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Battling Toxic Dumping on Indigenous Lands

Vol. 40, Issue 3 • September 2016 US $4.99/CAN $6.99

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S ep t e mber 2 01 6 V olum e 40 , Issue 3 Board of Directors President

Sarah Fuller vice president

Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) Treasurer

Steven Heim Clerk

Nicole Friederichs Evelyn Arce 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 Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural 6ta Avenida 5-27, Local “C” Zona 1, Sumpango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala Cultural Survival Quarterly

Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska Copyright 2016 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Printed on recycled paper in the U.S.A. Please note that the views in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Survival.

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.

Cover: © Debi Bishop/iStockphoto.

ii • www. cs. org

The historic three-year voyage around the world of the Polynesian Voyaging Society aboard –ku – le‘a, a full-scale replica of a wa‘a kaulua (Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe) has Ho brought it to the East Coast (see page 6). Photo by Justyn Ah Chong/PVS.

F e at u r e s

D e pa r t m e n t s 1 Executive Director’s Message

10 President of Taiwan Offers Historic Apology to Indigenous Peoples

Tony Coolidge Newly-elected President Tsai Ing-wen apologizes for 400 years of abuse of Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples.

2 In the News 4 Indigenous Arts Our Ancestors: The Original Entrepreneurs

12 Organization of American States Adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

6 Climate Change –ku –le’a East Meets West: Ho Sails Up the East Coast

Adelfo Regino Montes On June 15, after nearly 30 years of legislation, the Americas gained another human rights tool for Indigenous rights.

14 Battling Pollution on Our Lands: Mekasi Horinek

8 Rights in Action COPINH Participates in the State review of Honduras

Madeline Black The Ponca Nation faces environmental contamination from corporations, factories, and oil refineries operating near their lands.

20 Indigenous Rights Radio Life, Sacrifice, and Achievement: On the frontlines for Indigenous Rights

16 Mining on the Guajira Peninsula

26 Bazaar Artist Crafts for Women’s Empowerment: The Warriors Organization

Giulia McDonnell Wayuu communities in Colombia and Venezuela fight against coal extraction.

18 Environmental Disaster and Resilience: The Marshall Islands Experience

Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham Since 1946, Marshall Islanders have been dealing with the impacts of nuclear testing.

22 Hear Our Voices

Cesar Gomez and Anselmo Xunic Indigenous media professionals launch a Communications Caucus at the UN.

24 Strengthening Maya Community Radio in Belize Avexnim Cojti In Toledo, Belize, Maya trainees learn the craft of community radio.

27 Staff Spotlight Shaldon Ferris 29 Get Involved International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Ex ecut iv e Di rector’ S messa ge

Battling Toxic Dumping on Indigenous Lands

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e, as Indigenous Peoples, have faced environmental racism and environmental injustice for decades. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 1,700 Superfund sites on the National Priorities List since 1982, of which as many of 25 percent are on Indigenous lands. The decadeslong effect of industrial pollution has had significant impact on tribal lands, trust resources, and the health and well being of Native communities. Industrial pollution creates multiple stressors in our communities impacting every facet of daily life with long term consequences. The Ponca Nation is one of many tribes dealing with a long history of environmental injustice in the U.S., a similar struggle spanning across many Indigenous Peoples around the world. In this issue of the CSQ, Mekasi Horinek and Luisbi Portillo speak passionately about the impacts of industry on their people and their homelands. Whether in Ponca, Oklahoma or the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia and Venezuela, we are rightly reminded of the pain and concern regarding our relationship with mother earth and the future of our children. Barbara Rose Johnson and Brooke Takala Abraham tell the devastating story of how Marshall Islanders were kept in the dark about nuclear testing. These stories reflect governments’ failure to respect our worldviews, Indigenous rights, selfdetermination, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent as we continue to suffer disproportionately devastating environmental pollution from gas pipelines, coal mining, fracking, hydroelectric dams and other projects. Yet, our courageous brothers and sisters and our allies continue to show up on the frontlines, risking their lives to demand justice and gain the world’s attention on the international stage. Jose Gaspar Sanchez from the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organization of Honduras (COPINH) speaks about the organization’s recent advocacy with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The results of

years of advocacy work are milestones like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the recent Organization of the American States (OAS) American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the apology by the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, for 400 years of abuse to the country’s Indigenous population. We are proud survivors, and in unity will continue to fight for our self-determination, clean water, clean air, and a sustainable future for the next generations. We are proud of our cultures. Hokule’a’s latest voyage offers an opportunity to showcase Indigenous knowledge and traditional navigation and voyaging skills, and offers hope to so many around the globe. We welcome the launch of a new Communications Caucus at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the recent Indigenous Languages Caucus (see CSQ 40-2), which reflect both the concerns we hold for these critical issues as well as our advocacy in asserting our rights and demanding of ourselves and others to exercise these rights. Talented Indigenous Rights Radio producers like Shaldon Ferris and Rosy Gonzalez continue to create quality programs to inform Indigenous communities of their rights and focus on how these rights are being implemented around the world. Thanks to your support, an estimated 10 million Indigenous listeners receive this rights-based radio content annually through our growing alliance of 1,500 Indigenous community radio stations in 76 countries around the globe, in 33 languages, including 26 Indigenous languages. Thank you for your commitment to advance Indigenous rights around the world. Only in unity can change be made.

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

Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. 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 Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager John Kisimir (Maasai), Senior Fellow Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Senior Fellow Melvy Lorena Medina Patzán, Fundraising Associate Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Katharine Norris, Program Assistant 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 Anselmo Xunic (Kaqchikel), Community Media Program Manager

Sobreviviencia Cultural STAFF (Our Sister Organization in Guatemala) Elsa Chiquita de Pacache (Kaqchikel), Radio Producer, Community Media Program Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Program Director, Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Project Coordinator Oscar Armando Xunic Rocal (Kaqchikel), Accountant

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Amanda Aldridge, Madeline Black, Stephanie Borcea, Don Butler, Aviva DeKornfeld, Kieron Farrelly, Linda Ferrer, Anna Hernandez, Akiko Kuno-Lewis, Margaret LeLacheur, Giulia McDonnell, Edwin Pool, Lucas Tatarsky, Jeremy Vale, Kristen Williams, Michael Zaccaro

There are so many ways to

Stay connected www.cs.org Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2016 • 1


i n t he new s Colombia: Indigenous Communities Hold National Strike May

On May 30, environmental and social activists from Indigenous communi- ties across Colombia took part in the National Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Grassroots Mobilization. Indigenous communities from 27 different departments and 100 towns and villages participated in a national strike organized by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), petitioning the government to respond to their demands to defend the lands and rights of Indigenous Peoples across Colombia.

accord, but said that First Nations did not have the opportunity to provide input.

Nicaragua: Armed Mestizo Colonists Attack Miskitu People Miskitu communities along the Central American Caribbean coast were attacked by armed mestizo colonists who are pillaging and confiscating their rain- forest lands and have killed, injured, or kidnapped more than 80 Miskitu men. The government has not provided protection to the Miskitu communities under attack.

United States: Supreme Court Upholds Tribal Court Convictions June

June

On June 13, in a historic victory for tribal jurisprudence, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the sovereignty of Native American tribal courts and emphasized the importance of addressing domestic violence against Native women. The court unanimously upheld the federal conviction of Michael Bryant, Jr. as a habitual domestic assault offender, reversing a 9th Circuit Court decision that determined his conviction under the federal court was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that the tribal court’s convictions properly adhered to the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, and therefore could be used in a federal court.

On June 23, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla leader, Timoleón Jiménez, signed a ceasefire agreement to end the 52-year-long conflict that included the disarmament of the guerrillas. Indigenous activists support Colombia’s recently signed ceasefire accord but are also pushing for inclusion of Indigenous territorial rights and Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

June

On June 28, the president of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, issued a joint statement declaring that they have reached an accord regarding Indigenous Peoples. Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Perry Bellegarde, acknowledged the new 2 • www. cs. org

Photo courtesy of Australian Labor Party.

June

Colombia: Indigenous Activists Push for Inclusion of Indigenous Issues In Ceasefire

Mexico and Canada: Memorandum of Understanding About Indigenous Peoples Signed Without Consulting First Nations

Linda Burney.

Brazil: Land Disputes Lead to Violence In the Guarani Community June

The latest in a series of attacks against Indigenous people in a stretch of land in Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul State has led to the murder of Clodiodi Aquileu Rodrigues de Souza, a 26-year-old Guarani-Kaiowá Indigenous leader from the Dourados-Amambai Pegua I community. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has condemned the death of Rodrigues, and has noted that the Brazilian State consistently neglects to adopt the necessary measures to prevent violence against Guarani-Kaiowá communities.

Australia: Linda Burney Becomes First Indigenous Woman Elected to the House of Representatives July

On July 2, former New South Wales deputy Labor leader Linda Burney claimed victory in the southern Sydney seat of Barton. The win makes her the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Taiwan: EPA Tentatively Approves Controversial Beach Resort Project July

Following an initial environmental impact assessment, the Environmental Protection Administration tentatively approved the controversial Shanyuan Palm Beach Resort project in Taiwan. According to the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, developers must gain permission from Indigenous tribes living in its proximity, which Indigenous protesters claim the developers completely disregarded.

USA: House Approves Bills to Transfer Federal Lands to Tribes In California July

The House of Representatives has passed land-into-trust bills for two tribes in California on July 5. H.R.4685, the Tule River Indian Reservation Land Trust, Health, and Economic Development Act, places about 34 acres of Bureau of Land Management property in trust for the Tule River Tribe, and H.R.3079 places about 80 acres of U.S. Forest Service property in trust for the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians.


Campaign Updates Guatemala: Legalize Indigenous Community Radio Fifth Radio Journalist Killed in Guatemala On June 25, radio journalist Alvaro Alfredo Aceituno Lopez was shot and killed in the city of Coatepeque in southeastern Guatemala. Lopez was a journalist and director of the local radio station, Radio Ilusión. His news program, Acontecer Coatepecano, promoted community rights and focused primarily on significant issues in the surrounding Coatepeque community. Irina Bokova, the director-general of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has condemned the murder of Lopez and issued a statement urging the government to conduct thorough investigations of the killing. Five radio journalists have been murdered during the first six months of 2016 in Guatemala. To date, there has been no justice for their deaths.

Honduras: Tell U.S. and Honduran Officials to Respect Indigenous and Campesino Rights Another Indigenous Activist Murdered in Honduras On July 6, Indigenous activist Lesbia Yaneth Urquia was found dead near a garbage facility in Marcala, Honduras with several head wounds. Her death is the latest in a series of murders of human rights activists in Honduras, including her colleagues Berta Cáceres and Nelson Garcia. A mother and local businessperson, Urquia was described as

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.

an outspoken community leader who became well known for her activism after the 2009 Honduran coup. Her activism was associated with the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), though she was not a member of the organization. Like Cáceres, Urquia is believed to have been killed for protesting the Agua Zarca dam. Her death is the most recent example of political violence that has plagued the country since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup that forced the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, out of office. Crime and homicides have risen sharply, especially against women, Indigenous Peoples, and human rights defenders as the vicious and systematic murders of Indigenous human rights defenders in Honduras continue. Belize: Our Life, Our Lands—Respect Maya Land Rights Charges Dropped Against Santa Cruz 13 In June 2015, 12 villagers from Santa Cruz, Belize, as well as Maya land rights activist Cristina Coc, were arrested as a result of a conflict in which village leaders and alcaldes were forced to take action in the absence of police response.The police came to Santa Cruz in an early morning raid to arrest the villagers for “false imprisonment,” a crime that does not exist in the Belizean criminal code and which was later changed to “unlawful arrest and assault.” On June 27, 2016, the director of public prosecutions of Belize dropped the criminal charges against the Santa Cruz 13, releasing those who had been unfairly detained. This is a victory for Indigenous people in Belize, since the government has acknowledged the innocence of the

Santa Cruz 13 and the violations of due process and rule of law, as well as racial discrimination, that have plagued the trial. Guatemala: We Are All Barillas—Stop a Dam On Our Sacred River Rigoberto Juarez Is Released! July 22 marked a day of victory for Rigoberto Juarez Mateo and the entire Indigenous community of Q’anjob’al in the municipality of Santa Eulalia, Guatemala, as Juarez was finally released after 17 months of unlaw- ful imprisonment. On March 23, 2015, Juarez, one of nine autoridad ancestrales (elder community leaders), was detained for his advocacy against two hydroelectric and mining companies, Hidra Energia and Hidro Santa Cruz, for their failing to comply and consult with Indigenous communities prior to accessing licensure for their projects. Posing a threat to their natural resources, land, and way of life, those who resisted the projects faced threats and coercion, and were sometimes kidnapped, raped, or murdered. Juarez and Domingo Baltazar traveled to Guatemala City to file reports on these various human rights violations to the Department of Public Ministry and the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, but were arrested by police without warrant or charges and illegally imprisoned without due process.

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

September September 2016 2015 •• 33


indi geno u s a rts

OUR ANCESTORS

The Original Entrepreneurs Christian Weaver The idea of entrepreneurship isn’t a new concept among Native people. Our ancestors have always practiced entrepreneurship—it was called survial. Farmers, hunters, fishermen, women, artisans, and traders were all entrepreneurs because it was how they provided for their people.    Growing up I always struggled with choosing a profession. Should I be an architect, an attorney, a public relations executive, an exotic dancer? My father has always said, “Figure out what you love doing first; then figure out how to make a living from it.” Those words I’ve heard all my life didn’t click until the year I turned 30. Then it hit me: I can do whatever I want with my life—and it doesn’t have to be just one thing. One of my passions is art. I am a painter, designer, and writer. I have a lot of Native artist friends who travel around from powwow to powwow and art show to art show trying to sell their art. It’s a very tiresome and taxing job. I saw a problem that needed solving. How could I help my fellow Native artists create a more sustainable living from their craft? How can I vastly increase the marketability of these artists? How can I make sure they are seeing the greatest rate of return from their work? Then...boom! About four years ago I had a vision of creating a vehicle that allowed Native artists, designers, and crafters to have their own online store where they can sell to the entire planet. After a lot planning, trial and error, and hard work, NDNcraft.com was born. NDNcraft.com is an online marketplace that allows people to create their own e-commerce store for literally pennies. We are all creating positive change, creating opportunities. NDNcraft allows people to be their own boss. They control the prices, the inventory, and their own marketing. It’s a vehicle that retains culture, fights against cultural misappropriation, and doesn’t take advantage of artists, designers, and crafters. We’re more affordable than Etsy; we offer a specific market for our buyers, and we’re Native owned and operated. It’s a vehicle for the people. We are the people! Designing is a passion of mine. I love designing beautiful things from furniture, clothing, and home goods. It has been a dream of mine since I was a youth to create a line of clothing. My dad subscribed to GQ and I used to read those magazines from cover to cover, dreaming of being the next Calvin Klein, Valentino, J Crew, etc. One my favorite ways to express myself is through my attire. 4 • www. cs. org

Being an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Nation, I love the woodland floral patterns of my tribe and all the woodland tribes across the country clear into Wisconsin and Minnesota. They flow beautifully, and are bold and powerful. With all the non-Native clothing companies exploiting our styles and designs, I decided to create a line of clothing and home goods that celebrated our woodland designs in a positive way. I wanted to give people from all walks of life something they could wear proudly and in good conscience. In 2015 I created Eastwoods Apparel & Home Goods. We started with a line of unisex shirts with a beautiful print designed by Ojibwe artist Jessica Show Pony Gokey. Today we’ve expanded to dresses, headwear, and women’s shirts, with still a lot more to come. As the owner and creative director, I have the unique opportunity to collaborate with many

Eastwoods limited edition Butterfly Crew Neck t-shirt.

All photos courtesy of Christian Weaver.


Native artists and manufacturers to give the people products that are authentic and beautiful. Entrepreneurship is important to me. It allows me to create my future. The harder I work, the better results I see. I didn’t have a lot of money when I started these companies. I just studied, read, listened, and did it. Starting something is half the battle. It comes down to being a good steward of your time. I don’t own a TV; to me it’s a waste of time, and time is the only true luxury. I get so much more done by not owning a TV. Georgetown alumnus and NBA all star, Dikembe Mutombo, gave me that advice over lunch several years ago. Here’s a guy whose father made $36 a month as a teacher in the Congo. Mutombo went to Georgetown on an academic scholarship. He actually hated basketball. Not only is he is a scholar and former NBA all star, but he’s a philanthropist, ambassador, husband, and father. His advice to me was to throw my TV away. That was some of the best business advice ever given to me. This road hasn’t been easy, and is still bumpy. I didn’t take out a loan from a bank or borrow from a venture capitalist because I wanted to retain full ownership of my companies. That meant building them slowly and saving penny by penny. It had to be done. There is motivation for me to be successful

Christian Weaver (Shinnecock) is founder and owner of Eastwoods and NDNcraft.com.

because of the current small number of Native business owners and mentors. I know that there are people watching me. My family is watching me to set a positive example. If other ethnic groups can join forces to build their communities, we can too. I would like to encourage everyone reading this to consider becoming an entrepreneur. You don’t have to have a lot of capital to start, just passion, discipline, and the will to not give up. You will fail. You may fail five to ten times, but you must keep going. You must! Own something for yourself. Create a legacy for future generations. Be a role model. Be a warrior. As our ancestors look upon us, let us be the answers to their prayers. Let us create avenues for tribal sustainability. We can bring more power to the people, for we are the people. As for myself, I’ll never stop building and creating. I have a world to clothe and a daughter to feed. Tell Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren that I’m coming for ‘em! — Christian Branden Weaver (Shinnecock Nation) was born in Brooklyn and resides in Denver, CO. He is a visual artist, designer, creative director, business developer, DJ, philanthropist, and powwow dancer.

Eastwoods Butterfly Royale V-neck t-shirt.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 5


c l i mat e ch a n g e

East Meets West Ho–ku–le‘a Sails Up the East Coast Kaimana Barcarse (CS STAFF) This is the fifth installment in a series documenting the historic undertaking of the three-year voyage of Hōkūle‘a, a full-scale replica of a wa‘a kaulua (Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe) around the world by the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

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ultural Survival has been blessed by the arrival of Hōkūle‘a on the shores of Boston, our home base, in July. From the time I left Hōkūle‘a in Cape Town, South Africa until she has arrived here, much has transpired. Hōkūle‘a crossed the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Brazil, continued along South America and through the Caribbean, and made a historic landing in once off-limits Cuba, a first for a Hawaiian voyaging canoe. Each stop up the eastern coast of the United States was a first time experience for the crew, who were greeted by the Indigenous Peoples and local residents. These ports included Florida’s Kennedy Space Center; Washington, D.C.; the United Nations in New York; Block Island, Rhode Island; Mystic Seaport, Connecticut; Martha’s Vineyard, Woods Hole, New Bedford, Boston, and Salem, Massachusetts; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Hurricane Island and Mt. Desert, Maine; and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, among many others. At each port, local Indigenous tribal elders were sought out so that the crew could ask permission to enter the ancestral lands of these tribes, as is the custom of our Hawaiian people. Once permission has been granted and we are welcomed, we continue the formal ceremonies with a cultural exchange, and once that is done, we share food. Of my many experiences aboard the deck of the canoe, from swimming in crystal clear lagoons to enduring open ocean storms to sailing under a cloak of stars on a cloudless night, my favorite experience has been the greeting ceremonies at each port; a chance to meet as culturally diverse individuals and leave as family, as brothers and sisters, of our island Earth. “The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) was truly honored to welcome the crew of the Hokule’a to our Island. Through sharing song, dance, and our traditional foods, our time spent with the Hokule’a and her crew was a cultural event that will not ever be forgotten. They are now woven into our collective oral history and we are proud to be part of their Hokule’a family,” said Bettina Washington, the Tribe’s historian. Jonathan Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) was one of the local leaders who met the crew on Martha’s Vineyard. “We really appreciated the crew’s accordance with traditional protocols and being acknowledged,” he said. Weeks prior to Hōkūle‘a’s arrival, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sent a strand of wampum to the crew as an official invitation and 6 • www. cs. org

permission to enter their territory. “To show due respect to her voyage and message, we burned out a traditional ocean-going mush8n (pronounced mu-shoon) on our tribal lands,” Washington said. Members of the Wampanoag Nation paddled out to meet the voyagers, as the proper way to greet a traditional canoe is with another one. The canoe builders were able to launch it only the day before Hōkūle‘a arrived, and paddled out to greet the crew after just a few minutes of paddling practice. “This was the first time in 300 years that we made a beaked open ocean canoe. Its beaked shape allows it to go into deeper and rougher waters,” said Perry. Soon Hōkūle‘a will make its way south and continue through the Panama canal, making its way to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Tahiti, and home to Hawai’i in the summer of 2017. And we, the crew, the people of Hawai’i, those who came to visit and make a connection from every corner of the voyage, will celebrate her voyage around the world through song, chant, dance, and story for generations to come. E ola Hōkūle‘a, may the legacy of Hōkūle‘a live on! Follow the World Wide Voyage at www.hokulea.com. Read this article in Hawaiian at goo.gl/9DF1fH.

– ku – le‘a in Manhattan, Ho NYC on World Oceans Day. Photo by Joshua Cooper.

All photos by Patrick Pletnikoff.


– Above Left: Kaleomanuiwa Wong performs an Ha ’i ’O lelo Noi Komo (traditional oratory) requesting entrance as part of the welcoming – ku – le‘a, Wampanoag members burned out a traditional ocean-going ceremony in Boston. Photo by Jamie Malcolm-Brown. Inset: To properly welcome Ho mush8n (canoe). Photo by Justyn Ah Chong/PVS. Above Right: Tobias Vanderhoop (center), chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), –ku –le‘a crew. Photo by Justyn Ah Chong/PVS. Below Left: Jonathan Perry with Snake Ah Hee. Photo by Justyn Ah Chong/PVS. Below Middle: welcomes the Ho – ku – le‘a crew on Martha’s Vineyard. Photo by Justyn Ah Chong/PVS. Below Right: Ho – ku – le‘a crew honor The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe welcomes the Ho Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, at the World Oceans Day celebration in New York. Photo by Joshua Cooper. Bottom: Maya Saffery performs a hula as part of the welcoming ceremony and cultural exchange with the local Wampanoag Tribe and townspeople. Photo by Justyn Ah Chong/PVS.

Cultural Cultural SurvivalSurvival Quarterly Quarterly September June 2016 • 7


r i ght s i n a ct io n

Advocating for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights at the UN COPINH Participates in Honduras’ State Review

The report that the government was presenting was a pretty terrible situation because it showed a different Honduras, another reality. We were there to tell the truth in which we are living, because here in this country, human rights, and especially Indigenous Peoples, have not been respected.

Left to Right: Jose Gaspar Sanchez; UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz; and Nely del Carmen. Photo courtesy of COPINH.

Edwin Pool

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ndigenous communities are increasingly utilizing international human right mechanisms to advocate for their rights. This past June, Honduras’ obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were reviewed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its 58th session. In August, Cultural Survival spoke with Jose Gaspar Sanchez, the general coordinator of sexual diversity and equal rights at the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organization of Honduras (COPINH). COPINH was co-founded by the late environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her home in Honduras in 2015. Cultural Survival asked Sanchez about COPINH’s experience of being part of the review process.

Cultural Survival: Why did your organization get involved in the State review of Honduras? Jose Gaspar Sanchez: We took part because we as an organization focus on education, health, and community development. 8 • www. cs. org

What results did you get in Geneva? JGS: First we had a meeting with members of the committee that evaluated the government’s report. We also met with different UN rapporteurs and had a meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, who was bereaved by the murder of our companion Berta Cáceres. Last November she visited Río Blanco, a community in constant defense of the Gualcarque River. We met with her to express the reality of the situation that we are living in. The committee members asked excellent questions when the government presented its report. The government explained about the program “con chamba vivis mejor” (“with a job you live better”), which is a governmental welfare program. But we know it does not bring any advantages and abolishes the labor code achieved in the strike of 1954— employees no longer have the right to bonuses or benefits, which were established in the labor code. The government report also mentioned la bolsa solidaria (support bag), which is a bag with 10 products of basic household provisions, but serves only for political purposes because each bag portrays the image of Orlando Hernandez (the current president of Honduras). The committee raised some questions about these programs, as the government presented a positive picture that we said was not true. What issues or concerns did your organization raise? JGS: The first concern we raised was about a request to set up a special office for human rights, which is still in process. [Another] problem that we are facing, especially as Indigenous Peoples, is where the decisions of our communities are not being respected, including ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Since the coup that took place in 2009, Honduras has been in a serious situation because now all of our territories are being leased to big corporations. There are at least 30 hydroelectric projects, some of them in the Lenca territory, and among these are mining projects and wind farms that were handed over without asking communities who have denounced these projects. We face the militarization of our territories and we have seen how they operate; both private guards and police


and military are guarding the facilities of Desarrollos Energéticos, SA, the company which our companion Berta Cáceres fought against in Rio Blanco in defense of the Gualcarque River. It is important for us to raise awareness of all the problems we are facing in our territories because we are in a state of helplessness and vulnerability, especially Indigenous Peoples here in Honduras.*

international solidarity. This has helped us to denounce the criminalization situation that our organization suffers from. Because we advocate for human rights, especially for the Lenca people and the environment, we suffer criminalization and murder. But at least we know there are people, both at national and international levels, who are aware of our situation and stand in solidarity putting pressure on the government.

Were the issues and concerns that you raised successfully heard? JGS: There were very good questions posed by the committee members to the State delegation. Obviously the responses from the State’s representatives were rather poor, as they did not fully answer the questions asked by the committee members. All of the Committee’s recommendations were very good. [However], they need to be implemented. That is the greatest work we have to do; we have to fight to have these recommendations become reality, because there really isn’t the will to comply.

After the meeting in Geneva and the recommendations received, what will happen next? JGS: For us, we will keep fighting to survive here and continue to defend our territories. We will continue our fight in order to have a different country, free from dams, with justice and equality. We will continue on that path, and I think we will move forward.

How did the Honduran government respond to the Committee’s recommendations? JGS: The government was accompanied by people who are radio journalists, such as Radio HRL, America Radio, and national television journalists who were writing about the excellent participation of the delegation in Geneva and on the evaluation of the State report. Here in Honduras, the journalists just showed the positive aspect of the State’s participation, but we know it was not like that. We live in a country where manipulation, impunity, and bribery rule. Do you think international human rights mechanisms are useful for Indigenous communities in Honduras? JGS: International mechanisms have helped us bring attention to the struggles of Indigenous Peoples that remain hidden by governments, and they allow us to denounce injustice. We believe that is important, but the most useful part is building

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The Committee raised concerns that provisions of the Law for the Protection and Human Rights Defenders, Journalists and Social Communicators does not guarantee effective protection of human rights defenders, particularly in the wake of the recent murders of Berta Cáceres and Rene Martinez. The Committee was also concerned by the lack of adequate participation of Indigenous Peoples in drafting the framework law on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the State not taking into account Indigenous People’s right to FPIC when granting concessions for the exploitation of natural resources or other development projects. The Committee noted the limited protection of the right of Indigenous Peoples to freely govern their lands, natural wealth, and resources and recommended that the State party “start a broad process of consultation and participation with Indigenous Peoples on the draft Framework Law on FPIC; ensure that law meets the highest international standards, including ILO 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; ensure that Indigenous Peoples are systematically consulted in order to obtain their FPIC in decisions affecting their economic, social, and cultural rights and that their opinions are respected; and reinforce its efforts to guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples to freely govern their lands, territories, and natural resources, including legal recognition and protection.” The Committee additionally recommended the State take effective measures to combat poverty and economic inequality, specifically taking into account the needs of Indigenous Peoples. The Committee noted with concern reports about the negative impact of development projects and exploitation of natural resources causing irreparable damage to the environment and health of the affected communities, in particular those of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Honduran peoples. It further recommended that the State “develop clear guidelines and regulations for the assessment of social and environmental impacts of development projects and exploitation of natural resources, particularly those proposed on territories of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Hondurans; ensure that affected communities, including Indigenous peoples and Afro-Hondurans are consulted about the exploitation of natural resources in their territories; and obtain compensation for damages or losses and have a share in the profits from such activities.” Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 9


President of Taiwan Offers

Historic Apology to Indigenous Tony Coolidge

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sai Ing-wen won the presidential election of Taiwan on January 16, 2016 by a large margin, earning over 56 percent of the vote. The election results signaled a turning point in Taiwan’s democracy, with the Democratic Progressive Party winning a majority of the seats in the legislative yuan (lawmaking body) as well. Tsai accepted the “will of the Taiwanese people” as a sign that citizens wanted a significant change from former failed policies and unfulfilled promises. Soon after her inaugration on May 20, Tsai’s administration quickly declared a commitment to transitional justice. Their plan included setting up a transitional justice commission for abuses against citizens during the martial law era (1946–1987) and a commission for abuses against Taiwan’s indigenous citizens. When the President announced she would make a formal apology to Indigenous Peoples on behalf of the government, some were hopeful, but many doubted that it would lead to change. Doubters referenced the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, established on February 5, 2005 during the Chen Shui-bian administration, claiming that it did not adequately protect their rights, especially when their traditional practices conflicted with Taiwan’s laws. Pessimism among Indigenous people also came from promises made by former President Chen, which did not materialize. Leading up to the formal apology, Indigenous leaders and protestors expressed their hopes to see improvements in a variety of issues, such as land rights, hunting rights, and tribal autonomy. There was concern that various Indigenous groups would fight over limited resources offered for reconciliation,

Representatives of Taiwan’s Indigenous tribes were invited to attend the apology cermony of President Tsai Ing-wen. 10 • w ww. cs. org

especially if the government includes the Pingpu (lowland) tribes, which are not currently recognized. There was also concern that the new policies would be made without direct consultation with Indigenous Peoples and communities. A professor at National Dong Hwa University reminded Indigenous people that the seeking of truth and justice would be complicated, as this was “a crime with no perpetrators, and no beneficiaries—only victims.” The formal apology to Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples took place on August 1, 2016, which the president’s cabinet officially declared as national Indigenous People’s Day. Indigenous leaders from every recognized Taiwanese tribe, dressed in traditional clothing, entered through the front entrance and were greeted by the president. After the doors closed, protesters, some of whom had walked hundreds of kilometers from their home villages and had been occupying the street in front of the presidential palace since the previous night, rushed towards the entrance, wanting to be heard. They were held at bay by a police with riot shields and no one was hurt. The president’s speech was both substantial and specific, with a clear and direct acknowledgment of responsibility. The apology for “four centuries of pain and mistreatment” admitted that during the past 400 years, every regime “brutally violated the rights of Indigenous people through armed invasion and land seizure; acknowledged the “erasing” of thousands of years of Taiwanese history by dominating government; expressed remorse for the erosion of languages and cultural identities through government assimilation policies, especially those of the Pingpu (lowland) tribes; apologized for the negative consequences suffered by the Yami tribe after the storage of nuclear waste on Orchid Island; and admitted that the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law of Taiwan had not been given sufficient weight by government agencies. It was a politically risky move for Tsai to make a formal apology to Indigenous Peoples, as it went against the Asian cultural convention of avoiding apologies and confrontation in order to to save face. In offering a formal apology, Taiwan’s president did what no other Asian government leader had ever done. Taiwan is now only the fourth government in the world to offer an apology to its Indigenous Peoples. Tsai expressed her motivations for an apology to all Taiwanese people in her speech. “To see what was unfair in the past as a matter of course, or to treat the pain of other ethnic peoples as an unavoidable part of human development, this is the first mindset that we, standing here today, resolve to change and overturn,” she said. Further championing her cause for change, she added, “Unless we deny that we are a country of justice, we must face up to this history. We must tell the truth. And then, most importantly, the government must genuinely reflect on this past.” Just as many Indigenous leaders and protestors warned that the apology would be empty without meaningful action and Indigenous representation, the president agreed to discuss the establishment of presidential commissions Indigenous historical justice and transitional justice. Tsai’s speech

All photos courtesy of the Office of the President, ROC.


Peoples President Tsai presents her apology transcript to Capen Nganaen, a representative of the Yami Tribe.

Invited representatives of Indigenous tribes of Taiwan line up before entering the office of the president.

promised that the commission would “place the greatest importance on equality between the country and the Indigenous Peoples” and declared that the commissions serve as a “mechanism for collective decision-making by Indigenous Peoples [to] ensure that the voices of tribal members find true expression.” She further committed to examining relevant laws to begin the formal process of giving status and rights to the Pingpu tribes; directed relevant agencies to investigate the decision-making process of storing nuclear waste on Orchid Island and find a permanent solution for nuclear waste storage; and offered appropriate compensation to the Yami tribe on Orchid Island. After the moving apology, Capen Nganaen, a representative of the Yami Tribe, commented, “Taiwan has had many presidents during its history, but never before has one been willing to offer an apology to the Indigenous Peoples.” Immediately after the speech on August 1, Indigenous leaders, academics, and government workers began the complicated task of putting together policy to fulfill on the President’s promises. Just a few hours after the apology, President Tsai addressed the Council of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous leaders during a working session on Indigenous policy. Meanwhile, activists camped out in front of the office of the president, demanding that President Tsai recognize their presence and their call for “nation-to-nation” dialogue. On Wednesday, August 3, Tsai surprised the demonstrators by

making an impromptu visit on the street, speaking directly with the leaders of the demonstration, including Indigenous singer and activist Panai Kusui. When Panai asked the president where she places the nation’s Indigenous Peoples, Tsai placed Panai’s hand to her heart and responded, “You are here.” The meeting concluded with Tsai inviting Panai to join the transitional justice team. As a news story, Taiwan’s official apology to Indigenous Peoples gained considerable interest. From it, international readers, especially Indigenous people around the world, can learn from the apology and resulting developments. Indigenous communities can teach their leaders what is possible when a government accepts responsibility to establish a stronger foundation built on truth and justice, and they can take heart in knowing that it is possible for Indigenous people and governments to work together towards reconciliation and mutual respect. — Tony Coolidge is a Taiwanese-American journalist and entrepreneur with Atayal roots. Read the full English transcript of the speech here: goo.gl/WA2HP5.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 11


Organization of American States Adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Adelfo Regino Montes

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he General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), during its 46th regular session from June 13–15, 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, adopted the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after a lengthy and complex negotiation process between member states and representatives of multiple Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. This resolution was adopted by consensus during the third plenary session by the 35 nations constituting the OAS. Delegations from the United States and Canada expressed their general reservations, and the Colombian delegation announced that it would retract from consensus on Articles XXIII No. 2, XXIX No. 4, and XXX No. 5. Their delegation also presented three “interpretative notes” for several articles. The negotiation process for the American Declaration began in 1989 when the General Assembly of the OAS requested that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) prepare a legal instrument on the rights of Indigenous Peoples for adoption in 1992. On February 27, 1997, the IACHR approved the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was presented for consideration to the Permanent Council of the OAS. On June 7, 1999, the OAS General Assembly established a Working Group of the Permanent Council to consider and analyze the draft declaration, inviting the group to “contemplate the proper participation of representatives of Indigenous communities in their work with the intention that their observations and suggestions can be taken into consideration.” Under this mechanism, from 2003 to 2016, 19 meetings of negotiations have taken place, through which consensus has been reached on the several articles of the Declaration. The American Declaration discusses a set of rights that Indigenous Peoples in the Americas hold. It consists of 14 preambles and 41 articles organized in 6 sections: Indigenous Peoples; Sphere of Application and Reach; Human Rights and Collective Rights; Cultural Identity; Association and Political Rights; Social, Economic and Property Rights; and one section on General Provisions. Article III serves as the cornerstone, reading: “The Indigenous Peoples have a right to self-determination. In light of this right they determine freely their political 12 • www. cs. org

position and manage their economic, social and cultural development.” This statement is in line with what has been established on Article 3 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article III was hotly debated due to its great importance for the historical debt to Indigenous Peoples and the complexity of the interpretation on the part of States. From the start, it was the intention of certain State delegations to limit the acknowledgment and exercise of the right to self-determination “within their States” or to define them as “internal” rights, which undermines the current improvements on international law. It is important to state that in the 19th Meeting of Negotiations that took place in Washington, D.C. from May 17-19, 2016, the State delegations accepted the text of Article III as a way to secure the provision for “territorial integrity and the political unity of the states,” which is established in section 1 of Article 46 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Regarding the placement of the article discussing “territorial integrity and the political unity of the States,” Indigenous representatives proposed its inclusion in the General Provisions section. The Argentinean delegation, with the support of other nations, clearly stated that they would accept Article III as long as the said provision was included in Article IV. In its statement, the Argentinean delegation stressed that it wished to avoid a “malicious interpretation” of the right to self-determination, taking into account their current political situation on the Malvinas Islands. Therefore, with the intention of avoiding any limitation or restrictive definitions to the right of self-determination, the reference was accepted in Article IV, after Article III, which was seen as a balanced solution to the positions taken both by States and Indigenous Peoples. In the context of constant and serious threats to Indigenous Peoples, Article XXV affirms that “Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their own spiritual, cultural and material relationship with their lands, territories and resources;” the “right to possess, use, develop and control their lands, territories and resources in their traditional possession or another sort of traditional settlement or usage, including those acquired by other means;” as well as a State’s obligation to ensure “acknowledgment and judicial


protection to such lands, territories and resources.” Section 5 of Article XXV stirred intense discussions during the last phase of the Meeting of Negotiations, as this section establishes that “Indigenous Peoples have the right to legal recognition of their customary, traditional and particular property, possession or dominion of their lands, territories and resources according to the legal system of each state and relevant international instruments,” and that “the States shall establish the appropriate and special regimens for the strengthening and effective demarcation or titling.” The debate focused on the proposal from certain States to include a specific reference to the legal systems of each State, due to the fact that such systems tend to limit the acknowledgment and exercise of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their lands, territories, and resources. Incorporating the reference to relevant international instruments was critical to the achievement of a balanced agreement. Now, when a process for legal recognition to Indigenous ownership of lands, territories, and resources takes place in a national context, international law will be available as a resource, including the UN Declaration, ILO Convention 169, and relevant climate change agreements, among others. References—both to a State’s legal system and to relevant international legal instruments—permit that the interests and legitimate aspirations of all parties are considered fully and respectfully. Another aspect that strengthens the American Declaration is the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). On this point, section 2 of Article XXIII establishes that “States will celebrate consultations and will cooperate in good faith with Indigenous Peoples through their representing institutions before adopting and applying legislative and administrative measures that affect them, in order to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” Section 4 of Article XXIX, which references the right to development, states that Indigenous Peoples must be consulted “…before approving any project that impacts their lands or territories and other resources, in particular with relation to the development, usage or exploitation of mining and water resources or another type.” Taking into consideration the context and the specific realities faced by the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, the American Declaration recognizes for the first time a set of rights for Indigenous Peoples in the Inter-American system and international law. The Declaration acknowledges the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, fundamental for their survival, well-being, and full development; the acknowledgement of the legal status of Indigenous Peoples and the needed respect for their ways of organizing; the acknowledgment, respect, and protection of the different forms of family orgaPhoto courtesy of Organization of American States.

nization, including extended family and marital and child rearing and naming practices; the right of Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation or in initial contact to remain in such condition and live freely and according to their own cultures; and the State’s duty to protect the human rights, institutions, lands, territories, and resources of Indigenous Peoples in the case of an armed conflict, among others. The adoption of the American Declaration was possible because, in the case of the most delicate and complex articles such as the ones described in this text, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples served as an inspiration. Accordingly, article XLI establishes that the rights recognized in the American and UN Declarations “…constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.” In this sense, the principles and norms established in the UN Declaration are explicitly incorporated in the rules and regulations of the American Declaration, and without a doubt form a basis for the implementation and interpretation by national and international bodies, specifically to corresponding tribunals. Considering the great diversity of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, this newly created regional legal instrument will strengthen and consolidate the process of acknowledgement of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in international law, particularly within the American Human Rights system. In this regard, the American Declaration will become a legal instrument of great applicability, as Indigenous Peoples have previously resorted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to secure the protection of their fundamental rights. The adoption of the American Declaration also serves as a positive reminder in moments where conversations of the deterioration of this institution and body are taking place. The challenge now is to achieve its effective implementation in the context of the member states of the OAS, and in the particular and unique situations of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. As international laws on human rights continue their progressive development, we must recognize the importance of the creation of an American Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to complete the circle of acknowledgement and recognition that our societies demand. — Adelfo Regino Montes is a Mixe lawyer from Mexico currently working for Servicios del Pueblo Mixe and was active in the negotiations. Read the OAS declaration here: goo.gl/9ptpEl. Read the original full article in Spanish here: goo.gl/XfPhk8.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 13


Battling Pollution On Our Lands Coordinator of Bold Oklahoma, Mekasi Horinek (Ponca), gives a “toxic tour” of affected lands.

Madeline Black The Ponca Nation has lived on the reservation near Ponca City, Oklahoma since the federal government moved the tribe from Nebraska in the 1870s. Ponca City is also home to corporations, factories, and oil refineries that contaminate the environment with toxic chemicals. The fish in the Arkansas River, an important food source for the Ponca people, have been dying, and the Ponca Nation is suffering from abnormally high rates of cancer. Meanwhile, the city has placed the municipal dump on a Ponca burial site. Such actions are what Mekasi Horinek, member of the Ponca Nation and coordinator of Bold Oklahoma, calls environmental racism. In spite of a victory in a class action lawsuit against the Taiwanese Continental Carbon Company, a plant causing carbon black emissions, the tribe does not have adequate resources to pursue further legal action. Horinek recently spoke with Cultural Survival, discussing the impact of pollution on the Ponca Nation, actions that can be taken to make a difference, and what the future holds for the community.

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Mekasi Horinek

Cultural Survival: What are the sources of pollution affecting your community? Mekasi Horinek: The reservation, our main community, is about five miles south of the ConocoPhillips refinery on our land. We also have the Carbon Black Continental Carbon factory, which takes from the refinery. We have the Ponca Iron and Metal factory building just south of the refinery near our community, and we’re receiving a lot of pollution from that, fires burning, smoke all the time. We also have the Ponca City municipal dump which is located on the same hill as our burial ground. There is a waste management facility that treats raw sewage north of our community on the banks of the Arkansas River. [So] there is a lot of environmental stress in our area, and the pollution that comes from all of these is very detrimental to our people. We have very high rates of different types of cancer, leukemia, lupus, and also a lot of things with the children and the elders—and not only our community, but the city of Ponca City—you know they’re suffering the same as us. What efforts have been made to clean up the river? MH: There have been no efforts to clean it up. As far as the river goes, we’ve had eight fishkills in the past four years and the EPA has done testing on the water, but they say they don’t know where exactly the pollution is coming from. The tribe doesn’t have the resources to do an extensive cleanup. I can pin the pollution in the rivers directly to the fracking industry; I know that they drain water out of the river, putting waste water back in the river. Why have the EPA and government entities failed to identify the source of the pollution? MH: We know that the oil industry feeds the economy in Oklahoma, and I guess you would say there are allowances they give the oil industry that they might not give other industries. The salt water content at the time of the fishkill would be one source, so the EPA saying that they couldn’t identify the source of the pollution was just blatant disregard. What does the term “environmental genocide” mean, and how does it apply to this situation? MH: There are two terms that I would like to talk about: environmental racism and environmental genocide. Environmental racism has been going on for many, many years in our area. Ponca City zones everything to the south side of town, which is where the reservation is. The refinery, the carbon plant, the Ponca oil and waste facility, solid waste treatment plant, the sewage plant, the dump, are all on the south side of town. They don’t put anything that’s toxic or bad for the people on the north or east or west sides of town where the more prominent citizens are. The south side of town is the low income side of town, with white people, black people, hispanics, and then the reservation. The fact that the city hasits municipal dump on our burial ground, the most sacred site on our reservation, is definitely environmental racism. As far as environmental genocide, we have a tirade of cancer in our community, and not only in our community but in the community of Ponca City. I have a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old son. One of my 14-year-old’s classmates died last year, and one of my 16-year-old’s classmates is dying of cancer right now. I don’t think there are any families that have not been touched by cancer. That’s why I say that it is a form of genocide. Just in my family alone, my dad is a cancer survivor, my uncle just passed away from cancer about two years ago, my son’s classmates have cancer, and a lot of women in the tribe have had different types of cancer as well. All photos by David Hernández Palmar.


Besides the class action lawsuit against the Taiwanese Carbon Black Plant, have any other legal measures been taken to hold the sources of pollution accountable? MH: No. The class action lawsuit against the Carbon Black facility was actually won, but there weren’t long term medical benefits given to those people. So the people had enough money to relocate and move, but are still suffering from the health repercussions. There haven’t been any other lawsuits brought against Ponca City for environmental racism or ConocoPhillips Corporation for environmental genocide. I hope that is something I see happen in the near future. What can be done to address the possible long term risks of the pollution? MH: I definitely think that the media can help. It’s kind of taboo to think about in this oil state of Oklahoma. Getting the word out and bearing witness is definitely one tool that we can use. One of the things that is hard to grasp is the carbon credit. They talk about carbon credits, that they buy carbon credits and they plant trees in Australia, or they take care of a certain area in the Amazon which permits them to put out more pollution here in our country, where we live. That’s something people need to be aware of, because people think that carbon trading and carbon credits are a really good deal, that these corporations are putting money into conserving rainforests and conserving trees in different areas to try to offset the change. But what it does is give them the oppor- tunity to put out more pollution in the areas where they’re at, and it’s detrimental to my people. How does the environmental contamination affect the future of the Ponca people? MH: I see genocide. I see my people dying every day. I have children, I have grandchildren. I think that if we stay here, we’ll die. How many children and how many of my grandchildren are going to develop cancer? I’ve thought about leaving to make a new life somewhere else many times, but what kind of person would I be to leave my people behind to just go and worry about myself? Out of 30 wells around the reservation, every single one is leaking methane gas. It just blows my mind to see how much methane is leaking into the air, and how close some of these wells are to homes and to the community. There are no fences around the wells, no warning signs saying “stay out of this area,” “don’t smoke,” or anything like that. A lot of kids think that that’s a good place to go and have their parties. It’s just a serious danger and a health threat and a major contributor to climate change. The future depends on the decisions we make now. We need to be looking at renewable energy and putting people, instead of profit, first. If we choose to keep using fossil fuels and keep draining mother earth of her lifeblood, there will be serious repercussions. We’re having earthquakes here in Oklahoma now. It’s a scary thing knowing you live five miles from a refinery with hydrochloric acid and hydrogen sulfide, and if a big earthquake opens up one of those wells or breaks a pipeline, everything in 12 miles will be killed. That’s not only my community, but everybody in the community of Ponca City and the surrounding areas. We have to take care of mother earth.

The fish in the Arkansas River are dying and people are suffering from high rates of cancer due to pollution.

Signage posted on perimeter of ConocoPhillips refinery alongside a Ponca City public access road.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 15


Mining on the Guajira Peninsula Wayuu Communities Fight Against Coal Extraction Giulia McDonnell

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ocated on the border of northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela, the Guajira Peninsula was once an ecologically rich territory, full of tropical rainforests and an array of biodiversity, flowing with a plentiful supply of clean water and air. However, since transnational companies began buying land across the peninsula in the 1980s, principally for coal extraction, the landscape has become increasingly bleak. The water is now murky and polluted; drought and deforestation have caused the once fruitful lands to become arid and barren. The systematic destruction of the environment by mining companies has also led to serious problems for the Indigenous communities residing in the area, principally the Wayuu people. On the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia, there are an estimated 270,414 Wayuu people living on 10,780 square kilometers of the peninsula. In Venezuela, there are known to be 725,128 Indigenous people residing in the country, with the Wayuu accounting for 58 percent of the total Indigenous population. The Guajira Peninsula in Venezuela forms part of the state of Zulia, with extensive mining taking place in the municipality of Guajira north of the Guasare River at Mina Norte, and to the south of the river in the municipality of Mara, at Mina Paso Diablo. On February 10, 2015, Decree No. 1,606 was approved by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. This decree gave the national army and the Carbones del Zulia company the duty to oversee further exploitation of coal and other minerals in the municipalities of Mara and Guajira, granting five additional mining concessions in the state of Zulia. The Wayuu communities residing in the areas of Guasare, Socuy, Mache, and the Cachiri river basins in the Sierra de Perija would be principally

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affected by the carbon contamination produced by the opening of these additional mines. However, these communities immediately took action and protested the enactment of the decree approved by Maduro, bringing international attention to the situation and stopping, for now, the opening of additional mines in the sector. Luisbi Portillo, coordinator of the nonprofit organization Sociedad Homo et Natura, and member of the Ecologist Federation of Zulia and of the National Front for the Defense of Water and Life, works to mobilize Wayuu communities to defend their lands against the advancement of mining industries. In a recently published article, Portillo delineated the problems faced by Wayuu communities caused by Mina Norte and Mina Paso Diablo, vehemently opposing the opening of five additional mining concessions in Zulia. Portillo states that in 2002, field studies showed that metals such as lead, vanadium, zinc, and cadmium were present in the water of the rivers in the state of Zulia on the Guajira Peninsula. The waters have become increasingly mineralized since 1987 Mina Paso Diablo was opened. Portillo has urged the government and organizations protecting the lands of the Wayuu to investigate how many tons of sulfur are released yearly into the surrounding atmosphere, with the mine explosion rate in Zulia currently emitting 7 million tons per year. He also notes that the government still does not support the Wayuu communities in their fight to keep new mines from opening in the region. In an interview with Cultural Survival, Portillo stated that “the government isn’t helping at all. In fact, it is doing the opposite. The government has broken the legacy of our former President Hugo Chavez and given in to pressure from the governor of Zulia and from the owners of carbon energy companies, who have declared that the exploitation of carbon in this region will


Wayuu communities make their opposition loud and clear.

continue to grow to maximum capacity.” Portillo also points out that Chinese companies are opening a coal fired power plant in the municipality of Mara at Mina Paso Diablo, and a naval port for coal on the island San Carlos-San Bernardo in the Gulf of Venezuela. Portillo denounces the absence of government support for Indigenous communities in the region, asserting that environmental crimes committed by mining companies include the unsupervised discharge of toxic leaks, illegal use of wood from deforested trees in the area, and uncontrolled spills of toxic oils and liquids. When asked about the current situation of the communities affected by the mines on the border of Colombia and Venezuela, Portillo explained that for communities enclosed by the perimeter of certain mines, like Santa Fe and Sierra Maestra, “their water, their land, their fields, and their livestock are all extremely negatively affected by the carbon dust and the constant explosions that make the ground shake. The waters of the Guasare River are dammed up by the El Brillante Dam in the municipality of Guajira, and this liquid arrives to the Wayuu households completely contaminated by particles of carbon.” Portillo says that the main efforts to provide clean water to Wayuu communities affected by the mines are concentrated in making sure that new mines are not opened, so that the waters of the Socuy, Maché, and Cachirí rivers are not contaminated. In addition, he said, “we are trying to close the mines currently open on both sides of the Guasare River. These mines contain heavy metals that go into the waters of Guasare, the fish in these waters are contaminated by the heavy metals lead, vanadium, zinc, and cadmium. This is the same contaminated water that the people drink.” As conditions deteriorate and pressure from mining companies builds, Wayuu communities have organized movements to stop the coal extraction advances consuming the State of Zulia. The Indigenous organizations Wayuu Maikiraalasalii and the Cultural Indigenous Association Wayuu Yalayalamaana, located in the lowlands of the Socuy river in the municipality of Mara, have been continuously organizing meetings and protests since 2005. The problems caused by mining also extend to the stretch of the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs estimates that about 350,000 individuals have been negatively affected by the coal industry All photos courtesy of Luisbi Portillo.

operating on the peninsula. The seizure of Wayuu lands to expand mining has led to the displacement of entire families, villages, and communities since the mining began more than 30 years ago. Mining in the sector has also caused serious health problems for countless members of the Wayuu community. Mining companies have dammed up and diverted various water sources, including that of the Rancheria River, which is one of the main sources of water for the Guajira Peninsula. As a result, the daily consumption of water per person in Wayuu communities in Guajira is only .7 liters per day, a fraction of the UN recommendation of 50 liters per day. There is no water for communities to cultivate the crops they once depended on, such as the Yucca root vegetable and bananas. Most community members have to walk 5 to 10 kilometers to find water and bring it back to their settlements. The Wayuu did not expect the mining in their region to lead to the complete degradation of their environment, their homes, and their communities. Remedios Fajardo, a Wayuu leader from Colombia, says that “many Wayuu believed that the mine would bring solutions to the region’s poverty, to the problems with access to clean water, to education, healthcare, and sustainable development. We hoped that we would receive some of the benefits from our land, which is so rich in minerals.” The picture painted by mining companies was something completely different than the outcome of their practices. Instead of bringing solutions to the region’s poverty, the mines have covered the landscape in coal dust, increased the poverty of an already struggling region, and brought a plethora of death and disease to Wayuu communities. In May 2016, 140 Wayuu leaders arrived in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, to denounce the death of so many Wayuu children. They claim that 12,000 Wayuu children under the age of 5 have died since 2012. In the famous Bolivar Plaza, they placed small boxes representing coffins for each Wayuu child that has died. Remedios Uriana, one of the 140 Wayuu leaders that participated in this protest, declared the mining practices in the region to be “nothing more or less than an extermination of a community.” Meanwhile, across the Guajira peninsula in Colombia and Venezuela, mining companies ceaselessly pursue the opening of new mines and the expansion of old ones, even as the health, homes, and lands of Wayuu communities continue to disintegrate.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 17


Environmental Disaster and Resilience

The Marshall Islands Experience Barbara Rose Johnston and Brooke Takala Abraham

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etween 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs in their Pacific Proving Grounds on, in, and above Bikini and Enewetak Atolls in the Marshall Islands, a part of the United Nations Pacific Trust Territories. Hydrogen bombs, especially the March 1, 1954 Bravo test, were immensely destructive. Visible from 250 miles with a mushroom cloud stretching 60 miles across, Bravo vaporized several small islands, left a mile-wide crater on the atoll, and generated heavy radioactive fallout across a 50,000 square mile area. With a lethal fallout area of 27,000 square miles, it remains the largest and “dirtiest” nuclear weapon the US ever detonated, dwarfing the radioactive releases of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Military personnel monitoring conditions on Rongerik Atoll reported off the charts fallout, received advice to take shelter, and were evacuated on March 2. On neighboring atolls, fallout was heavier. Families on Rongelap and Ailinginae suffered near fatal exposure. They were evacuated on March 3; neighboring Utrok Atoll was evacuated March 5. Dangerous levels of radiation also blanketed the populated atolls and islands of Likeip, Jemo, Ailuk, Mejit, Wotje, Erikub, Maloelap, Wotho, and Majuro, a fact confirmed by military personnel who arrived to collect samples on March 6 and 7. Radiation sickness was evident. Yet, as noted in the record for Likiep, no medical attention nor evacuation occurred due to the “logistical problems of moving a large population.” The downwind atolls had been previously evacuated during earlier tests. However, the concept of radiation and the dangerous nature of fallout from these bombs had never been explained to ri-Majol (the Marshallese). There was no instruction on how to take protective action; there was no perceived threat to take shelter from. For those ri-Majol evacuated to Kwajalein, no medication was given to relieve pain. Instead, to understand the health effects of acute exposure to radiation, they received human subject numbers, were photographed, and began their unwitting service in Project 4.1, a classified research experiment that operated under varied names from 1954 to 1992. For four decades, U.S. medical scientists traveled to the Marshall Islands to document degenerating health and conduct related experiments, all without informed consent. All told, 1,156 men, women, and children were enrolled in studies exploring the acute and late effects of radiation. Among the findings of this research: radiation exposure generated changes in red blood cell production and subsequent anemia; metabolic and related disorders; musculoskeletal 18 • www. cs. org

degeneration; cataracts; cancers and leukemia; and significant impact on fertility as evidenced by miscarriages, congenital defects, and infertility. Their experiences also demonstrate how chronic and acute radiogenic exposure compromises immunity, creating population-wide vulnerability to infectious and non-communicable disease.

Struggles to reclaim self-determination

When the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association in 1983, the ability to effectively govern was compromised by its complete dependency on the U.S. for economic, health, education, and other support. It was not until 1999 that the Republic of the Marshall Islands received the declassified documents demonstrating that fallout from the 1954 Bravo blast had blanketed the entire nation, significantly endangering the health of all 22 populated atolls and islands. To this day, the U.S. only acknowledges a responsibility to assist in the treatment of radiation-related disease of the people who lived on four atolls, not the nationwide experience. Bilateral agreements between the U.S. and the Marshall Islands require attention to nuclear wastelands. On Rongelap, remediation of some radiation hotspots and construction of new homes on Rongelap Island has occurred, though families have yet to trust U.S. assurances that it is safe to move back. Given the immense degree of contamination in the larger terrestrial and marine environment, many places are officially off limits. Without the ability to access critical resources on all the islands in the atoll, a return to a culturally vibrant, self sufficient, and healthy way of life seems impossible, a sentiment reinforced by the experience of Enewetak. In 1980, following a 3-year effort, the U.S. declared Enewetak cleaned up. Highly radioactive surfaces on some islands had been scraped, hotpots on other islands scoured, and soil, metal, concrete and other debris dumped into the “cactus” blast crater on Runit Island and covered by an 18inch concrete cap. No effort was taken to address intensely contaminated conditions in the lagoon and marine ecosystem, and only three of the atoll’s forty islands received some measure of remediation. Nevertheless, the U.S. declared Enewetak safe, assuming resettled community followed the rules: live only on islands in the southern part of the atoll; know of and avoid any hotspots on those islands; avoid contaminated dust; avoid harvesting or drinking water, bird eggs, turtles, mollusks, clams, shellfish, and reef fish in the highly radioactive northern islands; and restrict dietary consumption of all local foods to below 30 percent. Today, Enewetak residents are deeply dependent on food supplements and modest distributions from interest earned on the Enjebi Community Trust Fund. To make ends meet,


Top: Delivering humanitarian aid. Bottom: The copra (dried coconut meat) harvest, which has been declining over recent years. Photo by Brooke Takala Abraham/ Marshall Islands Womens' Research Initiative.

people ignore the “no go” zones to secure food and water. Some scavenge debris from abandoned military sites and nuclear waste dumps on the northern islands, trading copper for goods at the Enewetak local store. Given extreme pollution and impoverishment, climate change has hit Enewetak hard. Wind and storm surges scour islands, and families lose stored supplies of food and water. Salt contamination of soil, plants, and fresh water supplies creates immense suffering. The promise of reclaiming a culturally vibrant way of life in this context has been elusive.

Lessons on regaining self-determination

As noted in the 2012 Mission Report and Recommendations from UN Special Rapporteur for Environmental Contamination and Toxic Waste, and reconfirmed in the 2014 Universal Periodic Review of the Marshall Islands conducted by the UN Human Rights Council, strategies have been identified to restore the environment, grow healthy and safe food, and enhance individual, family, and community health. Yet, implementation has lagged due to the United States’ refusal to fully fund the primary reparation mechanism it established, the RMI Nuclear Claims Tribunal. And, the environment, health, and human rights issues associated with nuclear testing are compounded by climate change-related disaster. The government of the Marshall Islands has on its plate an ever-expanding array of sobering responsibilities—and they are taking action. In an effort to reduce their longstanding dependence on oil for desalination and electrical production and actualize Background photo by Stefan Lins/Flickr.

their commitment to be a carbon-neutral nation, with international aid, solar-powered desalination plants have been installed, and public health reporting and medical training and other education programs have been improved. A new campus of the University of the South Pacific has opened on Majuro, offering for the first time a means for local graduate students to earn a doctorate degree. And, expertise and leadership in civil society and government has been enhanced by college educated ri-Majol, whose years living in diaspora have strengthened their appreciation and resolve to ensure a culturally vibrant island life for future generations. For example, a reinvigorated civil society played a significant role in the May 2016 humanitarian mission to outer islands providing relief following a severe national drought. Planned disaster response involved delivering basic supplies of food, water, and fuel. Public health issues associated with water scarcity were raised by civil society organizations, who created and delivered some 2,000 women’s hygiene and menstruation kits, interviewed women about drought-related health issues, and delivered a post-mission assessment with recommendations for improving future disaster response. One the more exciting examples of proactive effort is the moi (Pacific threadfin) fish hatchery, fish farming, and feed mill initiative, run by a corporation created by Rongelap local government. Expansion of the project to commercial scale is occurring with a grant from the US AID Pacific American Climate Fund. Moi fish farming was originally proposed for Hawai’i, where a pilot project demonstrated success. In the Marshall Islands, where large lagoons provide a sheltered environment for farmed fish and labor costs are comparatively low, the project has taken off. New hires undergo a six-month scientific training course with pay and benefits that exceed national norms. Five years in the making, the company is in a rapid expansion mode with employment and production on track for five-fold expansion by the end of 2016. Ri-Majol are also demonstrating the power of their voice on the world stage. In 2014 the Marshall Islands filed applications in the International Court of Justice to hold the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel accountable for violations of international law with respect to nuclear disarmament obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law. In 2015, Marshall Islands Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Climate Change, Tony de Brum, played a leadership role in organizing at COP21 a “high ambition coalition” of over 100 nations, action that led to the historic adoption of a treaty that limits global warming to 1.5°C. The Marshall Islands’ historical experience and committed actions locally and globally clearly demonstrate their paramount concern: there is no struggle more important than this continual struggle to secure the most important human right, the right to exist. — Barbara Rose Johnston is an environmental anthropologist and the senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, CA. Brooke Takala Abraham is co-director of the Marshall Islands Women’s Research Initiative and a PhD candidate in Education for Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific in the Marshall Islands.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 19


i ndi geno u s r ig h ts ra d io

Life, Sacrifice, and Achievement

On the Front Line of the Battle for Indigenous Rights

Brooklyn Rivera (Miskitu) makes an intervention at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May about violence against his people in Nicaragua.

Giulia McDonnell

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ultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio (IRR) Program uses the power of community radio to inform Indigenous communities of their rights and focuses on how these rights are being implemented around the world. One of our latest full-length programs, Life, Sacrifice, and Achievement, produced by Rosy Gonzalez, highlights human rights violations against Indigenous rights activists. The program asks difficult questions: is the struggle to defend Indigenous rights ultimately worth the sacrifice that so many leaders and communities have made? Is it worth the murders, incarcerations, threats, and violence that come with defying discriminatory practices against Indigenous Peoples, most which have been a part of the standard practice of these countries for more than 500 years? The answer for the majority of Indigenous activists is a resounding yes. Although human rights and land violations continue to plague Indigenous communities, steps have been taken to recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous individuals. Life, Sacrifice, and Achievement highlights activists’ struggles, which in various cases have forced States to compensate victims affected by government human rights violations and brought attention to the intensifying criminalization of innocent Indigenous leaders. On March 3, 2015, environmental activist Berta Caceres was murdered in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Caceres worked to defend the Lenca people of Honduras, leading a grassroots movement that ultimately compelled 20 • ww w. cs. org

Desarollos Energeticos SA and Sinohydro to halt construction on the Agua Zarca dam, which was intended to provide cheap energy to mining operations in Honduras. Caceres also cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to mobilize the Lenca communities in fighting for their territorial land rights. She was instrumental in the battle against extractive industries, which Indigenous communities continue to wage today to defend the sanctity of their lands, communities, and health. Lenca communities are now urging the Honduran government to bring the perpetrators of Caceres’ murder to justice and punish them for her assassination. In Guatemala, Indigenous communities have faced similar struggles. Since 2012, 15 Q’anjobal Maya activists from Huehuetenango have been wrongfully detained without evidence. Most of these arrests are connected to activism in opposition to the building of dams by the Spanish hydroelectric company, Hidralia Energia, along the sacred Q’am B’alam River. Seven of these activists have finally been released, including Rigoberto Juarez Mateo and Domingo Baltazar. Life, Sacrifice, and Achievement has focused on the positive outcomes of the ongoing activism that has made it increasingly difficult for transnational companies to continue destroying the lands of Indigenous communities. It is activists such as Juarez and Baltazar who are bringing national and international attention to the situation, forcing the government and organizations around the world to involve themselves in supporting Indigenous communities in defending their homelands. Daniel Pascual Hernandez, a Maya K’iche’ leader and the general coordinator of the Farmer Union Committee of All photos by Cultural Survival.


Guatemala (CUC), was asked how peace could be achieved for the conflicts facing Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala. “If peace were in our hands,” he responded, “it would be quickly and easily achievable. However, while there is hunger, injustice, racism, and oppression, peace won’t be achievable. But this situation is not determined by Indigenous communities. It is determined by those who have the power in their hands: the economic, political, military, and financial power.”

Pascual Hernandez claims that the current system prevents Indigenous communities from achieving full peace, as the power lays in the hands of those who have higher financial status outside of these communities. The institutional racism and poverty resulting from the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996 are all still extremely prominent. In Nicaragua, a proposed $50 billion interoceanic canal has stirred protests among environmental and Indigenous activists. The canal is slated to be built within protected Indigenous territory where communities are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. Brooklyn Rivera, a member of the Miskitu community in Nicaragua and the principal leader of the Yatama organization, which represents the Indigenous communities from the Moskitia of Nicaragua, discussed his views on the megaproject. “The interoceanic canal will greatly affect the Nicaraguan population located in the project’s path, and especially the Rama and Creole Indigenous communities. On these lands there are various Indigenous communities, such as the Bankukuk, Taikah, and Monkypoin. They will be forcefully displaced or disappeared. The Rama community is the only one that speaks the language Rama, and they have truly worked to develop a sustainable life, but this community will definitely disappear with the construction of the canal, and with it, its culture and language will be lost. By backing this megaproject, the government supports an initiative that will essentially eliminate the Rama and Creole communities from this territory. These communities have a very small population in terms of numbers and are very vulnerable to being eradicated by transnational enterprises because their life conditions are so precarious,” he says. Excavation

and construction are scheduled to begin at the end of 2016. Rivera points to the importance of Indigenous communities being aware of their rights through international treaties adopted by various countries, such as ILO Convention 169, which requires Free, Prior and Informed Consent for enterprises such as the interoceanic canal in Indigenous territory. He argues that through the awareness of their own rights, Indigenous communities will be able to gain the tools necessary to defend themselves, often bringing international awareness to the violations of these rights as well. A case in point is Bolivia, where conditions for Indigenous communities have improved over the past 10 years. Angélica Ponce, the director of Bolivia’s Syndicate Federation of Women from Intercultural Communities of Santa Cruz (CSCMIB), describes the trials that IndigAbove: Daniel Pascual Hernandez enous Peoples in Bolivia (Maya K’iche’). Left: Indigenous have endured for hunRights Radio Producer Rosy dreds of years before Gonzalez interviews Angélica Ponce. finally gaining respect of their rights. “We were massacred for 500 years or more,” she says. “Our rights were completely violated, our sons were mistreated, our parents were assassinated. One day we said, ‘no more,’ and with a great deal of sacrifice we marched and we protested and we fought an immense war here in Bolivia . . . because of the battles we have fought these last few years, we have finally achieved our rights and we have made sure that our lives as Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia are fully respected.” In the last 10 years, Bolivia has achieved numerous milestones for Indigenous Peoples through activism from organizations and individuals. With the help of local governments, the literacy rate of Aymara and Quechua is improving; government salaries have been reduced in an effort to minimize corruption; and the adoption of a new constitution has highlighted the concept of regional land autonomy for communities across the country. In addition, the World Bank has has upgraded Bolivia from the list of countries with low revenue to medium revenue, and as a result, more land titles have been distributed to low income farmers, especially to Indigenous individuals. All of the Indigenous leaders who were interviewed are deeply committed to fighting for the well being of their lands and communities, in spite of the threats they face. They know the importance of building alliances, strengthening local and international networks, and educating themselves and their communities in order to defend their lands, cultures, and rights. Listen to the full program in Spanish at consent.cs.org.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 21


Preparations before launching the Communications Caucus at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. L-R: Avexnim Cojti from Guatemala; Dev Kumar Sunuwar from Nepal; Anselmo Xunic from Guatemala; and Mama Viviana Lima from Bolivia.

Hear Our Voices: Launching a Communications Caucus at the UN Cesar Gomez & Anselmo Xunic (CS STAFF)

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ral tradition for Indigenous Peoples has long been a mechanism to share ancestral knowledge. Mother tongues have kept ancient wisdom alive and have contributed to the global transmission of collective community knowledge. Communication from generation to generation, from the guardians of our planet, our grandmothers and grandfathers, to grandchildren, has permitted continued care for the earth.    Technological advances have connected the world, converting us into a small global village. However, Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from accessing mass media due to the privatization of radio frequencies by governments and corporate powers. The International Union of Telecommunications has affirmed that the radio spectrum belongs to humanity and that States should administer the frequencies, but at no time should they privatize them or permit them only to benefit a small group of business owners, as is the case in many countries. 22 • ww w. cs. org

In Guatemala, the majority of the population is Indigenous, but legislation does not recognize community use of radio frequencies. Economic discrimination limits access to these frequencies and the State has failed to democratize the radio spectrum. In other countries where the same situation exists, adversity has motivated Indigenous Peoples to launch their own alternative media to serve their communities, promoting their Native languages and cosmovision (worldview) through the radio. International agreements and human rights treaties on freedom of expression, as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, guarantee the right of Indigenous Peoples to have access to their own media and support the creation of local reports, written press, television, blogs and websites, and community radio. However, coverage is limited; internet access is difficult in places where signals are weak or where the internet does not reach, and in places where there are high levels of illiteracy.

All photos by Avexnim Cojti.


Above: Mama Viviana Lima from Bolivia. Right: Anselmo Xunic makes an intervention about the Communications Caucus at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues backed by Noeli Pocaterra, executive director of CONIVE from Venezuela.

Indigenous Communications Caucus

To address some of these issues, the Community Radio Movement of Guatemala and Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural initiated a proposal to unite our voices globally through the creation of an Indigenous Communications Caucus. The objective is to form an Indigenous community media platform at the global level to stress the importance of democratizing community media. It was with this in mind that we began to lobby for a space at the 15th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which took place in May 2016. The caucus is a space in which Indigenous Peoples can connect our efforts in order to promote ancestral values and knowledge. To do this, it is necessary to create and strengthen a network that allows a variety of actions and efforts to come together, pushing for the recognition of the right to freedom of expression within State legal frameworks. This can be through advocating for better laws regarding access to radio frequencies and new technologies, among other media. During the Permanent Forum, Indigneous representatives of four countries, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nepal, and Guatemala joined together to establish and launch the caucus. Each country representative has taken on follow-up tasks in order to clearly define the objectives, values, and principles of the caucus and to begin to advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous communication around the world. The development of societies cannot occur without media. Media in the hands of Indigenous communities can promote their own development, as well as strengthen the use of Indigenous languages, music, ancestral knowledge, and local forms of organization that are in danger of disappearing due to globalization and a worldview imposed by the international media corporations.

Values and Principles of the Caucus

Our values and cosmovisions must be the central theme of the Indigenous Communications Caucus. Among those values and principles is the importance of unity, the fundamental need to unite our voices, our thoughts, our ideas, and our actions, in order to be able to stand up together, without any group being left out, as is highlighted in the sacred book of the Maya, Popol Vuh. Another value is that of giving one’s

word as a verbal commitment, which should be held above any other obligation. The social, political, and economic life of Indigenous Peoples have funcioned within this dynamic, in which agreements and consensus do not need to be validated in writing or by bureaucratic protocol. The leadership of the caucus and the media must revitalize the power of giving one’s word as a valid and valued form of commitment in their work and media content. In order to unify, respect is imperative. We must learn from the diversity of knowledge, ideas, and opinions of our children, youth, women, men, grandparents, ancestral authorities, and spiritual guides. We all have something to contribute in the development of communication. In the same vein, we need solidarity in our fight for alternative media, to give voice to the demands of Indigenous Peoples in the face of violations of our rights, and more specifically, to objectively relay information. And we need to listen to all voices and opinions in a community. The media must generate programs with content based on Indigenous cosmovision, the principles of balance between mother earth and human life. It must promote ancestral knowledge with great respect. Information and communication must come from the four cardinal points of the world. It is a challenge that the caucus must assume in order to connect all Indigenous Peoples. Learning from one another through exchanges of experience will allow diverse Indigenous communities to increase their knowledge and ways of communicating. Participation of men and women in decision-making roles will increase equality. Men and women have the same capacity to assume responsibilities and to be protagonists in the world of alternative communication. The Indigenous Communications Caucus is a window that has been opened for the Indigenous Peoples of the world to create a network that allows us to join the global media scene in a way that’s true to our identities, and to demand our rights before State governments. To learn more about the Caucus or to get involved, contact: axunic@cs.org.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 23


Strengthening Maya Community Radio In Belize Avexnim Cojti (CS STAFF)

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n the district of Toledo in Belize, Maya people represent more than half of the population, living in approximately 39 villages. The Maya have their own ancestral government system and a history of relation to the land for thousands of years, with their own language and distinct culture. Maya leaders are currently strengthening their right to collective land title of their homeland and the protection and conservation of their resources while finding innovative ways to strengthen their identity as a people through the revitalization of their culture, language, and spirituality. Within this framework of revitalization of culture and maintaining the peoples‘ connection to the land is the Maya community radio Ak‘ Kutan. It is the only state-authorized community radio station able to reach the 39 Maya communities in southern Belize. Two grassroots organizations, Julian Cho Society and the Maya Leaders Alliance, identified the need to strengthen community radio as the voice of the Maya; a voice that is able to transmit to different generations in their own villages; a voice that is in their own Maya languages with content that strengthens Indigenous self-determination, protection and conservation of the land and resources, community organization, and culture. Cultural Survival is supporting this goal with a three-year training program in community journalism and radio production to Q‘eqchi‘ and Mopan Maya in Punta Gorda, Belize and Guatemala.

TRAINING

The first of five trainings in community radio journalism took place in Punta Gorda from June 11–16. On the first day, the training focused on what Indigenous community radio means; the role of radio within a context of Indigenous resistance, self-determination, connection to the land, and community engagement. Participants suggested terminology to identify community radio in their own language: “ab‘ib‘al atin” (radio tool), “Puktesib‘aal aj Ralch‘och” (radio as a system), and “mansa t‘an ich ik‘” (another variation of radio tool) were some of the suggestions. They also learned about listeners’ preferences and how to combine music with content. Community journalists have a code of ethics that applies to their investigations and interviews, which students also had a chance to practice during the training. During the next two days, participants learned how to select an issue or a piece of news and conduct a survey, obtaining 24 • ww w. cs. org

Trainees conducting interviews in the Toledo community.

practical experience on how to record ambient sounds and conduct interviews in the process. Initially the students were nervous about approaching people for interviews, but ultimately found that people were willing to open their hearts and have a conversation. The last two days focused on practical training, as participants were sent to do community interviews in pairs. Trainee Rigoberto Pop stated, “When I went to do the interview, I felt like a professional. People took me seriously, I think because they saw I had the equipment and gave me the information I needed.” On the last day of the training participants visited Radio Ak’ Kutan in Blue Creek to introduce themselves to listeners. Every participant had the opportunity to try the microphone on air and share their experience in the training along with their expectation for community radio. Community and project leaders, Cristina Coc and Pablo Mis, accompanied participants to the radio station.

WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION

Some women have participated in certain aspects of Ak Kutan radio operation, but Julian Cho Society saw the need to include more women to address the needs and interests of this important sector of Indigenous communities. One of the purposes of this project is to increase women’s participation at all levels of radio; thus, recruitment focused on encouraging women to join. Julian Cho Society and the Maya Leaders Alliance will continue to recruit women to community radio even after the training is complete, as their lack of participation has been a long-term gap for community radio and other political, social, and economic spheres.

LOOKING FORWARD

Cultural Survival supports initiatives that empower Indigenous community radio around the world, as it is an important means for peoples to be informed and educated about their own history and original forms of government, justice, health, and community organization systems. The Maya of Belize envision community radio as a means to strengthen their identity, their language, and their inherent rights as a people to have self-determination in all aspects of their lives, including their right to collective land title and the protection of their local resources. By training Indigenous community journalists, Cultural Survival supports the vision of the Maya of Belize to thrive in the near future.


OUR FACILITATORS Alfredo Rax Coc (Cultural Survival) Alfredo Rax Coc is a national correspondent of Prensa Comunitaria in Guatemala and community journalist for Tzuultaq‘a radio in Chisec y Nimlajacoc, Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Jesse Hardman (Cultural Survival) Jesse Hardman is a public radio reporter, writer, media developer, videographer, and journalism educator. Alfredo Rax Coc

Jesse Hardman

Fran Ba

Rigoberto Pop

Elodio Rash

Ana Cal Garcia

Juan Mes

Victor Cal

THE PARTICIPANTS Frani Ba Ba, 19, is from from Jalacte and speaks Q‘eqchi‘. He graduated from Toledo Community College. Elodio Rash Rash, 25, is from Indian Creek village.He served as a board member for the Toledo Cacao Growers Association and worked with Humana People to People supporting community development. In 2014 he completed his associate’s degree in business and was elected as the alcaldes’ secretary in Indian Creek. Juan Mes Mes, 32, is from San Jose Village. He graduated from the Univer- sity of Belize in 2015 with a degree in elementary education. Since 2003 he has been an elementary school teacher and community volunteer in preschool education, also volunteering for the Toledo Maya Cultural Council adult literacy program. Rigoberto Pop Pop, 22, is a Q’eqchi Maya from the Village of Santa Cruz. He is trilingual in Q’eqchi‘, Mopan, and English. He is a recent graduate of Tumul K‘in Center of Learning, focusing on the area of agriculture, and has volunteered at Ak‘ Kutan Radio for three years. Ana Cal García Cal García, 33, is a Q‘eqchi‘ Maya from the Village of San José. She is multilingual in Mopan, English, Creole, and Spanish. She is currently completing a master‘s degree in English from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. Victor Cal Cal is a Q‘eqchi‘ Maya originally from Guatemala. He is an elem- entary teacher at Blue Creek Village school and the founder of Ak‘ Kutan radio. He is also co-founder of the Alcaldes Asociation of Toledo and a teacher at Maya School Tumulk‘in.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 25


B a z aar art i st: C rafts for women ’s empowerment

The Warriors Organization Madeline Black

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saya Oleporuo and The Warriors Organization have sold jewelry made by Maasai women from Oleporuo’s village in Tanzania at the Cultural Survival Bazaars for the past four years. A Maasai warrior and community organizer, Oleporuo was inspired to help found The Warriors Organization after organizing an initiative that successfully brought clean water to people in his village and the surrounding areas. The water project saved many lives, providing well water for over 3,000 people and diminishing the dangers women and children had previously faced walking 10 miles to the dam, sometimes encountering buffalo or lions along the way. The well required a solar panel and pump for the water. In order for the project to be a success, people needed to understand how to take care of the well. Oleponio, along with friends from Israel and New York, was inspired to find a way to enable Maasai people to learn skills while also promoting their culture. The goal of The Warriors Organization is to build a community education center to teach people how to read and write while maintaining their culture for generations to come, according to Oleponio. One program that The Warriors Organization has developed is the Maasai Women’s Jewelry Project. In Tanzania, the dry season presents a challenge for many women. During the drought, men travel with the cattle and leave the women to support themselves and their children. The Maasai Women’s Jewelry Project empowers women to support themselves through this challenging time by making jewelry. Oleporuo sells the jewelry around the world, returning 100 percent of the profits to the women. The women who make jewelry for the Maasai Women’s Jewelry Project are mostly widows or women who cannot depend on husbands, yet still must take care of their children. One of these women is Mosipa, a mother of 12. All but one of Mosipa’s cows died in the dry season, and one cow is not enough to take care of 12 children. To support her family, Mosipa tried to make charcoal, an option that many women turn to despite the dangers it poses to their health and the environment. Since Mosipa began making jewelry, she has earned enough money to feed her children and even send one of her daughters to school, allowing her to avoid being married at a young age. The point of this project, Lukumay says, is “to give the woman power, to understand that you can actually do something with your own life.” Another artist is Namayani. As the oldest of six wives, Namayani is ignored by her husband and cannot provide for her eight children with the six cows she has. Like Mosipa, Namayani tried to support her family by making charcoal. Before the Jewelry Project, Namayani could not provide food or take her sick child to the hospital, and as a result was suffering from depression. According to Oleporuo, “Now she is a chairman in the group and is more than happy to continue the work on this project and try to bring in more women like her.” The jewelry that is sold through the Maasai Women’s Jewelry Project is jewelry that the women wear themselves. Every color in Maasai jewelry means something: white is peace, blue is the sky, and green is the earth, water, grass, and trees. Since there are Maasai people in Kenya as well as Tanzania, beads and jewelry act as a passport, with white representing Maasai from Tanzania and red representing Maasai from Kenya. The jewelry serves as a reflection of Maasai culture and is used to represent love, customs, and relationships. “When I go to the Bazaar, it’s more like connecting with our world, to give people a chance to understand culture and share,” Oleporuo says.

Top: Isaya Oleporuo speaking about Maasai culture at the Bazaar. Middle: Isaya Oleporuo at The Warriors Organization booth. Bottom: The Maasai are renowned around the world for their beading skills. 26 • ww w. cs. org

Come to our upcoming Cultural Survival Bazaars in December in Boston and Cambridge. Visit bazaar.cs.org for details.

All photos by Jess Cherofsky.


s t af f s pot lig h t

Shaldon Ferris

Indigenous Rights Radio Producer

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ultural Survival welcomes our newest team member, Shaldon Ferris. Ferris was born in Kliptown, Johannesburg, South Africa. His mother’s maiden surname is Damakwa, and he identifies with this KhoiSan South African tribe. His search to discover his roots has led him on the path to become an award-winning filmmaker. Although he grew up in an impoverished neighborhood, his parents persisted and provided him with a quality education. After finishing school, Ferris obtained a grant to study computer programming. Recalling how he got into media production, Ferris says, “I always had a passion for storytelling and always wrote very good essays in high school. I thought about becoming a writer. I was inspired to make films as a teenager, and I decided to pursue this calling. I saved up some money, bought a camera, and filmed some weddings and parties to learn how to use it. Soon afterwards I enrolled at the University of South Africa to study communications. I downloaded a Spike Lee script from the internet and followed the format. After shooting my very first feature, Eldorado, it was entered into the biggest film festival in Africa, the Durban international film festival, and won the Special Mention Award at the 2011 Durban International Film Festival.”

Shaldon Ferris on a walk with his daughters.

All photos courtesy of Shaldon Ferris.

Ferris became involved in radio when he started volunteering at his local community radio station, Eldos FM, eight years ago in Eldorado Park in Johannesburg. Since then, his live show, “Cleaning Up The House,” which airs weekly on Saturday mornings, has won numerous awards for most interactive, most entertaining, and best music knowledge. “The show is based on interaction from the community based on current community issues, and centers around fun and laughter for the entire family,” he says. Speaking about his inspirations, Ferris says, “I am inspired by my late brother, who taught me a lot about music. Sometimes a good song will drive me into a state of creativity. I am also inspired by my immediate surroundings, as many people are living extremely positive lives in horrendously negative circumstances. Everyone has a story to tell, and nobody wants to listen. Finding creative ways to tell a story is what inspires me.” When asked what the biggest issues he sees for Indigenous communities today, Ferris says, “Recognition. I think what all Indigenous Peoples want is recognition. By nature we are not attracted to big houses and fancy cars, just a place under the sun where we can co-exist with mankind, with enough to live off; that’s really all we want. Our history needs to be taught in schools, on radio and television, so that people will understand us. We don’t necessarily want to fit in, we just need to be respected. It is important for organizations like Cultural Survival to exist, so that ways can be found to spread awareness about the similar and ever-growing plight of Indigenous Peoples around the world. The Indigenous Peoples of South Africa’s stories need to be heard; their languages, cultures, and rituals need to be celebrated and promoted. My role at Cultural Survival will be to relay these stories.” Indigenous Rights Radio uses the power of community radio to inform Indigenous communities of their rights. With programming produced in English, Spanish, and a growing array of Indigenous languages, we bring the voices of Indigenous Peoples around the world into dialogue about the meaning of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, their common struggles, and their innovative solutions to the problems they face. An estimated 10 million Indigenous listeners in 76 countries receive content annually in 33 Indigenous languages through our growing alliance of 1,500 Indigenous community radio stations. Indigenous Rights Radio is the only worldwide Indigenous community radio initiative that provides access to important and critical information on Indigenous Peoples rights and other key international forum discussions that impact Indigenous Peoples. To learn more, visit www.cs.org/consent or contact Shaldon at shaldon.ferris@cs.org. Cultural Survival Quarterly

September 2016 • 27


get i nvo lve d

Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: ICESCR Joshua Cooper Human rights are measured through United Nations human rights covenants and conventions. Regular reviews monitor how States are realizing the rights recognized in these treaties. Indigenous Peoples’ involvement is imperative to seek justice through the review process and contribute to global standard setting. The review of every nation offers a chance to educate citizens about their rights and demand realization of the rights enshrined in the treaties ratified by their governments. In this series we aim to break down the core treaties.

T

he International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is an international human rights legal agreement promoting the principle of progressive realization of all economic, social, and cultural rights by States to their peoples. It was adopted as a UN General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) on December 16, 1966, entering into force on January 3, 1976. The covenant is a mechanism to monitor implementation of improvements in basic conditions of employment and labor practices for all people in the areas of social security and basic standards of living, health, education, and cultural development.

Country Reports and Shadow Reports

An 18-member committee of experts review States as guarantors of the rights enshrined in the ICESCR, focusing on the realization of citizens’ full range of rights. When a country ratifies the covenant, the initial State report is due within two years. Periodic reports are subsequently due every five years. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) follows current best practices developed by the UN Committee Against Torture to draft a list of issues to initiate an informed dialogue. The committee meets three times a year for three weeks in February and March with a two-week plenary and one-week pre-sessional working group; in June for a three-week plenary; and in September/October for a three-week plenary and one-week pre-sessional working group. Six to ten States are reviewed in each session. Indigenous Peoples are encouraged to submit information for the list of issues. The pre-sessional working group, as part of the first day at each session, sets aside time for NGOs to give oral statements relevant to realizing the rights of ICESCR. Indigenous Peoples can submit their shadow reports with specific concerns three to six weeks prior to the beginning of a review session. The shadow reports should be clear and concise, providing the experts with precise information regarding the challenges the country faces in implementing the rights enshrined in the ICESCR. 28 • ww w. cs. org

Five Phases of the CESCR Cycle

The UN human rights treaty body process follows five phases for each State review: preparation, interaction, consideration, adoption and implementation. The preparation phase is centered around educating and empowering people to participate effectively and prioritizing specific rights enshrined in the ICESCR. The heart of the action is to forge a new advocacy agenda aimed at influencing State policies that will positively affect Indigenous Peoples and ensure their dignity and equality. The result of the preparation phase is the creation of a shadow report that outlines the priorities of the people in the country under review. Civil society should be consulted in the drafting of national reports and should also coordinate national movement around the review. The interaction phase initiates participation with the Committee secretariat and expert members to ensure that issues, questions, and specific recommendations are understood and considered in the State review. The CESCR plenary session offers opportunities to engage with the expert members in the Palais Wilson in Geneva. A country rapporteur is assigned to lead the dialogue with the State under review. One should examine the research record of the assigned rapporteur. By conducting a research review of publications and viewing webcasts of prior sessions, one can better understand the positions of all 18 Committee experts and the process. The interaction phase prepares the Committee to better discuss the facts and suggest specific recommendations to change conditions guaranteed under the ICESCR with the State representatives. It is essential, when possible, to engage with the State for solutions to the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights. Recommendations should be about changing the country’s national policies and mobilizing necessary resources to achieve the articles of ICESCR.

Consideration Phase

The consideration phase revolves around the rights in the ICESCR and those raised in the reviews by the experts. It should empower people to coordinate campaigns reflecting the reality on the ground and allow for affected individuals and allies to hold their government accountable via the presession working groups. The consideration itself consists of six hours of conversation between the State delegation and the experts, led by the country rapporteur. This dialogue will influence recommendations in concluding observations. In the morning session on the first Monday, there are meetings with partners where one can share specific situations and updates regarding economic, social, and cultural rights. Most important is to be brief and direct regarding rights violations and to propose specific solutions. There are two, three-hour sessions of dialogue with the State. The first session


takes place in the afternoon slot, and the second the following morning. Lunchtime briefings offer an additional possibility to speak to the Committee experts prior to the review. During the review, the Committee chair welcomes States to open the dialogue with a short overview on the current situation. A country rapporteur begins the questions of the State under review and sets the stage for rest of the experts. The meeting is organized in four clusters to discuss the groups of ICESCR articles. Committee members ask questions and make comments regarding the rights in Articles 1-5; Articles 6-9; Articles 10-12; and Articles 13-15. For each group, experts take the floor to raise specific questions and comments as well as make recommendations to the State. The State then responds to questions. Special time for followup questions is provided to enable members to make the dialogue as interactive as possible. At the conclusion of the review, the rapporteur and the State each make closing statements. State delegations may submit statistical data in writing and any additional information for 48 hours. The secretariat and rapporteur then draft concluding observations that are adopted following the review of all States in the session. Based on the State report, the Committee can request additional information or adopt concluding observations. While rare, the Committee can also decide to conduct a technical assistance mission if the State ignores a request, making appropriate recommendations to the Economic and Social Council.

Adoption and Implementation

The adoption phase is where recommendations are issued to the State based on the list of issues, shadow reports of NGOs, and the actual six-hour review. It should accurately reflect the priorities of Indigenous Peoples. On the final day of the session, there is an open meeting and a press conference at the Palais des Nations where concluding observations are given. The implementation phase closes the cycle, returning to the community and national level a demand for action based on the recommendations in the concluding observations. Civil society can organize press work and initiate a campaign to implement the concluding observations.

Optional Protocol and General Comments

On December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the Optional Protocol. The primary principle is full realization of economic, social, and cultural rights for all people utilizing the maximum available resources of the State, including the right to work, fair wages and social security, and standard of living from food to housing, health, education, culture, and scientific advancements. Governments have 180 days to provide information regarding implementation of the Committee decisions under the Optional Protocol, after which time, one can file a complaint. General comments are determined by the 18 Committee members through days of discussion and subsequent drafting of legal language on the rights enshrined in the ICESCR articles. Comments elaborate on the articles and provide guidance to governments on interpretation of rights enshrined in the ICESCR. The general comments provide insight into government compliance with the covenant as well as ideas on better implementation. Participation in the creation of a general comment allows Indigenous Peoples to frame the rights as they have evolved to reflect the current reality. Economic, social, and cultural rights address the livelihood of all peoples in the pursuit of liberty. UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, recently said, “The progress we have made is not nearly as great as we think it is in regards to economic, social, and cultural rights…[these] rights remain entirely marginal in the entire human rights enterprise. They are an afterthought.” Until this changes, we must recommit to the implementation of the rights in the ICESCR as a global priority for Indigenous Peoples. — Joshua Cooper is a professor at the University of Hawai’i, West Oahu, Kapolei and director of the Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights.

Palais Wilson in Geneva is the hub for human rights and home to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Photo by Joshua Cooper.

Cultural SurvivalSurvival Quarterly September Cultural Quarterly June 2016 • 29


Thanks to you! We just launched our new Community Radio Grant initiative providing small grants to Indigenous community radio stations. Stations will be able to apply for funding through a nontraditional, culturally appropriate, dynamic grants process very soon. Because of your support, we have over 43 years of experience in advocacy, media, and public education. With your help, we can continue to provide platforms to amplify and empower the voices of Indigenous Peoples as they work to claim their rights to self-determination, their lands, cultures, and precious ecosystems that are essential to the whole planet. Thank you for believing in self-determination for all people and for supporting Cultural Survival as we advocate for the world’s Indigenous Peoples. We couldn’t do it without you.

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Young girls of Radio San José in San Marcos, Guatemala take turns narrating a children’s soccer tournament hosted by the radio station in celebration of International Children’s Day.

MA KE A GIFT TO DAY TO su p p o rt in dige nou s voice s.

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