Cultural Survival Q
Water is Life Defending the Sacred
Vol. 40, Issue 4 â€˘ December 2016 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
D e c e mb er 20 16 V olum e 40 , Issue 4 Board of Directors President
Sarah Fuller vice president
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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.
View writers’ guidelines at our website (www.cs.org) or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Cultural Survival recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have long been exploited by photographers and publications. This publication does not pay photographers for images and makes no money from publishing them. We also make a tremendous effort to identify every Indigenous individual in the images that appear here. From time to time, however, such identification is not possible. We apologize to the subjects of those photos and to any reader offended by the omission.
On the cover Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation (see page 10). Photo by Robby Romero taken from a canoe on the Cannonball River.
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In a historic moment, over 300 Tribal Nations have come together in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Since April 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been opposing the controversial pipeline, defending the right to clean drinking water for all (see page 10). Photo by Robby Romero.
F e at u r e s
D e pa r t m e n t s
14 Defending the Blood of Mother Earth
1 Executive Director’s Message
El Consejo Maya Mam te Txe Chman and International Mayan League Fear, threats, and intimidation in the communities of San Pablo and San Marcos, Guatemala continue as they resist mega-development projects.
2 In the News 4 Indigenous Arts Singing as Gameplay for Healing in Honour Water
16 Defining Conservation: Equator Prize Winners Speak Out at World Conservation Congress
Miriam Anne Frank and Alejandra Pero Equator Prize winners speak about conservation efforts in their countries and the impact receiving this prize has had on their work.
20 Underwater: Barro Blanco Displaces Three Ngäbe Bugle Communities in Panama
Jonathan González Quiel Ngäbe Bugle communities continue to fight against hydroelectric dams.
22 Funding the Indigenous Rights Movement
Michael Johnson In October, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples’ Latin America Conference focused on supporting Indigenous Peoples in biocultural diversity, human rights and sustainable economic models.
24 Colombia’s Indigenous Peoples and the Peace Accords
Jean Jackson A nationwide referendum rejected the Colombian Peace Accords by a slim margin. What does this mean for Indigenous Peoples?
6 Indigenous Food Voices of Maíz: Exploring Seeds, Knowledge, and Relationship 8 Climate Change Protecting and Restoring Indigenous Peoples’ Food Sovereignty
10 Rights in Action Standing Rock Stronghold 12 Women the world Must Hear Susie Silook 26 Bazaar Artist Jonathan Perry 27 Staff Spotlight Avexnim Cojtí 29 Get Involved International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
E xecut iv e Di rector’ S messa ge
Water is Life
n August 5, 2015, the Gold King mine spill sent 3 million gallons of mine wastewater and tailings into the Animas River, impacting waterways of the Navajo Nation as well as municipalities in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. That day I was participating in the 2015 Food Sovereignty Conference hosted by the Shiprock Chapter and the International Indian Treaty Council in my home community of Shiprock, New Mexico, where discussions of food sovereignty, pollution, loss of traditional knowledge, and dispossession of traditional lands were taking place among local farmers, community members, and participants from neigh- boring tribes. The plume of deeply yellow colored water reached the community of Shiprock midday. The irony of discussing growing food and food sovereignty with the sobering reality of the contaminated water, land, and polluted skies was nothing short of tragic and reaffirmed the urgency of protecting our life sustaining resources. Today, the health of the Navajo people in Shiprock is at a higher risk than ever before due to loss of farming livelihoods and the long term impacts of contamination. There is no compromise in making this situation tenable. As Navajo people, our human rights are again violated. This story goes beyond Shiprock, beyond the United States, beyond North America. At the heart of it is a story of conquest, colonization, environmental destruction, corporate greed, and forgotten peoples that resonates around the world with many Indigenous Peoples. It is also story of survival, spiritual strength, and cultural integrity. Each of the stories told in this issue of the CSQ represent calls to action to protect our lands and territories, to sustain life, and to stand up in resistance. The Declaration of the Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Traditional Knowledge for Climate Change Resiliency Gathering is a word prayer honoring our relationship to Mother Earth and
reminds us of our gifts, strengths, responsibilities to life, and the resiliency given to us through our spiritual understandings to endure and walk the path of honoring all living things. At Standing Rock, North Dakota, the people are standing in spiritual resistance to protect their water and source of life from the Dakota Access Pipeline. As Robby Romero reflects, “Mní Wičóni. Water is life. We are born in water. We have come together in peace and prayer from the four Sacred directions to protect this gift of life, now and for the generations to come.” Elizabeth LaPensee speaks to the waters in crisis and is calling upon traditional Anishinaabe water songs to be heard widely through contemporary media forms. She says, “in the heart of the place where such vital fresh water is under threat, water carriers, singers, and language speakers came together . . . with the hope of sharing songs for healing waters that can be shared with all people.” As Indigenous Peoples, we are connected through our indigeneity and worldviews. We understand that our brothers and sisters around the world fight to protect their ancestral lands and face threats to their sacred waters. The Ngäbe Buglé people in Panama have long struggled to protect the Tabasara River from the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam, which has flooded their territories. Protecting all that is sacred to us—our lands, territories, waters, natural resources, life— is a global issue. As Indigenous people, we have relationships to specific places and are bound to them through knowledge handed down to us from generation to generation. We will continue to fight to protect Mother Earth and all sacred areas and demand our rights be honored.
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 Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Program Manager, Community Media Grants Project 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), Program Associate, Community Media Grants Project Melvy Lorena Medina Patzán, Development & Program 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 Beryl Akuffo-Kwapong, Lauren Bukenberger, Don Butler, Hannah Currier, Linda Ferrer, Detmer Kremer, Bruna Luniere, Libby Pell, Dominique Seles, Jeanette Wittstein
Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)
2016 Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: 1. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 2. Publication Number: 0740-3291 3. Filing Date: October 1, 2016 4. Issue Frequency: Quarterly 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: Four 6. Annual Subscription Price: $45.00 7. Mailing Address of Publication: 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 8. Mailing Address of Publisher Headquarters: 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 9. Full Mailing Address and Complete Names of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor-Publisher: Cultural Survival, Inc. 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140, Editor/Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska, Cultural Survival, 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 10. Owner: Cultural Survival, Inc., 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Securities: None 12. Tax Status: The purpose, function, and nonprofit status for federal income tax purposes has not changed during the preceding 12 months 13. Publication Title: Cultural Survival Quarterly 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: December 2016-Issue 40, Volume 4 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: a. Total Number of Copies: Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: 3200; Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: 3300 b. Paid and/or Requested Circulation-1. Paid/Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541: 1400; 1350 2. Paid In-County Subscriptions: 250; 260 3. Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution: 800; 600 4. Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS: 100; 120 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 2550; 2330 d. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution 1. Free or Nominal Rate Outside-County 40; 60 2. Free or Nominal Rate In-County : 100; 90 3. Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes 50; 30 4. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail 300; 250 e. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 490; 430 f. Total Distribution: 2850; 2760 g. Copies Not Distributed: 350; 430 h. Total: 3200; 3300 i. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 89; 84 16. This Statement of Ownership is printed in the December 2016 issue of this publication 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete: Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager, Cultural Survival, Inc
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 1
i n t he new s Mexico: Court Rules in Favor of Maya Beekeepers Opposing Monsanto August
A Mexican court has suspended Monsanto’s license to expand its agrochemical activities in the Yucatán based on the constitutional requirement that demands the involvement of Indigenous communities. The Maya beekeepers, which consists of approximately 15,000 Maya families, filed suit as they feared Monsanto’s usage of carcinogenic herbicides would infringe on their economic, cultural, and environmental rights. The victory is part of a growing movement to stop Monsanto from aggressively expanding in Latin America.
Mali: ICC Hands 9-Year Sentence to Timbuktu Cultural Heritage Destroyer September
The International Criminal Court has sentenced Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi to nine years in prison for destroying sacred Islamic sites, mostly mosques and mausoleums, in the city of Timbuktu during its brief occupation by Ansar Dine and Al-Qaida in the Maghreb. The organization hopes that this groundbreaking legal decision will deter other types of destruction.
Canada: Six Nations Ceases Talks with Pipeline Company Enbridge September
The Iroquois Six Nations Council has ceased talks with crude oil pipeline company Enbridge. The initial discussion focused on a replacement of 35 kilometers of existing pipeline on Haudenosaunee Territory, but stalled when Six Nations Council and Enbridge could not agree on appropriate compensation and accommodation of environmental needs. Six Nations Council has signed an anti-pipeline treaty together with other Mohawk Nations, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, and other Indigenous communities to oppose environmentally unsustainable and unsafe crude oil projects across the continent. 2 • www. cs. org
Zapatista women. Photo by Julian Stallabrass/Flickr.
Panama: Ngäbe Protests Against Barro Blanco Dam Violently Repressed by Police
Philippines: Indigenous Protesters Injured as Police Vehicle Rams into Demonstration
Approximately 30 people were injured by police during protests against the construction of a new dam on the Tabasará River in Panama, a project that has already resulted in mass floodings and was in clear violation of the local Ngäbe communities’ Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The Ngäbe Buglé Council has rejected a treaty with the Panamanian government concerning the dam and is demanding more inclusion of Indigenous voices for such projects.
On October 19, a police vehicle rammed into a crowd of largely Indigenous protesters outside of the United States embassy in Manila, Philippines, injuring over 50 people. The police arrested, and later released, approximately 31 protesters. The protesters were objecting to the presence of U.S. military in the country, particularly in Moro ancestral lands, as well as the strong economic ties between the two countries.
Brazil: License for Megadam on Amazon’s Tapajós River Cancelled October
The Munduruku peoples of Brazil welcomed the cancellation of a permit to construct a megadam in the Tapajós River by Brazil’s Federal Environmental Agency. The project would have flooded Munduruku ancestral homelands and destroyed important ecosystems. It is hoped that the case will set an important legal precedent that could benefit Indigenous communities across Brazil.
Canada: Akwesasne Establishes First Independent Indigenous Court October
The Mohawk Band Council of Akwesasne has established an independent judicial court, completely separate from any Canadian laws or institutions, a first in the country. The new system includes Mohawk ideas about restorative justice and community work. Other First Nations, such as the Manitoba Cree, have expressed interest in adopting a similar legal approach.
United States: President Obama Signs Native Youth Commission Bill October
President Barack Obama signed the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act, a law which will establish an independent research panel to improve access to education, health, and other important issues for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian youth.
Mexico: Zapatistas to Present Indigenous Presidential Candidate in 2018 October
On October 14, the Zapatista National Liberation Army and the National Indigenous Congress resolved to present an Indigenous woman as an independent candidate for the 2018 presidential election in Mexico. This marks a shift in strategy, as the Zapatista move- ment has its roots in armed resistance. The 2018 race will be the first to allow independent candidates not aligned with a political party.
Campaign Updates Peru: Force Oil Company to Clean Up Spills Indigenous Federations of the Amazon Urge New Peruvian President to Act on Oil Contamination On September 26, the traditional leaders of Indigenous Federations of the Amazon traveled to Lima, Peru to discuss with newly elected president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski demands to adequately clean up oil contamination. Indigenous leaders were following up on agreements signed on August 22 to clean up Lots 192 and 8, where petroleum companies have operated for 45 years, leaving toxic contamination and insufficiently maintaining the aging petroleum infrastructure. The 50 million soles ($14.9 million USD) cleanup program approved by the government a year and a half ago has yet to commence. The Indigenous leaders expressed increased urgency as nine oil spills in the past few months alone have deeply contaminated Indigenous lands.
Indigenous Protesters at Bagua Declared Innocent of Police Deaths On September 22, Peru’s courts ruled to absolve 52 Indigenous protesters of all charges related to the deaths of 12 policemen during the events of June 2009, known as the Bagua Massacre. At the time, Awajun, Wambis, Shawi, and mestizo Peruvians blockaded a highway in response to a new forestry law that privatized ancestral lands in the Amazonian rainforest for use by ex-
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.
tractive industries. The law was related to the 2009 Peru-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Wikileaks cables released in 2014 showed that the U.S. pressed the Peruvian government to use force to clear the protest to ensure compliance with the Agreement. State violence escalated the peaceful protest and led to the death of 33 Peruvians, including both police and Indigenous protestors, and the injury of hundreds more. Fifty-two protesters were charged with crimes ranging from murder to roadblocking; ultimately all were found innocent. Indigenous Protests Pass Eighth Week as Another Oil Pipeline Spill Is Reported Another oil spill and a shooting that left one protester wounded marked the eighth week of protests in Saramurillo, an Indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon on the banks of the Marañón River. The protesters seek a declaration of a state of emergency, as well as an independent inspection of the corroded pipeline network, remediation and rehabilitation of affected sites, compensation for damages, stricter regulations, and an independent investigation into the impacts of the oil spills on the affected communities. Officials from Petroperú, the Peruvian state oil company, claim that vandals are responsible for damaging the pipelines and that oil drilling is a safe activity. Meanwhile, activists from Achuar, Kichwa, Awajún, Urarina, and Kukama-Kukamiria communities protest the continued activities as the list of polluted sites tops 1,000. The protesters are demanding safer and fairer laws, swifter implementation, and a seat at the discussion table.
Cameroon: Stop Palm Oil Plantations from Destroying Africa’s Ancient Rainforests and Local Livelihoods Petition Protests Corrupt Land Grabbing Deals in Cameroon Herakles Farms’ lease on a massive palm oil plantation in Cameroon is expiring in November, and the government is deciding whether or not to renew the lease to subsidiary SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) for an additional 99 years. A coalition of over 20 Cameroonian and international NGOs has been fighting SGSOC’s unethical and illegal behavior since 2012. Now, members of this coalition have launched a petition to ask the Cameroonian government not to extend or renew the lease after it expires. Since 2009, Herakles Farms has been illegally clearing forests in southwestern Cameroon. Through its history of operation, the company has violated local laws as well as international human rights standards, including the communities’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent before any development takes place on their traditional lands. Communities who were pressured, bribed, and intimidated into selling their land remain disenfranchised and are demanding their lands be ceded back to them.
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Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly Cultural
December December 2016 2015 •• 33
indi geno u s a rts Singing as Gameplay for Healing in
he waters are in crisis, and Anishinaabekwe who understand part of the role to be water walkers are enacting songs and good intentions across the Great Lakes and other communities. With toxic emissions, depletion, and pipeline spills, the waters are in greater and greater need of healing. Water is vital for all life and it is from a place of hope that a community of Anishinaabekwewag collaborated with me, alongside the game development company Pinnguaq, in order to actualize Honour Water, a singing game in Anishinaabemowin now available as a free app. As I was taught by my auntie and my mother, Anishinaabe water songs can heal the waters. Communities are at such a point of concern that Anishinaabekwe are bringing forth and sharing water songs that all people are welcome to sing. I have been grateful that even as an Anishinaabekwe who was born and raised on the west coast, water songs find their way to me through friends and family. I do my best to pass these songs on, but find that there need to be ways to share songs more widely and with teachings about the water and Anishinaabemowin, the language of Anishinaabeg. The journey of Honour Water began years ago when a community of Anishinaabeg living in the Pacific Northwest began holding gatherings so that we could share our language, songs, good thoughts, and most importantly, food. Many of us also participated in the Intertribal Canoe Family 4 • www. cs. org
in Portland, Oregon, where elders asked me to offer songs for our relatives and the waters. Often I shared songs and teachings with community members and translated the Anishinaabemowin. However, it was difficult to explain the language in song only. I then began to wonder about better ways to share songs that are new and intended to be sung widely. When I knew I would be moving back to the Great Lakes, closer to where my family is from, I was asked by elders to record water songs that are allowed to be shared digitally so that they could continue to learn and pass these on when I was away. It was an honor to be asked to help, and so I video recorded songs for elder and Intertribal Canoe Family member Mary Renville on her phone. But there was a major flaw in this process that we didn’t see coming—when her phone broke, the songs were gone, and I was too far away to be re-recorded by the community. She was devastated by the loss because it echoed how we are losing our language and our songs and reinforced the urgency we all share to walk a path of healing. Fortunately I had been collaborating with the game company Pinnguaq, as well as Margaret Noodin and the Miskwaasining Nagamojig, on Anishinaabemowin singing game components for Singuistics, a program specifically intended to teach the language. While living beside Gichigami in Minnesota, I was grateful to meet Sharon Day, who coordinates the Nibi Walks and serves as executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, as well as Lyz Jaakola from Fond du Lac, who dreamt the path of the Oshkii Giizhik Singers. And there, in the heart of the place where such vital fresh water is under threat, water carriers, singers, and language speakers came together to work on the singing game Honour Water with the hope of sharing songs for healing the waters that can be shared with all people. Gameplay for the Waters Just as Anishinaabekwe carry copper, which amplifies conductivity, the game art I made for Honour Water is generated from copper and embedded with teachings. “The Women, They Hold the Ground” depicts six women standing on Aki (Earth) while another watches over them from the moon. The art is inspired by the teaching that as we stand side by side and compete only with our own selves, we uplift all who stand with us. This teaching influenced the game’s design to emphasize singing, recording, and sharing songs instead of competing against the system or other players for correctness, similar to the design of Singuistics. When elders collaborated with the game developers at Pinnguaq on Singuistics, they too wanted a game that encouraged participation, but not in a way that included any form of judgment or comparisons. Thus, Singuistics and Honour Water are played by listening to songs, singing along unrecorded, or singing recorded. The game is purposefully not competitive All art by Elizabeth LaPensée.
nor does it turn songs into points to be won or lost. Instead, players can record themselves singing if they choose to and share their recordings to social media directly from the game. The game includes three songs: “Miigwech Nibi,” “Gii Bimoseyaan,” and “Gizaagi’igonan Gimaamaanan Aki.” They represent low, medium, and high level singing challenges that are determined by the complexity of Anishinaabemowin in the lyrics. The lyrics are sung in Anishinaabemowin, written in Anishinaabemowin in Roman orthography, and also written in English translations. Each song shares important water teachings that are relevant to everyone. While the songs are poetic and not intended to be used directly as phrases due to their varying tenses, Honour Water offers a way to become comfortable with the vocables of Anishinaabemowin and learn about nibi. “Miigwech Nibi” (“Thank You, Water”) is a song of gratitude in which we thank water for giving the gift of life. It is considered the low challenge song due to the repeatable phrases. The song was written by Day for Nibi Walks. The good intentions should even be shared with a glass of water to acknowledge that water is not an object to be consumed; water is a form of life. “Gii Bimoseyaan” (“I Walked”) speaks to walking for the waters, all of which is understood to be sacred. The song is a medium challenge because of the range of phrases. Day originally wrote this song for the Nibi Walks as well. It can be sung to water while walking along streams, rivers, ponds, marshes, lakes, oceans, and any other body of water. “Gizaagi’igonan Gimaamaanan Aki” (“We Are All Loved by Mother Earth”) expresses love for women in friendship and the love given by grandmothers. The song was written by women elders at Women Drummers of all Native Nations Gathering in 2011, an annual gathering held by the Oshkii Giizhik Singers in northern Minnesota. During an afternoon singing circle, elders said that they wanted to make a song. Among the 50 women at the gathering, many were expert singers and language speakers. As a community, they discussed and came to decisions on the beat and phrases. Jaakola says, “Every time we sing it, I’m reminded of the beauty in the process that that group of women chose to negotiate through the differences of creative opinion. We came to consensus on the words by allowing both versions to coexist where possible. There is a deep and important teaching in that. We were blessed with more than a song that day.” The fluidity of this song is honored in the game’s focus on giving players unmonitored space to record themselves singing without being tracked for tone or correctness. In sharing these songs, it is my hope and the hope of the Oshkii Giizhik Singers, Jaakola, Day, and Noodin, that many people will sing to the waters and that we will in our lifetime see healing for this and the next generations. —Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. (Anishinaabe, Métis) is a game developer and researcher. She is an assistant professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures in the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab as well as American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at Michigan State University.
She carries the water.
Digital games can express Indigenous teachings by merging design, code, art, and sound. Inspired by Anishinaabe grandmothers leading ceremonial walks known as Nibi Walks, Honour Water is a singing game that hopes to bring awareness to threats to the waters and offer pathways to healing through song. Learn more at www.honourwater.com.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 5
i ndi geno u s f o o d
Voices of Maíz
Exploring Seeds, Knowledge, and Relationship
Left: Kaylena Bray and Jim Enote (Zuni) watch as water irrigates Enote’s field. Photo by Mateo Hinojosa. Right: Without the hands of farmers there is no seed, and without the seed, there are no hands. Photo by David Lauer.
n the Seneca language, we say onëö’ge:n (pronounced oh-nay-o gan) to refer to one of our most important varieties of corn, known as Iroquois White Corn. In the English language we have the word ‘corn,’ which does little justice to the scope and depth of this extraordinary plant. Current usage of the word corn seems to evoke an image of yellow sweet corn, cattle feed, or worse yet, GMOs. I use the word corn in this article in hopes of breathing life back into the word, and to reclaim the essence of beauty and diversity this ancestral plant holds. When I think of corn, my heart goes immediately to the songs of the place where we hold ceremonies—the Longhouse. The pang of the water drum sets a warm tone and gives rhythm to our footsteps as we dance across the wooden floor. I hear the sounds of the whoops and cries of men in beaded leggings and feathered gasdo:wä, or headdresses, and feel the heat rise from our bodies moving in unison. Meanwhile, white corn soup is burbling over the fire in a large cast iron kettle big enough to feed a hundred people. After the dances, ladles of delicious soup are poured into individual containers for all to take home. The rich broth has been boiling for hours, and I imagine the soup has been soaking in the sounds and motion of our dances. Corn soup feels like home. Like many others, I have countless stories and memories related to corn. Each of these memories is tied to the intimate
6 • www. cs. org
understanding that corn is more than food. Corn is a gift that has sustained communities, families, and peoples through significant periods of drought, war, flood, and fire, and it has allowed us to be here today. As part of our Original Instructions, we are taught that corn is something for which we must always be grateful in relation to the rest of creation. As Indigenous Peoples, and as a global community, the threat to local and global food systems is palpable and urgent. How do we show the cultural importance and worldview of traditional foods like corn in a time when agricultural practices, ethics, and norms have shifted so drastically? Thankfully, others have been asking this same question. A small group of us came together in Indian Canyon, California in the winter of 2015 to dream and create a vision for strengthening our relationship to corn as Indigenous communities and as a global community. We envisioned a powerful image of corn uniting peoples across borders and throughout nations. Out of this conversation emerged two important interdependent actions. Firstly, Voices of Maíz, which has become a collective process of storytelling through images, film, and audio recordings with Indigenous corn growers, seed savers, artists, and activists in an effort to raise global awareness about the inseparable connection between seeds and knowledge. Secondly, Braiding the Sacred, an emerging network that organizes regional gatherings hosted in Indigenous communities in North America to bring people together around maintaining and practicing traditional corn knowledge. Both initiatives serve as important processes for uniting people around corn and illuminating the stories and intimate memories that give meaning to the protection of corn diversity. Over the last year, Voices of Maíz has become a personal journey and represents a great responsibility to the teachers, family, and leaders that have helped guide this process. My worldview has irrevocably changed through the filming, in-
terviews, and gatherings. Starting in the beautiful farmlands of the Onondaga Nation and the clay rich fields of the Seneca Nation, to the collective plots of Tesuque farmlands, rows of short purple corn in Laguna pueblo, the endless skies of the Zuni mountains, and into the dry fields of Hopi lands, we talked to farmers, youth, cooks, and leaders, asking, “What is your relationship to corn?” It became clear that alongside the historical and ancestral lineage that binds many people to corn, the principal relation-
It’s not dry farming that we must pay attention to, but rather the worldviews that give rise to these techniques of farming, seed cultivation, and cooking. This interconnected form of thinking brings into focus deep understandings of the natural law of governance, respect for more than the human world, and a sense of reciprocity that guides human behavior and maintains that we give thanks and gratitude. These important forms of knowledge are what guide the existence of diverse corn seeds. Strong messages are emerging that Left: Shpeyiah Swimmer’s song in Kawaik is a lesson of thankfulness. Photo by Mateo Hinojosa.
Right: Richard Kettle (Seneca) holds a gifted braid of corn while seated on a "corn crib," used to store the grain.
ship between farmers and corn hinges on the day-to-day bond that forms when caring for a plant that is codependent on humans for life. If you can imagine, farmers must carefully watch their corn as it grows through the many stages of development, from green infancy to the formative milky stage and onto a stage of strength and maturity. Much like a child, a farmer must protect the corn from the many potential hazards created by drought, birds, raccoons, deer, elk, and wind, to name a few, and help them to strengthen their seed for the next generation of planting. In the hot sun of the Southwestern fields, I recognize just how resilient the corn seeds of this region have become. They persist without the most essential of resources—water. Growing up in the Northeast, we see regular rainfall and thunderstorms, and I often take for granted the availability of water. Not until I reached the cornfields of the Southwest did I understand just how to value water in all of its life giving essence. Shpeyiah Swimmer, a young friend living in Kawaik (Laguna Pueblo), grows corn in a field that extends throughout a flat dry area buttressing a set of busy train tracks. He receives water from a canal that runs alongside a strip of adjacent fields before reaching his own. The canal has been dry for the last weeks, yet Shpeyiah’s field has managed to produce rows of beautiful purple corn that reach about waist height. Shpeyiah practices a combined form of dry and wet farming by creating waffles, or 6 x 6 foot indented squares, systematically arranged in the fields to collect concentrated areas of water. He tells me about his seeds, and describes in detail how they have made it possible to farm. Shpeyiah was taught to keep the seeds strong and not water them too much so they learn how to survive without much water. As our earth continues to change, the knowledge of dry farming and the strength of seeds that know how to exist without water may very well be what keep our food systems intact.
emphasize the need to keep planting and passing on seeds to the next generations. In its essence, Voices of Maíz has brought forth the sort of teachings that exist in the depths of stories woven since the beginning of time. Through these stories and the power of storytelling through media, we are hoping to reach people in their most raw state of understanding through feeling. We hope to create an understanding of what it means to be in relationship to corn as an entity that has profound impacts on the wellbeing and health of people and the earth, and in doing so, create a movement toward the maintenance and protection of corn diversity. Corn exists as part of many Indigenous peoples since birth. The relationship is born again every time we plant those seeds and urge people to answer the question, what is your relationship to corn? —Kaylena Bray (Seneca) is currently an MSc candidate in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford. Formerly she was the Native Foodways Program Manager at The Cultural Conservancy.
Photo by Mateo Hinojosa.
Voices of Maíz is a storytelling collaborative project to amplify the voices of communities restoring and re-engaging the sacred in corn, and to show the fundamental role of Indigenous cultures in the creation and conservation of maize. A report, multimedia, and photo exhibition will launch at the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico in December 2016. To learn more, visit voicesofmaiz.org. Listen to Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio Program on maíz at consent. culturalsurvival.org/maize.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 7
c l i mat e ch a n g e
Protecting and Restoring Indigenous Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Andrea Carmen
ndigenous Peoples affirm that their food sovereignty and relationships with their traditional foods cannot be separated from their cultures, languages, social life, spirituality, and total identity. In 2002, over 140 Indigenous Peoples, including traditional food producers and knowledge holders from all regions of the world, met in Sololá, Guatemala, adopting The Declaration of Atitlan. The Declaration defines food sovereignty as a collective and intergenerational right based on traditional knowledge and practices and the lands, waters, seeds, plants, animals, and natural cycles that sustain them. Indigenous Peoples have identified climate change, along with environmental contamination, loss of traditional knowledge, and lack of access to traditional lands and resources as urgent threats to their food sovereignty. They are increasingly asserting their rights to control, protect, and restore their traditional food systems and sources to assure their future survival. On August 12–13, 2016 in Shiprock, New Mexico, the Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation and the International Indian Treaty Council co-hosted a gathering for Food Sovereignty and Climate Change Resiliency focusing on protecting, defending, and restoring traditional knowledge, seeds, and practices. There were 127 regis- tered participants from the Diné, Yaqui, Opata, Southern Ute, Taino, Pueblo, Hopi, San Carlos Apache, and other Indigenous Nations who shared traditional knowledge and seeds, affirming their commitment to the health and wellbeing of future generations. Among the focus of presentations and discussion were ongoing concerns in the Shiprock community about the long term impacts of the massive toxic mining waste spill that reached Shiprock’s primary water source, the San Juan River, almost exactly a year before. The discussion focused on the current and continuing threats to Indigenous Peoples’ lands, waters, inter-generational health, and ways of life by extractive industries, including thousands of other abandoned toxic mining waste sites located on waterways throughout the United States and beyond. The following Declaration was adopted by consensus of the participants on August 13, affirming the rights of Indigenous Peoples to preserve their lands for food sovereignty by keeping them free from genetically modified seeds and plants and all forms of chemical contamination and toxic pesticides “so that our natural world is protected, nurtured and shared.” Presented by the Shiprock chapter’s president, Duane Chili Yazzie, the declaration was also endorsed and adopted by consensus at the 42nd Anniversary Conference of the Treaty Council in Waimanalo, Hawai’i by Indigenous Peoples from 38 Nations around the world on September 11. It will be a basis of work for the survival and well being of Indigenous Peoples worldwide. — Andrea Carmen (Yaqui) is executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council.
8 • www. cs. org
Declaration of the Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Traditional Knowledge for Climate Change Resiliency Gathering “nihimá nahasdzáán nihee iiná dóó nihi sihasin at’é” (Our Earth Mother is our Life and Hope)
SHIPROCK, SW DINÉ NATION—13 AUGUST 2016 from the east we are blessed with the dawn we are given the divine gift of nitsáhákees-thinking we are made to be holy surface peoples of the Earth our souls are one with the souls of living beings of all time we were placed here with the four sacred plants to guide us our original instructions teach us that corn is a root of our lifeways our songs and prayers resonant with the heartbeat of our Earth Mother with the south we are given the teachings to make our life plan we are given reasoning to set our path of life with nahat’á-planning in our early times we were happy living the Original Intent of the Creator with the great intrusion of the invader our world became a life of hardship our original instructions gave us resilience to make our way through difficult times we are told we don’t own the land, but we belong to the Earth and she belongs to us no earthly power or law has the authority to deny us our relationship with our Earth Mother by the west we journey with the sacredness of living we have been given the precious opportunity for iiná-living we have profound and troubling concern for the state of the world where powers of government and business compete to destroy the Earth where we continue to suffer the consequences of the Doctrine of Discovery where our life struggle is to rise above the conditions of colonization and dependency where we must decolonize our policies and practices of food, water and land to live to survive
from the north we seek wisdom through our reflections in humbleness we pray for blessings of unyielding sihasin-hope our struggle to live is one of resistance, resilience and determination in our wisdom we know we have the roots, songs and courage to survive our strength and power is in our Indigenous identity, history, culture and politic in healing from our intergenerational, historic unresolved trauma we also heal the Earth we accept our life responsibility to remain Warriors uncompromising, to defend the sacred we touch our sweet Earth Mother as we honor her life we thank her for her life and beg her to have courage for our life we feel and live her pain, we stand against unrelenting exploitation of her we demand our Tribal Nations that our home lands be GMO and pesticides free we stand strong to fight climate change and rally the cry of “Leave it in the Ground” as Defenders of the Earth we stand together for Indigenous unity to defend our ground it is of utmost urgency to protect the life of the Earth Mother as it is the future of the children we pray the heavens to bless us with impeccable principles as we walk strong to live our chosen lifeways the Creator set for us as children of the Great Creator and the Earth Mother we demand justice for our human rights to life, food, water, culture, health and clean environment we challenge our Tribal leaders to protect our sacred medicines and our natural foods it is an absolute that to be sovereign and self-determined, we must have food sovereignty we call out our Tribal leaders and Warriors to defend our Indigenous lifeways, our Earth, our life the Shiprock Chapter and International Indian Treaty Council were honored to host the Gathering to provide this opportunity where relatives from the SW Diné Nation and other Indigenous Nations could come together to share our traditional food knowledge and our leadership thoughts about how we can work to restore and protect our traditional knowledge and lifeways to preserve our seeds, foods and to defend our lands and waters that sustain all life to grow our grandchildren to be strong in the future to face myriad challenges our life work is to assure their wellness in spirit, culture and physical health
we commit to one another to continue learning and sharing in these ways we commit to pass this knowledge on to our children for their survival as our prophesies teach that future times will not be kind to all life we were blessed with our traditional ways of planting, gathering, and caring for our animals blessings which were passed to us through our songs, stories, prayers and ceremonies these lifeways contain answers that are to help the world address climate change to restore healthy foods and help institute green sustainable energy production we fight land theft, deforestation and other threats to our food sovereignty we are committed to protect and defend our remaining Indigenous lands to educate and preserve our lands for Indigenous Food Sovereignty our lands must be free from genetically modified seeds and plants and all forms of chemical contamination and toxic pesticides so that our natural world is protected, nurtured and shared we proclaim our Indigenous human rights and our right to self-determination as sovereign free Peoples we affirm our inherent rights recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we honor the life sacrifices of our ancestors as we carry on the sacred responsibilities to our Peoples, our future generations and to our sweet sacred Earth Mother, we thank the land, water, our relations with the plant and animal worlds who give their beings and souls to give us all we need for our lives we affirm our commitment to the Creator and to one another to protect our Earth Mother, so that life can continue it is urgent that we rise and sing the drum the life of our Earth Mother is our life
“Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” — Article 25, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
IITC thanks Navajo Nation Shiprock Chapter President, Duane Chili Yazzie, and members of the Shiprock Chapter, the AgroEcology Fund, the Christensen Fund, and the Marisla Foundation for their generous contributions to this important gathering. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 9
r i ght s i n a ct io n
Standing Rock Stronghold
Where Sitting Bull Lives on and the Struggle of Our People Unfolds
Robby Romero (left) with American Indian Movement leader, Dennis Banks (Anishinaabe). Photo by April White Crow.
ní Wičóni. Water is life. We are born in water. We have come together in peace and prayer from the four Sacred directions to protect this gift of life, now and for the generations to come. If the “fossil foolish” industry is allowed to poison any more of our waterways, it will be environmental genocide. I was called to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock and the Water Protectors on the frontline of a spiritual resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline snaking through sacred places, unmarked burial grounds, and cultural sites. The Fortune 500 company, Energy Transfer, is building a $3.78 billion, 172-mile long crude oil pipeline on 1851 treaty land adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Fort Yates, North Dakota. On a hot August afternoon, with more than 300 Native Nation flags flying in solidarity along the main dirt road of the camp, I realized that I was part of a historical movement: a cultural, moral, and social action initiated by our youth with the unprecedented support of spiritual leaders, tribal leaders, Water Protectors, friends, allies, and their families dedicated to halting the Dakota Access Pipeline’s advance to the Missouri River. Because if the construction of the pipeline is allowed to go under the Missouri, the poisoning of the sacred waterways of our people is inevitable. That evening, as the purple sunset faded into the northern plains, the camp gathered around the sacred fire. Winona, a 10 • w ww. cs. org
Lakota traditional cook from Cheyenne River, and the many kitchen helpers from all walks of life, prepared buffalo stew and fry bread to feed the more than 5,000 supporters, friends, and allies of the resistance. Delegation after delegation from Indigenous Nations around the world expressed their solidarity, bringing truckloads of food and supplies, offering prayers, and sharing their songs and personal stories of what brought them to Standing Rock. I, too, was welcomed into the circle and invited to share a few songs of resistance. It has been more than 100 years since the Seven Council Fires of the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Nation have come together. This historic moment presents a paradigm shift, an opportunity for human beings to better understand their relationship to the natural world. The smell of sage, cedar, and sweetgrass burning, the laughter of children playing, the powerful Sundance songs and healing Jingle dress dances makes me wonder: who are these men financing, building, and protecting the pipeline? Are they men who have forgotten that they were born in water? Are they so disconnected that they are unaware that they are raping our mother, the earth? Is their thirst for riches and hunger for power insatiable? Is their greed so strong that they will extract every last drop of the world’s precious resources at the expense of their own children and generations to come? The significance of this movement crosses cultural boundaries and resonates symbolically and politically all over the world because of the unprecedented corporate land grabs that continue to displace and dispossess Indigenous and marginalized peoples for bottomline profits that benefit only the one percent. Today, a young Lakota man approached me after returning from the frontlines. He greeted me in his traditional language, and shared a story of how hard it was for him as a young warrior to stand peacefully while being shot at point blank range by rubber bullets as he witnessed his fellow Water Protectors being assaulted with mace and tear gas. He pulled from his torn pocket a silver case dented by rubber bullets. He was smiling, knowing that his ancestors had protected him. Words cannot describe the experience of Oceti Sakowin Camp, from the morning prayer circles to the calls to action when the camp is mobilized, to the front lines to peacefully and spiritually stand directly in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline to stop the Black Snake and its toxic poison crude oil from reaching the Missouri River. From the time I arrived in early August, the frontlines have intensified. The response from the North Dakota Sheriff ’s Department has evolved into a militarized assault on unarmed youth, women, and men, our spiritual and traditional values, and our right to protect our land and life. Our signs (Mní Wičóni. #WaterIsLife #NoDAPL), our traditional drumming, ceremonial songs, and our prayers
have been met with armored tanks and humvees, sound cannons, and riot SWAT teams. We have been shot with rubber bullets, surrounded by snipers and mercenaries, assaulted with batons, taser guns, mace, and pepper spray—not to mention the countless infiltrators and the 24/7 surveillance planes, helicopters, and psychological warfare directed at our camp. What we are experiencing is an escalating military response to an unarmed spiritual resistance. There will be no spiritual surrender. More than 400 Water Protectors have been arrested as the North Dakota Sheriff ’s Department continues to spin lies in order to justify the excessive militarized crackdown on our peaceful actions. The Sheriff ’s Department appears to be protecting the interests of the Wall Street-backed Energy Transfer Corporation rather than the safety and wellbeing of the people. Their actions are evidence that they have abandoned their duty to protect the broad coalition of American citizens and non-Native supporters from around the world who stand on the front lines with us. We come in peace, unarmed with prayers. Yet they come armed with weapons of destruction to provoke confrontation and violence. We met with Reverend Jesse Jackson on the frontline of our camp. I asked him to urge President Obama to intervene in a real way with an executive order to stop the Black Snake pipeline and to safeguard water protectors and defenders of land and life from excessive military response to unarmed women, children, and men, and to safeguard our spiritual resistance to the desecration of sacred ground, our cultural and burial sites. One evening following an action where 141 Water Protectors were arrested, those who escaped arrest and made it made it back to the main camp, the Oceti Sakowin Camp, gathered around the sacred fires and sweat lodges. You could hear the ceremonial songs of many Native Nations echo throughout the night. As I lay in my teepee on my buffalo robe, I could hear the powerful prayers of our people reverberate throughout the camp as if calling to our ancestors in a united prayer for strength, patience, and compassion. As I stared into the fire inside my lodge, I became acutely aware that:
I was born on the reservation in 1973 on a trail of tears from Choctaw to Cherokee in the spirit of Crazy Horse and our people buried at Wounded Knee. Ghost dancers thread the prairies of my mind, dancing through history on smoke signals of time as we fight for our lives against the Black Snake Dakota Access Pipeline. Across the waters of Sand Creek, winter winds blow cold from Cheyenne River to the Standing Rock stronghold where Sitting Bull lives on and the struggle of our people unfolds. I was born on the reservation in 1909 in a prison of unjust men whose laws are not mine in the spirit of Goyaale Geronimo and the Water Protectors on the frontline. I was raised in the trenches of a cultural firefight. I saw Mountain Spirit Dancers in the sacred firelight. A cry for peace echoes through a reign of terror in the night. I was born on the reservation on a fateful Big Foot ride. Hotchkiss cannons rang out; unarmed men, women, and children died. The Cannon Ball and Missouri, rivers of tears our people cried. From the battle of Little Bighorn to the Massacre of Whitestone, hundreds of nations strong, people of ceremony resisting at Sacred Stone. They polluted the waters of justice and won’t leave our water alone. I was born on the reservation in 1862; 38 Dakota died that day for me and you, in the largest mass execution the U.S. ever knew. America was built on lies, genocide, and slaves, machines of destruction plowing through unmarked graves. To us the earth is the loving mother; to them she’s something to desecrate and pave. I was born on the reservation in 1890 in a struggle for cultural survival in the land of the free. Now I’m standing strong in Standing Rock, all my relations and me. I was born in Oceti Sakowin Camp in 2016 during the largest spiritual resistance this world has ever seen. My people they named me Mní Wičóni. —Robby Romero (Apache) is president of Native Children’s Survival and frontman of rock band Red Thunder.
Follow the spiritual resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at : standwithstandingrock.net. Water protectors resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing RockCultural Sioux Survival Tribe reservation. Photo by Robby Quarterly December 2016Romero. • 11
women t h e wo r ld m u st hear
Susie Silook. Photo courtesy of Anchorage Museum. Inset: Family by Susie Silook.
P rotecting Our P recious S ubsistence R esource
Walrus Ivory Susie Silook
write as a sculptor of walrus ivory and bowhead whale bone, and as a founding member of Sikuliiq: Alaska Native Artist’s Advocacy Group. Sikuliiq means “new, thin ice along the edges of older floes.” It is a Siberian Yupik word from St. Lawrence Island in northwestern Alaska, my birthplace. As artists and allies we formed our Facebook group in response to the fallout to our precious subsistence resource of walrus ivory, stemming from President Obama’s 2013 Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking aimed at ending the elephant ivory trade. Our legal and sustainable use of walrus ivory from food sources has been conflated with the tragic poaching of African elephants. While the executive order includes an exemption for items permitted under existing federal legislation, not many people know that this includes the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Consequently there is mass confusion about what exactly is now illegal, and some states have banned walrus ivory, despite the Act. Our artists are important providers within our communities through the small revenue our arts and crafts generate, in accordance with the cultural value that prohibits waste. 12 • www. cs. org
In some remote communities, with a 75 percent unemployment rate, our work is the only economic resource. The income is used by our hunters for further subsistence pursuits, a never ending responsibility of our providers. On St. Lawrence Island, approximately 70–80 percent of our food continues to be from the sea. According to some published scientific estimates, walruses are now at capacity for the arctic and subarctic ecosystems that we share, which demonstrates a successful recovery from the devastating commercial European harvests of these mammals for oil and ivory in the 1800-1900s. This heedless slaughter contributed to a year of starvation and death in 1879 on St. Lawrence Island, where only 200 people from an estimated population of 3,000 survived. Many of these deaths were from our lack of immunity to the diseases these foreigners carried, in addition to severe weather conditions and the decimation of the whale and walrus populations. Significantly, we continued to harvest walruses during this entire period of recovery, proving that our sustainable use does not cause an endangered status. An informative white paper from the MacArthur Foundation, Indigenous Peoples and Conservation, notes the growing global awareness of the important role Indigenous cultural values contribute to successful conservation. We have sustainably managed our environments and animal populations for centuries. We are aware of the balance required to safeguard the earth’s natural
resources, and our methods are now studied and emulated. Indigenous People suffer displacement and severance from their sustainable resources and tribal territories, a cruel irony, given our stewardship role. An example of successful stewardship is found on St. Lawrence Island. Our leaders opted out of the cash settlement provided in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and retain fee simple title, surface and subsurface, to our ancestral territories. In the four decades since the passage of the settlement act, our Native organizations have declined numerous offers from mineral and oil field companies to develop our resources. We are less than 40 miles from Russia and our kinship-based clans extend across the continents. We have consistently chosen to protect our environment for the sake of the animals on which we depend, whom we respect as sentient beings. While sporadic poaching incidents do occur, they are not frequent. It is understood that the actions of a few implicate our entire cultures in the double standards of the dominant culture. We who depend on the walrus for nutritional needs, and walrus ivory as one of our few economic resources, were not provided an opportunity to express our concerns and issues. We who are not poachers or sports hunters of elephant ivory, have been banned by association, regardless of our rights. It is highly unlikely that we’ll be compensated for our losses, and we now must expend unnecessary financial resources fixing this legislation. Due to our current erasure by our government agencies, and in blatant disregard of our legal rights afforded under MMPA and Tribal Consultation, our market is slowly but surely being eliminated. In Greenland, a ban on seal products destroyed 90 percent of our fellow Inuits’ seal product’s market. This effort was led by conservation groups and their opposition to the inhumane methods of non-Native commercial sealers. This situation is identical to ours in that seals are an important food and subsistence resource of circumpolar peoples. In the European Union seal ban, the Prime Minister of Denmark stepped in belatedly to protect the rights and resources of the Greenlandic people, but their market has yet to recover adequately. Greenpeace apologized in the media for their role in this destruction to an ancient people’s culture, vowing they’d do better in the future. My fear is that this scenario is now replicated in the United States, and that this is just the beginning of eliminating all products not from commercial enterprises, such as leather from cattle. States have listed whales, polar bears, and sea otters in their bans. These are also important food sources and the inedible portions produce arts and crafts, and again MMPA protects our right to harvest. We now may face a costly and lengthy battle in federal court to protect our rights under MMPA. We bear the brunt of the cost of fixing this mess that is not of our creation. We do not have access to the kinds of revenue of these conservation agencies to raise awareness and build sensitivity for the human concerns in the realm of this anti-trafficking movement. All countries with ivory issues must create and fund their National Ivory Action Plans. We are not identified as a source country, though we absolutely are, and are not provided with the tools and funds necessary for our own capacity
building, which we now require to maintain a vigilant safeguarding of our few remaining resources. Our villages face the reality of our sea mammals carrying high levels of PCBs in their fat layers. The world’s pollutants travel to our cooler regions and settle in the environment. Climate change brings sinking villages and disappearing ice, thawing permafrost, and the release of methane gas. We face uncertain futures. Our newly open seas are regarded as a highly anticipated opportunity by many countries not remotely connected to our environment. Our rights and culture must be protected within this modern day gold rush. We must be treated fairly and equitably, and there must be the creation and articulation of ethical protocols demanded from all agencies that want to do business in our ancient homelands. We must share in the co-management of resources, and in the opportunities and challenges brought by the very possible tremendous change to our world, again. The local and Indigenous populations should be the designated points of accountability for conservation groups in their work within our regions. We demand that more funds from their coffers provide for the poverty, habitat loss, and climate change issues that impact elephant and other animal populations. There is little to no accountability in the current scenario. Decisions are made by people far removed from our realities, such as the overreach of eliminating all ivory markets worldwide, regardless of differing regional concerns and situations. Our sole economy in some regions of Alaska is set to suffer unnecessary and perhaps unrecoverable damage and possible elimination without any consultation. When our rights to consultation are routinely ignored, as in Standing Rock, or in this overreaching wildlife trafficking ban, we pay for our crime of being the original people on this land. Now they want to ban our art. We need and demand change. This isn’t just about an economic resource, it is about our art, which has always been about our reverence for the nature’s regenerative life force. When will enough be enough? —Susie “Paallengetaq” Silook (Yupik and Inupiaq) is a carver, sculptor, and writer. She was born in Gambell, Alaska, and currently resides in Puyallup, Washington.
Flying by Susie Silook. Walrus ivory, wood, polar bear, red ocher. Photo by Jimmy Froelich.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 13
Defending the Blood of Mother Earth
Ancestral authorities and community members of San Pablo, San Marcos demand their rights in front of the Public Ministry Building.
El Consejo Maya Mam te Txe Chman and International Mayan League
he blood of Mother Earth is the sacred river. Her blood flows giving life to the animals, plants, mountains, and humanity. To us, the Maya, we honor our sacred water for one full day every twenty days, calling on the energy of Imox, the water, to help give us life and to cleanse and nurture us. Before we plant our sacred crops, we hold ceremonies to call on the rain to nourish all the seeds and to ask for permission for this planting. At the end of our harvest, we again give thanks to our sacred waters for nourishing our sacred corn and all plant life and thank the water for giving us food and sustenance. Our bodies as humans are made largely of water, and since the time we are in our mother’s womb, we are connected with the water and the rhythm of grandmother moon. These are teachings that are passed down from our elders, the spiritual leaders, our medicine people, and the midwives. These are imprints of our ancestral DNA and the thread that connects us to the cycles of time and our environment. The relationship between humanity and Mother Nature is complex and is rooted in the material and spiritual world and in all natural sacred elements. Our life is marked by the cycles of the stars, the sun, and the moon, and is grounded in the past, creating our present, and building our future. These ancestral concepts of our interconnection with the world continue to guide our people and are the foundation for our protection and defense of Mother Earth. These principles in how we interact with our lands and territories are the root of many of the conflicts surrounding development projects and the process of development projects in our lands and territories. 14 • www. cs. org
The relationship between the original peoples of Ixim Ulew and the Earth and the ancestral teachings that have been passed down through generations have helped conserve some of the largest tracts of natural goods found within our lands and territories. However, our people are not strangers to conflicts over natural sacred elements, as some of the worst massacres during the 36 years of war and genocide were precisely over natural elements like the rivers, as evidenced by such projects as the Chixoy Dam and the massacres that took place as a method to rid the area of the original peoples living on the banks of the river. The scars of the conflicts have not healed, and in fact, the root of the struggles over lands, territories, and natural elements continues to shape conflicts today. Since the arrival of the Spanish, the western highlands of Guatemala have experienced tensions over lands and territories, and now new conflicts under climate change mitigation plans and renewable energy projects are affecting the peoples and communities of this region. One recent area of conflict is the municipality of San Pablo, which is one of 340 municipalities in Guatemala and is the ancestral territory of the Maya Mam nation located in the department of San Marcos. San Pablo contains many natural sacred elements, including 14 rivers and 8 streams. The abundance of natural elements in San Marcos generally have made it a target for the influx of megaprojects, including Canadian-owned open pit gold mine, the Marlin Mine. In recent times, hydroelectric projects such as Hidrosalá have also become part of the tension over development. This project is affecting 13 main communities, as identified in the Environmental Impact Assessment. Per the people of San Pablo, the community of San Carlos, which is further broken into 32 smaller communities encompassing several thousand Maya people, is particularly impacted. Hidrosalá was approved by the National Commission of Electric Energy and authorized by the Ministry of Energy and Mines in May 2011. It has an energy potential of 15 megawatts and been approved for a period of 50 years. The start of construction for Hidrosalá was scheduled for 2014, but there have been several delays and extensions of the construction dates due to conflicts in the region. Hidrosalá has also been authorized by the local governing body of the municipality of San Pablo. However, community members have expressed that the authorization process was conducted without the consent of the local Maya communities. This situation has generated a series of human rights violations, including violations to individual and collective rights of the population of the municipality. The ongoing situation has led community members to become organized for the protection and defense of their territory, a struggle that has become criminalized. There has been persecution, arrests, and imprisonment of traditional authorities. The specific targeting of ancestral authorities has occurred in order to silence the communities and instill fear in the people. Members of the Consejos Maya Mam Toj
Salá River, San Marcos, Guatemala. Photo by El Consejo Maya Mam te Txe Chman.
Milaja of San Pablo and te Txe Chman at the department level have been targeted, and as of today there are 10 political prisoners: Marco Tulio Pérez Pablo, Simeón Mauricio Guzmán, Bruno Emilio Solís Pérez, Nery Edilmar Santos López, Heriberto Evelio Santos López, Fausto Sánchez Roblero, Alfonso Chilel Hernández, Lorenzo Ramírez Rodríguez, Plutarco Irineo Clemente Pérez, and Maria Maribel Diaz Gomez. Tata Oscar Sánchez Morales, traditional Maya authority, was arrested and imprisoned on August 4, 2016 on charges of kidnapping, but was released on October 18 and will continue fighting his case while under house arrest. The political prisoners are accused of crimes varying from illegal detention, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, conspiracy, and other charges. One of the political prisoners is a woman and another, Ramirez Rodriguez, is a 75-year-old elder who is currently experiencing health problems, including what appears to be a stroke. There are multiple arrest warrants for more than 50 community leaders and over 100 names mentioned in legal claims of the people co-opted by the company or Hidrosalá project. The atmosphere is one of fear, threats, and intimidation in the communities of the municipality of San Pablo, San Marcos. The communities do not agree with the construction of Hidrosalá because the private megaproject is taking virtually the entire flow of the river in order to maximize their profit, affecting not only the ecosystem and the life of the species that depend on the river, but also displacing the communities that have lived and used the river since time immemorial. The General Law of Electricity, which was approved during the Arzu Administration, promotes the construction of private hydroelectric projects in almost all exploitable rivers in the country and privatizes the generation, transportation, and marketing of electricity. The Ministry of Energy and Mines has granted concessions slated to use the rivers for 50 years while granting companies tax benefits and tax incentives. Amid this infrastructure development, the ones most affected are the people who use electricity; in Guatemala they pay some of the highest electricity rates in all of Central America. However, this extractive model will not be easily
Traditional Maya Authority, Tata Oscar Sanchez. Photo by La Asociación de Abogados y Notarios Mayas de Guatemala.
imposed. Communities, municipalities, departments, and entire peoples have spoken out in defense of the rivers, Mother Earth, life, and territory. Indigenous Peoples have become instruments for the struggle of the peoples and for the defense of Mother Earth, and future generations in Guatemala and all over the world. Without water there is no life. Ate che’wa’ chwinqlal. —El Consejo Maya Mam te Txe Chman is an ancestral governing body of the Maya Mam people of San Marcos, Guatemala. The International Mayan League is a Maya organization whose purpose is to promote, preserve, and transmit the cosmovision and worldview, culture, history, and contributions of our ancestors and the values of our traditional knowledge and stewardship of the earth into solutions and actions against current threats and violations affecting our peoples, the earth, and humanity. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 15
Defining Conservation Equator Prize Winners Speak Out at World Conservation Congress
The Kauhale Oiwi opened with a traditional Hawaiian Awa ceremony. Photo by UNDP.
Miriam Anne Frank and Alejandra Pero
t this year’s World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawai’i, held by the International Union for Conservation Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, over 200 Indigenous representatives joined some 10,000 leaders and decision-makers from government, civil society, business, and academia to collectively work toward conserving the environment and harnessing solutions to global challenges. In a landmark decision, the IUCN Members’ Assembly voted to create a new category of membership for Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, which was adopted at the closing of the World Conservation Congress on September 10, 2016. “This decision is historical in that it is the first time in IUCN’s history that a new membership category has been established. It also marks a turning point for the inclusion and full participation of Indigenous Peoples in all aspects of IUCN’s work,” said Aroha Te Pareake Mead, chair of the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy at this Congress. At the invitation of the IUCN, the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator Initiative, which brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society organizations,
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Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and academic institutions to advance local sustainable development solutions, organized a community dialogue—the Kauhale Oiwi. The Kauhale truly became the hub for multi-stakeholder exchange and learning among Indigenous people and local communities, as well as for the other international participants through workshops, trainings, and expert-led panel discussions on issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals, protected areas, partnership building, and communications. The Equator Initiative supported the participation of 15 Equator Prize winners from around the world to attend the Congress and engage at the Kauhale to share their knowledge and practices among peers and with the broader conservation community. It enhanced their learning, revitalized their networks, enabled new connections, and built alliances across sectors. Collectively the winners prepared a community statement positioning their views vis-a-vis the issues addressed at the congress, which they delivered at the conclusion of the Kauhale. Some of the main points highlighted community resilience, the strength of culture and heritage in the protection of lands and resources, and calls for support to replicate successful local actions in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. At the Kauhale, winners shared their experiences in the management of Indigenous and community conserved areas and territories, in the development of advocacy campaigns, and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at the local level. They also raised awareness of the critical challenges and threats their communities are facing, such as increased land grabbing and megainfrastructure projects. Several of the Equator Prize winners were interviewed by Dev Kumar Sunuwar, Cultural Survival Community Radio Grants Project Associate, about conservation efforts in their countries and on the impact of receiving this prize.
2008 Equator Prize Winner Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area (ACMCA), Solomon Islands
The ACMCA was established in 1995 as the first communitymanaged marine conservation area in the Solomon Islands. The 157 square kilometer area is home to nesting grounds of the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle. This Marine Protected Area, created to stem the overexploitation of dwindling marine resources, attracts ecotourism that provides a valuable source of income for local communities. Local youth are employed as monitors and high school students are brought on tours to learn about the group’s conservation efforts. A management committee that represents the three founding villages—Kia, Wagina, and Katupika—helps to resolve resource conflicts. This initiative has led attempts to diversify sources of income and nutrition for the villages’ fishing communities, including making handicrafts for visiting tourists, seaweed harvesting, and small-scale agriculture. HK: “We are a classic example of how community engagement can really carry out a successful conservation activity. In our case there are three different communities that work together for a common purpose. It’s more like a peace process, that’s how they see it, because this conservation activity really brings peace to three communities who in the past fought each other. When we got this award, the communities started to realize how important their role is at a bigger scale. It’s not only within our community’s interests, but it has become an interest for the regional and national governments. The innovative idea is the concept of involving resource owners and non- resource owners, like the resource users. Engaging them, that’s a success story because it involves others. It provides a really strong link so they all gain respect for conservation work.”
2002 Equator Prize Winner Agencia para el Desarrollo de la Mosquitia (MOPAWI)/Agency for the Development of the Mosquitia, Honduras
For more than 25 years, MOPAWI has worked to engage local and Indigenous communities in the integrated management of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve and other protected areas in northeastern Honduras. Located within the Mosquitia area, the reserve contains the largest intact rainforest north of the Amazon and was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 in recognition of its natural and cultural heritage values. The organization has collaborated with Indigenous groups in Honduras to create a forest guard program that develops ecological guidelines and zoning for the Mesoamerican corridor, including rules for hunting, fishing, forestry, and agriculture. Along with community forestry, the group’s activities include sustainable agriculture, micro-enterprise development, ecotourism, and advocacy for Indigenous land rights. OM: “We have, since the Equator prize, been more recognized. We are able to work with other organizations to have more influence in the government. And it has been very important in the process to achieve Indigenous Peoples’ land rights because Indigenous Peoples are more known in the country and in society. Indigenous people used to be ignored and not taken into account. The challenge is big for Indigenous Peoples because our cultural frontier is expanding very fast into their territories. Loggers have more facilities to enter forests as lumber is in greater demand so there is more pressure. When Indigenous Peoples do not have land title, they are vulnerable. So they have to get organized. A very key step is capacity development. But getting organized does not mean to only have a name, it means to have all legalities with the government, to do a lot of capacity building, to learn all about the national legislation in regards to Indigenous Peoples. We must learn all of this information and manage it well in order to negotiate our rights. We must have a well defined agenda for negotiating Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 17
the land titles. In our case the land titles are signed and drafted in a way that no one can sell the land—this goes for everybody! The major threats and challenges [we are facing] are the illegal intrusions into the land by people from the interior, western, and central part of the country who grab the land and do illegal logging and illegal cattle ranching. Those areas have been used for many decades and the forest there has been depleted so people are moving and extending their culture and frontier into La Mosquita region. We have worked on land tenure for almost 30 years, strengthening local community organizations and researching and mapping the land. We got the land titles for Indigenous Peoples in this region, which started being issued in 2012 and were finalized in April of this year. Almost 1.4 million acres of land and territory was titled in favor of the Indigenous Peoples of this region. The other strategy is developing a method for sustainable food production through soil restoration and training people in improving seed quality. These methods prevent people from deforesting, and the restoration of degraded land means you can replant forests. This model, which took over 20 years of research, was developed for producing both food and forest.”
APK: “This award gives global acceptance to our work because it is recognized all over the world. Whenever we go to any forum and say we are from Kani community, we are accepted. The award was given for our work in developing a medicinal product using local genetic resources and traditional knowledge. Our Trust has worked with the scientific community in sharing our traditional knowledge. My community, which is in the hilltops of the Western Ghats, is one of the richest biodiversity hot spots selected by UNESCO and honored around the world. Given where we are, our traditional knowledge on the medicine of these lands is very high. In the late 1980s, Dr. Pushpangadan, a scientist from the Regional Association Laboratory Jammu, and his team, were introduced to a miraculous plant which is called the Trichopus zeylanicus. This plant is endemic to this area; it is not even seen in another part of Kerala. It can be used for many things, but primarily for anti-fatigue purposes. The scientific community developed a drug called Jeevani, which is marketed all around the world. The benefit of the earnings arising from that product has been shared with the community. This is a first example of access and benefit sharing; I can say that it is one of the first of its kind in India and probably in the world. Before the 1980s, [traditional healing] was not that popular among our people. But after this Equator Prize I believe that all over the world there was a recap of these traditional knowledges. Now we have so much demand that our people are being called by other local communities and other peoples from outside of Kerala, even from other states. They are reaching out to them for treatments. I want to say that this traditional knowledge is something we should really look into because each community—in India, or U.S., or Africa—each of these Indigenous communities may have knowledge based on the local knowledge. That will be the best knowledge. It can be used for the betterment of humanity.”
2004 Equator Prize Winner Atumatu Ekuri (Ekuri Initiative), Nigeria
Anoop Pushkaran Krishnamma 2002 Equator Prize Winner
Kerala Kani Community Welfare Trust, India
The Kerala Kani Community Welfare Trust is the result of an innovative partnership between a community of the Indigenous Kani people based in the Western Ghats, Kerala, and a private institute that extracted the medicinal qualities of the Arogyapacha plant (Trichopus zeylanicus) based on its local use for its anti-fatigue properties. A long process of phytochemical, ethno-pharmacological, and toxicological research by a local research institute led to the development of an herbal formulation for use in the production of a licensed herbal drug called Jeevani. Revenues from the license to manufacture the drug and royalties from its sale have been divided between the institute and the Kani community; these funds formed the basis of the trust, established in 1997, to oversee their reinvestment in community welfare projects. 18 • www. cs. org
Located in Nigeria's Cross River State, the Ekuri community manages a 336 square kilometer community forest adjacent to the Cross River National Park. Community forest management began in the 1980s when the villages of Old Ekuri and New Ekuri united in response to the proposed logging of their forest. The project would have included the construction of a road linking the villages to local market centers; instead, the community decided to sustainably manage the forest as a community asset, generating income, subsistence materials, and food. Levies on the sale of non-timber forest products by community members financed a road that eventually reached Old Ekuri in 1990 and New Ekuri in 1997. In addition to allowing farm and forest products to reach new markets, the road has also made possible the transport of construction materials for two schools, a health center, and a civic center where the community meets to discuss forest governance decisions. Plans for a superhighway are underway, bringing significant destruction to the last remaining rain forest in Nigeria.
CO: “The community, on its own, had the initiative to say, ‘Ah, yes. We are in an area where the company and the businessman has come in and said, “We are interested in your forest, we want to log, and we will provide you with water, etc.”’ But the Ekuri community reflected—if we manage this forest sustainably, it becomes our economy. So when this company came, we realized that as a community we can actually come together and manage our own resources, and we did. And we handled the issue of creating a road for the communities as there was no road at all. We were able to pick the natural materials from what we had locally. If you go to our roads, the bridges were made by men locally from that picked natural material. So it was by the creativity and the generousness of this community that we sustainably manage our forest. And since that time til now, the community is a voice in Cross River state. In fact, the proposed construction of this new superhighway has led about 187 other communities to fight the government, because they won’t allow it to pass through their areas.
[There is tension], but these communities said ‘nope, we don’t want that’ to the superhighway. You cannot do development that destroys the entire forest. Let’s see how we can take care of our needs as a community. That is what’s being done via the Ekuri Initiative. The communities realize they can actually benefit from managing the forest, from conservation. The most important thing is that there must be a way of involving everybody, for this idea to be replicated in other parts. When you don’t involve everybody, suspicion comes in. Everybody must feel on top of things when you involve multiple communities and everyone must see the shared benefits. So with that, it’s sustained. The key thing is transparency, togetherness. Checks and balance have to be put in place. And making the people realize we can actually gain from our resources, and that is what the Ekuri Initiative has done. The challenges are access roads. Development must be cost effective; if you want to make a good road you need money. So what if you want to build a wonderful highway? It will not be balancing the conservation. A superhighway would provide access but it would definitely destroy our forests. So the people say, ‘no, that is not what we want.’ If you want to make a road, let it be an eco-friendly road.” —Miriam Anne Frank is an applied anthropologist working as an independent consultant with a focus on Indigenous Peoples’ issues, environment, and human rights. She is an external lecturer at the Institute of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna, Austria. Alejandra Pero is the global network coordinator for the Equator Initiative, UN Development Programme.
Listen to Indigenous Rights Radio programs from the 2016 World Conservation Congress at consent.cs.org.
Equator Prize winners and UN Development Programme staff at the closing session of the Kauhale. Photo by UNDP.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 19
Barro Blanco Displaces Three Ngäbe Bugle Communities in Panama
The annual ceremony site of the Mama Tadta Church of the Kiad community in the petroglyphs is now underwater.
Jonathan González Quiel
he Ngäbe Bugle people reside in western Panama. Together they are two of the seven original peoples that survived the Spanish conquest and subsequent colonization of Panama. At the close of the 20th century, the Ngäbe Bugle achieved a designation protecting their lands as an autonomous territory. Law 10, signed in 1997, created the region known as the Comarca Ngäbe Bugle and protected approximately 7,000 square kilometers of their ancestral land. Since then, these communities have been fighting to defend the integrity of this land. During the 1980s, many years before the creation of this autonomous region, the Panamanian government began mineral exploration in Cerro Pelado and the western regions of Panama, and also began conducting assessments for the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Tabasará River, which is considered one of central rivers for the Ngäbe people. In 1999, the Movimiento 10 de Abril was founded, made up by the Ngäbe and fellow campesinos with the single goal of halting the hydroelectric and mining development that the government had planned within the region. The acts of resistance taken by the Ngäbe Bugle people during this time solidified and strengthened the communities’ rights to their lands, keeping their resources out of the hands of foreign investors. But the government never removed this territory from the list of areas they had slated for the construction of so-called development projects. In 2007, the Martin Torrijos administration approved a water concession for the company Generadora del Istmo S. A. (GENISA) for the construction of the Tabasará hydroelectric project on the Tabasará River. This project was anticipated to generate 19 megavolts and was located in an area adjacent to the autonomous region. GENISA is a Honduran company financed by three international banks (two of which are involved in the case of Berta Cáceres, the influential Lenca rights leader who was murdered in 2016 for her work opposing the Agua Zarca Dam on the Río Gualcarque in Honduras). For the past two decades, the Indigenous communities of the Tabasará have successfully stopped projects in their territory. 20 • ww w. cs. org
Now, with the approval for exploration on this new project, the Ngäbe are again on alert. In 2010 the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, approved an addendum for the hydroelectric dam on Tabasará. This addendum changed the name of the project to Barro Blanco and allowed it to be much larger, covering 2.58 kilometers of water and generating 28.56 megavolts. This expansion will directly impact three Indigenous communities from Bagamä located in the Ngäbe Bugle comarca. The affected communities were not consulted prior to the approval of the environmental impact study and the finalization of the concession contract. Many living within the affected villages would lose their lands, along with ceremonial archeological sites of vital importance to the Ngäbe Bugle people. In 2012 the government tried to modify regulations on mining, which sparked the Ngäbe Bugle and campesino movement to organize blockades on different points along the Pan-American Highway. Excessive force from the military response left two dead and ten wounded. After the violent confrontations, a roundtable was established that concluded with an agreement to ban mining and hydroelectric projects within the territory of Ngäbe Bugle. This law was enacted after one month of dialogue, but despite the agreed upon terms, the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project on the Tabasará River continued. The government and the National Ngäbe Bugle and Campesino Coordinator maintained a roundtable mediated by the United Nations with the objective of managing the conflict surrounding the Barro Blanco project. Both parties decided to conduct a new impact assessment, but the company continued with the construction of the hydroelectric project. In 2014 the government ordered the forced evacuation for the property of Manolo Miranda, a resident of Kiad, a small town in Bagamä, although it has been provisionally suspended by the Supreme Court. During the same year, the Supreme Court sided with GENISA in a legal action brought by the Ngäbe in 2010 based on the violation of the Ngäbe’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent during the initial phase of the project. Despite the disappointing ruling, the Ngäbe did not give up. They assembled a camp just outside All photos by Jonathan González Quiel.
the construction zone and waited for the machinery clearing the zone for the dam. This camp was stationed for four months at various locations around the project site and resulted in a series of confrontations during which several people suffered injuries. In July 2014, Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez was elected president under the campaign platform to cancel the project as soon as he assumed the presidency. In August, the minister of government, Milton Henríquez, visited the communities and pledged to establish a dialogue to put an end to the conflict, inviting the participation of affected peoples, traditional authorities, and elected officials. The roundtable was established in 2015 after the government accepted the Ngäbe’s condition to temporarily suspend the project. This dialogue was facilitated by the United Nations and lasted only four months, when it was dissolved by the affected communities after finding too many points of contention and a lack of will by the government to cancel the project altogether. During various sessions, experts from the communities demonstrated that the the impact assessments of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project had been deficient or incomplete and violated Panamanian laws. At the close of the discussions, the government lifted GENISA’s temporary suspension, allowing the company to finish construction of the dam which was very close to completion, and instead issued the company a fine of a mere $700,000 USD for irregularities in the environmental impact mitigation plan. In disagreement with the demands of the affected communities at the roundtable, in August 2015 the government decided to start new negotiations, this time hand-selecting new participants in representation of the communities, excluding affected communities themselves. On May 22, 2016, the Public Services Authority of Panama circulated a press release announcing that the commencement of a test phase, during which they would fill the reservoir to 103 meters above sea level to test the functionality of the dam, indicating that the communities located within the project zone would be evicted. On May 23, more than 15 Ngäbe people who were camped within close proximity to the dam were arrested.
In these arrests, the Panamanian government once again violated human rights by failing to evacuate the affected persons in accordance with national and international laws. They also failed to enact the order of the Supreme Court regarding the temporary suspension of the evacuation of Miranda in Kiad. While the reservoir tests took place, the Ngäbe mobilized across the country to blockade highways. Meanwhile, the government continued to showcase dialogue with Ngäbe leaders who supported the dam while seeking financial reparations. In August the government announced that they had signed an agreement with the leaders of the comarca, but communities affected by the dams denounced these agreements as illegitimate as they had not been consulted or included in the drafting. On August 22, the president signed the agreement while onlooking community members threw rocks at them. After considering what had taken place, the government announced that the Ngäbe Bugle Congress is the only authority that can ratify the signed agreement, and on September 18 the congress voted against its ratification, as well as for the removal of the Ngäbe authority Cacique General Silvia Carrera, who had signed the agreement with the government a month earlier on behalf of the community. To this date the conflict persists, and there is great uncertainty. Despite their communities being under water, the people continue to mobilize and maintain camps in different vigils throughout Panama. A popular phrase describing the community rings true: “El pueblo Ngäbe Bugle luchará por siempre, the Ngäbe Bugle people will never stop fighting.” —Jonathan González Quiel (Ngäbe) trained at the School of Geography and History at the Autonomous University of Chiriqui. He is an Indigenous rights activist in Panama recently dedicated to mapping of environmental conflicts. Members of the April 10 Community Movement of Kiad affected by the Barro Blanco dam at the border of the Ngäbe Bugle territory, an area now flooded by the project’s reservoir.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 21
Funding the Indigenous Rights Movement Berta Cáceres’ daughter, Laura Zuñiga Cáceres. Photo by Angelica Rao.
“Berta didn’t die, she multiplied.”
Michael Johnson (CS STAFF)
n late October, the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples’ (IFIP) dedicated the Latin America Indigenous Funders Conference in honor of Berta Cáceres, the recently slain Honduran activist, Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) co-founder, and 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner. The conference, held in Lima, Peru, hosted over 250 people, including Cáceres’ daughter, Laura Zuñiga Cáceres, who gave many passionate and emotional comments on her mother’s death and the current threats their community faces daily. The theme was Buen Vivir: Supporting the Role of Indigenous Peoples in Bio-Cultural Diversity, Human Rights and Sustainable Economic Models. The conference was well attended by Indigenous activists, community leaders, and change makers from every corner of the Indigenous world, who came to present on issues, situations, and solutions as a way to help inform funding partners about the realities in their communities. Foundation representatives and funders interested in human and Indigenous rights, mostly from the Americas, rounded out the audience. A staggeringly low number of funders have programs specifically for Indigenous Peoples, and currently less than one percent of all international giving is directed to Indigenous communities. Giving USA reported that Americans gave more in 2015 to charity than any previous year; however, giving to Indigenous
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issues remains stagnant, while donations to non-Indigenous international causes grew by 17 percent. Because of this, IFIP events are especially important to help create dialogue between Indigenous communities and funding partners. The opening ceremony was held on the morning of October 25 at a historical Indigenous site in the Miraflores district of central Lima. The Huaca Pucllana was a site of great importance to the Lima culture, a society that developed at the Peruvian Central Coast between 200 and 700 AD; modern archeologists estimate the site to have been built around 500 AD. According to our hosts, the Morning Prayer ceremony was the first in over 500 years to be held on this sacred ground. It was a beautiful ceremony with singing and prayers to our ancestors and the four sacred directions. The host community honored the Maya attendees who participated in the ceremony, helping the 100 or so conference participants through an offering to our ancestors and a call from Indigenous and donor representatives to live in balance with nature and each other. It was a powerful experience made livelier by the roaming alpacas and the sacred music of Ayarachis. At the pre-session workshop on Indigenous Peoples and security issues, the conversation bounced between the support of women in the community to frontline protectors who are fighting against technologically advanced, deceptive, and ruthless corporate and state interests. Calls for support focused on increased attention to the criminalization of rights advocacy around the developing world, greater efficacy in deploying security measures when there are considerable and authentic death threats being made, and advancing support for Indigenous systems of collective security. Barbara Savage, founder of the Tribal Trust Foundation said, “I must admit, I’m more concerned about Indigenous causes than ever before. I feel that we must collaborate in our efforts to protect and support the Indigenous people we champion. Together we will be a stronger force to advance indigenous causes. Indigenous people are on the frontline of environmental devastation and are vulnerable in standing up for human and environmental justice.” The opening keynote by Myrna Cunningham (Miskita) was moving and charged the room with a palatable energy that carried through the final day of the event. Looking to create new dialogues and opportunities for partnerships, Cunningham said, “intercultural philanthropy is changing power relations. Indigenous Peoples, we are no longer beneficiaries. [We] are partners.” Highlighting the continued threats many Indigenous communities face daily, she delivered a message of solidarity and empowerment to the attendees asking that we collaborate towards a better future for Indigenous communities and our inherent rights. A plenary featuring All photos by Avexnim Cojti.
IFIP conference participants gather at opening ceremony at Huaca Pucllana site in Lima, Peru. Photo courtesy of IFIP.
Laura Cáceres and Gloria Ushigua (Sápara of Ecuador) weaved an unbelievably complex and daunting reality both of their communities have faced in response to external pressures. The session ended with a resounding chant led by Cáceres, “Berta didn’t die, she multiplied.” In a later session, Ushigua described an event where she was beaten by police because of her advocacy against China Andes Petroleum Oil. “Andes Petroleum entered our territory along with the paramilitaries. [They] consulted with other Indigenous groups, but not us,” she said. The core of the three-day conference brought together philanthropists, donor agencies, and Indigenous communities in meaningful dialogues, exercises, and workshops around sustainable development, protecting ancestral territories and Indigenous rights, traditional wisdom and the intersection with the modern world, and successful community-based collaborative strategies with funders. Kyle Whyte, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a faculty member of the Environmental Philosophy and Ethics graduate concentration, faculty for Peace and Justice Studies, Environmental Science and Policy, and the Center for Regional Food Systems, Animal Studies and American Indian Studies at Michigan State University, co-presented a session on Indigenous food sovereignty during the conference. He, along with many of the Indigenous representatives, was excited about making connections with other Indigenous groups doing similar work. “One of the most powerful activities Indigenous Peoples can engage in are inter-Indigenous exchanges in which we share insights about our cultures and successes exercising self-determination, as well as strategize together about how our experiences with colonialism are ultimately different, but hauntingly similar,” Whyte said. A lunchtime conversation with two Brazilian Indigenous women helped to contextualize the lack of understanding most Indigenous people in South America have with regard to international laws and procedures. Alessandra Munduruku of the Munduruku People talked at length about the megadam projects in her community territories over the last decade.
She explained that the community has been severely impacted by Brazil’s refusal to recognize their territories, opening up the area to extractive industries, megadam projects, soy plantations, and railroads. Bell, a representative of the Xingu People of Brazil, expressed her community’s dismay over the Belo Monte dam, the third largest dam project in the world. The dam caused far-reaching consequences when earlier this year two of the planned eight turbines were turned on, lowering the downstream waters and affecting traditional fisheries Indigenous communities have utilized for centuries. Bell explained how classic divide-and-conquer strategies were used against the Indigenous communities in the region, how the local healthcare facilities have become overburdened servicing dam workers and their families, and how the Indigenous people are no longer a priority for the state services. Many communities have no concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that lack of knowledge is being used by the State and corporations to exploit these communities. One of the main calls the women made on behalf of their communities was for international intervention to help secure meaningful engagement in projects affecting their communities. Free, Prior and Informed Consent must be enforced in Brazil. While there is much to be done in supporting Indigenous rights, the 2016 IFIP conference highlighted Indigenous solutions to problems communities are facing around the world. Many of the complex problems addressed—food sovereignty, self-determination, stakeholder engagement, and the honoring of international norms—will require complex solutions with coalitions of interested partners from every discipline. If there is one takeaway from this year’s conference, it is that Indigenous people are mobilizing and connecting to the greater rights world, collaborating both with funding partners and other Indigenous communities to help strengthen Indigenous responses to the modern pressures of globalization, resource exploitation, climate change, and environmental destruction. Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 23
Colombia’s Indigenous Peoples and the Peace Accords Jean Jackson
ust a few days after Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, signed a historic peace treaty with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as FARC), a nation-wide referendum voted it down on October 2, 2016 by slim margin, 50.25 to 49.75 percent. While this result may not represent what the majority of Colombian citizens feel—only 38 percent voted and the “No’s” won only by a small margin—the result is valid. Fortunately, both sides of the conflict have indicated they intend to continue advancing towards a politically negotiated solution and the bilateral ceasefire will hold through December. I was in Colombia three weeks prior to the plebiscite and the result did not surprise me. People who intended to vote “No” expressed their displeasure at the incentives given to the FARC guerillas to lay down their arms, which, they said, let them “get off easy.” The FARC is very unpopular, and the prospect of leaders, if they confess their crimes, not serving prison terms angered many Colombians. Fear-mongering and a disinformation campaign by former president Álvaro Uribe and his allies, who led the “no” campaign, confused many people. Also, a number of controversial issues currently being debated were conflated with the vote. For example, President Santos, who staked his term in office on achieving peace, is unpopular, and there is a pervasive distrust of the political establishment—a sense of “whatever they’re promoting, it won’t be good for us, the common people.” Like other sectors in the country who bore the brunt of the violence, Colombia’s Indigenous Peoples favor the Accord. On October 10, 5,000 Indigenous people, students, and campesinos (farmers), shouting in unison “¡Acuerdo Ya!” (Sign the Accord!), ended a 3-day Marcha de las Flores (March of Flowers) at the Plaza Bolívar, the main square in Bogotá. The first 2,000 Arhuacos and Misak were able to meet with President Santos. “Indigenous and Afro-Colombians cannot wait for a solution to this crisis while the Colombian government makes institutional adjustments,” stated an official Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca release on October 4. President of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, Luis Fernando Arias, in a radio interview, stated, “We believe that the victims of this conflict voted in favor of the accord, and this is legitimate.” Both organizations are calling on the UN for help in monitoring the upholding of the ceasefire. People are weary of war. The army’s role has at times been so reprehensible with respect to human rights abuses that a few years ago it hired U.S. public relations firms to help improve its image. Many of the demobilized right-wing paramilitaries, who often were accused of colluding with the army and doing its “dirty work,” regrouped and continued as gangs 24 • ww w. cs. org
Embera children internally displaced by armed conflict in Colombia. There are over 2 million internally displaced persons in Colombia. UN Photo/Mark Garten.
of common criminals. The FARC decided to enter peace talks after coming to the conclusion that after 50 years of fighting, a military victory was not possible. The country’s Indigenous Peoples have suffered disproportionately during the conflict because the fighting has mainly taken place in rural areas. Indigenous communities were often caught in the crossfire between armed actors, both legal (police and military) and illegal (insurgents and paramilitaries). Most pueblos wanted no part of the conflict and refused to ally themselves with any armed actor. Many insisted on maintaining autonomy and control of their territories. Members of the unarmed guard patrols found in several pueblos would travel to a guerrilla camp to negotiate the release of a kidnapped leader. This institution has won high praise from mainstream Colombian society and beyond, as evidenced by media treatment and national and international awards. This position of neutrality and autonomy was not acceptable to combatants, who told pueblo members that failure to cooperate obviously meant they were on the other side. The FARC, along with another insurgent army known as ELN (National Liberation Army), rejected the pueblos’ stance because the guerrillas claimed that they represented the interests of the common people. Guerrilla forces everywhere survive by persuading or coercing the civilian population in the area to support them, or at least tolerate their presence, which meant that many pueblos had few options. Threats and intimidation were the rule, along with reprisals following failure to comply, the latter often very bloody, to “teach a lesson.” In the worst periods of the conflict the State was absent in about one-fourth of the country, which meant that it was often one
of the armed actors that controlled local communities. Both the guerrillas and paramilitaries engaged in narcotrafficking. The practice of recruiting child soldiers was an additional worry for Indigenous, campesino, and Afro-Colombian families. Because they were disproportionately affected by the violence and hence important stakeholders in the peace process, both Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities’ exclusion from the four-year peace process until the last minute occasioned widespread indignation. Only on August 24 were their concerns about securing territorial rights and other guarantees, including Free, Prior and Informed Consent, entered into the Accord as the Ethnic Chapter.
The country’s Indigenous Peoples have suffered disproportionately during the conflict because the fighting has mainly taken place in rural areas. Indigenous communities were often caught in the crossfire. Even if the peace accords had been approved by the referendum vote, everyone who knows Colombia understands that such a step would be just the beginning of what promises to be a very long haul. This is because so many of the structures that produced and maintained the conflict remain in place. Corruption in every branch of government is a tremendous problem and shows no signs of decreasing. The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure with a huge cost. The drug trade continues to be a national scourge, and the blame by no means lies only with Colombia, because the market—the U.S. and Europe—is what sustains narcotrafficking. Neo- liberal measures like free trade agreements have not benefitted poor Colombians, including the pueblos, which have mounted protest after protest denouncing them. Finally, the state is still effectively absent in many parts of the country. One dissident FARC front refused to go along with the top leadership, and they are found in areas where the proportion of Indigenous to non-Indigenous inhabitants is the highest in the country: in the southeastern plains and forests. In this region, open combat between FARC and former paramilitaries continues to this day to secure territory planted in coca, or rich in minerals like tungsten and coltan. The government will have to take charge of the areas previously controlled by the now-demobilizing FARC to establish state authority and maintain order. The Indigenous movement has accomplished a great deal during its lifetime. Whereas in the 1970s and 1980s leaders were thrown in jail, disappeared, or assassinated, they now receive protection from the State, and some have been elected to public office. The Colombian 1991 Constitution guarantees more rights and protections to Indigenous citizens than any other Latin American country. Also, the country’s pueblos, which constitute less than four percent of the national population, now collectively own almost thirty percent of the
national territory. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia mediates between the state and pueblos during crises, but also resists certain state actions. For example, it has organized highway blockades and strikes, most recently in May. However, the movement is factionalized, which prevents it from being as strong as it might otherwise be. The prospective future of a Colombia at peace is not totally rosy. Neoliberal ideology and policies endorsed by the country’s elites and international interests have promoted globalization processes that favor land grabs intended for mega-development projects like hydroelectric plants, mining, and exploitation of oil reserves. As in most of Latin America, the government retains subsoil rights, and so despite the fact that many such projects are directed at territories legally and collectively owned by the pueblos, the projects go forward after putatively “free, prior, and informed consent” agreements are signed, some of them fraudulent and many obtained under extreme pressure. We can hope for, and work toward, a future in which differences are resolved through dialogue and not violence, one that also vigorously, and in good faith, works to advance the interests of the country’s pueblos. —Jean Jackson is a Cultural Survival board member and professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her books, articles, and teaching focus on medical anthropology, social and ethnic identity, gender issues, and Indigenous mobilization in Colombia.
Learning to write. Community of Macedonia, Colombian Amazon. Photo by Juan Alvarez.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 25
B a z aa r a rt i st: In s pi r e d by t he N at ur a l Wo r l d
A Jonathan Perry
Above: Transitions copper pendant representing the stars that witness the Earth and all of Creation. Inset: Drops of Sun earrings. Made in the traditional Wampanoag fashion of cold hammering. Bottom: Hand carved Rhode Island steatite in the shape of a Pukwudgie little person. 26 • ww w. cs. org
quinnah Wampanoag speaker, singer, artist, and actor Jonathan Perry has performed publically, including at Cultural Survival bazaars, for over 15 years, educating the public about Wampanoag history and culture and lecturing on Eastern Woodland art and traditions. A 25-year veteran of the performing arts, he is a member of the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers and founding member of the Kingfisher Dance Troupe and the Iron River Singers. He also currently serves as councilman for his nation, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Perry was selected by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts for a Folk Arts Fellowship in 2015, and this year received the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Master-Apprentice Grant. Perry is grounded in the traditions of his ocean-going ancestors. “Many people have guided and taught me over the years to represent me and my people in a positive way. Some of those teachers are my mother, Patricia Perry, and my sister, Elizabeth Perry, the chief of my Nation when I was young, and many other people, too numerous to mention,” he says, adding that his family has always been musically inclined. “From my mother singing to me when I was a child, to my aunts and uncle who were classically trained singers and musicians, I have been exposed to the public performing profession almost my entire life. Around the age of nine, I started to practice our traditional Northeastern Woodland songs with the late Nanepashemet (Tony Pollard). I also spent quite a bit of time at cultural gatherings and celebrations participating, and eventually performing, these songs for our Native community.” In addition to the performing arts, Perry is a traditional and contemporary Native artist working in many mediums, including metals for contemporary fine art and fashion design. He considers designs by examining the raw materials closely, drawing his images from the grain, hues, and patina of wood, stone, and copper. Perry enjoys using the materials and knowledge handed down from his ancestors to express his understanding of the natural world as well as the changes over time since Creation. He is greatly influenced by his time spent on the ocean, being from an island Native community. Perry’s pieces reflect balance within the natural world, incorporating stories, effigies, and symbology of Wampanoag traditions. In a particularly defining moment for his art, Perry witnessed a basking whale off the cliffs of Aquinnah on his home island of Martha’s Vineyard. These whale images have since appeared in many of his pieces, and Perry continues to use the materials and knowledge handed down from his ancestors to express his understanding of the natural world and the change that it has experienced in the past 400 years. His three-dimensional artwork ranges in size from large, hand-carved dugout ocean vessels to stone effigy pipes and high-end copper jewelry. Perry knows well the challenges that Indigenous artists faces today: “There is a lack of awareness of Indigenous art and culture in the United States, as well as a difficulty in accessing the international market. One of the most difficult things is access to materials that we once traditionally used, such as marine mammal parts, some varieties of trees that are now extinct, and access to certain types of minerals, metals, and stone. Environmental damage, earth management policies, and private land ownership have negatively affected Indigenous artists and cultural practices,” he says. In spite of these challenges, however, Perry perseveres. “Art plays a very important role for me because it allows me to express myself with Indigenous identity and to be appreciated by people of many backgrounds and societies around the globe. It allows me to tell the story of my family and my Nation and the continuance of our Indigenous people. Performing traditional songs for the public and Indigenous communities is very fulfilling, giving the community the ability to celebrate with songs that connect us to our ancestors and the land.” Come to our upcoming Cultural Survival Bazaars: December 10–11: Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Cambridge, MA December 16–18: Prudential Center, Boston, MA Visit bazaar.cs.org for more information.
All photos courtesy of JonathanJamesPerry.com
s t af f s pot lig h t
Community Media Grants Project Manager
ultural Survival is pleased to announce Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’) as the project manager for our Community Media Grants Project, a new initiative that will strengthen international Indigenous community radio stations’ broadcast infrastructure and systems. Cojtí has been a program associate for our Community Media Program and Indigenous Rights Radio since 2015. She is a sociologist with more than 10 years of experience in the fields of immigration, community development, and community radio. Cojtí has a degree in Indigenous Government Studies from the Institute of Indigenous Government, Vancouver, British Columbia, a sociology degree from Simon Fraser University; and a Masters degree in Public Administration from the University of Regina. Cojtí grew up with her mom and four sisters in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. “My dad was working in Guatemala City and would come to visit on weekends,” she recalls. “During the early ’80s (civil war time) he would not come as often because he was protecting himself as he was an academic activist for Indigenous rights. My mom has been a very hard working woman. She was involved in community development, was an elementary teacher, and had a small store at the market days on Thursdays and Sundays. I didn’t like to get up early to set up the store and then go to school, but it was our duty to help my mom to get extra cash for us,” she says. Cojtí credits her father with inspiring her work for Indigenous rights: “He used to take me to his meetings on Indigenous rights or cultural events and with Indigenous leaders in different parts of the country. He also encouraged us to use our Maya clothing and speak Maya K’iche’ as part of our identity.” When Cojtí moved to Guatemala City to continue high school, she experienced racism from her classmates as the only Maya in her school. “The other Maya in school were the caretakers in charge of cleaning. Racism was so cruel that I didn’t want to be Indigenous, I didn’t want to use my own name or my clothing. I suffered as a teenager, but learned to become strong through this experience. I excelled in academics and this is how I gained the self-confidence and freedom to be just me.. I started to become interested in supporting the empowerment of my people and Indigenous Peoples around the world after this experience,” she says. When she was 18, Cojtí travelled to Vancouver to learn English and was connected to the Institute of Indigenous Government. Cojtí sees the lack of knowledge of Indigenous history and globalization as some of the biggest issues facing Indigenous communities today. “A people that does not know its history cannot reflect on our present and realize that our lives matter, that there are situations like extreme poverty and violence that come from a root way back in history. I see many small organizations with different visions, but we have not been able to unify a national Indigenous movement. When we
Community Media Grants Project Manager, Avexnim Cojtí, with the Ancestral Council of Maya Leaders in Chichicastenago, Guatemala.
unify at a national level, we will be able to have major changes. Western culture is confusing new generations as they are eager to leave their identities for something so hollow and superficial that disconnects them from their families and communities.” Reflecting on her work at Cultural Survival, Cojtí says, “International organizations like Cultural Survival unify Indigenous Peoples. Cultural Survival is creating networks of Indigenous leaders and creating awareness on issues affecting Indigenous Peoples internationally, and most importantly, is supporting communication as a tool for Indigenous Peoples to pursue their goals towards self-determination. It is a privilege for me to serve Indigenous Peoples through the Community Media Grants Project. The projects we are supporting have a strong Indigenous vision and have done a good job in serving their communities. We look forward to supporting community radio stations where the full potential of this important means of communication can be used by Indigenous communities.”
To learn more about the Community Media Grants Project, visit www.cs.org. Reach Avexim Cojtí at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 27
t ake ac t io n
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Joshua Cooper Human rights are measured through United Nations covenants and conventions. Regular State reviews monitor how the rights enshrined in these treaties are being implemented. The review of every nation offers a chance to educate citizens and demand realization of the rights enshrined in the treaties ratified by their governments. Indigenous Peoplesâ€™ involvement is essential to seek justice through the review process. In this series we aim to break down the core treaties.
he International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a comprehensive international legal agreement of civil and political rights. The aspirational and customary law nature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided the basis for the International Bill of Rights, consisting of twin binding covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a global mechanism to monitor a Stateâ€™s policies and practices in meeting promises to its people, including the demand for inherent dignity, participation in democratic political structures, cultural and linguistic expression, and full cultural self-determination. Both covenants share Article 1 on self-determination. Indigenous Peoples understand the universality of Article 1, recognizing the right of all peoples to freely determine political status and pursue economic, social, and cultural development. Article 1 secures Indigenous Peoples as equals with the ability to advocate for how their own territories serve society, and not taken for corporate or colonial economic gain. It is the basis for sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples to be recognized and respected.
Human Rights Committee and Country Reports
An 18-member committee of experts reviews States as guarantors of the rights enshrined in the Covenant. Serving a fouryear term with potential for reappointment, the experts assist states with compliance. One member agrees to serve as the Country Rapporteur researching and compiling information regarding the State and also participates in the review, opening the interactive dialogue. The Country Rapporteur is the first to speak and offers concluding observations. The task of the Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations is to guide the committee based on priorities selected by the Human Rights Committee to be implemented within a year from the review. 28 â€˘ ww w. cs. org
Top: Voting, protesting, and freedom of speech are civil and political rights that protect individuals from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. Bottom: Indigenous people of Cambodia exercise their civil and political rights at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Peoples Forum in Dili, Timor-Leste.
An initial report is due one year after ratification of the covenant. Periodic reports are due every five years and upon issuing concluding observations the next due date is provided. Country reports clarify compliance with the articles of the covenant. States submit periodic reports focusing on issues raised in the concluding observations, as well as significant developments with thorough explanations of measures taken to address complaints against the country since the last reporting cycle. In the followup procedure, two to four recommendations in the concluding observations are raised for immediate All photos by joshua cooper.
attention. The State is asked to provide information on implementation one year after issuing concluding observations. The Human Rights Committee now meets three times a year, in spring, summer, and fall for up to four weeks. As with all treaty bodies, the committee meetings take place in Geneva, predominantly at the Palais Wilson.
with the state delegation for a town hall or consultation to plan for how to ensure that the human rights recommendations are realized at home. The Human Rights Committee offers two opportunities for civil society organizations to interact directly with committee experts.
The Review Cycle: Preparation
The consideration phase is where committee members informed by civil society through interaction and reporting share results of their research and raise their questions and concerns to the State under review. There are two, three-hour sessions where the country rapporteur opens the discussion, and then there is a pattern of the remaining Committee members raising questions and the state delegation responding. Beyond the structured interventions at the NGO briefing, there is the opportunity to discuss with committee experts. It is also possible to present in thematic working groups immediately prior to consideration at the lunchtime briefing. NGOs should submit their shadow reports to the Committee three weeks prior to the plenary session for States to be examined. Use of social media at every phase of the consideration, at the Monday morning briefing through the State review, ensures Indigenous voices are heard. Global partners such as the Center for Civil and Political Rights can assist with press releases.
The result of the preparation phase is education that mobilizes a national rights movement and explanation of the international human rights instrument through a country shadow report and multiple thematic working groups. This alternative report is written by civil society and can be submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee as a supplement to the country report documenting realities on the ground. Other elements are disseminating concluding observations of the previous cycle and the followup priorities of the committee. It is advisable to coordinate for the preparation phase 18 months prior to the review of the State. This allows for six months of discussion and dialogue that can be expressed to the UN Human Rights Committee before the review of Lists of Issues Prior to Reporting.
The interaction phase consists of participation with the UN Human Rights Committee secretariat and committee experts to ensure that issues, questions, and specific recommendations from the grassroots are understood and considered by the committee. This phase especially prepares the country rapporteur to raise specific questions around current practices by policy makers. By civil society transforming shadow reports into short, detailed summaries with specific language, this phase prepares the Human Rights Committee members to discuss the facts and suggest recommendations for change. Simplified documents in the structure of issue/question and recommendation for each article and list of issues in one or two pages should be shared with expert members. It is also essential to attempt engagement with the State to partner for solutions for civil and political rights. Recommendations should be targeted toward transformation of the current political model to achieve the articles of the Covenant. Interaction with committee members can occur via correspondence, public presentations, and lunch briefings immediately prior to the consideration phase. NGOs should provide information on States for the list of issues 12 weeks before the plenary session, and should be prepared at least one year before the review of a State to assist the country rapporteur and the Country Report Task Force regarding followup to the prior session’s concluding observations. It is imperative to research the immediate prior state reviews and provide updates on previous lists of issues and followup priorities. The interaction can begin two sessions prior to the review of the State, all the way up to the start of the session and the six-hour review. During the review session in Geneva, interaction should begin on Monday with briefings by civil society to the full Human Rights Committee, and continue through the lunchtime briefing as well as the final discussions in the hallways of the Palais Wilson, providing actual recommendation language for the concluding observations. It is also an opportunity for civil society to meet
The adoption phase is necessary for mobilization of the people’s movement to improve human rights in the State. Recommendations are issued based on the list of issues, shadow reports of NGOs, civil society briefings, and the State review. The priorities of Indigenous Peoples should be featured in concluding observations. On the final day of the UN Human Rights Committee, there is an open meeting and a press conference where the chair and members share their concluding observations. The adoption of the concluding observations outline positive aspects, subjects of concern, and recommendations on how to address the challenges faced by a country to realize civil and political rights. It is vital to ensure the communities receive results of the campaign.
The implementation phase requires dedication to followup on the concluding observations. This phase closes the cycle, returning to the community and country level demand for action based on recommendations from the articles and list of issues mentioned in the concluding observations. The followup mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Committee allow monitoring of the assigned priority areas to be reported upon in a year. The Committee appoints a Special Rapporteur on Follow-up to Concluding Observations to establish a dialogue during this phase. There is a one-year period for the State to supply information and support realization of the two to four recommendations. The committee will make a decision on the priority recommendations at a session one year after the review. — Joshua Cooper is a professor at the University of Hawai’i, West Oahu, Kapolei and director of the Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
December 2016 • 29
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Defending the Sacred