40-2 Our Cultures, Our Lands, Our Rights (June 2016)

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Cultural Survival Q






VOL. 40, ISSUE 2 • JUNE 2016 US $4.99/CAN $6.99







Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) TREASURER

Steven Heim CLERK

Nicole Friederichs Evelyn Arce Alison Bernstein Jason Campbell (Spokane) Joseph Goko Mutangah Laura Graham Jean Jackson Lesley Kabotie (Crow) Stephen Marks Stella Tamang (Tamang) FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival Headquarters 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org Boulder Office 2769 Iris Ave., Suite 101 Boulder, CO 80304

Anwerlarr angerr “Big yam” (1996) by Emily Kam Kngwarray, Aboriginal Australian (Anmatyerre). (On display as part of Harvard Art Museums’ “Everywhen” exhibit, see page 4.)


12 At a Crossroads: Seeking Justice for Indigenous Human Rights and Environmental Defenders in Belize

Cultural Survival Quarterly

Writers’ Guidelines

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 “We have no other spare or replacement planet. We only have this one, and we have to take action.” —Berta Cáceres rally, NYC, March 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of Natalie Jeffers, ii of • the www. cs. org Matters Earth.


Stephanie Borcea and Kieron Farrelly The Maya Leaders Alliance continues the fight for Indigenous ancestral lands.

4 INDIGENOUS ARTS: Between Land and Sky: Imagining Indigeneity “Everywhen”

Stephen K. Muntet A Maasai perspective on conflict resolution among pastoralists in Kenya.

6 WOMEN THE WORLD MUST HEAR Berta Cáceres Vive! Remembering a fearless Lenca leader

20 Battling the Nicaragua Canal

Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska 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.


18 A Cow Is Life: The Pokot-Turkana Conflict

Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural 6ta Avenida 5-27, Local “C” Zona 1, Sumpango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

Copyright 2016 by Cultural Survival, Inc.


Rosy Gonzalez Excerpts from an investigative documentary radio program produced by Indigenous Rights Radio.

22 Learning to Relate Through Indigenous Science Education

Jeff Baker How the Indigenous Science Education movement is unfolding across the globe and making an impact on Western science.

24 Saving the Heart of Our Cultures: Indigenous Languages at the UN

Richard A. Grounds World experts met in New York in January to discuss ways to halt Indigenous language loss.

27 Rural Women’s Right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Danielle DeLuca The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued a General Recommendation. What does it mean for the rights of Indigenous women?

8 CLIMATE CHANGE The Birthplace of the Winds: St. George Island 10 RIGHTS IN ACTION Chevron Corp. v. Yaiguaje: Movement toward a global enforceability of environmental justice

12 BOARD SPOTLIGHT Jason Campbell 26 BAZAAR ARTIST Gina Brooks 29 GET INVOLVED Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination


Our Cultures, Our Lands, Our Rights


n this issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly, we highlight the personal sacrifice and vulnerability of Indigenous leaders around the globe fighting for the implementation of Indigenous rights and defending the environment. Berta Cáceres devoted her life to her people, to Indigenous people worldwide, and to life itself. Her murder is a senseless criminal act of violence and a deliberate attack on what she stood for: the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It should be condemned at every level, from the State to the international, and the perpetrators brought to justice. With Berta’s murder, we are reminded how fragile life is, how the sacred should always be protected, and how we all, as an international community, carry the responsibility to support and protect those working on the frontlines for social change. International human rights mechanisms and global standards like the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the newly issued General Recommendation 34 by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, have been established to aid Indigenous people in advocacy efforts. Yet, how do we battle with violence, persecution, and murder of human rights defenders in places where there is no regard for the sacred, for human life, for the environment? We honor and thank community leaders like Patrick Pletinkoff, Richard Grounds, Cristina Coc and Pablo Mis, whose stories you will read here, that are tirelessly and selflessly working to stop the tides of climate change, language loss, and land dispossession. To make an impact and catalyze a movement it often only takes one brave soul to be a champion for change, and

these brave souls need our support and protection. Stephen Muntet gives us a glimpse into the challenges of life of pastoral communities in Kenya and offers solutions for conflict and peacekeeping based on traditional values. And we welcome our newest board member, Jason Campbell, whose work also centers around Indigenous values and using these values to drive responsible and sustainable investments while improving the quality of life of Native communities in the US. Also, Jeff Baker highlights the importance of Indigenous knowledge in the advancement of science and as “a source of transformative possibilities for catalyzing more equitable and sustainable ways of living.” We spotlight Harvard Art Museums’ ongoing exhibit “Everywhen,” featuring contemporary Aboriginal Australian artists, that curator Stephen Gilchrist describes as “thinking about time and power and who gets to claim it.” Power, who holds power, and how power is unjustly wielded, in the end is at the center of so many struggles Indigenous Peoples face. Our truth to power is the fight for the future of our children, the generations to come, our mother earth, and the sacredness of all life. This is the struggle of our activist brothers and sisters on the front lines. Thank you for your support and for standing with Indigenous leaders who are being systematically targeted and silenced as they defend their people, cultures, lands, and children.

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 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 Melvy Lorena Medina Patzán, Fundraising Associate Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Program Director, Oscar Armando Xunic Rocal (Kaqchikel), Accountant

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Nicolette Archambault, Stephanie Borcea, Don Butler, Diana Estrella, Kieron Farrelly, Stephen Muntet, Shaina Semiatin, Lucas Tatarsky, Kristen Williams

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


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Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 1

i n t he new s Canada: Supreme Court Rules Metis, Non-Status Indians Are Federal Responsibility APRIL

In a landmark decision more than 15 years in the making, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously declared that Canada’s 600,000 Metis and nonstatus Indians are indeed “Indians” under the Constitution. The Court also upheld the notion that the government has a duty to negotiate with Metis.

New Zealand: –ori Bill to Revitalize Ma Language Passes

The Maori Language Act will strengthen efforts to revitalize the Maori language in New Zealand. Photo courtesy of PATARIKA via Flickr.

Peru: Oil Spill Devastates Wampis Territory MARCH

The Ma–ori Language Act sets up Te Matawai, a new body charged with working with the Crown to revitalize the Ma–ori language, including joint oversight of Ma–ori Television with the minister of finance. It also recognizes the Ma–ori language as a national treasure and acknowledges the Crown’s failure to protect it through past policies.

After a February oil spill resulted in the contamination of 400 square meters of land in the Wampis community of Mayuriaga and the Cashacaño and Morona Rivers, the governing body of Peru’s Indigenous Wampis people submitted a complaint to the nation’s regulatory body for the environment accusing the State-run oil company of failing to prevent and contain the oil spill.

Canada: Attawapiskat First Nation Declares State of Emergency

USA: Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of Omaha Tribe



The Attawapiskat First Nation of Ontario, Canada, has declared a state of emergency after 11 members of the community committed suicide in April following 28 attempted suicides in March. The Attawapiskat community has long struggled with this issue, with as many as 6,000 suicide attempts since 2009.

Brazil: UN Special Rapporteur Denounces Abuses of Indigenous Peoples MARCH

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria TauliCorpuz, traveled to Brazil for an official visit in March to meet with over 50 groups of Indigenous Peoples. She expressed concern over documented attacks on Indigenous Peoples and the negative effects of agribusiness projects in the Amazon that have resulted in direct violence against them. 2 • ww w. cs. org


In 2006 the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska amended its beverage control ordinance to apply to all businesses, including those located off the reservation. The town of Pender, and eventually the state of Nebraska, challenged the ordinance on the grounds that they were located outside of the reservation boundary. In a victory for the tribe, the Supreme Court upheld the ordinance.

Canada: Nadleh and Stella Leaders Launch First Aboriginal Water Management System MARCH

The Nadleh Whut’en and Stellat’en leaders in Vancouver, British Columbia have created a policy to protect the water quality of their community and the surrounding area. Their policy would create higher water quality standards and require approval of any projects that would impact surface water.

Sweden: Sami Reindeer Herders Win Historic Land Use Case FEBRUARY

After a long-running legal battle for exclusive rights to hunting and fishing across a swath of Arctic Sweden, the Swedish Sami community of Girjas won a decision that restores land use rights taken away from them in 1993.

Guatemala: First Trial for Systematic Violations of Indigenous Women Takes Place FEBRUARY

The first public trial for systematic violations against Indigenous women in Guatemala began on February 1. Women’s organizations have fought extensively to bring to light the horrendous acts that were committed against Maya women during, and in the decades following, Guatemala’s civil war.

Malaysia: Small Victory to Stop the Baram Dam JANUARY

After two years of fighting against the construction of the controversial hydro Baram Dam in Sarawak, Malaysia, local Indigenous Peoples successfully halted construction of the controversial dam. The chief minister of Sarawak, a Malaysian state on Borneo, publicly announced the moratorium. The tribes are concerned about potential flooding of 338 kilometers of ancestral Indigenous land, and remain adamant that they will not stop protesting until the project is stopped permanently.

Campaign Updates CAMBODIA: HELP SAVE PREY LANG (“OUR FOREST”) Attempted Murder on a Prey Lang Community Network Activist In March, four activists from the Prey Lang Community Network in Cambodia were camping in the forest to monitor and suppress illegal logging when a member of the community was attacked by an unknown assailant. Youth activist Phan Sopheak is one of the Prey Lang activists nominated to represent Prey Lang Community Network to receive an Equator Prize from UNDP last December. Meanwhile, the level of deforestation in Prey Lang has increased dramatically since early 2016, despite the Cambodian government’s public commitments to combat illegal logging.

BANGLADESH: BAN COAL MINE, SAVE FORESTS AND FARMS Protesters Killed by Police Over Coal Project At least four people were killed after police opened fire at a massive protest of several thousand villagers in Bangladesh on April 4. This was the largest loss of life at an anti-coal protest in Bangladesh since the tragic deaths in the August 26, 2006 killings at Phulbari, Bangladesh. Villagers in Banshkhali district of Chittagong, Bangladesh have been loudly protesting against the plans of S. Alam Group, which plans to build two coal-fired power plants in the area by evicting thousands of villagers and landowners. In December 2013, S. Alam Group struck an agreement with SEPCO3 Electric Power Construction Corporation of China to set up a

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.

coal-fired power plant. S. Alam Group and their Chinese backers plan to initiate the power plant by November 2019 across a 600 acre site. No consultation has taken place with community members who would be affected. The project will require an investment of $2.4 billion USD, of which $1.75 billion will come from Chinese lenders. GUATEMALA: WE ARE ALL BARILLAS—STOP A DAM ON OUR SACRED RIVER! UN Calls on Guatemala to Release Political Prisoners as Indigenous Human Rights Defenders Mark One Year in Prison March 2016 marked one year in prison for Rigoberto Juarez Mateo, a longtime Indigenous community activist from Santa Eulalia, Guatemala who was arbitrarily arrested while denouncing human rights violations against himself and his community. Mateo is a representative of the plurinational government of the Q’anjob’al, Chuj, Akateka, Popti, and Mestizo peoples of Huehuetenango. He, along with many other Indigenous leaders in Guatemala, is being systematically charged with arbitrary crimes and held in prison, removed them from their role as community leaders and organizers who support communities in activism defending their natural resources and ancestral claims to land. In the last 4 years, 6 leaders have been assassinated, 41 have been wounded, 63 currently have warrants for arrest, 31 have been jailed, and 7 currently remain unjustly imprisoned. In April, members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues met with Indigenous leaders in Guatemala who denounced this systematic criminalization. After their week long visit came to a

close on April 16, 2016, members of the UN Permanent Forum issued a list of recommendations to Guatemalan authorities calling “for the immediate release of the Indigenous leaders and activists presently incarcerated and to ensure their access to due process, justice as well as impartial defense. This request is the only way to ensure the equal application of the rule of law. All Indigenous individuals and peoples must have specific measures for their personal security and access to justice.” The recommendations also highlight the stark inequality and racism between Indigenous Guatemalans and other members of society: “We have observed that a root cause of many, if not most of the problems facing Guatemala’s Indigenous Peoples, is the concentration of land ownership, especially fertile farmlands, in few hands.” HONDURAS: RESPECT INDIGENOUS AND CAMPESINO RIGHTS Suspects Arrested in Cáceres Case Berta Cáceres was assassinated in March (see page 6). On May 2, the Honduran government announced the arrest of four suspects, including members of the Honduran military police and army and employees of the Honduran company responsible for the construction of Agua Zarca, a hydroelectric dam that COPINH has long resisted for violating the human rights of hundreds of Lenca people. Cáceres’ family and COPINH are calling for an independent group of international investigators to be led by the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights.

Take action at www.cs.org/ take-action. Read more news at www.cs.org/news. Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly Cultural

June June 2016 2015 •• 33

indi geno u s a rts


Imagining Indigeneity “Everywhen” Shaina Semiatin


magine for a moment that you are standing outside in the blue-grey dawn of the Australian Great Sandy Desert. The temperature hangs in the low 60s and the surrounding light is inky and hard to see through. Above you, the sky is still littered with stars as far as the eye can see. As you stare up at them, you begin to lose track of where the earth ends and the sky begins. This is what it feels like to walk into Stephen Gilchrist’s “Everywhen” exhibition, currently on display at Harvard Art Museums through September 18, 2016. Gilchrist, who is of the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group, has been working on this collection in collaboration with Harvard Art Museums for the past five years. A man of patient and thoughtful demeanor, he designed the exhibition to engage the complex relationships between Australian indigeneity, identity, and time. “The exhibition is thinking about time and power and who gets to claim it,” Gilchrist explains. “We’re thinking about art history, the category of the ‘primitive,’ and the social category as well. Many people think that Aboriginal people are assigned to the past. So, I wanted in my curatorial approach to think differently—to think about curatorial practice not as preservation, but as activation.” The curator’s desire to activate the space is felt both in the physical design and in the careful selection of the 70-plus works on display. The gallery is broken up into four sections: Seasonality, Transformation, Performance, and Remembrance. Despite these distinct thematic regions, “Everywhen” is designed in a looping figure eight pattern, so the audience always returns to the beginning of their journey at the end. “It’s a conceptual approach to thinking about how time is

4 • ww w. cs. org

Remembrance space, featuring photography by Christian Thompson (Bidjara people).

divided,” says Gilchrist. “The idea of the exhibition is this occupation of space but also the occupation of time. So when you’re moving through the gallery, you’re also moving through these various time zones.“ Seasonality, the first room that visitors enter, is focused on natural time and highlights how ecological ideas are mobilized alongside ideas of belonging. One of the first works that the audience comes across is Gulumbu Yunupingu’s “Garak IV” (The Universe), an incredible series of thousands of stars painted in earth pigments on eucalyptus bark. Gilchrist considers this one of the key works of “Everywhen,” as it challenges the audience to bend their understandings of modernity and Indigenous presence: This work is all about collapsing temporalities. It’s a depiction of the night sky, but you’re looking at these stars that may have already burnt out. It’s this idea of light that is already dimmed across these unfathomable distances into our present, so it’s a metaphor for how the past is presenced in our present. I was thinking about how Aboriginals don’t physically live in the past, but the past is still revered and held sacred. These narratives of the dreaming that disclose how the world came into being are not just about narratives of the past, because they also tell us how to live in the present, which sustains generations to come. So it’s more complicated than people think. We [Aboriginal people] think of these as breathing objects, and in them we embed and condense all this cultural information. The room that follows, Transformation, illustrates the historical struggle of Aboriginal artists to gain recognition on a global scale. In part, Gilchrist attributes the increase in global

Seasonality space, featuring Regina Wilson’s Syaw (Fish net) on left, and Judy Watson’s bunya (right).

Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land (2008) by Julie Gough, Aboriginal Australian (Tebrikunna).

acceptance of Aboriginal art to the seminal works of Albert Namatjira. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Namatjira produced hundreds of works using primarily modern styles and techniques. He was recognized by the Australian public as a great national painter, and was the first Aboriginal person to be granted Australian citizenship. Gilchrist is clear to add, however, that it wasn’t until the 1970s, when Aboriginal artists were painting more distinctly in their own iconography, that the larger battle for recognition was fought. In modern-day Australia, roughly 50 percent of all professional artists identify as Indigenous, and there is a strong national acceptance and familiarity with Aboriginal art styles. But that level of acceptance has yet to take hold internationally. Gilchrist notes that one of the show’s aims is to make people more aware of Aboriginal art traditions and the 400 million Indigenous peoples around the world. As he explains, “There is an important cultural imperative to painting. The community can feel that they are co-owners of this work; the artists are making decisions and negotiating. To me, it’s about privileging artists’ voices, privileging Indigenous voices. The provocation of the show is to imagine the world otherBelow: Artist Vernon Ah Kee (Yidindji, Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Koko Berrin and Gugu Yimithirr peoples) standing before his many lies installation.

wise. . . colonization is not the meta-narrative of indigeneity. It’s about seeing the ways in which Indigenous artists are taking this type of painting, creating something new, and reconstituting it.” Following the Transformation room, the exhibition weaves visitors through the Performance area, which focuses on rhythm and gesture in Australian Indigenous works, and concludes in the resounding Remembrance space. The Remembrance space engages Indigenous art on multiple levels, incorporating monochromatic painting, photography, writing, and sculpture. In explaining why he decided to strip away bright colors from the Remembrance section, Gilchrist says, “The past unfortunately erupts into the present for so many Indigenous Peoples around the world. Aboriginal people have been at the place now termed ‘Australia’ for at least 40,000 years, so the knowledge of those 400 generations, and what has been lost in the [preceding] 228 years, is resounding. I thought it was really important that we linger in these spaces of discomfort and talk about the history of what happened. But it’s also not to try and present Aboriginal people as always being victims, and not always this deficit of loss. There is power in renaming it.” Of particular impact in this final section is a wall-sized print of vinyl text entitled “many lies” by Vernon Ah Kee. The text runs diagonally along the wall in the shape of a scar, and concludes with the resounding words: “I try to remember my life / and words that make me strong / but the lies rake and tear at my roots, / cutting me from the earth. / I live, / and all I have are pieces of truth. / but with my little pieces / I am unflinching and unforgiving.” It is in this room that the magnitude of Gilchrist’s thoughtful work collides with the many complicated histories of Indigenous Australians. By creating a space of tension, the curator has wisely opened up the opportunity for an honest dialogue. “I think it’s difficult to get people to see things through Indigenous eyes, [an] Indigenous lens,” Gilchrist says. “But time is something that people experience every day, so you’re just asking them to recalibrate. Like when we look at “Garak IV” in the beginning. We see that the sky is innocent of these colonial narratives. The land, unfor- tunately, is not. But this exhibition is thinking about what that in between space would look like.” ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF HARVARD MUSEUMS.

Performance space, featuring Doreen Nakamarra's Untitled on left, and Dorothy Dapangardi's Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa on right.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 5

women th e wo r ld m u st hear

An outpouring of support for Berta Cáceres took place around the world. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cima, Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

Berta Cáceres Vive!

REMEMBERING A FEARLESS LENCA LEADER “When a bright star of hope and power goes out, we grieve deeply because we know our pain and loss is much larger than ourselves and timeless over generations in our struggle. Berta Cáceres devoted her life to her people, to Indigenous people worldwide, and to life itself. Her murder is a criminal

Berta Cáceres. Photo courtesy of Prachatai via Flickr.

act of violence, is senseless, and a deliberate attack on what Berta stood for—the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It should be condemned at every level, from the State to the international, and the perpetrators brought to justice.”


Carol Schachet


ome define courage as knowing the danger and continuing on regardless. In that sense, Berta Cáceres was one of the most courageous leaders I have ever met.    Cáceres was a Honduran Indigenous leader deeply involved in the protection of Indigenous land rights in Honduras. She was murdered on March 3, 2016 at her home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras, after many years of organizing in the face of repeated death threats and the assassinations of her colleagues. Attackers entered her home at approximately 1:00 a.m., according to Tomas Membreño, member of the Commission of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), of which Cáceres was the coordinator. Cáceres had spent many months in hiding after receiving threats to her life over the years for her work accompanying 6 • ww w. cs. org

movements that defended her community, in addition to suffering from political persecution and multiple calls for her arrest. The international community had strongly condemned the threats to her life. In 2015, Cáceres, together with COPINH and her community, received the highest recognition on an international scale for environmental defenders: the Goldman Environmental Prize. Prior to her death, Cáceres had applied for and received precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, meaning that the government of Honduras was obligated to provide police protection. However, there was no police detail protecting her on the night of her death. A leader in the Lenca community, Cáceres helped organize a powerful movement to stop the construction of the Agua Zarca hydrolelectric dam and to protect the Gualcarque River basin, a sacred site for the Lenca people. For more than a year

the Lenca people maintained a human blockade to stop trucks from entering the dam construction site and thus halted its construction. It was a result of her work that the largest contractor of this dam at the international level, Sinohydro, pulled out of the project. Despite ongoing threats against her life (and the murder of fellow COPINH leader Tomás García in 2013), she remained steadfast in her commitment to protect Mother Earth and her community. In Cáceres’ Goldman Prize acceptance speech she said, “We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own selfdestruction. The Gualcarque River has called upon us, as have other gravely threatened rivers. We must answer their call. Our Mother Earth—militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated—demands that we take action.” Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world, and US interventions have contributed to increased militarization and the destabilization of democracy in the country. Since the 2009 US-backed coup that forced the former democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, out of office, crime and homicide have risen sharply—especially against women, Indigenous Peoples, and human rights defenders. Cáceres was active in leading protests against the coup. Cáceres held the role of coordinator of COPINH and was also a member of the coordinating team of the National Platform of Social and Popular Movements of Honduras (PMSPH). She was a major contributor to Cultural Survival’s campaign work against the Patuca III Dam in La Moskitia in 2011, tirelessly documenting the extensive human rights abuses experienced by her community and Indigenous Peoples across Honduras in order to bravely denounce these actions at the national and international level via reports to the United Nations. For many years Honduran authorities tried to silence Cáceres, but she refused to give up the fight to defend her Indigenous lands, the sacred Gualcarque River, and the protection of Mother Earth. In 2013, the government brought charges against her and other Lenca leaders with the clear hope of putting them in jail and disrupting their activism that had so relentlessly impeded corporate extraction of resources. Cáceres faced trumped up charges including illegal possession of a weapon “in contravention to the internal security of Honduras,” with claims that she posed “continual danger” to the security of the nation and “invasion of land” against the company; never mind that the company had invaded Lenca land. Nonetheless, with tremendous international solidarity and support, and of course her own reserves of courage and clarity, Cáceres was acquitted of charges and continued her work. In fact, she gained widespread acclaim as a human rights and environmental leader, much to the ire of Honduran authorities, who began to track her every move. She also continued collaborating with other movements in Honduras, including the Afro-descendant Garífuna community that, like the Lenca, stood in protection of their ancestral territory against corporate and government takeover. After Cáceres’ murder, the Black Fraternal Order of Honduras (OFRANEH) mobilized busloads of members to stand with their Lenca sisters and brothers. OFRANEH leader Miriam Miranda said, “Berta is not dead. Her spirit lives in all

of the rivers of Honduras and the world that are threatened by a backwards idea of development that favors the bloodthirsty political and business elite, whose antiquated vision calls the death of rivers ‘clean energy.’ We have walked alongside Berta on many paths and the struggle to defend our territories and cultures in the face of the devastating aggression of neoliberalism has been one of our most important bonds. They want to convert the natural resources on Indigenous lands into commodities to be auctioned off, without any consent from our peoples, who they see just as statistics who can be dismissed.”

Like COPINH, OFRANEH knows loss and intimidation, as members of the Afro-descendant Garifuna communities continue to resist post-coup land grabs for projects like agrofuel plantations and tourist resorts. They, too, have suffered criminalization, arrest, violence, and even killings. As Miranda says, “We want our children to breathe clean air for generations to come. We want to have rivers. We don’t just want to wash our clothes. We also want to be able to drink the water, to be able to have water in our homes. That is the struggle we are fighting. For that, they kill us. For that, they killed Berta Cáceres.” Cáceres joins a long line of martyrs who have refused to be silent in the face of injustice. Her voice continues to call out in defense of rivers, of lands, of peoples, of the earth. Berta Cáceres, Presente!

Berta Zúñiga Cáceres, Cáceres’ daughter, speaks out. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cima, Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

Carol Schachet is director of development and communications at Grassroots International (GI). GI is a proud funder and political ally of COPINH and Cáceres, as well as OFRANEH and other movements in Honduras and around the world to support the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant communities, small farmers, and communities to land, territory, water, and food sovereignty. Following the murder of Cáceres, GI mobilized its networks and friends, including Cultural Survival, to raise more than $50,000 in support of COPINH and other movements in Honduras. Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 7

c l i mat e ch a n g e

The Birthplace of the Winds A Cautionary Tale of Climate Change on St. George Island

Patrick Pletnikoff

Patrick Pletnikoff


limate change is real. I seek help for my Unangan (Aleut) People of St. George Island, one of the Pribilof Islands of the state of Alaska in the Bering Sea off the western coast of the state. The island has a land area of 35 square miles and a population of about 100 people, all living in its only community, the city of St. George, which encompasses the entire island. The story of our island is inextricably linked to the Russian fur hunters of the late 18th Century who were looking to replenish their stock after the sea otter declined in the Aleutian Islands. St. George Island was “discovered” by Gerrassium Pribylov in 1786, and was the largest fur seal breeding ground 8 • ww w. cs. org

in North America. It was initially settled by 137 Unangan (Aleuts) from Atka and Unalaska on the Aleutian Chain. These initial settlers were to oversee the breeding and harvesting of the fur seals for the lucrative fur trade. The Unangan, who were known as the “people of the seal,” could not leave the island without the permission of the Russian czar; their status has been described as serfs or slaves. In 1867, when Alaska was purchased by the United States from Russia for $7.2 million, conditions at St. George remained unchanged. Slavery of our people did not end until 1983, when the US government did not renew the treaty with Russia, Japan, and Great Britain on behalf of Canada that called for the cessation of pelagic sealing (killing seals on the high seas). That year, Congress passed The Fur Seal Act Amendments, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. That Act specifically called for the transitioning of our local economy from killing seals to commercial fisheries. More than 30 years later, this transition has yet to be accomplished due to a lack of a functional boat harbor, no fish allocation, no boats, or proper infrastructure. Our government, federal and state, has yet to fulfill its promises to our people. These practices are not acceptable for a country that prides itself on human rights. Our government formally endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in December 2010, yet our human rights continue to be violated. Is this racial discrimination? Absolutely. The United States entered into a treaty with Russia, Japan, and Great Britain on December 15, 1911. This action abolished sealing on the high seas and was heralded as one of the ALL PHOTOS BY PATRICK PLETNIKOFF.

most successful conservation measures in the world, saving the fur seal herd from extinction. Today, the fur seal herd on our island are not afforded the same concern and protections. Nor is the seabird population. Today, the problem is food stress. Lactating female seals must leave our shores to replenish their food requirements from fish. The female seal has to traverse a longer distance to accomplish this. As a result, she is gone much too long from her newborn pup, thus not able to feed her pup regularly. Inevitably, the pups die on our rookeries due to starvation. The same thing is happening with the 110 species of seabirds nesting on our cliffs. The Unangan people of St. George recognize our moral responsibility and obligation to care for and be good stewards in protecting our animal residents. Food stress and starvation; we complain about the die off resulting from these conditions. We call for measures to keep destructive commercial fishing practices from taking place near our island so our fur seal and seabirds have sufficient fish prey species to survive, but our calls are not answered. Powerful lobby agents of large fish companies in Seattle are to blame. Our government pays attention to them, not to us. It pains us to be ignored in this matter. Our fur seals and seabirds deserve to live and not starve to death on our island. The geographic scope and accepted definition of “arctic” is all waters of the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Island Chain. St. George is the northernmost ice free port. Yet our government has no presence, equipment, or materials to respond to oil spills or emergencies on or near our island. Foreign flagged vessels traverse near our island on their way to and from ports in Europe. This saves the shipping companies millions of dollars in fuel costs, shortening transit time by about 12 days one way. Adding insult to injury, these foreign vessels burn dirty bunker fuel for power. This practice sends billowing clouds of smokestack pollution into our atmosphere, only to have it come back to our seas and enter the pristine waters. This pollution causes an increase in ocean acidification destroying all shellfish, which ultimately leads to the death of marine mammals dependant on shellfish for survival. It is impacting the health of our walrus to the point of starvation. In a federal government publication from March 2013, “Managing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Arctic,” an acknowledgement was made about a critical reality: “The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, bringing dramatic reductions in sea ice extent, altered weather, and thawing permafrost. Implications of these changes include rapid coastal erosion threatening villages and facilities, loss of wildlife habitat, ecosystem instability, increased greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost, and unpredictable impacts on subsistence activities and critical social needs.” Indigenous Peoples are paying a heavy price. Villages are, and will continue, sliding into the ocean, or will be overtaken by flooding. Already four such villages are impacted on the Bering Sea coast. We are told, “you choose to live there, so don’t complain.” This is pure discrimination and a violation of basic human rights and moral decency. Every time there is a hurricane disaster, wildfires, or flooding on the mainland, FEMA responds. I close with this: on May 4, 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stated in part, “I

have heard stories that make evident the profound hurt that Indigenous Peoples continue to feel because of the history of oppression they have faced. This history, widely known but often forgotten, includes the dispossession of the vast majority of their lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the breakdown of their traditional structures, the loss of the languages, the breaking of treaties, and numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination.” Like climate change, this statement is a reality. — Patrick Pletnikoff is a Unangan (Aleut) born and raised at St. George Island. As a young man he harvested fur seal with his father. He also fished commercially, harvesting halibut throughout the Bering Sea. He is presently the mayor of the city of St. George.

St. George is home to many species, including the common murre.

A migration of reindeer.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 9

r i ght s i n a ct io n

Chevron Corp. v. Yaiguaje Movement Toward a Global Enforceability of Environmental Justice Anna Berti Suman


The community of Guanta is reflected in a pool of oil, abandoned by Texaco. Photo by Lou Dematteis.

“Justice Now,” October 21, 2003, first hearing of conciliation between Chevron’s affected people in Lago Agrio. Photo by Lou Dematteis.

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n September 4, 2015, following 8 months of deliberation, a crucial judgment was finally issued by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Chevron Corp. v. Yaiguaje. The decision unanimously recognized Canadian jurisdiction over the judgment enforcement claim made by plaintiffs representing the interests of 30,000 Indigenous persons and other residents of Ecuador’s rainforest region who have suffered the consequences of decades of unremediated toxic contamination from Chevron’s former oil operations in Ecuador. The plaintiffs’ claim demanded compensation and reparation for Chevron Corp.’s intentional substandard environmental practices, which have destroyed part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. These claimants, organized in the Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones de Petroleras Texaco (UDAPT), obtained a $9.5 billion dollar environ- mental judgment against Chevron in 2011 and 2012, and after Chevron moved all its assets out of Ecuador, sought to enforce the judgment against Chevron assets in other countries, including Canada. The Chevron-Texaco case (Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001) in Ecuador may be considered one of the world’s biggest oil contaminations, as it continues to affect the area where the firm operated from 1964 to 1992. The impacted area covers the territories surrounding the wells, the stations where the extracted crude was processed, and the open air pools into which the oil was directly discharged without any sort of safety mechanism. The consequences of this irresponsible conduct are contaminated water, soil, and air—the entire ecosystem. It is estimated that Texaco, over the 28 years that it operated the sites, spilled a total of 18 billion gallons of formation water directly in water bodies at a rate close to 10 million liters of toxic water per day, along with 16,800 million gallons of crude—roughly 30 times the amount of oil spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. Outdated combustion techniques further resulted in 6,667 million cubic meters of gas burning off into the atmosphere. The devastating levels of contamination caused incalculable damage to the ecosystem. It also destroyed the subsistence farming and fishing of the affected people and deeply impacted Indigenous cultures. The Canadian Supreme Court’s ruling in the case addresses two main issues. First, the Court analyzed whether and under what conditions it has jurisdiction to decide on the recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment. Secondly, the court analyzed the existence of its jurisdiction over Chevron Corp.’s subsidiary, Chevron Canada, including questions about the potential need to pierce the “corporate

veil” that separates the subsidiary and parent company. With regard to the first point, Chevron argued that there needed to be a real and substantial connection between the Ecuadorian defendants and the Court of Ontario. The Supreme Court properly rejected this argument, confirming the generous attitude that the courts of Canada have maintained with respect to recognizing foreign judgments, considered by the Supreme Court to be crucial for the achievement of equity and justice. Particularly noteworthy is the Court’s discussion on the concept of “universal obligation,” which is intrinsically linked to the principle of mutual respect between jurisdictions. The Court clearly intended to support the instruments of private international law and adapt them to the needs of current reality, including the speed at which modern business is conducted. In a globalized world characterized by financial transactions that quickly cross international boundaries, limiting a creditor’s prospect for seeking recompense from a multinational debtor would be unrealistic and profoundly unfair. The Court’s decision additionally recognized the now commonplace practice of off-shoring business assets through the creation of subsidiaries in countries with more favorable legislation, with the intent of breaking up the parent corporation’s responsibility. Chevron Corp. serves as a perfect illustration of this phenomenon, with subsidiaries active in 72 countries and countless legal facades that it can rely on to confuse and evade justice. Judges have the power and responsibility to recognize when an entity is, at its decision-making core, a single entity. Concerning the second question involving the Court’s jurisdiction over Chevron Canada, a seventh level indirect subsidiary of Chevron Corp., the Supreme Court rejected Chevron’s argument that Canadian courts would not have jurisdiction over the subsidiary because it was not party to the Ecuadorian proceeding. It is clear that Chevron Canada is party to the proceeding because it holds assets in the Province of Ontario that might be held liable to satisfy the Ecuadorian judgment. The exact nature of the legal proceedings necessary to establish a sufficient connection to seize assets remains to be seen. Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian attorney for the 30,000 plaintiffs, called the Canadian decision “a great triumph.” However, he wisely added, “we have more hope, but we are conscious that Chevron is very powerful and we have a lot more work ahead of us to win this long battle.” Humberto Piaguaje, afectado and executive coordinator of UDAPT, stated, “This decision is the beginning of the end of Chevron’s abusive and obstructionist litigation strategy. Chevron will now be forced to take the Ecuadorian judgment like any other, something it has desperately tried to avoid. We are confident that once Canadian courts review the fundamental fairness and strength of the judgment, it will be respected. When that happens, a measure of relief can finally come to thousands of innocent people who have suffered decades of environmental abuse at the hands of the company.” It seems evident that Chevron and its shareholders would do better to take responsibility for the damage caused rather than continue to invest enormous sums in fighting the claim. Should the Afectados prevail against the assets of Chevron Canada, it would clarify that the “veil” allegedly protecting

Toxic Tour visit to Chevron’s contaminated sites in Sucumbíos and Shushufindi. Inset: A sample of the crude still present in the soil. Photos by Mattia Polisena.

subsidiaries from the sins of the parents offers little protection. A final execution judgment against Chevron would also serve as the emblem of the fight against multinational oil giants generally, proving that environmental justice can be effective across national boundaries and potentially triggering a wave of new claims. In the absence of any effective global mechanism, the Afectados will continue to seek recourse through the existing processes of cooperation amongst States and international bodies. Their struggle could be the first step toward the achievement of an integrated system for environmental civil or criminal jurisdiction where victims would be able to directly apply and effectively find relief, ideally without requiring the multiple decades of arduous litigation that have been suffered by the Afectados. The Canadian decision is important not only for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, but also for other people fighting Chevron where the company has committed or continues to commit crimes, as in the United States, Panama, Colombia, Suriname, Brazil, Peru, Nigeria, Angola, Belgium, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and New Zealand. Affected communities in the Polish region of Zurawlow have opposed the exploration and exploitation of shale gas conducted by Chevron, as are Romanian people in the Pungesti region, and Canadians trying to stop the Chevron’s Pacific Trail Pipeline on First Nations reservation lands. There is truly a global community of opposition that could come together in the wake of this high profile decision and future enforcement efforts by the Afectados. “Hoy por la Amazonía, mañana por el mundo” (Today for the Amazon, tomorrow for the world) says the slogan of the 2016 anti-Chevron campaign, exactly calling for the mobilization of these communities and of the global society against impunity from the environmental crimes committed by multinational corporations worldwide. —Anna Berti Suman is an environmental law specialist for the Unión de Afectados y Afectadas por las Operaciones de Texaco-Fromboliere. Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 11

boar d s p o t lig h t

Improving the quality of life of Native communities by promoting core tribal values

Jason Campbell

Agnes Portalewska (CS STAFF)

J Our series spotlighting the work of our Board members continues with our newest board member, Jason Campbell, an enrolled member in the Spokane Tribe of Indians and a descendent of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians. Campbell is the founder and CEO of Arete Development Group, which focuses on serving American Indian sovereignty by building connected self-sustaining communities through culturally-based policy development woven with cutting edge practices and strategic partners. He has an MBA from Gonzaga University and an undergraduate degree from Washington State University. Campbell has years of experience developing and monitoring partnerships between tribal communities and companies, foundations, government bodies, and tribal confederations in order to support renewable energy and sustainable development projects in these communities. He is a business developer and socially responsible investor as well as an educator at the masters level at Gonzaga University.

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ason Campbell grew up off the reservation and credits his parents with setting him up with a deep respect for education: “My earliest memories are when both my mom and my dad were working full time and working on their degrees. Both of my parents were serviceoriented to the community around them,” he recalls. Their influence carries through in Campbell’s work on nation building strategies, a reflection of educative capacity building for leadership in tribal communities. After earning his undergraduate degree, Campbell went into literacy work. “That work provided a framework that specifically targeted Native communities. Being able to refine the engagement with the Native communities on a very core level around reading and literacy with the youth in the community is a pretty special place,” he says. Campbell also spent time in Washington, D.C. doing legislative work. He cites the stark statistics of a 50 to 80 percent dropout rate for Native high school students on reservations, and the shrinking funnel of students that go on to higher education to earn a four-year degree or a graduate degree. “The pool of individuals that every tribal nation has as successors for leadership positions with both the appropriate academic and experiential background is very rare,” Campbell says. “I was compelled to carry out that literacy work for as long as possible, knowing that the better conditions starting in elementary school on reservations, the higher the probability that in the next generation, leadership will have the background it needs for appropriate self-determination and nation-building perspective.” Campbell also credits his legislative work for providing a window into a larger economic opportunity for tribes. While working on his MBA, which focused on American Indian entrepreneurship, Campbell worked on a housing model that covered “everything from home buyer education and credit repair, all the way through the home buying process to support after the home has been purchased.” At the same time, an opportunity came up through the US Social Investment Forum in D.C. with the Indigenous Peoples Working Group, where Campbell was introduced to socially responsible investing. In 2009 he was awarded a scholarship to take a certified financial planning course. “That peaked my interest because it was directly in line with the challenges on reservations of having adequate credit scores to get lending at a reasonable enough rate to buy housing—if they can find housing. It was a way to help tribal families with wealth creation and wealth preservation,” he says. Next was learning the social investment financial world at Boston Common Asset Management. There, he engaged in shareholder advocacy specific to mining corporations, an issue close to home as the Spokane Tribe has been dealing with the devastating aftermath of uranium mining on tribal lands since the 1950s. Newmont Mining, which operated the infamous Midnight uranium mine, never bothered to clean up the site, which is now a $200 million EPA Superfund site. The resulting contamination led to high cancer rates and other diseases, as well as contamination of water, sacred sites, medicinal plant gathering sites, and elk calving grounds. Campbell engaged Newmont on social responsibility with the Spokane Tribe, as Newmont, which was committed in principle to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (and specifically the right to FPIC), was not following its own protocols.

“Through the Indigenous Peoples Working Group, I started engaging with Newmont in panel discussions specifically addressing FPIC and how they can follow their governance to match the Spokane Tribe’s values, and how we can produce a better outcome at lower risk for their shareholders. Now we have a negotiated community liaison position specific to the superfund construction cleanup. If there are concerns, we can address the corporation, and it gives us a mechanism that ultimately gears us as a community to provide or withdraw consent on the activities happening specific to the the cleanup,” Campbell explains. The Spokane Tribe has also been working with the Colorado University Law Clinic to develop a tribal FPIC protocol. “We had educated the Spokane tribal business council to where they could commit to the path of developing the FPIC policy themselves. And that’s really when the work started. [Midnight mine is] a legacy site that was agreed upon decades ago that produced all of this negative impact, and we can’t go back in time and withdraw consent on that. But we can look at our business code and address the question of how do we incorporate our historic cultural values with this FPIC framework in a manner that’s reflective of business practices and the licensing process so that we can address all of our strategic relationships as we move forward, not just with the superfund site, but with all economic development.” Campbell continues: “Tribal nations in the US really haven’t experienced financial wealth until the last 15–20 years. For the first time in their economic history of the tribe, they’re getting attention. They’re just so happy to be at the table getting attention that they’re not making the connection between what their values are and who their strategic partners are. It’s not good enough that we’re at the table and that people are courting us. We’re in the driver’s seat, and we’re going to demand that our entire value chain and all of our strategic

partners are going to match what our values are, otherwise we’re not going to do business with them.” Citing the Spokane Tribe as an example, Campbell says, “In the Northwest, if tribes have a convenience store, they have been courted by Chevron and Texaco. Tribes are so happy to be courted by these big oil companies that want to help them start convenience stores and fuel stations that they don’t bother to research their global impacts to know how egregious their activity has been with other Indigenous communities globally. We have to start incorporating a supply chain that is going to reflect best practices of all of those environmental, social, and governance screens globally. Ultimately it is going to lead to a more sustainable model for the Spokane Tribe.” Campbell also mentions that most reservations are food deserts. “Our grocery store on the reservation is not the source of health and vitality that we would like it to be. So we’ve started working with the CEO of Spokane Tribal Enterprises to identify who reflects our cultural values. Now we have a strategic partnership with Whole Foods, where they are directly coming to the reservation, helping us develop our capacity on all systems related to food access [including] the physical structure of the store, inventory systems, and also the people systems.” Campbell says that this partnership brings the Tribe one step closer to achieving food sovereignty. “Whole Foods is going to help us develop entrepreneurs to supply produce and develop our fish hatchery to supply local fish. That’s where socially responsible impact investing comes into play in terms of business development. We are now requiring all of our business partners, all of our strategic partners, value chain partners, and supply chain partners to reflect our values as a community.”

(L–R): Maria Cullooyah, planning and economic development; Dawn Pullin, CEO Spokane Tribal Enterprises; Jason Campbell, Joe Rogoff, regional president of Whole Foods; and Amelia Pape, food access coordinator at the Wellpinit Trading Post on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 13

At a Crossroads Seeking Justice for Indigenous Human Rights and Environmental Defenders in Belize Blue Creek, Toledo, Belize

Stephanie Borcea and Kieron Farrelly


n the outskirts of Santa Cruz village in the Toledo district of Belize stands a small shack on top of a lush green hill. The structure itself is unassuming, barely visible from the southern highway below. Thick forest partially obscures it from view and adds to its perceived insignificance. The average passerby would not think twice about this tiny house, but to the villagers of Santa Cruz it towers like a skyscraper, casting an ominous shadow over their community. The structure is the home of Rupert Myles, a Belizean man who unlawfully constructed it on communal Maya land. His actions resulted in turmoil that hit a boiling point in June 2015 when Maya leaders detained him following a contentious village meeting; Myles’ detention led to the government prosecution of 13 Maya villagers for alleged aggravated assault. On the surface, this situation appears to be an isolated incident that arose from miscommunication and a legal gray area—a man mistakenly occupied land he didn’t own a title to—but it is intimately related to the Mayas’ decades-long struggle for their rights as Indigenous Peoples in Belize, rights intrinsically tied to the protection and enjoyment of their lands. The Maya are the traditional inhabitants of the land that now comprises parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. However, centuries of colonization and subsequent subjugation have pushed them to the margins of society. Their languages, cultures, traditions, and livelihoods are increasingly jeopardized. Over the past 2 decades, the 39 Mayan communities across southern Belize have coordinated to stand up for their 14 • ww w. cs. org

traditional communal lands and legal systems to be recognized by the Government of Belize. Cristina Coc, a Maya leader and mother of two, defender of Maya rights and their lands, explained, “Perhaps one of the things that is seldom understood is that we are the stewards of our natural world.” Coc and her people fight for equality under the law and for protection of their customary lands and culture from outside interference. Such interference not only affects the Mayas’ legal rights, but also their daily lives. It imperils the farming land they use for subsistence and pollutes the streams from which they drink. And now, with assault charges against them, mothers and fathers are at risk of being torn away from families that depend on them for survival.

Maya Leaders Alliance

The Toledo Alcaldes Association, a collection of traditionally elected leaders from each village, and the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA), which provides the alcaldes with technical support, have spearheaded a campaign for the full recognition of the Maya as Indigenous Peoples of Belize. Their efforts have brought them to the Supreme Court of Belize twice, once in 2007 and again in 2010 after the government of Belize appealed a ruling that granted the Maya legal rights to their lands. In both cases it was affirmed that under Belizean law, Toledo Mayan communities hold title to the lands they have traditionally lived on and stewarded. These pertinent rulings should have set in motion a reversal of the government’s appropriations of lands within Maya territories. Instead, in 2010, despite the Supreme Court rulings, the government of Belize extended Texas-based oil company

US Capital Energy’s concession to begin a second phase of oil exploration, which had begun in 2001. This has been carried out inside the Sarstoon-Temash national park on ancestral Maya lands and without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Since then the corporation has cut over 200 miles of exploratory seismic trails. This has caused forest fires that have destroyed 400 acres of forest on traditional Mayan land in southern Belize, and has privatized and restricted access of the Maya people to their forests. This is especially problematic due to Belize’s responsibilities under international law. Belize endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and received recommendations from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to cease extraction operations. Officially, at least as far as appearances, the government has guaranteed the Maya the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. But the government blatantly disregarded these obligations in its dealings with US Capital Energy and failed to implement the Supreme Court’s decisions in the process. The government of Belize pledged to protect its Indigenous Peoples, but in reality it further marginalized and endangered their lands, lives, and customs. At best, this is negligent incompetence by the government of Belize, and at worst it is a deliberate disregard for international law and the well-being of its citizens. Regardless, the government’s inconsistency led the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association to take their case to the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2015. In April 2016, the court reaffirmed that the 39 Indigenous communities of southern

Cristina Coc speaks at the UNPFII in 2015 about the recent Caribbean Court decision. Photo by Danielle DeLuca.

Belize had rights to the land they have customarily used and occupied. This decision held extra significance because the Caribbean Court of Justice is Belize’s highest appellate court, and its ruling convinced the government to finally agree that Maya title to communal lands exists. The judgment awarded damages for previous destruction of land and development projects that took place without Free, Prior and Informed Consent. It also required the government of Belize to demarcate and register Maya villages and lands and to protect these lands from any further interference. The court decided to supervise and implement this process, obliging all parties involved to report on their progress in 2016.

Implementing the Legal Precedent

At the time, Maya leader and President of the Toledo Alcaldes Association, Alfonso Cal, said, “We have been dragged through the courts for over 30 years, but today we are happy that the highest court again stood with my people to ensure that Belize gets on the right side of history.” This sentiment prevailed amongst Indigenous rights defenders worldwide. Many felt that the Caribbean Court of Justice victory set a new precedent in international law relating to Indigenous rights, demonstrating an example in which an international body could hold a sovereign government accountable for its actions toward Indigenous Peoples. Unfortunately, much work remains for this accountability to be realized in southern Belize. The government has failed to even begin registering Maya lands. It has not followed its

The implementation of Maya people’s land rights in Belize remains a struggle.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 15

A heavy police presence is felt at all court proceedings for the Santa Cruz 13. Photo by Kieron Farrelly.

mandate to recognize Maya land tenure and has not stopped outside agitators from interfering on these communal lands. Professor James Anaya, Indigenous legal scholar and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, interpreted the judgement: “Both the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Inter-American Commission have directed that, not just must the government itself, through its various agencies, act consistently with Maya property rights, but it must also act affirmatively to protect those rights from private parties who might adversely affect Maya property or intrude upon Maya customary lands. Furthermore, as the order of the Caribbean court makes clear, the government must act to protect Maya customary lands from intruders now, even before those lands are officially registered, not at some time in the indefinite future.” Belize’s failure to do exactly that is what allowed the current situation with Rupert Myles to unfold in the village of Santa Cruz. Myles, who is not Maya, began constructing a house on the protected archaeological site of Uxbenka, located in Santa Cruz. Uxbenka is also a historically sacred site for the Maya, lying within their ancestral lands. He did not apply for residence, which is required under Maya customary law. These transgressions alone should have stirred the government of Belize into action based on its Caribbean Court of Justice commitments, but instead it remained passive. When the Maya community of Santa Cruz village first became aware of Myles’ unlawful construction on their sacred site, they were stymied by bureaucracy. Manuel Pop, the first alcalde, sent Myles several eviction notices. He later contacted the Punta Gorda police to report Myles’ lack of cooperation, with no response. Myles also failed to attend the fajina, a customary community meeting that all members of the village are required to attend. Any villager who misses this meeting is required to pay a tax for his or her absence. While living in the village, the only fajina Myles attended was on the fateful day that he showed up unannounced and belligerent. Myles’ stay in the village was far from subtle. Pop recounts that he liked to shoot his gun into the sky during the night. “Some of the villagers would tell me that they heard as many as 12 gunshots throughout the night and they would get scared because it happened several times,” Pop says. Myles also took the liberty of bulldozing the land to create a driveway, causing irreparable damage to Uxbenka. Following these incidents, the alcaldes decided to send Myles a final eviction notice, stating that his house would be forcibly dismantled if he did not move. On June 20, 2015, Myles showed up to a fajina clearly enraged with the notice. He interrupted the process and insisted 16 • w ww. cs. org

on dealing with his issue first. He was told to take a seat and wait until the other open discussions were finished. While the Maya resumed their meeting, speaking in Mopan, Myles became convinced that they were speaking about him and grew aggressive. He threatened several villagers and said that he would return with his gun. At this point the alcalde decided that it was in the best interest of the villagers to detain him. The village police struggled to control him and some of the villagers had to assist in handcuffing him. They then took him to his house, where his father-in-law pleaded for two more weeks to ensure the structure was taken down. A volunteer attorney drafted an agreement, which was signed by Myles’ father-in-law, along with Myles, his wife, the alcaldes, and the village chairman. The villagers’ sense of relief following the cease and desist agreement was short lived. Following the events of June 20, Myles reported the incident to the Punta Gorda police, complete with accusations of assault and racial discrimination. The Punta Gorda police took action by arresting 13 Santa Cruz villagers for unlawful arrest and assault. It was 4:00 in the morning when the police burst into homes in Santa Cruz village on June 24, their brute force injuring several and terrifying many more. Villagers were disrupted from their sleep with flashlights, had rifles pointed at them, and were treated like criminals. Two members of the “Santa Cruz 13” were pardoned on March 30, 2016 due to insufficient evidence. One of these villagers, Raymundo Sho, reported that his wife and his son were injured during the arrests. Timoteo Sho, Sho’s son, was verbally abused and hit in the head with the butt of a rifle. Another officer pushed Sho’s wife to the ground and stepped on her shoulder, spraining it. When she attempted to report her injury to the police she was not allowed to do so, nor did she receive any treatment for her sprain; instead she was forced to create a makeshift sling and wait until it healed. This excessive use of force was not only disproportionate to the alleged crime, it was also disrespectful towards the Maya customary process of confronting the village alcalde before taking any sort of action in the village. In addition to the 12 villagers arrested in Santa Cruz, the police separately arrested Coc for the same charges. Coc has served as spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance for the last decade. She has been a central voice and key figure in the fight to protect Maya lands, and is well respected among the Maya community. Having no role in the physical detainment of Myles, the charges against her demonstrate Belize’s overt discrimination and propensity to criminalize Indigenous leaders. Her crime is not assault; rather, she is guilty of being an outspoken advocate for the rights of her people and their lands.

Regardless of whether the charges result in a conviction, Coc and the 12 others have endured a year of their lives with criminal charges hanging over their heads. She, like many others before her and many Indigenous human rights and environmental defenders around the world today, is being criminalized for leading the fight for rights that the government is bound by international law to respect and protect. The government of Belize continues to fail her and harm the Indigenous Maya people by illegally conceding land to foreign companies and demonizing those who work to prevent this from happening. Both incidents, the citizen’s arrest of Myles and the 4 a.m. police raid, have left villagers traumatized and tense. Several of the 13 villagers that have charges pending against them were not even involved in the peaceful detention of Myles. Basilio Teul, Sho, and Sho’s wife Oligario, are just a few of the victims that are claiming that they were mere bystanders during the incident. Marta Pop, one of three women who witnessed the citizen’s arrest, explained that the situation is “not good because I know it is not true. I saw what happened and they were not aggressive with Mr. Myles.” Meanwhile, Myles’ house still stands. The case is one small example of the ongoing colonization of Indigenous land. Despite the victory that the Toledo Maya had won just two months earlier in the Caribbean Court of Justice, the highest court that Belize is responsible to, the autonomy of the Maya people still fails to be fully recognized and respected by the country’s authorities. Anaya, a long-time ally of the Maya people, framed the issue: Belize stands at crossroad in its history and in defining the way forward in its treatment of the Maya people. This crossroad is marked by two distinct, historical trends that are present on a global scale. One is rooted in historical patterns of thinking and action that have discriminated against Indigenous Peoples and facilitated the taking of their lands by failing to recognize their customary land tenure and property systems that are crucial to their survival. Unfortunately, that trend can be seen in the positions and actions of government officials in many countries across the world. But in many countries and internationally, that trend is being taken over by a modern, more enlightened one; one that starts with the premise that Indigenous Peoples are equal in value and dignity to all others, and that is more and more accepting of the proposition that their own systems of property and land tenure are to be treated on the basis of equality. This modern trend understands that embracing these rights of Indigenous Peoples is a mark of a truly democratic state that is genuinely respectful of the human rights of all. The courts of Belize, the Caribbean Court of Justice, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have together marked a path for Belize along the more enlightened, modern trend, by upholding the property rights established by the Maya people’s own laws and traditions on the same terms as the property rights of others. The government has made a commitment to follow that path. The world expects that it now make good on that commitment.

Equator Prize 2015 winners Cristina Coc and Alfonso Caal of Maya Leaders Alliance. Photo by Chris Rainier.

On May 11, 11 months after militarized police officers stormed the village of Santa Cruz and the homes of Santa Cruz villagers and arrested 13 leaders, the chief magistrate accepted a submission from the director of Public Prosecution for yet another adjournment—the seventh requested by the prosecution and the ninth overall, putting on hold the lives of the families of the accused who are left to bear the emotional and economic costs of a prolonged trial. The Santa Cruz 13 have taken painstaking efforts to consistently present themselves at each trial date, while the complainant, Rupert Myles, has repeatedly failed to appear. The defense counsel has asked the court to exercise its authority under the law to dismiss the case because the prosecution is not ready. Instead, the court granted the adjournment until June 27, allowing the prosecutor time to acquire more evidence. The ongoing criminalization of Indigenous leaders denies them rights affirmed by the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Maya people continue to call upon the judicial system to ensure that the law is applied in a just and fair manner, and on the government of Belize to respect the rights of the Maya people of southern Belize and ensure that Indigenous rights defenders are protected.

International Standards of Indigenous Rights Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies, and visual and performing arts and literature. Article 20 states: Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 17



was raised in a nomadic pastoralist community; I know firsthand the importance of owning a cow. My parents always reminded me that ‘a cow is life.’ The older I got, the more I started to witness the truth of that advice. In a pastoralist community, cattle are a source of food, pride, prestige, wealth, and status. Men with big herds of cattle hold leadership positions and young men cannot marry unless they have accumulated enough cattle for dowry. In the pastoralist communities, a cow is the source of life and also the cause of death. Given that droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe, this key resource is in grave danger —and this threat is changing the dynamics of these communities more than ever before. Although my Maasai ethnic group reside in the southern tip of Kenya, we have a lot in common with the warring

Solutions for the Conflict • Provide security, such as police stations and army bases, in northern Kenya to shield these communities from international bandits and terrorists. • Include all community members in decision making processes, especially women and young adults. Mothers should be empowered and encouraged to caution their adult sons about the danger of raiding. • Conduct a rigorous disarmament program; both Pokot and Turkana should be disarmed equally and at the same time. • Invest more in the education of Pokot and Turkana children to create more opportunities for youth so they will not have to rely on raiding to combat starvation and provide for their families. • Provide veterinary medicine services to these communities so that the cattle that survive the droughts don’t die from curable diseases. • Improve infrastructure in the region for security personnel and the humanitarian sector. • Build a pastoralist dialogue center between the Pokot and Turkana territories where leaders of both communities come and discuss matters affecting them. The center can also serve as a mediation center in case of disagreements, and be a place where people can drop off their firearms willingly and receive compensation for doing so.

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pastoralists groups in northwestern Kenya: the Turkana, Pokot, and Samburu. We all belong to the same Nilotic lineage; the Pokot and the Turkana are two bordering nomadic pastoralist communities and are are both regarded as great survivors inhabiting the harsh and inhospitable terrain of northwestern Kenya. Both groups migrated from Uganda to Kenya and have similar religious practices, diet, and social structures. The main differences are that they speak two completely different languages (Pokot speak Kalenjin and the Turkana speak Turkana); the Turkana don’t practice circumcision as a rite of passage; and some of the Pokot grow crops along with raising cattle. The Turkana also don’t bury those killed during enemy raids because they believe that touching the dead might transmit evil spirits to everyone in the community. Pastoralism is still the backbone of many communities and countries across the continent of Africa. As a result of global warming and climate change, pastoralists are losing thousands of their livestock annually. Limited rainfall means less pasture and water, and this scarcity of essential resources is becoming the main cause of conflict. A government survey completed in 2010 counted an estimated 13 million cattle, 25 million goats, 14.9 million sheep, 1.7 million donkeys and 2.9 million camels across Kenya‘s arid and semi-arid lands, with the highest populations held by the Turkana and Pokot pastoralists in the northwest. Cattle are therefore a key resource crucial for the survival of these two communities, and for Kenya’s economy. The livestock sector provides an estimated 90 percent of all employment opportunities and more than 95 percent of household incomes. Most pastoralist groups in Kenya reside in the periphery of the country in areas that are prone to droughts and wildfires, and are also lacking in government control. The residents are therefore left alone to provide their own security, including the safeguard of their cattle and land. The conflict between the Turkana and Pokot can be partially attributed to their location; both groups are on the periphery of the country, a place that borders on some of the most unstable and violent countries in Africa: Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Somalia. For decades, these countries have been suffering genocides, mass killings, insurgencies, coups, assassinations, and so many other atrocities. The lawlessness of this region where these countries converge has been transformed by rampant conflict into a no man’s land—and has become a conducive environment for raiding and other illegal activities. Both Turkana and Pokot elders are appalled by the frequency and the scale of this conflict. Mzee (elder) Kericho said this regarding the Pokot-Turkana conflict in a recent report in the Turkana Guardian: “The only disease we are suffering from is the bullet syndrome. No grave in this village belongs to a ALL PHOTOS BY STUART BUTLER.

Stephen K. Muntet inside the kraal (enclosure for livestock) with cattle.

Two Maasai warriors attempting to administer medicine to a sick calf.

person who succumbed from a disease like Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, or even Malaria; they are all victims of frequent raids and attacks. The population of Kainuk is greatly reducing while the government is doing nothing but watching. It is even worse inside this village because we are registering a high death rate, so we keep wondering where we will go from here because as we can see we will soon be forcefully evicted.” Mzee Aguman, a local leader of the town of Kainuk, offered these thoughts: “It will be difficult for parents to take their children to school because the community depends on agriculture, livestock keeping, and small business ventures. All the livestock have been stolen and highway robberies make it hard to transport goods from Kitale, so sooner or later we will have no activity taking place in this region. The big issue is that the national police reservists who could offer protection to the residents while in their farms have been killed too.” As a result of this rampant bloody conflict, the village of Ng’irong’otuk, which is located on the outskirts of Kainuk

trading center, has earned the name “Village of Death.” The climatic effects of global warming have led to aggravated poverty, which, combined with a surplus of weapons and ammunition flooding the region through porous borders with warring states, has created a climate of violence that threatens the core of the pastoralist way of life indigenous to this region. There is so much pride in providing your own traditional food, raising healthy and colorful livestock the way your grandparents did, while protecting and nurturing the environment for your grandchildren and teaching them to do the same for the next generation. Once the cattle are gone, they will take with them the dignity, pride, prestige, and wealth sustaining these communities. Without cattle, pastoralists will become refugees in their own ancestral land. —Stephen K. Muntet was born and raised in Maasai Mara, Kenya and is a master’s degree candidate at the University of Oregon Law School. Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 19

Battling the Nicaragua Canal This article contains excerpts from an investigative documentary radio program produced by Cultural Survival Indigenous Rights Radio Producer, Rosy Gonzalez.


icaragua is a multi-ethnic Central American country divided into 15 departments and 2 autonomous regions, the Atlantic North and the Atlantic South. It is also home to the largest freshwater lake in Central America. Despite being a country rich in cultures as well as in biodiversity, Nicaragua currently finds itself in conflict with the Indigenous Peoples of the country. This conflict is due to a contract that was signed with a Chinese company, HKND, owned by business magnate Wang Ying. The contract gives rights to HKND to construct an interoceanic canal spanning the width of the country, three times the length of the Panama Canal. Bill 840, now the “Law of the Canal,” which allowed for this contract, was passed in June 2013. It is being hotly contested among environmentalists, human rights groups, and Indigenous Peoples. Luis Carlos Buob, a lawyer with the Nicaraguan Center for Justice and International Law, explained the project’s implications: “The canal concession includes more than 10 megaprojects, all of which are under the exclusive development rights of a single concessionary for more than 116 years, extending over a strip of territory 278 kilometers in length,

Demonstrations against the canal are taking place all over Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Nicaragua sin heridas.

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essentially cutting the country in [half], signifying the largest land remover ever seen.” His colleague, Mónica López Baltodano at Fundación Popol Na, agreed: “The canal route will affect 7 protected areas, destroying approximately [1,930 kilometers] of diverse forests, affecting 13 municipalities, damaging 96 educational centers, 35 cemeteries, [and] 90 temples and churches. And it threatens damage to the great Lake Cocibolca, which is constructed in a most important fresh water reservoir in Central America, also considered the richest tropical lake in the Americas due to its ecological and environmental value.” In additional to the canal itself, the interoceanic project will also mean the construction of two new ports, one on the Caribbean coast and the other on the Pacific coast; one oil pipeline that connects the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards; a railroad between the two ports; and an international airport. Two free trade zones will be established, one on the Pacific coast and the other on the Atlantic side. The Nicaraguan government claims that this megaproject will bring development, jobs, and a better economic and social climate for the country. “Nicaragua is constructing a great interoceanic canal that is of international interest and importance, because it will reduce the distance, time, costs, and pollution in the transport of products and merchandise in the world. The project will allow the economy to grow, it

will reduce poverty, hunger, and marginalization through the creation of thousands of jobs,” said Telémaco Talavera, advisor to the president of Nicaragua and canal spokesperson. Despite the fact that the construction of the canal represents development to the government of Nicaragua, the country’s Indigenous Peoples see the project differently. They have rejected plans for these megaprojects, declaring that it violates their rights, mainly their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. To date, there have been 55 marches and 1 case currently being reviewed at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Canal Law 840, which communities say clearly violates their rights and autonomy of their lands. “The Rama Kriol Peoples approved a document with guidelines on the implementation of the consultation process, which was delivered to the Nicaraguan government. However, the response of the State has been to feign consultations that do not live up to standards for the matter,” explained Becky Magrey, member of the Rama Indigenous community whose territory stands directly in the way of the canal. “Bill 840 was rejected by diverse social sectors, however, it passed in a hasty and anomalous legislative process of only 8 days and a discussion of only 3 hours. According to the analysis undertaken by specialists, within the elements of the concession misinformation and a general absence of consultation were highlighted,” said Azalea Solís, leader of of the Autonomous Movement of Women. Minister of Foreign Affairs for Indigenous and Afrodescendents in Nicaragua, Eloy Frank, said, “The canal will pass through eight communities who have been informed through meetings and who approved of the project. It is not the entire territory that will be affected, just the Rama Kriol territory.” Speaking to the consultation of Indigenous Peoples on the construction of megaprojects, Álvaro Pop, the current president of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues, declared, “To start with, they do not respect the right to consultation, and consequently, consent does not result from consultation. This is worrisome because administrative decisions on land concessions end up being action taken independent of and made prior to community consultations, so when a consultation is carried out, it is already too late. And that is where the large conflicts that we are witnessing now begin.” Many community members and their leaders emphasize that they do not blanketly reject development projects; rather, they want development to happen on their own terms, ensuring well-being for themselves and their families. Often, Indigenous Peoples do reap benefits of large scale development that removes them from their lands. “No leader can be against development. What we can be against is the way in which we are not taken into account; what we want is to be taken into account,” explained Héctor Thomas, president of the Rama Kriol government. Many have taken a pragmatic approach to these projects that appear inevitable. In some interpretations of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, communities are not allowed the power of a veto of major development projects on their land, but they can choose to withhold consent until they are satisfied with the projects’ plans—however long that might take. In the words of Luis Castillo, member of the Bankukuk community, “We cannot stop the canal. What we can do is sit down, and if this is going to happen, we must

Respecting International Human Rights Standards The Nicaraguan government must respect and comply with the minimum stipulated standards in the ratified and signed agreements, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization. Article 10 Indigenous Peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Indigenous Peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return. Article 32.2 States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. ILO 169 Article 17.3 Persons not belonging to these peoples shall be prevented from taking advantage of their customs or of lack of understanding of the laws on the part of their members to secure the ownership, possession or use of land belonging to them.

negotiate. Because if we say no, this would be a lack of wisdom.” If it decides to retract the contract for the construction of the canal, the government of Nicaragua is obliged to give a large compensation to Ying for pulling out of a signed contract. The reverse could also prove to be true: Ying would be liable to Nicaragua if he fails to follow through with the project. With Chinese markets falling dramatically there has been much speculation that Ying’s $10 billion USD fortune may have dwindled by as much as 80 percent, which may lead to the project’s demise due to a lack of funding. Either way, since the announcement of 2013, the communities involved have grown stronger and more organized in opposition to the project, vowing to ensure that no project will move forward without the input and approval of the people.

Listen to the full radio documentary on the interoceanic canal in Spanish at: goo.gl/O8aEXe.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 21

Learning to Relate Through Indigenous Science Education Mîkiwahp (tipi) and pond at dusk in mistikwatinâhk (the Thickwood Hills), Saskatchewan. Photo by Cory Redl.

Jeff Baker


n a cool, overcast afternoon in late spring, a small group of First Nations, Métis, and non-Indigenous university students work together to erect a mîkiwahp (Plains Cree for tipi) on a plot of land an hour north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. For most of the students it is their first time setting up a mîkiwahp, but with the guidance of Barry Ahenakew, a nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) knowledge keeper, the students soon have it ready to provide shelter from the coming rain. The students are all pre-service teachers at the University of Saskatchewan who are enrolled in the course “Teaching Indigenous Science,” which was created to help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to include Indigenous knowledge in their science teaching—an expectation for all teachers working with a revised Saskatchewan curriculum that includes Indigenous content and perspectives in every subject and grade level. This course is one small part of a growing movement toward Indigenous Science Education (ISE) that is unfolding across the globe. The emergence of ISE is being driven by a burgeoning appreciation of Indigenous knowledge as a source of transformative possibilities for catalyzing more equitable and sustainable ways of living, and a growing acknowledgement that science, rather than an objective search for knowledge, is itself a cultural enterprise with its own values, beliefs, and languages. ISE responds to the failures of educational systems to meet Indigenous learners’ needs, a situation most pronounced in science, by respectfully including Indigenous knowledge in science programming, increasing its relevance and opening avenues for Indigenous people to pursue careers in science. ISE thus contributes to sovereignty efforts; with few Indigenous scientists, our communities must often rely on external science consultants with little understanding of our needs, histories, or cultural contexts. The inclusion of Indigenous knowledge can also provide opportunities to transform science and education. While there are many reasons 22 • ww w. cs. org

for Indigenous people’s wariness of science (past support of colonial and racist ideologies, exploitive research practices, use by government and resource extraction industries), the respectful inclusion of Indigenous knowledge can help ensure that science reflects the values and aspirations of our communities. One objective of the course is to help students understand the similarities, differences, and combined possibilities of Indigenous knowledge and Western science. In teaching about the mîkiwahp, for example, a local tree from which tipi poles are made (the Trembling Aspen) is addressed from dual perspectives. The nêhiyaw perspective views the tree as mîtos, a relative and source of medicine, emergency food, and tools; Western Science perceives the aspen as Populus tremuloides, a resource for plywood, particleboard, pallets, and chopsticks. To aid this process, Colin Laroque, a Métis dendrochronologist at the University of Saskatchewan, provided opportunities for students to collect tree core samples on the land—in a process that does no harm to the trees—and analyze them in his lab on campus, providing a unique hands-on experience with Western science that complemented the hands-on learning involved in erecting the mîkiwahp. In ISE, Indigenous knowledge and Western science are not viewed as diametrically opposed, but instead share considerable common ground, which can be a starting place for dialogue and mutual learning. In addition, those aspects that do differ can be viewed as complementing, rather than contradicting, one another, providing dual lenses through which to explore and learn about the world. In ISE, either/or dichotomies are avoided in favor of both/and approaches that help to broaden understandings. A further objective of the course is for students to explore the idea of miskasowin, a Plains Cree term meaning “to find one’s true sense of self.” Miskasowin can also be viewed as a process of learning to relate by strengthening our identities as Indigenous Peoples and developing more relational worldviews and identities among all people. By focusing on the ways that Indigenous knowledge and Western science situate humans in relation with the natural world, students are

encouraged to consider themselves, their worldviews, and their actions in terms of these relations. The term “relate” has a number of interconnected meanings that are relevant. One of these is the acknowledgement of the value of diverse worldviews. Another meaning, that of understanding our interconnectedness with natural systems, is also present within the mîkiwahp-raising activity. Simply spending time on the land, which is a primary source of Indigenous knowledge and Western science, can strengthen this understanding. By respectfully combining Indigenous knowledge and Western science through ISE, we can learn about trees and forests as the lungs of Mother Earth and a primary means of reducing the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that are driving climate change. We can then also consider the impacts of our actions as humans from both perspectives—clear-cutting forests as hurting Mother Earth and limiting her capacity to combat climate change. Learning to relate also refers to broadening our sense of kinship by acknowledging plants, animals, water, mountains, earth, moon, sun, and sky as relatives, a common practice among Indigenous Peoples but less so within Western science. There are strong but underexplored parallels with scientific notions of evolution, which can be interpreted to highlight humanity’s ancestral connections with plants, animals, and all of creation via ideas of cosmic evolution. Quantum physics is also relevant, with comparisons made between the quantum flux underlying matter and the Indigenous belief in a spiritual energy that animates creation. A final meaning of “relate,” that of telling an anecdote or story, reflects the centrality of story among Indigenous Peoples as a means of sharing knowledge. With regard to science education, this means balancing the fact-based nature of Western science with more narrative forms of knowledge and exploring the idea of scientific narratives, i.e., the stories students construct from scientific facts. Laroque, for example, introduced dendrochronology as a form of storytelling, reading the story of the tree encoded in its rings. Further, prior to erecting the mîkiwahp, students were invited to sit, smudge, and listen to Ahenakew share parts of the nêhiyaw creation story, providing an opportunity for them to reflect on its similarities and differences with the scientific creation story of the Big Bang that they had read about earlier. It is important to acknowledge that ISE requires the creation of ethical spaces comprised by shared understandings of the historical and contemporary forms of oppression that shape Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations. As these spaces can take time to develop, ISE should not be rushed. Further, as evident in the mîkiwahp activity, ISE also depends largely on community involvement, including access to land, elders, and knowledge keepers, which in turn requires an understanding of the protocols that guide processes of relationship building. The effort required to respectfully pursue ISE, however, is well worth it. By grounding science education in culture and language, ISE contributes to the vision for education articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. By opening paths to careers in science for Indigenous people

Indigenous knowledge and Western science (adapted from Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2005)

and fostering miskasowin among all people, ISE can help to catalyze the emergence of more equitable and sustainable ways of living for us all. ­ Jeff Baker is a Métis scholar and educator from Saskatoon, — Saskatchewan and is the University of Saskatchewan’s first ever chair in Aboriginal Education in the College of Education as well as assistant professor in the department of Curriculum Studies.

All smiles after a day of land-based learning in mistikwatinâhk (the Thickwood Hills), Saskatchewan. Photo by Jeff Baker. Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 23

SAVING THE HEART OF OUR CULTURES Indigenous Languages at the UN Richard A. Grounds


xperts and supporters from around the globe were called to a special meeting at the United Nations in January 2016 to address the deep crisis faced by Indigenous language communities all around the world. The statistical measures of the language crisis are staggering. Scholarly calculations project 90 percent of the globe’s almost 6,800 languages are on a course to fall silent during the lifetime of the children that are now being born into the world. UNESCO has estimated that, on average, a language is being lost every two weeks. With approximately three-quarters of all the world’s languages carried by Indigenous Peoples, the projected statistical impact on Indigenous communities is enormous. But the human costs of language loss are immeasurable. Indigenous languages are the most critical markers of the cultural health of Indigenous communities; they are the keys required to unlock the enormous storehouse of human knowledge that is still carried by the world’s ancient and original peoples. These languages comprise the most important measure of Indigenous sovereignty rights. Indigenous languages

Regional language experts during proceedings of Expert Meeting on Indigenous Languages (L–R): Tatiana Degai (Itelmen) from Kamchatka, Russia; Richard A. Grounds (Yuchi/Seminole); Amy Kalili (Hawaiian); Elisa Loncon Antileo (Mapuche) from Chile; and Mathura Tripura (Tripura) from Bangladesh. 24 • ww w. cs. org

are the core, the beating heart of Indigenous Peoples, cultures, and identities, forming the basis of Indigenous spirituality and ceremonial life, providing the only avenue to access irreplaceable medicinal knowledge. Through these rich languages, Indigenous worlds are spoken into existence. The most intense drama of the UN meeting centered around the discussion of boarding school systems. These schools were the principal mechanism for destroying the continuity of Indigenous languages in many parts of the world— especially those areas that had an informal policy of settlergenocide, which was prominent across vast expanses of Indigenous lands later to become known as the United States, Canada, Australia, and Russia. Chief Willie Littlechild delivered a moving presentation on the court-ordered work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring healing after the abuses perpetrated through the residential schools in Canada. He reported on the compiled record of extreme abuse and the extensive testimony of almost 7,000 survivors through the Truth and Reconciliation process. Chief Littlechild shared his own experience in the dehumanizing system, recalling that rather than addressing him by his name, the institution-keepers used a number to identify him: “If a pencil fell on the floor, they would tell me, ‘number 65, pick that up, you stupid.’” As Chief Littlechild’s presentation came to a close, there was not a dry eye among the gathered listeners. Then, in a quiet but profound response, Chief Littlechild was affirmed by the Mapuche Elder and language expert from the Latin American region, Elisa Loncon Antileo. After hearing of this difficult and beautiful work to bring healing to the children and of the residential schools, she said she had come to understand why he carried the name, “Littlechild.” She told him, “You were meant to do this healing work on behalf of the children.” During the proceedings of the Expert Meeting, the primary tension centered around the promise and peril of digital and other technologies for Indigenous communities who are desperately working to keep their original tongues alive. On one side was a great deal of positive energy identifying the technical and practical advantages offered through recent developments in digital capacities for recording, replicating, storing, and transmitting language data. Attendees heard from representatives of tech corporations on the many benefits of newer applications for transmitting language information across diverse communication platforms that have been adapted to Indigenous languages. A number of language practitioners working with scattered communities also reported their positive experiences in adapting digital technologies to the needs of their work toward language revitalization. There were numerous examples of ALL PHOTOS BY BRODDI SIGURDARSON, UNPFII.

LEFT: Richard A. Grounds speaks about his efforts of revitalizing the Yuchi language. RIGHT: Chief Wilton Littlechild shares his experience as a Canadian boarding school survivor.

striking video projects and digital programs for transmission of recordings of elders. There was also a strong expression of goodwill on the part of academic and corporate participants with implied prospects of financial benefits for this type of approach. On the other side were voices reflecting perspectives from traditional communities who hold instinctive reservations against the overreliance on technological solutions to the human problem of language loss. These voices were arguably underrepresented in the formal conversation, as such perspectives are more often carried by lower profile, grassroots language activists. Advocates for this side of the debate pointed to deeply held beliefs about the living nature of Indigenous languages as relational, powerful, and sacred. If these beliefs are fully embraced, it means that sacred language is not something that can be appropriately passed forward by non-human methodologies. Traditional Shawnees in Oklahoma, for example, do not allow the electronic recording of their language—even for purposes of learning by community members—relying instead on breath-to-breath human exchange across the generations. The other broad consideration raised by those questioning the shiny allure of technology concerns the practical metrics of producing new fluent speakers. Research has failed to show success on this bottomline measure for the various digital teaching tools. Chief Edward John, a sitting member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, issued the sobering report that after 17 years of hard work on developing literacy for 34 Indigenous languages in British Columbia using comparatively low-tech applications, the literacy campaign had failed to produce even one new fluent speaker of an Indigenous language. There is the further question as to how technological applications could possibly be effective for developing true cultural competence among those seeking to learn Indigenous languages. According to this view, learning an Indigenous language must remain a quintessentially human exchange, with technology playing only a secondary support role. Those questioning the benefits of technological solutions were restrained in their critique so as not to scare away prospective donor support from organizations with large institutional resources. By the end of the meeting, a compromise list of recommendations was formulated. At the international level, it was proposed to establish a new UN caucus to focus on the issue of Indigenous languages. One set of recommendations sought to elevate awareness about the crisis facing Indigenous language communities. These included the push for a UN Year of Indigenous languages, or perhaps a decade, dedicated

to celebrating and supporting Indigenous languages. The idea was proposed for establishing international awards for exemplary language warriors that could be given at the UN during the annual proceedings of the Permanent Forum. One of the contentious proposals was to develop an international fund for supporting Indigenous language work. Of course, questions of funding and awareness are closely connected; with so little awareness of the crisis for Indigenous languages, there is limited prospect for developing needed funding to address the language issue. As a side proposal, I suggested that participants act as co-signers on a full-page advertisement in the New York Times proclaiming the reality of the global language crisis. The headline would be to the effect of: “The libraries of Alexandria are now burning all around the globe.” This would be followed by a concise statement clarifying that: “Enormous storehouses of human knowledge, developed and refined over millennia in specific landscapes by Indigenous Peoples, are carried only by the world’s Indigenous languages. UNESCO estimates that on average one of these languages is lost every two weeks. We know effective methodologies for saving these irreplaceable Indigenous languages but lack necessary funding for implementation of life-saving strategies for our precious languages.” This would be followed by the names of those agreeing to add their names to the statement from the Expert Meeting on Indigenous Languages. Such a publishing project demonstrates the bleak landscape for funding Indigenous language work and clearly shows the high level of desperation, as time is running out for resuscitating so many Indigenous languages around the world. It has been over 10 years since the first chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Saami linguist, Ole Henrik Magga, projected that half of the world’s languages would be lost in 20 years unless changes were made. So far we have not been able to identify backers to run the full page ad, much less to secure the level of funding needed to address the global language crisis itself. Still, this meeting provided a promising further step as Indigenous Peoples continue the work with the support of partners who understand the value of continuing to hear the beating heart of our cultures through our Indigenous languages. —Richard A. Grounds Ph.D. (Yuchi and Seminole) is executive director of the Yuchi Language Project, working with the four remaining fluent Elders to develop new young speakers of Yuchi through immersion methodologies. He has published on Native language issues and served as the North American expert for the recent UN meeting and as consultant for the Smithsonian’s “Recovering Voices” initiative. Dr. Grounds recently received the Oklahoma Humanities in Education Award. Cultural Survival Quarterly

June 2016 • 25


Gina Brooks Stephanie Borcea


ina Brooks is a Maliseet artist from the St. Mary’s First Nation in Canada. She works in several media, including lithographs, painting, pen and ink, basket making, and Wampum jewelry making, continuing in the footsteps of her grandfather and mother. Her work captures the stories of Canadian Aboriginal people and their connection to the land. Her ancestors depended on the land, basketry, and art to provide for their families. Brooks taught herself to weave by watching her father and grandfather. She continued training with local artists and elders in the community and received formal training at the University of Maine.

Gina Brooks displays her art.

Sweetgrass basket weavings.

Brooks’ Indigenous philosophy greatly impacts her art, and vice versa. As an artist she says her work “enhances the relationship to the land and deepens our relationship to ourselves.” The motivation behind her artwork is pure love for what she does, as well as a feeling of responsibility to maintain tradition. Brooks sees art as both a way of life and a skill that contributes to the enjoyment of life. “In our modern day economy, we forget that the land is the basis of our lives,” she says. She remembers lying on the ground as a young girl and how being close to Earth fed her spirituality and built her ‘Indianness:’ “I am very much an Indian. I have lived and experienced the life I have as a brown woman.” She chooses not to contain her experience in such a definitive title as ‘artist;’ rather, she enjoys her life through art and believes that one’s relationship with the land is as important as our relationship with ourselves. Brooks describes her process as “emotional painting,” saying she feels an emotion or a story inside of her and the work draws itself through this process. “I look for a lot of shadows or light in the images and I have this conversation with myself or with the being, and ask, ‘who are you?’ And [my work] comes through that way.” Brooks believes that too often, people wait for external influences for art rather than finding the artistic inspiration within themselves. Her art is about highlighting traditions and teachings as well as what hasn’t been said. As an Indigenous woman, Brooks says, “I own a responsibility to take care of the land. This is the message that comes through in my artwork.” The biggest issue she sees with First Nations people today is that they do not take their responsibility seriously as parents, mothers, and community leaders. “I think we have come to a place where everyone softly touches on issues rather than being matter-of-fact,” she says, adding that she worries that ceremonies have eroded because “[we] don’t hold the bundle as sacred as we should.” Brooks’ life experience has taught her to acknowledge and appreciate abundance in her life. She believes that it is important to know that we have enough. Through her art she has been able to build a world that people can step into seamlessly and feel at home. She feels that Cultural Survival Bazaars are a direct action that change communities and people’s lives on a small scale with a big impact: “I think Cultural Survival does really important work. When I went [to the Bazaar] and saw all those people . . . you know it is making a difference in people’s lives.”

Check out our upcoming schedule of Cultural Survival Bazaars at www.bazaar.cs.org. Plymouth, MA—July 22–23; Tiverton, RI- July 30–31; Jamaica Plain, MA—August 6-7. Other locations to be announced.

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Rural Women’s Right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent Danielle DeLuca


n March 4, 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) released “General Recommendation No. 34 on the Rights of Rural Women.”    CEDAW is a United Nations expert body established to supervise the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in countries that have ratified the Convention. CEDAW monitors the implementation of national measures to fulfill this obligation through reviews of each country every four years. It makes subsequent recommendations on issues that continue to affect women. This most recent recommendation recognizes, for the first time under a binding treaty, rural women’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent before development projects are carried out on their lands. States are now required to ensure that rural development projects are implemented only after participatory gender and environmental impact assessments have been conducted with full participation of rural women, and after obtaining their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The recommendations address many aspects of rural women’s right to access lands, covering new standards on women’s land rights in the context of marriage and family, communal land ownership, land grabbing, and evictions. “Land ownership can be a transformative force,” explained Mayra Gomez, co-executive director of the Global Initiative for Economic Social and Cultural Rights and panelist at the UN Convention on the Status of Women in New York last March. “When women are able to enjoy their rights to land, a lot of things in their lives change for the better. Secure rights to land is related to being able to provide food for yourself and your family. It’s also been shown to help women mitigate the consequences of HIV, to lower the risk of experiencing domestic violence. Land provides economic security to women, giving them more choices as to whether they want to stay or leave an abusive relationship, providing them a safety net, and helps them to exercise autonomy in different areas of their lives.” Rural Indigenous women are in a unique position to disproportionately experience poverty and exclusion and face systemic discrimination in accessing land and natural resources. They are also more likely to face barriers to holding leadership positions, experience more gender-based violence, and encounter difficulties accessing the justice system, according to CEDAW. The General Recommendation acknowledges that rural women are not a homogenous group, but rather come from diverse and intersecting experiences. Yet, as a whole,

Indigenous women experience discrimination not only due to their location, often in rural communities, but also their ethnicity, language, traditions, and gender. Indigenous women and girls are also at higher risk for trafficking and prostitution. The economic hardships of rural life, alongside a lack of understanding about how traffickers operate, can make rural Indigenous women especially vulnerable, particularly in conflict affected regions. Indigenous women currently face many challenges regarding the implementation of their land rights. Governments and companies often fail to consult Indigenous Peoples about development on their lands, violating their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. CEDAW notes that for Indigenous rural women in particular, access to land, water, and other natural resources is sometimes dependent on marital status or a male guarantor. Their access to social services such as transportation, education, and healthcare is also limited. Recommendation 34 provides guidance to States and lays out their obligations to make sure that women are protected from violation to their rights, whether those violations are committed by the state itself or third party actors like large corporations. The recommendations put forth should be used by governments to inform policies, and also by community groups to advocate for their rights. Read the full text of General Recommendation 34 on the Rights of Rural Women here: goo.gl/ e43iEU. Learn more about Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women here: goo.gl/j6SNYR.

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Maximizing the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Joshua Cooper


he International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is the first international human rights treaty with a binding legal commitment condemning racist policies and practices, adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 2016 A on December 21, 1965. The Convention is implemented by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the first UN human rights treaty body, established in 1970. Composed of 18 experts, Committee members conduct regular reviews of national policies and practices. A review by CERD is an opportunity to advance racial justice and abolish discrimination. ICERD provides an international standard for States to respect rights of all peoples regarding racial equality, and CERD offers a mechanism of accountability for Indigenous Peoples to challenge legacies of discrimination. To date, 175 States have ratified ICERD.

Composition of Country Reports

ICERD consists of 25 articles defining racial discrimination and determining responsibilities of States. The first seven articles outline rights, with most enshrined in Article 5. The other six articles focus on adoption of effective, protective measures to end racial discrimination, including affirmative action. Articles 8–25 focus on the mandate of the CERD. The 18 Committee experts, in serving 4-year terms, review reports prepared by States along with contributions of civil society to consider the progress in eliminating racial discrimination. When a country ratifies ICERD, it must submit an initial reJose Francisco Cali Tzay (Kaqchikel from Guatemala), center, was elected on February 3, 2014, to a two-year term as president of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). He is the first Indigenous expert to hold such a position in the UN system. Photo courtesy of RIDH/ Panorama diplomático.

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port within one year outlining its objectives to end discrimination. Periodic reports are subsequently due every two years. However, in practice, States have been reporting every four years with combination periodic reports. The common core document provides detailed background information of implementation of human rights and general framework to protect and promote fundamental freedoms. CERD created the procedure, List of Themes, to make the reporting process more targeted.

Shadow Reports and Advocacy

CERD meets twice a year for four-week sessions at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland, in February and August. Six to ten states are reviewed by expert members at each session. The list of themes starts the review of each country, guiding dialogue between governments and CERD members. Shadow reports, drafted with information from directly impacted people, contribute to the country review and are important to ensure the voices of people present during the review. It is important to submit a shadow report at least two weeks prior to the session electronically and by mail. For every state, a country rapporteur leads the Committee review. The remaining 17 members are also free to participate actively. Reviewing legal literature of each member or watching earlier CERD webcasts will enable activists to understand how the actual review takes place, to set up a Geneva strategy, and to establish which thematic issues are important to each CERD expert. Indigenous Peoples and civil society can then begin direct interaction with experts prior to the review. One can offer a brief in person presentation to CERD

members on the first day of each week of the session. A three hour period is divided among all NGOs that submit shadow reports and are in Geneva to present their facts orally. Coordination of a civil society briefing on Monday morning guarantees specific issues highlighted and paves the path for CERD members to follow up prior to the actual review. Coordination ensures all significant articles receive attention at the review and provides support for necessary questions to be raised and recommendations given to the government. Coordinating with the Office of the High Commissioner secretariat for at least one lunchtime briefing on the State being reviewed immediately prior to the actual review commencing in the afternoon in the adjacent room in Palais Wilson is also beneficial.

Concluding Recommendations

There are two, three-hour sessions of interactive dialogue with the State beginning at 3:00 p.m. and continuing the next day at 10:00 a.m., allowing for the State to provide responses to CERD members’ questions raised in the first half of the review. The chair of CERD opens the session. States begin the interactive dialogue with a short review on the situation of combating racial discrimination and introduction of its delegation of national decision-makers from the administration, including UN Mission diplomats based in Geneva. Next, the country rapporteur is recognized through a detailed initial assessment and analysis of the country report and launches the question component of the review. Then individual committee members ask a series of questions to the State delegation. The country rapporteur leads the interactive dialogue covering the list of themes. Each member may ask questions and make comments regarding rights enshrined in the articles of ICERD. The State usually responds the following morning after an all-night session in consultation with its capital. Then there are followup questions and comments by CERD members to fully understand the situation regarding racial justice in the State under review. At the conclusion of the six hour review, the rapporteur and the State each make closing comments and reconfirm commitments to the ICERD. The secretariat and rapporteur, along with key committee members, draft concluding observations that are discussed in closed session and adopted following the review of all States. The initial report is revealed on the website. Concluding observations and recommendations are made acknowledging the positive steps taken to achieve articles of the convention, but also practical steps for the State to implement ICERD standards.

A New Mechanism

A new mechanism of a coordinator ensures implementation of the CERD recommendations expanding on ICERD Article 9 and rule 65. The coordinator partners with the country rapporteur to monitor the followup. States prepare a one year followup response with information on immediate actions taken since the adoption of concluding observations. The followup shadow reports are due two months after the government report. CERD members appreciate concise and brief reports, not exceeding five pages, containing information on State measures to implement the recommendations and assess their impact and adherence. For each CERD recommenda-

tion, the report should describe actions taken, the current situation, an update of the issue, and any impact of action by State. The Committee reviews the State and shadow reports and can suggest additional appropriate action. The coordinator’s findings are included in the annual CERD report. An important component of followup is dissemination of concluding observations throughout the country and a liaison that will monitor progress created through the CERD review.

The Early Warning Urgent Action Procedure

Indigenous Peoples don’t have to wait until a State is reviewed. Under Article 14, the Committee can receive and consider individual complaints if the individual or group has exhausted all domestic remedies and if the State has recognized competence of CERD. If a right in ICERD is violated, communication should be submitted within six months. A concise report must provide facts of the claim, citing specific articles alleged to be violated, and be submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner’s petitions team. During consideration of the communication, CERD may request a State to take interim measures to avoid irreparable damage. CERD will formulate its opinion, complete with recommendations, in a quasijudicial ruling considered an authoritative pronouncement of human rights law. Even if a State didn’t recognize the individual petition, it is still possible to raise issues regarding racial discrimination through the Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure. Information presented in a concise format on a particular situation should be submitted with a section on suggestions for the State to remedy the rights violations. Since the first case raised by Aboriginals of Australia on the eve of the new century, dozens of Indigenous Peoples have coordinated campaigns with the Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

Thematic Discussions and General Comments

Indigenous Peoples can shape the thinking of CERD members for future reviews and rulings through the Thematic Discussions. Indigenous Peoples and allies in civil society can submit written documents on each discussion theme. It is also possible to participate in person with an oral presentation of no more than five minutes and submit the oral intervention to the CERD secretariat. General comments and recommendations are issued by UN human rights treaty bodies to guide governments in implementation and set international standards to interpret the Convention. In 1997, CERD adopted General Recommendation 23, specifically noting rights guaranteed to Indigenous Peoples that governments are obliged to ensure through affirmative action and positive State policies and practices. General Recommendation 23 illustrates vital issues of Indigenous Peoples regarding land, culture, language, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent. —Joshua Cooper is a professor at the University of Hawai’i, West Oahu, Kapolei and director of the Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights. To find out more about CERD and ICERD, visit: goo.gl/4pb4Lm.

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Support Indigenous Human Rights and Environmental Defenders Indigenous people around the globe are threatened with violence when they defend their traditional lands from government or corporate powers. According to a 2016 Global Witness report, 47 Indigenous human rights defenders were murdered in 2014. Cultural Survival partners with Indigenous human rights and environmental defenders to ensure effective participation in the international human rights systems. We coordinate strategic dialogue, communications, and campaigns—always at the request and invitation of the communities—as they fight external pressures.

“There is a clear tendency for Indigenous campaigners and human rights activists to be killed,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

M AK E A GIF T TODAY and stand with Indigenous leaders who are being systematically targeted and silenced as they defend their people, cultures, lands, and children.

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