Cultural Survival Q
Crossing False Borders
Indigenous Movement and Forced Migration Vol. 44, Issue 1 â€˘ March 2020 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
M a r c h 202 0 Vo lum e 44 , Issue 1 Board of Directors president
Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) Vice President
Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i) Treasurer
Steven Heim Clerk
Nicole Friederichs Evelyn Arce Erickson (Muisca) Valine Brown (Haida) Carla Fredericks (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) Laura Graham Ajb’ee Jiménez (Maya Mam) Lesley Kabotie (Crow) John King Stephen Marks Tui Shortland (Ma–ori) Stella Tamang (Tamang) FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival Headquarters 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org Cultural Survival Quarterly
Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska Copyright 2020 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
At the U.S. Southwest border, Indigenous Peoples are denied both due process and their identity through language exclusion. Creating Mam language materials for migrants (see page 10). Photo by International Mayan League.
F e at u r e s
D e pa r t m e n t s
10 When We Cross the Mountains and Desert
1 Executive Director’s Message
Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras, International Mayan League, and Indigenous Languages Office Forced Indigenous migration is a direct outcome of discriminatory laws and policies.
12 We Have Been Here SinceTime Immemorial Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar Increasingly, Indigenous communities are becoming climate refugees and are demanding their rights.
2 In the News 4 Indigenous Arts
Pocahontas Reframed: A Storytellers Film Festival
6 Indigenous Knowledge Australia Burning
14 Rising Seas Have No Regard for Sovereignty Cristina Verán The Peoples of Tuvalu are facing the dire consequences of climate change.
16 Requiem, Repression, or Recovery? Daniel Plumley South Siberian border Peoples have faced many challenges over the last few centuries.
18 Refugees: After Crossing the Imaginary Limit Ronald José Fernández Epieyuu The homelands of the Wayúu Nation are divided by the Colombia-Venezuela border.
20 We Did Not Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us
8 Rights in Action
Ainu Peoples Reclaim Their Rights
26 Keepers of the Earth Fund Grant Partner Spotlight
Reducing Carbon Emissions and Restoring Biodiversity in Ogoni Land
27 Community Media Grants Partner Spotlight Zapatista Radio
28 Board Spotlight
29 Bazaar Artists
• Aslak Holmberg • Victoria Tauli-Corpuz • Joan Carling • William Lopez • Raja Devashis Roy • Gakemotho Tikhwebe Satau
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Cover photo: Migrants of Central American origin wait on the railway line to get on a container train, known as "The Beast", to go to the border of the United States and Mexico, between the states of Coahuila, Mexico, and Texas. Photo by Photo Beto.
E xecut iv e Di rector’ S messa ge
Crossing False Borders
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival.
he story of humankind is one of migration; we have always been on the move. In this issue of the CSQ, we focus on the stories of Indigenous migrants who were forced to leave their homes for political or economic reasons; Indigenous Peoples whose homes are on borderlands and whose communities have been divided by artificial lines; and Indigenous climate refugees. I invite you to listen to their voices. When it comes to problems with immigration, we need to evaluate the impacts of centuries of colonization, decades of neoliberal policies, and the current operations of extractive industries, agro companies, and monocropping that have impoverished Indigenous communities. It often starts with a company moving onto the traditional land of Indigenous Peoples to operate a monocrop plantation such as palm oil (or coffee, bananas, sugar cane, etc.), and polluting local water sources, driving local food producers out of work, paying miserable wages, and sometimes using violence to keep people from protesting. People are forced to leave their families and homes out of desperation as they cannot afford to stay in their communities. One solution is decolonization and supporting communities with sustainable economic opportunities so that people do not have to leave. Returning back to Indigenous lifeways and using traditional knowledge in food production is one way to achieve this. I am inspired by the work of Rax Kok (Q’eqchi) from Chisec who I met in Guatemala. Rax is teaching youth traditional agricultural practices for food production and providing employment for local people in Chisec—a community where palm oil monocropping, primarily for the export market to the United States, has killed local food growing. He says, “We were losing our men, our communities to migration. People do not want to leave their wives and children, but do so out of absolute necessity and despair. Who will stay and continue our traditions if we do not create economic opportunities right here?” Traditional agricultural practices not only provide local economic opportunities, but also help mitigate the impacts of climate
Cultural Survival Staff Galina Angarova (Buryat), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Yesmi Ajanel (Maya K’ich’e), Program Assistant Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Community Media Program Manager Jessie Cherofsky, Bazaar Program Manager Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy & Development Manager Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Radio Program Coordinator Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Nati Garcia (Maya Mam), Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Coordinator Adriana Hernández (Maya K'iche'), Executive Assistant
change and support local biodiversity and ecological resilience. We have to recognize that we, the industrialized West, are the problem. Everything is connected and things done in one area will result in a chain of events directly impacting other areas. The West’s thirst for cheap snacks containing palm oil has an impact on Indigenous communities, where it has become unviable to cultivate local crops and is destructive to local ecosystems. The impact of these products also come back to Indigenous territories and affect community health. Indigenous Peoples hold the knowledge that can address some of today’s greatest challenges. Returning to this knowledge and transferring this information across generations is vital, and promoting Indigenous languages, which hold knowledge accumulated over thousands of years on medicine, meteorology, agriculture, and the like, is imperative. At Cultural Survival, we strive to amplify Indigenous voices by supporting community media efforts, grassroots advocacy, and projects that are led by Indigenous people and rooted in Indigenous knowledge. We are thankful for your generosity and hope you will continue to support our work with Indigenous communities.
Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Program Associate, Community Media Grants Project Danae Laura, Bazaar Program Manager Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Radio Program Coordinator Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez, (Mixe/Ayuuk ja’ay & Zapotec/Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Project Manager Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Teresita Orozco Mendoza, Community Media Training Coordinator Cat Monzón (Maya K’iche’), Executive Assistant Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Community Media Program Coordinator Gabael Otzoy Xocop (Maya Kaqchikel), Information Technology Assistant Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Central America Media Coordinator Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Angelica Rao, Human Resources Coordinator Sócrates Vásquez García (Ayuuk), Community Media Grants Coordinator Miranda Vitello, Development Associate
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Arianna Adirim-Lanza, Alexandra CarraherKang, Pablo Cordon, Augusta Davis, Samantha Freedman, Elisabeth Lualdi, Kiara Maher, Laura Simpson Reeves, Carolyn Smith-Morris, Tristan Suarez, Laura Xu
There are so many ways to
Galina Angarova (Buryat) Executive Director
Stay connected www.cs.org
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 1
i n t he new s Spain: Indigenous Voices Argue Against Carbon Market at COP25 December
At COP25, held in Madrid, Spain, last December, the main focus of discussion was the global carbon market proposed under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Many Indigenous people argue against this idea, as carbon markets can lead to the privatization and dispossession of Indigenous lands.
India: Protests Arise Against New Citizenship Amendment Bill December
Violent protests erupted throughout India in December following the passage of a Citizenship Amendment Bill, as the new legislation could make many Indigenous people a minority in their homelands. Protesters took to the streets in opposition to the bill, which could wipe away Indigenous history, culture, land rights, and language.
Global: International Decade of Indigenous Languages Declared December
On December 18, 2019, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that includes the proclamation of 2022–2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. According to UNESCO, as many as 3,000 Indigenous languages may disappear by the end of the century if action is not taken.
Mexico: Zapatistas Defend Mother Earth January
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation announced a series of three days in February where actions will be taken by the Mexican people to protect Mother Earth. The Zapatista recognize the deaths of people who have been murdered for opposing the war against their land and water, and are calling for an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal defense of human life and Mother Earth.
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Indigenous delegates at COP25 in Madrid, Spain, demand climate action. Photo by John Englart.
U.S.: Tribe Protests Construction on Native Burial Ground
Peru: Historic Legal Victory for Indigenous Communities
A court in Loreto, Peru ordered the suspension of all extractive activities in the territories that form the requested Indigenous reserves of Yavari Tapiche and Sierra del Divisor Occidental. Peru will establish a protection zone around nearly 98 percent of the Indigenous land in the northern part of the Amazon that borders Brazil.
The Shinnecock Nation of New York State has been fighting to preserve what remains of undeveloped land believed to contain ancient Native burial grounds. Members of the Nation learned that a parcel of land in Shinnecock Hills, known as Sugar Loaf, had been sold and approved for the construction of a new home without the Tribe’s prior consent. Shinnecock tribal members began holding protests on December 30, a day after developers broke ground on the proposed construction site.
U.S.: Eastern Woodland Tribes to Set Record Straight in 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower Landing January
A year-long series of exhibitions, performances, and community events are planned in Plymouth, MA to mark the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. The Wampanoag Nation and other Eastern Woodland Tribes will be heavily involved in the anniversary to recognize and remember the brutal diseases, enslavement, and massacres inflicted by colonists upon the local Indigenous Peoples.
Sweden: Sami Win Historic Court Battle January
On January 23, the Sami village of Girjas won a historic court battle against the Swedish government cementing their exclusive hunting and fishing rights over a 19-mile stretch of land between Norway and the Baltic Sea. The case sets a precedent both in Sweden and internationally for the protection of Indigenous land rights. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs are now facing threats and backlash.
–ori Director U.S: Ma Wins Oscar February
Taika Waititi became the first Ma–ori filmmaker to receive an Oscar at the 92nd Academy Awards, winning for best adapted screenplay for Jojo Rabbit. “I want to dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers,” Waititi said.
Advocacy Updates Colombia: Violence Against Indigenous Peoples Must End December
Colombians have been taking to the streets since late November to protest the lack of government intervention to stop violence against Indigenous people and environmental defenders. More than 100 people have been killed due to President Duque’s ineffective implementation of the 2016 Peace Accords, and there has been a massive wave of systematic violence against Indigenous Peoples in Colombia, particularly against the Nasa Peoples in Cauca. Last November, 17 Indigenous members were killed in Cauca in a single week; the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca label these attacks as a genocide. Cultural Survival, Fundación Semilla Warunkwa, and Consejo Regional Indigena del Tolima submitted a report on Indigenous rights violations in Colombia as part of the United Nation’s 100th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This report outlines actions to be carried out to mitigate violence against Indigenous Peoples in Colombia and ensure the protection of their human rights.
Guatemala: Criminalization of Human Rights Defender Threatens Freedom of Expression January
Indigenous human rights defender, Daniel Pascual Hernández (Maya K’iche), coordinator of the grassroots organization Comité de Unidad Campesino, went on trial in Guatemala in January on the charges of libel, defamation, and slander. The charges represent a criminalization of Pascual’s human rights work in 2013, when he spoke on television about the role of rightwing group Foundation Against Terrorism in planning an assassination attempt against him while he was organizing with communities in Guatemala against a cement manufacturing plant. In the seven years following the original charges, a lack of rights has been afforded to him, including the denial of his right to use a tribunal for issues related to freedom of expression. His case may set a precedent threatening the freedom of speech for other activists in Guatemala, and could worsen the ongoing pattern of criminalization of such human rights defenders. Cultural Survival has called on Guatemalan authorities to carry out a fair trial that upholds democratic values and human rights.
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.
Canada: Tensions Build Between Wet’suwet’en Chiefs and Royal Canadian Mounted Police January
On December 31, 2019, the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction to allow construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, giving unlimited access to unceded Wet’suwet’en land for a 416-mile pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en Nation has vehemently opposed the pipeline’s construction, setting up a camp along a key access point in order to halt construction. The injunction has led Royal Canadian Mounted Police to establish an exclusion zone in which Wet’suwet’en people are unable to enter their land at the points where Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are leading the protection of the land and halting construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en have submitted a formal request to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has called on Canada to halt the pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from their territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law. Unis’tot’en Camp received a grant from Cultural Survival’s Keepers of the Earth Fund in 2017–2018 to host four gatherings to strategize on how to continue protecting their land from pipeline construction and promote traditional livelihoods on their territory.
Hawai’i: Law Enforcement Stands Down on 30-Meter Telescope Construction on Mauna Kea December
On December 16, 2019, Hawai’i County Mayor Harry Kim wrote assurances to the Pu’uhonua protectors of Mauna Kea that the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope will be postponed temporarily and law enforcement will stand down for the duration of that time. The telescope is set to be built on Mauna Kea, a mountain on Hawai’i Island, which is considered sacred by many Native Hawai’ians. Meanwhile, some members of the Thirty Meter Telescope consortium have said they are considering moving the venture elsewhere. Though protectors have agreed to clear the road blockage for now, they have stated they will not leave the mountain until the telescope project does.
Read more news at www.cs.org/latest.
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly March 2020 • 3
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2019 Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival design. Image courtesy of Pocahontas Reframed Film Festival.
ocahontas Reframed, an annual film festival held in Richmond, VA, showcases mainstream films that feature Native Americans as major characters and independent films that are directed, produced, and written by Native Americans. The festival was cofounded by Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Kirkpatrick, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who also serves as the director. Bradby Brown, assistant Chief of Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe, is the festival’s chairman. In its third year, the 2019 festival included 41 films, live performances, panel discussions, and drama classes at various locations around the city. Also featured were performances by the Cherokee dance group The Warriors of Anikituhwa and flautist Darren Thompson (Ojibwa/Tohono O’odham). Many films this year were directed, written by, and starring Native American women: Once Upon A River, written and directed by Haroula Rose; The Peacemaker Returns, directed by Skawennati (Mohawk); Nanyeh, directed by Becky Hobbs (Cherokee); Don’t Just Talk About It, written, directed, and produced by Cher Obediah (Seneca/Ojibwe/Turtle Clan from Six Nations Ontario); Spirit Song, directed by Ashley Davidson; The Incredible 25 Years of Mitzi Bearclaw, written, directed, and produced by Shelley Niro (Six Nations Reserve, Mohawk, Turtle Clan); Falls Around Her, written, directed, and produced by Darlene Naponse (Anushinaabe Kwe from Atikameksgeng Anishnawbej); Sacheen: Breaking The Silence, starring Sacheen Littlefeather (White Mountain Apache and Yaqui); Warrior Women, directed, and produced by Elizabeth A. Castle and Marcy Gilbert, who is the daughter of Madonna Thunder Hawk; “Auntie Beachress,” three short films directed by Tonia Jo Hall; and Alphabet City Serenade, directed by Diane Burns. Rose’s Once Upon A River is a riveting coming of age story about a teen traveling alone by boat on Michigan’s Stark River, searching for her estranged White mother after her Indian father is murdered. The film touches on interracial relationships, abortion, sexual abuse, and the transition from adolescence to
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womanhood. It explores friendships, love, and self-reliance among a diverse cast of Native and non-Native Americans. Dialogue is often at a minimum in many of the deliberately slow moving scenes, but lead actress Kenadi DelaCerna’s facial expressions and body language are engrossing and it is hard to believe that this is her first film. Watching her intensely row long distances is a moving experience of physicality for viewers. For academic-oriented audiences, the symposium, “Through an Indigenous Lens,” at the University of Richmond, featured Indigenous filmmakers, visual artists, and curators Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga) and brothers Adam and Zack Khalil (Ojibwe) exploring Indigenous cinema as antiethnographic practice, formal innovation in the form, and the future of Indigenous cinema and art in the context of Indigenous self-determination. Films by the Khalils and Hopinka have been screened at Sundance, Toronto International Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and the 2019 Whitney Biennial exhibition. “Anti-Ethnography,” a selection of 14 video shorts preceded the panel discussion. Of the 14 shorts, the one generating the most conversation was Native Fantasy: Germany’s Indian Heroes, directed by Axel Gerdau, Erik Olsen, and John Woo. Part documentary and part comedy, the film revolves around an annual reenactment
Still from The Peacemaker Returns, by Skawennati.
The 2019 festival featured 41 films by Indigenous filmmakers. (L-R): The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw; Sacheen, Breaking the Silence; Nanyehii: The Story of Nancy Ward; Falls Around Her; and Warrior Women.
festival in a small town north of Berlin where “Indian” actors portrayed by Germans live in tipis, wear traditional regalia, and perform Lakota cultural activities. The main character is “Apache” Chief Winnetu, who performs Lakota ceremonies, based on a protagonist in a series of romanticized fantasy novels by Karl May. May fabricated his visits with American Indian chiefs and later established the Karl May Museum, which houses Indian scalps and various artifacts that are culturally misattributed. Wawa, by Sky Hopinka, similarly engaged the audience. The film, which takes its title after the name of the Chinook language, features six generations of language speakers with varying levels of fluency. Questions were raised in an ensuing Q&A about the authenticity of a language as it continues to adapt, as well as which speakers, and at what level of fluency, can claim to be authentic. Other philosophical questions posited were, “Since people are not considered Indigenous if they were not colonized, what were we/they before colonialism?” And if the term ‘Indigenous’ has replaced ‘American Indian’ and ‘Native American,’ what term comes next?” The Khalils responded that they believe there is political utility in using the umbrella term ‘Indigenous’ “because we are all oppressed,” but added that they will invoke Ojibwe or Anishinaabe for specificity. Also featured in the symposium was the short film, Alphabet City, a quick take on urban Indians living in New York City, specifically the Lower East Side neighborhood affectionately called Alphabet City. The concrete and brick landscape is not the usual image people associate with Indian Country, but the hybrid Indigenous cultural experience there (many residents are Puerto Rican with Taino ancestry) is vibrant and thriving. Niro returned to Pocahontas Reframed this year with her 90-minute feature film, The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw, which was filmed on a Canadian island. The main character is a 25-year-old woman torn between working in the city as a hat designer and hanging out with her urban First Nations graduate student boyfriend or returning to her reserve to care for her ailing mother. Despite the island’s slow pace, lack of modern amenities, and relative isolation, Mitzi finds peace in her native environment among her family and old friends, creating a balance with her design aspirations and familial responsibilities. Niro’s post-film discussion and Q&A focused on the similarities of the film’s fictional Owl Island and the realities facing island-based First Nation reserves: having to cope with difficult financial circumstances by choosing to stay in their more traditional environment or relocating to Canadian cities for better job opportunities;
living a somewhat subsistence-based lifestyle where sustenance is already impacted by climate change; and being confronted with Christian imposition on traditional spirituality. Niro mentioned that some non-Native viewers do not understand that they can laugh at some of the scenes depicting death and disease without feeling guilty. But, she said, “humor is necessary. Native people laugh to survive.” Audience members asked Niro how she found actors such as Morningstar Angeline (Navajo, Blackfoot, and Mexican), who played Mitzi Bearclaw, and Ajuawak Kapashesit (Anishinaabe and Cree), who portrayed Honeyboy, the water taxi driver. She replied, “When you see an actor you like, you think, ‘please let me have him or her.’ Having actors who are artists and can bring words to life are gifts.” Others asked about her process for securing funding and whether she wrote screenplays for other people. “I have been making films since 1992, mainly shorts. Making a feature film is a long process. I started writing this film in 2005 and finished it in 2018. I don’t have time to write screenplays for other people. It’s hard to raise money for production,” she replied, adding that she has found local distribution for Mitzi Bearclaw but is looking for a U.S. distributor. One of the most moving documentaries at the festival was Sacheen: Breaking the Silence. Littlefeather was the first person (and first woman of color) to make a politicized speech during an Oscar presentation, reading a statement from Marlon Brando that was televised internationally in 1973. The film revisits this controversial historical event, which led to her being blacklisted in Hollywood. The 2019 American Indian Film Institute awarded Breaking Silence with a Best Documentary Short, and it received the Audience Choice award for Best Documentary at the 20th Beverly Hills Film Festival. The Pocahontas Reframed Storytellers Film Festival is committed to investing in future Native filmmakers by partnering with the Tribal College Journal, a national nonprofit media organization. The 2019 festival awarded Michael Begay (Santo Domingo Pueblo/ Navajo), a student at the Institute for American Indian Arts and winner of the TCJ Student Film Contest, an all-expense paid trip to the festival where he screened his original work, Lightning Boy, featuring poet and writer Vivian Carroll, also of IAIA. Brown noted that Begay will be joining accomplished Native filmmakers from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. as they screen their films to large audiences at the Historic Byrd Theatre. — Phoebe Farris, Ph.D. (Powhatan-Pamunkey) is a Purdue University professor emerita, photographer, and freelance art critic based in New Jersey, New York, and Washington D.C. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 5
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Australia Burning Preventing Loss Using Traditional Knowledge
Courtesy of fvanrenterghem.
s of January 14, 2020, bushfires in Australia have devastated more than 46 million acres of land, killed 35 people, and destroyed more than 2,700 homes. In addition to the immense loss of human and plant life, a staggering 1 billion animals are estimated dead, and the death toll of kangaroos, koalas, and others continues to rise. As much as one-third of the koala population may have perished since last September. Drawing on traditional knowledge, Indigenous leaders have advocated for changes to current land management practices for decades to help limit anticipated future fire damage. Aboriginal people have a deep knowledge of their lands, and traditional burning practices can help prevent massive destruction. Shannon Foster is a Sydney D’harawal Knowledge Keeper, educator, and artist. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. with the Center for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges at the University of Technology in Sydney. Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Cultural Survival Indigenous Rights Radio producer, recently spoke with Foster.
Cultural Survival: Please tell us about your community. Shannon Foster: I’m a D’harawal Saltwater woman. We’re
Sydney people but we also extend very far south through New
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South Wales and out west. My family have always been here in Sydney. We’ve survived colonization. We’ve been told most of my life that we’re extinct, that we didn’t survive and that we don’t exist. I’m here to say that we didn’t just survive: we thrived. Our stories are still here, our cultures are still here, and it’s time for people to hear them. CS: Were there signs that there would be a disaster of this scale? Is there a way of foretelling? SF: My elders have been saying for at least a decade, if not
longer, that there’s definitely going to be severe bushfires at some point in the very near future. What is happening is because of the implementation of what contemporary people call ‘back burning.’ They have witnessed Aboriginal people using fire to manage and to look after country and they interpreted that as back burning, which is just burning parts of
the landscape to protect other parts. That’s been implemented throughout Sydney and throughout many parts of Australia. The problem is that back burning is a very simplistic and naï ve version of an incredibly complex and diverse and holistic system of land management practices employed by Aboriginal people here in Australia. And what it has done is ensured that assets and the built environment like houses and roads are protected. But what it doesn’t take into consideration is that the country, the land, and the plants also need protection, so when a fire does break out, it won’t reach homes and roads and things. CS: From an Indigenous perspective, how did the current situation come to be? Could it have been prevented? SF: We’re pretty used to fires here in Sydney and in Australia.
The problem is that a lot of the countryside in the past has been left quite untouched, so kindling and fuel like leaf litter has taken over and has become dangerous. We would have managed that by doing small, cool, slow burns in an ongoing way across time so that leaf litter couldn’t build up. What burning also does is encourage biodiversity in the ecology. It stops infestation species that we have here in Australia that are very dry, hardy, drought tolerant plants that leave behind incredibly dry and fuel efficient foliage and branches. There’s a few different things going on that leads to this environment that is just ripe for a huge fire to break out and to then consistently burn in a really hot and damaging way. It’s completely opposite to the kind of fire that is employed through Aboriginal fire technologies and land management practices. CS: What is traditional fire and land management? SF: In a nutshell, it’s very complex. It’s a sensitively balanced,
holistic version of the ways in which our cultures, our stories, our songs and our Songlines, and the earth and humanity interact together. We would use what we call slow burning or cool burning, and burning that is just about knee high that just keeps the lower levels of the forest floor clear and clean and doesn’t leave behind any fuel for larger fires. CS: What benefits does burning have for the ecology of a piece of land or country? SF: There are many reasons why we do these cultural burns
and why we need to burn. When we burn, the ash creates a natural fertilizer from the earth, which then feeds the plants a much higher level of potassium, which then allows the plants to flower more profusely. It also allows for native plants to propagate. Many Australian native plants have an incredibly hard outer coating on their seeds in order to survive drought and to survive harsh conditions, even to survive fire. A very soft, cool burn will help those seeds propagate; it will help break open that outer coating, the pericarp, and allow the seed to propagate much more readily than if there was no fire
available. Then we have smoke water, which is the water that is accumulated after a fire, or even before a fire, where the ash sits within the water and helps fertilize the land and propagate seeds. It’s really complicated and interwoven; everything responds to everything else. It is a very necessary and vital part of our culture as a people, but also our ecology and our spaces and our places around us and our interactions with both. The reasons why we burn are interrelated with our songs and our stories. We also need to burn to create pathways and keep pathways open to our sacred sites and to the sites that we might use every day. Throughout my lifetime I’ve watched sites become overgrown by a really invasive species called prickly tea tree, which makes it almost impossible to get through without the use of a machete to be able to cut back plants (which technically is illegal, and if we were caught by the National Parks and Wildlife we would be fined and charged) to be able to access our sites. The problem that we’re having is that the diversity of the species, our ecology, is so different now. These infestation species can take over because the other species aren’t being propagated quickly enough through the use of fire. Scientific evidence has shown that the Australian plants and ecologies have been exposed to fire consistently for up to 80,000 to 100,000 years. It’s an underresearched area that really needs a lot more work. CS: What would be an ideal situation in the future? SF: As it always is with colonization, the knowledge and the
stories and the technologies of the colonized people are dismissed and overwritten and completely erased from any of the mechanics of society in order to take over the space and the land. Governments have one set of criteria, which is to protect assets—money, insurance, policies, all those sort of things—while Aboriginal people are wanting to protect the land and the space for many different reasons, and a lot of them do not equate to money or to a bottom line dollar figure. I think there’s two very opposing forces there. To top it off, the ways in which a colonizer government works is that there’s all different areas who have jurisdiction and legislation over very specific parts of the story. You need to petition many different government agencies and departments. There’s National Parks and Wildlife, there’s the Office of Environment and Heritage, there’s the local council areas, there’s the land council areas, and there’s the Aboriginal communities as well as the non-Aboriginal communities. What we need is for everybody to come together and to listen to each other and to work out a strategy and devise a plan together for the sake of country and for the land, not for the sake of dollar and not for the sake of money, or for other people’s agendas—the bottom line being that we need to protect the earth. If we look after the earth, it will look after us. We can’t eat, breathe, or drink money. We need to look after the earth to avoid this complete and utter devastation that has occurred here in Australia.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 7
ri ght s i n a ctio n
Ainu Women's Association, Menoko Mosmos, performing at the Indigenous Terra Madre Asia and Pan Pacific conference, held October 11-14, 2019, in Ainu Moshir, the land of the Ainu Peoples in Hokkaido, Japan.
Ainu Peoples Reclaim Their Rights I recently travelled to Japan to attend the first ever Ainu Indigenous food festival, Indigenous Terra Madre Asia and Pan Pacific, held on October 11-14, 2019, in Ainu Moshir, the land of the Ainu Peoples in Hokkaido. I met and spoke with many Ainu people about their arduous journey for recognition.
Dev Kumar Sunuwar (CS STAFF)
fter long battles by Ainu nationally and internationally against 100 years of forced assimilation, oppression, and discrimination, the Japanese government passed a bill last April recognizing the Ainu as an Indigenous Peoples of Japan for the first time— a move welcomed by activists as a first step towards achieving equality. Ensuing efforts to revive the Ainu language, dances, and music has contributed to a positive appreciation of Ainu culture. “I feel so proud of being Ainu today, as I had never felt previously. We are trying to regain the lost language, our distinct culture, and identity,” said Tsugumi Matsudaira, a young Ainu singer and performer. When their island was annexed by Japan’s Meiji government in 1868, the Ainu language was banned and the children were put in Japanese schools. Ainu were forced to use the dominant languages and customs of the Wajin, the dominant people of Japan. Since Japanese was taught at school, there were few opportunities for them to speak Ainu; as a result, only a few people can speak Ainu today and many Ainu traditions have been lost. This forced assimilation policy resulted in significant education and income gaps and left the Ainu language deemed critically endangered by UNESCO, with the only surviving dialect among the Ainu living in Hokkaido. Typical dialects of Ainu are spoken in the southern part of Sakhalin Island (the north belonging to Russia) and also Kuril Island. According to Matsudaira, Ainu face systematic discrimination by Wajin. Many still conceal their identity on surveys
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when seeking jobs or marriage because they are afraid of being discriminated against. “If we disclose ourselves as Ainu when we seek a job, we are refused. If we want to get married, the family doesn’t want us in their homes,” she said. “My grandfather, grandmother, and mother were Ainu, but they didn’t want others to know that they were Ainu.” Ainu people look distinct from mainstream Japanese with differently shaped eyes and noses. Historically they have been regarded as “dirty,” “backward,” or “primitive” people and were forced to do petty labor. Ainu people are traditionally deer hunters and salmon fishermen; their lifeways are deeply rooted in nature. Their animist belief system revered all things—animals, trees, lakes, mountains—believing them to be inhabited by spirits. After the Meiji government came to power, Ainu people were forbidden to practice their customs and life ways. Even today, they need explicit permission from authorities to fish. A group of Ainu are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the State to acquire rights to salmon fishing in rivers close to their residences. Ainu women face more challenges than Ainu men. Kaori Tahara, an Ainu rights activist who teaches Ainu history at Tokyo University, explained, “Ainu women face double discrimination, not only by the dominant Japanese, but also by Ainu men. The Japanese government recognized us for the first time as Indigenous Peoples. It is a real victory for the Ainu community, but our struggles are not over yet. We continue to face discrimination and we are not yet free to celebrate our culture, speak the Ainu language, or reveal our distinct All photos by Dev Kumar Sunuwar
identity.” According to Tahara, Ainu people were officially forbidden to speak their language and were forced to take Japanese names. Ainu language, culture, and lifeways thrived in Ezo or Ezochi (the land of the Ainu) in the northern part of the Japanese Archipelago, the southern part of Sakhalin Island, and in Kuril Island prior to 1869. At that point, the Meiji government (which ruled Japan from 1868 to 1912) annexed Ezo and renamed it Hokkaido. From that year on, Wajin started immigrating to Hokkaido. The Meiji government outlawed the Ainu language, putting restrictions on the Ainu Peoples’ traditional livelihood, dispossessing them of their land, and imposing a new way of life. Salmon fishing and deer hunting were banned, which worsened the situation of Ainu people. In 1875, Russia and Japan signed an agreement for the exchange of Sakhalin for Kuril Island, and Ainu people who lived in southern Sakhalin and Kuril were displaced to Hokkaido. In 1906, after the war ended between Russia and Japan, large numbers of Ainu from Hokkaido returned to south Sakhalin, but in the 1940s, many Ainu who had returned to Sakhalin were expelled back to Japan. In 1899, the Japanese government introduced the policy of assimilation of Ainu, known as the Hokkaido Former Aborigines Protection Act. The law strictly limited Ainu culture, assimilating the Ainu to Wajin culture by educating them in the Japanese language and Wajin customs. In September 2007, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the government of Japan voted in favor of it. In June 2008, just prior to the G8 summit scheduled in Hokkaido, Japan unanimously adopted the nonbinding Resolution to Recognize the Ainu as an Indigenous People. In July of the same year, the government formed the Advisory Council for future Ainu Policy. The panel recommended the government form a comprehensive Ainu policy department in the cabinet secretariat, based on which the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion was established. In 2014, the cabinet
approved the basic policy for the development and management of spaces to promote the revitalization of Ainu culture. In response to the Ainu Peoples’ movement, after almost a century of Wajin rule, the government of Japan enacted the Ainu Culture Promotion Act and repealed the Hokkaido Former Aborigines Protection Act. The new act officially acknowledged the existence of the Ainu ethnic groups in Japan, but stopped short of recognizing Ainu as Indigenous Peoples. However, it signaled the start of a shift toward the acknowledgement of Ainu ethnic groups in Japan, who are estimated to number between 13,000–20,000. According to Tahara, Ainu Peoples have historically suffered from economic and social discrimination, which continues to this day. Although the Japanese government has recognized Ainu as the only Indigenous Peoples of Japan, besides Ainu, there are also Ryukyu Indigenous Peoples in Japan. Said Tahara: “The Japanese government and Japanese people still are with a mind of one nation, one people, and one language. In fact, Japan is a multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic country. We want all Japanese and the Japanese government to accept this fact.”
Ainu women representing the Ainu Women’s Association; Menoko Mosmos performing a dance during Indigenous Terra Madre conference.
Dev Kumar Sunuwar interviewing Kaori Tahara, an Ainu rights activist.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 9
A té qík'xyé toj nin k'ul ex toj chg'ajlaj When We Cross the Mountains and Desert
Indigenous Forced Migration in Abiayala B ELOW: Mam, Kachiquel, Q'eqchi', O'odham, Cherokee, Kickapoo, Comanche, Macehual, Hopi, Ecuadoran, Mexican,and Purepeché Peoples' consultation in Shuck Shon. Photo by Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras.
Photo courtesy of International Maya League.
Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras, International Mayan League, and Indigenous Languages Office
ur stories are threaded in the movement of our Peoples across worlds and dimensions, and continue to emerge despite forced migration from wars against us, massacres, and the Trail of Tears. To survive is to remain who we are on our own terms. More than 500 years of colonization, land dispossession, and genocide has created forced displacement from our ancestral lands throughout Turtle Island, Ixim Ulew-Abiayala. Our languages, ceremonies, cosmovisions, and right to exist as distinct Peoples and Nations have been under attack from imposed systems and governments, an invasion so strong that it almost killed us through forced denial of our identity, structural erasure, and genocide. We continue to fight for our identity and survival against inhumane laws and policies that still impose borders, ideologies, and governments over our lands and bodies. Our convergence as Indigenous Peoples, advocates, and knowledge gatherers fighting for our rights in forced migration began in the historical moment of the wars and genocide in Ixim Ulew (the Land of the Corn), Guatemala in the late 1970s. Some of us were targets of the war and forced to flee; others worked in the underground railroad of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s. Some of us reported the stories of genocide in Guatemala, and many of us experienced death threats. Indigenous Peoples entered the Sonoran Desert, the original lands of the O’odham people, as the genocide raged in Guatemala in the early 1980s. During this time more than 200,000 people, the majority Maya, were killed or disappeared, and more than 1.5 million were forcibly displaced from their ancestral homelands. 10 • www. cs. org
The Sanctuary Movement started in Tucson, Arizona in March 1982, a way station for Indigenous immigrants, to reveal to the rest of the United States that Indigenous immigrants were fleeing genocide. Forced migration of Indigenous Peoples is a direct outcome of past and present day marginalization, conflicts over lands and resources, racist and discriminatory laws and policies, debilitating poverty, imposed development, and now, climate change. Indigenous Abiayala is in movement again—asylum seekers, refugees, migrants—yet we remain invisible. Indigenous Peoples’ migration experience is characterized by unique vulnerabilities, which stem from our Indigenous identity and the intersection of discrimination, racism, and language. The government continues to erase our story and identity through policies and by statistical omission that denies our identities as original peoples of this continent. We are subsumed into nation-state citizenship, our Indigenous stories contained, denied our right to our original languages that emerged from all over the living natural worlds of this continent. For Indigenous Peoples from what is today Mexico, Central, and South America, we are misclassified as Latino, Hispanic, Latinx, and Indigenous Latino/Hispanic; all of All photos by Joshua Cooper.
which erase our Indigenous identity and infringe on our right to exist, self-determination, and due process in the immigration system through Indigenous language exclusion. In the last five years, women and children migrants have been at the center of immigration debates due to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border with the surge of unaccompanied minors in 2014. These large scale displacements are an outcome of the legacy from the genocide and massacres in Central America. In May 2018, Claudia Patricia Gómez González was shot in the head and killed in Texas after crossing the border. As the days passed, new photos of her surfaced in traditional Maya clothing, corte and huipil. It was then that we found out she was a Maya Mam woman from San Juan Ostuncalco, a town in the department of Quetzaltenango. The erasure of her Maya Mam identity occurred at all levels: she was identified as Guatemalan, as a migrant, as a Latina woman, but never as a Maya Mam woman. In late 2018, horrific stories of caged children, separated families, violence against women and girls, and the deaths of Maya children Jakelin Caal Maquin (Maya Q’eqchi’) and Felipe Gómez Alonzo (Maya Chuj), pushed our Maya communities into the depths of despair and action. Per news reports, Maquin had not had a medical exam for basic vital signs. Her family’s first language was Maya Q’eqchi’, yet her father was only provided forms in English while in Customs and Border Protection custody, thereby denying their basic right to effective communication and interpretation. Since December 2018, at least five Maya children and one young Maya woman have died at the U.S.-Mexico border under U.S. custody or killed by federal officials; Gómez (Maya Mam Nation, 20 years old), was killed on May 23, 2018. Maquin (Maya Q’eqchi’ Nation, 7 years old), died of a bacterial infection on December 8, 2018. Alonzo (Maya Chuj Nation, 8 years old), died on December 24, 2018 of flu complications. Juan de León Gutiérrez (Maya Ch’orti’ Nation, 16 years old), died on April 30, 2019 from a brain infection caused by an untreated sinus infection. Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez (Maya Ch’orti’ Nation, 2½ years old), died of pneumonia on May 16, 2019. Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez (Maya Achi Nation, 16 years old) died on May 20, 2019 following an influenza A diagnosis. In the spring and summer of 2019, on a day of Tijax, Obsidian, in the Maya sacred count, our lives intertwined again. On this day of medicine and healing, we joined work as Indigenous allies, Eagle and Quetzal Peoples uniting in defense of our Peoples. We converged in our original meeting point from the 1980s, the Sonoran Desert, and reasserted selfdetermination; collecting our own data and using our languages to create Indigenous language materials and gather our relatives’ stories. In Tucson, from July 2014 to August 2019, the languages, origins, destinations, and demographics of 6,800 asylum seekers were documented in immigrant shelters using intake forms. Data indicated that 20 percent spoke an Indigenous language as their primary language, and that their resettlement areas in the United States were diverse. In an ironic turn, many Indigenous migrants are now relocating to southern Appalachia in regions where the Five Tribes suffered the Trail of Tears, forced migrations, and treaty violations. During July 2019, we spoke with 39 asylum seekers, a majority of whom (59 percent) were women, while 44 percent
spoke an Indigenous language. Our own Indigenous-led research provides one of the few statistically accurate portraits available of Indigenous Peoples arriving in the Tucson border region. This demographic profile indicates a large presence of Indigenous Peoples within forced migration. The trend that the largest number of single adult and child arrests at the U.S. Southwest Border are people from Guatemala further supports our concerns that potentially hundreds or thousands of Indigenous persons’ rights are being violated. Indigenous Peoples are denied both due process and their identity through language exclusion, coupled with their erasure as distinct peoples through statistical omission and erroneous categorization as Latino or Hispanic. The violations are commonplace and cumulative throughout the immigration system, compounding the violations of national and international laws and conventions. There are arbitrary and harmful practices of the U.S. government’s immigration system on Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous migrants do not receive equitable treatment because they are not recognized as part of Indigenous Nations with a right to communicate in their primary languages. Nor is there a language assessment mechanism to determine their status and needs. They remain obscured by the lack of language documentation by the federal government. There is no standardized way to assess Indigenous languages in long term detention, in family and child detention, nor in Operation Streamline. Our Indigenous leadership, knowledge, languages, and traditions are creating a response to these grave human rights violations faced by our Peoples. The winds brought us together again, Peoples of the Eagle and Quetzal, in the sacred desert, a place of medicine, life, and crossing; a place of human remains of those who do not survive. It was the night that sheltered us, the moon and the stars that lit our steps, and the water that hid our movements when we crossed. It was a place where we were forced to hide, and in some cases, lose our language, to shed our traditional clothing and cut our hair; a place of crippling pain, and trauma. In a time when our children are again being ripped from their parents, caged, separated, and in the most horrific instances, left to die from illnesses like the common flu, as Original Peoples, we transcend nation-state borders to join in alliance and defend our lives. We bear witness to the horrors that continue to be inflicted over our lands and peoples, but we are not silent. Our resilience, resurgence, and reclaiming of our rights and identities are because of the power of our languages, cosmovisions, and the medicines and traditions that we carry from our ancestors. The spirit and strength of our peoples will never be killed because we are still here. — Juanita Cabrera Lopez (Maya Mam) directs the D.C.-based International Mayan League which promotes Maya cosmovision, culture, and history as solutions to current threats affecting Indigenous Peoples. Patrisia Gonzales (Kickapoo, Comanche and Macehual) directs the Tucson, AZ-based Indigenous Alliance Without Borders/Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras which promotes Indigenous rights, self-determination, protection of sacred sites, and the free unrestricted movement across international borders. Blake Gentry (Cherokee) directs the Indigenous Languages Office in Tucson, AZ, which coordinates Indigenous language interpretation and publishes informational materials for immigrants in border shelters. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 11
We Have Been Here Since Time Immemorial:
Demanding Climate Action Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar
Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar
choose to go out the back door because the woods are still there. The fruit trees, hummingbirds, and bees are still there. It’s a reminder that the people of the coastal bayous in Louisiana are still here. Our way of life is still here, despite the death taking place beyond my front door. When I was little, my brother and sister and I could run through the back yard from our trailer and make it nearly 1,500 feet before we hit the water. Today, when we go back to Shrimpers Row to visit family, my 4 kids can barely make it 400 feet or so before the land starts to disappear into the bayou. I’m only 39. I grew up in Dulac, Louisiana on a strip of land called Shrimpers Row, part of a community where nearly everyone knew each other or were related to one another. It was our own little world, and it was, in every sense, magical. But climate change has severely battered our physical community, and our traditional way of life is disappearing with it. In the lower parts of our bayou communities, the southeasterly winds bring in water multiple times a year and the flood water soaks our land for days. At my home in Chauvin, in the upper part of the bayou community where it doesn’t flood randomly yet, we planted squash, okra,
Home of Chief Shirell ParfaitDardar's aunt on Onezia Street in Dulac, LA, during a southeasterly wind flooding event. 12 • www. cs. org
and beans. We used several varieties of plant food. Still, plants would barely grow. Finally, using scraps of recycled wood— and in one case the frame of an old trampoline—we created raised gardens in the hopes that something would grow. But these raised beds, which sit one and a half feet above the ground, can only produce certain fruits and vegetables. Further south in our bayou communities of Cocodrie, Dularge, and Dulac, where sudden and severe floods are common, raised gardens never yield anything. And it is only a matter of time before the water comes for the upper communities as well. My ancestors lived here and were buried in Shrimpers Row. My father, grandparents, baby brother, aunts, uncles, and former chiefs lie here. The flooding is washing them away, too. Our cemetery predates the Civil War. Some of the ground vaults that hold the caskets of our dead relatives and friends have popped out of the ground and floated away. I watched my aunt spend several harrowing days trying to find my uncle’s displaced ground vault and return him to his proper burial spot. Our community is working with an agent to
Image courtesy of Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
obtain formal ownership of the cemetery so we will be able to locate the site of the graves using markers and geotags. It is only a matter of time before our sacred burial ground is permanently submerged in the floodwaters, with us unable to visit the cemetary in anything but a boat. We have always been here, since time immemorial. My people had community gardens along the water where everyone could plant what they needed while making sure their neighbors didn’t go hungry. But the federal government does not recognize my Tribe. They say there is no money to protect us, and they will not do what is needed for our people. Our local government has asked us to serve on several committees, tasked us to come up with plans for our own survival. We sit on the Coastal Restoration Committees and participate in workshops like LA Save. We attend numerous meetings across the state at our own expense. When we offered practical solutions rooted in our traditions, we were told we needed science to back it up. When we worked with scientists to support our case, we heard the same thing. There is no money to protect us. That’s not the case with the predominantly white communities that we can see from our own shores. They have bulkheads to keep the waters at bay and drainage systems to make sure waters that make it over the barriers don’t submerge their streets and homes. We know they don’t get stuck in flood waters watching their septic tanks overflow and their property disappear. And we wonder why we’re not protected in the same way. Why, we ask, are we being punished? Hasn’t enough been taken from us already? This crisis has forced my Tribe, the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, along with three others in Louisiana: Isle de Jean Charles Band of BiloxiChitimacha-Choctaw; Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, and Grand Bayou Village of the Atakapa-Ishak Chawasha Tribe; as well as the Inupiaq village of Kivalina, Alaska, to take the unprecedented step on January 15, 2020, of filing a formal complaint with the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Peoples and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are accusing the U.S. federal government of committing serious human rights violations by failing to protect us from the devastating impacts of climate change while also ignoring the damage oil and gas companies are doing to our land. All photos courtesy of Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar.
The U.S. government’s inaction has resulted in the loss of our ancestral homelands, the destruction of sacred burial sites, and severe and growing threats to our health, food security, and livelihoods. The government has ignored our sovereignty and ability to help shape the future of our communities and our land, placing us at existential risk. Our Tribe is far from the only one suffering because of the climate crisis. We’re living a grim reality that is largely invisible to the world that exists outside the boundaries of our tribal lands. Around the world, millions of members of Indigenous communities are threatened by the climate emergency even though we’ve contributed the least to the industrialization, extractive practices, and overconsumption that have caused temperatures to rise in the first place. We have concrete requests, though we’re under no illusions about how difficult it will be to see any of them implemented. We want the top UN officials to urge the U.S. to provide new funding to restore tribal lands and hunting and fishing areas, assist Tribes currently working to stay in their homes, and aid those who have been forced to relocate. But we also know the responsibility we have to our own Tribes and to our tribal communities in the U.S. and elsewhere. Indigenous people are members of some of the oldest communities on earth, and our traditions have been passed down for centuries. We have a deep reverence for our land and our way of life. And I can’t sit idly by as those around me suffer—and as my husband and I grow more and more certain that the traditions we celebrated when we were children will disappear before our own children finish growing up. We know the world they will inherit if we fail to act, and it will be poorer, in every sense, than the one we once knew. I often think of the trees and wild berries that surrounded me when I grew up. My kids can’t see that. Instead what they see are dead trees, just waiting to fall. We owe it to my children— and all of our children—to preserve what is left. — Shirell Parfait-Dardar is chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe in coastal Louisiana. This article was written in collaboration with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee as part of a series highlighting the resilience, wisdom, and power of Indigenous communities as they face the climate crisis. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 13
Rising Seas HaveAn Interview No Regard with For Sovereignty Seve Paeniu of Tuvalu Aerial view of Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti. Tuvalu is a remote country of low lying atolls and islands, making it vulnerable to climate change. Photo by LilyAnne Homasi / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
he late Tongan-Fijian scholar Epeli Hau’ofa famously reframed previously held notions of the Pacific from small dots inconsequentially punctuating an endless blue map, to, instead, a vast sea of islands: Oceania. Within the subregion of so-called Polynesia, Tuvalu exemplifies both notions; a nation both small and vast, with just over 11,000 citizens existing in communities across 8 low-lying coral islands and atolls: Funafuti, Nukufetau, Vaitupu, Nui, Nanumanga, Nanumea, Niutao, and Nukulaelae. Though its relative isolation spared Tuvalu much of the cultural and linguistic destabilization wrought by settler colonialism elsewhere in the region, geography couldn’t protect its people from World War II encounters with battling empires or the Trans-Pacific slave trade, which resulted in nearly two-thirds of the islands’ population kidnapped by slave ships from Peru and forced to mine guano in its Chincha Islands. Today, Tuvalu’s distance from major industrialized nations of the world renders it all but out of sight, out of mind—just as it finds itself in the midst of an environmental doomsday scenario wrought by the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, threatening to sink the country below the waves forever. Seve Paeniu is Tuvalu’s current Minister of Finance, as well as an elected representative of parliament and cabinet member in the Tuvalu government. As the country navigates these frightfully uncertain times, his ministerial portfolio is responsible for addressing climate change issues toward empowering the nation and its people to chart the best course for their future. Cristina Verán recently spoke with Paeniu. Cristina Verán: Please describe for us the current scenario Tuvalu is facing. Seve Paeniu: Our country is living the full impact of climate
change—rising sea levels, flooding everywhere, hurricanes, cyclones, and so forth. Storms are becoming more frequent and their intensity is much more pronounced compared to previous years. When strong winds coincide with king tides and swells, the force that comes with all that is quite traumatic and devastating to our people’s homes, their livelihoods, our infrastructure. Tuvalu’s crops are constantly being inundated by seawater and damaged by the winds. There is extensive land erosion and degradation all over, and, as our old folks have been saying, places where water didn’t usually get into are now regularly flooded.
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CV: How does your office inform and consult with the people of Tuvalu on these issues? SP: We’re a very tight and close knit society, so first we go out
directly into our communities to gauge the views and feelings of our people, and then we hold national consultations on the relevant subject areas. The majority clearly articulate that they do not want to see Tuvalu disappear, or to leave it behind. CV: Given the immediacy and gravity of the situation, what strategies can help mitigate the challenges? SP: Our priority is on how we can adapt to make Tuvalu
more resilient to the impacts of climate change, especially in terms of the safeguarding and protection of our land, as well as on land reclamation. In doing so, we look to reduce our vulnerability. To be able to realize those kinds of measures effectively, we need technology, expertise, and financial assistance, as well as innovation. The standard approaches— putting up sea walls, growing special vegetation to hold off erosion—aren’t going to be enough to save us.
CV: What are Tuvalu’s typical housing structures like, and how are they faring? SP: Traditionally our homes have been ground level structures,
but these are easily damaged by strong winds, waves, and flooding; particularly those that fringe the foreshores. So in response we have developed a new kind of house. It’s still in the Tuvalu style, but comprised of a solid concrete structure raised up on top of concrete columns. On one of our islands, Nukulaelae, we’ve already been building them, and the results are promising. When Cyclone Tino struck in January, water rushed in and moved across the entire island, from the lagoon side to the opposite shore. Yet wherever these new structures were in place, it just passed right underneath them without disturbing the homes at all. We’re looking to replicate this model among the rest of our islands.
CV: Given that these conditions are likely to continue, and even worsen with time, what other options may be considered if the Tuvaluan people decide it’s no longer safe to stay? SP: Of course the alternative solution would be to leave
Tuvalu for bigger countries where climate change impacts are
not so pronounced. While our government priority remains focused on strategies to enable Tuvaluans to remain here, we do support the individual choices of those who wish to migrate elsewhere, where they and their families might be better protected. But rather than just relocating all of our people, carving out an official investment-migration strategy to secure land in, say, Australia or New Zealand or Fiji, we are instead providing the tools, education, and training so that they can more easily transition into the economic context of whichever country they may go to—while at the same time encouraging them to maintain their links to Tuvalu. CV: You mentioned land reclamation. How is it possible to reclaim land from low-lying coral islands and atolls that have already disappeared, or are close to being submerged? SP: Technology for the building of islands already exists.
It’s happening right now in the South China Sea, for example. China is literally creating new islands in the middle of nowhere, right over the deepest ocean. In the Indian Ocean, too, it’s happening in the Maldives, with islands that have similarly low-lying structures as ours. This is the future we see for Tuvalu; that even in the worst case scenario, as the sea levels rise, our islands might nevertheless remain afloat. CV: That sounds very cost-prohibitive for a country of your size. What current or potential allies do you look to in order to move closer to achieving that vision? SP: In terms of the research needed, we look to the reputed
body of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. Through our membership in the Small Island Developing States group at the UN, we also collectively lobby for our interests with the larger industrialized countries relating to climate change. We are setting up a new group as well, focused specifically on low-lying island countries, to advocate in the international arena for our peculiar shared interests. And we continue to work on a bilateral basis with Australia and New Zealand as our main development partners in the Pacific, while having discussions with Taiwan, as well as the U.S.
Damage caused by Hurricane Tino to standard homes on the island of Nukulaelae, this past January. Photo by Tusitapu Tapuaiga.
Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu's Minister of Finance. Photo by Malama Te'o-Paeniu.
CV: With so many international experts and entities weighing in on Tuvalu’s situation today, how can you ensure that Tuvaluans are directly engaged in the work that needs to be done? SP: We continue to develop our own human capital and
fortify our own local expertise. We have an increasingly educated young workforce, with several Tuvaluan PhD graduates and a number of masters degree holders working in the agricultural and earth science fields, on climate change policy, and various other scientific fields—all in conjunction with specialists that we bring in from overseas to work on special projects. The most urgent mission we have is to raise awareness within the international community. Whether you are at home relying on coal-driven electricity, flying around in airplanes, or driving automobiles using diesel fuel, you need Newly designed to be aware: whatever actions you take, will, ultimately, more resilient either directly or indirectly, have an impact on Tuvalu. concrete housing — Cristina Verán is an international Indigenous Peoples’ issues specialist, consultant, researcher, strategist, curator, educator, and media maker. She is a longtime United Nations correspondent and was a founding member of the UN Indigenous Media Network.
is now being built, allowing for water to pass underneath during flooding events. Photo by Tusitapu Tapuaiga.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 15
REQUIEM, REPRESSION, OR RECOVERY FOR THE SOUTH SIBERIAN BORDER PEOPLES?
Buryat Mongolzhon Steppe and Sacred Sayan Mountains, Buryatia, Russia.
There has been a recent resurgence in reindeer numbers in Mongolia.
astern Siberia and its world famous Lake Baikal region, which is roughly the size of France, represents not only a cross-border zone between nations, but an ecological transition zone where the high, cold, grassland steppe country of Mongolia is interspersed with the southern range of taiga of Eastern Siberia, Russia. For thousands of years, long before the Russian state and its domination of Siberia and the reach of the Mongolian Khans (Ghengis Khan’s heirs), mountain-based, nomadic hunter gathering, Turkic speaking tribes interacted and traded with nomadic Mongolian peoples from areas surrounding Lake Khovsgol and Lake Baikal. There was no perception of “border” among the highland and lowland tribal nomads that saw the Alpine highlands, steppe-forest, and steppe lands as homelands providing seasonal movement for their varying livestock, hunting and gathering needs, and family relations. In the high mountains of the Sayan Range, the native Turkic speaking peoples, including the Todja-Tuvans, the Tofalar, the
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Soyot, and the Dukha Peoples, benefited from their ancestors domesticating native reindeer some 3,000 years ago. Reindeer allowed people to live nomadically within the harshest of highland zones by providing transportation and carrying urtzteepees and belongings, as well as providing daily milk that became central to their diet, and access to hunting wild game and foraging for wild edibles. (Yaks, now ubiquitous in Mongolia, are more recent mammal immigrants to the region.) Still starkly misunderstood by government officials today on both sides of the border, reindeer herding nomads of the High Sayans are hunter-gatherers, not livestock herders. This misperception has led repeatedly to repression and misapplied policies. North and east of Lake Baikal, Russia, and well into the Far East, Evenk hunter-gatherers have also faced serious repression from being misunderstood for who they are and their relationship with reindeer and their traditional lands. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the transitioning economic and political times have provided opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and ethnic minorities of the cross-border region to explore their identities and histories and consider transformative changes. The 1990s brought democratic reforms, private enterprise, and the opening of once completely closed border zones to international tourism along with international aid programs from several countries. Regional and local governments and access to media of all forms, the arts, and education opportunities presented new means for the appreciation and recognition of the histories and cultures of nomadic peoples. However, the last two decades have seen far too many setbacks across Siberia and the far east of Russia and Mongolia. Progress on Indigenous rights began to be checked by governments and new, corporate-backed exploitation of regional resources. Harmful repression of the freedoms previously enjoyed by representative NGOs aiding environmental, cultural, and Indigenous rights goals has All photos by Daniel Plumley.
Dukha children learn to work with the highly domesticated reindeer from an early age.
been coupled with increasing impacts of uncontrolled tourism, excessive agriculture and hunting, lack of access to education and health care, lack of clear policy and practice towards land ownership and reform, and much, much more. Access to health care for nomadic and semi-nomadic herders and huntergatherers has always been a challenge, but more needs to be done so that the right mixture of integrated traditional and modern healthcare can be delivered with mobility across the wide and high expanses of remote rural and often mountainous regions. The repression of Indigenous organizations has been used toward unbridled exploitation of natural resources, namely oil and gas, against the interests and among the Indigenous Peoples in the region. In 2002, federal policemen in unmarked clothing and masks attacked a number of Evenk leaders, beat them, and imprisoned them because they were part of a collective farm entity that was legally harvesting nephrite, a jadelike stone, on tribal lands for income in the face of corporate Russian interests. Government decrees and corporate licensing agreements have been sanctioned in Moscow to appropriate natural resources in remote, rural areas with little or no Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities. One of the most recent concerns on the Russian side of the border is the December 2019 decision by a Moscow Court to disband the Russian Association of Small Numbered Peoples of the North (RAIPON), which sought over decades to represent Indigenous Peoples regionally and nationally before the Russian Federation government. In the South Siberian region, this includes representation for the interest and human rights for the Tofalar, the Soyot, and nearly 50 other peoples across Russia, Siberia, and the Far East. Mongolian officials recently established the Tengis Shisheg Gol Protected Territory with little informed consent of the Native Dukha (or Tsaatan) reindeer herders. The territory surrounds the Dukha’s ancestral lands and all wild game hunting, bird taking, and fishing—their primary subsistence diet and cultural heritage—is banned there. Mongolian government officials have arrested Dukha herders for practicing traditional hunting or picking up naturally discarded antlers of deer and moose, requiring the nomads to be taken far away and live apart from their families in the taiga for numerous months on end. Often the herders’ rifles are confiscated as well, impairing their ability to hunt and feed their families. Fines and forced exile such as this severely harm families, but also the whole community of herders where collaboration among families is required to carry on life in the harsh high taiga conditions. “We have lived and moved across these remote, wild lands for centuries with reindeer alone and independently. Our culture has old ways that teach us how to protect our wild animals and when we can and cannot hunt in order to safeguard their numbers. We are the longest ‘protectors’ of the wild animals here and the government of Mongolia’s prohibition banning our hunting traditions denies that and denies our true culture as Dukha and as responsible hunters of the old ways,” said a Dukha herder and hunter in his 60s who did not wish to use his name for fear of reprisals by protected area “guards” and officials. Over the past year, the impacts of climate change and increases in forest fires across Siberia have had negative impacts on Indigenous communities, their resources, and livestock.
Unchecked forest fires destroy the natural wealth upon which they rely on for survival, and the poor air quality is resulting in debilitating and deadly health risks for forest dwellers such as the Evenk Peoples. Melting long frozen permafrost soil depths have also dramatically impacted Evenk and other Indigenous communities, upending roads and bridges, drying out key wetlands, tilting or destroying houses and foundations, and impacting crops and fields and grazing lands. Traditional livestock agriculture on the Russian side of the border is sustained, but not in nomadic fashion as once was the norm. The level of government indifference, periodic intimidation and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples and their natural resources is an urgent problem. Declines have been precipitous over the past 30 to 50 years for domesticated reindeer among the Todja, Tofa, and Soyot of Russia despite international and regional efforts to restore some herds. The changing demographics away from nomadism to settlement under the Soviet period is largely responsible, as well as the Communist government’s decision that the live weight of cattle and other non-native species outweigh the benefits of sustaining nomadic reindeer. In 2019, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made several recommendations to the state of Mongolia about the restrictions on fishing and hunting for the Tsaatan people in the Tengis Shishged protected area. On the Russian side, poor economic realities and the difficulties in opportunities for work and education often result in people leaving the remote, rural areas of more traditional living for perceived new opportunities in larger cities like Ulan Ude in Russia and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. Still, there is reason for hope. On the Mongolian side, the Dukha People have seen a resurgence in reindeer numbers through dedicated international support for improved veterinary application and training and positive support from the Mongolian government. The Dukha have been able to avert catastrophe and advance their herds in number to 2,000 in 2019 from just under 600 when such aid projects began. Yak herding has been supported on the Buryat Russian side in the eastern Sayans with some success as well, and has long been a stable enterprise on the Mongolian side of the border among the Darhad Mongols. In the Mongolian taiga, there are currently more young families with children living nomadically with reindeer than in the past 20 years. With the benefit of higher healthy reindeer numbers, less access to alcohol, and the relative freedom that life in the taiga provides Dukha families, there is reason to expect that more positive nomadic futures can be realized. — Dan Plumley is a cultural ecologist and founder-director of the TOTEM Adirondack Consulting Group. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 17
Refugees After Crossing the Imaginary Limit Wayúu migrants from Venezuela, surviving in ranchería Perra’a, near Maicao, Colombia.
Ronald José Fernández Epieyuu
ngela, a 75-year-old Wayúu woman, with her husky voice and slow steps, runs through the courtyards of her new shelter made up of plastic bags and zinc sheets that she, her family, and neighbors call her new home. It has been more than two years since they came to the ranchería that they named Perra’a (or Vera, a common tree in the mountains of La Guajira). This small refuge is located a few kilometers from Paraguachon on the road to Maicao, Colombia. Entire families migrate to the other side of the Venezuelan and Colombian border in search of refuge from hunger and violence that took over their ancestral lands. There they still suffer from hunger and indifference of State governments that have been imposed over the Wayúu traditional territory. Along with Angela, more than 40 families came, numbering almost 200 people including children, elderly, and pregnant women, who, in search of better living conditions, now share this small space of about 2 square kilometers. Their places of origin are Calie, Caujarito, and La Frontera communities that are a little less than 8 kilometers away on the Venezuelan side of the border. Their goal after emigrating is survival and finding better living conditions than they faced in their communities of origins where armed forces and military groups imposed their laws to strip Indigenous Peoples of their territories. The Wayúu Nation are one of largest Indigenous Tribes in Colombia and Venezuela, with more than 20 clans. About 95 percent of the population speak Wayúunaiki, and only
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30 percent speak Spanish—so communication becomes a barrier when attempting to access education, medical, and legal services. According to data from the Administrative Registry of Venezuelan Migrants in Colombia, in 2018, in a span of just 6 months, 74,874 migrants arrived in La Guajira, with a total of 26,579 who recognized themselves as Indigenous from Venezuela. An exact number cannot be determined due to lack of documentation, but as the number of migrants continues to increase, Wayúu continue to face challenges of language and identity loss and a dramatic deterioration of their cultural structures. Known as the people of the sun, sand, and wind, the Wayúu Nation has been divided by the Venezuela and Colombia border since the early 18th century where negotiations began to divide the Guajira peninsula. Their traditional lands cover approximately 23,000 square kilometers, of which 80 percent is on the Colombia side and about 20 percent in Venezuela. La Guajira is located in the northern part of Colombia and northwest of Venezuela in the state of Zuila. Although known as La Guajira in the Wayúunaiki language, the word Guajira does not exist and is known among the Wayúu Nation as Woumainru´u. The word originated from Goahire, or Goshire, which in Wayúunaiki means “land swept by the wind” and was used for the first time in the Spanish maps of South America that were published in 1527 and 1529 in reference to Wayúu territory. Wayúu people were never subjugated by the Spanish empire and demonstrated resistance with the Indigenous uprising during the 17th century. This led to an ongoing dispute of the Guajira peninsula between Colombia and Venezuela until
both countries received independence from the Spanish empire in the late 18th century and the Wayúu Nation became free from both borders. Today they occupy 6,710 square kilometers of the harsh environment of the La Guajira desert throughout Colombia and Venezuela. Although the Wayúu were able to achieve self-governance, they have faced discrimination and exclusion from both State governments, each violating their rights and extracting raw materials from their lands. Their territory is no longer the same; the judicial and legal territory has no harmony with the historical sociocultural ways of the Wayúu Nation. To the Wayúu, territory has been without limits—one of the primary elements of their culture is to come and go freely. However, their modern confinement to La Guajira creates an imbalance of their living space. It is part of the tradition and custom of the Wayúu Nation to remain with the land in a multidisciplinary way with the purpose of protecting their ancestral lineage in order to sustain future generations. Recent migrant Carmen Sapuana says, “Crossing to these lands, we have been well received here. But it is not the same because we do not have what we really want: the freedom to walk in our territory as we deserve. I know that this is ours because the limits were invented by the Creoles to mark one country from the other. The Wayúu are scattered in this wide territory that we recognize as the great Wayúu Nation.” Sapuana adds that her worst fear after fleeing her community was losing the essence of what created her children. Communities have been dependent on farming, creating crafts, and, in the coastal communities, pearl diving. However, climate change has impacted sustainable farming practices with droughts, threatening crops and dehydration among the animals. The commercialization of pearl diving has also threatened communities’ aquaculture. Due to these factors, many have abandoned these traditional practices and are having to find other means to sustain their basic needs. This has led to criminalization and increased alcoholism, especially among the males in La Guajira. In Venezuela, the Wayúu relied on subsidized groceries by the government, but due to instability in the country much of this assistance has stopped, causing malnutrition throughout communities. This has led to many families abandoning their homes in Venezuela in search of a better life in Colombia with hopes of returning someday. Learning to live together has not been easy, and there is a great desire among Wayúu migrants to return to their homelands and live like they used to. They remember how difficult it has been to unexpectedly change their way of life, and this
makes their yearning to return to their ancestral lands mul-tiply. “I wanted to be a nurse and get my children ahead, but here I am,” says Paola Vanesa González. “I have nothing. Just the desire to continue living and only faith helps me. We are certain that one day this will improve. Venezuela hurts us because we were born and grew up there and our memories stayed.” Arriving at this new home has forced the migrants to detach from many things that rooted them in their ancestral territories, in sacred places such as cemeteries, conucos (small plots of land that Indigenous people cultivate), and even their childhood memories. González, 29, said she feels like she is living in a vacuum after leaving her territory and everything behind. “We left many things we wanted; our house, our animals. People took advantage of those after our absence. I also left my 72-year-old grandmother. I left her because she didn’t want to come, telling us that there isn’t enough space here for her and because she is used to more open places like on our traditional lands,” she said. The migrants affirm that it has been hard to survive, and even though they claim to be safer than in Venezuela, they do not lose hope of that moment of returning to their home—the one where they were born and from which they never wanted to leave. To abandon one’s home is to abandon one’s essence. “Sometimes I wonder what will happen to us,” Angela said. “Will we get used to this place? Or maybe one day we will return home. I really do not know if I will get to see that day, or maybe it is my children or my children’s grandchildren. I don’t know; only God knows what will happen.”
Map of La Guajira Peninsula, home to the Wayúu Peoples and also the site of El Cerrejón, the largest open-cast coal mine in the world. Map courtesy of Carwil Bjork-James.
— Ronald José Fernández Epieyuu (Wayúu) is a 2019 Cultural Survival Indigenous Youth Community Media Fellow. He is a community journalist from Utay Stereo in Guajira, Colombia. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 19
We didn't cross the border. the border crossed us. Countless Indigenous Peoples have been divided by imposed State borders, their communities and relatives separated by artificial lines, their migration patterns, sacred rituals, fishing and hunting ways altered. Innumerable Indigenous communities have suffered forced displacement due to conservation efforts, extractive industry operations, political strife, and the impacts of climate change. Every day we hear about Indigenous migrants who are forced to leave their home in search of work because it is no longer viable for them to make a living locally. They flee violence; they flee because they can no longer provide for their families, because their resources are depleted or polluted by large scale agribusiness. To tackle migration and immigration issues, we must reverse the impacts of colonization, decades of neoliberal policies, and the current operations of extractive industries, agro companies, and monocropping that have impoverished Indigenous communities. We must respect, protect, and fulfill Indigenous rights, encouraging the decolonization and support of home communities with sustainable economic opportunities so that people do not have to leave. The following are a few Indigenous voices on these issues. We invite you to listen. To hear the full interviews, visit: cs.org/rights.
Photo by Jamie Malcolm-Brown.
We Don’t Let the Border Stop Us Aslak Holmberg (Sami from Finland) Vice President of the Sami Council
live right at the border between Finland and Norway. I’m from the Deatnu (Tana) River Valley, which is an important salmon fishing river in the world. My home village is called Njuorggán (Nuorgam), which is the northernmost village on the Finnish side of the border. My family comes from both sides of the border, but we don’t really try to emphasize it here because we have been here long before the border was formed. Finland was still not independent from Russia when the border was closed in 1852. The closing of the border meant the end for our usual migration patterns. It used to be common for the Sami, on what is today the Finnish side of the border, to migrate with the reindeer to the coast, what is today the Norwegian side. After the border was closed, that meant that it was not allowed for us to move across the border with the reindeer. This is quite different from what used to be done when the summer pastures were far away from the winter pastures, so the reindeer herding has changed a lot. Nowadays—in my region at least—it’s part of herding to feed the reindeer at least part of the year because there isn’t as much area for the reindeer to find food as there used to be. The lifestyle has changed because of the border. 20 • www. cs. org
Another thing that is important here is salmon fishing. It’s not possible to net fish legally together with my friends or colleagues or relatives from the Norwegian side, although net fishing is the main traditional way of fishing. The State border
divides our traditional practice, because by law we should fish only with people who are from the same country as we are. But that’s not how the community is structured. We don’t consider that border…we don’t allow it to dominate the way we live. I believe there is one ongoing court case when two men were fishing with the same boat doing drift net fishing, which requires two people to work together because you cannot do it alone. In this case, it was a man from the Finnish side and the Norwegian side. They were caught and then fined, and they went to court with it. It also became illegal for us to go pick cloudberries on the Norwegian side and then come back with them across the border. My family is from both sides of the border, and people are very used to going to get their berries or fish on the other side. When there are these kinds of legal regulations, that can impact the way we usually use the surrounding areas. The border has many different levels. For example, Finland is part of the European Union while Norway is not; Norway is part of NATO while Finland is not. There was some new directive recently from the European Union about how you cannot bring vegetables and berries across the border. The consequence of that is that you will lose the product that you have that you’re not allowed to bring across the border. We are working on starting a project that would look into the hindrances that the borders cause and the requirements to solve those problems. For example, there are some reindeer herders that migrate from the Swedish side to the Norwegian side, and they’ve had problems with the reindeer herding convention that should ensure their right to use their ancestral
grazing lands. There is already some cooperation between schools. The school in Ohcejohka (Utsjoki), which is the center village of the municipality here on the Finnish side, and the Sirbmá (Sirma) school on the Norwegian side, have been working together for many years. Once a week the pupils from the school on the Norwegian side go to the school on the Finnish side, and then on another day the pupils from the school on the Finnish side go to the Norwegian side. This school cooperation tries not to let the State border dictate how we can collaborate. There is an old piece of legislation that is still enforced called the Lapp Codicil, which is a document that was created when the borders were established in the Sami areas in 1751. The goal is to ensure that the State borders don’t negatively affect the way that the Sami live here. In many cases, the border came across what we call our villages, which is the main governance institution—or it used to be. The Lapp Codicil states that the State borders should not negatively impact the way we trade across the border or the way we otherwise interact. I would remind the authorities that even though it is an old piece of legislation from 1750s, it has never been rebuked. It is still legally enforced, but it’s not actively considered as a guiding document when making decisions regarding the Sami in border areas. I would remind them to respect these agreements because the situation is more or less the same regarding the Sami that still live here. We don’t let the border stop us from collaborating, so that should also be ensured in the laws.
There Should Be No Borders for Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Kankanaey Igorot from the Philippines) UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
am from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. There is a lot of out-migration of Indigenous Peoples, whether from their own communities to the urban centers, or out of the country. In the Philippines we have a big number of Indigenous women and men who are outside of the country, mainly because they cannot find jobs in the Philippines. That’s a big issue that has to be addressed. There are multiple factors pushing Indigenous Peoples out of their communities, and these have very serious implications in terms of the strength of the community to be able to continue practicing their cultures and transmit them to the next generation. In Asia, there are many Indigenous Peoples across national borders. Theoretically we should be able to continue to be mobile and to visit relatives across the border. But that’s where a lot of problems come, because now there are all these so-called antiterror laws where Indigenous Peoples are always suspected of being insurgents or terrorists, and therefore their mobility and their capacity to walk across borders is very much undermined. There should really be no borders as far as Indigenous Peoples are concerned because they existed in those territories before these nation states came into the picture. It is the obligation of nation states to allow for that.
Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré, UN Photo.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 21
We didn't cross the border.
the border crossed us.
We Need to Look at the Larger Benefit for Everyone Joan Carling (Kankanaey from the Philippines) Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development Convenor
he continuing out-migration of Indigenous Peoples from their lands, territories, and resources is actually an alarming trend now. The issue of land grabbing [and resulting displacement] is one major factor that has to be stopped. Another is the increasing incidence of natural disasters because of climate change. More and more Indigenous Peoples are driven away because of the impact of these kinds of disasters; we are becoming victims to these disasters without even contributing to the climate crisis. Another reason is militarization and conflicts in Indigenous territories. How can children go to school if there’s always fighting in their areas? How can we do our traditional livelihoods? There is also the economic condition of Indigenous Peoples, who increasingly cannot provide for their families because their lands are taken away. Out-migration, particularly because of economic reasons, is making Indigenous women and children more vulnerable to abuse because their social network is not there anymore and they’re not familiar with the social environment that they’re getting into. In terms of youth, that is already quite a worry. We need to put in place an environment where the youth will stay in their communities. We need them to have access to education in their own communities so that they don’t have to leave to study in urban centers, far away from their families and their people, and to encourage them to come back and use whatever they’ve learned to help their own people. In the case of Indonesia, there is a clear program encouraging youth to go back to their communities. This has proven effective, and one
of the means that they have done this through is the use of technology. [We need to] provide security and support for Indigenous Peoples in their own areas for their sustainable development so that they remain in their communities. We need support to be able to sustain the way we manage our resources and provide livelihoods and for people to be self-reliant so that they don’t have to go looking for jobs. This means we need to take care of the specific needs and aspirations of Indigenous women. We also need to account for the situation of persons with disabilities in our communities. We need to develop a holistic approach to sustainable development of Indigenous Peoples from their perspective and generate the kind of support that is needed. If we do that, we’re contributing to the sustainable development of the wider society because we are protecting the resources needed for future generations. There are different types of border issues. The Karen community was split between Myanmar and Thailand, and they cannot self-govern in the way that they did before. Since neither country recognizes their rights, families and clans of Karen are separated because of this border. We also see that all over India, where the Tripuri were split between Bangladesh and India. Now both the governments of Bangladesh and India are putting non-Indigenous people in these areas, which is causing more problems instead of resolving the issue. Where I come from, my town has a boundary dispute with the next village. The decision was to agree that we don’t have to demarcate the boundary and to agree that both villages can use the area without drawing the line. It’s more important for both peoples to have peaceful coexistence rather than have a conflict. At the end of the day, it’s the protection of our territories on a wider level that is more important. As long as we live by the values of Indigenous Peoples of solidarity, cooperation, and upholding the common good, that should be the framework of resolving these kinds of boundary issues in a peaceful manner. It is time for the world to listen to Indigenous Peoples because we have so much to offer. We have been protecting our planet and we have positive values in the way we govern ourselves; those values are what we need at this stage. What we need is to uphold the common interest. We need transparency. And we need to care for each other, especially those most in need. Having reciprocal relations with our environment so we don’t destroy it, this is needed for future generations. These are universal values that have to guide the way to achieving sustainable development.
Photo by Pilar Valbuena, Global Landscape Forum.
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Photo courtesy of William Lopez.
The Separation of Families Has Consequences William Lopez (Maya Aguacateca from Guatemala), Journalist
e are located in the northwest of Guatemala, about three hours from the Mexican border. We are known for the cultivation of garlic, onion, corn, and beans. Our language has been drastically impacted by invasion, immigration, and migration; now there are people who no longer speak Aguacateco. Many go to other countries and return with another accent. The media have also greatly affected the language of our children. I have been very interested in creating a link between our communities and the people who have migrated to other countries. The United States and Canada have the largest presence of Aguacatecos; of Aguatec migrants living in the United States, almost half have their legal resident status, and the other half are undocumented. Pending their legal status in the U.S., many feel this need to connect to their hometown, to their community. This is the task that I have been given, to connect these families through streaming media, video, and audio, to generate information that transcends borders. Since the internal armed conflict in the 1980s, the first Aguatecos fled from Aguacatan to Mexico, then to the U.S. Everyone went to the farms, banana plantations on the south coast, and others to coffee plantations. My grandparents lived through all these temporary migration movements. They went to earn wages and returned. In terms of permanent migration, many people have gone forever, they already have families in the U.S. This has changed the panorama here in Aguacatan. The high cost of living in Guatemala has also forced people to migrate, usually illegally, to the U.S. Every day there are fewer Aguacatecos here in Aguacatan. It used to be men who migrated a lot. Now women and children are the ones who are taking the risky journey north. Aguacatan is one of the cultures that 50 percent of the population lives in the United States. The majority have one, two, up to three relatives in the U.S. The separation of families has consequences. In order for our society to function properly, the figure of father and mother are indispensable. In our Maya lifeways, grandparents
or parents were always in pairs to raise their children. Now it is totally different. Sometimes only the mother is with the children. Sometimes the children stay with the grandparents, but it is not the same relationship with the grandparents as the parents of the family. This has brought us problems in society: conflicts between young people, drug addiction, alcoholism. It is difficult to think about the future of our children, as currently a university degree is not enough to survive in this country. It is not easy to find a job even with a master’s degree. I have visited some agricultural communities in the dry corridor of Aguacatan, towns and other parts of the country. The main crop they harvest is tomato, but they have been compromised in recent years. The rain does not come in season as before and they have had to bring in water. That made the costs of producing increase. It is practically no longer profitable to sow in these conditions. This has forced people to migrate because climate change has really changed the climate and the water cycles. My grandfather recently said to me, “I am worried about the corn situation because it is not growing anymore.” Because of the invasion of the transgenic seeds, all this has come to change the original crops. That forces us to migrate. It is climate change. People who planted before now do not sow as they traditionally did. They are forced out of these communities. They look toward the coasts of Guatemala or risk going to the U.S. As Indigenous Peoples, our constitution, the law of our country, guarantees us nothing. A very clear example is in the media; we have limited access to Guatemalan radio frequencies. It is a violation of our Indigenous rights. That has also limited us: little access to information. Many times we do not inform ourselves of what is happening, or we are simply manipulated by a monopoly communication system. We need to depend on ourselves to avoid migration, and to avoid the damage done to our cultures and our families.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 23
We didn't cross the border.
the border crossed us.
It Is Normal for People to Live Across Borders Raja Devashis Roy (Chakma from Bangladesh) Former UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Member
hat is territorial integrity? And what if Indigenous people cross here and there or have relatives on both sides of the wall—is that a security issue? It is very common, very normal for people to live across borders, to have relatives across borders, to have contacts, cultural links. It will take 20, 30 years in South Asia, but ultimately I think States will realize that there is a need for that. Indigenous Peoples have in some cases migrated beyond the borders, but not in such a large scale as non-Indigenous people. You can see the Indian-Bangladesh border issue: some people have migrated and are practicing shifting cultivation between India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Farmers sometimes don’t even know when they cross the border by cultivation because there is no clear border boundary pillar. ILO Convention 169 recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples to maintain sociocultural contexts across the borders, and the UN Declaration also does that, but most of our governments in South Asia have not implemented this. Southeast Asia is a little more relaxed, but still not like Latin America, where border controls are more relaxed. Indigenous Peoples are losing their identity and their language. The second generation are not speaking their languages. In this new place, their food, their clothes, their literature and music is changing. It becomes a struggle. In many cases, these people are going to lose their identity. They will remain Indigenous; once or twice a year they will observe the special days
and wear traditional clothing and put up photographs on Facebook. But for the rest of the 364 days, what happens? Will they be living in a way they would like to live, where they can feel comfortable and practice their spirituality, their music, literature, and culture? Language rights have been clearly recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both as a collective right of a nation, but also as an individual right. In the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ILO Convention 169, the right of a child to speak his or her mother tongue is guaranteed. Even where we are staying in our ancestral territories, many of us are losing our languages. My concern is not just the death of a language; it’s the morbidity of a language. Before, you used to speak 100 percent or 95 percent using your language. Now it’s maybe 10, 15, 20 percent. I am concerned about Indigenous Peoples, about our identity. [But when] I see the youth, I also feel confident. They have the energy, they can dream. They must also learn from the older generations and from their heritage, their traditions, their customary law, their spirituality, their links with ecology and nature. I hope that this transmission of traditional knowledge is passed on as much as possible in the right way to the youth, to the next generation, so the youth can go on using modern technology and all the advantages of social media and science and technology, but retaining the ethos and identity of Indigenous Peoples.
Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar.
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We Were Forcefully Evicted Gakemotho Tikhwebe Satau (Buka Khwe from Botswana)
’m a member of a San organization called ToCadi Trans Okavango Cultural Development Initiative, as well as the San council called Khwedam council. I’m also a member of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee; I am the regional chair as well as the deputy chair of the Southern African region. The Okavango in Botswana forms part of the broader landscape classified under Khazar, and the Okavango Delta is a traditional and historic home of the Khwe Basarwa Bushmen. The recent talks about land claims are about the SainteMarie Midgame Reserve, which is at the heart of the Okavango Delta. Inside the reserve, there is an island known as Chief ’s Island. The Tawana local Tribal authorities applied three years ago to the Tawana land board, who are the local authorities of the land. Our argument is that the land in question traditionally belongs to the San. These are the Xani Khwe and BukaKhwe speakers, who were forcefully evicted to establish the game reserve and since have been denied access to the land. Buka Khwe linguistically belongs to central Khwe San languages in Botswana. We have heard that the Tawana land board are expediting their process for possible allocation of the land in question to the chief. A few San organizations, including ToCadi, Khwedem Council, and others facilitated the submission of an objection to the Tawana land board; some of our members who put through the applications had them deferred or rejected, but the matter is still ongoing. The land in question has a history of my people and their interactions on it. The San, like many other Indigenous Peoples, have an oral, unwritten history. This is the land where the Tswana, or Bantu, ethnic groups came to find us. Our forefathers used to hunt big game on these lands. We are administered on the basis of that dominant Tswana group, which is completely alien to our ways of doing things, our ways of reasoning. This has for decades increased our marginalization. There were talks on making a game reserve here in Botswana Okavango Delta, which later became the Moremi Game Reserve. Everyone sided with the influence of the dominant Tswana of the chiefs. The San were not part of that development. Decisions were made and we were evicted. Some got killed in the process. The modern systems of government have forced us to assimilate to their ways and forego our own ways. They labeled our ways as not civilized and said that we live the life of Stone Age creatures and had to change while they took our land and our animals. Their ways of life were continually forced upon us, and we lost our land and our identity. Our prime land became protected areas, game reserves, national parks, forest reserves. Our land became the State land. We don’t own any form of land, we lost our economy, our cultures and ways of expression, and it has killed our hopes. We are calling now for negotiations to correct this historic brutality. We need resources for support: money, legal volunteers
Photo courtesy of Gakemotho Tikhwebe Satau.
for litigation on issues of identity, land rights, economic threats, and economic freedom. We want our governments, private organizations, the Southern African Development Community, and international organizations to help us make the State accountable for the negligence against the San. It is hypocritical for Botswana to be a member of the United Nations and be bound by human rights principles while on the ground they are guilty of depriving the San of their identity, their language, their lands, and their economy. We are waiting for the land board to respond. If they do not respond favorably, we are going to take the matter to the land tribunal. If we are not satisfied, we are going to go to the high courts. We are going to go for the African Commission to engage further on this in order to make sure that the voices of the San are heard. The San should be looked at as shareholders in this process. We need support to help us achieve a meaningful dialogue in the issues of land, acquiring land rights, our identity, and representation in decision making bodies. Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 25
KOE F G r a n t Pa rt n e r Sp ot li g h t
Reducing Carbon Emissions and Restoring Biodiversity in Ogoni Land Lokiaka Community Development Centre
Mangrove saplings are ferried for participant restoration practicums.
he Ogoni in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria face threats to their livelihood as the quality of their land depletes and the biodiversity of the local ecosystem deteriorates due to oil and gas extraction on their territories. Their farmlands are less fertile and integral plants are becoming extinct, escalating food insecurity. Through a grant from the Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF) to the Lokiaka Community Development Centre, volunteers at Lokiaka worked to replenish the land by conducting two intensive training sessions with Ogoni women. Workshops taught 65 women farmers the skills to start mangrove and fruit tree nurseries and trained 55 women to make fuel efficient stoves out of clay. Lokiaka emphasizes the role of Indigenous women farmers in maintaining the health of the land and ecosystem to ensure that women are recognized as important stewards of the land. With the aid of KOEF’s resources, Lokiaka helped Ogoni women utilize their natural resources to improve their living standards while reducing carbon emissions, deforestation, and climate change. The population of mangroves in the Niger Delta Region has substantially diminished due to clearings for commercial agriculture, urban construction, pollution caused by artisanal refining, oil spills, and runoff containing chemical and biological contaminants. Additionally, the changing climate has brought an influx of cyclones, hurricanes, and tsunamis that cause severe damage to the mangrove population. Mangroves are extremely versatile in their usage for the Ogoni people as they can be used as water resistant wood for buildings and furniture, serve as domestic fuel, protect shorelines from erosion, and filter pollutants to maintain water quality. Participants learned about sustainable nursing of mangrove propagules and how to transport them within the mangrove swamp forest of Kwawa. The women also learned how to preserve seedlings in fruit tree nurseries; encouraging plant growth in these 26 • www. cs. org
communities combats food insecurity and health issues. Many women also cultivate medicinal plants and local herbs to remedy illnesses. Barisi Dumbor, a participant from Kegbara Dere in the Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, raised several nurseries of palm nut, fruit trees, and mangroves. This is one of the most polluted areas in Ogoni, but Indigenous women trained by Lokiaka effectively utilize their resources to grow and harvest plants here. Instead of buying seeds, she gathers them from waste dumping grounds, under fruit trees, and from the fruit she eats herself. Nursery cultivation has proven to be a low cost and highly effective way to increase her income through farming: “Raising fruit tree nurseries is new to me, and it has helped to put food on my table and helped train my two boys,” Dumbor commented. “Now I know that I do not need to have farmland before starting my agriculture business. Even my veranda and garden can give me money today, and I’m happy.” Namon Grace Nwidee, another training beneficiary, said, “I agree with the resource person who said planting trees will wipe away our tears and would drive away hunger in the land.” In addition to increasing food accessibility in Ogoni, women also practice sustainable farming and forest management techniques to combat deforestation and mitigate climate change. Participants were able to support plant nurseries despite the harsh weather conditions and insecurity within their provinces with the help of Lokiaka’s training and resources. However, women in the Nyokhana district, the largest and most remote area in Ogoni, were unable to maintain their nurseries due to violence and conflict. The second training Lokiaka offered taught Ogoni women how to make fuel efficient stoves. Many older women are potters, but the practice is less common among younger generations. The technology of clay stoves is transforming the skills of the potters into a valuable asset for the community. Producing and using these stoves reduced 55 households’ dependency on forest wood for heat and energy, lowering carbon emissions. The stoves also serve as a stepping stone towards the implementation of forest conservation and more sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. The importance of Indigenous women farmers cannot be overstated. With this work, the Ogoni community is contributing to climate resilience in several ways. Mangroves are among the most carbon rich tropical forests and can store twice as much carbon on a per area basis as salt marshes, preventing carbon from escaping into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Carbon storage also results in the accretion of sediment, allowing the coastline to keep up with rising water levels. By training Ogoni women in sustainable agricultural practices, their knowledge of conservational forest practices will continue to rejuvenate the local ecosystems and improve the health of Ogoni communities.
c o mmu n i t y m e d i a g r a n t s pa rt n e r Sp ot li g h t
Zapatista Radio Broadcasting for Autonomy and Self-determination
ver the last decade, Zapatista communities have developed a massive communication project reaching more than 1,000 communities and rancherías across their entire territory in Chiapas, Mexico. More than a dozen radio stations located in this mountainous and autonomous region are broadcasting about their struggles and the rights of the local Maya Peoples. The Zapatista radio stations were established in 2009 as part of a larger autonomy process to denounce social injustices in their communities. Collectively, they are supporting the revitalization and promotion of Maya cultural practices threatened by globalization, and defending lands, territory, and the autonomy of authorities in the villages. As a means of communication dedicated to serving the people, these stations had the objective of broadcasting in the native languages of the region: Tzeltal, Tsotsil, Tojolabal, and Cho (in addition to Spanish), not only to revitalize those languages but to promote a sense of identity and pride in their people. For the stations, it has always been important to create a sustainable media that strengthens their self-determination. As part of a political stance and in the exercise of their autonomy, the Zapatista radio stations have chosen not to apply for a community or Indigenous radio concession since it became possible to acquire one in Mexico. The stations have trained community members in both on-air and behind the scenes skills. Since the beginning, men and women of all ages have been invited to participate equally; both adults and youth pass through the broadcast booths. Due to societal and familial demands, many women end up leaving their positions. In response, the stations have sought to provide them with more training to foster their independence and enhance their ability to solve technical problems. Access to essential equipment has been another challenge for the stations. New needs constantly arise, such as the relocation of transmission towers to improve radio coverage, updates to mixers and computers, and repair or replacement of damaged transmission equipment. With the support of Cultural Survival’s Community Media Grants Program, several stations have been able to address these needs. In addition to renovating equipment, stations have organized trainings for women to encourage their increasing tech- nological self-sufficiency. With the grant, new radio members have been trained in voiceover, editing, and production workshops taught by senior members of each station. These trainings, organized according to the particular needs and number of new members at each station, will continue through the end of the year.
Although the project was originally intended to cover only three stations in one of the Zapatista zones, the communities decided to include all their radio stations throughout their territory of influence. Community radio addresses, and often denounces, issues of concern to Indigenous Peoples that affect business and government interests. There is currently a great concern about the implementation of large infrastructure and extractive projects throughout the country promoted by the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. These projects will involve the encroachment and dispossession of territories where many Indigenous Peoples live, threatening their cultures, lives, and natural resources. Among many projects, three stand out: the so-called Mayan Train, whose construction and operation will have serious effects on the ecosystems of the entire Mexican southeast; the Morelos Integral Project, which already affects Indigenous Peoples in several states in the center of the country; and the Commercial and Railway Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is intended to connect the Pacific with the Atlantic, and will affect communities of Oaxaca and Veracruz. Also of concern is the breach by the Mexican government of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and culturally appropriate consultation of Indigenous Peoples regarding these initiatives. The rejection of these projects by many Indigenous communities and organizations has been met with repression, threats, and murders, including that of Samir Flores Soberanes, a Nahuatl environmental defender and community organizer who opposed the Morelos Integral Project and was shot dead at his home in February 2019. Through messages, songs, radio theater, and poems, community radio raises awareness about the care and defense of Mother Earth, respect for women, health, children’s rights, the value of culture, and the true history of Indigenous Peoples. It also promotes the prevention of alcoholism, supports the organization of Indigenous Peoples, and strengthens the system of self-governance of the Zapatista Peoples.
Zapatista radio stations are organizing trainings for women to solve technical problems.
Cultural Survival Quarterly March 2020 • 27
b oar d s p o t lig h t
Seeking Justice for Indigenous Peoples Carla Fredericks
ultural Survival is excited to announce our newest board member, Carla Fredericks (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations). Fredericks is the director of the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School and the director of First Peoples Worldwide, a program with the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Columbia Law School. At the age of seven, Fredericks’ family moved from an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C. to the Pine Ridge Reservation in northwestern North Dakota. “That was a huge wake up call and culture shock,” she recalls. “We went to the rez school. We lived in a two bedroom HUD track housing house. From then, I understood my Indianness and my obligations to my own people. In college, I took every Native American class that they had. I went to law school wanting to do work in repatriation because that’s when the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was passed. I ended up getting pulled into public interest litigation.” Today, Fredericks serves as counsel for the Native American law firm Fredericks, Peebles and Morgan LLP. She is chair of the Board of Trustees for the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Endowment Trust, and is a founding board member of Unreserved, the Native American Fashion and Art Alliance. Reflecting on her everyday work, she says, “The great thing about running the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado School and then also directing First Peoples Worldwide is we get to mobilize students as part of their educational experience alongside communities to try to effect social change for Indigenous Peoples and protection of their rights.” The movement that was created in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, which came to be known as Standing Rock, was a key moment for Indigenous rights. “We’re still experiencing that moment; it’s not over. Indigenous people are articulating their rights in a very different way than in the past. This resurgence of Indigenous self-determination and selfexpression is happening in real time right now. There has to be a decolonization process because the whole system that Indigenous people must engage with to have their rights protected is a system constructed against their best interests. State parties and outside entities must respect Indigenous rights, but they also need to look within to see how their institutions and organizations were built to disrespect Indigenous rights and there needs to be a dismantling of those processes,” Fredericks says, adding, “I’m really encouraged by Indigenous youth and activists who are open to reconstructing institutions in a way that’s very different from my generation, where we just accepted the institutional realities. They’re much more 28 • www. cs. org
Carla Fredericks (center) with former Cultural Survival Executive Director Suzanne Benally (Santa Clara Tewa/ Navajo) and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Igorot).
willing to turn things over and pull them apart. It is very necessary.” The American Indian Law Clinic is one of the oldest law clinics in the country. In addition to the clinic’s deep engagement with Standing Rock, Fredericks says the institution has worked with several Tribes on problems of human trafficking related to fossil fuel development on their reservations. It is also assisting activists in Hawai’i in the Mauna Kea case (where Indigenous protectors are protesting the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on a sacred mountain), and the Gwich’in Peoples regarding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “To be entrusted with that work and to have engaged students in that work has been incredibly humbling and meaningful to us all,” she says. First Peoples Worldwide focuses on Indigenous Peoples’ interaction with business interests, to prevent harm and to mobilize Indigenous communities to develop their economies, gain access to capital, and to develop their resources in a selfdetermined way. “We are deeply in conversation with communities about how to engage with companies, and we provide toolkits to communities and companies on obtaining Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Our new endeavor is to model a private equity fund specific to Tribal renewable energy development. We are creating a vehicle for social impact investors to provide capital to Tribal projects to develop renewable energy resources in a sustainable way,” she explains. Through the Clinic, Fredericks has partnered extensively with Cultural Survival over the years on human rights reporting to the United Nations. On her newest role as a board member, she says, “I’m excited to join the board because I have a very deep respect for the organization after working with you all for many years. I want to find ways to support the organization to be as strong as it can be, finding potential for meaningful collaboration and philanthropy, and to have Cultural Survival really emerge as the leader in this space.”
B a z aa r a rt ist:
L–R: Lan (Hmong), Taleo Handmade artisan partner, splicing hemp fibers. Chai (Hmong), artisan partner, drawing batik on handwoven hemp. Bouathong (Tai Lue), artisan partner, dyeing cotton thread in natural indigo.
Indigenous Women Keeping Weaving Traditions Alive
aleo Handmade works with weavers, natural dyers, batik artisans, and embroiderers from remote villages in Laos and Vietnam. A fair trade business, Taleo Handmade derives its name from the Lao word taleo, the woven bamboo talisman used to protect homes and communities from spirits. In this spirit of protection, Taleo Handmade focuses on empowering women through economic opportunity, maintaining Indigenous traditions, and protecting the environment through the use of natural and sustainable materials and zero waste design. “Tai Lue women are famous for our weaving. I learned to weave when I was 7 years old from my mother. Every Tai Lue girl learns to weave. We have looms under our houses, which are built on stilts. We weave our own sinhs, traditional Lao skirts and we weave shawls to wear to the temple,” says Bouathong (Tai Lue), a weaver and Taleo Handmade artisan partner in Laos. Taleo Handmade’s artisan partners produce textiles unique to their ethnic groups. Founder Sally Strasser explains the process: “Hmong women [in Laos and Vietnam] grow, process, and weave hemp as the base material for their traditional clothing. They decorate it with hand drawn Hmong motifs in beeswax and dye it in natural indigo. The cloth is then boiled to remove the wax, revealing complex designs, a technique known as batik.” Taleo Handmade creates pillows, table runners, and bags from exquisite Hmong batik and embroidery. Their designs are sewn by women in small family owned workshops in Hanoi, Vietnam and Vientiane, Laos. Taleo Handmade is committed to compensating both their artisan partners and their finishing seamstresses with fair trade wages. Through their fair trade practices, Lan (Hmong), one of Taleo’s artisan partners in Vietnam, says she is able to send her three young daughters to school—something that her family was unable to provide for her when she was young. “Hmong people in Vietnam face many challenges,” Lan says. “We can only grow one rice crop per year because we live in the mountains and it is too cold to grow rice much of the year. We cannot grow enough rice to feed our families, so we have to supplement our income, but there are not many jobs for Hmong people. We like to sell our handicrafts and used clothing to get extra income for our All photos by Sally Strasser.
families.” She adds, “Hmong clothing is a reflection of our culture; it is a very important part of our identity. We believe that hemp fabric will help to guide our spirits to heaven after we die. The Hmong symbols in our batik and embroidery tell the story of our culture.” Another Indigenous Peoples in Laos, the Khmu, are renowned for their hand knotted bags made from a locally foraged liana vine. Khmu women gather the vine after the rainy season, strip it into raffia-like fibers, twist the fibers into thread, and hand knot it, a technique traditionally used for fishnets and tumpline bags. They sell their work to tourists and to shops in Laos, but it is the consistent orders from Taleo Handmade that provide a sustainable income for Khmu women. Taleo pairs their vine products with Hmong hemp fabric to create one-of-a-kind bags and pouches, which enables their Khmu artisan partners to sell more of their work. Tai Lue women, also of Laos, are expert weavers and natural dyers specializing in indigo. Bouathong explains, “We grow our own cotton, process and spin it into thread, and weave it. We use all natural dyes for our cotton, specializing in indigo, which we also grow. We use turmeric root, tamarind seeds, sappan wood, lemongrass, and other roots, flowers, and seeds for our natural colors.” The weavers hand spin the cotton into thread and dye the skeins of thread in natural dyes. They weave shawls in traditional complex patterns and scarves in a simpler plain weave that highlights the texture of their handspun thread and the subtlety of the natural colors. Bouathong says she “is proud of the Tai Lue weaving traditions and is grateful that people from other countries appreciate my work.” Taleo Handmade is dedicated to assisting their artisan partners in reaching a broader market for their extraordinary textiles. Supporting the work of Indigenous women in Laos and Vietnam, enables their families to access better education, nutrition and healthcare, and ensures that their textile traditions are passed down to the next generation. Check out our Summer Cultural Survival Bazaars: July 18-19, 2020 in Newburyport, MA, and July 25-26, 2020 in Tiverton, RI For more information, visit: bazaar.cs.org
Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly March Cultural March 2020 2020 •• 29 29
Thanks to your support in 2019
Funded 35 community media projects in 9 countries totaling $210,000
Supported 6 groups of Youth Fellows in
Trained 80+ Indigenous women in radio production and journalism
Funded 20 projects in 10 countries, totaling $79,864, to support Indigenous Peoplesâ€™ community advocacy and development projects
Submitted 8 reports to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and UN Treaty Bodies on human rights issues in El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and the U.S.
Released more than 160 radio programs on Indigenous rights to 1,000+ stations in 69 countries
Cultural Survival Bazaars generated over $493,358 for Indigenous artists and communities
Cultural Survival Bazaars hosted over 65 artists representing over 4,500 Indigenous craftspeople from more than 30 countries
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