Cultural Survival Q
Tradition Informing Our Futures
Vol. 39, Issue 4 â€˘ december 2015 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
D e c e mb er 20 15 V olum e 39 , Issue 4
Cultural Survival co-founder, Pia Maybury-Lewis, with Xavante families during her first visit to the region of Mato Grosso, Brazil in 1958.
Board of Directors President
Sarah Fuller vice president
Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) Treasurer
Steven Heim Clerk
Nicole Friederichs Evelyn Arce (Chibcha) Alison Bernstein Joseph Goko Mutangah Laura Graham Jean Jackson Lesley Kabotie (Crow) Stephen Marks Stella Tamang (Tamang) FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis
Many members of New England Tribal Nations participated in the making of Nookomuhs (see page 12). © Craig S. Milner.
F e at u r e s
12 Kissing the Water: Launching Nookomuhs
Jonathan Perry Dugout canoe Nookomuhs (My Grandmother) is the first of her size made by the hands of many New England Nations in over 200 years.
Cultural Survival Headquarters 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org
14 Envisioning the Future by Revisiting the Past: Massachusetts Tribes Make Their Voices Heard
Boulder Office 2769 Iris Ave., Suite 101 Boulder, CO 80304
Agnes Portalewska A new project aims to assess the current status of Native people in Massachusetts.
Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural 6ta Avenida 5-27, Local “C” Zona 1, Sumpango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala
16 Truth and Reconciliation
Cultural Survival Quarterly
Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska
View writers’ guidelines at our website (www.cs.org) or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Cultural Survival recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have long been exploited by photographers and publications. This publication does not pay photographers for images and makes no money from publishing them. We also make a tremendous effort to identify every Indigenous individual in the images that appear here. From time to time, however, such identification is not possible. We apologize to the subjects of those photos and to any reader offended by the omission.
On the cover Photo: Launching of Nookomuhs in Connecticut (see page 12). © Craig S. Milner.
ii • www. cs. org
Penthea Burns The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the first task to uncover the truth about Wabanaki children and families in the child welfare system.
19 On Our Own Terms
Carla Fredericks The Spokane Tribe of Indians of Washington developed a Free, Prior and Informed Consent protocol and are looking to make it tribal law.
Copyright 2015 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. 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.
Photo courtesy of Pia Maybury-Lewis.
D e pa r t m e n t s 1 Executive Director’s Message 2 In the News 4 Indigenous Arts Still a Pygmy: Isaac Bacirongo 6 Women the World Must Hear Beating the Odds, Changing Lives: Olga Montúfar Contreras 8 Indigenous Languages The Voice(s) of a Nation 10 Rights in Action Without a Secured Right to Freedom of Expression, There Is No Democracy in Central America 26 Bazaar Artist Tz’utu Kan 27 support our efforts
20 First-Ever World Indigenous Games Held in Brazil Alexis White-Mobley
Over 2,000 Indigenous athletes from all over the world gathered to compete.
22 A New Era of Exploitation? Mining Sami Lands in Sweden Alec Forss
Sweden’s Sami population face an uphill battle against government plans to triple the number of mines on their territories.
24 A Modest Revolutionary Cristina Verán Aleida Guevara March speaks about her experience working among Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.
29 Get Involved Convention Against Torture
E xecut iv e Di rector’ S messa ge
Self-Determination and Rights, from the Community to the International
ight now, around the world, key important regional and international gatherings of Indigenous Peoples addressing the rights of Indigenous Peoples are being held. Recently, Indigenous women from Canada to Peru gathered at the Continental Meeting of Indigenous Women in Guatemala City to develop a position statement on the demands of Indigenous women of the Americas. In India, Indigenous people came together at the Terra Madre to participate in forums on food sovereignty. And Indigenous Peoples from around the world are organizing to attend the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in France this December, where the agenda to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate is critically important to Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples are acting at all levels, from their communities to the national and the international, to achieve their visions and rights as outlined in the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other key declarations. Many of the articles to follow attest to the success and challenges of this work and its direct impact on Indigenous Peoples’ lives. As a tribal member in New England well states, “the goal is to live, not just survive.” This issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly highlights the steadfast and determined work of Indigenous Peoples in their struggles to achieve freedom of expression; Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC); recognition of disability rights; language protection and revitalization; and protection of land and territories. In Massachusetts, the tribes of New England discuss laws and policies—some of which were instituted 150 years ago—that have impacted their efforts to gain federal recognition and exercise tribal sovereignty after centuries of dispossession. As Chappaquiddick Wampanoag leader Sonskq Alma Gordon states, “We are a forgotten peoples. We have no formal recognition, but we do
have heart, pride, and passion.” Jim Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag) says, “We have been playing a lifetime of catch up . . . but we are still here today.” The Wabanaki Tribe in Maine spearheaded a State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and address systematic abuses of Native child welfare and the factors contributing to them. The testimonies of the Wabanaki people brought forward painful stories of the trauma suffered, which they hope will lead to healing, reconciliation, and policies to protect Native children. And the Spokane Tribe of Indians of Washington has established FPIC protocols to protect their tribal sovereignty and selfdetermination, perhaps the first tribe to operationalize and implement this right as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On the other side of the globe, the Sami in the far north of Sweden fight for the right to determine how their land should be used and to prevent a large proposed iron mine that would severely impact the environment along with reindeer migration patterns and traditional herding livelihoods. As Jonas Vannar, reindeer herder and vice-chairman of Sirges Sameby says, “Reindeer herding has been a long struggle . . . but I just know that we will not give up.” In Peru, Indigenous people and allies are working towards linguistic policies on language revitalization promoting the implementation of language rights by the state and supporting a prior consultation process. As Indigenous Peoples, our work to secure our rights spans many intricate and complex systems, from our local communities to national and international platforms. Our voices need to be heard.
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Cultural Survival Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Michael Johnson (Arikara/Hidatsa/Ojibwe), Director of Development Kaimana Barcarse (Native Hawaiian), Indigenous Rights Radio Senior Producer Avexnim Cojti (Maya K’iche’), Program Associate, Community Radio Program Ingrid Sub Cuc (Kaqchikel/Q’eqchi), Communications Assistant Jessie Cherofsky, Production Coordinator, Indigenous Rights Radio, Bazaar Program Manager Danielle DeLuca, Program Manager, Advocacy Program and Distribution Coordinator, Indigenous Rights Radio Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager _ Chelsie U‘ilani Kuali‘i (Native Hawaiian), Indigenous Rights Radio Fellow Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Teresita Orozco Mendoza, Regional Coordinator, Community Media Program Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Content Production & Training Coordinator, Community Media Program Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Angelica Rao, Executive Coordinator Miranda Vitello, Development Associate Ancelmo Xunic (Kaqchikel), Community Media Program Manager
Sobreviviencia Cultural STAFF (Our Sister Organization in Guatemala) Elsa Chiquita de Pacache (Kaqchikel), Radio Producer, Community Media Program Ingrid Sub Cuc (Kaqchikel/Q’eqchi), Community Media Program Assistant Melvy Lorena Medina Patzán, Fundraising Associate Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Program Director, Oscar Armando Xunic Rocal (Kaqchikel), Accountant
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Tyler Alderson, Don Butler, Bianca Coppola, Emma Kurihara, Polly Lauer, Michelle LaFortune, Isabelle Lefroy, Yaira Matos, Crystal Quintanilla, Febna Caven Raheem, Alexandra Richmond, Bonnie Tarrant, Caroline Tegeler, Alexis WhiteMobley, Kristen Williams
Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)
2015 Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: 1. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 2. Publication Number: 0740-3291 3. Filing Date: September 10, 2015 4. Issue Frequency:
Quarterly 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: Four 6. Annual Subscription Price: $45.00 7. Mailing Address of Publication: 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 8. Mailing Address of Publisher Headquarters: 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 9. Full Mailing Address and Complete Names of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor-Publisher: Cultural Survival, Inc. 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140, Editor/ Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska, Cultural Survival, 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 10. Owner: Cultural Survival, Inc., 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Securities: None 12. Tax Status: The purpose, function, and nonprofit status for federal income tax purposes has not changed during the preceding 12 months 13. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: December 2015-Issue 39, Volume 4 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: a. Total Number of Copies: Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 3200; Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: 3500 b. Paid and/or Requested Circulation-1. Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541: 1800; 1750 2. Paid In-County Subscriptions: 230; 250 3. Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution: 600; 800 4. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS: 70; 80 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 2700; 2880 d. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution 1. Free or Nominal Rate Outside-County 50; 80 2. Free or Nominal Rate In-County : 30; 50 3. Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes 40; 60 4. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail 100; 90 e. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 220; 280 f. Total Distribution: 2920; 3160 g. Copies Not Distributed: 280; 340 h. Total: 3200; 3500 i. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 92; 88 16. This Statement of Ownership is printed in the December 2015 issue of this publication 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete: Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager, Cultural Survival, Inc.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 1
i n t he new s USA: Judge Denies Request to Halt Salmon Protection in Klamath River
UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz advocates for the rights of Indigenous women and girls.
California’s Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes claimed victory on August 26 when a U.S. District Court denied the local water authority’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the higher supplemental flows from the Trinity Reservoir, which had been released to stop a fish kill on the Lower Klamath River. The Bureau of Reclamation recently released water from the reservoir to protect the adult fall run salmon from threats of a large scale die-off.
Guatemala: Indigenous Community Celebrates Victory After 200 Years of Struggle July
The Poqomchi’ Maya community achieved a great victory for land rights in Guatemala in July when, following 200 years of struggle, the Maderas Filips Dias/Eco-Tierra logging company finally ceded nearly 800 hectares of land titled under the names of 279 Indigenous families.
USA: Mashpee Wampanoag Acquire 300 Acres of Traditional Tribal Land September
The Massachusetts Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, recognized in 2007 and indigenous to the Cape Cod region, was approved by the federal government to acquire over 300 acres of land into their trust. The ruling has opened the possibility of a tribe-run casino on the land under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Costa Rica: Consent Required from Indigenous Peoples on New Projects August
Legislation has been approved by the Costa Rican parliamentary Special Commission of Reforms of Regulations that would require consultation with Indigenous communities prior to 2 • www. cs. org
Photo by Danielle DeLuca.
engagement in new projects, aligning the government of Costa Rica with ILO Convention 169 requiring Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with Indigenous Peoples.
UN Special Rapporteur Releases Report to Human Rights Council on the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls September
In September, UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz evaluated the ability of women and girls to access rights in their communities and the extent of their political and social presence. Tauli-Corpuz reported that Indigenous women frequently find it difficult to voice their concerns and prevent abuse and victimization, as many communities see the rights of women as a western ideal that emphasizes individual rights over communal rights.
UNESCO Recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Distinct Role In World Heritage Sites August
A recent decision by the World Heritage Committee recognized the role of Indigenous Peoples and their distinct right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), giving Indigenous Peoples a claim to the world’s collective heritage. An upcoming debate will determine whether Pimachiowin Aki on the Manitoba-Ontario border in Canada will be added to the list of World Heritage Sites.
Australia: Legislative Assembly Passes Historic Indigenous Peoples Bill August
Indigenous leaders in the lower house of parliament in Western Australia successfully passed a bill in the State constitution recognizing Aboriginal people as the First People and the traditional caretakers of the land. Member of Parliament Kimberley Josie Farrer introduced the amendment, titled Recognition of Aboriginal People.
USA: University of Arizona Athletics No Longer Using Ka Mate October
The University of Arizona Wildcats started using Ka Mate, an integral part –ori culture, as a traditional of the Ma warm up prior to athletic events in 2009. The practice has since been under criticism for being offensive to Ma–ori students. The University of Arizona says it will find another, less controversial method of allowing students to express their heritage.
Canada: Record 10 Indigenous MPs Elected to the House of Commons October
In Canada’s national elections on October 19, a record number of Indigenous people were elected to the House of Commons. Ten Indigenous members of parliament were elected, an increase from the 2011 election when seven Indigenous people won seats. Only one MP, Yvonne Jones from Labrador, was an incumbent.
Campaign Updates Cultural Survival Partners Win 2015 Equator Prize In September, the United Nations Development Program awarded 21 Indigenous organizations the Equator Prize. This award is given out to community-based groups that promote sustainable development to reduce climate change and further preserve the natural environment. It recognizes these groups for outstanding community involvement and actively combating the issues they face with practical solutions. Cultural Survival is pleased to announce that three of our partner organizations were selected as this year’s winners: Maya Leaders Alliance of Belize; Moskita Asla Tankana (MASTA) of Honduras; and Prey Lang Community Network of Cambodia. Representatives from each group will be participating in the Paris Climate Conference this December.
Cambodia: Help Us Save Prey Lang (“Our Forest”) Kuy Villagers Step Up Activism to Save Prey Lang The Indigenous Kuy people of Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest are redoubling efforts to prevent deforestation by the government and corporations. The Kuy have taken great care to protect the rich forest environment they live in. Now the community has created a smartphone application to help the Prey Lang Community Network’s volunteer forest patrollers record, report, and dispatch data and news regarding the occurrence of illegal logging activities within the threatened area. Currently, 70 villages are facing threats from illegal logging and the government’s
Cultural Survival’s advocacy program launches international campaigns in support of grassroots Indigenous movements as they put pressure on governments and corporations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of their communities.
concessions to rubber and timber plantations within their forest. Peru: Force Oil Company to Clean Up Spills Peru Concludes Consultation on Lot 192 Before Reaching Agreement with Indigenous Federations The consultation process between the government of Peru and Indigenous federations failed after the license for Lot 192, Peru’s largest oil concession, expired in August 2015. Indigenous leaders, angry that their rights have not been respected, called for a 12-day strike at the oil wells. The concession was formerly held by Argentine company Pluspetrol, and has now been issued to Canadian-owned Pacific Stratus for the next two years. In accordance with state and international law a consultation is required before any new concession can be approved, yet no agreement was reached prior to the renewal. Communities were demanding land titling, payment for use of the lands, compensation for environmental degradation, and immediate remediation to contaminated lands and waters.
Guatemala: We Are All Barillas—Stop a Dam on Our Sacred River! Activists Released After Two Years in Prison on False Charges Rogelio Velasquez and Saul Mendez, two Q’anjobal community leaders falsely imprisoned in Guatemala for the past two years, were absolved of all charges and released on October 28, 2015. They had been jailed for their activism against Hidralia Energia’s proposed hydroelectric
dam project on the Q’am B’alam River in Santa Cruz, Barillas, Huehuetenango. The two have a long history as community leaders, participating in the organization and promotion of community consultations in 2007 and 2011, during which members of the Q’anjobal community overwhelmingly voted to reject any outside resource exploration or extraction. Bangladesh: Ban Coal Mine, Save Forests and Farms UK Report Urges GCM Resources to Respect Human Rights Standards in Bangladesh The UK government issued a negative report concerning the planned Phulbari pit coal mine in Bangladesh, sought for development by Londonbased GCM Resources. Indigenous Peoples of Phulbari have engaged in a long and tumultuous fight against the company to keep around 50,000 Indigenous Peoples from being displaced. The report stated “regret” over GCM Resources’ failure to update its human rights impact assessment for the project as recommended in the findings of a 2014 investigation. The investigation, which followed a complaint submitted in 2012, revealed that GCM has repeatedly ignored the considerable oppo- sition to its project, including violent protests and an even more violent response by the authorities. Many UN officials and rights groups are calling for the plans for the Phulbari mine to be abandoned.
Take action at www.cs.org/ take-action. Read more news at www.cs.org/news. Cultural Survival Quarterly December Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2015 2015 •• 33
indi geno u s a rts
Still a Pygmy Isaac Bacirongo
till a Pygmy is the memoir of Isaac Bacirongo, an ethnic Mbuti (Pygmy) from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, believed to be the first memoir by a Pygmy author ever published. Bacirongo helped establish the first Indigenous rights organization in D.R.C. in the mid-1990s. He was imprisoned because of his activism by the rebel regime that occupied the area from 1998 to 2003, but managed to escape to Nairobi with his wife and 10 children, later registering as a refugee with UNHCR and being resettled in Australia. Still a Pygmy brings to life the themes of Indigenous politics and com- munity in Central Africa. The following are excerpts from the book.
When I was about 10 my family moved out of the forest and Papa got a job on the farm of a Belgian man, Mr François. He used to give me lifts in his dark blue Peugeot 404 from his farm to his office, and then I walked the rest of the way to the local school. No other Pygmy ever stepped inside that car. He knew I was from the Pygmy camp and occasionally he gave me some money to buy something, but I would use it to pay my school fees. This amount was nothing to him, but sometimes it paid my fees for an entire term. During my rides with Mr François he asked me about school. “Who is your teacher? What did you study today?” He did not speak Swahili so we spoke in French. He asked simple questions because he knew I did not speak French very well, although I had started learning it in school. Over time these conversations improved my French a lot. I was proud of being able to talk to him and that I rode in his car. I asked him about his wife and children, and when they were going to visit the farm. They lived in Europe, so perhaps he missed them and showed kindness to me because of that. From about this age I started to have a double life. Like other Pygmies on the farm, Papa worked when he wanted to, but he also went hunting back in the forest when he wanted to, and sometimes I would go with him. I was comfortable in the Pygmy camp and in the forest, but I also started to become familiar with Mr François’ life—with modern life: cars and electricity and French language and the tea factory. I was not living a modern life, but I could see it and it started to become normal for me and was no longer strange. Other 4 • www. cs. org
Bacirongo and his mother, Mama (Nakashishi).
Pygmies never went near Mr François’ house. When Mr François’ children visited and walked to the Pygmy camp where we lived, everyone hid in their huts or in the forest because they were afraid. But I was different. I wasn’t afraid. I had lost my fear of white men because of Mr François. I realised he was kind, and just a person like me.
In the mid-1990s, after I’d become a successful businessman and while Congo’s dictator, President Mobutu, was still clinging to power, a man in Bukavu called Kapupu created a small non-profit organisation to help Pygmies. Kapupu publicly called himself King of the Pygmies, but he was not a Pygmy at all. He was from the Rega tribe. He asked members of his church to donate salt and second-hand clothing that he could distribute to Pygmies. The Pygmies were very upset about this, that this man was saying he was their king. Traditionally we don’t even have chiefs—or kings! One day I was invited to visit the office of a man called Kabungulu who worked for Héritiers de la Justice, a local human rights organisation. Kabungulu had heard what Kapupu had been saying and told me “If Kapupu is saying he is your king, it is the fault of the Pygmies because you are hiding and do not come out and take the lead in saying he is an imposter. You have to raise your voice. You need to do something about it. I cannot approach the wealthier Pygmies living in Bukavu because they don’t want to be known as Pygmies. But I can talk to you.” Kabungulu knew there were Pygmies who were capable of being leaders and fighting for Pygmy rights, but that shame was keeping them back. Kabungulu told me to contact people in my community so we would all come together. I was reluctant to get involved. When Kabungulu first contacted me I wondered what I was going to gain. It was All photos courtesy of Isaac Bacirongo.
Isaac Bacirongo surrounded by his family in Nairobi, Kenya before resettlement to Australia.
dangerous to be an activist in Congo and Mobutu used to hang his critics in public, so setting up a human rights organisation during his reign was impossible. An environmental or business organisation might be possible, but not something for human rights. Like other Pygmies I had also hidden my identity. The reluctance of Pygmies to show their identity goes back centuries. Whenever Pygmies have come out of the forest, they have tried to hide their identity to get acceptance. Every time someone has tried to make them equal it has only made things worse. Being a Pygmy activist seemed like a lonely job. However, I listened to Kabungulu. By the mid-1990s, the power of Mobutu had weakened a lot. We were still a bit scared, but we could express our opinions freely, and felt encouraged. On Kabungulu’s advice I went to talk to three Pygmy elders living in Bukavu: Kangene, Muley and Nyabyamo. These three men are all related to me and to each other through clan ties. Kangene is like a grandfather or great uncle to me, Muley is his younger brother and Nyabyamo is a distant uncle on my mum’s side. At the time Kangene was in his late seventies, and he died only a few years ago in his nineties. Kangene was proud to talk about Pygmies and he told me how from the 1950s he started a campaign to get the colonial authorities to pay attention to us. The Belgians became interested, but other Pygmies were not. As it turns out, the colonial administrator of that area wanted help from Kangene to convince Pygmies to put their children in school, which is why he became interested in us. Only a few Pygmies took up this offer, the rest ran away into the forest. The Belgians made
Kangene a teacher because he had had a few years of primary school education, and in those days this was considered a lot. Kangene put his children in school and two of his sons became medical doctors. Kangene told me that of all the Pygmies in Congo, the Bunyakiri Pygmies—where my community is from—are the most educated. It gives us pride that Kangene and a couple of others went to school when most Bantu did not and Pygmies elsewhere were living in the forest. It was these educated Pygmies who started the fight for our rights back in the 1950s. All three elders encouraged me to organise the Pygmy community and get the help from abroad. “Go ahead,” Kangene said. “We’ll support you.” I felt encouraged and went ahead and contacted their children because I wanted their support as well, and I wanted them to know that I had been talking to their fathers. These extracts are reproduced with the permission of the publisher. Still a Pygmy by Isaac Bacirongo and Michael Nest (Finch Publishing: 2015 Sydney) is available in North America and Australia in print and e-editions and in the rest of the world as an ebook from Amazon, Kobo Books and the iBookstore. finch.com.au/books/still-a-pygmy
Listen to Isaac Bacirongo here: goo.gl/EWu6pn.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 5
women th e wo r ld m u st hear
Beating the Odds, Changing Lives Olga Montúfar Contreras
orn in San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero, Mexico in 1969, Olga Montúfar Contreras (Nahua) fell ill with polio as an infant, and when she was nine months old her parents decided to move their family to Mexico City. During her adolescence she was raped. In spite of the violence of the trauma, it gave her the opportunity to become a mother. The event also inspired her enormous passion for defending the rights of Indigenous women and girls with disabilities. Despite the economic burden of migration and the cost of medical treatment for her polio, Montúfar Contreras attended regular school with the support of her whole family. She finished with a degree in mechanical engineering, but even this did not guarantee her a job—a second challenge that drove
her to join the growing Disability Rights Movement in 1994. She participated in some of the key events of the movement in Mexico and was recognized for her lobbying talents, having influenced various public policy developments both at the national and local levels. During the birth of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, Montúfar Contreras worked with a group founded by Don Gilberto Rincón in Mexico City. She gained firsthand experience with the fundamentals of the convention, which would later become part of the basis of general law for people with disabilities. Dissatisfied with her previous level of education, Montúfar Contreras went on to earn a master’s degree in social policy and development, which strengthened her ability to lobby The founders of the Disability Caucus at the UNPFII in 2012 (L–R): Felipe Flores (Peru, second from left) with his personal assistant; Kamala Chakma (Bangladesh); Olga Montúfar (Mexico); Savina Nongebatu (Solomon Islands); Setareki Macanawai (Fiji); and Ipul Powesau (Papua New Guinea).
6 • www. cs. org
for the rights of people with disabilities. She participated in courses through the US International Mobility Program, such as one offered through the Inter-American Human Rights System and the John F. Kennedy Center, as well as the training offered by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2012, with the support of the Disability Rights Fund, she, along with other Indigenous people with disabilities, made her first intervention at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Since then, the fight for the rights of Indigenous people with disabilities has greatly progressed. Today, despite her physical limitations and limited verbal communication abilities, Montúfar Contreras has become a key figure in raising awareness on the intersectionality of the human rights of people with disabilities and Indigenous women and girls. She spoke with Cultural Survival Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Rosy Gonzalez at this year’s session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland. Rosy Gonzalez: The fight for the rights and the application of rights of Indigenous lands has been a constant fight since colonial times. Indigenous communities are distinctive and diverse, so their needs are distinctive and diverse. Indigenous communities have had to organize to get attention from national and international levels of governance. An example of this is the sector of Indigenous people with disabilities who, after a lot of organizing and work, were granted the opportunity to have their demands heard at the international level in front of the Permanent Forum and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Can you speak to this? Olga Montúfar Contreras: I am a representative of a foundation called Paso a Paso, a foundation of Indigenous persons with disabilities. I am also a representative of the global caucus of Indigenous people with disabilities. We are a young movement that takes part in the Forums and the Mechanism. 2012 was the first year we did a live appearance. That year, with our presence, we were able to study the situation of disabled people in the global sphere. In order to learn more about the subject, I took advantage of our time in New York City and met with UNICEF. We created a packet that featured the statistics of the number of Indigenous youth with disabilities, what the prospects are for our Indigenous disabled youth in the whole world. It was a major advancement considering there is no information about our disabled youth, let alone anything about our adults. Also we were involved in the dialogues at the global conference. Making that happen took a major effort because we had neither time nor money. We negotiated with different parts of the country, working to make them notice us and send a delegation to represent us. Today we have nine [representatives] inside the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. And now with my presence here, the recommendation is that the revision that will come out of the studies on [people with disabilities] should include the subject of Indigenous people with disabilities. I urge the Expert Mechanism to name the clause “Consulted Indigenous People with Disabilities.” All photos courtesy of disability rights fund.
Another recommendation is to form a working group that focuses on the intersectionality of the rights of Indigenous people with disabilities so they can better understand when their human rights are violated and how to exercise them. With the support of Expert Member Albert Barume, it has been guaranteed that in the next Expert Mechanism, Indigenous persons with disabilities will be represented. I believe that will be extremely positive.
Olga Montúfar speaking at the UNPFII in 2012.
Rosy Gonzalez: Everyone has their own motivations for wanting to fight for the rights of Indigenous people. What motivated you? Olga Montúfar Contreras: Fortunately I grew up with professionals, teachers in the community. So when they realized I was disabled at nine months old, they never treated me differently. When I started school, I had a classmate who was a young boy who bothered me constantly. He made fun of me, shamed me, and one day when he told me that I was something entirely different from him I no longer wanted to go to school. I used leg braces that went up to my waist, they held me up like a doll. So I said, “I’m going to throw myself [on the ground], I am going to scream and I’m going to tell them I don’t want to go!” I never expected the reaction my father would have. He picked me up with all of his strength, stood me up with my braces, and said, “School is never going to adapt to you, you need to adapt to school. So you will go to school and you will study.” So I turned around—back in those days you did not look people in the eyes because it was seen as a disrespect— but in that moment I did it. I turned around and told my father, “I promise you I will be the best doctor in the world and I will cure all of the children in the world who are like me. I don’t want them to go through what I go through.” I have a different profession. I can’t cure their bodies, but I am changing their lives.
Listen to the full interview at: www.cs.org/rights.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 7
i ndi geno u s la n g u a g e s
The Voice(s) of a Nation A groundbreaking office within Peru’s Ministry of Culture is working to redefine the relationship between the State and Indigenous Peoples, one word—understood in many languages—at a time. Cristina Verán
n the global discourse on Indigenous Peoples, Peru can easily confuse those outside Latin America in the way it marginalizes all things Indigenous in contemporary society, despite a population that is, in terms of genealogy, 82 percent Indian (when including those of mixed heritage). A deceptively robust-sounding 4 million Peruvians speak at least one lengua indígena. Yet even for Quechua, the principal language of the Inca empire and the most widely spoken Native language in all of the Americas today, the future is not assured, so long as the ghost of another empire perpetuates its linguistic conquista over Peru. Government agencies and their functionaries are hardly natural allies of Indigenous Peoples. But a team of intrepid linguists, educators, economists, and legal experts at the Vice Ministry of Interculturality’s Directorate of Indigenous Languages (most are Indigenous language speakers themselves) is working toward a seachange in the status quo. Steering its course is agency director Agustín Panizo Jansana.
Peru was the site of one of history’s great civilizational clashes. How did this play out in linguistic terms?
APJ: At least 100 distinct tongues were spoken when the Spaniards arrived. [After the conquest of the Incas], Spanish, imposed as the language of power, entered into a relationship of domination and exclusion toward the Indigenous languages. This linguistic colonization is still at work today, alas. Officially, 47 languages remain, of which 26 are considered vital—transmitted inter-generationally, used in most areas of everyday life, and spoken among all generations within a community. [Of these], 3 are endangered with 18 in grave danger; [i.e.,] no longer passed down from generation to
Members of the staff and participants of the 8th Course for Translators and Interpreters of Indigenous Languages after the closing ceremony in Quillabamba, Cusco. Photo by Lee Bendezú.
8 • www. cs. org
generation or interrupted in their intergenerational transmission. A few others are near extinction with perhaps only a single living speaker. Quechua shares “official language” status with Spanish. Is its vitality and continuation a certainty?
APJ: Like all Indigenous languages, Quechua is losing speakers. Peru’s bilingualism has typically been a subtractive, rather than additive, process; a state-in-transition—i.e., toward abandoning one’s Indigenous language for Spanish—with the ultimate goal of acculturation. What impediments are faced by Native language speakers?
APJ: Indigenous languages remain tied to poverty, marginalization, and exclusion, as well as challenging to the exercise of citizenship. The judicial system, for example, has traditionally not engaged them; neither have most scientific or academic initiatives. None have been considered “suitable” for the type of communication associated with “progress” in this country. Given this contentious history, how can the Directorate of Indigenous Languages, a government agency, affect change from within what has long been an adversarial system?
APJ: In this office, we feel as though we’re repaying a historical debt. Without question, the Peruvian state has had a hostile policy towards Indigenous languages. The right to speak one’s own language was not seen for what it truly is: a fundamental human right. The issue has become more politically important, however, since Law 29735 [the Law of Indigenous Languages] was instituted in 2011, coinciding with the Law of Consulta Previa (Prior Consultation). For the first time, thanks to the
government of President Ollanta Humala, language is now included as a key component within Peru’s national policy on social inclusion. How is your work envisioned?
APJ: Our big vision for what has to be done regarding linguistic policies in Peru includes five lines of action: language development and revitalization; engaging in research and producing language resources; opening new spaces for the use of Indigenous languages; promoting the implemen- tation of language rights by the State; and supporting the Prior Consultation process. In the early-mid 20th century, Peru’s politics, arts and academia were greatly influenced by ideals of the Indianexalting Indigenismo movement. However, its leaders, so-called Indigenistas, were largely mestizos (of mixed Native/European heritage,) socially/linguistically disconnected from their own ancestral Indigenous communities. What has changed since then?
APJ: The major criticism against Indigenismo—a product of its times, alas—is for its having promoted a rather paternalistic view. El Indio was its central preoccupation—but as an object of concern. Today, Indigenous peoples are the subjects of law. For this office, central to our process is a commitment to insure Indigenous Peoples’ own agency and empowerment, within a process of clarity, openness, and negotiation. The work we do comes not from outside but from within the Indigenous reality, with Indigenous-led organizations taking the lead. How is this reflected in the composition of your team?
The Directorate of Indigenous Languages. From left to right, upper row: Natalia Verástegui, Agustín Panizo, Frank Janampa and Gerardo García. Lower row: María del Pilar Collazos, Julián Taish, Cynthia Palomino and Miguel Damián. Photo by Gonzalo Silva.
APJ: 2015 is a historic moment for this country in terms of linguistic rights. Court proceedings in Peru have always been administered, developed, and managed in Spanish, a language many Indigenous citizens do not understand. And this is the first year in which the judiciary has issued legally valid rulings worded in Indigenous languages (Aymara, Quechua, and Awajún thus far) in a process led by the same. This has never been seen in the history of the Republic of Peru—and it’s just the beginning. For our part, we’ve been training interpreters and translators (252 thus far for 35 languages) to serve as communicative mediators between the people and the state. Many of these, in turn, have transformed into linguistic rights activists, returning home to lead revitalization movements in their own communities.
APJ: It is important that this office be made up of those who are either Indigenous themselves or have real relationships with Indigenous communities. I myself am not Indigenous, but I’m Peruvian. As a linguist concerned with the precarious situation of Peru’s Indigenous languages, I have committed my career toward improving this situation. Each of my esteemed colleagues, meanwhile, including Gerardo García Chinchay, Natalia Verástegui, Cynthia Palomino, Frank Janampa Pomasoncco, and Julián Taish Maanchi, has strong community ties and commitments not only to the languages— our office currently includes speakers of Quechua, Shipibo, Nomatsigenga, and Awajún—but also to the rights of their speakers. We all share a vision of linguistic promise in Peru, understanding language rights as a gateway to securing other rights as well.
Considering the territorial overlap of several languages spoken in Peru, are there any international collaborations in the works you can speak to?
At the operational level, what developments has your office been directly involved in?
APJ: The youth must take big steps in order to reverse the psychological mechanism of oppression, which compelled so many of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to abandon their mother tongues. In certain arenas it’s happening already: art, music, and media produced in Indigenous languages. Through a process of social and cultural revindication, they’re spreading the message: “My language has value and it serves the people.”
Please shed some light on the important changes taking place in the Peruvian judicial system and the role your office has played.
—Cristina Verán is an international Indigenous Peoples’ issues specialist, research consultant, communications strategist, multimedia producer, and longtime United Nations correspondent originally from Peru.
APJ: We manage the coordination among various sectors of the Peruvian state to implement Indigenous languages in all areas of operation. For example, government offices such as the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion now include among their staff members speakers of whatever languages are spoken by their constituents.
APJ: Sure. There’s an agreement with Colombia to design a bilateral participative documentation project with the six Indigenous languages spoken on both sides of our border, to construct a knowledge platform for each. We’ve also connected with an institute in Brazil, hosted an interchange of colleagues with Chile, and will soon welcome the Minister of Linguistic Policies in Paraguay to Peru. This office also has a fruitful relationship with our counterparts in Mexico and a pending agreement with the Basque region of Spain. Bolivia and Ecuador are priorities as well. For the future, what do you see as the greatest hope for a multi-linguistically sustainable Peru?
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 9
r i ght s i n a ct io n
Without a Secured Right to Freedom of Expression, There Is No Democracy in Central America “We have come to very respectfully ask that the Commission follow up on our request. We are well aware of current policies on radio broadcast throughout the region and the sustained approach that favors monopolies and oligopolies. Central America is challenged in developing human rights approach to communication.This requires dismantling the hyper-mercantilization that has drawn the human rights map.” — A ncel m o Agnes Portalewska (CS STAFF)
n October 23, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a Thematic Hearing on Examining Freedom of Expression in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during its 156th Session in Washington, D.C. Organized by Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias (AMARC-Subregión Centroamérica), Asociación de Medios Comunitarios de Honduras (AMCH), Asociación de Radios Comunitarias de Guatemala (ARCG), Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural, Central American Institute for the Study of Social Democracy (DEMOS), Comité por la Libre Expresión (C Libre), Cultural Survival, Fundación de la Comunicación para el Desarrollo (Comunicándonos), Junta Ciudadana por el Derecho Humano a la Comunicación, and Mujb’ab’l yol: Encuentro de Expresiones, the session sought to shine a spotlight on the daily rights violations that Indigenous journalists and communities face when exercising the universal right to freedom of expression and communication. These basic rights make up the foundation of a well functioning democracy, yet communities in Central America share a common experience, history, and reality that citizens’ freedom of expression and the right to communication are not evenly respected and guaranteed. Indigenous journalists and community radio operators, despite physical threats, state persecution, and even risk of death, continue to exercise their rights in order to serve their communities. Telecommunications laws in Central America do not recognize community radio except in Honduras, and even there, a law that favors commercial institutions is the one that prevails. The panelists included Oscar Antonio Pérez from Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias, Anselmo Xunic from Cultural Survival and Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural, Christian Oztin from the Asociación de Abogados Mayas, Alma Gloria Temaj Morales of Asociación Mujb’ab’l yol: Encuentro de Expresiones, and Carlos Ramón Enamorado Pérez of Asociación de Medios Comunitarios de Honduras (AMCH). 10 • w ww. cs. org
X un i c
“In El Salvador, there is a continuing trend of concentration of media in the hands of corporate groups that control the whole radio spectrum,” said Pérez during his address to the Commission. He added, “all oligopolies are tied to political parties.” Five commercial groups have historically held ownership of El Salvador’s radio frequency spectrum. Former president Elias Antonio Saca owned six radio frequencies when he began as president, and fourteen by the end of his presidency. The law does not distinguish between public, private, or community radio; all frequencies are auctioned to the highest bidder and no state entity exists to regulate radio broadcasting. Pérez requested that the Commission urge the government of El Salvador to make the necessary changes to the judicial framework such that the State of El Salvador fully recognizes the three communications sectors, including community media. Additionally he asked that the Commission support the State of El Salvador in guaranteeing a free and inclusive radio system. Finally, he demanded that in El Salvador and Central America, those who work in community radio be recognized as an indispensable sector working to strengthen the quality of democracy.
“Guatemala’s diversity is its strength, but there is discrimination, and it has been co-opted by de facto groups that hold power and abuse it. The concentration of media is viewed as normal among the people who do not realize it is a violation of social, civil, and political rights and an attack on their freedom of expression. It violates the quality of democracy, democratization of media, and the constitution,” said Temaj Morales. The 1996 Peace Accords that ended Guatemala’s 36-year civil war guaranteed the democratization of the media. However, the current telecommunications law makes no provision for nonprofit community radio. “One of the strategic resources is radio frequency. We are seeing a greater concentration of media outlets, and concern is strong when greater concentration of media is in few hands. These outlets have undermined standards of democracy. Young democracies
Left: IACHR Commission members react to the panelists. Inset: Edison Lanza, IACHR special rapporteur on the freedom of expression. Right: Panelists (L–R): Cristian Otzin, Alberto Recinos, Alma Gloria Temaj Morales, Carlos Enamorado, and Oscar Pérez.
are at the mercy of serious structural voids that threaten the progress of their political systems,” said Xunic. In Guatemala, radio frequencies are either reserved for government use or auctioned to the highest bidder, so Indigenous communities must compete directly with commercial radio stations. The Community Radio Movement of Guatemala brought a case to the Constitutional Court arguing that this practice is discriminatory against Indigenous Peoples. In March 2012, the court exhorted the congress to legislate in favor of Indigenous community radio stations, allowing them access to radio frequencies. Since then, Bill 4087, which seeks to legalize and regulate community radio, has been introduced to the Guatemalan Congress, but it has not been ratified into law. As a consequence, the further concentration of Guatemala’s media has prevented the exercise of real democracy by barring the broadcast of varied sources of information and opinions, and has contributed to a loss of Indigenous cultures and values. The concentration of ownership of media is a violation of Article 130 of the Guatemalan Constitution, which prohibits media monopolies. “The concentration of media due to political candidates asking for airtime...these are structures of power that are coordinated around traffic of influence and corruption. We call on the Commission to raise the profile of this situation and put conditions in place where Indigenous Peoples and others can utilize the radio spectrum,” said Temaj Morales. In addition, in recent years, community radio stations have been the targets of police raids, criminal investigations, and unlawful imprisonment. “Under rule of law, it’s impossible to allow community radio broadcasting to be prosecuted. It is a contradiction,” said Xunic. “Official state propaganda in Central America continues to be used to either reward or punish media. The Commission and Special Rapporteur must make efforts to work with civil society to ensure greater plurality of voices to strengthen democracy in the region.” All photos by Daniel Cima/IACHR.
In Honduras, restrictive laws, the criminalization of the right to free expression, wiretapping, and murder of community journalists are all common occurrences. In less than four years there have been seven murders of journalists and broadcasters working for community media outlets. From 2014– 2015, there were 55 acts of aggression against those who work for community and alternative radio stations; journalists regularly face threats to their lives by local governments. “The Honduran state is violating freedom of expression over internet and all forms of communication due to questions of security. We request that the Commission and Rapporteur ask the government to remove legislation that attacks freedom of expression. We call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to help create a law that includes the term ‘community media,’ and ask that an office of community broadcasting be created to help facilitate the procedures for organizations to apply for a frequency. This is part of democracy, having media availability,” said Pérez. The Commission members asked the panelists for more information regarding their opinion on adequate regulation and laws with regard to community radio broadcasting as well as more information on the abuse of criminal law against people who engage in community radio broadcasting. The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, stated that “the Commission firmly believes that diversity and pluralism are conditions and ends to democratic systems, and that in order for freedom of expression to wholly exist, States must assume their obligations and adopt legislation and effective public policies that enforce social inclusion.” Mark Camp, deputy executive director of Cultural Survival, who attended the hearing, said, “It is clear that Indigenous community radio is an extremely important tool for Indigenous Peoples. It can help sustain Indigenous cultures and languages. And when radio stations are operated by the community and for the community, it promotes participatory democracy. Governments must demonstrate their respect for the right to freedom of expression by ceasing their attempts to bar Indigenous community radio from meaningful access to the airwaves.” Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 11
water Launching Nookomuhs
Nookomuhs and crew beginning her maiden voyage.
It was dusk; as light faded and the darkness crept in around the site, we were quietly sitting, watching the fire. Blasts of smoke would hit us as the wind shifted. Bird calls made way for the bats flying silently above us. And the boat just burned on.
y community has been fortunate to have many knowledgeable mentors in the traditional arts, so I would like to begin by acknowledging Darrel Wixon and the late Nanepashemet (Anthony Pollard), who, along with many others, helped to maintain our traditions of constructing vessels and homes as well as the fine arts. Our community has many accomplished artisans, researchers, and knowledge keepers, and I had the pleasure of studying under them as a young teen and into my young adult years. I honed my skill working for the Wampanoag Indigenous Program at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum located south of Boston, Massachusetts. There were many days spent by the river working on various sized dugout canoes alongside Darius Coombs of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, among numerous others. In my early days at Plimoth Plantation, it was Coombs who helped me to expand my understanding and experience with the process of burning a dugout canoe. Between he and I, we have made over 100 dugouts. This experience gave me the confidence to take on a project of even greater magnitude. Mission Mishoon was a 12-week exhibition at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center demonstrating the creation of a mishoon (dugout canoe) from start to finish for the museum’s grand re-opening in May 2015. To make this happen, I assembled a team consisting of Coombs; Andrew DeVido and James Hakenson (Aquinnah Wampanoag); 12 • www. cs. org
and Leah Hopkins (Narragansett). The manager of museum education, Christopher Newell (Passamaquoddy), museum educators Matt Bigos (Schagticoke) and Nakai Northrup (Mashantucket Pequot), museum executive director Jason Mancini, and Jay Levy, an Indigenous Colombian, were integral as well. We began by removing the bark from a 36-foot tulip poplar log harvested locally in Ledyard, Connecticut, upon which we built several small fires along the top to begin the shaping process. Much like our ancestors, we decided to burn 24 hours per day for the duration of the exhibit. We took turns sleeping and watching the vessel burn throughout the night to ensure the continuous removal of material. The 3 a.m. shifts were the hardest as we were tired and chilly, waiting for our relief. But at the same time, this was when it was the most beautiful: the dark silent night, the fog in the air, and the crackle of the red and blue embers emanating intense amounts of heat. The only sounds were the hissing of the evaporating sap and the crackle of the hardwood. Youth and Elders ensured the continuous burn in the early evenings; stories and beautiful songs were told and sung, and in this, the spirit of the boat came alive. The vessel became a gathering place—an extended community center at times, where feasts were created on the very fires that burnt the vessel out. Great meals were shared of traditional foods, and people from far away Nations visited and bestowed gifts upon the boat to aid her in the preparation for her journey. Many laughs were shared over the fire, as well as many prayers and memories too numerous to recount. The project brought our larger Native community together in ways that I cannot remember since my youth. Mission Mishoon brought together folks from the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag communities, the Narragansett, Pequot, Mohegan, Passamaquoddy, Schagticoke, Hunkpapa Lakota, Crow, Haliwa-Saponi, Navajo, Shinnecock, Cree, Apache, and many other Nations. Each of the visitors brought a piece of themselves and their community to the boat, and each of those gifts are now part of the vessel’s exAll photos © Craig S. Milner.
istence. Levy, who spent time late into the evening tending the fire with his young son Cacique and camping out next to the mishoon, reflected upon his experience: “This canoe has brought the community together as it is supposed to. You can learn a lot around a fire. This burning brought pride and tradition. Knowledge and laughter were shared, ceremony, prayer and songs were sung…life was celebrated as the tree gave its life for its new life as a mishoon. It is a part of our way. A part of the Pequot people. A part of all of us. It will continue to bring the community together, educate, and share its beauty.” After 12 days and nights of burning and scraping, the mishoon was ready for the water. She was quietly moved on an early August morning to the Mystic River in Connecticut where the launch would occur at the Mystic Seaport Museum. Last minute preparations were made: the scraping and cleaning of the vessel by the Pequot youth, as well as the carving and sanding of the paddles by Manuel Lizzeralde. That first moment when we each stepped into the mishoon as part of the practice run the night before the journey into the ocean was the moment it was made real. We all agreed that she should be named Nookomuhs (My Grandmother), as she is the first of her size made by the hands of many Nations for the first time in over 200 years. The sun was setting as each of us stepped into Nookomuhs, and she didn’t rock, she didn’t tip; she was the most stable boat that has ever carried me. It was a surreal moment pushing off from the dock and heading west, hearing our paddles kiss the water for the first time in the Mystic. The water was calm and the river was quiet. Despite the houses, boats, docks, and surrounding developments, we were alone. It was just about us and the mishoon, and all the work we had done finally coming to fruition. Birds in the distance were settling into their nests for the night, and the only other sound was the water dripping off of our paddles. All that was left was the journey itself. The next morning we gathered the supplies and medicines, ate a hearty breakfast, and prepared ourselves mentally and
spiritually for the paddle. As we arrived at the dock, we were greeted by a crowd of well-wishers, family, friends, and community members. Our paddlers—myself, Coombs, DeVido, Hopkins, Newell, Levy, Northrup, Bigos, Cliff Sebastian, Chanae Bullock, Lizzeralde, and Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler—participated in the blessing of our paddles, ourselves, and Nookomuhs. We departed with an eruption of cheers and sang our way down the river, which was active with large boats, kayakers, and other canoes, many of them having come out to join us in our endeavor. The waves increased in frequency and height as we neared the bay and headed into the open ocean. We were passed by larger boats creating strong wakes, but we were able to turn the boat in such a way that we broke these larger wakes and created our own. Due to the length and weight of the vessel, it often required two people to steer. We snaked our way down the river and landed at Noank, the first Pequot reservation established in 1651, where we took a short break and feasted on blueberries. After recouping, we launched Nookomuhs once again and started our journey back to the seaport. All of the paddlers were in sync, and we were pulling the water underneath the boat with such force that we were passing motored boats traveling alongside of us. To maintain our momentum, we each took turns singing old songs and calling cadence to keep us on beat. The most powerful moment was when we were paddling back into downtown Mystic and the public was gathered on either side of the river, as well as above us on the drawbridge. We paddled deeper, our songs got louder—so loud that they echoed in the town above us—and everybody knew that we are still here. The moment we tied off onto the dock was the culmination of all the dedication, hard work and experience in the water, and skill of the paddlers. It was powerful and bittersweet. We were bringing Nookomuhs back to port, we were bringing her home. We had worked and taught people—the Indigenous people—from start to finish, and it ended in success. — Jonathan Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) is a traditional artist and performer, and is a senior cultural resource monitor for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). He also serves as a councilman for his Nation and a board member of the Association of American Indian Affairs.
The crew of Nookomuhs.
James Hakenson (Aquinnah Wampanoag) digging out the canoe.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 13
Envisioning the Future by Revisiting the Past
Massachusetts Tribes Make Their Voices Heard Agnes Portalewska (CS STAFF) “We are not able to live. We have been surviving for so long; we just want to live.”
ntil this past fall, the so-called Earle Report, published in 1861, was the most recent assessment of the state of affairs of Native peoples in Massachusetts. In 1859, Worcester politician and newspaper publisher, John Milton Earle, was appointed to investigate the social condition of Massachusetts Indians and recommend whether they should be afforded citizenship and given the right to vote. Last August the state of affairs of Massachusetts Native peoples—women included—was reexamined through a series of listening sessions across the state. The project, Massachusetts Native Peoples and the Social Contract: A Reassessment for Our Times, was co-funded by MassHumanities, Suffolk University Law School’s Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic, and UMass Boston’s Institute for New England Native American Studies. The survival of tribal communities is a testament to the will and resilience of Native peoples. Outdated statutes like the Earle Report and the Massachusetts Enfranchisement and Allotment Act of 1869 still impact the lives of contemporary Native Peoples who reside in the state. Cedric Woods (Lumbee), director of the Institute for New England Native American Studies, explains, “These two state-sanctioned activities set the stage for state citizenship for Native men, disenfranchised Native women, and changed the legal relationship between many Native peoples and their homelands. Instead of the various Indian districts, reservations, or towns having ultimate collective ownership of their homelands, they were divided up to individual heads of households and subject to state taxation...a change in the legal status of Indian land that would dramatically accelerate the loss of this land between 1870 and the time of the Great Depression.” The project’s first listening session and roundtable was held in Worcester, hosted by the Nipmuc Tribe, drawing 61 people and 9 online participants. In addition to presentations from the Nipmuc and the Pocasset Wampanoag, numerous audience members shared their thoughts, concerns, and questions. Tribal members spoke about the impacts of enfranchisement on Native peoples in the mid-1800s, which gave Native men the right to vote but led to the dissolution of many collective rights Native communities had prior. The Allotment Acts, which aimed to lift Native people out of poverty and assimilate them into mainstream American society, created 14 • www. cs. org
Cedric Woods (Lumbee) of UMass Boston introducing the panelists at the consultation in Mashpee, Mass.
devastating losses for communities by prioritizing the Euro-American model of individual land ownership. The acts also allowed the government to sell “excess” Indian reservation lands remaining after the allotments on the open market, which made way for purchase and settlement by non-Natives. From 1870 to the end of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Mashpee alone lost upwards of 70 percent of their land holdings. Among other concerns raised was the removal of tribal children and their placement into state-run care, a practice that still happens today. “Ensuring that Native youth know where they fit in and connecting them to their Native community is essential to our survival,” said one audience member. Health and food were also discussed, with participants asserting that the return of land would allow for Native communities to engage in sustainable agricultural practices by reviving how their ancestors grew food and preserved lands. Several speakers also made the connection between mental health and access to traditional territories and offered this as a potential remedy for those suffering from substance abuse. Dispossessed Native communities have difficulty staying connected as many tribe members live in dispersed areas; nevertheless, they expressed the desire to being more closely knit and holding more community events. For several participants, the highlight of the listening session was the presentation by Nipmuc youth Keely Curliss and Nia Holley, who shared their thoughts on a variety of issues including land, sovereignty, recognition, and the health All photos by Alexis White-Mobley.
of their communities. Other youth in the audience echoed Curliss and Holley’s wish to be more connected with their Native communities and spoke to the difficulty of growing up and not of being able to get to community gatherings and events. “The passion with which the youth expressed their hopes for the future of their communities was infectious,” said Woods. The second consultation, hosted by the Mashpee Wampanoag in Mashpee, drew over 80 attendees. Executive Director for the Massachusetts State Commission on Indian Affairs, Jim Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag), and Sonksq Alma Gordon (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribal leader) gave an overview of how racist state policies, specifically the Allotment Acts, historically disenfranchised their peoples, leaving communities fighting for their cultural survival. The history of the Mashpee Wampanoag’s relationship with non-Native settlers predates the formation of the Commonwealth and the United States. They were present for the landing of the Pilgrims, but only just received federal recognition as a tribe in 2007. As Peters said, “We have been playing a lifetime of catch up… but we are still here today. We lived as one, in balance with nature; matrilineal, welcoming and communal people, where things are not about ‘I’ but ‘us.’ It is humbling to be able to trace my bloodline to this land.” Gordon also spoke about her people, a tribe of first contact with a 400-year documented history but not yet formally recognized by the state or federal government. She voiced the concerns of her 500 tribe members about the land loss suffered on the Island of Chappaquiddick near Martha’s Vineyard; the need for health coverage; the lack of a formal state recognition process; and having been dispersed by history. “We are a forgotten people. We have no formal recognition, but we do have heart, pride, and passion,” she said. Nicole Lach-Freeman, representing the Chappaquiddick youth perspective, spoke about her people’s focus on rebuilding, reclaiming land and traditions, and “building strong minds” as her vision for the future. The audience responded with largely positive feedback, with many saying the event exceeded their expectations. A young Mashpee man stated, “As a young person, it is very powerful to be here. Hearing the history of our cousins helps us build stronger individuals. Connecting is a beautiful thing, as many of us have lost our ways.” One woman said the listening sessions were “helping to tilt the circle back into place, which is long overdue.” An elder reminded the audience about the importance of land and traditional values that respect people over things. “Where your roots are, that is your home,” he said. “We have to strengthen people consistent with our tradition. If you do not know who you are, you will not know where you are going.” The listening sessions reaffirmed that Native people in Massachusetts have a deep desire to learn more about their histories and laws and policies impacting their communities. “What became very clear is that the issue of the allotment of land at Mashpee and Chappaquiddick is still having very real impacts on individual tribal members and their communities as a whole. The loss of allotted land due to unpaid taxes is still occurring in the areas that used to be recognized by the state as Indian land unalienable for debts,” said Woods. The project continues with two more listening sessions
and will culminate with a wrap-up event at Suffolk University in the Spring of 2016 that will present a report on findings. “We will identify areas of concern, what we believe we accomplished through the project, public feedback on the project, and perhaps some recommendations based on the former. We will get it to legislators, particularly those in whose districts we held events, as well as to tribes, Native nonprofits, and other interested parties,“ Woods said. Nicole Friederichs of Suffolk University Law School’s Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic said, “The purpose of the wrap up meeting is to begin discussing next steps [to] present to the public and the Commonwealth.” But, she added, “ultimately it will be up to the communities to decide how to move forward.” ”
Mashpee Wampanoag children at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
Some of the Native Tribes in Massachusetts Today • Assonet Band of the Wampanoag Nation • Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck • Chappaquiddick Wampanoag • Nipmuc Nation • Herring Pond Wampanoag • Mashpee Wampanoag • Natick Nipmuc • Pocasset Wampanoag • Massachusetts • Seaconke Wampanoag • Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
Attend the final consultation: March 11, 2016, 12–2 p.m. North American Indian Center of Boston 105 South Huntington Ave., Jamaica Plain To learn more about the project, visit: blogs.umb.edu/inenas.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 15
Truth and Reconciliation The Findings on Wabanaki Child Welfare in the State of Maine Penthea Burns
“Imagine you’re about to have a little one, the love that you have for that little one... and then imagine somebody outside of your family you don’t even know making claims on your little one. They don’t like the way you live and they’re going to take your little one by force. Imagine what the loss is when this is not just your family, but your entire community loses its children.” — gkisedtanamoogk, Truth and Reconciliation Commission member in the documentary film First Light
he U.S. government’s historical attempts to solve the so-called “Indian problem” have included stealing land, introducing disease and warfare, and killing entire tribes. The documented atrocities have been relentless, resulting in great harm to the Indigenous people of this land. One of the most painful of these has been the forced removal of Native children from their families and communities.
Georgina Sappier-Richardson (Passamaquoddy) and First Light co-director Ben Pender-Cudlip at Pleasant Point in Sipayik, ME. 16 • www. cs. org
In the 1800s Congress authorized the Civilization Fund Act, providing funding for boarding schools for Indian children. Native children were taken far from their homes to boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language or practice their customs. Children were separated from siblings and were often badly abused; many died there. Those who survived returned to their communities not knowing their language and traditions, and they and their communities were never the same. The last boarding school closed in 1984.
In the 1950s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League of America created the Indian Adoption Project, through which hundreds of Native children were taken from their families and placed with mostly white adoptive parents. The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act gave Indian children, families, and communities greater legal protections by recognizing “the essential tribal relationship of Indian people and culture and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” Still, through the 1990s, Native children were being placed in foster care in Maine at a rate higher than most other states. In 1999, Wabanaki Tribes and the state of Maine collaborated to improve state compliance with the Indian
Introducing the Commissioners • gkisedtanamoogk (key-said-TAH-NAH-mook), Wampanoag from the community of Mashpee in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and adjunct instructor in the Native American Studies and Peace & Reconciliation Programs at the University of Maine • Matt Dunlap, Maine’s secretary of state and former Maine state representative • Carol Wishcamper, former chair of the Maine state board of education, the Maine Center for Educational Service, and the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy • Sandy White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and founder and director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute • Dr. Gail Werrbach, director and associate professor at the University of Maine School of Social Work
Child Welfare Act. The Muskie School of Public Service, with funding from the Maine Office of Child and Family Services, established a working group (later named Maine-Wabanaki REACH) with tribal and state child welfare representatives as members. The working group trained caseworkers, developed policy, and gathered data about compliance in many Maine communities.
Truth and Reconciliation
Despite positive steps, the working group found that sig- nificant problems remained in practice and attitudes toward working with Native children, families, and communities. In 2008, they concluded that in order to create lasting change, the past needed to be investigated and better understood. Over the next four years, the working group created the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission—the first of its kind to address issues of Native child welfare—to investigate systemic abuses and the factors that contributed to them. The Commission’s articulated intent was to uncover the truth of what happened to Wabanaki people in state child welfare following the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, and to promote healing and contribute to change in child welfare practices. Its mandate was signed in 2012 by the five Wabanaki Chiefs and the Maine governor, outlining responsibilities, timelines, and guidelines for interactions with tribal communities.
Commissions rely on personal testimony, documentary research, and other sources of evidence to understand the past. The Maine Commission held listening circles, ceremonial gatherings, and interviews in six Wabanaki communities and in five regions with non-Native Mainers. Hundreds of people participated, including Wabanaki elders, children formerly in care, foster and adoptive parents, tribal leaders, service providers, incarcerated people, attorneys and judges, caseworkers and administrators, and parents and grandparents. Talking about memories, often painful and traumatic, was not an easy task, as many people had never before shared their stories.
The Commission’s final report, presented in 2015, found that Wabanaki children in Maine entered foster care at an average of five times the rate of non-Native children. The report concluded that to improve Native child welfare, the state and the tribes must continue to confront: 1. Underlying racism still at work in state institutions and the public 2. Ongoing impact of historical trauma, also known as intergenerational trauma, on Wabanaki people that influences the well-being of individuals and communities 3. Differing interpretations of tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction that make encounters between the tribes and the state contentious Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 17
Truth and Reconciliation
The report further asserted that these conditions “can be held within the context of continued cultural genocide, as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.
Georgina Sappier-Richardson (Passamaquoddy) taken from parents at age 2.
The Commission issued a series of recommendations, inviting communities and stakeholders to engage with the underlying conditions that contribute to the problematic relationship between the Wabanaki Tribes and the state of Maine and with child welfare practice failures. The Upstander Project represents one such effort with its films, First Light and Dawnland, companion learning resources, and teacher workshops. Maine-Wabanaki REACH, which formed the Commission, provides education on history, trauma, resiliency, healing, and ally-building to Maine and Wabanaki communities. Healing circles, health and wellness workshops, and community events focus on resilience and capacity building in all tribal communities in the state. This includes restorative justice and peacemaking circles and creating connections to Wabanaki incarcerated relatives through a prison book drive and pen pal initiative. REACH provides educational events, ally-building, and ongoing ally supports across Maine to deepen the understanding of the shared history between Native and nonNative Mainers. Allies are encouraged to take action to create a more just relationship between Native and non-Native people in Maine via legislative hearings, rallies, letters to the editor, letters to legislators, and volunteering at Truth Commission events. REACH staff are also working with the Indian Child Welfare Act working group on child welfare improvements. REACH will play a vital role in the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. As the Commission stated in its final report, “We have heard the voices of the many who spoke with us and to remain quiet is to continue to perpetrate harms that must be known. Consider this report as a step toward refusing that silence and continuing this conversation, that will, we hope, like all the best communication, offer ample time for everyone to simply listen.” — Penthea Burns is Maine-Wabanaki REACH co-director (www.mainewabanakireach.org).
Penthea Burns is Maine-Wabanaki REACH co-director.
To read the Commission’s report in full, visit www.mainewabanakitrc.org/report.
First Light First Light is the first film in a series, anchored by the feature film Dawnland (to be released in 2017), conveying the stories of pain and resilience that emerged during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s process. It tells a piece of the story of the Commission and its origins. Dawnland will bring viewers inside the Commission and share testimony from those who suffered because of the child welfare system, along with those who upheld its policies. “When we tell these stories, we feel it in our bodies and our hearts. But I believe we can get to the point where it has less power over us. This was a perfect example of the readiness, that it’s time.” —Sandy White Hawk, TRC Commissioner, First Light and its learning resources are available for free at upstanderproject.org. These resources help teachers and students deepen their understanding of the brutal and disturbing history of settler colonialism that began with the invasion of Native peoples’ homeland, and government policies that aimed to force Native people to stop being who they are. These resources are central to the Upstander Project’s teacher and student workshops. The Upstander Project helps bystanders become upstanders through compelling documentary films and learning resources. Its goals are to help educators and students overcome indifference to social injustice, develop the skills of upstanders, and contribute to action-oriented campaigns in response to vital social issues. View First Light here: upstanderproject.org.
18 • www. cs. org
All photos courtesy of Upstander Project.
On O ur Ow n Te r m s
Spokane Tribe of Indians to Turn Consent Into Tribal Law Carla Fredericks
ree, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is an emerging international standard for companies that interact with Indigenous Peoples. Closely tied to the concepts of tribal sovereignty and self-determination, FPIC is designed to replace the processes that historically excluded tribes from decision-making related to activities taking place on or near their land. Many entities, particularly in the extractive industries, have established their own protocols for interacting with Indigenous Peoples, but few FPIC protocols have been developed by Indigenous Peoples themselves. The Spokane Tribe of Indians of Washington have not only developed such a protocol, but have gone a step further by examining the enforcement of the right to FPIC—specifically as described in Articles 10, 19, 28, and 29 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—as part of tribal law. In April 2015, students from the University of Colorado Law School and the director of Colorado Law’s American Indian Law Program traveled to New York City to participate in the 14th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues where, along with Cultural Survival, First Peoples Worldwide, and the Spokane Tribe, they held a side event for representatives from those organizations and tribal officials to present the Tribe’s innovative work. The precise set of actions that constitutes consent is not legally defined in international or domestic law. It is clear, however, that a tribe must be able to say “no” to a proposed activity. Other essential considerations involve the question of whose consent must be obtained, and whether consent must only be given once, or if it should be required at each phase of an agreement’s implementation. It is also clear that a tribe must be given time to understand, access, and analyze information concerning potential harms and impacts of a proposed activity before giving consent. This includes access
Side event organized at the 2015 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on FPIC. Photo by Danielle DeLuca.
to information in the local language and in a format that is culturally appropriate. Consent can only be made freely if it is given without coercion, external pressure from government or industrial sectors, manipulation, intimidation, or externally imposed timelines. By establishing its own FPIC protocol, the Spokane Tribe can make critical decisions protecting tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Now, the Tribe wants to communicate the need for Indigenous FPIC with other Indigenous groups. To this end, faculty and students in the American Indian Law Program have been working closely with UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. When the rapporteur learned about the Tribe and Law Clinic’s efforts, she asked that a parallel event be coordinated at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva to showcase their work. On September 22, Cultural Survival, Tebtebba, and the American Indian Law Program hosted “Indigenous Operationalization and Implementation of UNDRIP’s Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” Indigenous participation in the UN has been challenging, but the panel—the only side event for Indigenous Peoples during the two-week session—helped increase awareness of Indigenous issues. Working together, Cultural Survival and the American Indian Law Programs’ continued advocacy on behalf of tribes and other Indigenous groups worldwide will further help Indigenous Peoples realize the implementation of rights expressed in the Declaration. And the Spokane Tribe’s crucial work in bringing the right to FPIC into tribal law will serve as a model for Indigenous groups throughout the world. —Carla Fredericks is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations and is director of the American Indian Law Clinic and American Indian Law Program at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 19
A Gathering of Nations
First-Ever World Indigenous Games Held in Brazil
Over 20,000 Indigenous athletes from nearly 50 ethnic groups participated in the World Indigenous Games.
or the first time in history, Indigenous athletes from all over the world gathered in the city of Palmas in the Amazon jungle state of Tocantins, Brazil, to compete in the first World Indigenous Games, held October 23 to November 1, 2015. Over 2,000 athletes representing nearly 50 different ethnic groups (including 22 from Brazil alone) participated in a variety of events, from a few Western-style games to many Indigenous traditional games. Some events were competitive, such as canoeing, archery, the spear toss, and the 100-meter rustic race, while others were demonstrative events, such as the football-like game of xikunahity, in which players control the ball only with their heads. During the official announcement of the Games to the United Nations back in April, organizer Marcos Terena said that the World Games of Indigenous people is a decades-long dream finally being realized and a major achievement for Indigenous Peoples. The Games were run by the Inter Tribal Council, a Brazilian Indigenous Peoples NGO that has organized Brazil’s national Indigenous Games since 1996. Billed as “the Olympics of Indigenous sport,” they were put on in partnership with the Brazilian government’s Ministry of Sport 20 • ww w. cs. org
and the United Nations Development Program. At the 14th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Brazil’s Minister of Sport, George Hilton, addressed over 100 Indigenous men and women, UN officials, journalists, and government representatives at the UN headquarters in New York. “These Games celebrate the lifestyle, the harmony with nature, and the diversity of Indigenous people of all ethnicities,” he said. Canadian lawyer, former member of Parliament, and Honorary Chief Wilton Littlechild (Cree) attended the Games with his family. Littlechild has said he credits sports for helping him survive the trauma of the infamous residential schools. He started Canada’s first all-Aboriginal hockey team in Alberta, encouraging his players to focus on their education. He was also a founder of the North American Indigenous Games. Of this year’s World Indigenous Games, he said, “We wanted to be there for this historic event. It was 38 years in the making.” Littlechild was not only a delegation head in Brazil, but also a Games participant—he joined the river swimming race and brought home the gold in his age group. At 71, he was the oldest athlete by nearly a decade. Beyond the athletic events, an additional aspect of the Games was a comprehensive program of discourse and celebration of culture, including the latest Indigenous People’s Social Forum, activities for Indigenous women, a lecture series, and various fairs; all forums in which participants could discuss human rights and environmental issues. One such event was the “parade of Indigenous beauty,” in which 60 women and girls took part. The Games organizers stressed that it wasn’t supposed to be a beauty contest—no queen was crowned, no runners-up chosen. Rather, they said, “it was a celebration of facial features, body types, and adornments not often given their due.” Parade organizer Tainara da Silva (Terena) from Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state, said that up until recently, such an event would have been unthinkable. “Before, the elders didn’t want to show their womenfolk in public,” said Silva, an agronomist who began organizing beauty contests on her home reservation several years ago. “But that’s changing. They now see that this is a way of valorizing our culture and traditions.” Silva views the Games’ auxiliary events as a way to show the Brazilian public how diverse the country truly is. Brazil has more than 300 Indigenous groups, although their numbers have dwindled since pre-Columbian times and they now constitute less than 0.5 percent of the population. “Most times, people say, ‘Look, there’s an Indian,’ without even realizing how many Indigenous groups there are,” she said. “I want to show the richness of our people, how each of us is different and special.” Fittingly, the motto of the first World Indigenous Games was “En 2015, somos todos indígenas” (“In 2015, we are all Indigenous”). All photos courtesy of Tiago Zenero/PNUD Brasil.
The event was not without substantial controversy. Leaders from two Indigenous groups in Brazil, the Kraho and Apinaje tribes, announced their refusal to take part in the Games, citing the Brazilian government’s failure to address concerns about land rights and violence in many Indigenous communities across the country. The Union Association of ApinajéPempxà Villages said in a statement: “[We] cannot accept and participate in a sensationalized media event which aims to use images of Indigenous Peoples to distort the facts and lie abroad; hiding the true reality and suffering of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.” Some critics suggested that the federal money spent on the Games would have been better set aside for improved healthcare and education for Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples. In addition, much criticism centered around a government proposal that would provide the country’s legislative branch, which is heavily influenced by agricultural lobbies, with power to define Indigenous lands, many of which contain valuable natural resources. The measure was approved by a congressional commission in the middle of the Games. In response, demonstrators burst into the arena during the 100-meter dash Wednesday night, effectively ending the evening’s activities and causing organizers to dramatically increase security. An international social media campaign backed by 83 organizations called for a global boycott of agricultural product imports grown on Indigenous lands shortly thereafter. The issue continued to develop alongside the positive media coverage of the Games, illuminating the dark underbelly of Indigenous struggle in Brazil along with corresponding struggles worldwide in tandem with international spectacles such as the Games. The World Games, despite its many issues, was ultimately praised for what it tried to do. Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band told CBC News in Canada, “I’ve always been proud to be First Nations, but even prouder now after going to the Games. It just renews and rejuvenates ourselves as Indigenous Peoples of the world.” Felicia Chischilly (Navajo) of New Mexico, one of the United States’ 19 delegates, said to the Associated Press, “It’s a powwow in the true sense of the word—a gathering of nations.” The next World Indigenous Games are set to be held in Canada in 2017. The country was selected in a consensus by a council of international Indigenous leaders during the Games in Palmas, based in large part on First Nations’ experience in organizing the North American Indigenous Games. Organizers say the precise location and date will be determined after spiritual and political consultations. Littlechild, who will play a key role in organizing this next edition of the Games, looks favorably upon this decision. Government partnership will be important, he said, since the main challenge in staging the games will be financial. He added that he will be looking for commitments from Indigenous communities as well as the private sector, saying that “some [corporations that] have a very bad name in terms of their activity on Indigenous territory [will have] a chance to reconsider how they have dealt with those communities.” Right: The World Indigenous Games were a chance to showcase skill, strength, and resilience and celebrate diversity. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 21
A barricade with a sign, "the resistance is growing" blocks the road leading to the Kallak iron mine.
A Sami man watches a reindeer race during Jokkmokk's annual winter market.
A New Era of Exploitation?
Mining Sami Lands in Sweden Alec Forss
dirt road leads deep into a thick forest of pine and spruce some 25 miles west of the small town of Jokkmokk, in Norrbotten County, in Sweden’s far north. Beard lichen, an indicator of the pure air quality, hangs thickly from the branches while Siberian and Eurasian jays dart between the trees harboring a bounty of berries. Turning left at a sign for Kallak, the sound of heavy machinery operating suddenly cuts through the stillness of the forest. A bit further in lie a dozen test pits stripped bare of vegetation and ready for dynamiting. In the middle of a pit is a reindeer, oblivious to the rich deposits of iron ore in the bedrock underneath. In this remote corner of Sweden above the Arctic Circle, a battle line has been drawn over the proposed Kallak iron mine, pitting environmentalists and the region’s Indigenous population–the Sami, who number around 20,000 in Sweden —against those in favor of mining as a means of boosting jobs and revenue. Keen to cash in on the region’s resource wealth is the British-based mineral exploration company Beowulf Mining, which, through its Swedish subsidiary Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB, has applied for an exploitation concession for the Kallak North iron ore deposit. Noted as an Area of National Interest by the Swedish Geological Survey, the company announced an indicated resource base of 118.5 million tons—one of the largest deposits in Sweden not yet to have been exploited. With a population in long-term decline and a dearth of steady employment opportunities, mining is seen by some as a lifeline for northern inland communities. Others are skeptical that the mine will deliver the promised jobs and benefits, and also fear the ecological risks of contamination and waste. 22 • ww w. cs. org
The debate has split the community. It is, however, the minority Sami population, the original custodians of this land, who stand the most to lose. The Sami have inhabited the northerly reaches of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula in Russia (a place they call Sápmi) for thousands of years, living off the land and its resources as pastoralists and hunters. While the Sami today live in modern houses and have other jobs, for many Sami in Jokkmokk reindeer herding remains a cornerstone of their culture, identity, and economy. The proposed mine not only lies on an important spring and autumn grazing ground for the Sami’s reindeer, but it would also require an upgraded road and rail infrastructure to get the iron to the Swedish port of Luleå and the Norwegian town of Narvik on the Atlantic coast. The Sami community is adamant that if the mine goes ahead, it will endanger their livelihoods. “It could be devastating,” says Jonas Vannar, reindeer herder and vice-chairman of Sirges Sameby, one of the three Sami reindeer herding communities affected by the mine. “In reindeer herding it is crucial for the reindeer to be able to migrate. We’ve seen the negative impact in other places where there are mines . . . and this area is precisely between the winter and summer pastures. [A railway] will cut off the migration routes.” The Norrbotten County Administrative Board took the view that an exploitation concession should not be granted with specific reference to chapters 3, 4, and 6 of Sweden’s environmental code, concluding that the damage mitigation measures proposed by Beowulf would not change the fact that reindeer herding would be severely affected by the mine. Worst affected would be the herding community of Jåhkågåsska Tjiellde, whose territory would be cut in two. Its chairman, Jan-Erik Läntha, is unequivocal about the mine’s All photos by Alec Forss and Björn Nordkvist.
From left to right: Workers drill into the iron ore-rich bedrock; A reindeer sits in an important grazing site, now a test pit, oblivious to the deposits below; The Sami flag painted on a board at the Kallak mine site.
potential impact: “This location is particularly sensitive. It would be a big area affected with a lot of disturbances, reducing valuable winter pasture ground for the reindeer, preventing their ability to roam, and also negatively affecting the gathering of the reindeer and migration, especially in the spring season.” Vannar also fears that the mine could affect the livelihoods of hundreds of Sami who depend on reindeer herding. “The grazing pastures for the reindeer have already grown smaller…it’s hard to say when a point of no return is reached. But with this mine, I personally fear that it will affect my survival as a reindeer herder,” he says. Of further contention is the fact that the mine is located just 50 miles away from Laponia, only one of a handful of places in the world designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site both for its natural value and cultural importance. “If access to and from our summer pastures is impeded because of this mine, that undermines the cultural basis on which Laponia was chosen as a World Heritage Site,” Vannar says. Other exploration permits for mining exist throughout the municipality. “Definitely, if there’s one open pit mine, there could be another two, three, four, five mines,” admits Jokkmokk municipal chief executive Anders Nygårds. And while environmental regulations are strict in a region dominated by a patchwork of national parks and nature reserves, a study commissioned by Beowulf Mining (which holds eight additional exploration permits) noted that exemptions could apply if deemed in the “public interest.” It is not only the livelihoods of the Sami that are stake, but the right to determine how their land should be used. In May 2014, the Sami Parliament called for a moratorium on all exploitation in Sápmi, stating that “all natural resources above and below ground within the traditional Sami land areas belong to the Sami people [and] no decision can be taken without the consent of the Sami parliament and communities involved.” Yet Sweden is conspicuously absent from the list of countries that have ratified ILO Convention 169, a legally binding instrument that recognizes Indigenous land rights. And while Sweden is a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its implementation of the articles relating to land, water, and natural resources remain controversial.
Some worry that Sweden may be on the threshold of a new era of exploitation with a mineral strategy outlined by the previous government that envisages tripling the country’s number of active mines from 16 to 47 by 2030. Many of these mines are located on Sami lands, a “resource Eldorado” that for decades has provided the majority of the country’s hydropower and is already the site of Europe’s largest iron and copper mine. Kallak could be the thin end of the wedge in a region that is seen as ripe for development. Less than 150 miles to the southwest at Rönnbäcken in Västerbotten, Vapstens reindeer herding community has reported the government’s decision to proceed with a nickel mine to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Läntha is adamant that more needs to be done to protect Sami rights. “There has to be greater awareness of and priority attached to Sami culture and reindeer herding and its needs and interests. If we always have to compete with short-term economic thinking, then we are going to lose. We believe that in the long term, the preservation of reindeer herding and the environment would be more valuable,” he argues. Unable to determine whether the Sami reindeer herding communities affected could be able to continue reindeer herding at a “manageable level,” the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden referred the decision regarding the Kallak mine to the Swedish government in February 2015. The decision expected this fall is a litmus test for the future and signal of the intention of the new government, and whether it is genuinely committed to safeguarding the rights of the Sami to determine the development of their lands. As birch leaves shimmer lemon-yellow with the onset of fall, an uneasy calm settles around Jokkmokk as all sides await the government’s decision. It’s an especially nervous wait for Vannar, Läntha, and the communities they represent. “Reindeer herding has already suffered a lot of blows over the decades and this has been a long struggle,” Vannar says, adding defiantly, “but I just know that we will not give up.” — Alec Forss is a writer and editor with a focus on adventure, environment, politics, and culture. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden. His website is: www.alecforss.com.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 23
A Modest Revolutionary in focus, has forged a more measured, self-reflective path— one that inspires of its own accord. She was raised to live a life filled with and guided by purpose, and she found hers in the same medical calling her father once did. For her, however, the practice of medicine was not a stepping stone to fomenting a political revolution. For her, health care is the revolution. Cristina Verán: Describe for us what your work entails as a medical doctor, internationalist, and representative of Cuba to the world. Aleida Guevara March: I’m an allergist and pediatrician, that’s my real job. But I also engage in solidarity work with peoples throughout the world. Wherever I travel, I bring with me the message of respect for all human beings; above all, Indigenous Peoples. For far too long, they’ve been left behind or forgotten on the road to so-called progress, yet it is precisely they who can teach the rest of us how to live our lives with greater dignity. CV: You’ve spent a major portion of your professional life working in Africa and South America. Please share some experiences which have been most eye-opening or otherwise significant.
Aleida Guevara March speaks during the unveiling of a statue honoring her father, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, at the square named for him in his birthplace of Rosario, Argentina. Photo by Pablo Flores.
Cristina Verán Aleida Guevara March isn’t content to rest on the laurels of her iconic father. Guided by the Hippocratic Oath as much, if not more, than any political manifesto, her fervor to heal the sick —especially children—is unabashedly tempered by experience working among Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.
evolutionaries don’t typically cultivate humility among their attributes to further their causa, and Che Guevara —an Argentine medical doctor who became a central figure to the Cuban Revolution—was hardly an exception. A hero in the hearts of many Indigenous people throughout Latin America and Africa especially, his internationalist interventions have not escaped criticism for what some view as a paternalistic attitude toward Indigenous Peoples. Aleida Guevara March (Guevera’s daughter, born to his second wife, Aleida March), while hardly less international
24 • ww w. cs. org
AGM: For one, I spent some time in Ecuador and became very interested in the culture of its Quichua people. I met with a group of Quichua midwives, which was very enlightening. They recognize, for example, that women should give birth in a place that is cozy and warm, comforted by loved ones— not isolated in some sterile room. If I’d had the privilege of speaking with such knowledgeable women back when I was studying medicine, perhaps the births of a hundred babies or more would have gone much better! CV: How would you describe the distinctions between theirs and your own Cuban, or Western, ideas about childbirth and maternal care overall? AGM: Let’s look at history. The Spaniards brought their own cultural and religious ideas with them to the Americas. Back in the 11th century, the Catholic church had declared that for any woman to give birth without experiencing pain would prove she was in league with the Devil; that women should suffer in childbirth. Can you imagine? Western doctors obsess over things—even to the extent that this may cause agony or harm to their patients. That’s crazy! The Indigenous healers that I worked among, however, take physiological things so calmly, so self-assuredly, and their patients benefit greatly from this. CMV: You worked for quite some time in Bolivia, where your own father was killed. How did you find people’s receptivity to Cuban medical intervention in their lives?
AGM: We Cuban doctors—more than 1,000 of us there at the time—had been taught to demonstrate the utmost respect for all our patients. The Indigenous communities felt this, and so they trusted us. We actually found ourselves at the center of conflict, wherein they were refusing to be seen by Bolivian doctors; only Cuban ones. I had not imagined anti-Indian racism would be so widespread in a country that is itself so fundamentally Indian. For so long, Indigenous Bolivians have been treated as inferior beings by their own countrymen. CV: The Indian population of Cuba is nebulous; meanwhile, those who are of Spanish and/or African descent prevail in number. Is anything in that Bolivian experience relatable to some context in Cuba? AGM: Just as Bolivia is an Indian nation, we are now an Afro-Latino one. Unquestionably, Cuba’s Afro-descendents have suffered racism comparable to that experienced by Indigenous Bolivians—especially before the revolution. Today, to speak of Cuba and Cuban identity, we refer to the three main tribal groups from Africa brought to our island, and say, “Él que no tiene de Mandinga tiene del Congo o Carabalí” (He who lacks the blood of the Mandinga people surely has that of the Congo or Carabalí). CV: You’ve spent a great deal of time in West Africa. How did you and your Cuban comrades, especially those of African descent, engage with and relate to the Indigenous Peoples there? AGM: When I was in Angola during the war, a brigade of Cuban folkloristas visited us and went around performing in many Native villages there. Each time they’d play the drums, the Angolans expressed amazement, saying, “It can’t be possible! You Cubans maintain our native customs even better than we do!” CV: Cubans—hundreds of years removed from Africa— are representing some Indigenous cultural practices more fully than the Native Angolans themselves? AGM: Well yes, that’s what they told us. As I understand it, in trying to maintain their identity and hold onto their culture during the era of slavery, all the traditional knowledge that the Africans had brought with them to Cuba from that time was frozen thereafter in their collective memory. To change or add even a word to their their songs, their prayers . . . that would have altered their connection to the ancestors. And so what has been preserved in Cuba is akin to what was practiced in Angola and elsewhere in West Africa hundreds of years ago. CV: And for you? What connection, if any, did you feel there? AGM: As I watched the performances, hearing the drums, with my Cuban people singing and dancing in that context, I began to feel as though I was also part of that village, part of Angola. Living there changed my outlook on life completely.
Aleida Guevara March, Cuban pediatrician and daughter of former minister of industries of Cuba, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, meets with president of Peruvian Congress, Daniel Abugattás Majluf, while visiting the country to meet with local social and political organizations. Photo by Congreso de la República del Perú.
CV: Have you had the opportunity to connect with Native communities in North America during your travels? AGM: I grew up seeing the old movies filled with cowboys, presenting only a fictional, Hollywood image of Indians. When I went to Canada for the first time, to Winnipeg, I asked to be taken to First Nations communities there to get a better understanding of their reality today. What a shock it was to discover so many living on what looked to be the poorest lands in the country. Drugs, violence, and alcoholism were rampant—yet Canada talks about “human rights.” Any nation that dares to open its mouth to talk about human rights anywhere else, when it forces its own Indigenous people to live in that way... it’s shameful. CV: Your father began as a doctor, but his calling to change the world ultimately manifested through asserting political ideology through armed struggle. Your own path, revolutionary in a different sense, is firmly situated in the practice of medicine. Is there a connection? AGM: How can we, as doctors, relieve the sickness of human beings if they have nothing to eat? How can we improve the overall health of people if they don’t have their own lands on which to grow food and cannot feed their children? My father asserted that you cannot talk of peace while there are children dying in need. Indeed, we cannot simply talk; we must act. And so I do.
—Cristina Verán is an international Indigenous Peoples’ issues specialist, research consultant, communications strategist, and multimedia producer. Her work focuses at the intersections of human rights, political engagement, the arts, and community development. She is a longtime United Nations correspondent and was a founding member of the UN Indigenous Media Network. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 25
B a zaar art i st: Rhyming for My A ncestors
ailing from what the Maya consider the bellybutton of the Universe—Lake Atitlan in the central Guatemala highlands—Tz’utu Kan is a hip-hop artist who lays down rhymes in the ancient Mayan languages of Tz’utujil, Kakchikuel, and Quiche. He is also a member of the group Balam Ajpu, which means “Jaguar Warrior” or “Warrior of Light.” Balam Ajpu represents duality, the balance of light and dark, male and female energy, and the return to a relationship with the cycles of nature. The group imbues modern culture with meaning through its relationship to ancestral wisdom in the arts and music. “Language in itself is music. The ancestral sound of languages is music. About six years ago I felt the urge to communicate in my language,” Kan recalls. “I would only speak the language at home, but I felt the need to communicate with my friends, with the people. [So] five years ago I started to work on this project, Cosmovision Maya hip-hop. I began to work with producers and we created a demo with five songs. We haven’t finished this project yet because of a lack of resources, but at the same time we started another project, the 20 Nawales (spirits), and I worked on this with Balam Ajpu, the group I am working with now.” Balam Ajpu’s members work to revitalize and share their cultures. In Guatemala, there are approximately 23 Maya cultures, most of which speak their own languages. “Our spiritual guides asked us to make a tribute to the nawales in 2012, because it was the change of an era, it was the end of Ba’ak’tun 13 and the start of the jun ba’ak’tun. That was the start, what we based our project on, and now we are touring in Europe,” Kan says. Balam Ajpu’s lyrics convey interpretations of the ancient Maya calendar through Maya sounds and intercultural borrowing from Native American, Andean, Rastafarian, hip-hop, and dancehall rhythms. They work to instill in youth pride for their culture through their Hip-Hop Cosmovision School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. “[The Mayan language] holds thousands of years of knowledge that little by little we are uncovering, as more people study it and more people practice it, write poetry, compose music, write anthologies, poems, books. The album we are promoting is what we call the ‘real’ time, because we use a bad calendar, the mechanical calendar... this is separating us from the calendar of the world’s natural cycles. And that is what we propose, a calendar which has been always used, closer to the exact, closer to the natural,” says Kan. Kan also works closely with Canal Cultural, a collective of artists in Guatemala that aims to bring about social, political, and economic transformation in rural Maya communities through visual, musical, and performance arts. “We are making a small contribution to music. There are many artists trying to revive ancestral knowledge by way of the arts, through painting, theater, and music,” Kan says. “Through Canal Cultural, we are giving grants to young people so they can learn and grow, cultivate their talents, their art.” Over the past five years, the group has also worked with children through Escuela Caza Ajaw, a free school of cosmovision hip-hop. “We are not purists; that is why we create a fusion with other things, like hip-hop with reggae, cumbia...that is what we are trying to do, stay afloat with everything that is happening in the world, globalization. We have an advantage, because there aren’t many who are singing in Mayan, not many who promote the Mayan languages,” Kan says. In a country plagued by environmental degradation and economic exploitation, violence, and political instability, Kan sees music as an instrument to teach young people to live in harmony with others and nature by returning to the Maya traditions. “Through art,” he says, “we can contribute to changing humanity, and ourselves.” Check out our upcoming schedule of Cultural Survival Bazaars at www.bazaar.cs.org. December 11–13: The Shops at Prudential Center, Boston, MA. December 19–20: Center for Government & International Studies at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
26 • ww w. cs. org
Photo by Hawk Henries.
S up por t Ou r E f f o r t s
Ways to Support
Cultural Survival “
he concentration of Guatemala’s media has prevented the exercise of real democracy by barring the broadcast of varied sources of information and opinions, and has contributed to a loss of Indigenous cultures and values. Under rule of law, it’s impossible to allow community radio broadcasting to be prosecuted. It is a contradiction,” said Cultural Survival Community Media Program Manager, Ancelmo Xunic, explaining why international pressure needs to be put on Guatemala to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to freedom of expression. This past October, Xunic travelled from Sumpango, Guatemala to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the right to freedom of expression in Guatemala at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (see page 10). The 1996 Peace Accords that ended Guatemala’s 36-year civil war guaranteed the democratization of the media. However, the current telecommunications law makes no provision for nonprofit community radio, such as Radio Ixchel in Sumpango, which Xunic is involved with. Consider making a gift this holiday season to support community media projects like this in 2016.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — M a h at ma Ga n d h i
Thank you for your continued support of Cultural Survival! Together, we have made it possible for Indigenous voices to be heard on important issues affecting their cultures, lands, communities, and economic wellbeing for more than 43 years. In 2015, you helped support community radio projects all over Central America, uplifted the voices of Indigenous women at international forums, and helped stall a mining project in Bangladesh by backing grassroots community protests. (Just to name a few programmatic highlights.) Please consider making a tax-deductible yearend gift to Cultural Survival this holiday season. Together, we will continue to work towards selfdetermination, culture revitalization, and political resilience for Indigenous communities in 2016. For more information or to make your gift, please visit donate.culturalsurvival.org, or call us at 617-441-5400.
Stay connected and support Indigenous Rights! • Renewing your membership ensures that you will continue to receive our award winning publication, Cultural Survival Quarterly at no additional cost • Visit our website (cs.org) for news and stories from Indigenous communities around the world • Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to get the latest news delivered to your inbox. • Take part in an advocacy campaign and take action to support the rights of Indigenous Peoples by writing letters, sending emails, or signing a petition: cs.org/programs/advocacy • Follow us on Twitter (@CSORG) and like us on facebook (facebook.com/culturalsurvival) for news and daily information on Indigenous rights!
Ancelmo Xunic. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 27
get i nvo lve d
Convention Against Torture Joshua Cooper Human rights are measured through United Nations human rights conventions and covenants. Regular reviews monitor how states are realizing the rights recognized in the treaties. Civil society can influence international institutions by participating in every phase of the review process. Involvement of Indigenous Peoples is imperative to seek justice through every review and contribute to global standard setting. In this series we aim to break down the core treaties. The review of every nation offers NGOs a chance to educate citizens about their rights and engage together to demand realization of rights enshrined in the treaties ratified by their governments.
ndigenous Peoples have long been the target of government-sanctioned, systemic actions intended to intimidate and cause harm. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) is a human rights mechanism created to criminalize such actions, as well as to provide an enforceable right to redress. There are measures to train and educate state officials at every phase of interaction from arrest to imprisonment. There is also a process for cases to be raised with competent authorities for impartial investigation of accountability. Under the Convention, a 10-member committee of experts reviews states as guarantors of the rights enshrined, focusing on comprehensive protection from the full spectrum of severe pain or suffering intentionally inflicted to obtain information, intimidate, coerce, or punish. The Convention also covers punishment of persons broadly for any reason, based on discrimination of any kind, which is particularly pertinent to Indigenous Peoples. Survivors of torture have the right to complain and have their case promptly considered by competent authorities without consequence, and to receive consideration for rehabilitation and family compensation.
When a country ratifies the Convention Against Torture, it must submit an initial report within one year to be reviewed by the committee of experts. Periodic reports are subsequently due every four years. The UN Committee Against Torture meets three times a year for four-week sessions, each time reviewing eight or nine states under Article 19 of the Convention. Indigenous Peoples must complete their own “shadow” reports two weeks prior to the start of the session. The shadow reports should be clear and precise, providing the experts with factual information. The procedural List of Issues is adopted at the session prior to the actual review; Indigenous Peoples can also submit information to be included. A country rapporteur is assigned to lead the dialogue with the state under review. One can examine the committee members’ research records or watch a webcast of a previous review to gain better understanding and 28 • ww w. cs. org
Palais Wilson in the UN compound in Geneva.
The Palais Wilson cafeteria is a good location for informal dialogue with experts.
match up one’s issues with the most appropriate committee members. Also, there is a one-hour private meeting with the committee with thirty minutes assigned for the presentation of shadow reports. The remaining thirty minutes allow for the committee to follow up on the briefing presentations. The day following the private briefing are two, three-hour sessions of interactive dialogue. States open the dialogue with a short overview on the situation of torture. The country’s assigned rapporteur leads with questions and comments regarding the state’s report, responses to the list of issues, and specific situations regarding torture. The remaining committee members ask questions and make comments regarding the rights enshrined in the convention articles, to which the
state responds. Then there are followup questions and comments to allow the committee to fully understand the situation under review. At the conclusion of the review, the rapporteur and the state each make closing statements, and the secretariat and rapporteur draft concluding observations to be adopted following the review. The committee identifies a number of concerns and recommendations in the concluding observations that could be achieved within one year. In serious cases, states are required to provide information on measures taken to realize the recommendations. Civil society can also submit responses on how the state is addressing the issues, which will be published on the Convention Against Torture’s website. Indigenous Peoples don’t have to wait until a state is under review. Under Article 20, confidential inquiries may take place when reliable information of systematic practice of torture is received by the committee. Also, if state has accepted Article 22, the committee can consider individual complaints.
The committee also determines General Comments elaborating on articles in the Convention Against Torture and provides guidance to governments on interpretations of enshrined rights. General comments can provide insight into potential actions by states to address compliance with the Convention. Participation in the creation of a general comment allows one to frame the right. The committee conducts an open dialogue among experts, NGOs, and UN specialized agencies based on prepared position papers and conversations developed during the interactive exchange of the open dialogue. A committee member is then tasked with drafting the general recommendations to be discussed at a subsequent session where the revised draft will later be adopted.
Cycle of Consideration
The UN human rights treaty body follows a five-phase process for each state review: preparation, interaction, consideration, adoption, and implementation. The first and final phases are concentrated more in one’s community and country level, where human rights of Indigenous Peoples matter most. The three middle phases are centered around the committee process and the interactive campaign with the committee experts. For each phase, it is essential to coordinate a courageous and creative campaign at three levels: grassroots community, government at capital level, and global civil society. The preparation phase is predominantly centered around educating and empowering people to participate in the process effectively. The heart of the action is examining the human rights record of the government and coordinating a creative campaign to realize the rights enshrined in the Convention Against Torture, thereby influencing state policies and practices that will impact Indigenous Peoples’ daily lives. The result of preparation is mobilization of a movement around the rights of the aggrieved and creation of a shadow report summarizing the issues, questions, and recommendations to be raised. The interaction phase initiates participation with the UN secretariat and committee members to ensure that the issues, questions, and specific recommendations raised in the previous phase are understood and will be utilized in the state review. This phase must be rooted in the reality of Indigenous
Peoples’ experience and will prepare the committee to see through government rhetoric and raise specific questions regarding current practices. It further prepares the committee to better discuss the facts and suggest specific recommendations to change conditions in police actions and prisons, as well as Indigenous Peoples’ experience with state officials. The core concentration in this phase is to build a relationship of trust with the committee members. The consideration phase revolves around the rights enshrined in the Convention Against Torture and those raised in the reviews by the experts based on the contribution of shadow reports and communication with committee members. The Convention is unique within the UN human rights treaty body, as the entire committee meets with National Human Rights Institutions and NGOs for one hour prior to the actual consideration in advance of the review. The consideration phase should empower people to coordinate campaigns reflecting the reality of the human rights situation and support the demands for inherent dignity for Indigenous Peoples at the global level. The adoption phase is where recommendations are issued based on the responses to list of issues, the shadow reports of NGOs, and the actual five-hour review. If one’s concerns are well presented, the priorities of Indigenous Peoples regarding specific human rights enshrined in articles of convention should be featured in the committee’s concluding observation. There is a press conference on the final day sharing the results of the review. The implementation phase closes the cycle, returning to the community and country level and demanding action based on the specific recommendations made in the concluding observations. Demands arising from the denial of dignity should be at the forefront of government actions to guarantee fundamental freedoms raised by Indigenous Peoples. During each of the five phases, Indigenous Peoples can follow up on previous recommendations as well as identify urgent matters to be prioritized in upcoming cycles to ensure Indigenous rights are protected and respected. The Convention Against Torture can be a powerful ally to protect Indigenous Peoples from new forms of cruel and inhuman treatment. Degrading policies and practices of colonization and control have historically aimed to cause physical and mental anguish for Indigenous Peoples, so the Convention is a human rights treaty body that should be engaged whenever possible. Other mechanisms that can be engaged include the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, each of which have been created to ensure that the issue of torture of Indigenous Peoples is no longer ignored and initiatives are taken to prevent it in the future. —Joshua Cooper is a professor at the University of Hawai’i, West Oahu, Kapolei and director of the Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights. Read the Convention Against Torture here: goo.gl/OwPr1H.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2015 • 29
Five easy ways to support Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Survival in this giving season
Make an online donation to Cultural Survival and save a tree! Become a Monthly Sustainer. Set it and forget it. Help us spend more resources on programs with Indigenous Peoples.
Give a gift subscription of the Cultural Survival Quarterly to someone you love. Donate online or call the number below.
Invest in Future Generations. Include Cultural Survival in your estate plans and leave an important legacy for future generations. Visit: www.cs.org/
Give Appreciated Stock! Save on capital gains taxes by donating your appreciated stock and other securities today.
Be Social. Like us on Facebook (facebook.com/ culturalsurvival) and follow us on Twitter (@CSORG). Tell three friends about Cultural Survival and invite them to become members.
Donate online at cs.org/donate Call us at 617.441.5400 x18 Thank you for all you do. You make our work possible every day!