Cultural Survival Q
SEcuring Indigenous rights in the Green Economy
Vol. 46, Issue 2 • JUNE 2022 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
J une 2 0 22 V ol ume 4 6, Issu e 2
Board of Directors
Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i)
12 Isolated and Impacted by Nickel Mining Transition Minerals Coalition Indigenous communities impacted by nickel mining in Russia search for avenues of justice.
Steven Heim Clerk
Valine Brown (Haida) Evelyn Arce Erickson (Muisca) Kate R. Finn (Osage) Laura Graham Stephen Marks Tui Shortland (Māori) Jannie Staffansson (Saami) 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 Executive Editor: Daisee Francour (Oneida) Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris (Powhatan-Pamunkey) Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Copyright 2022 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.
14 When Profit Trumps Rights: The Case of El Estor, Guatemala CS Staff For years, Q'eqchi’ community members in El Estor have been battling the Fenix Nickel Mine.
De partments 1
Executive Director’s Message
2 In the News
16 Our Sacred Sites Are More Important than a Lithium Mine Gary McKinney (Western Shoshone/Northern Paiute) A proposed lithium mine in Thacker Pass, Nevada, threatens Indigenous burial sites, water resources, and wildlife.
4 Indigenous Arts A Modern Declaration Woven into an Ancient Art
18 Defining a Just Transition Daisee Francour (Oneida) An interview with Thomas Joseph (Hupa/Karuk/Paiute), an Indigenous organizer, on what a Just Transition needs to look like.
20 The Hidden Costs of “Green” Wind Energy on the Sámi Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan) Maja Kristine Jåma (Sámi) talks about the impacts of wind farms in Norway on reindeer herders. 22 Indigenous Rights as a Central Value in Investing in Net Zero Kate R. Finn (Osage) Indigenous Peoples’ rights are a central aspect of shifting portfolios towards net zero and a Just Transition. 24 Defending the Sacred Brandi Morin (Cree/Iroquois/French) The Wet’suwet’en report surveillance and harassment by Royal Canadian Mounted Police and pipeline security for defending their territory.
6 Indigenous Languages We Must Act Now to Keep our Languages Alive and Thriving Women the World Must Hear Leya Hale (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Diné)
10 Rights in Action Returning to Circular Economies Rooted in Indigenous Values 26 Keepers of the Earth Fund Grant Partner Spotlight Sunuwar Welfare Society 28 Staff Spotlight Raquel Xiloj (Maya K’iche) 29 Bazaar Artist Radical Grandma Collective
Cover photo: Indigenous communities are raising awareness about how the proposed lithium mine at Peehee Mu'huh (Thacker Pass), NV, will impact their ancestral burial grounds, water resources, and wildlife (see page 16). Photo by Chanda Callao/ @Peopleofredmountain.
E x ec u tive D irect o r ’ S message
Securing Indigenous Rights in the Green Economy
Dear Cultural Survival Community,
s the world scrambles to address the climate crisis, a new “green” economy is rapidly emerging. However, in this transition, Indigenous Peoples are facing a new wave of extractivism for transition minerals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, and lithium, which are key in battery development for electric vehicles and other technologies. On the surface, transition minerals bring the promise of a perfect solution to combat climate change and reduce CO2 emissions, and relief from a future dependent on fossil fuels. However, there is a large upfront cost related to their extraction: where these minerals are found also overlaps with Indigenous lands and territories. Indigenous lands, territories, and resources are under direct threat as the demand for these minerals increases. This issue of the CSQ is dedicated to uplifting the voices and struggles of Indigenous communities impacted by this new frontier. We hear from activists and community leaders about what a Just Transition to the green economy should look like and how Indigenous Peoples’ rights are central to shifting investment portfolios towards net zero. Proposed solutions like electric vehicles and other technologies are dependent on transition minerals, many of which bring new and expanded mining projects. These projects are promoted as “green” because they aim to supply minerals used in renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles. However, these mining projects risk replicating the same harms of the fossil fuel economy, threatening Indigenous Peoples’ rights and territories, destroying biodiverse ecosystems, and exacerbating climate change impacts in the process. While we face an urgent need to address environmental, social, and economic crises, we cannot continue with business as usual. Living in today’s world with complex social and political structures and issues, our future requires implementing a multitude
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival! Cultural Survival Staff
Galina Angarova (Buryat), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director
Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Director of Programs Daisee Francour (Oneida), Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications Monica Coc Magnusson (Q’eqchi’ Maya), Director of Advocacy and Policy
of complex solutions. There is a clear need for pressing reform globally, but a one-sizefits-all approach will not work. Instead, we must lean into the discomfort of being in the space between the urgency of the transition and protecting our human and Indigenous rights without sacrificing the latter. And we must challenge the status quo to move towards placed-based solutions that put people and our planet first. Indigenous Peoples steward over 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity as caretakers of our most precious ecosystems: therefore Indigenous Peoples’ and human rights must be centered, protected, and supported. We hope you will join us in supporting Indigenous communities to secure their rights in the transition to the new green economy. Our 50-year legacy of advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights is thanks to you, our community, who help make our work possible. Join us in shifting the narrative and resources to support Indigenous languages, solutions, and leadership to build a better world for us all. For our 50th anniversary, we have an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 for our #CS50 campaign. Please consider donating today to sustain this meaningful and impactful work.
Verónica Aguilar (Mixtec), Program Assistant, Keepers of the Earth Fund
Bryan Bixcul (Maya Tz’utujil), Executive Assistant
Jessie Cherofsky, Advocacy Program Researcher Michelle de León, Executive Assistant
Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy & Development Manager Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Radio Program Coordinator Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager
Nati Garcia (Maya Mam), Capacity Building Manager Adriana Hernández (Maya K'iche'), Emerging Strategies Coordinator
Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Community Media Program Coordinator Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Rights Radio Program Manager
Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López, (Mixe/Ayuuk ja’ay & Zapotec/Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Program Manager Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager
Amparo Monzón (Maya K’iche’), Program Assistant, Community Media & Indigenous Rights Radio Programs Cat Monzón (Maya K’iche’), Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Coordinator
Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Community Media Program Coordinator
Edson Krenak Naknanuk (Krenak), Lead on Brazil Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Media Coordinator Guadalupe Pastrana (Nahua), Indigenous Rights Radio Producer
Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Sócrates Vásquez (Ayuujk), Program Manager, Community Media Miranda Vitello, Development Coordinator
Galina Angarova (Buryat) Executive Director
Candy Williams, Human Resources Manager
Raquel Xiloj (Maya K’iche’), Community Media Grants Coordinator
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Dorothea Bauer, Sarah Hume, Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Mariana Navarrete, Lauren Nolan, Kathryn Sullivan
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
in the news victory. Sámi leaders hope this will have wider implications for protecting their rights to traditional hunting and gathering practices and reindeer herding.
DRC | Batwa Rights Violated at National Park (April)
Native children at Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania, circa 1900. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. | $1.7 Billion Allocated for Tribal Water Rights (February)
The U.S. Department of the Interior will allocate $1.7 billion to fulfill water rights settlements with 12 Tribal Nations in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Montana. Tribal leaders hope that this money will create safer living conditions for Indigenous communities in the West.
South Africa | Court Halts Construction of Amazon Headquarters on Sacred Land (March)
A South African court halted construction of Amazon’s new African headquarters in Cape Town, citing the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples to culture and heritage. Amazon planned to build the headquarters on a site sacred to Khoi and San Peoples.
U.S. | Judge Rules Mohawk Land Illegally Acquired by New York (March)
A federal judge ruled that the State of New York violated the 1796 Treaty of Canandaigua, which set aside territory for Mohawk Peoples. This is a major victory for Mohawk land claims, which have been in the courts since 1980.
U.S. | Court Affirms Crow Tribal Sovereignty (March)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Crow Tribal sovereignty in a suit against Big Horn County Electric Cooperative after the utility turned off a Crow 2
citizen’s power without warning or obtaining approval, in violation of a Crow statute. The court ruled that this breached the consensual relationship between Big Horn and the Crow Tribe.
U.S. | Wabanaki Nations Recognized in Violence Against Women Act (March)
Maine’s four federally recognized Tribes, known collectively as the Wabanaki Nations, were granted protection and recognition in federal legislation passed for the benefit of Native nations. Being included by name in the Violence Against Women Act grants federal protection that had not been given before.
Australia | Ancestral Lands in Kakadu Park Returned to Indigenous Communities (March)
Ancestral lands in Kakadu National Park, which make up about 50 percent of the park, were returned to their traditional owners, the Limilngan/Minitja, Murumburr, Garndidjbal, Yurlkmanj, Wurngomgu, Bolmo, Wurrkbarbar, Matjba, Uwinymil, Bunidj, Djindibi, Mirrar Gundjeihmi, and Dadjbaku Peoples.
Finland | Nation’s Highest Court Recognizes Sámi Fishing Rights (April)
The highest court in Finland upheld the rights of Sámi Peoples to fish. The court concluded that fishing is part of Sámi culture and that fishing regulations were unconstitutional, making this a landmark
Rangers at the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo are accused of raping and killing Indigenous people in the park, which is home to the Batwa Peoples. Six years after the park was established, around 6,000 people were expelled from their land.
Vatican | Pope Apologizes for Abuse of Indigenous Children in Canada’s Residential Schools (April) A delegation of Indigenous boarding school survivors traveled from Canada to the Vatican to share with the Pope their experiences at church-run residential schools. After hearing from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders, Pope Francis issued an apology, saying he felt “sorrow and shame” for how Indigenous people were treated.
Australia | Neds Corner Returned to Ngintait Traditional Owners (May)
A 300-square kilometer property purchased by Trust for Nature in 2002 was returned to Ngintait traditional owners in the largest private land transfer of its kind in Victoria’s history.
U.S. | Department of Interior Releases Indian Boarding School Report (May)
A 106-page report by Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland (Ojibwe) documented for the first time that from 1819–1969, the federal government operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states. The preliminary investigation identified marked and unmarked burial sites of Native children at 53 of those schools, and expects to find the total number in the “thousands or tens of thousands.”
Advocacy Updates Reports Highlight Ongoing Indigenous Rights Violations (March)
Cultural Survival collaborated on three joint stakeholder reports for upcoming November 2022 Universal Periodic Reviews of India, South Africa, and Brazil. Jharkhand Indigenous and Tribal Peoples for Action, KAT News Channel, and Cultural Survival submitted a report concluding that India continues to promote policies and practices that support land grabbing, eviction of Indigenous Peoples from their lands and territories, and targeting of Indigenous rights and land defenders, and that an aggressive hydropower development agenda is violating Indigenous Peoples’ rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The report for South Africa was submitted by Supusupu Khoikhoi First Language Project, Cultural Survival, and Natural Justice, and focuses on the continued failure to meet obligations to protect the Khoi and the San Peoples’ rights to their lands, political representation, identities, languages, and cultures. In collaboration with Comunidade Quilombola Rio dos Macacos, Munduruku Takuara community, Uka Institute, and Munduruku Institute, the report on Brazil focused on the situations of Munduruku Peoples in the Amazon region, who are severely impacted by illegal mining, deforestation, and violence, and the Quilombola Rio dos Macacos community in the impoverished northeast, who face violations of their rights by the Brazilian Navy.
Cultural Survival Advocates for Indigenous Rights in Europe (March)
Cultural Survival’s Executive Director, Galina Angarova (Buryat), and Director of Programs, Avexnim Cojti (Maya K’iche’), met with members of the European Parliament in Brussels to advocate for the inclusion of references to Indigenous Peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the new European Union battery regulation. References to Indigenous Peoples and the UN Declaration made the final draft passed by the European Parliament. However, more advocacy efforts are needed before the final vote this summer.
Biodiversity Framework Must Incorporate Indigenous Rights (March)
During the Convention on Biological Diversity in Geneva, Switzerland, Indigenous Peoples expressed concern that biodiversity conservation initiatives such as the Post-2020
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.
Global Biodiversity Framework are excluding their meaningful participation and Traditional Knowledge. Of specific concern is the 30x30 Initiative, which Indigenous Peoples fear will continue to result in grave human rights violations, including the removal and eviction of Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral lands. Cultural Survival’s Director of Advocacy, Monica Coc Magnusson (Q’eqchi’ Maya), participated in meetings to negotiate the inclusion of the recognition of Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands and territories in accordance with the Declaration and other international human rights laws.
Intervention on the Impacts of Mining for Transition Minerals on Indigenous Peoples (april) An intervention by Cultural Survival, presented by Executive Director Galina Angarova at the 21st Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, called attention to current extractivist mining practices being carried out in the name of the transition to the so-called “green” economy. The mining practices involved in the manufacture of electric vehicles threaten to replicate the violence against Indigenous Peoples and lands by the fossil fuel industry. The intervention requested that the Permanent Forum urge governments to operationalize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent; to build capacity for Indigenous communities through advocacy and human rights training; and enact mechanisms for reporting rights violations of Indigenous Peoples.
Promoting IACHR Decision on Indigenous Rights in Guatemala The Inter-American Court of Human Rights decision in Indigenous Maya Kaqchikel Peoples of Sumpango vs. Guatemala declared Guatemala “internationally responsible for the violation of the rights to freedom of expression, equality before the law, and participation in cultural life” of Indigenous Peoples. Cultural Survival and our partners are working to promote implementation of the decision. A virtual side event was held at the May 2022 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, bringing together a multiplicity of voices on the state of community radio across Abya Yala. In July, a gathering of radio organizations and ancestral authorities in Guatemala will publicize the decision and build strategies for implementation. __________________ Read more news at www.cs.org/latest.
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly June June 2022 2022
A Modern Declaration woven into an ancient art
Michelle Cook and Hartman Deetz with UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Wampum Belt.
Photos by Tomas Alejo (Chicano/Huasteca).
Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan, CS Staff) and Rebecca Kirkpatrick (CS Intern)
artman Deetz is an enrolled member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and owner of Ockway Bay Wampum, a small business specializing in contemporary wampum jewelry. Wampum is a bead cut from the Quahog shell and used by Indigenous Peoples in the Northeastern region of North America to create wampum belts. These belts were created as treaties between Tribal Nations and symbolized an ongoing commitment to reciprocity. “The Wampum bead was more than just a bead,” said Deetz. “It was also a promise, a memory, a sacred language of the past and future.” Recently, Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio spoke with Deetz and human rights lawyer and founder of Divest Invest Protect, Michelle Cook (Diné), to discuss their
work on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples wampum belt and how wampum has been used throughout the history of the United States. Wampum belts were used in treaty-making, legal agreements, and ceremonial activities. “They demonstrate Indigenous Peoples’ political systems and governing institutions that existed long before the formation of the United States of America and continue to exist today,” Cook said. “These wampum belts are incredibly important because they provide us a window into another way of governing, another way of relating to the world and the universe around us.” Wampum belts are a form of writing, with symbols woven into the belt serving as a mnemonic device for those who are carrying that knowledge for the community and sharing it through stories, keeping the oral tradition alive. Each wampum belt tells a different story. The Two Row Wampum Belt, which is among the oldest treaty agreements in North America, illustrates a story between European settlers in one boat and Indigenous Peoples (Haudenosaunee) in another, traveling the river together. It states that neither one will try to steer the other’s boat, that they will share the river and respect each other’s ways of life. The Two Row Wampum signified a shared commitment of friendship, respect, peace and to co-exist. “It was an agreement that recognized the sovereignty of both the settler nation and the Indigenous Peoples, but also recognized their sovereignty in that there wouldn’t be interference, that there shouldn’t be interference in steering the boat,” Cook said. Cook and Deetz met in 2018 at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York when Deetz brought wampum as gifts to panel speakers, including Cook. “It’s sort of a customary gift from the people of the land, from my people, something that’s also emblematic of coastal people of New England,” said Deetz. Cook was familiar with wampum, and she and Deetz began discussing what wampum meant and how the belts
are representative of Indigenous sovereignty and selfdetermination. Deetz and Cook soon began to wonder what modern treaty could be represented in a modern wampum belt. “Indigenous people should be empowered . . . and respected to be able to enter into those agreements in the modern times as well as something that we did historically, and wampum has largely been spoken of and talked about [in the context of] historic treaties and things of the past,” Deetz said. “We’re constantly talked about in the past tense, and we wanted to think of a modern treaty or legal agreement that could be embodied in a wampum belt.” The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples seemed to be a perfect choice, given that it is an existing legal agreement supported by the international community. “We felt that that helped to underscore the weight of these belts as legal documents and validated the ability of Indigenous governance to have the self-determination to enter into agreements such as [the Declaration] or other agreements . . . that could benefit us,” said Deetz. One of the main reasons behind creating a Declaration wampum belt, according to Cook, was to help spark global conversations on Indigenous Peoples’ rights: “As an Indigenous human rights lawyer, how do I teach human rights in a decolonized methodology? Part of what we’re doing here is we’re trying to teach the Declaration using an Indigenous Peoples’ methodology and technology so that we can not only teach the Declaration, but so that we can challenge how legal education is perceived and taught in the United States.” Cook believes that Indigenous Peoples should be taught law through their own epistemological frameworks and that there needs to be a conversation about why the rights of Indigenous Peoples continue to be denied. “We need to continue to put pressure on States and non-State actors, businesses, and corporations to adhere to the principles and standards found within [the Declaration] so that we can fulfill those rights and so that we can prevent the needless deaths of Indigenous Peoples and human rights defenders around the world,” she said. Showcasing the wampum belts serves as a way to teach others about history and Indigenous traditions, but it also works to challenge global perceptions of Indigenous Peoples. “When we . . . showcase these wampum belts . . . and we
teach about these pre-colonial systems of law, we also challenge those racial stereotypes that try to portray our people as less than human, as less than intelligent,” Cook said. “Indigenous Peoples have always had law and governance. We still have a right to make law and live by that law within our lands and jurisdiction today, and anything less than that equity is a vestige and a legacy of the racism that we have inherited through colonization that we have to do away with. If we are going to survive as Indigenous Peoples, but also if we’re going to survive as a human community and family, and if we’re going to fight climate change, we have to start listening to Indigenous Peoples.” One common theme throughout Cultural Survival’s discussion with Cook and Deetz was that we should look to Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous ways of life to help guide us all as a society. Indigenous Peoples can teach us how to live in harmony with nature and with each other. “What is our law and our way of life going to be if it’s not going to be based on profit, if it’s not going to be based on the infinite extraction of finite resources on Earth? What is going to be the new but ancient way that is going to rebalance us as a society? Indigenous Peoples are the ones who still remember the ancient law of balance, the ancient law of relationships, and that is what this Western capitalist society is missing,” Cook said. While it is important to take the UN wampum belt to large gatherings or to the UN itself, Cook is more concerned about taking it to grassroots Indigenous communities and empowering them by putting knowledge about the law back into the hands of the people. Cook believes information about human rights and Indigenous law should be accessible to everyone. “We really want the knowledge of human rights to be in the hands of the people who are most denied those human rights,” she said. The main goal of the UN wampum belt is to start a conversation. “The big thing that we wanted to have come of this,” said Deetz, “is to engage people in conversation and to open up a dialogue about Indigenous Peoples’ rights.” Indigenous communities around the world are fighting every day to protect their lands from extractive industries and to have their inherent rights respected. The UN wampum belt created by Cook and Deetz serves as a way to raise awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and to teach our society how to find balance again.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Wampum Belt.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Guided by Indigenous Voices
We Must Act Now to Keep our Languages Alive and Thriving I didn’t drink Spanish from my mother’s breast when I came into the world. My language was born among the trees, and tastes like the earth; my grandparent’s language is my home, If I use this language that’s not mine, I use it as a shiny key to open doors to another world where the words have another voice and another way of connecting to the earth. (...) This language is only one more key to sing the ancient song of my blood. Excerpt from “The Ancient Song of My Blood” by Humberto Ak’abal (Maya K’iche’)
Avexnim Cojti (Maya K’iche’, CS Staff) and Adriana Hernandez (Maya K’iche’, CS Staff) very 40 days, 1 language ceases to be spoken. At this rate, by the year 2080, 16 languages will go silent per year. We need to address the problem of language loss now, while our Elders are still alive and we are able to learn the language breath-to-breath. In the last century, government policies, especially in the United States, Canada, and Australia, aimed to eliminate Indigenous Peoples’ identities through boarding schools, imposing an disruption in the intergenerational transmission of the language between Elders and youth. And while in recent years the issue of language loss has received more attention than before, access to funding remains a challenge—especially funding for community-based initiatives that want to keep the languages alive at home.
Sharing Our Language Journeys
At the 21st session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in April, Indigenous delegates from the Māori, Hopi, Buryat, Yuchi, Okinawa, Zapara, Maya, Aymara, and Mohawk Peoples came together during the side event 6
“Strategies to Revitalize our Indigenous Languages,” organized by the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus and supported by Cultural Survival. We were fortunate to gather in person for the first time since the pandemic and delighted to listen to one another’s language journeys. We came with good intentions and open hearts to listen and share our aspirations, needs, and language learning. Our goal for this event was to co-create an open, accessible, and safe space to strategize and share learning experiences, as well as mutual support for Indigenous language speakers. Additionally, we affirmed the need for collective efforts to push for an International Decade of Indigenous Languages guided by actions and Indigenous voices. During this gathering, we heard testimonies of boarding school survivors who had to raise their children by speaking to them only in the colonial language, mainly because they did not want their children to go through the same punishment they endured. We also heard testimonies on how grandparents and parents did not pass on their language to their children because they had been indoctrinated with the belief that the colonizer’s language was the only feasible way to communicate in the new order of things. The resulting intergenerational disruption of language learning has caused a lack of exposure to languages, and by consequence, an immeasurable loss of Traditional Knowledge tied to Indigenous Peoples’ territories, spiritualities, and ways of maintaining well being. The issue of language loss deserves urgent action because languages are the gateway to our cultures, traditions, biodiversity protection, relations, and to past and future generations. It is of great importance to keep a strong connection with all our relations by receiving the gifts of our traditions, stories, songs, ceremonies, and prayers that are passed down by our Elders, and to continue passing those gifts to our future generations as a way to give back what we have received. If that thread of reciprocity is disrupted, our communities risk losing the inextricable connection with life around us and a sense of belonging to what really matters: community and Mother Earth. Elder Ellen Gabriel (Mohawk) reflected on the importance of connecting all aspects of Indigenous Peoples’ lives to
languages, rather than seeing language as an isolated component. She said, “Language is not only a form of communication; it is a way of thinking. Our languages are based on [our] relations with nature. We need to call the spirit of the world into our languages. We should [not] separate languages from the lands and the waters.” Our brothers and sisters shared that keeping their languages alive and strong is meaningful and helps them maintain their ways of being and knowing. Despite the homogenization of governmental and educational policies and the intergenerational trauma caused by them, we are hopeful that with culturally appropriate learning methodologies based on our cosmovisions and more funding supporting the community-based initiatives, we can continue working towards our ultimate goal: increasing the number of fluent speakers of Indigenous languages.
We Have the Right to Speak Our Languages Hearing the testimonies from Indigenous Peoples globally makes us reflect on the challenging task of revitalizing languages. The work is complex and takes time. It requires funding and collective effort and commitment from different stakeholders, including the community itself. The fact that Indigenous languages continue to exist despite oppressive education systems and colonial culture demonstrates the resilience of our communities. The resilience of Indigenous language speakers, paired with a growing Indigenous movement advocating for the right to selfdetermination in language revitalization efforts, has led to the Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032) and continuous efforts for implementation of the rights to Indigenous languages under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As enshrined in Article 13 of the Declaration, Indigenous Peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop, and transmit their language, oral traditions, and writing systems and literature. Indigenous Peoples, especially youth, are the protagonists in language revitalization conversations because they know what has been lost and want to recover it for future generations. A clear message from the participants was that Indigenous Peoples must lead language initiatives. As Dakota CrowSpreads (Blackfoot) said, “We cannot wait for the United Nations to help us. We are the United Nations
here, and we are the ones to promote our languages.” Indigenous Peoples must take an active role in speaking our languages at home again and make a greater effort when language transmission is interrupted. Learning a language requires not only time commitment, but longterm financial and non-financial support. If we want to lead the work on languages, we cannot wait for the UN and the International Decade to take the lead and revitalize our languages; we must engage and position ourselves actively to promote self-determined ways of learning.
2022 UNPFII side event on Strategies to Revitalize our Indigenous Languages. Left to right: Rev. Cornell Edmonds, Rev. Chebon Kernell (Seminole), Galina Angarova (Buryat), Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K'iche'), Adriana Hernández (Maya K'iche'), and Dr. Richard Grounds (Yuchi). Photo by Cassandra Smithies.
Prioritizing Support for Language Revitalization Efforts
As part of our joint efforts, the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus with support from Cultural Survival will continue to advocate for the Tahlequah Declaration following the grassroots launch event hosted by the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma in January 2022. Among the recommendations of the Tahlequah Declaration are the need to develop and strengthen Indigenous-led partnerships among Indigenous communities globally. This is vital to counterbalance the dominant colonial structures, and we need to support each other in this work. No less important is the need to continue advocating for grassroots funding. Participants expressed interest in learning more about the first steps other speakers have taken to become fluent and how to overcome the fear of speaking in the early stages. We were happy to see that one-third of attendees were youth, and that the majority of attendees were women. We strongly believe that bringing more grassroots activists’ voices, and more youth, will guide us in reclaiming, decolonizing, and returning to our roots. We believe that telling our stories, recognizing our ancestors’ struggles, and the power of our languages is healing, and healing is an important part of language revitalization. Cultural Survival will continue collaborating with the Global Indigenous Languages Caucus to promote effective methodologies for language acquisition through the strengthening of networks, exchanges of language projects, and grantmaking to Indigenous-led initiatives. We look forward to learning more about efforts by Diné, Kānaka Maoli, Guna, and Zapara Peoples, who successfully passed on their languages to their next generation.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
women the world must hear
“Bring Her Home”
The Epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Mysti Babineau, Head of Security at 5th Annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March, Minneapolis, MN
Angela Two Stars, Sisseton Wahpeton Reservation, SD
Photo by Anna Jean Williams.
Photo by Michael Phillips.
Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan, CS Staff) eya Hale (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Diné) currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a storyteller, documentary filmmaker, and a producer with Twin Cities PBS. Growing up around the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, she says she “saw right away this lack of Native representation in all forms of media,” and that is what interested her in media making. Hale was raised by her father, grandparents, and extended family members. After graduating from college at the University of South Dakota, she moved back to what she considers her ancestral homeland in the state of Minnesota. “Being an urban Native person living in the city, I grew up with a strong sense of cultural identity from my family, my grandparents. Coming back here and making a living for myself and raising my family, it’s like me reclaiming my homeland again,” she says. Hale has won multiple regional Emmy awards for her work. She is the 2020 Merata Mita fellow at the Sundance Institute, an imagineNATIVE 2020 Native fellow, and an ambassador with Thrive’s “My Sisters are Warriors” initiative. Her latest film, “Bring Her Home,” raises awareness about the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as it highlights the quests of three protagonists—artist Angela Two Stars (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), activist Mysti Babineau (Red Lake Nation), and North Dakota State Representative (D) Ruth Buffalo (Arikara, Hadata and Mandan)—for justice. Native women make up less than one percent of the U.S. population, yet face murder rates more than 10 times the national average. There is a strong connection between
Rep. Ruth Buffalo speaking at the 5th Annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March, Minneapolis, MN
Leya Hale, Director of “Bring Her Home.” Courtesy photo.
Photo by Michael Phillips.
extractivism and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, as well as increased severity of violence against women in correlation with mining and pipeline operations. “Our land is being extracted and raped, and then they’re extracting from us and raping us as well,” says Babineau. “This issue is common around the globe in every Indigenous community when it comes to the effects of colonization and the effects of mistreatment of our women. When a white woman goes missing in our society, you see her picture on the nightly news. It [receives] national attention. You never see awareness when a Native woman goes missing. It’s troublesome to see who our society thinks is worthy enough to investigate, to bring attention to. We see that a lot when it comes to families, when they try to report their daughters or their sisters that go missing. A lot of families don’t even call the police. They just end up having to call their own relatives and community members to go search on their own,” Hale says. Hale started developing “Bring Her Home” after putting together a short package for the nightly news on the first annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women rally held in March 2015 in south Minneapolis. She says, “I felt inspired because I heard all of these different women leaders talking about what bills and policies they’re trying to bring forth to our state legislation. I heard women talking about having to go out and search on their own, talking about the mistrust of law enforcement and authorities and the lack of attention in regards to recording how many Native women go missing all the time. That number is almost unknown because there’s such a lack of data collection when somebody goes missing. They don’t even identify them as being Native women.”
Hale initially had more than 20 women from different Tribal Nations on the list of whom she wanted to film when she first started, though she ended up focusing on three. “I wanted to focus on the urban women’s experience, because the few times we get to focus on Native stories in this country, it’s always on the reservation. The few documentaries on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that have been produced focus on jurisdictional confusion. But there was one law that was really detrimental to solving some of these cases, and that is if a non-Native person commits a crime on a reservation, Tribal police cannot prosecute them.” She continues, “The one issue we struggle with in the city is invisibility. When it comes to people in the city, we don’t have sovereign rights. I also wanted to show Native women as heroes and Native women that had scary incidents that either happened to them or their families. And I wanted to show that they were able to get through it and they were able to find some sense of healing to move forward and to try their best to bring attention to this because there’s so many people out there that probably have gone through similar experiences.” Hale’s film follows Ruth Buffalo in North Dakota as she engages in policy work. Among the laws that she helped enact are Savannah’s Act, named after Savannah Greywind, who was murdered in Fargo, North Dakota. The Act “helps figure out a better way for law enforcement across the country to work together to make sure that they’re tracking these cases accurately.” Buffalo is also working on combatting sex trafficking of Native women who are homeless or otherwise vulnerable, and making sure that law enforcement “knows the history of Native Peoples, historical trauma, and all of that extra weight that we have to carry as Indigenous Peoples.” Angela Two Stars is an artist whom Hale says is helping with the visibility and representation of Native Peoples in film. “There is this long history of Native people in cinema always coming in with bow and arrow and stereotypical scenes where we’re raping white women, what they call the ‘bloodthirsty savage.’ There’s always been this image of Native women in Hollywood films of us being sexualized, exotic, promiscuous, and seen as belonging to men. This lack of true Native representation of us is in all forms of mainstream media,” Hale says. Representation matters, and there is a need to show how women are truly seen in Native communities. “Before colonization, before white settlers came and settled on our homeland, a lot of Tribal groups in North America were matriarchal. Native women were very influential and important in the community. They were the decision makers. They were well protected and revered. The patriarchal views of white Europeans, they had a whole different mindset where the woman wasn’t important. And that way of thinking eventually infiltrated into our own communities, where our own men view them that
Poster for PBS documentary film by Leya Hale.
way. So sometimes a lot of these violent acts that happen to Native women are coming from our own men, because we lost our original teachings when it comes to the importance of Native women and the importance of treating Native women the same as how you should treat the land, with love and respect, caring for it and nurturing it. In a lot of our Tribal groups, we believe women are life givers. When we talk about the Earth, we call her Mother Earth. She creates life, she creates the food we eat, the water we drink. We see that connection in a lot of our teachings.” The film also highlights the work of activist Mysti Babineau, an organizer with climate change organization Minnesota 350 and an advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. Babineau has been vocal about the connection between the Line 3 pipeline and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. A history of objectification and dehumanization of Indigenous women has led to an increase in violence against Native American women and sex trafficking in construction site areas, which bring an influx of workers living in “man camps,” or temporary housing, near reservations. Indigenous organizers have been calling out the extractive industry for the violence, rape, and violation of land, as well as Indigenous women. Hale believes that Indigenous media makers have an important role to play in addressing these injustices. “As Indigenous filmmakers, we need to see ourselves in success,” she says. “We need to create our own heroes. We need to create our own stories that will uplift us. Because this issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women is not going to be solved tomorrow. It takes time to make change. If we’re making change now, we may not see [the effects] tomorrow. It may be way better for our children and our grandchildren and the next generations to come, [but] it starts now in the home with how you treat your wife, your mother, your sisters. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is gender violence, and we are just finding ways to speak out, to find ways to start this conversation.” Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
rights in action
Photo by Yoppy. Photo by Mrs. Gemstone.
Returning to Circular Economies
Photo by Oregon State University
Rooted in Indigenous Values
Galina Angarova (Buryat, CS STAFF) trusted Elder once told me: “Pay attention to intention. There are many big, shiny, and new things, but most of them are just reinventions of the same old.” The “same old” is the centuries-old mindset and intention to extract and exploit. It can come in shiny packages, but the core of it has remained the same— extractive. In many Indigenous cultures, we are taught from childhood to take only what you need, leave some behind so it can regenerate itself, and to think seven generations ahead. We pass on traditional stories that encapsulate this wisdom and teach the basic principles of living in harmony with nature, self, and others to our youth. In many Indigenous worldviews, regeneration, sharing, and giving back are at the core of harmonious and true sustainable living. Today, Indigenous Peoples are facing a new wave of extractivism: the “gold rush” for transition minerals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, Healthy and sustainable iron, and others. Transition minerals bring a promise of a economies should perfect solution to combat climate change and reduce CO2 mirror healthy emissions, and of a future not dependent on fossil fuels. Howecological systems. ever, this future comes at its own cost, as it will require a higher demand for minerals, and therefore an increase in mining—and Indigenous Peoples’ livelihoods, lands, and territories globally are directly threatened by this. In the United States, the vast majority of mineral reserves are within 35 miles of Native American reservations. According to the International Energy Agency, getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2040 will require a six-fold Forest in Siberia
Photo by Cultural Survival.
increase in mineral input by 2040. Some key minerals such as lithium could see growth rates of demand over 40 times the current level, with demand for nickel and cobalt growing more than 20-fold. In February 2021, the price of lithium hit an all-time high of $50,000 per tonne, up from $10,000 just one year prior. According to a World Economic Forum study, by 2040, when most vehicles are predicted to be electric, the materials used to produce them could account for 60 percent of their total lifetime emissions, as opposed to 18 percent in 2020. Are we going to do business as usual by building a green future for the privileged West? Will extraction remain at the center of the transition? We must center Indigenous Peoples’ and human rights as well as true, regenerative practices as we transition to the new green economy. Healthy and sustainable economies should mirror healthy ecological systems. Healthy ecosystems are interconnected and resilient to change; they are interdependent and regenerate each other, rather than depleting and weakening the system. The global economies that currently dominate rely upon externalities, or invisibilized costs that do not get accounted for in budgets and which often take the form of rights violations and environmental destruction. Their costs are more complex to quantify but are, in fact, measurable, with devastating effects on millions of people and our entire planet. Indigenous rights and environmental destruction are externalities of the mineral mining required to uphold certain aspects of the green energy economy. Green energy technologies, as exemplified by electric cars and solar panels, are replacing one extractive practice with another. They might change the form of pollution or location of land theft, but they do not eliminate them, thus perpetuating the current system that is destroying this planet. The oil drilling that fuels conventional vehicles devastates ecosys-
tems and cultures. As it stands, the mineral mining required for electric vehicle batteries does not look much different. In October 2021, Q’eqchi’ communities on Lake Izabal, Guatemala, rose up in a peaceful protest against a nickel mine, which, over many years, has contaminated their water. In the Russian Arctic, the world’s largest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), spilled 21,000 tons of diesel into the Ambarnaya River in May 2020, decimating the fishing grounds of the Dolgan, Nenet, Nganasan, Evenk, and Enet Indigenous communities. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that hosts more than 70 percent of the total cobalt global reserves, human rights groups have been reporting on human rights abuses including child labor and unsafe working conditions. In the United States, Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) are protesting the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, citing the harm it would cause to their ancestral burial sites, water resources, and local wildlife. And the cases are mounting. The concerns about green energy technologies go beyond the rights and environmental violations that occur in the production phase. They extend to the millions of tons of battery waste that will result if recycling cannot keep up. Some project up to 11 million tons of such waste just from electric vehicle batteries by 2030. Not only does this waste require storage on land, it also contains toxic chemicals that can contaminate surroundings and is extremely flammable. For renewable energies to provide a serious alternative to our current energy production and consumption cycles, they need to be grounded in a truly alternative set of principles and practices. Alternatives must consider all of the costs: climate, environmental, human rights, and biodiversity loss—not just the emissions that occur upon use of the product. Circular economies take into account every aspect of the product life cycle, from production through what happens to the elements of the product after its lifespan has ended. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation identifies three key principles: eliminating waste and pollution, circulating products and materials, and regenerating nature. When it comes to electric vehicle batteries, there are possibilities on the horizon. Under ideal conditions, recycled batteries could provide 50-60 percent or even greater of certain mineral materials by 2040. Recycling many of these materials is already possible, although, as the Institute for Sustainable Futures’ and Earthworks’ recent report notes, many of the elements are currently recycled into other products or face other challenges to recycling at scale, and thus are not yet capable of replacing further mineral extraction for the same products. Recycling is essential to minimize future mining. However, there will be a delay until the battery cycle can become entirely circular, and it remains to be seen if this is even possible. Thus, companies mining in the meantime must be held accountable to national and international Indigenous rights, human rights, environmental protection, and other standards to ensure that Indigenous communities
and ecosystems do not suffer even greater abuses as newer technologies expand. If these rights and protections are not ensured, renewable energies merely serve to shift the location of contamination, emissions, and health, cultural, and ecological impacts, rather than diminishing these impacts. Reducing demand for energy and increasing energy efficiency are also critical. In the U.S., where rates of public transit use in some cities were as low as five percent pre-Covid, this will require massive infrastructure and policy shifts along with fundamental changes in values and practices. It will require addressing the root causes embedded in the extractive economic systems and pursuit of permanent growth within the limits of the planetary boundaries. The concepts of wealth accumulation and GDP have simply outlived themselves. It is time to imagine a new world based on millennia-old Indigenous values of regeneration, reciprocity, and respect for each other and Mother Earth. To ensure human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights are at the center of the transition to a green economy, in March 2022, a delegation of Cultural Survival’s staff and partners traveled to Brussels to meet with Members of the European Parliament to advocate for the inclusion of references to Indigenous Peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the new European Union battery regulation. We are excited to report that references to Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration made the final draft of the battery regulation. More advocacy efforts are needed before the final vote in summer 2022. Indigenous Peoples have sustained diverse and complex societies with circular economies over millennia without defaulting to the sort of replacement extractivism that some of today’s renewable energy options entail. A meaningful, intentional, and truly Just Transition will require a set of solutions including improving existing standards, reforming old mining laws, mandating circular economy practices, setting standards and meeting targets for minerals’ reuse and recycling, reducing demand and accepting de-growth as a concept and a pathway, and most importantly, centering human rights and the right to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent in all decision-making. To go forward also means to go back to our original values and practices. Regeneration, recycling, reciprocity, and sustainability are not new, and we must center those who have always lived this approach. The choices we make today as individuals and as a collective will inform the future we will have tomorrow and for seven generations ahead.
Indigenous Peoples have sustained diverse and complex societies with circular economies over millennia without defaulting to the sort of replacement extractivism that some of today’s renewable energy options entail.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Isolated and Impacted by Nickel Mining
Indigenous Communities in Russia Search for Avenues of Justice
Norilsk Nickel plant in Murmansk Oblast, Russia. Photo by Hans Olav Lien.
This article is co-written by members of a coalition working to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the transition to the green economy: Cultural Survival, First Peoples Worldwide, Batani Fund, Aborigen Forum, Earthworks, and the Society for Threatened Peoples.
n February 6, 2022, police raided the Indigenous village of Ust-Avam on the Taimyr Peninsula in the Russian Arctic. They went from house to house, forcing their way in without showing documents or identification. They threatened children and elders, even threatening people during the night with arrest and jail. Police confiscated reindeer meat, falsely claiming that the meat was illegally harvested and leaving Indigenous families without meat for subsistence or trade. Ust-Avam is an Indigenous village of 450 people that was impacted by a large fuel spill caused by a subsidiary of Nornickel in May 2020. Nornickel, a Russian mining company, is known as the Arctic’s largest polluter and is the largest supplier of Class I nickel in the world. Nickel is in increased global demand and categorized as a transition mineral used for the production of electric vehicles and batteries. Nickel is deemed an important element used in a variety of so-called “green” technologies; for example, it bolsters energy storage in a battery’s cathode, which extends electric vehicles’ range and battery life. In Russia, Nornickel, the largest nickel producer in the world, operates on Indigenous lands and has caused extensive environmental damage to the territories of the Sámi, Nentsy, Nganasan, Entsy, Dolgan, and Evenki communities, who have suffered devastating environmental and economic impacts from mining activities. On May 29, 2020, a
Nornickel power plant failed, releasing 21,000 tons of diesel oil into local rivers. In 2016, a suspected break in a Norilsk Nickel slurry pipe caused the Daldykan River to turn bright red. Less than two weeks before the raid, in January 2022, Indigenous residents of Ust-Avam had met with a major transnational buyer from Nornickel to tell them about the impacts of Nornickel’s spill on their traditional livelihoods. As a result of the spill, families in Ust-Avam can no longer rely on traditional fisheries for food. After the spill, Nornickel publicized a major investment of 2 billion rubles in Indigenous Peoples’ programs and the creation of a Coordination Council to oversee the program. However, community members report that in order to receive financial support from the program, they must agree to say that Nornickel’s fuel spill did not impact their fisheries, violating the community’s right to freely consent to the company’s operations. The community in Ust-Avam was unwilling to lie, and as a result, the people of Ust-Avam have not received the compensation that they requested. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, only worsened the situation for Indigenous Peoples in Russia. Russian authorities quickly passed new legislation criminalizing any dissent that is deemed to discredit Russia’s armed forces with up to 15 years in prison. Some Indigenous activists rapidly arranged travel out of the country knowing they could not stay silent, but many stayed despite the risk of speaking out. The Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON) was created in 1990 to represent the interests of Indigenous Peoples of Russia. For over two decades, RAIPON advocated regionally, nationally, and internationally on issues including land rights and protection of the Arctic. RAIPON representatives worked tirelessly with other Indigenous allies around the world to help build an international consensus that led to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, in 2013, progovernment interests forced Pavel Sulyandziga (Udege), RAIPON’s well-known former vice president, to withdraw his name from consideration as president, and installed an
Indigenous Duma representative who is a member of President Putin’s United Russia party. Since then, RAIPON has served as a formal mouthpiece for discussions with Indigenous Peoples, but has shied away from advocacy that is not in line with government interests. Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, RAIPON’s leadership published a letter proclaiming support for Putin’s war. The only Russian Indigenous leaders who felt safe to speak out against the Russian government were those who had fled the country in self-imposed exile. They created an International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia to issue a strong statement against Russia’s invasion, saying that RAIPON did not represent the true opinion of Indigenous Peoples of Russia. They called on international bodies such as the UN and the Arctic Council to withdraw recognition of RAIPON as a legitimate representative of Indigenous interests in Russia. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had far-ranging impacts on Indigenous Peoples. Soon after the invasion, seven of the eight countries in the Arctic Council—all the nation States except for Russia—announced a boycott of the Arctic Council. Indigenous Permanent Participants at the Arctic Council issued varied responses. Gwich’in Council International welcomed the pause and expressed grave concern for the people of Ukraine, particularly Indigenous Peoples, due to the invasion by Russia. Inuit Circumpolar Council responded with concern about the future of the Arctic Council and stated their commitment to the Arctic remaining a zone of peace. The Saami Council put cooperation with its member organizations in Russia on hold. The Arctic Athabaskan Council reminded global leaders about their obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and expressed concern about Crimean Tatars, the largest population of Indigenous Peoples in Ukraine. With Arctic Council activities on hold, Indigenous Peoples in the Russian Arctic have even fewer avenues to raise concerns about Indigenous rights in Russia in international settings. Back on the Taimyr Peninsula, communities are trying to secure compensation and support from Nornickel to maintain their traditional livelihoods. But now, they are even more isolated. Growing repression inside of Russia makes it unsafe for Indigenous Peoples to share their stories. Left without other options, several communities have agreed to go along with Nornickel simply because they
have no other options for securing the food security and financial support that they need. In 2021, they were unable to catch fish in Lake Pyasino as a result of the 2020 fuel spill. The police continue to hold the meat that they confiscated during the February 6 raid on Ust-Avam, depriving families of this vital source of subsistence. Communities are considering legal action to try to get the meat back. Meanwhile, Nornickel continues to operate under a business as usual scenario. Nornickel is one of the few companies in Russia that has not been sanctioned, likely due to the importance of minerals needed for the clean energy transition. Yet, Nornickel has not demonstrated improvements in its environmental and social practices, especially its practices engaging Indigenous Peoples. Although Nornickel announced its plans to be audited under the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, the audit was put on hold as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Initiative paused membership for Russianbased mining companies and stated that it will not commence auditing in the region until there is greater stability and confidence that diverse stakeholders may safely engage in a robust independent audit. Nornickel launched what it calls a Free, Prior and Informed Consent process focused on the village of Tukhard, using it to publicize Nornickel’s engagement with Indigenous Peoples. However, several Indigenous leaders have pointed out that Nornickel’s process in Tukhard fundamentally violates international standards for Free, Prior and Informed Consent, since community members will be involuntarily relocated if they do not agree to the process. Nornickel has also failed to engage with independent Indigenous leaders in the region, relying instead on relationships with leaders in RAIPON, now discredited due to its close ties with the Putin regime. Without meaningful, transparent, and verifiable improvements in Nornickel’s social and environmental practices, western companies that source minerals from Nornickel will be unable to demonstrate compliance with international standards for Indigenous rights. Most importantly, communities on the Taimyr Peninsula continue to suffer from the impacts of Nornickel’s 2020 fuel spill. As the Russian state has become an international pariah, they have even fewer opportunities to seek justice from Nornickel.
Taimyr Peninsula, Russia. Photo by Ninara.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
When Profit Trumps Rights
The Case of El Estor, Guatemala
Radio Xyaab 'Tzuultaq'a has been essential in the resistance movement against Fenix Nickel Mine’s operations and in covering the criminalization of Indigenous leaders.
CS Staff n October 2021, members of the Indigenous Q’eqchi’ community in the municipality of El Estor, Izabal, peacefully blockaded a road for 20 days to prevent ongoing activities of the Fenix Nickel Mine. The mine is owned by Swiss company Solway Group and operated by Guatemalan subsidiary Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel. In 2019, Guatemala’s highest court ordered the mine to close, having found that the license under which it is currently operating failed to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities. The court ordered that the mining license be suspended pending a consultation, which was to be held within 18 months. Despite this ruling and a previous temporary injunction to suspend operations, the mine has continued to operate. On April 26, 2022, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court affirmed that the Fenix Nickel Mine is operating illegally. The court noted that the Supreme Court had failed to respond to a request made by several community authorities and fishermen from El Estor to suspend the operation of the mine because it had not carried out a prior consultation with those affected as mandated by ILO Convention 169 and as ordered by the court itself. The consultation that was approved by the Ministry of Energy and Mines late last year took place amid a state of siege imposed by Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. The state of siege, which lasted 30 days, was declared on October 24, 2021 in response to the blockade led by traditional Q’eqchi’ authorities of the Ancestral Council. The imposition of martial law suspended civil rights, including freedom of expression and action, freedom of movement, the right to assembly and demonstration, and carrying of arms. It supported legal detention without a judge’s warrant and interrogations of detainees and prisoners. A curfew was imposed and restrictions were applied to all those living in El Estor, Izabal. Arrest warrants are now 14
being issued against community leaders, including the fishermen’s association. According to local news site Prensa Libre, since the state of siege, local journalists, activists, and organizations have been harassed and their homes have been raided by the military. Many of those targeted are outspoken against the Fenix mine, including independent journalists who have covered opposition to the mine, the offices of the Defensoria Q’eqchi’, who have helped bring a lawsuit against the mine to international courts, and Q’eqchi’ community radio station Radio Xyaab ‘Tzuultaq’a. Radio Xyaab ‘Tzuultaq’a is a Cultural Survival grant partner that has provided in-depth media coverage of the peaceful protests, and was raided during a similar state of siege enacted two years ago. At the time, the station director said, “We fear that the harassment will continue due to our advocacy work with communities fighting for the protection of their territories and due to the demands they have made to definitively close the mining company.” Cristobal Pop, President of the Fishermen Association, one of the main collectives defending their livelihoods and the lake from the mine, said, “The persecution has been enormous and my family has suffered. There are arrest warrants against me and other members of the Board of Directors just for telling the truth about the illegal work of the mine to the departmental governor. I am going through difficult times. This situation has greatly affected my financial situation and family life and health. [We are] not free to work and [be] parents. We have children; they have to study. I have four children and three of them are no longer studying because I don’t have the freedom to work. I fear of being captured or killed.” On June 30, 2021, the Ancestral Council of Q’eqchi’ Peoples sent a message to the Guatemalan government asking that it respect the self-determination of Q’eqchi’ Peoples to elect their own authorities named through general assembly to represent in the pre-consultation and All photos by Cultural Survival.
consultation processes. Instead, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has been carrying out consultations with a third party, which they have named the Council of Maya Q’eqchi’ Indigenous Communities, and which submitted an amicus brief in favor of the Fenix mining project. Raúl Tacaj Xol (Maya Q’eqchi’), Co-founder and President of the Defensoria Q’eqchi’, said, “It has been a very difficult moment. We have been communicating to the people as a community radio, as leaders, as land defenders, as rights defenders. Our struggle continues, and will continue until the Guatemalan government understands and recognizes our rights as a Peoples. We continue insisting to the Guatemalan government that community radio stations support the communities in being able to understand and defend our own lands. In our lands, we very well understand that for a project to come in from outside the country, they must consult. The government sells our lands without consulting us. There are very few agencies or institutions that come to defend Indigenous Peoples, those that do express interest in the case focus on the pollution of the water and the destruction of the mountains. Some of our leaders who speak out have been killed. The reason for our community radio station is to inform and defend, so that the communities can be informed to not just accept any project.”
A History of Violence and Destruction
The Fenix mine is Guatemala’s only active metal mine. It extracts 120,000 tons of nickel per month, making it the largest in Central America. It is located on the shores of Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s largest lake and a crucial freshwater resource for local communities. The mine has been mired in violent conflict since its installation on Indigenous land without consent in 1960 during Guatemala’s civil war. From 2005–2011, it was operated by Canadian company Hudbay Minerals/Skye Resources. During this time, Q’eqchi’ community members were violently evicted from their homes. A case is still pending in Canadian courts from a 2007 incident in which uniformed mine personnel allegedly gang raped at least 11 Q’eqchi’ women after burning their homes to evict them from their ancestral lands. In 2009, HudBay security opened fire on Q’eqchi’ land defenders protesting their eviction, and one community leader, Adolfo Ich, was killed. Only in 2021 was the former security chief, Mynor Padilla, convicted for the murder. He served four years in prison during an appeals process and was released for time served. Germán Chub, a Q’eqchi’ man who was shot and paralyzed from the waist down, has remained a vocal opponent of the mine’s
operation. His home was raided by the military on October 27, 2021. In 2017, a giant red stain appeared on the surface of Lake Izabal, emanating from where the mine ejects water. An Indigenous fisherman’s guild in El Estor denounced the Fenix mine for contamination. Although local authorities took samples to test the water quality, data from the results was never released publicly. According to the Fisherman’s Guild, independent testing in Germany and Mexico determined the water to have heavy metal contamination. On May 27, 2017, during peaceful demonstrations calling on authorities to resolve contamination in the lake, a member of the Fisherman’s Guild, Carlos Maaz Coc, was killed. During the protest, Q’eqchi’ journalist Carlos Ernesto Choc Chub of Prensa Comunitaria recorded video of bullets fired at him by the National Police. Choc Chub subsequently received death threats and his home was also raided by police on October 27, 2021. In 2014, ownership of the Fenix mine was transferred to the Solway Group. Since then, global demand for nickel has skyrocketed alongside exponential growth in the electric vehicle sector as governments race to meet zero-emissions goals by 2030. Nickel is a key source material in the production of batteries used to power electric and hybrid vehicles. Mining for battery minerals such as cobalt, lithium, and nickel has been shown to cause disproportionate harm to Indigenous Peoples. Metal mining is one of the world’s dirtiest industries, responsible for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. It is linked to environmental destruction, freshwater contamination and depletion, human rights abuses, forced displacement, loss of livelihood, violent conflict, unsafe working conditions, and illicit financial flows in many parts of the world. And it increasingly poses threats to ocean health through waste dumping and deep-sea mining. As Q’eqchi’ communities continue to organize and assert their rights, arrest warrants are being issued for those who speak out against the mine. In January, a local judge ordered the arrest of 12 people, including Pop, Julio Anselmo Toc, Vice president of the Estor Fishermen’s Association, Tacaj Xol, and Choc Chub. According to locals, the mining company is behind the criminalization of community leaders and has paid the Guatemalan police and army to denounce several community members. Still, the community persists. “We have to respond,” says Tacaj Xol. “[The fight is for] the life of our future generations—we want to make sure they can enjoy it.”
Fenix Nickel Mine in El Estor, Guatemala, is a notorious polluter of local waterways.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Our Sacred Sites
Gary Mckinney at Peehee Mu’huh (Thacker Pass), Nevada. Photo by Fifth Sun Project/LV.
Are More Important than a Lithium Mine
Daranda Hinkey (Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe) at Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Walk at Peehee Mu’huh. Photo by @PeopleOfRedMountain.
am Gary McKinney, Western Shoshone/ Northern Paiute Indian, enrolled member of the Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Idaho and Nevada. I am a spokesperson for the Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) and the Co-Scout for the American Indian Movement Northern Nevada Chapter. We oppose the Thacker Pass open lithium mine for many reasons, starting with the lack of meaningful consultation. As descendants of Tribal Peoples, we carry a history of trauma of being displaced from our rightful lands by methods of deceit such as broken treaties. Today, we seek to ensure the protection and preservation of what remains of our Tribal cultural landscapes. We’re calling places like this sacred to our people and we want them left alone, all across this continent. Peehee Mu’huh, or Thacker Pass, sits at the southern edge of the McDermitt Caldera in Humboldt County, Nevada, and is known to us as a massacre site. On
September 12, 1865, a mass of Paiutes were murdered by the U.S. Cavalry. Ultimately, two baby boys were spared by one of the officers whose last name was Thacker. That is the highly speculated origin of “Thacker Pass.” We know that more than that one massacre took place between the U.S. Cavalry and the Paiutes; inter-Tribal battles also happened at Thacker Pass between the Pit River and the Paiutes throughout that landscape. Today, we find ourselves at the crux of the lithium boom, this green energy transition. In January 2021, federal land managers approved a request by the company Lithium Americas to make Thacker Pass the site of a new lithium mine, which would consist of open-pit mining and lithium processing operations. The mine would be used to produce lithium carbonate, which would be turned into battery-grade lithium for consumer products such as electronics and electric vehicles. The mine would also include an acid plant, which would use sulfuric acid for leaching and generate steam to power the mine. The project spans 17,933 acres, around 5,700 acres of which would be the site of the mine itself. The remaining land would be used for exploration. The expected lifespan of the project is 41 years. The Thacker Pass lithium mine’s permits were granted without adequate consultation with Indigenous communities. We have to prove we were here because the United
States government does not recognize our oral history and tradition. If we don’t do something, we’re going to lose more than resources and minerals: we will lose our history, which we cannot get back. The Bureau of Land Management was asked by the court to provide documents to concur with the massacre. If they provide the court with those documents, that would prove that area is significant. They have the documents, and there are public documents that can also prove it, but they don’t want it acknowledged. This isn’t about the trees, grass, water, springs, ponds, or lakes; this is about investment. This is about pushing this project through so investors get their money. Right now there is an exponential demand for lithium, this “white gold,” for cars, phones, and tablets. Here we come in as the People of Red Mountain. We have stakes here. We’re being straight up with our fight, and we’re the prayerful bunch. We’re out there practicing the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and citing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. We’re attempting to hold accountability where accountability needs to be held. You do not have to look far to see how many communities impacted by mining had their streams contaminated and lost the fish they relied upon to sustain their community. This is already a dry country. You can’t mine and process lithium where there’s moisture; it needs to be in the desert. When the processing waste evaporates, the wind takes it and we’re right under it. It’s going to sprinkle right over the top of us. And over the course of time, we’re going to start seeing that change environmentally, seeing less water in our lakes, because they have to go through a process called dewatering and also rerouting water to the mine. They’re paying scientists and spokespeople to come in and campaign for this green energy transition. It’s all based on this climate crisis and all man made. What if there was no mining? What if there was no extraction? What if there was no dewatering, no evaporating, no running roughshod over communities? We might not see a climate crisis. This climate crisis is based on three roots: capitalism, colonialism, and extractivism. To meet the high demand for lithium, the Defense Production Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law are being invoked, which will disregard Tribal consultation. Tribal consultation is important to preserve and save the cultural sites and burial sites, the artifacts, the stories, all those things that they were meant to protect. The Defense Production Act is saying that corporations do not need to consult with anybody. We’re not protesters. We’re land defenders and water protectors. This is about our people understanding that this system has been exploiting us, and now it’s time for us to wake up. The things that are really important to us, like our relatives, our animals, our relationship to each other, need to be protected. The change that we’re trying to make is a deep rooted historical change, outdated mining laws like the 1872 Mining Law. These were designed to
“settle” the West, to evict the Indigenous Peoples off their lands. All these years later, mining laws in the U.S. still privilege mining over all other uses. Reform must include the requirement to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent of impacted Indigenous communities. The most important thing about why I’m in this battle is for the Elders, who have seen and heard from their Elders. We’re holding gatherings and sharing information. We bring our drums, sing, and talk amongst each other. The next step for our work is to make sure that our Indigenous communities have a voice, because we’re being left out of this consultation process. Sometimes governments do not have the same views as the people in the community. As these consultation processes go on, we don’t want to be bought. We don’t want to sell out our history or the artifacts because we were taught a lot throughout our history. We need to be included at all of those meetings, we need to be involved in those commenting sessions. We want our treaty rights, we want our water rights. We want our air rights. We want to be left alone. We want our history here. We want our culture to be taught within our communities. We’ve always been here as Native Americans. We’ve been buried at Thacker Pass. Now it’s our turn to stand up and speak and protect and preserve what has always been ours. We’re all standing on the same Earth. What is taken from you is taken from me. What is taken from me is taken from you. It should be like that in all four directions. What if we were to take a step back and get back on the land? We would be building relationships and spirituality that you might be missing. As the People of Red Mountain, we know about our roots and our traditions, and we’re willing to stand up and fight for ours.
In Nevada, Indigenous communities are protesting a lithium mine at Peehee Mu’huh (Thacker Pass) on Shoshone, Paiute and Bannock land that would harm ancestral burial sites, water resources, and wildlife like greater sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, and sacred golden eagles. Photo by Gary Mckinney.
To learn more about the fight of the Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu against the proposed lithium mine, follow @PeopleOfRedMountain on Facebook or Gary McKinney Jr. on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or peeheemuhuhcamp @gmail.com. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
a Just Transition
homas Joseph (Hupa/Karuk/Paiute) is an Indigenous organizer from Hoopa Valley, California. Joseph runs a small NGO, California Kitchen, with his mother, Patty Joseph, based out of Standing Rock, and does contract work with environmental organizations throughout the country. California Kitchen sprang out of the homelands of the Hupa Peoples of the Hoopa Valley along the Trinity River in response to the call of respecting and protecting Indigenous relationships with water. Daisee Francour (Oneida), Cultural Survival’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications, recently spoke to Joseph about the Just Transition and what it means as it relates to this new green economy that we are entering as a collective.
by the willingness of civil society to demand a real transition of our energies on how we do day-to-day business, a real transition [from] capitalism. A Just Transition is making sure that this transition is just for the people that are currently experiencing the effects of climate change, for the people that have been constantly at the bottom of society that are most directly affected by capitalism, climate change, white supremacy, and patriarchy. A Just Transition also needs to be engaging those ills of society. Because our environment is so sick, our societies are sick. A Just Transition includes housing for all, a livable wage, the right of women to have a say over their bodies, and healthcare for all. A part of a Just Transition is leaving behind not only the ills of us desecrating the sacredness of our Mother Earth, but also how we desecrate the sacredness of each other.
Daisee Francour: Based on your work as an Indigenous organizer, what does a Just Transition mean? Thomas Joseph: Since the Kyoto Agreement and now the Paris Climate Agreement and the continual failure of governmental nation states to meet their targeted goals or to use calculated mechanisms in carbon markets such as “nature-based solutions” and carbon offsets, we are facing a transition either by force of hand by our Mother Earth or
DF: What do you think is required to make a Just Transition? TJ: We need to be able to have a say, have autonomy over our bodies, our communities, and our places. It starts small, within yourself. Then it grows to a national level of making sure that we have autonomy over our leadership and that they’re not influenced by corporate elites, the fossil fuel industry, or old laws such as our old mining laws, and that we are making sure that our representatives are listening to the needs of the people and not the needs of companies. This will be a requirement in order for us to fulfill a Just Transition.
Thomas Joseph at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Daisee Francour.
Photo courtesy of California Kitchen.
DF: What are some of your concerns about our rights, livelihoods, and lands as Indigenous Peoples as we prepare for this transition? TJ: We are seeing the systems that have caused climate change, such as colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy, continuing to lead the resolve for climate solutions. If you look at carbon markets that are targeting Indigenous communities to be used as carbon sinks and [the requirement] that these carbon market offsets be 100-year binding agreements, it’s treaty signing all over again. Our lands are now being colonized by corporations like the fossil fuel industry. When you think of putting a price on carbon and selling carbon, then there becomes an ownership. If you are selling the sequestration process of your forest to a fossil fuel industry, who owns that? If it’s sold and somebody bought it, then they have a say over those lands. I also see our Traditional Ecological Knowledge being commodified, especially with terms like ‘nature-based solutions,’ where people think that this is the route to go. But it’s just a further step into commodifying our Mother Earth and her elements such as carbon. There is a grave concern that we’re using these old practices all over again. At the end of the day, as Indigenous Peoples continue to stay rooted in their values and understand the relationship with their place, with Mother Earth, this is our time to come forward. This is our time to reestablish that balance of our Mother Earth, not just for our own communities, but for all citizens of the globe. These new tactics of carbon offsetting and net neutrality are just practices that we have been battling since settler contact. We know how to address those concerns and attacks; this is nothing new. We are amazing Peoples that have seen our darkest days. As the world continues to feel the heat of climate change, our people will see their true resiliency and strength come forward. DF: What are some examples of people, communities, or movements that are working this way or have always worked this way? TJ: There are many. I do contract to work with a lot of climate justice alliance groups in California, in the United States, even in Canada. At COP26, we had a large Indigenous delegation to make sure that our voices were being heard in those spaces. Every group that I have been involved in and every space that I am in is feminine. Our people that identify as women are the real leaders in this moment that are making grave changes and monumental movements for our climate and Mother Earth. They understand that process greater than any of us, to be able to care for life, to carry life, and the importance of having that balance. Our transgender community—what greater community understands the difficult process of a transition and a just transition than our transgender community? They are leading the way and will continue to lead the way. It’s extremely powerful to see the work that’s being done.
DF: You touched upon the importance of uplifting Indigenous women, queer, trans, and two-spirit relatives as leaders in this movement. What do you think the role of men is in the Just Transition? TJ: We all play a role in this Just Transition. The space is large enough that we can all engage and that we can all do our part, particularly men. I think it is their role to find out within themselves what a Just Transition means for them. How are they going to transition into this hopefully matriarchal-led world, a return to matriarchy for themselves? What do they need to give up? What do they need to understand? What do they need to learn? How have they benefited from this patriarchically-led society and how has it destroyed their true self and who they are? Those things are extremely vital.
Thomas Joseph (top far right) with youth water protectors. Photo courtesy of California Kitchen.
DF: What are some changes that we can make as individuals to prepare for a Just Transition? TJ: Some change is looking at what has caused climate change. We know greenhouse gas has caused our globe to warm. Greenhouse gasses are primarily the cause of the fossil fuel industry. We know the science of that, we know that that’s from the burning of fossil fuels. The raping of the land, the forced assimilation of other ways of thinking and other ways of being, and colonialism has caused climate change, white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. These are fundamental foundations of what has caused climate change. We need to look at it individually. How do we benefit from that? How can we change in our day-to-day practice? How can we decolonize? How can we rematriate? How can we step away from capitalism personally and collectively? These are some changes that we can do as individuals. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We need to step away from colonial actions such as carbon markets and ‘nature-based solutions.’ We need to step away from capitalism. Those are the main methods of what we can do to help walk through a Just Transition. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
The Hidden Costs of “Green” Wind Energy on the Sámi
Left: Maja Kristine Jåma. Photo by Sámediggi. Above: Reindeer grazing on lichen. Photo by Denis Simonet.
Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan, CS Staff) aja Kristine Jåma (Sámi) is a reindeer herder in Fovsen-Njaarke Sijte, and, as of last September, a politician. She is currently an elected member of the Sámediggi (the Sámi Parliament in Norway) and one of five members of the Governing Council. “I have always been engaged in issues regarding Sámi society,” she says. “I had a vision of trying to do something to maintain and develop our language and culture. I was raised in a reindeer herding district in a reindeer herding family, and I’m also a South Sámi teacher. As a youth, I decided to engage in Nøørjen Saemiej Rijhkesiebrie (NSR), the largest political party in the Sámi Parliament in Norway. I wanted to participate in politics.” Jåma’s work concerns the real impact of wind farms, popularly considered a form of green energy, on Sámi communities. The Sámi represent just over one percent of Norway’s total population of approximately 4.7 million. Jåma says that the wind farms have been scaled up in recent years, with some large-scale developments of turbines 200 meters high. “These are being set up in the mountains in herding areas and occupying land that is used for traditional Sámi livelihoods,” Jåma says. “This is completely new construction in places where only nature existed before.” She continues, “These places are becoming more industrial. Our land is strongly affected by hydropower developments as well. [In both cases] they are occupying land and hindering us from living our traditional lifeways. For those of us who experience loss of land because of 20
this so-called ‘green energy,’ it is actually nothing more than green colonization. We are forced from our land because of something that the States think is green energy. There’s nothing green about overstepping Indigenous rights and destroying nature.” Low-carbon power depends on climate-devastating transition metals such as lithium, copper, nickel, and cobalt. Solar panels require large amounts of aluminum, silver, and tin, while alloys for wind turbines demand high quantities of nickel. These metals are carbon culprits because they are produced in large amounts by energy intensive extracting and refining processes, and are predominantly located on Indigenous lands. Sámi communities have been vocal about such “green washing” practices and accompanying rights violations. According to Jåma, “There have been many protests and resistance is huge. People have been resistant since this was new 20 years ago and have been trying to tell the consequences of these developments and to raise their voice, both as regular human beings but also through organizations and the Sámi Parliament. But somehow our concerns have not been taken seriously or respected. We are lucky to be able to raise our voices and our concerns [now],” she says. In a historic verdict in October 2021, Norway’s Supreme Court ruled that two wind farms erected on the Fosen peninsula in western Norway violated the rights of Sámi families, including the Jåmas, to practice their culture, breaching the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Storheia and Roan wind farms make up Europe’s biggest land-based wind park with a capacity to supply energy to more than 170,000 households. According to Fosen Vind, Storheia and Roan accounted for more than 20 percent of
the wind energy produced in Norway in 2020. The 11 Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled that the operating permits and authorizations that allowed for the construction of 151 wind turbines were invalid. However, nothing was decided about what should happen to the structures that had already been erected. Jåma says this issue is the main reason she got into politics. “This is my homeland and this is where we have been living with reindeer and herding for centuries. It is clear that these two wind farms are occupying grazing land for the reindeers, so they are violating our right to practice our culture. We have tried from the very beginning to prevent this construction because it was going to violate our human rights. We have been fighting Fosen, the State-owned wind power company. We had a lot of losses in the court system, but at the Norway Supreme Court, we actually won. The sad part is that these wind farms are [already] built and are [still] producing power even though the Supreme Court has upheld that they violate our rights.” The scale of the energy produced by the turbines is overwhelming, according to Jåma. “Reindeer are strongly affected by it and they avoid areas where these turbines stand. Our family territories do not have room for these big constructions. We have lost so much land already.” Reindeer are nomadic and roam based on the season to find lichen, their main source of food. Wind turbines affect these migration patterns as they are noisy and constantly in motion. Reindeer herders want the turbines fully dismantled and land to be restored, replanted, and returned to the Sámi. “A Just Transition cannot happen as long as human rights and Indigenous rights are being violated. That’s a
core issue. You can’t have this transition if reindeer herding or other ways of traditional living such as berry picking and food gathering in the wild are affected,” Jåma says. She notes that climate change is also significantly disrupting Sámi lifeways. “You can link this to climate justice since the Sápmi land and the Arctic experience the consequences of climate change. The weather and seasons are switching so fast and our winters are so unstable.” Action rooted in Indigenous values and Traditional Knowledge is the only path forward to regaining balance in the world. Jåma says, “The way that some people have [traditionally] lived with nature, never taking more than you need and respecting the land, will benefit everyone. Indigenous Peoples have been stewarding the land for generations, and that should be something that States and society acknowledge. They should use this kind of thinking when looking at the resources that we have in nature.” She continues, “We are talking too little about how to make changes in our everyday life, examining what you use and how much. People often buy too much of things they don’t need. How can we reuse more? Also, foraging and picking berries and other plants from the outside—this is integrated into our life, but in a busy world many forget it. This is a fight for the future of our ancestral livelihoods and for our land that is so strongly connected to our culture and language. While we have [similar] fights all over [the world], we are united and we share the same goal: for our future generations not having to stand in these fights. We must preserve the land for them to be able to maintain our livelihood and culture. What we do today will affect future generations.”
Reindeer are strongly affected by large scale wind turbines and avoid areas where they stand. Roan Wind Farm. Photo by Statkraft.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Indigenous Rights as a Central Value in
Investing in Net Zero
Cannonball River on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota. Photo by Adrienne Benally.
Kate R. Finn (Osage) nless we are careful, the harms done to the environment and to communities in the fossil fuel-driven economy will be replicated as we move together into a “green” economy. This fact has largely been acknowledged by many investor circles and significant work has been done to stand up frameworks that prioritize climate action. The rights of Indigenous Peoples are a central aspect of shifting portfolios towards net zero and a Just Transition. A state of carbon neutrality would be net zero carbon dioxide emissions; net zero can be achieved by balancing emissions of carbon dioxide with its removal or by eliminating emissions. In fact, the organizational and corporate drive to align with net zero policies has been breathtakingly fast, in large part due to the desire to move on solutions and approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The February 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report made clear that governments alone are not moving quickly enough to reduce carbon emissions to keep the global temperature below the 2℃ level necessary to avoid weather and climate catastrophe. Thus investors have focused on net zero solutions, or those that seek to balance carbon emissions by focusing on efforts to reduce or eliminate emissions. These solutions focus mainly on the environmental aspects of climate change mitigation efforts. However, discussions around implementation of net zero policies alongside climate change’s impacts on human well being have opened global investor discourse to equal consideration of people alongside the environment. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report outlined, climate resilient development can be facilitated by partnerships with Indigenous Peoples. Securing the rights of Indigenous Peoples encourages sustainability and reduces risk from climate action that could be potentially harmful, while consideration of Indigenous knowledge “can facilitate awareness, heighten risk perception, and influence behaviors.” For decades, impact-aligned investors have known that frameworks for measuring impact along environmental, social, and governance metrics (ESG) have long lagged in
the “S” or social category. For Indigenous Peoples, this has meant that corporations and investors have not integrated an understanding of, or a ready metric on, gauging whether Indigenous rights have been implicated by a particular development project. What has been well documented is that failing to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples for companies and associated investors spans reputational, financial, political, and legal risks. For example, in 2016 the Dakota Access Pipeline moved forward without consent from impacted Tribes, resulting in the $3.8 billion project costing the company, banks, the local community, and investors more than $12 billion. Litigation continues, showing the ongoing nature of legal and reputational risk stemming from poor Indigenous rights due diligence. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribes’ land and water supply are still under threat from possible leaks, spills, and infrastructure collapse. In 2020, Rio Tinto destroyed the sacred Juukan Gorge in Australia despite knowing it was a site with deep cultural and historical significance. The company reportedly had not fulfilled its obligation to secure Free, Prior and Informed Consent with those Indigenous Peoples most affected. The permanent destruction of this site led to upheaval at the board and C-Suite levels and a shareholder rebellion, showing how companies are increasingly accountable not only to the communities in which they work, but also to the commitments they make to shareholders. The steady work done in the space, largely in reaction to these major events desecrating Indigenous lands, has meant that more companies are taking into account Indigenous rights risks and Indigenous well being as an integral aspect of aligning with international standards as set forth in UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to protect Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. More companies are now seeking rights respecting metrics as part of their forward leaning environmental, social, and governance commitments. The same strategies are necessary as to their net zero commitments. There is a nascent and unique opportunity right now to build investment theses and funding strategies that reflect environmental priorities that are measured and valued at an equal level with community imperatives and human rights; a distinct shift from past valuations relegating social impact to the lowest and least measured
rung. As one example, many investors have concentrated on solutions to reduce carbon in global emissions. This is laudable; however, many of these solutions do not truly include Indigenous Peoples, and the transition to low carbon or carbon reducing technologies could negatively impact Indigenous Peoples. In order to achieve net zero by 2050, most clean energy infrastructure development and transition mineral extraction— projects estimated to be upwards of $6 trillion—will rely on using Indigenous lands and resources. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that among essential metals needed for the energy transition, 97 percent of nickel, 89 percent of copper, 79 percent of lithium, and 68 percent of cobalt are found within 35 miles of Native American reservations. Therefore, pathways to a more just economy, and not just a different economy, must include participation from Indigenous leadership and Indigenous-led solutions. In their report Indigenous Leadership and Opportunities in the Net Zero Transition, the First Nations Major Projects Coalition identified three drivers that center Indigenousled clean energy development in the transition to a net zero future: 1. Indigenous Ownership: wherein Indigenous nations are increasingly “acquiring and building significant ownership in energy infrastructure projects,” which positively impact Indigenous Peoples and communities through financial benefits and improving local and global environments. 2. Indigenous Lands: “the inextricability of Indigenous Peoples, knowledge, identities, and rights from their homeland” where climate mitigation projects occur, as it impacts lands and traditional territories, well being, and “future generations who will inherit the same responsibility for their places and lands.” 3. Free, Prior and Informed Consent: the baseline “legal imperative” that Indigenous Peoples expect as owners of projects, including net zero and clean energy initiatives. This third driver, Free, Prior and Informed Consent, is often deemed essential to the “rights and risks” approach to decision-making in resource development, but it is equally applicable to investment engineering. When corporations and governments fail to secure Indigenous Peoples’ consent where projects impact their land or resources, material risks to companies and investors abound. Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as codified by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, encompasses the right to self-determination in two main ways: autonomous governance and participatory rights, both of which are integral in the investment context to ensure Indigenous leaders do not lose autonomy over business decisions. This has too often been the case in the fossil fuel economy as Indigenous communities receive mere lease payments from development rather than full
and equitable benefit sharing. To truly respect Indigenous Peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, investment deals need to ensure the retention of Indigenous Peoples’ autonomous governance over, and their participatory rights in, all finance and business decisions and outcomes. As mining activity increases to meet the rising demand of renewable energy technologies and as private sector climate initiatives increasingly support Indigenous-led solutions, concrete action is necessary to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and reduce material loss. This can include screening out companies without rights-based policies or companies with a poor history of partnering with Indigenous Peoples, as well as requiring human rights and Indigenous rights due diligence from companies and banks. This means disclosing how Indigenous rights risk and partnership is done through voluntary and mandatory reporting from companies, banks, and investors. Without investor support for such disclosures, fossil fuel strategies may be ‘carbon copied’ onto the new energy economy, and bring with them the same material losses and costs to Indigenous well being. As investors, foundations, and the philanthropic sector re-evaluate their portfolios and endowments with new and more investments in clean energy and net zero projects, they must devise robust screening and due diligence practices to identify all risks from violating Indigenous rights and identify opportunities to elevate existing Indigenous expertise and solutions. These are the first steps towards a Just Transition for all. Kate R. Finn (Osage) is the Executive Director of First Peoples Worldwide, a leader in deploying strategies to move the market towards respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Finn is also a Cultural Survival Board Member.
Through their participation in Makxtum Kgalhaw Chuchutsipi, Tutunakú youth are leading the way to defend their territories and build sustainable energy sources for their communities in Mexico. Photo by Makxtum Kgalhaw Chuchutsipi.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Defending the Sacred Wet’suwet’en Report Surveillance and Harassment by RCMP and Pipeline Security
Left: Gidimt’en camp kitchen. Middle: Wet’suwet’en Elder Janet Williams. Right: Sleydo’ (Molly Wickman) at a campfire at Gidimt’en camp.
Brandi Morin (Cree/Iroquois/French) t’s mid-afternoon, and 67-year-old Wet’suwet’en Elder Janet Williams is startled awake from a nap by unwanted visitors to her remote cabin home. This isn’t the first time the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has marched onto the traditional territories of her Gidimt’en Clan— it’s been happening multiple times a day for over two months. “There’s no need for you guys to be here at all,” she addresses them sharply. “I’m a matriarch here. This is my land. None of you are welcome to be here.” She’s leaning on a long, wooden walking stick carved from a tree that fell in the surrounding forest, which is enclosed by snowcapped mountains approximately one hour outside of Houston, British Columbia. Over half a dozen RCMP officers are combing through the site, which consists of tents, wooden structures, a kitchen, and a cabin. They say they’re looking for criminal activity. One officer unfolds a piece of worn paper and reads aloud a statement: “Since 2019 this location has been used as a base of operations for individuals committing criminal code offenses and actions breaching a Supreme Court Injunction. Many of those individuals have been arrested and released by the court on conditions. We are conducting patrols to ensure criminal code offenses are not being committed and that individuals with court order conditions are not breaching these conditions.” ”This is Crown land,” another officer tells her. “It’s not Crown land,” Williams declares. “This is Cas Yikh territory. You guys should know this by now. You keep coming around and reading the same damn script!”
Expecting a raid at any moment
The RCMP has had a continuous presence on the Wet’suwet’en Yintah (territory) since late 2018 after Coastal 24
Gaslink obtained an injunction against land defenders blocking the right of way for a liquified natural gas pipeline the company is constructing through approximately 190 kilometers of Wet’suwet’en territory. The RCMP have conducted three heavily armed raids, spending nearly $20 million to police the area near the Morice Forest Service Road, which runs part way alongside the Wedzin Kwa River. The most recent raid took place in November 2021 at the Coyote resistance camp, about 20 kilometers away from the Gidimt’en camp. The Coyote camp blocked the roadway leading to Coastal GasLink’s drill pad site where the company is preparing to drill under the river. The RCMP used attack dogs, sniper rifles, helicopters, and a chainsaw to gain access to a tiny house containing unarmed Wet’suwet’en and supporters. Over two days, police arrested, charged, and jailed more than a dozen land defenders as well as two journalists. The RCMP have arrested more than 75 land defenders since enforcement of the injunction began. Then, on February 17, Coastal GasLink security reported acts of violence at a worksite along the Morice Forest Service Road. They claimed individuals engaged in a violent confrontation with Coastal GasLink employees and police officers. According to police, around 20 people disguised in masks, some armed with axes, attacked security guards and smashed vehicle windows. When police arrived at the 41 Kilometer mark, the roadway had been blocked with downed trees, tar-covered stumps, boards with spikes, and fires that had been lit amid the debris. The RCMP said several people threw smoke bombs and fire-lit sticks at police. One officer was reportedly injured. On February 18 the RCMP deployed 40 officers to the area to investigate, canvassing camps and rural homes along the road. The RCMP do not think the attack was from the land defenders and they still do not know who did it. All photos by Brandi Morin.
RCMP spokesperson Christopher Manseau stated that the RCMP “has been concerned for the safety of those in the area.” But for Williams, the repeated police intrusions into her home are harassment. “You come here all the time and say you’re looking after our safety. We are safe. What about the safety of our missing and murdered women that you’re supposed to protect?” Williams asks. The officers walk away without answering her. Since the 1960s, dozens of mostly Indigenous women have disappeared or been found murdered around the nearby Highway of Tears (Hwy 16). Williams’ niece, Gaylene Morris of the Likhsamasyu Clan, says she was threatened with rape over a CB radio on April 18. Morris, who visits her ancestral territory regularly, is used to being followed closely by marked Coastal GasLink vehicles and RCMP, sometimes while her young children are with her. The rape threat confirmed the dangers she faces in her homelands. “I’m an Indigenous woman. I’ve traveled these roads since I was a baby. I was scared…these are fear tactics. These are tactics to make me not want to come back and not want to be on the very land that my grandfather raised me on. I wasn’t going to allow anyone to scare me to not come back.”
The opposite of reconciliation
Williams says the RCMP is terrorizing her and the land defenders who live at the camp. It was worse a month ago, she says, when police arrived at various hours in the middle of the night. “They come here and terrorize us whether it’s day or night, sometimes between 1 and 3 a.m.” Gidimt’en Hereditary Chief Woos says the hereditary leadership has long been frustrated with police actions on their territory. He calls the relentless patrols “childish,” and counterproductive to RCMP’s efforts with reconciliation. “It’s self-defeating for whatever their government is trying to do to try to create a good relationship with the majority of Indigenous people,” he says. “The heads of government need to come in and talk to us. [RCMP Commissioner] Brenda Lucki needs to come in and talk. Because reconciliation or repairing historical grief doesn’t seem to be filtering out with her field workers out here. They’re saying and doing the opposite. They’re still pointing guns at us. They’re still fear-mongering. And that won’t work.”
Gidimt’en Clan member Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) has been arrested at gunpoint twice while standing to protect her homelands and Wedzin Kwa from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. She is a wife and mother of three young children who lives in a cabin about 20 kilometers away, and has experienced severe stress and anxiety over the last few years. Spending time with family and friends on the Yintah and living a traditional lifestyle provides her with moments of solace. “We’ve experienced so much violence by the police,” she says.
“The RCMP does not have consent to enter onto our territory. But every single day they’re coming with six to 10 officers and interrupting our ability to be on our territory practicing our way of life,” says Sleydo’. “We absolutely won’t stand down; we have every right to be here. This is an occupation of our land. Our ancestors have been here for thousands of years, and they think they can come in here and harass us, intimidate us, fine us, jail us to the point that we’re going to get off our own land? We are the taxpayers that are paying their wages to be here and do this to us,” she says, shaking her head in disdain. About a 20-minute drive away, Coastal GasLink is preparing to drill under the Wedzin Kwa. And it’s something Sledyo’ and others are dreading. Their life source, used for ceremonial and drinking water and also a critical habitat for salmon, is as yet uncontaminated, but in danger. Sleydo’ says the violations of their Indigenous rights for trying to protect Wedzin Kwa are a warning to the rest of the world, and that the RCMP and Coastal Gaslink are “setting a precedent for how Indigenous people are to be treated and for how we are going to deal with this climate crisis. This is going to affect everybody who lives downstream. Everybody’s sustainability depends on the ocean, the salmon, the animals, our clean air and clean water. Those are things that every human being and every non-human being needs to survive. So, this is not just our fight. This is a fight for survival.”
Left: The RCMP has had a continuous presence on the Wet’suwet’en Yintah (territory) since late 2018. Middle: Gidimt’en camp and security checkpoint. Right: Janet Williams and husband Lawrence going to confront the RCMP.
Brandi Morin (Cree/Iroquois/French) is an awardwinning journalist reporting on human rights issues from an Indigenous perspective.
Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
koef grant partner spotlight
Sunuwar Welfare Society
Addressing Human Rights Violations by Hydroelectric Development on Nepal’s Likhu River
Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Koĩts-Sunuwar, CS Staff)
Likhu-A hydropower project power house being built by the MV Dugar Group on the Likhu River in Nepal.
he Likhu River is a collective treasure stewarded by Sunuwar and Sherpa Indigenous communities for generations. But Indigenous and local communities there now are adversely affected by three hydroelectric power projects spearheaded by Kathmandu-based MV Dugar Group. The projects have a total investment of 21 billion rupees from 18 private banks, but the affected communities continue to await remedy and justice. Hydroelectric power is often touted as “green” and “clean” energy. However, its development has been linked to numerous Indigenous rights violations, such as displacement, land grabbing, and the failure to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of impacted communities. The MV Dugar Group projects are a case in point, as all three projects were illegally conducted without addressing the communities’ demands or giving adequate compensation for the damage resulting from their construction. On December 21-23, 2021, Cultural Survival, along with the Sunuwar Welfare Council (an umbrella organization of Sunuwar Indigenous Peoples) and Indigenous community radio and television stations, hosted public concerns hearings in three locations and conducted site visits with a group of Indigenous human rights lawyers associated with Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples.
During the public dialogues, affected community members denounced that the hydroelectric investors failed to obtain their FPIC or to compensate those whose private lands have been destroyed by infrastructure construction at the dam sites. They reported vandalism and threats during construction of access roads and a high voltage transmission line that now runs through the village. Dawanuri Sherpa, an affected Indigenous community member, said that a temporary police post and army camp had been established and that Sherpa people were threatened for filing a public case. “We have had two incidents of at least three Sherpa community members being taken into police custody at the district headquarters just because they were trying to stop construction work and were seeking compensation for the destruction of their private land. We can easily assume that we now are forced to be silent, forced not to stand against this project because the hydropower developer, with support from the local government, deployed these security forces,” Sherpa said. There are also reported cases that the local government manufactured consent for the project by arresting protestors and forcing them to sign consent forms under duress and threat of imprisonment and further criminal sanction. “It is necessary to obtain FPIC prior and during the utilization of natural resources of Indigenous Peoples. If FPIC is not obtained, locals have the right to obstruct the project being undertaken on their lands and territories,” says Bhim Rai, an advocate with the Lawyers’ Association. Free, Prior and Informed Consent is an international legal standard that requires projects and authorities to seek permission from local Indigenous Peoples before taking action on their lands. It is a process where communities have the final say in decisions that affect them. But in the case of hydropower projects on the Likhu River, local communities were not provided with basic information or opportunities for consultations on project impacts. The affected communities said that the projects resulted in adverse human rights impacts, with some having been displaced from the areas they have been living in for generations. Sunuwar Indigenous Peoples have sacred religious and cultural ties with the Likhu River. A special fish, Neng, which they catch in the river, is used for rituals from birth to death. The cremated remains of those who have died are dispersed in the river, which is also used for cultural and healing activities. Because of these hydropower projects, Sunuwar Peoples are likely to be driven from their traditional lands and face restrictions in accessing their natural resources on the Likhu River. All photos by Dev Kumar Sunuwar.
Some community members have refused to cede their private land and have protested against project construction. Company officials have made false promises to provide job opportunities, facilities, and compensation for damages, but an estimated 70 percent of the work is now done, and there is little chance that the community will get compensation. “The company has taken my private land. They insincerely made an agreement to pay the market price of my land. When the company started constructing the tunnel, my house was damaged because of blasting,” says Debi Bahadur Basnet. “When I made demands for compensation, I was taken into custody not once, not twice, but four times to the district headquarters in Manthali. [Approximately half an acre] of land was stolen for company use, but I have not gotten a penny.” Basnet is one of many who were arrested, detained, and coerced into signing a document while in custody, giving their promise not to obstruct project construction. According to community members, they are threatened with criminal charges and further imprisonment if they do not sign the documents. They say that the only option for them now is to close down the project area and obstruct the ongoing construction work. Buddhi Bahadur Sunuwar says, “We did not want to give our land, but the company lured us by promising to provide ambulances, drinking water, school facilities, a healthpost, and a road. Because of the blasting, my house was cracked. We were told we would be provided electricity for free, and all six households here in Dovan provided our land. The company built the main powerhouse tunnel and other infrastructure on our land but we have not received the promised compensation.” The promoters of the hydroelectric projects at MV Dugar Group were absent during the public dialogues, despite promises to be present. Rokat Basnet, a public relations officer who was sent as a representative, expressed “commitment to send the reports compiling people’s concerns and grievances to the board of the directors” of MV Dugar Group. As of the drafting of this article, he said he had not communicated the concerns to the board. “The hydropower projects have caused more suffering to the locals than development. When compensation was
sought for the damage to our private lands, we were threatened and we were forced to give up our land,” says Pabitra Sunuwar, Chairperson of Sunuwar Welfare Society Ward Chapter. “A 19-point agreement has been reached with the local government, but so far none of the points have been implemented. Our demands are not monetary. We want the hydropower company to compensate and restore our damaged culture because the hydropower projects have impacted all aspects of our lives, lifeways, and culture. We have the right to continue our culture as we have for generations.” The rights of local communities to access resources are enumerated in several provisions in Nepal’s constitutional laws and policies. The Local Self-governance Act of 2055 BS (1999) stipulates that the process of development must include the participation of Indigenous and local peoples in project identification, formulation, planning, and implementation through local councils. Additionally, the Environment Protection Rules of 2054 BS (1997) require public consultation on proposed project plans. Local community members and Indigenous Peoples maintain that no information has been provided about the project, and as such, communities were deprived of the opportunity to give or withhold their consent to the project. The meaningful participation of affected Indigenous Peoples and local communities through Free, Prior and Informed Consent is protected under national and international standards such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169, both of which Nepal is party to. “It is not development, rather destruction,” says Ranabir Sunuwar, Chairperson of Sunuwar Welfare Society. “Hydropower companies should introduce plans to address cultural and ritual rights. It is now high time to get united and file the case against the violation of cultural and ritual rights of Sunuwar Indigenous Peoples.”
Members of impacted Indigenous communities living along Likhu River address officials from the MV Dugar Group and local officials at event organized jointly by Sunuwar Welfare Society, Cultural Survival, and Indigenous Television.
Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF) is an Indigenous Led Fund within Cultural Survival designed to support Indigenous Peoples’ community development and advocacy projects. Since 2017, through small grants and technical assistance, KOEF has supported 190 projects in 37 countries totaling $828,067. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Raquel Xiloj (Maya K’iche’) activist, feminist, and sociologist from Guatemala. Photo by Diego Cesar.
Community Media Grants Coordinator | Raquel Xiloj
A Maya Leader Standing Up for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’, CS Staff)
he first time I met Raquel Xiloj (Maya K’iche’) was during a site visit to a community on the southern coast of Guatemala. She was a young sociologist eager to learn about the struggles of rural people, especially Indigenous Peoples. As a Maya K’iche’ woman born in Guatemala City, Xiloj was always aware of the inequality, racism, and discrimination Indigenous Peoples faced in the urban and mostly mestizo environment where she grew up. She told me on that occasion, “I decided to study sociology to understand the causes of social problems and contribute with actions to change them.” A few years after that meeting, we are pleased to announce that Xiloj has joined our family at Cultural Survival. After working for different civil society organizations, particularly with Indigenous Peoples and women, Xiloj says, “When I found out about the opening for the position of Community Media Grants Coordinator, I applied with great joy because it is an opportunity to continue with my commitment to creating a more just, inclusive, and democratic world for Indigenous Peoples.”
Xiloj’s exploration of her identity as an urban Indigenous woman enabled her path to support Indigenous Peoples’ rights. “My family had to move from a very poor village in Totonicapán to Guatemala City more than 40 years ago in search of better opportunities and access to basic rights, but this involved the progressive loss of our language and some cultural practices,” she says. Still, there are many cultural elements that Xiloj continues to integrate, such as gastronomy, Maya K’iche’ words, and spirituality and cosmovision, both consciously and unconsciously, into her daily life in Guatemala City. For Xiloj, connecting with her family history is connected to feeling a deep appreciation for the struggles and efforts of all Indigenous Peoples, along with the awareness that there is still much to change in relation to the historic and current sociocultural conditions disproportionately affecting Indigenous Peoples. Being Indigenous and living in Guatemala City is often seen as not complying with the cultural stereotypes associated with Indigenous Peoples, such as not having an education or living in poverty. Over time, Xiloj has reclaimed her right to reconfigure and redefine her Mayan K’iche’ identity while integrating other identities, such as being a young activist with a progressive philosophy. As a self-identified feminist, Xiloj says she struggles with the implications of patriarchy and machismo in private, public, and institutional spheres. “I do not consider myself alien to these realities and experiences. As women, these systems intersect in our daily lives and are omnipresent in our life trajectories,” she says. Since starting at Cultural Survival in March, Xiloj has enjoyed sharing identities and experiences with a diverse team. She says there is much to learn and integrate in her role as Community Media Grants Coordinator to administer the Indigenous Community Media Fund and support Indigenous community radio stations around the world through grantmaking. “Since I have been at the organization, I have felt very comfortable and inspired by the team and the values that guide Cultural Survival, both internally and externally,” she says. As a determined, curious, methodical person with a life purpose related to the pursuit for justice, balance, and harmony in society, Xiloj views life as a system of interconnected elements related in complex, nonlinear and dynamic ways, a holistic and comprehensive way of seeing the world and the systems we influence. Outside of work, she loves reading, watching videos about philosophy, doing puzzles, listening to electronic, synthwave, and K-indie music, and revitalizing her K’iche language. Professionally, she wants to learn more about project management, Indigenous community radio, and statistics. The Indigenous Community Media Fund provides opportunities for international Indigenous radio stations to strengthen their infrastructure and broadcast systems and creates training opportunities for journalism, broadcasting, audio editing, technical skills, and more for radio journalists from Indigenous communities globally. In 2021, the Indigenous Community Media Fund supported 57 media projects in 23 countries, totaling $340,500.
bazaar artist spotlight
Radical Grandma Collective
he saying “Grandma knows best” carries a lot of weight in the Radical Grandma Collective, an organization composed of Isaan women from Northeastern Thailand. The radical grandmas who make up this collective are both activists and organizers who, over the last 15 years, have been fighting against the presence of the Tungkum Ltd (TKL) gold mine in Na Nong Bong village in Loei, Thailand. TKL began mining gold less than a kilometer from the villagers’ homes in 2006, and shortly after villagers began to notice changes in their health and the environment, primarily in the form of polluted water, skin rashes, lower rice yields, and the presence of dead fish and crabs in their rice paddies. As a result, in 2008 Khon Rak Baan Kerd was formed to learn more about the problems caused by mining. Members from the six villages directly affected by the mine soon began a campaign to close it. Those members included the Radical Grandmas, although at the time they weren’t known as radical grandmas at all— rather as a group of women weavers, who, since 2008, had been selling their weaving products locally to raise money for the costs associated with protesting the mine. Throughout their struggle to close the mine, TKL has sued villagers more than 20 times. They have tried to discredit human rights defenders, claiming that the villagers are threatening national security by protesting the country’s development. There have also been considerable violent attempts at intimidation on the part of TKL, such as on the evening of May 15, 2014, when 300 masked men came into the village and attacked villagers who were guarding a blockade built to block the access road to the mine. The villagers were tied up and beaten while trucks illegally retrieved extracted gold and copper ore from the mine. The villagers’ efforts have kept TKL from actively operating the mine since 2013, and environmental conditions are improving in the community. Now, the community has refocused its fight on community relationships, mental and All photos by ColorFour.
physical well being, and the economy. The effects of mining and the trauma of being engaged in protest for over a decade has left scars on the community, which is ready to embark on the long road to healing. The Radical Grandmas entered the scene in 2016 when one of the grandmas, Ranong Kongsaen, began a conversation with U.S. allies about the role of foreign support in their anti-mine organizing efforts. The idea for the collective grew out of a collaboration between the radical grandmas and a group of women from the U.S. who were introduced to Na Nong Bong as undergraduate students on a study abroad program focused on human rights and the environment. Ranong suggested that the women could sell the scarves that they were weaving on the international market to help generate extra income for the weavers and further share the story of their anti-mining efforts. From there, the Radical Grandma Collective was born into a community driven project in which the grandmas set their prices and their U.S. counterparts work to share the community’s story and help sell the items. The grandmas weave their vibrantly colored scarves and other products on wooden looms. They have also recently begun to grow cotton to spin and dye with natural materials to make their scarves. Once produced, the U.S. women buy the scarves directly from the collective and sell them in international markets, donating additional proceeds back to the weaving collective. This collaboration allows the Radical Grandmas the ability to earn income for their community while maintaining local traditions and supporting community-based development. To learn more about the Collective, visit: www.radicalgrandmacollective.com. Due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions for several of our Bazaar artists, we have suspended the Bazaars until Summer 2023. Visit our Bazaar Artist Directory to support artists: bazaar.cs.org Top: Leng Wongkhamsom prepares yarn to be attached to the loom for weaving. Center: Ranong Kongsaen, Founder of the Collective and a leader in Khon Rak Ban Kerd, the organization formed to stand up for community rights against the gold mine. Bottom: Kiang Suthison weaves at her loom. Cultural Survival Quarterly June 2022
Celebrating five Decades of Indigenous Rights
Creating lasting change takes decades of commitment, service, resources, relationships, and allyship. Thank you to all of our partners on the ground. For our
50th anniversary, we have an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 for our #CS50 campaign and we are 85 percent there. We are counting on you to help us reach our goal! Thank you for being part of the Indigenous rights movement and the Cultural Survival family.
Donate online at cs.org/donate | Call us at 617.441.5400 x18
#culturalsurvival50 #1972 #CS50