REVOKE REPRESSIVE LAWS New Laws Protect Indigenous Lands Following a week of protests that cost the lives of two Ngöbe men in February, the Panama government negotiated a ground-breaking agreement with NgöbeBuglé leaders. As a result, in March, the National Assembly passed a new law that restricts mining and hydroelectric projects within Ngöbe territories. The law cancels all concessions for the exploitation of mineral resources on Ngöbe lands and requires that the government seek the Indigenous people’s approval for any new hydroelectric projects. The Ngöbe protests also brought about a second new law, signed by Panama’s president Ricardo Martinelli in April, which reestablishes the validity of Mineral Resource Mining Code. The Code says that no foreign governments, companies, or institutions may obtain, exercise, or profit from mining concessions. It also prohibits public officials and their relatives from profiting from mining concessions and establishes fines for those who acquire or transport illegally extracted materials. Both laws clearly establish the Ngöbe people’s right to self-determination within their territory.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: PROTECT MARINE LIFE AND INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS Government Orders Work Stoppage at Ramu Nickel Mine In a major turnaround for the opponents of the Chinese Ramu Nickel Mine, the Minister of Environment and Conservation ordered the company to

halt work while he undertakes further studies on the environmental impacts of their tailings pipeline. The pipeline extends from the mine site in the mountains of Madang province to the coast, a distance of 134 kilometers. Having traveled the length of the pipeline, the Minister observed that it had been built unlawfully close to the main Madang Lae highway and that spills from the pipeline already have caused temporary road closures. Critics claim that the pipeline was poorly built and has required repair in several places. The Minister asked environmental groups to conduct an environmental audit of the pipeline.    Cultural Survival’s campaign partners in Papua New Guinea, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent Ramu Nickel from dumping its mine tailings into the sea, are celebrating this news. Scientists and activists who oppose the Ramu project because of its environmental hazards are organizing to provide further information to the Minister.  ETHIOPIA: STOP LAND GRABBING Violence Surges in Gambella Anuak refugees from Ethiopia report that national military and police forces are mobilizing in the Gambella region, and violent incidents are on the rise. The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia reported that security forces are attempting “to exert increasing federal control of the region, leading to new clampdowns against civilians. Many believe that these actions are meant to suppress the deepening Indigenous people’s protest over the increasing land grabs.” In April, security forces gunned down an Anuak student and an elder in different incidents, apparently without provocation.

More atrocities were reported in the communities of Angela, Okuna, and Dumbang, where villagers say police beat hundreds of Anuak people in order to force them to leave their land. Please join our letter-writing campaign to halt these land grabs and the forced relocation of Anuak and other Indigenous Peoples in Gambella. CAMBODIA: SAVE PREY LANG (“OUR FOREST”) Government Grants More Land Concessions, Harasses Protesters The Cambodian government granted four more land concessions in the core area of the Prey Lang forest, inciting forest activists to commit further acts of civil disobedience. If the new concessions go ahead, it could mean “game over” for this unique forest, say Kuy community members who are struggling hard to protect Prey Lang. Hundreds of villagers from four provinces surrounding Prey Lang—Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear—are conducting patrols through the forest on foot and on motorbikes, watching for evidence of illegal logging. Dressed as “avatars” inspired by the blockbuster movie, they burn cut wood when they find it in the forest so that the illegal loggers cannot make a profit from its sale.

Learn more and take action on Global Response campaigns at take-action. Sign up for our e-newsletter and read more news at

Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly March June 2012 • 3

c l i mat e ch a n g e

Sarah James

Arctic Village, Alaska

On the Frontlines of Climate Change Matt Gilbert


rctic Village is one of the most remote Native villages in Alaska; far away from the noise and turmoil of mainstream society, the only large chaos it consistently registers is climate change. This past summer, Arctic Village saw rapidly shifting weather and its strongest storms. Gideon James is a Gwich’in Elder in Arctic Village who is seeing shifts in fish migration. “I really think the fish are moving South toward the Yukon. Global warming is here. Scientifically, we can’t solve it, but as human beings, we can slow it down by driving less. [Cars cause] carbon dioxide (CO2).” Gideon says a solution to the creation of CO2 is to plant more trees. Trees purify and filter the air. They also “store” carbon dioxide as wood so that CO2 cannot become an available greenhouse gas. Gideon also mentions the heat waves that have characterized recent summers in the United States. The increased heat has created conditions perfect for uncontrollable wildfires. “There is bad weather and every year it’s getting worse and worse. Thirty years ago the permafrost was solid underground, so the land was flat. Now there’s dents everywhere.” Asked what people can do about the increasing climate change, he says we have to first target greed. “If we don’t identify greed, 4 • www. cs. org

we will destroy the earth. The greedy take and take. Get greed under control!” Sarah James is Gideon’s sister and another Elder in Arctic Village. She is said to be the most famous Gwich’in advocate in the world. She speaks of global warming internationally. “All summer, we weren’t getting summer weather. This is Juneau weather,” she says pointing to the rain clouds outside. Sarah says the constant rain makes the waters muddy upriver. “Too much erosion and permafrost melting is hard on the fish and lots of animals that find food on creeks, like ducks and birds.” Sarah’s solution is simple: “[The] solution starts in our living room. As soon as you get up to the time you go to sleep, you have to change the way you think and do things.” She says we have to accept a new way of life and not think of it as a chore. “It took 500 years to get ourselves into this mess, and it’s going to take another 500 years to undue it.” She says the Creator already figured everything out and that we need to pay attention! “Every animal in nature has a job and works like we do. If one is missing, it all shuts down.” She then re-emphasizes her solution. “It starts in your own house. I hardly throw anything away, I re-use, reduce, recycle, refuse, and use less,” she says, expounding on her lifestyle as a model. Another Gwich’in Elder, Allan Tritt, says the climate has become too chaotic for even an Elder like him. “You go out, it’s sunny, you go out later, it’s raining, and you go out again,

it’s windy. We can’t predict anything. You and I could wake up tomorrow and the land will be covered in snow and they’ll be caribou sitting in the field.” Allan says laughing. “I can’t say anything, because tomorrow I might be wrong.” Allan says he heard three Native Elders at the Alaska Federation of Natives this year say: “From this day on, we don’t know what’s going to happen.” Allan then went into ancient prophecies of Gwich’in Elders, when they foretold the time of change. When there would be “airplanes all over, lots of food, lots of light, and white men all over.” He then comments on how “too easy-going” it is today. Trimble Gilbert is the Traditional Chief of Arctic Village and the second Traditional Chief of the Athabascan People. I interview him in his two-story home overlooking most of the village. “More vegetation is growing because of lots of rain. The brush is hard for caribou.” He mentions that animals are disappearing: ducks, snipes, and pike. “Couple of years ago, we saw a polar bear; then another year we had problems with wolves killing our dogs. Things are changing so much.” This summer, Arctic Village’s East Fork River turned completely red for a few hours. It stunned the village and even made the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Trimble recounted, “The river turned red from the Red Rock. This has never happened before. The basin upriver was shaken by rain, hail, and thunder.” When I mention Allan Tritt’s statement about unpredictability, Trimble agrees. “Yeah, like Texas ran out of water and look what happened in Japan. We don’t know what’s going to happen.” He also agrees with Gideon about greed. “Rich people go anywhere they want and always roll over us Native People with money.” Trimble’s solution is that human beings need to consume less. “A plane from Fairbanks burns 50 gallons an hour, so that’s a 100 gallons roundtrip every day. We [Arctic Village Gwich’in] don’t burn that much. The city is different.” He remarks that urban America should learn to not waste so much energy and learn to conserve. His other idea for countering climate change is allowing Native Americans to own and manage land, as they did in ancient times. After hearing the amazingly wise and intelligent words of the Gwich’in Elders, I turned to the Gwich’in young voices. Kristen John is a 26-year-old single mother. “The bad weather has affected our hunting. We won’t go out as much as we used to.” She says the constant rain makes her lazy and moody. “It’s obvious the land is changing because of climate change.

The land is not going to be the same.” She continues, “I don’t have to go out into the woods, I can just ‘feel’ it. The rain hasn’t stopped.” Kristen says she sees the weather only getting worse. She also says she is raising her son to be as independent as possible. “I want him to live off the land and do things on his own.” Kate Hollandsworth is an 18-year-old Gwich’in high school senior in Arctic Village. She was disappointed about Arctic’s Gideon James rainiest summer, “It wasn’t a summer break for us [students], because we couldn’t go outside. Now, school is around the corner.” Kate and her friends were terrified by the unusually strong thunderstorms. “When it was happening, my cousin called crying: ‘Oh my God! What do I do?’ I told her, ‘Just get down!’” Kate laughs. Kate also says she may not even enjoy the state fair, because of the rain. “Rain is getting everyone sick. I drove down when it was sunny, the next minute it was raining, and the next day I had a cold because I didn’t bring rain gear, because it was sunny.” Trimble Gilbert Asked what her message was for the world and the United States, she says: “No one is going green, start recycling!” Clifford David is a 17-year-old Gwich’in high school junior in Arctic Village. The weather scared him so much he didn’t go outside most of the summer, and he says, “The bad weather in Arctic was rather strange, everyone was talking about it. Everything has changed. I just hope it doesn’t continue on this downward spiral.” Both the Gwich’in Elders and young people have the same message, the world needs to move towards sustainability and environmentally sound lifestyles before the weather gets worse. As Sarah James says, “The battle starts in our living room, by changing our lifestyles.”

— Matt Gilbert (Gwich’in) grew up in Arctic Village, Alaska and is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at

Angel Gilbert rides her bike in Arctic Village, Alaska during a rare break from the summer rains. Photo by Matt Gilbert

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 5

women th e wo r ld m u st hear

Silvia Carrera:

A Symbol of Dignity for Indigenous Women in Panama Silvia Carrera during a protest.

Photo by Martin Brusewitz

Isidoro Rodriguez and Barbara Sorensen


he Ngöbe-Buglé comarca (Indigenous administrative region), located in western Panama, is the largest of five Indigenous regions of this Central American country. It is home to great wealth, both in mineral (copper) and biotic resources; however, its Indigenous population lives in poverty and isolation in the absence of adequate state accountability, allowing for the highest infant mortality rate (55.4%) in the country. To tackle these percentages and advocate for the rights of her people, the Ngöbe-Buglé cacique general (chief) Silvia Carrera, has assumed an uncompromising role in negotiating with the Panamanian government. Originally from Cerro Pelado in the Ñürum district of the Ngöbe-Buglé comarca, Carrera is 42 years old, and has two sons. After announcing her candidacy for cacique, Carrera traveled around the mountainous region for months, making herself known and trusted in the widely dispersed Ngöbe communities. At a young age, she participated in their struggles, including those related to health care and education. On September 2011, she succeeded in becoming the first woman cacique of the Ngöbe. Her election as cacique was a milestone not only in the Ngöbe community, but in all of Latin America, where most political leader-

6 • www. cs. org

ship positions are held by men. Silvia Carrera’s life story is one filled with both struggle and inspiration. “I started working the land when I was 12 and my father taught me how to grow several varieties of crops. I planted manioc, yams, rice, beans, and corn to feed my children. These skills have been passed down from generation to generation. The Ngöbe-Buglé people have always lived off the land and this land gives us the resources to raise our children,” says Carrera. At the age of 12, she also joined the movement led by Camilo Ortega, a recognized leader of the Ngöbe in the Veraguas Province in the years before the existence of the comarca, which fought for the Ngöbe-Buglé’s right to autonomy. At 13, she gave birth to her first child, Bernardo Jiménez Carrera, and at 18, she gave birth to Sixto Jiménez Carrera. A year later, she separated from her husband, violating patriarchal traditions. Due to lack of financial resources she could not access formal schooling. Despite these challenges, Silvia learned to read and write. On January 31, 2012, the Ngöbe began blocking the Pan-American Highway in an attempt to pressure the Panamanian government to prohibit copper mining and hydroelectric companies from entering the comarca. On February 5, police violence against thousands of Ngöbe protesters

resulted in two deaths and many injured, forcing the government finally to negotiate. On February 7, Minister of Government Jorge Ricardo Fábrega, representing Panama, signed the San Lorenzo Accord, while Silvia Carrera, representing many of her people, signed alongside the minister. The accord recognizes the right of the Ngöbe people to make their own decisions about mining and development projects within the comarca. As in most political situations, not all Ngöbe supported Carrera’s decision to sign the agreement with the government as some claimed the agreement only prohibits mining and not hydroelectric dams. From this tumultuous situation the figure of Silvia Carrera rose as a symbol of determination for the Ngöbe and all Panamanians. Carrera has awakened the admiration of most national and international observers. The media has portrayed her as an exceptional leader, making her the heroine for Panama’s people of humble origins. Many people are now asking her to run for public office in the Panamanian government. Throughout months of conversations with the Panamanian government, Carrera visited far-flung Ngöbe communities trying to facilitate unity and consensus for the needs of the entire Ngöbe population. At the same time, she communicated with mainstream Panamanian people, trying to bridge a nation of extreme contrasts. “We [Ngöbe] just want to reclaim our rights and justice. Most of all, we want to live in peace and tranquility.” Carrera explains her responsibilities as cacique general, “As cacique general I’m the main authority of the comarca. I constantly communicate with the regional congress, the regional caciques, and the public. At the same time, I have to be the bridge between the national government and the comarca.” Carrera claims she was elected in 2011 because she consulted her people first. “It should not be always about promising and promising. I have always been humble and I couldn’t promise what I would not accomplish. I was always truthful with the objectives I wanted to accomplish,” she says. Ngöbe people face many uphill battles, one of which is access to quality education. Carrera says, “Many people in the region have very limited access to basic educational facilities. Students have a hard time trying to reach the education centers, walking in harsh conditions through the jungle and mountains; a walk to school can take up to five hours.” Panama’s fast growing economy goes hand-in-hand with the need for more electric power. According to Carrera, the Ngöbe-Buglé comarca would not benefit from the construction of a hydroelectric dam. She says, “In regards to the hydroelectric project, what’s happening is that the government is being unjust to the Ngöbe-Buglés. The government has a significant interest in this project because it is going to obtain high profits from it while leaving nothing for us in the comarca.” Carrera is adamant when she talks about strategies for dealing with an inflexible government: “Stand up for what you believe. Just having that strong determination can make other people join you in your struggle. This belief has made other people around the world with similar ideals and opinions support us.” To support the Ngöbe people’s rights, Cultural Survival has been organizing international letter-writing campaigns.

Cultural Survival members have sent thousands of letters to President Martinelli, urging him to recognize the rights of the Ngöbe people. Carrera says that the letters are helping. When asked what she hopes to accomplish during her term as cacique general, Carrera says, “[In addition] to providing better education, access to healthcare is something that the community is lacking. Child mortality rates are extremely high and if someone is sick it takes four days by foot from some regions to reach the nearest healthcare facility. Also, those facilities are lacking resources. There is no medicine, not even the most basic painkillers.” Ngöbe women, in particular, face many challenges. Carrera admits, “Ngöbe culture is machista. There are still people in the community who think that women should not have the same rights as men. But women have special points of view and know what is happening with the children and within the household. Even if there is discrimination, women should be strong and know that things will be better. There are also many who think women should not hold public office. But even men are supporting me. Before, when men won, they forgot about the local population and started running around in new cars and chasing women. Now with women as leaders, they can focus on the comarca.” Carrera’s advice to young Indigenous women is at once a challenge to them, as well as a call to their better natures. “Many young women want to be out on the town and forget about the responsibilities and the community. I think that young Indigenous women should be responsible and honest.” Carrera has confidence that she will see these traits emerge as more women leaders step forward. — Isidoro Rodriguez is an intern at Cultural Survival.

To learn more about Cultural Survival’s efforts to support the Ngöbe people’s struggles against the Panamanian government visit:

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Planned gifts build the foundation of Cultural Survival and leave an important legacy for future generations. A gift from your estate, through estate planning vehicles such as wills, trusts, life insurance, and retirement assets, supports our mission while offering tax advantages to you. The Cultural Survival Legacy Society recognizes those members who have included Cultural Survival in their estate plans.

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Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 7

r i ght s i n a ct io n

Human Rights Violations in Hearing Indigenous Voices Danielle DeLuca (CS Staff)


n March 13, 2012, thousands of Indigenous people gathered in the chilly highland town of Totonicapan, Guatemala, milling into the town’s soccer stadium to await the arrival of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, during her official visit to the country. The day of the month marked Noj, is designated as a day of wisdom according to the Mayan calendar. Old American school buses repurposed as public transportation in Guatemala came barreling into the town earlier that morning, carrying passengers from all points in the country. Indigenous Peoples came from the desert of Chiquimula, the rainforest of Peten, the Cuchumatan mountains along the border of Mexico, the steamy Caribbean coast of Isabal, and the rolling hills of the Verapaces. In a country with roads that wrap around mountain after mountain, bus travel can take over four hours to cover a distance that is 30 miles as the crow flies. To arrive by the meeting’s start at nine in the morning, many had to madrugar, leaving their homes as early as the busses

Basilio Sebastian of Radio Snuq Jolom Konob, traveled to Totonicapan to live broadcast the meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to his community radio station in Santa Eulalia Huehuetenango. 8 • www. cs. org

Photo by Danielle DeLuca.

started running—two o’clock in the morning. The thousands of people who traveled long hours and the tangible urgency in their voices made two truths apparent that morning: the ubiquity of human rights violations occurring across Guatemala at this moment, and the Indigenous populations’ understanding and faith in human rights mechanisms as tools for righting the wrongs they are experiencing. Pillay was visiting Guatemala in preparation of Guatemala’s Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council through which member countries periodically review another country’s human rights performance. She was in Totonicapan to listen to the testimonies of Indigenous Peoples confronting human rights violations. Sitting among a panel of human rights officials, on a stage constructed for the occasion, a banner was cast below her stating, “Reconstructing a good life in the new Baqtun era—No more concessions or mega-projects.” During four hours of testimonies from traditional Indigenous authorities, leaders of community groups, non-profits, and traditional spiritual guides denounced the forced relocation from their traditional lands, the abuses of transnational companies, remilitarization of communities under the regime of the new President Otto Perez Molina, former general during Guatemala’s civil war, the growing criminalization of Indigenous activists fighting unauthorized development, and the exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination from the State of Guatemala to which they continue to be subjected. Each presenter had just five minutes at the microphone to convey in as concise a way as possible all the suffering to which their community has been subjected before the red light flashed indicating that their turn had ended. The common thread among each of these presentations was the recognition of the irony and injustice their communities face after documents like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 have been ratified by the State of Guatemala. “Despite these international mechanisms, the State continues to violate our human rights, and the discrimination and racism of the State is allowed to flourish within the dynamic of globalization and neo-liberalism,” stated one presenter at the introduction to his speech. A representative of the Achi community began his intervention: “There is a greeting in the Mayan language of Achi, that means ‘be happy of heart.’ Today, we are not happy in our hearts.” The month of March marked one years’ passing since the violent evictions took place in the Polochic Valley, Alta Verapaz in 2011, a central issue brought up during the High Commissioner’s visit. The conflict began when 732 Maya Q’eqchi’ families in 14 communities were evicted by the company Chabil Utzaj, an African palm and sugar plantation owned by Carlos Widmann, a member of one of the most

Guatemala economically powerful families in Guatemala. The company acquired the contested land through a loan to agro-business by the Central American Economic Integration Bank. Hundreds of police officers, soldiers, and private security carried out the evictions, using tear gas on the population while company tractors destroyed the communities’ crops. Since then, the small farmers have become landless laborers, living in temporary housing surrounded by sugar plantations while they can’t afford to buy the sugar produced there. One man in Paraná told reporters from Upside Down World, “We don’t want sugarcane here, we want corn, livestock, pigs, and things we can eat.” Their crops burned and land usurped, small farmers and their communities were promised emergency food and shelter after a rebuke by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ on June 20, 2011. But the government never provided the emergency food aid and shelter that they promised. Explaining away the problem, government officials were quoted saying that they “haven’t been able to identify the communities that were evicted.” This tactic of marginalizing Indigenous Peoples issues was described by Navi Pillay in an interview as treating the majority of the country’s population “as if they were invisible.” This unofficial policy of a “narrative of disappearance” began during the civil war, and has continued through each administration: disappearing of victims’ bodies, disappearing human rights violations, and dismissing an entire population’s concerns and demands. Another issue repeated again and again among Indigenous activists that morning was the relentless strategy by the government to criminalize grassroots organizing among activists vocal against transnational companies and the interests of big business. A woman from the Ixil region of Quiche declared, “We want to announce that we are not criminals nor terrorists for defending our land. Guatemala has converted to a state of repression, with impunity for the rich and a racist justice system. They accuse us of bioterrorism, opposition to development, and homicide.” The office of the UN High Commissioner of Guatemala stated in their last report that they have observed that authorities tend to discredit human rights defenders and criminalize their activities. In March, defenders of Indigenous rights who participated in a public rally related to the Technological Corridor project in Chiquimula were convicted of activities against national security and given a five-year imprisonment sentence, commuted to a prohibition to participate or promote illegal public demonstrations. In San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, eight women who were protesting the Marlin Gold Mine were given orders for capture by local police. For the community radio movement in Guatemala, of which Cultural Survival’s Guatemala Radio Project forms a part, this tactic of criminalization has been blatant and public. A series of radio campaigns broadcast by the Commercial

Mayan traditional authorities hand UN Commissioner Navi Pillay (left) their list of human rights violations. Photo by Lisa Maya Knauer.

Delegates Lorenzo Mateo (left), Nicolasa Pablo Ixil (center), and Julian Velazquez (right) hold signs representing their community radio stations. Photo by Lisa Maya Knauer.

Volunteers of community radio station Doble Via hold a sign of the community radio association, “Mujb’ab’l Yol.” Photo by Lisa Maya Knauer.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 9

r i ght s i n a ct io n Radio Trade Association call community radio leaders criminals and thieves, for broadcasting on frequencies for which they don’t have a license. For urban populations that are uninformed about the real work that community radio does, the campaigns have swung public opinion against them. What the campaign doesn’t mention is that Indigenous Peoples’ access to media, and specifically radio, was guaranteed in the 1996 Peace Accords, and reinforced in international human rights documents. One member of the movement, Santiago Ajcalon, founder of Radio Juventud in the village of Xajachac, Solola, explained, “According to authorities, we are a ‘pirate radio.’ But the people are aware of the radio, the entire community gives us their support. We are not pirates.” Community radio stations operate in a constant state of fear of arrest by national police, who raid stations and charge

Peoples who make up the majority of the country, and facilitated the criminalization of anti-mining activists as terrorists. Navi Pillay responded to the interventions at the close of the ceremony: “The promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples is a key priority of mine. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples remains a vital part of my work. This document, which Guatemala signed in 2007, underlines the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their culture, to particular forms of social organization, and to their territory. I lament the projects that have damaged the earth, culture, and communities.” Later, reflecting on the experience, she commented, “I was struck by the unanimous voices describing exclusion in all spheres, including access to basic services, land ownership, access to justice, participation in public decision-making processes and bodies.” She noted that the critical problems currently facing Guatemala stem from the fact that 15 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, its contents have not been enacted and the structural problems the Accords aimed to fix have not been resolved. She emphasized that the Accords are still valid and necessary in order for the country to find peace. In a meeting with Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina, who was present at the signing of the Accords, Molina “reaffirmed his commitment to implement the Accords” to Pillay. Pillay emphasized that unity among Indigenous Peoples is crucial to success in the implementation their rights. “I am pleased to find that the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala are capable of speaking for themselves, and denouncing the problems they face,” she told the Guatemalan newspaper, El Periodico, in an interview.    That was March 13, five days before thousands of Indigenous Peoples, many of the same who were present that afternoon in Totonicapan, set off from Protesters demand their rights, elimination of agrarian debt, termination of forced the city of Coban Alta Verapaz, to march 215 kilorelocations, end to persecution and criminalization of activists, cancellation of the meters to the capital of Guatemala City. The march concessions for mining and hydroelectric projects, and approval of Bill 4087, the Law was organized by an activist group, Comite de Unidad Campesino (CUC), who sent a call to action to for Community Media, that would legalize community radio. James Rodriguez, Indigenous and campesinos (small farmers) across Guatemala to join the nine-day march, with the goal of bringleaders with the crimes of robbery, incitement to violence, ing their causes to the attention of Guatemala’s congress, new and obstruction of justice. “We don’t want to operate outside president, and the media. The march also highlighted the of the law, but the current rules leave us no choice. We have anniversary of the forced relocations in the Polochic valley, a right to community radio,” said the president of another destruction of the environment by transnational companies, station in San Juan Comalapa, the day after it had been raided and agrarian reform. by police. Cultural Survival staff Rosendo Pablo Ramirez, a Through the CUC, Indigenous groups and campesinos Mam Maya of Todos Santos Cuchumatan, presented an inhave coalesced many of their efforts into one, unified demand. tervention on behalf of the Movement of Community Radio Currently eight bills pertaining to agrarian and Indigenous Stations in Guatemala, urging an end to the criminalization issues remain in congress waiting for a date to be scheduled of community radio and subsequent approval of Bill 4087 for debate in plenary session; some have been waiting over for Community Media that would legalize community radio. 12 years. Each bill gets pushed to the back of the agenda while He addressed Navi Pillay: “The Peace Accords of 1996 declare organizations spend hard-earned resources trying to compete that the current telecommunications law be revised to rediswith the influence of powerful families, transnational extractribute radio frequencies for the benefits of Indigenous Peoples. tive industries, and mass media conglomerates who buy votes. The response of the ruling class has been to raid community Alberto “Tino” Recinos, director of community participation radio stations and persecute their leaders, due to pressure in the Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Project, believes from the Commercial Radio Trade Association.” that this unity among Indigenous and campesino groups has For Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala, commercial media given the community radio movement much needed strength has failed its mandate to inform and stimulate dialogue with and backing. “We see that the actions that civic and grassroots unbiased news. Mass media has systemically avoided topics organizations are taking as a group are getting results,” he said. that speak to the needs, interests, and rights of Indigenous 10 • ww w. cs. org

Thousands of Indigenous people and campesinos in Guatemala participated in a nine-day protest march to the capital city, covering over 214 kilometers. James Rodriguez,

Arriving on Tuesday, March 27 to the main plaza in the colonial center of Guatemala City, thousands of Indigenous and campesinos protested with banners and megaphones, broadcasting their message to the nearby presidential palace and congress. By the afternoon, leaders had managed to gain meetings with all three branches of the state: the judicial, legislative, and executive. After 10 hours of dialogue with President Otto Perez Molina, an agreement was finally established to resolve the demands of the marchers in the early hours of the morning. Daniel Pascual, leader of the CUC, commented that they were happy with the dialogue and remain resolved to hold the president to his promises. The 23 Indigenous groups in Guatemala have different traditions, different languages, and different cultures. Grouping them under one umbrella group does not necessarily mean agreements will come easily. The Xinca and Garifuna peoples in Guatemala do not even share a common ancestry with the Maya. Despite this, Indigenous groups in Guatemala have found a common ground. Two years ago, in conversation with an organizer of the Indigenous women’s organization, Miriam Pixtun, a Kaqchikel Mayan woman from San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, I was told she believed in coming years, mining was the issue that would bring different Indigenous Peoples together, within Guatemala and internationally. As Miriam suggested, these different communities have found that they are all facing repetitions of the same scenarios. The same strategies have occurred since times of colonization: abuse of Indigenous lands at the hands of outsiders who want to profit. “Neo-liberal mega-projects bring continuity to the genocide against Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala,” exclaimed Juana Sales, former leader of CNAP, the National

Commission on the Peace Accords, in her minutes at the microphone addressing Navi Pillay. Indigenous people of Guatemala and the different groups fighting to give a voice to their problems make up a majority of the population. Perhaps, as Navi Pillay suggested, unity among Indigenous groups in Guatemala, may be the best strategy to combat the ruling classes’ narrative of disappearance.

To learn more about Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Program visit:

Support Cultural Survival Today! For 40 years Cultural Survival has worked with Indigenous Peoples all over the world from 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

June 2012 • 11

The Significance of 2012 2012 is a significant year for the world’s Indigenous Peoples. � It marks the start of a new cycle in the Mayan calendar, Oxlajuj B’aqtun. � It marks the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, Australia. � It is also the 40th anniversary of Cultural Survival! Agnes Portalewska (CS Staff)

O “

n March 2, 1972, my husband David Maybury-Lewis [1929–2007], Evon Z. Vogt Jr., Orlando Patterson [all social scientists at Harvard], and I opened the first Cultural Survival office,” recalls Pia MayburyLewis. “My husband was president and I did most of the dirty work! We were located on the fifth floor of Harvard’s Peabody Museum, and we had no heat, two chairs, and a phone. ” 

 The impulse for the founding of Cultural Survival arose during the 1960s with the opening up of various remote regions in the world, including the Amazonian rainforests of South America. Governments all over the world sought to extract resources from areas that had never before been developed. The drastic impact this had on Indigenous Peoples underscored the urgent need to partner with Indigenous communities to defend their human rights, autonomy, resources, and cultural survival. Cultural Survival was founded to facilitate this process of partnership.  
   “Raising funds to work with Indigenous Peoples in the 1950s was not easy, there was no money like there is today for such things,” Pia recollects. “David and I had to work for almost two years as English teachers in the city of São Paulo in order to earn enough to conduct our initial field work. We first lived among the Xerente of Goiás, in northern central Brazil, for about 18 months in the mid1950s, where David began his anthropological studies. After the Xerente, we were the first outsiders to live with the Xavante in Mato Grosso, also in Central Brazil. David hunted with Xavante men while I gathered fruits and roots with the women, with my baby, Biorn, strapped to my hip.  We lived with them, almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, for eight months.”   “[The idea of Cultural Survival] was to start an organization to give something back to Indigenous Peoples. We felt we should support them in the face of [unwanted] development. The most important thing for Indigenous people in general was to secure titles to their land,” continues Pia. In the 1970s, to call attention to the social costs of development and the price of progress on remote Indigenous communities, David wrote widely distributed articles in Harvard Magazine (HM), an op-ed piece in the New York Times, among other publications. In HM he wrote, “There is no natural or historical law [saying that Indigenous Peoples must inevitably be overrun], there are only political choices.” David argued for cultural pluralism and the rights of [Indigenous Peoples] to their own unique ways of living. He wrote: “I consider the effort to protect the cultural integrity of [Indigenous Peoples] an issue of [great] importance…. What we are really talking about is the ability of human beings to discover ways to live together in plural societies. It seems to me that this is the critical issue of our times.” This became the underlying cause of Cultural Survival.     Later, in 1995, David Maybury-Lewis wrote, “We founded Cultural Survival to bear witness to [a] genocidal threat, to make the world Harvard anthropologist, David Maybury-Lewis, in the Amazon and conducting interviews with Xavante communities in Brazil. All photos courtesy of Pia Maybury-Lewis.

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for Cultural Survival
 Cultural Survival co-founder, Pia MayburyLewis, with Xavante families during her first visit to the region of Mato Grosso, Brazil in 1958.

aware of this process of destruction, and to try to stop it. In order to do this we . . . were involved from the beginning in a process of argumentation. We had to counter the plausible falsehoods of the conventional wisdom, which are used in the modern world to rationalize the destruction of marginal societies. According to these stereotypes, it is perhaps regrettable, but ultimately inevitable that Indigenous Peoples should be wiped out. This . . . is the price of progress…. So Cultural Survival found itself, from the beginning, doing research on alternative development, on Indigenous rights and how to protect them, and on the prospects for multiethnic societies. We sought to demonstrate that Indigenous Peoples do not die off naturally in the course of modernization, but are killed off brutally by civilization. We set out to show that this was unnecessary as well as immoral and that there were viable alternative policies that would protect Indigenous rights…” Pia describes Cultural Survival’s first project: “[We were] trying to get money and supplies to the Yanomami people of Venezuela who were encountering a devastating measles epidemic [in the 1970s]. . . . Our first interns were students. In the early days we had many interns—as many as 30, sometimes. They were full of energy and suggestions, and were eager to hear, see, and learn how we could help Indigenous people in South America and other places. To help with our advocacy campaigns, they would do research and write letters.”
   Even in enlightened Cambridge, Massachusetts, finding adequate funding sources was never easy. Furthermore, attitudes toward Indigenous Peoples were appalling. Pia recalls trying to raise money at a dinner with wealthy friends and being asked questions that revealed stunning ignorance of Indigenous Peoples. One such question was, “Do they [Indigenous Peoples] have a language? Can they speak?” Pia laughs holding her forehead, “I don’t think she asked if they had tails, but I think she wanted to know!”
   In the 1970s, there were no fundraising gurus or directors of development to give advice on how to raise funds. Pia recalls, “We hadn’t the foggiest idea how to raise money. We would have a big dinner with lots of wealthy people, and they would all be thinking, ‘When are they going to ask us for money?’ Funny thing was, we didn’t know we had to ask! We thought they would just give it to us [through their own inspiration].”

Ted MacDonald, Cultural Survival’s first project director, remembers the early work of the institution. “There were a whole series of changes in the human rights arena [from the 1970s to the 1980s]. [In the beginning] Cultural Survival had money for publications, research, exposure, and assistance, but everything was done unsystematically. We were trying to figure out what to do. The only thing we could do was give random assistance to communities. We relied on contacts in [specific] regions and would ask them to identify something that really needed support. In the 1980s, Indigenous groups organized much more effectively. So, Cultural Survival shifted its focus, around 1981 or 1982, away from supporting tiny activities toward programmatic support, to strengthen emerging Indigenous organizations [mainly in Central and South America]. Up to about 1985 or so, that was the work.”
   Since its inception, Cultural Survival has been at the forefront of the international Indigenous rights movement and has contributed to the empowerment of Indigenous people around the globe. In 1976, Cultural Survival launched a publication program consisting of the Cultural Survival Newsletter and a series of Special Reports which eventually became the prize winning Cultural Survival Quarterly. In 1979, Cultural Survival held its first annual Bazaar, thanks to an idea Pia and long-time Cultural Survival supporter, Chris Walter, had. “This opened up the idea of selling arts and crafts of Indigenous people and spearheaded the Fair Trade movement,” says Pia. “Through this, I wanted to put CS on the map, like the Red Sox [for Boston], but we didn’t want to lose, as the Sox always did in those days!”
   After 40 years of advocacy and work with Indigenous communities, Pia still feels that one of the most important goals of Cultural Survival’s partnerships with Indigenous Peoples is the securing of their land. “If you have land, you [have] everything,” she stresses. As an advocate for all Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Survival’s focus is unerringly sharp on perceiving land as an indispensable assurance of autonomy, empowerment, and ultimately, identity. “And given the importance of identity,” Pia adds, “the other critical issue is keeping Indigenous languages alive. Language survival is cultural survival.”

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 13

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

June 2012

Global Response

CampaignCameroon Alert “ If we give the land to the plantation, it will lead to a devastating effect on our land because the environmental implications are outstanding.” —Ngolo Chief

It takes little time to destroy the rainforest of Southwest Cameroon, estimated to be 60 million years old.


Stop Oil Palm Plantations from Destroying Africa’s Ancient Rainforests


n the southwest region of Cameroon, within a beautiful rainforest, several Indigenous communities are working hard to make their voices heard. Their struggle began in 2011 when the government of Cameroon granted a vast land concession to SG Sustainable Oils, a subsidiary of the New York-based Herakles Farms. What the government overlooked, was that this concession occurred on the homelands of the Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bayang peoples in the Ndian, Koupé-Manengouba, and Manyu divisions of Cameroon. Herakles Farms plans to clear and replace 300 square miles of virgin rainforest with monoculture trees to establish an oil palm plantation. This plantation will have major impacts on approximately 52,000 Indigenous peoples in 88 villages who are dependent on the forest for their livelihoods and way of life. The giant plantation will also fragment and isolate the region’s protected areas, including Korup National Park, Bakossi National Park, Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary, Nta Ali Forest Reserve, and Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve. Despite the domestic laws of Cameroon that were implemented to protect rainforests from massive land leases, Herakles Farms has moved forward with the removal of the rainforest and the expansion of their oil palm nursery.   The government’s concession to Herakles also affords the company power to arrest and detain anyone “trespassing” on their leased land. The power that the government has bestowed upon Herakles denies the Indigenous people of this region the right to free movement on ancestral lands as guaranteed to them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, and by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Cameroon is a signee.   The Indigenous Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bayang peoples are claiming their legal rights to free, prior and informed consent as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They ask for the voice of the international community to join theirs in urging decision-makers at Herakles to listen.

It’s time for the private sector to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to free, and informed consent. Let’s urge Herakles Farms to do this now!

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Oil palm seedlings will replace the ancient rainforest vegetation. Photo by Felix Horne

You Can Help! The Ndian Youth Economic and Cultural Organization asks world citizens to send polite letters to the leadership of Herakles Farms and All For Africa. In your letters, please: • Express concern that Herakles Farms is violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples by not consulting them and that the planned plantation will gravely impact local people’s rainforest-based livelihoods.

A Disregard for Indigenous Knowledge and Participation


or hundreds of years, the peoples of the rainforest in the southwest region of Cameroon, one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, have depended on the forest for their livelihoods. Now, with the threat of clear-cutting by Herakles Farms of their ancestral lands to make way for an oil palm plantation, they are being kept out of the decision-making process. This 300-square mile oil palm plantation requires the complete clearing of the rainforest, leading to the total destruction of the region’s natural ecosystem.   The Ndian Youth Economic and Cultural Organization (NYECO) and other local community organizations are alarmed by the refusal of Herakles to respect court decisions by the Lower and High Courts of the Ndian division in August of 2011 and again in February of 2012 that prohibited Herakles from further expansion in the area and ordered the company to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment process. Herakles has ignored this order, and continues clearing native forest and expanding their oil palm nurseries. “We feel that this project will cause irreparable damage to our social, cultural, and environmental welfare and well-being,” stated members of NYECO. In March 2012, a group of 11 scientists from leading academic and research institutions around the world issued an open letter in opposition to the proposed plantation. The letter expressed deep concern for the plantation, stating that the rainforest is an ecologically rich and diverse ecosystem and that it has been recognized as a global center of biodiversity by the World Wide Fund for Nature and Conservation International.   The oil palm plantations have been touted by Herakles’ own NGO, All for Africa, as part of a “Palm out of Poverty” program as being environmentally and socially sustainable. Many scientists, however, explained that palm oil “can only have a benefit in slowing climate change if they do not promote deforestation, especially in tropical regions where forests store large quantities of carbon.” But Herakles has located their concession in the midst of a biodiverse hotspot, on land that buffers and provides vital support functions to the surrounding national parks and protected areas. Scientists have urged the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a multi-stakeholder body that certifies the sustainable development of palm oil, to reject Herakles’ request for certification, as well as the government of Cameroon to prohibit further activity until pressing concerns are resolved.   Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed by Cameroon, 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.” Herakles Farms and the government of Cameroon are obligated to adhere to this, and begin a consultation process with the affected communities.   The Indigenous Peoples of the southwest region of Cameroon are not asking for a favor, but to be given a rightful seat at the decision-making table. They are claiming their rights as defined in law. As a global community with a stake in the preservation of biologically diverse rainforests and the defense of human rights, our actions can amplify the volume of the voices of the Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bayang people.

Cultural Survival

• Urge them to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to free, prior and informed consent in regards to any development project that may affect them, enshrined in international law, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. • Emphasize that the giant plantation will fragment protected areas, including Korup National Park and four others, threatening rainforest ecosystems, recognized as a global centers of biodiversity by the World Wide Fund for Nature and Conservation International. • Ask them to stop all work on the plantation and abide by the recent court decision in Cameroon to halt the project until Herkales Farms conducts proper impact assessments (including social and high conservation value forest assessments) in partnership with the Indigenous people in the area. Please send polite letters, faxes, or emails to: All For Africa c/o Diane Laylin MacDonald 277 Park Avenue, 40th floor New York, NY 10172 USA Tel: (212) 351-0055 Fax: (212) 351-0001 Herakles Farms c/o Bruce Wrobel, CEO 277 Park Avenue, 40th Floor New York, NY 10172 Phone: (212) 351-0176 Fax: (212) 351-0002 Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Unit A-33A-2, Menara UOA Bangsar No.5 Jalan Bangsar Utama 1 59000 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Phone: +603-2302 1500 Fax: +603 2201 4053 Tips: •  Postage within the U.S. is 45 cents. •  Postage from the U.S. to the Malaysia is $1.05. •  A model letter is available at •  Personal, mailed letters have the most impact! For more information, please see: and Thank you very much.

Global Response

CampaignCameroon Alert Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 15

New Wedezé Indigenous Reserve had already arrived and some had already put horses and cattle to pasture. And the Xavante elders never imagined why there was all this movement at Wedezé. They thought this was very strange.”

Milton identifies the locations of Xavante cemeteries during a meeting about reservation limits.


avid and Pia Maybury-Lewis developed the idea for Cultural Survival following their experience living among the Xavante Indians in Central Brazil during the late 1950s. David was conducting anthropological field research for his doctoral dissertation. They lived in a Xavante community in Mato Grosso state known to the Xavante as Wedezé (São Domingos) that had only recently established peaceful relations with the Brazilian government. David prepared for his fieldwork among the Xavante by first working among the Xerente, distant linguistic relatives to Xavante who reside in the east (now Tocantins state). He witnessed first-hand the devastation Xerente suffered from their encounters with the larger society and economic expansion into their territory. David and Pia recognized the need for advocacy to support Indigenous Peoples who, like the Xavante, face oppression, discrimination, loss of land and threats to culture as the dominant society and capitalist forces encroach upon them. In the 1970s, the Xavante were removed from where the lived at the time David did his fieldwork and relocated across the Rio das Mortes to allow private ranchers to develop the land. According to Tsuptó Buprewên Wa’iri Xavante, chief of Pimentel Barbosa village, the relocation from Wedezé was motivated by the presence of non-Indigenous people near the São Domingos post and, from the point of view of the Xavante, was never intended to be definitive. He explained,

“What I hear when the elders tell the story of Wedezé is that they did not know that the move across the river would be permanent. But, when the elders decided to move, it was because the whites at Wedezé were bothering them. . . . And later, when they moved to the current village Pimentel Barbosa, it was because they could no longer return. Why? Soon after they left Wedezé, the white ranchers

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After decades of struggle by the Xavante to regain legal rights to their ancestral territory and 12 years of evaluation by the Brazil’s Indian Agency (Fundação Nacional do Índio—FUNAI), on December 26, 2011 FUNAI officially delineated a 146,881 hectare parcel at Wedezé, thus taking the first step towards returning to the Xavante a portion of the land they occupied in the 1950s. The decision to recognize the new reserve was based on an assessment prepared for FUNAI by anthropologists Ricardo Ventura Santos, Carlos E. A. Coimbra, Jr., and James R. Welch from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, with the collaboration of Nancy M. Flowers from Hunter College, and a FUNAI team. The report demonstrated that the area has been continually occupied by the Xavante since the mid-1800s and contains important archaeological, historical, cultural, and environmental resources. As required by Brazilian law, members of each local Xavante community participated in all phases of fieldwork, providing essential information about their history at the site and its ecology. Brazilian law requires that the preparation of Indigenous land delimitation reports be done by anthropologists in collaboration with local Indigenous communities. The Xavante community participated in all phases of fieldwork, providing essential information about their history at the site and its ecology. The December demarcation began a 90-day contestation period, during which a recently formed association of the nonIndigenous land-owners at Wedezé successfully petitioned a district federal judge to impede the demarcation of Wedezé based on the argument that the 1988 Brazilian constitution disallows the expansion of Indigenous lands. The Xavante are outraged at this injunction and have called on FUNAI to challenge it in court. If upheld, final demarcation will be considered by the Justice Department and presentation to the nation’s president for homologation, the status which ratifies Indigenous Peoples’ usufructory rights.

Chief Tsuptó discusses proposed reservation boundaries.

Affirms Xavante Rights to Land in Brazil The Xavante people consider this a historic moment in their fight to regain control of their traditional territory and to recuperate the resources they need to sustain their growing population. Xavante oral history tells us that they settled at Wedezé after migrating from the east. According to historians, this occurred in the mid-1800s. As Xavante elders explain, they were a mobile people until they arrived at Wedezé and established their first permanent village, home to the entire Xavante population before it relocated on the other side of the Mortes River and subsequently dispersed. Research shows multiple village sites at the base of Wedezé Mountain and abundant ceramic scatters, marking the first moment the Xavante settled in their current territory. This is the first time that Xavante land near Wedezé, on the east side of this river, have been formally recognized by the Brazilian government. Situated in the interfluvial region between the Araguaia and Mortes Rivers, Wedezé is dominated by murundu grasslands, a distinctive ecological variation of the cerrado (savanna) biome. Highly threatened by agricultural activities, this vegetation type is noted for its biodiversity and fragility. For the Xavante, these grasslands are important hunting and trekking grounds. Wautõmõ’aba lived at Wedezé as a child and returned in 2009 as an elderly woman. She explained,

“Here at Wedezé, the Xavante used to go on long foot journeys in search of food, even crossing the Rio Cristalino. Our mother took us looking for wild foods near the mountain by the Rio Cristalino. We went there to dig wild yams, which she gathered and put in baskets for us to carry. Our mother made many long trips throughout this region.”

Local ranchers argue that the Xavante do not deserve more land because their traditional practice of hunting with fire causes deforestation. Analysis of satellite imagery from 1990 to 2005 conducted in collaboration with the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change, Indiana University, Bloomington, in fact, shows that Xavante management of the cerrado landscape was responsible for the recuperation of extensive forests that were cleared by ranchers in the 1970s. According to Xavante elders who contributed to the demarcation report, recognition of their heritage at Wedezé is not only a matter of ecological sustainability or historical antecedence, but also derives from their social and spiritual connection to the location. The previous villages and campsites at Wedezé, now evidenced only by scattered archaeological remains, are remembered as the places where elders and ancestors were raised by their parents, ritually initiated into adulthood, and ultimately buried. The murundu grasslands and the lagoons that border the rivers are also valued locations to obtain bird feathers required in ceremonies and, where, of special note, a sacred substance with the power to cure any illness, attract powerful spirits, reduce pain, and strengthen a person’s energy is found.

Map courtesy of Owners of the Water film, directed by L. Graham, D. Hernández Palmar, C. Waiassé, Documentary Educational Resources, 2009.

When the Maybury-Lewises visited Wedezé in 1958, the entire local Xavante population resided in a single village of 220 people. The population has grown and divided into 10 villages. Nine of these are located in the adjacent Pimentel Barbosa Indigenous Reserve, where the people were relocated in the early 1970s after their land at Wedezé was sold to private interests, and one is located in the Wedezé Indigenous Reserve. Growing at a rate of 5 percent per year, the population has been doubling every 14 years. The current population, derived predominantly from the original village, now numbers about 1,400 people. Xavante have continued to use Wedezé, despite its formal exclusion from their recognized lands, to sustain their people, to hunt, gather food, obtain items of ceremonial value, and visit the graves of their ancestors. In 2009, the first collective wedding hunt was held at Wedezé, marking the first time that ceremonial activities were resumed here after many years. This was a highly emotional event for Xavante elders, who remember participating in wedding hunts at Wedezé as youth, and for young people, some of whom had not previously visited this important place. Pia Maybury-Lewis expressed great joy when she heard the news that the Xavante could regain their rights this piece of land, a victory that both she and David had hoped would transpire for years. Although the enthusiasm of Xavante leaders was tempered by the recent legal injunction, they express resolve in their committed to appealing the decision and having their rights to Wedezé recognized. A summary of the demarcation report may be accessed at

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 17


Demanding Accountability Barbara Sorensen (CS Staff)


oinciding with Cultural Survival’s (CS) 40th anniversary is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) that will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 20–22, 2012. It is a follow up to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the “Rio Summit” or “Earth Summit.” The Earth Summit has influenced all subsequent UN conferences, which have examined the connection between human rights, development, and the need for environmentally sustainable development. For many environmentalists, the first Earth Summit was the beginning of a global environmental movement.

1992: The Beginning of a Global Environmental Movement

In 1992, some 172 governments and 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attended the Summit, with over 17,000 people at the parallel NGO event “Global Forum.” Maurice Strong, Conference Secretary-General, called the Summit a “historic moment for humanity.” The Summit was also an important development for Indigenous Peoples and their rights related to the environment. The Summit acknowledged that Indigenous Peoples have a critical role to play in managing the environment. The importance of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge was recognized, and the international community committed itself to promoting and protecting the rights, knowledge, and practices of Indigenous Peoples. The Summit adopted three major agreements aimed at changing the conventional approach to development: the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development—principles defining the rights and responsibilities of governments, Agenda 21—a blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide, and Forest Principles—principles for sustainable management of forests worldwide. In addition, two legally binding conventions intended to prevent climate change and the eradication of the diversity of biological species were opened for signature at the Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—which led to the Kyoto Protocol. The Convention on Biological Diversity is significant for 18 • ww w. cs. org

Indigenous Peoples, as they account for most of the world’s cultural diversity. Of the estimated 6,000 cultures in the world, between 4,000 and 5,000 are Indigenous. Around threequarters of the world’s 6,000 languages are spoken by Indigenous Peoples. In addition, many of the areas of highest biological diversity are inhabited by Indigenous Peoples. The 17 nations that are home to more than two-thirds of the Earth’s biological resources are also the traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples, exhibiting a high correlation between areas of biological diversity and areas of cultural diversity. The CBD is a legally binding international treaty that promotes international cooperation to sustainably manage and conserve the world’s biological resources. Its three primary objectives are to conserve biological diversity, promote the sustainable use of, and promote the fair and equitable sharing of biological resources. The CBD, in a number of provisions, recognizes the dependence of many Indigenous communities on biological resources and need to share the benefits that come from using traditional knowledge to conserve biological diversity. Governments that have adopted the CBD are obliged to amend or introduce domestic legislation and policies to ensure the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the conservation and sustainable use of their environment. The 1992 Earth Summit made the world aware that traditional lands and natural resources are essential to the economic and cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. Unfortunately, many of the agreements made in Rio have not been implemented and governments have fallen short of their goals. 2012: Assessing Implementation and Respecting Rights

Rio+20 is aimed at assessing the implementation of international commitments that came out of first Earth Summit in 1992. The catch-all theme for this summit will be the “Green Economy,” a term now used in various contexts ranging from energy and labor policies to investment decisions. To some, this is merely another way to rename market solutions in favor of the private sector, rather than a true commitment to the environment. Many have voiced concerns that Indigenous Peoples’ rights will be disregarded. Participants will propose reforms aimed at ensuring more holistic and rights-based actions on global environmental and development issues. Governments will discuss the meaning,

Small slash and burn gardens recycle forest nutrients and are not destructive to the Brazilian cerrado (savanna) unlike mass monocrop plantings that demand large amounts of chemicals. Photo by Guia D’Chapada (Flickr).

“Sustainable development is based on the principle that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.” —1992 Rio Earth Summit

definition, principles of the “Green Economy” and action needed to implement it for sustainable development. Yet, already, the “Zero draft,” a draft negotiating document, fails to clearly define binding targets and actions for governments and the private sector. Parallel to Rio+20, from June 16–19 2012, Indigenous Peoples will convene a Global Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Self-determined and Sustainable Development. In addition, the People's Summit for Social and Environmental Justice will take place on June 15–23, also in Rio. Both events are an important response by civil society to the failures foreseen in Rio+20. Two of the pressing issues that many perceive as UN deficits include the momentum to stop encroachment of extractive industries and the lack of a strong policy toward the implementation of Indigenous rights to free, prior and informed consent. Participants will share experiences of sustainable environmental conservation and natural resource management practices based on traditional knowledge. The connection between land rights and sustainable paradigms will be highlighted. Respect, protection, and fulfillment of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a central demand of Indigenous Peoples at Rio+20. In their participation and statements to the Zero Draft, a draft negotiating document, Indigenous representatives have demanded that UNDRIP must be “the” standard and framework for sustainable development, Indigenous Peoples’ cultures must be added to the three “pillars” of sustainable development, Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land must be respected, protected, and fulfilled, and Indigenous knowledge should be valued and included. Cultural Survival’s Executive Director, Suzanne Benally, will be one of thousands of Indigenous representatives who plan to assure any strategies implemented contain an Indigenous perspective and respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. According to Benally, “Everyday Indigenous people are losing food systems, economic livelihoods, social, cultural spiritual ways of life as a result of the loss of the ecosystems they depend on. We can’t ignore climate change and the consequences of rapidly disappearing ecosystems. Indigenous people living in close relationship to the land can no longer respond or adapt as they might have in the past.” Precisely because of their traditional knowledge and understanding of the interconnectedness of human beings to

place and land, Indigenous voices must be recognized and honored. “Our work and everyone’s work is to assure that the voices of Indigenous Peoples are heard and that their rights to their lands, languages, and cultures are at the center of the discussion and policy setting,” Benally emphasizes. To Indigenous Peoples there is urgent action needed to honor and implement human rights mechanisms such as UNDRIP. This is should be expected from all the delegates who will attend Rio+20. Anything less diminishes the sacredness that is inherent in Indigenous belief systems inextricably tied to the environment and fragile ecosystems. To Benally, every human on the planet has a responsibility. “The challenges Indigenous Peoples face are not insular,” she says. “What happens to us, happens to every human being.”

What our supporters are saying! “Supporting the work of Cultural Survival dovetails with my social justice vision where all people in the world have honor and have their rights respected. CS has a worldwide focus on Indigenous rights, sovereignty, and self-determination that arms my life purpose to serve the needs of all precious souls of our world. CS has been a vital component in building advocacy for me and for a world in need of more agency for the voices of those who are not forgotten and have endured continuity in a changing global community. My ability to serve in this organization has brought me a deeper sense of love for human rights.”

— Desmond T.W. Patterson, Boston, MA

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 19

“We Belong to the Land” Samburu People’s Legal Battle to Save Lands in Kenya In March, during their spring break, University of Wyoming law students Sabrina Sameshima and Matt J. Stannard traveled to Kenya to observe a court hearing involving Samburu people who had been forcibly evicted from their lands. Their group included former Cultural Survival intern Travis LaSalle, now a practicing lawyer, who contributed to Cultural Survival’s investigation

2010. The Samburu are taking on

Connection to the land is essential for the Samburu people’s ways of life.

some of Kenya’s most powerful

Photo by Paula Palmer.

of police attacks on Samburu communities during 2009 and

figures and institutions in their fight to be returned to their lands. LaSalle and the Center for International Human Rights Law and Advocacy at the University of Wyoming’s College of Law are offering pro bono legal research support to the Samburu’s legal team, and Cultural Survival is providing financial support through its Samburu Legal Fund.

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Sabrina Sameshima and Matt J. Stannard


he Loikop, or Samburu, of north-central Kenya are used to moving around. They have followed cyclical patterns of movement in consistent geographical areas for as long as they can remember. British colonial records and the Samburu’s own testimony suggest that, since at least the early twentieth century, one Samburu community has lived, and periodically moved around on, a piece of land known to them as Kisargei. Like many places in Kenya, the area is known by other names too: the colonial “Eland Downs” or, in reference to its chief landmark, “Kabarak Farm.” Kisargei is also the tributary of the Ewaso Nyiro river, a vital water source now lost to the community, the result of a campaign to evict the community since 2009— which escalated into violence in 2011. Unbeknownst to the Samburu, Former Kenyan President Daniel Moi obtained title to a large portion of this area during his presidency. In 2009, Moi sold the land to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). AWF maintains that they believed the land was free of human residents and clear of ownership dispute. Upon learning this was not the case, AWF gifted the land to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a Kenyan governmental entity that manages the country’s national parks. Since 2009, community members have reported violent evictions, the torching of their homes, assaults and theft of cattle by government police, and in November of 2011, the murder of a community elder. In late November 2011, unidentified assailants shot and killed two Kenyan policemen at their post near Kisargei. The police claimed the Samburu were responsible for the attack; community members denied this pointing out that the attackers’ methods suggested they were al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant organization based in southern

Under Kenyan law, if one occupies land openly, peacefully, and continually, for 12 years, one may claim title to the occupied land. The implications Somalia that has made several incursions into Kenya, attacking police posts. Nevertheless, hundreds of police stormed the Samburu community three days later, allegedly confiscating thousands of cows and goats, and harassing and beating residents. Fifty-six year-old tribal elder Mzee Lelekina was found dead soon afterward, his body riddled with bullet wounds. Samburu and Western observers believe the killing was re- taliatory; to date, no legal action has been taken concerning Lelekina’s murder. The hostile actions of the police occurred in violation of a court-issued injunction staying evictions and transfer of land until a court could hear the Samburu’s numerous objections to the sale and to the Kenyan government’s repressive actions. Violation of the injunction is now one of many arguments the Samburu and international human rights advocates are bringing before the High Court in Nyeri. The current phase of the legal action against Moi, AWF, and KWS concerns adverse possession. Under Kenyan law, if one occupies land openly, peacefully, and continually, for 12 years, one may claim title to the occupied land. The implications of such a ruling on Indigenous land claims in Kenya are significant, and the case has garnered attention in the Kenyan and international press. The trial also highlights the legal system as a meeting point for Indigenous society and the state. The week we spent in Kenya—including three days of trial in Nyeri—in March of 2012, revealed the frustration, pain, dignity and hope so frequently contained in Indigenous rights actions. The little court room in Nyeri became standing-room-only during the trial, with Samburu community members from Kisargei filling one whole side of the observer section and a considerable

of such a ruling on Indigenous land claims in Kenya are significant, and the case has garnered attention in the Kenyan and international press. number of seats on the other. Throughout the proceedings, reporters and other interested observers entered, listened for several minutes or an hour, then left to update others. Observers crowded the doorway in the back of the courtroom. Noise bled in from adjoining court rooms and from the street traffic outside. The serious atmosphere seemed to reflect Kenyan legal workers’ commitment to the nation’s new independent judiciary. A sign outside the courthouse described the mission of the judiciary: To provide an independent, accessible, responsive forum for the just resolution of disputes in order to preserve the rule of law and to protect all rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution of Kenya. Between sessions and during breaks, with the help of Jo Woodman from Survival International and translators from the community, we asked several community members about the events of the past two years— particularly the assaults this past November. For the community, November 2011 was traumatic and transformative, a culmination of two years of harassment and threats, and a final act of displacement from access to grazing land, water, and common space. Each community member we interviewed recounted these events with consistency and controlled anger.

Access to water has become increasingly difficult for many Samburu communities in north-central Kenya. Photo by Paula Palmer.

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June 2012 • 21

Nakuro, a wife and mother known for frequently speaking her mind in meetings with the plaintiffs’ legal team, recalled being told by a Samburu “community manager” (apparently working for the sellers of the land) that if they were willing to leave Kisargei, the community could relocate, and that a school, hospital and water supply would be waiting for them. The community initially agreed and, following a request by the “manager,” provided 18 names of community members to represent their interests. The bureaucrat came back again, telling the community that such representation was no longer possible, and that only two community members would be given delegate responsibilities. Sensing that the sellers wanted to silence them, the community members balked at the sudden change and refused to accept a deal for relocation.    “The problems started that day,” Nakuro said. Nakuro recalled that soldiers appeared among the dwellings soon after the community backed away from the deal. The soldiers informed the community members they were “on the president’s land” and had to vacate immediately. The legal action and injunction followed, then the violence began in earnest. Stone-faced, Nakuro reported the burnings and assaults that followed. In addition to the killing of Mzee Lelekina, two other Samburu elders, Mzee Lekitacharan and Mzee Lenchordo, were

Nakuro inside of the High Court room, Nyeri. Photo by Sabrina Sameshima.

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severely beaten and taken into custody without immediate medical treatment. Asked why the community, or individual members, would not relocate, Nakuro responded to the translator, who reported: “She grew up there. She was married there.” “Grew up where?” Jo asked, just to be clear. “Kisargei,” the woman unambiguously replied. Nakuro has six children. The youngest is 13 years old, suggesting that Nakauro’s own family has occupied the land longer than the requisite 12 years to claim adverse possession. Nakuro reports that other Samburu have been living on the land even longer. Asked what she would like to say to the defendants, and to the world, Nakuro’s gaze grew focused and her words crisp. Of Moi, she asked: “What has he ever done there [on the land]? And me? I have had all my children there.” To AWF, she asked: “What is my future? Where should I go? Tell me what to do or where to go next. Where should I go and settle?” Concerning the legal action, her translator said: “She doesn’t trust this particular case.” Nakuro’s skepticism seemed to be shared by many community members. During the trial in Nyeri, community members quietly filed in and out of the courtroom, sitting stoically throughout the proceedings, most of which were conducted in English, a language few traditional Samburu know. The appearance of three community members as witnesses, and the appointment of a Samburu translator, didn’t make the proceedings any more accessible to or inclusive of the members, many of whom are parties in the suit. The translator was ineffective and it was seldom clear whether we were hearing witnesses’ actual words or uncertain paraphrasing. Occasional shifts of questions and answers to Swahili, a language known by some but not all Samburu, offered little help. Important administrative and procedural business was still conducted in English, and few of the questions asked of the witnesses offered them genuine opportu- nities to tell their story. Other Samburu women we interviewed told similar stories and made similar heartfelt and angry demands on the AWF, KWS, and former President Moi. Esther, a dignified woman a few years older than Nakuro, told us that her children were all born, grown and married on the disputed land. Asked to describe a permanent landmark whose presence is the subject of much argument in the lawsuit, she, like so many others, described the farmhouse and the “shop” that reportedly served as a community gathering place and a clearinghouse for food and supplies. It was a “regular place,” where items were periodically stocked and sold. When the police evicted and harassed the Samburu, the shop owners were reportedly also chased away. Esther’s recollection of the November evictions was more explicit than Nakuro’s. She recalls a terrifying barrage of helicopters and trucks. “There were so many,” she says. People fled their homes, “running away into bushes” to escape police beatings. The conditions since the eviction disturb her as well. The community is scattered, staying wherever they can. “There is no water,” she remarked, a lament echoed by several of the scattered community members. To the government of Kenya, Esther asked: “What will happen to me?” And to the AWF she remarked that the land in question “comes from our grand, grand, grandparents. Now I am nothing,” she concluded. “I have nowhere to go.” If this Kenyan courthouse is a meeting point for traditional Samburu society and the Kenyan state, the people participating in, and observing the trial are sometimes intersections themselves. Angelina, a 20-year-old Samburu law student, was not born and does not live on Kisargei, but has cousins, aunts and uncles who do. Angelina explained that the Samburu travel with their livestock, but in a consistent fashion modeled after the animals’ grazing patterns.

Samburu community elders await to testify at a hearing at the High Court in Nyeri. Photo by Sabrina Sameshima.

Over time, with all decent land either purchased by private owners or annexed by the government, the Samburu way—cyclical movement with the cattle—may no longer be viable. Precluded from relocating but with nowhere to stay, Samburu culture, “a very rich culture,” she said, modestly, is under attack. Winning the land claim or other redress won’t solve everything, Angelina said, but it does mean that whatever adaptive measures this community takes, they’ll do so on their own terms. “Having the land is just a basic foundation for them,” she said. But like her traditional relatives, the law student is skeptical of the trial. “I have my doubts.” Peter Letotin Lemoosa, a lecturer in history and political science at Kenyatta University in Nairobi and a witness for the Samburu plaintiffs, was similarly optimistic about the Samburu being able to develop on their own terms, should they get to keep their land. Even more than Angelina, he inhabits two worlds; Peter’s family is part of a traditional Samburu community, while he extended his reach to the outside world to obtain his Ph.D. Now he inhabits two worlds and is unwilling to give up either. He is concerned that the Samburu who urbanize are often resentful and contemptuous of those who remain as pastoralists. But like Angelina, he is equally concerned that traditional Samburu children and young adults lack access to education. For him, the struggle is simultaneously about tradition and autonomy: understanding one’s history, possessing land as a community, and refusing to give up one culture in order to engage another. As we write this, the trial goes on, with continuances, more motions, and eventually further testimony. The community members will return to Nyeri when sessions start up again, their presence a reminder that Kenya is many different places and communities, and that law gives an imperfect, awkward accounting of Indigenous struggles for land. Meeting, assisting, and interviewing the Kisargei Samburu was a study of dignity in the face of overwhelming odds and daunting hardship. — Sabrina Sameshima and Matt J. Stannard are J.D. candidates and interns at the Center for International Human Rights Law and Advocacy, University of Wyoming College of Law. To learn more about Cultural Survival’s Samburu campaign visit :

Fruitful Partnerships At First Peoples Worldwide, an Indigenous-led organization based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, we believe that collaboration with other like-minded organizations is an essential part of enhancing our capacity to serve the interests of Indigenous communities. Like Cultural Survival, First Peoples is dedicated to helping Indigenous Peoples all over the world defend their rights, their land and their cultures. We provide small grants to Indigenous communities that are taking steps toward their own development, and Cultural Survival has become an invaluable new asset by bringing new funding opportunities to our attention.    Our collaboration with Cultural Survival began with a joint effort in support of the Samburu community in Kenya. Cultural Survival has been instrumental in providing exposure and advocacy to the Samburu, who have recently been the target of violence by state police in a government campaign to oust them from their cattle grazing territory. Earlier this year, the Samburu were poised to address the government and the media to demand justice for themselves, but needed immediate funding for human rights training and transportation.    Cultural Survival’s Global Response program connected the Samburu to First Peoples and provided a letter of endorsement, and we were able to make an emergency grant of $7,000 to help the Samburu mobilize to continue their fight to protect their lands. We seek to develop partnerships at every level, from local grassroots collaborations to international networking. Our hope is that, through connections like the one between Cultural Survival and First Peoples Worldwide, a powerful and efficient network of Indigenouscentered grassroots organizations can continue to take shape. Such partnerships will strengthen our support of Indigenous Peoples all over the globe, and we look forward to more collaboration in the future. We are grateful to Cultural Survival for their partnership and support of Indigenous Peoples all over the globe, and we look forward to more collaboration in the future. For more information, please visit our website — Neva Adamson, Managing Director, First Peoples Worldwide

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 23

The Kuy believe that Ah’ret (sprits) live in the trees. Making offerings in places where they dwell is required to maintain positive relations.

Spirits of the Forest

Cambodia’s Kuy People Practice Spirit-based Conservation Neal Keating


t was late in the Cambodian afternoon as my Kuy colleagues, Mr. Pak and Mr. Vansakd, and I followed Mr. Phon (a Kuy community leader and elder) down the narrow dirt road leading out of the Kuy village of Svay Damnak to go into the forest. Svay Damnak is located in southern Preah Vihear, on the outskirts of the Boeng Per Wildlife Reserve, a forested area that is part of the greater Prey Lang forest area. Along the way, Mr. Phon pointed out to us the ancient mango tree that symbolizes the ancient founding of the village in the days before Angkor Wat. At the foot of the tree we saw a small open hut that provided a shrine for one of the local Ah’ret (spirits). Nearby were srai fields where people were working to prepare the ground for transplanting the young rice shoots they had grown. As we stepped into the forest we felt instant relief from the hot sun. The large and diverse forest cover provided a lush umbrella under which the fragrant air of the many different plants around us circulated freely. As we proceeded deeper into the forest we eventually came to a cemetery (phno kmaucht), where the grave mounds of the dead were interspersed in the small distances between the trees. Mr. Phon explained that it was important to keep the dead far away from the village, and that they were happier to be in the forest. The forest also provides people with numerous medicine roots, bark, and other materials for living. We continued our walk from the forest through interspersed fields of mixed cultivation (voh srei dad dal), that included many tall dipterocarp trees from which people obtain useful resins (ut charl dtut). We visited the overgrown site of a looted Chenla temple, and crossed the old raised road that 24 • ww w. cs. org

runs in a straight line from Svay Damnak west to the old city of Angkor Wat, once the largest urban center in the world. We finally came to rest under a large dipterocarp tree growing on top of a small hill made out of tons of iron slag left behind by ancient Kuy shamans (chây) who long ago danced the solid ore into molten liquid for blacksmiths (val dtat) to render into tools for use and trade with the elites of Angkor Wat. As we walked back to the village through the forests and fields, Mr. Phon explained that all of this would be gone soon. Why? The government had just remapped most of their territory as an economic land concession, and leased it to a transnational corporation that aims to convert it into an industrial plantation of rubber, cashew and acacia trees. Most of the Boeng Per Reserve has recently met the same outcome: it is gone. Mr. Phon told us he recently had an opportunity to speak directly to the director of the company that plans to develop the new plantation on Kuy territory. He told us that he said “no” to the director, and that the Kuy people did not consent to this concession. The director’s reply was that the land currently being farmed by community members would not be taken, but that the rest would. The “rest” includes the large areas of diverse forests we had walked through. To help me understand this, Mr. Phon drew a picture for me. First, he drew a large rectangle and said, “This is our land.” Then he drew a very small circle in the middle of the rectangle and said, “This is what the company said we will be able to keep, to farm.” When I asked how one would get to the farming area, Mr. Phon explained the company’s plan by drawing a line from the edge of the rectangle to the circle and explained that the company proposed to provide a small road to the remaining farmland, but that he and the other Kuy people would have to pay an access toll. When the company

director explained this to Mr. Phon, Mr. Phon again disagreed, and that is where the “consultation” ended. Such encounters, devoid of anything resembling free, prior and informed consent, are commonplace throughout Cambodia. They are not just cultural norms; they are enabled by a political climate of force that generates transnational wealth. In talking with Mr. Ra, a young Kuy farmer, he clearly explained how this works. He said a company came and took his land, and he cannot complain about it because he fears he will get punished by the police or soldiers. In talking about this fear with Mr. Sochea, the leader of an important Indigenous organization, he said that yes, there is a general fear in the country that if you publicly complain about one thing (like having your land taken away), you risk causing even bigger problems for yourself (like getting arrested or worse).

Indigenous Peoples in Cambodia Today There are more than 20 different ethnic groups in Cambodia who self-identify not as Khmer, but as distinct Indigenous Peoples of the uplands and mountains, with different cultures, languages and histories than those of the lowland Khmer peoples. Historically, these peoples have been referred to by Khmers and others (e.g., French colonials, Chinese traders, etc.) as ethnic minorities, hill tribes, Khmer Loue, and more dehumanizing terms associated with wildness, primitivity, savagery, and so forth. Most of their traditional territories are today reconstituted as the provinces of Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri, Kratie, Steung Treng, Kampong Thom, and Preah Vihear. Because these people chose to live different lifestyles, they have been targets of discrimination through centuries of multiple colonialisms. But in 2012, the problems facing Indigenous Peoples in Cambodia are shared with millions of poor rural and urban Khmer people throughout the country, lowlands and uplands alike. They are basic economic, political and biological

problems of survival within an increasingly predatory and menacing state environment that is largely supported by the international system. What is going on now is perhaps the most devastating colonialism of them all: that of the market economy and “development.” In the name of free market development, the Cambodian government is rapidly and increasingly selling off the country’s lands and natural resources to the highest bidder, with little or no benefit to the people who already live there. This is what “land-grabbing” means in Cambodia. It is not uncommon for Westerners and some Cambo- dians to describe Cambodia as a place cursed by a recurring fate of human tragedy enabled by a Southeast Asian tradition of patron-client relations based on inequality, and structural proclivities for enacting disproportionate revenge on perceived enemies. While there is certainly truth in these explanations, they overlook the modern role played by the international system in promulgating relations of inequality within Cambodia, a role in dire need of critical self-reflection. Other sorts of relationships have an equally long tradition in the uplands, such as mutual aid and collective autonomy, but these are not favored by the international system.

Kuy Theories of Environment Although there is variation in Kuy perceptions of their environment, there are some strong recurring patterns of spiritual geography. Primary among these are beliefs in a variety of local spirits that reside in the forests, mountains and near the villages. These spirits have different names, such as Ah’ret, Neak Ta, or Phi. In most of the conversations I had with Kuy people, the most commonly given name was Ah’ret. For most Kuy peoples, the existence of these spirits is fully compatible with the practice of Buddhist or Brahmanic religion. Mrs. Meas, an elder Kuy woman, explained Ah’ret to me as ancestor ghost spirits that will help the people, but they require

Neal Keating with Kuy colleagues.

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June 2012 • 25

Discussing Kuy ceremonies, history and music, lands and the future.

people to regularly maintain positive communications with them and carry out ceremonies at particular places where they dwell. She said there are four such places at Svay Damnak. As I learned, the flip-side of this understanding is that if the Ah’ret become angry, they cause illness and death. The Ah’ret are also dangerous; they get upset when people behave badly. Mrs. Meas said that the land-grabbing is angering the Ah’ret. The Ah’ret are key to understanding Kuy culture and the relationships between people and land. Mr. Lot, another Kuy elder, recounted the origin story of Svay Damnak as a royal Cambodian village founded by a king from Bau Khan temple

(midway on the road between the village and Angkor Wat), who visited the area and camped under a big mango tree before going to build Angkor Wat. Mr. Lot took us to the same tree that Mr. Phon had shown us, and explained that an Ah’ret lives in that tree; and that the shrine next to the tree houses is the ceremonial stone that is the means by which the people communicate with the Ah’ret. His explanation suggested to me that the shrine is analogous to a cosmic phone booth: when it is time for communication the spirit comes to indwell in the stone as the people draw near the shrine in ceremony, bathe the stone, and offer it tobacco,

Kuy theories of environment and development suggest a religiously embedded ecology that has sustained a robust biodiversity and viable habitat over long periods of time. In varying extents, their theories are engaged by other Indigenous Peoples throughout the uplands of Southeast Asia, who have been noted for their state-evasive, anarchic proclivities. There is much the Kuy can teach the rest of the world.

26 26 • • ww www. w. cs. org

food, juice, and incense. Traditional musicians may provide music to please the Ah’ret (playng ahrahtnay), using flutes, drums, and other instruments. Mr. Nom, one of the local musicians said that the traditional music can only be played for the Ah’ret and is not meant to be performed otherwise. Through ceremony, the stone becomes a kind of send-andreceive device for messages and expressions between people and Ah’ret. Many women and men in the Kuy villages I visited affirmed the importance of maintaining good relations with the Ah’ret in order to ensure good health and well-being. For example, when illness strikes, Kuy people ask these spirits for their assistance in curing, and go into the forest to procure the necessary materials that are then variously combined to make medicines, that with the help of the Ah’ret remove the malady. The Ah’ret are consulted on many other occasions such as when people prepare fields for planting, need resources from the forest, or want to get married. The need for timber for building houses is particularly sensitive, given that trees are thought to be where Ah’ret normally dwell. Many people told me of the need to carry out ceremonies and appease the Ah’ret before cutting down any trees. Failure to do so can result in serious illness (banja arall).

Kuy Theories of Development In many different ways almost all of the Kuy people I spoke with told me that land equals life, and the land includes slowly shifting zones of spirit forests and cultivation fields. If development is change, the change most of the Kuy people I spoke with wanted was to be able to eventually give their children ownership of their lands. An elder and traditional healer, Mr. Ki said that access to traditional lands, territories and resources is important to him because they are for his children’s future living, and that he is unhappy when foreigners come in and take over their lands. What the Kuy and other Indigenous Peoples would like to change in the present day is the power and impunity of the neoliberal Khmer Riche elites so that they cannot simply sell Kuy lands to a corporation who will then foreclose on traditional Kuy practices of land tenure. This runs almost entirely in opposition to the program of change envisioned by the dominant international model of development to which the Khmer Riche is a party. In effect, Kuy development means stopping this other development. Kuy peoples do not seem

interested in developing their economy into something else, but rather stabilizing and ensuring the economy they already have, which follows a complex annual cycle of planting, transplanting, harvesting, and regeneration, and in which local spirits play a critical role. It is not that Kuy people do not want change; they do—they want the political structure to change, so that they have a better chance of surviving, and are able to freely move about their ancestral homeland fields and forests. More than anything else, the Kuy fathers and mothers I spoke to said they wanted to be able to leave their land to their children, to work it much the same way they have. And many of their children expressed assent to the same. The development they seek is that of human dignity. Kuy theories of environment and development suggest a religiously embedded ecology that has sustained a robust biodiversity and viable habitat over long periods of time. In varying extents, their theories are engaged by other Indigenous Peoples throughout the uplands of Southeast Asia, who have been noted for their state-evasive, anarchic proclivities. It is a human adaptation that has until recently proven to be relatively successful as an alternative response to the multiple lowland state formations that have developed over the last 1,000 years. There is much the Kuy can teach the rest of the world. Kuy peoples have survived centuries of regional depredations of slave-raids, followed by French colonialism, post- colonial civil war, US carpet-bombing, Khmer Rouge genocide, Vietnamese occupation, and now global neoliberal development. Given their relatively small numbers, they will not survive this latest threat without joining forces with other Indigenous Peoples, alongside and with impoverished Khmer peoples living alongside them in the lowlands and the cities, to generate a peoples’ movement for Springtime in Cambodia. It remains to see who will join them. — Neal Keating is Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology at College at Brockport, SUNY in New York. All photos by neal keating. Rovieng District 2o10.

Ta k e Ac t i o n ! You can join the Kuy people and Cultural Survival in our campaign to save the Prey Lang forest. Please see our action alert and more information at Write a letter to Cambodia’s prime minister today!

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2012 • 27

B a za a r Ar tis t: Felicia H uarsa y a V ilasante

Weaving Futures by Hand Hope Ross


ymara weaver Felicia Huarsaya Villasante comes from a small community in the Peruvian province of Azangaro about 15,815 feet above sea level near Lake Titicaca. In the 4,450 acre community, residents make their living in myriad ways. Community members raise livestock such as llamas, alpacas, cows and sheep. People in the area cultivate barley, wheat, lima beans, and multiple types of quinoa. A variety of tubers also make up the region’s staple crops, such as potatoes, olluco, and mashua. Felicia’s community is known for creating handmade crafts. Felicia states, “We are selling our products, different artwork that we—the Indigenous women of Peru—know how to weave by hand.” The female farmers in the area sell weavings as part of a collective. They use only high quality alpaca fibers and sheep’s wool. Felicia sees unnatural acrylics, used in industrialized wool, as possibly harmful to people. “Aymara artisans pride themselves on using 100 percent wool for the production of sweaters, scarves, hats, mittens, and finger puppets.” Felicia and a few other vendors from her community traveled thousands of miles from home to participate in the Cultural Survival Bazaars. They are looking not only to boost their sales, but also to make new contacts, look for new markets and share their Aymara culture with the American public. In addition to her work as an Indigenous artisan, Felicia has also been involved with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum is held each year in the Spring in New York and provides Felicia and other Indigenous and non-Indigenous representatives a space to network and bring their issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, and human rights to the attention of governments. Felicia noted that much of her advocacy work focuses on climate change. She stressed the importance of this issue, “For us, the environment is the only resource. The only bank is our land, air, and water.” At the Forum, Felicia and other allies seek to not only improve the lives of people in their own communities, but also to give voice to a large number of Indigenous people whose opinions might not be heard. Felicia connected with Cultural Survival during one of these conferences. Members of her community held an exhibition of their hand-woven crafts, and Cultural Survival invited them to participate in the Bazaars and to sell their goods. Ever since, Felicia and her colleagues have been able to reach an entirely new demographic of consumers and inform more people about the issues concerning their communities. — Hope Ross is a former intern at Cultural Survival 28 • ww w. cs. org

Felicia speaking with Bazaar attendees about Aymara culture in Amherst, MA last May.

Don’t miss the Summer 2012 season of the Cultural Survival Bazaars May 26–28, Amherst Common, Amherst, MA June 2, Copley Square, Boston, MA July 14–15, 3852 Main Road, Tiverton, RI July 21–22, Peg Noonan Park, Falmouth, MA The Winter 2011 Bazaar series raised over $259,196 for Indigenous artisans and their communities.

To learn more visit:

2012: Business as Usual Danielle DeLuca (CS Staff)


he town of Cajola lies in a valley surrounded by mountains in the highlands of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Despite being just a 40-minute bus ride from the second largest city in the country, Cajola feels very much its own: every woman on the street wears the traditional hand-embroidered dress or traje specific to Cajola. It’s 18,000 residents are by large majority Mam Maya, who have managed to maintain a strong Indigenous autonomy. Traditional Indigenous authorities run the town’s own justice system. In Cajola, Spanish is notably the population’s second language, used only to communicate with outsiders. Many older women only speak enough Spanish to get along conversationally, others just gesture and Cruz Ramirez (left) performs a smile, as did the women who Mayan ceremony in San Mateo opened the door welcoming Quetzaltenango. me to the community radio station La X Musical, a station run by various Mayan priests and community leaders. I was visiting the station to learn about the Mayan priests’ expectations and plans for the big Oxlajuj Baktum, the end of the “long-count” calendar cycle that finishes up 5,129 years this December 21, 2012. I sat down with Mayan priest Cruz Ramirez along with two other members of the station. I asked what I thought was the obvious question, what does December 21, 2012 mean? What are they expecting? They spoke a bit in Mam, then Spinning disks looked back at me with blank accurately show the cycles expressions, indicating that this of the Mayan Calendar. was just another cycle change. “Oh... yes, that… They say that it’s like a flower, that sprouted, grew, blossomed, and wilted, and now it will grow again. That’s the change that they speak about.” I asked what ceremonies they planned on celebrating this year. They told me about all the different sacred prayer sites at the mountain peaks around the Cajola valley, more than 10 in total. They wrote down the names for me in Mam, explaining the literal translation of each. They pray to the father of wind, at the peak of the hill known as K’man K’qiq. At Twi Sacbakin they pray that the winter’s hail storms won’t

A Cajola Mam woman enters the radio station La X Musical.

destroy the corn corps. At Twi Kojla “the head of Cajola” they pray for the well-being of their community­­—and for their radio station. The most important celebration is a series of ceremonies that welcome the rainy season, held every year in early May. Over half the town’s population participates by giving small offerings of candles, sugar, or incense. A pilgrimage is made to the Pacific coast, stopping to perform prayer ceremonies at five sacred locations along the way. The sixth and last is held at Twi Caula, another peak above Cajola, and lasts overnight. If they didn’t pray, the corn would be lost to frost, the rain would flood their homes, and conflict would rise in the community. They explained: “What we know is what our ancestors have left for us; that’s how we know to arrange a Mayan ceremony with yellow candles in the south, white in the north, red where the sun rises and black where it sets. You can even read that in books now, but we learned through generations, from our fathers’ fathers. We maintain the knowledge we learned from them.”

To learn more about Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Program in Guatemala visit

Global Response

Campa gn Alert Cameroon In 2011, the government of Cameroon granted a land concession to SG Sustainable Oils on the homelands of the Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bagola peoples without their consent. The planned oil palm plantation will clear 300 square miles of virgin rainforest, destroying fragile ecosystems and impacting Indigenous people’s livelihoods. Please join our campaign to stop this abuse of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and their lands. See page 14, for more information.

Profile for Cultural Survival

36-2 (Summer 2012)  

40 years of Advocacy

36-2 (Summer 2012)  

40 years of Advocacy

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