By Daniela Muñoz and Tim Gaynor
A joint registration campaign by Costa Rica and Panama is helping thousands of Ngäbe-Buglé at risk of statelessness to gain access to health care and education.
“I was two months pregnant when I started feeling bad, I couldn’t walk or anything,” recalls the 23-year-old, who, it emerged, had undiagnosed leukaemia that put her life in grave danger.
“From one day to the next … I couldn’t eat, I was fainting and I couldn’t even walk … I was stick-thin.”
Teresa is a member of the Ngäbe-Buglé community, a traditional indigenous people whose lands are in present-day Costa Rica and Panama in Central America.
Born in Panama, where her birth was unregistered, she had been living in neighbouring Costa Rica without documents since her family crossed the border to pick coffee when she was just 14. Weaker by the day, she did not have access to the medical care she urgently needed, but fortunately help was at hand.
An outreach team working to ensure indigenous families who span the border do not slip through the welfare net had contacted Teresa. They established she needed her Panamanian nationality to be verified and a case worker helped her obtain the documentation.
“They came to the house and helped me with the paperwork,” she says. Granted permanent resident status in Costa Rica, she was swiftly enrolled in the national health care system and treated at a hospital in the Costa Rican capital, San Jose.
After a bone-marrow transplant and course of chemotherapy, Teresa is back at home with her son, now aged two, and her extended family.
About a quarter of a million Ngäbe-Buglé members live in northwest Panama, of whom an estimated 15,000 cross the border informally to work during the coffee harvest in southern Costa Rica.
Teresa is one of thousands of indigenous people helped by the drive by the Costa Rican Civil Registry Office and its Panamanian counterpart, supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Outreach workers for the drive – known locally as the ‘Chiriticos Project’ – set out on motorcycles, in cars and sometimes on foot to remote areas on either side of the border where Ngäbe-Buglé families work as migrant coffee pickers in the rich agricultural uplands.
Since its beginnings in 2014, project workers have contacted more than 19,370 people. While most were found to have Panamanian or Costa Rican citizenship, they identified and assisted more than 3,600 individuals at risk of statelessness because they were not registered in either country.
“There were so many children without the right to health care, education or an identity,” says Eduardo Salazar, a Costa Rican official who heads the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s civil registry in San Vito, which held its seventh outreach push in late 2017.
The project was intended to give them legal status by registering them in Costa Rica or Panama, so that they had access to services on one side of the border or the other, he adds.
Indigenous people have suffered generational poverty, and high rates of infant mortality and diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, health officials say.
To make them part of national life, the two governments are issuing birth certificates after the fact, sometimes using documentation such as vaccination certificates, to establish an individual’s identity.
“In Teresa’s case, registration saved her life,” says Dr. Pablo Ortiz, the former director of health in the region, who has worked with indigenous groups for more than three decades.
The programme is also vitally important to allow children to register in schools, progress through the education system, enjoy labour rights once they start to work and exercise their right to vote, Salazar and Ortiz say.
“If they don’t get these papers, they can’t get school documentation and, later, grants to continue their education. They also miss out on a programme to help those of limited resources get a deposit for a house. They get left at the margins.”
The registration drive, in its fourth year, is also helping to build trust with indigenous people, many of whom, like agricultural worker Norberto Andrade, have spent their lives on the margins. Before he received his Costa Rican identity documents, the 27-year-old says he felt “like a stray dog”.
“You had to hide yourself, in case the police asked you questions,” he says, chatting in a tin-roofed shack at a coffee farm where we he works, a few miles from the Panamanian border. “But now I have the documents, I feel free. I’ve got papers to show for work.”
He has hopes for his two daughters, aged one and three, who have birth certificates. “They were born here and they now have a future here. They can go to school, get an education and progress in life, become important people.”
His father, Don Martin Andrade, is also pleased at the opportunities that have opened up for him, his children and grandchildren, since they received their ID papers.
“They have given us a vote … we are in the electoral register,” he says, adding that he plans to vote in the next election.
There are at least 10 million people around the world who have no nationality and consequently face a lifetime of obstacles and disappointments. Salazar believes the cooperative approach adopted in the Costa Rican-Panamanian borderlands could be applied in other countries.
“All it costs is a motorbike and some fuel,” he says. “The spirit of the project could be applied anywhere. We are talking about a problem of identification, of the risk of statelessness. There are ways of tackling this problem in a systematic way.”
Published on UNHCR on January 29, 2018
By Jonathan Watts
A green-and-red flag flies over a cluster of bamboo and tarpaulin tents on the frontline of an increasingly deadly struggle for land and the environment in Colombia’s Cauca Valley.
It is the banner for what indigenous activists are calling the “liberation of Mother Earth”, a movement to reclaim ancestral land from sugar plantations, farms and tourist resorts that has gained momentum in the vacuum left by last year’s peace accord between the government and the paramilitaries who once dominated the region – ending, in turn, the world’s longest-running civil war.
The ragtag outpost in Corinto has been hacked out of a sugar plantation, destroyed by riot police, then reoccupied by the activists, who want to stop supplying coca (the main ingredient for cocaine) to drug traffickers in the mountains by cultivating vegetables on the plains instead.
Despite two deaths in the past year, the Nasa Indians – the biggest, most organised and most militant of the 20 indigenous groups in the valley – have staged waves of monoculture clearance and occupation operations. Almost every other week hundreds, sometimes thousands, of machete-bearing activists join these communal actions, known as minga, which involve burning and hacking down swaths of sugar cane, then erecting camps and planting traditional crops including maize and cassava.
The Nasa see this in historical, spiritual terms. For them, it is the latest phase in a centuries-old struggle for land and a clash between two contrasting world views: one that seeks harmony with nature, and one interested only in extracting as much profit as possible, regardless of the impact on the people and the environment.
“Liberating the earth means defending the land,” says José Rene Guetio, a Nasa elder. “You can see the blood that has been spilled in the cause for better land and a better future for our children.”
Environmental concerns are also among the motivations. The Nasa say they should not be living in such large numbers near sacred sites in the hills, particularly lakes, wetlands and waterfalls. “There are too many of us in the mountains. That’s not good because we are destroying our water source,” said Eduin Mauricio Capaz, human rights coordinator for the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (Acin). But this position has pitted them against the law, state security and some of Colombia’s biggest property owners and global sugar suppliers.
The Colombian government sees things differently. It says the state has a responsibility to protect legally recognised property ownership and that indigenous land issues should not be confused with environmental protection. However, it acknowledges that peace has brought a destructive surge into land previously deemed off-limits because of occupation by the Farc. Deforestation in Colombia rose 44% last year. Coca production has also risen rapidly. To tackle this, President Juan Santos has demarcated more conservation areas and promised to use the army and work with former Farc combatants to protect forests.
The minister for the environment and sustainable development, Luis Murillo, said the state’s security apparatus was the answer to environmental problems, not the problem. “We need to move very quickly to establish a presence in areas where we didn’t have a presence before,” he told the Observer, noting that the government is working on measures to protect human rights and environmental defenders.
The Cauca Valley has long been the base of operations for many of the most belligerent paramilitary groups in the country. Even with the demobilisation of the biggest organisation, the Farc, 12 other armed groups are still active in the valley, which stretches for several hundred kilometres. Some are armed rebels, such as the National Liberation Army, but others are little more than death squads that charge two million pesos (£500) per killing.
Drug gangs, militias and private security firms – which often overlap – have made this one of the most dangerous places in the world for indigenous rights campaigners, environmental defenders and journalists. Last year a record 37 activists were murdered in Colombia, which is second only to Brazil in a world ranking of such killings, according to the NGO Global Witness. This year looks set to be a similar story, with 28 fatalities so far.
The worst clashes have occurred at Corinto, which is about an hour’s drive from Cali airport. This is where activists from the Nasa have stepped up their efforts to occupy land within a vast plantation owned by Carlos Ardila Lülle, a billionaire sugar, bottling and media tycoon.
On 9 May, 17-year-old Daniel Felipe Castro was killed and several others injured when police allegedly opened fire during a minga. “We were cutting down cane when police drove up in a pick-up truck and opened fire. It was as though they were trying to fumigate us with bullets. Those who didn’t get on the ground fast enough were hit,” said a relative of the dead teenager, who asked to remain anonymous. “They don’t want us here and we won’t move, so they are trying to kill us.”
The Observer spoke to three other activists who said police have been using live rounds. One showed a scar near his shoulder blade where he said he was shot last month. The bullet, still lodged in his body, could be felt beneath the skin on his back.
Hermes Pilicue, a Nasa elder, blamed the violence on the rising pressure for land now that the peace deal has opened up the region. “Colombia is supposed to be in the midst of peace, but in our territories the conflict continues,” he said at Acin’s head office in Santander de Quilichao. “The peace agreement has made our lives more difficult. More people are entering our territory to claim land, partly because the government is granting more concessions for mining and water use.”
A 2,000-strong guarda indígena formed from the 20 native communities in the valley has already closed down several mines despite threats from militias who are alleged to be in the employ of the owners. The volunteer force, dressed in green-and-red uniforms, is armed only with wooden staffs decorated with coloured tassels. Now that the Farc has laid down its weapons, the guarda are becoming more assertive.
Article one of the peace accord guarantees agrarian reform and states that land taken during the conflict will be given back to its rightful owners. The authorities do not specify what this means, but indigenous groups have interpreted this as a prompt to reclaim ancestral territory. “Until recently, the Cxhab Wala Kiwe (Nasa people) were absorbed in simply saving our community from war and preventing paramilitary groups from recruiting our children,” said Capaz, who is also a senior member of the indigenous guard. “Now there is no war, we can focus more on the liberation of Mother Earth. Extractive industries and monocultures are contrary to our belief system. People here are aware of what is going on elsewhere in the world. We know how the climate is changing. We know about contamination of the land. We don’t want that.”
Their campaign to carve out territory between the coca and the sugar cane challenges the colonial hierarchies in the valley. After the white Europeans pushed the indigenous people into the mountains, they built homes in the foothills and brought in African slaves to work on sugar plantations on the plains. Today, mostly black cane workers joke among themselves as they wait for a bus home after a harvesting shift that has filled a giant five-carriage truck. They express a mix of old prejudice and new admiration for the indigenous groups who want to clear their workplace.
“The Indians have land, but they don’t work hard on it. They are coming down from the hills because the price of coca and marijuana has collapsed,” said José Milton Mosqueira. “But they are making such a commotion that I guess they must feel like they have a genuine claim to the land.”
As he and his colleagues talk, dusk darkens the sky and lights start to appear on the distant slopes. First just one or two strings, then 10, then 100, until finally the hillsides are illuminated like a giant Christmas tree. Every bulb is a grow-lamp for marijuana crops – evidence of the continued reliance of small farmers on the drugs trade.
After agrarian reform and the demobilisation of the paramilitaries, the eradication of coca and marijuana crops was one of the key tenets of the peace accord. All three have hit snags that have added to violence and pressure on the land. The tension is evident in the once small coca-growing community of Monte Redondo. Here the locals – a mix of Nasa and mixed-race farmers – are signing up to a crop-replacement scheme, with the government promising compensation if they switch from drugs to citrus or coffee.
The farmers do not need much persuading. Economic forces are driving people away from drugs and towards the plains. The price of coca – which was never high at this bottom rung of the narco industry – has plunged. Growers say they are now selling for 1,000 pesos per pound – less than half the price before the peace deal. Many farmers are tired of the violence and disruption associated with the drug business, so about 95% are willing to switch despite intimidation by narco gangs who have murdered advocates of crop substitution.
“Even though they are afraid, people are signing up because they want a change,” said Briceida Lemos Ribera, a leader of the cocaleros (coca growers). “We are betting on peace, but it has made us a target of the people who benefited from war.”
The risks take many forms in this period of transition as former adversaries are now living in close proximity. Monte Redondo used to be a no-go area for the authorities because it was controlled by drug cartels and paramilitaries. Now it is home to three new encampments that sit almost side by side on the road: a police base piled high with sandbags; an army outpost with a dozen green tents; and rows of prefabricated housing for demobilised Farc guerrillas.
“If an area isn’t occupied, armed groups will move in,” said an officer in the military camp. “We are operating in areas where the state hasn’t been before. We are just a small part and we are taking turtle steps.”
But the peace is fragile. The week before the Observer’s visit, three police officers were killed in a grenade ambush. Former Farc warriors say the tension has increased, though in the long term they express optimism about the future. They see the peace as a victory for their long campaign for agrarian reform and fairer distribution of land.
“We’d like land. We want to have a farm,” said Oscar Aragón, who has just been released from prison, where he served six months for collaborating with the Farc.
“I want to be a cowboy and raise cattle,” former Farc combatant Henry Menézez tells the Observer. After seven years in the jungle, he says he would like to write a book about his experiences and his future work to build a new community. Eight days later, he is murdered in what is rumoured to be a revenge attack for the ambush of the three policemen.
While that killing is a hangover from the civil war, others are connected to the renewed Mother Earth campaign. Ultimately, however, despite the plethora of conflicts and militias, the fundamental cause is the same as it has been for centuries – land – and the victims are those who defend it.
At the other end of the Cauca Valley, a crack of thunder rumbles through the hills as a crowd of mourners joins a funeral procession for the latest indigenous victim of the campaign to liberate Mother Earth.
Efigenia Vásquez, a radio and video journalist from the Kokonuko community – which is allied to the Nasa – was shot in Puracé on 8 October as she recorded an attempted occupation of Aguas Tibias, a farm and hot-spring resort inside the indigenous reserve, owned by a former general. The Kokonuko activists were driven back by riot police. There was an exchange of teargas, stones and, from somewhere, a gun. Vásquez was hit twice and died later in hospital. Her colleagues at the Renacer Kokonuko radio station say she was aware of the dangers, but was determined to cover a conflict that was the central concern of her community. “She used to say ‘the family grows, but the land doesn’t. We must take back the land of our ancestors’,” recalled Marcela Abirama, who was with Vásquez in hospital when she died. “Eight days earlier, she told me we must cover the Mother Earth campaign even if we might get killed.”
Who fired the gun is disputed. The Kokonuko blame the police, who they say wanted to silence the community and scare them away from the land.
During the funeral procession, the mourners express defiance as well as sadness. “Adelante compañero (forward, comrade),” they sing, then stop outside the police station to taunt the officers inside: “You kill our women, we continue our struggle. You kill our journalists, we continue our struggle. Until when? Until forever!”
The authorities have a different version of events. A police officer said Vásquez was probably the accidental victim of a homemade gun used by Kokonuko renegades to fire clusters of ball bearings. He showed a video clip on his phone of what he said was indigenous protesters using such a weapon on the day Vásquez died.
There are multiple images of them using what looks like a crude rifle, but the friendly-fire theory does not account for the fact that two other members of the community were shot and wounded on the same day at different places and different times. The father of one of them – Wilmar Yace – said a bullet entered one of his son’s cheeks and exited the other – a wound that is more likely to be caused by a high-calibre rifle than a makeshift ball-bearing gun.
The journalist’s death has resonated internationally. The director general of Unesco, Irina Bokova, denounced the killing and called for an inquiry. Vásquez’s parents hope her death can raise awareness of the indigenous cause.
“She became a journalist so she could be a voice for the voiceless,” said her mother, Hilda María Astudillo. “She was always campaigning for her family and her children so they could live in peace when they grow up.”
But the peace Vásquez hoped for remains more elusive than ever. After the burial, the Kokonuko crafted shields from plastic barrels sawn in half. Others collected bottles and fuel for petrol bombs. The following morning, the battle for Aguas Tibias recommenced. Several hundred Kokonuko men descended on the beautiful site from all sides of the valley. They were met with volleys of teargas from about 80 riot police camped at the farm who had been fighting off encroachments for four days.
The activists charged forward carrying a large wooden door as a shield against rubber bullets, so they could get close enough to throw firebombs at the police. Behind them, young and old used slingshots and a makeshift catapult to hurl stones, which were collected in satchels from the road and stacked by the Kokonuko women. The police also threw stones and bolts as their arsenal ran low.
On this occasion there were no guns, no deaths, no serious injuries, but the campaign to liberate Mother Earth shows just how violent Colombia’s peace has become.
“After 50 years of war, we still have this,” said a local government official, who was turned away as she attempted to take supplies to the besieged police officers. She departed with a warning. “If we are not allowed through, the army will get involved. They will be coming soon.”
Published on The Guardian on October 28, 2017.
Representatives of six indigenous nationalities traveled from their Amazonian communities to Quito this morning to reject plans by the new government of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to auction off oil blocks that overlap their titled rainforest territories.
The Ecuadorian Ministry of Hydrocarbons, the Committee of Hydrocarbon Tender, and the state-run oil company Petroamazonas is promoting the plan to tender sixteen Amazonian oil blocks in a new licensing round dubbed the Ronda Suroriente (Southeastern Round) at an annual oil and mining industry gathering today, where they hope to entice investors to bid on what have been country's most problematic oil concessions.
The proposed blocks cover nearly seven million acres of roadless, primary forest in the southeastern Ecuadorian Amazon and the titled territories of the Shuar, Achuar, Kichwa, Waorani, Shiwiar, and Sápara indigenous nations. The region is home to some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet.
Speaking outside the event, Marlon Vargas, President of CONFENAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon) said, "We reject new oil concessions in our territories. This is unconstitutional because we have not been consulted. Our people will continue to defend our spaces of life, Mother Earth, and our Pachamama. While we support the call made by President Lenin Moreno at the United Nations to protect the Amazon, it won't happen by concessioning oil blocks in indigenous territories. We will fight and resist in defense of our territories and rights."
In none of the blocks has the Ecuadorian government obtained Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the local indigenous representative federations, the internationally-recognized human rights benchmark intended to protect the rights of indigenous communities whose lives and lands are affected by extractive projects such as oil drilling. These plans and lack of consent – or even proper consultation – are also in direct violation of precedent and recent rulings from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Indigenous leaders also rejected the expansion of the mining sector in Ecuador's southern Amazon, which was touted by company executives and the Ministry of Mines at the conference. The forced removal of Shuar communities from their homes to make way for a workers' camp led to a deadly confrontation between the communities and Chinese mining company Explorcobres SA (EXSA) and a 60-day state of emergency in the Morona province last year.
"The Ecuadorian government is deceiving potential investors," said Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch. "These blocks are, in effect, stranded assets. There is a legacy of controversy and a long list of companies who have tried to drill and failed. The government's disregard for the rights of communities is not only illegal, but it is a recipe for disaster for companies that attempt to do business in one of the most pristine regions of the Amazon. Companies should know in advance that they're potentially buying a serious problem."
This is not the first time that Ecuador has sought to tender these blocks. Previous rounds were scrapped after protests and little interest from companies. Government road shows promoting the last attempt to auction the blocks in 2013 were met with protests in Quito, Houston, Paris, and Calgary. The round only solicited three bids.
Some of the blocks now included in the Ronda Suroriente had previously belonged to several oil company majors. But ARCO, Burlington Resources, ConocoPhillips, and independent CGC (Compania General de Combustibles) all faced on-the-ground resistance to their operations, as well as lawsuits, injunctions, and protests that paralyzed the projects, leading to significant work slippages, force majeure, and ultimately they abandoned their plans and left the country.
The auction is expected to officially open for bids in early 2018.
"With studies showing that two thirds of all fossil fuels need to remain in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, why is anyone looking for more?" said Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch. "The potential carbon emissions for the oil, gas, and coal in the world's currently operating fields and mines will take us past the 2°C of warming agreed to in the Paris Accord. Drilling for new 'frontier oil' on indigenous territories would be catastrophic for the planet."
Published on Amazon Watch on October 26, 2017.
By Todd Fernando for IndigenousX
Indigenous and mainstream Australians often have very different ideas about the concept of “success”. For non-Indigenous Australians success opportunities are almost exclusively economic concepts, based on stolen and inherited resources and privilege. For Indigenous people, achieving this normative conceptualisation of success involves abandoning our home cultures and assimilating into the dominant culture, usually without any of the advantages of inherited wealth and privilege.
Indeed, success for Indigenous people involves coming face-to-face with the reality that we start out at the very bottom of the economic ladder because our assets and resources were stripped from our nations during Australia’s violent colonial history. Indigenous Australian activists have fought back against this structural disadvantage over the last century or so, particularly in more recent decades, and this has resulted in some wider recognition of this glaring economic reality.
Yet despite this transformation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continue to experience some of the highest incarceration, suicide and ill-health rates in the world. For these Indigenous Australians, the barriers to success are still real and visceral. In many cases, exclusion is still the reality. There are all too often hidden – or not so hidden – barriers that prevent some Indigenous people from feeling comfortable in places of overwhelming whiteness.
When Indigenous people enter Australian boarding schools, universities or workforce, they often carry historical baggage. They are still often the first in their families to attend these institutions, gain formal education and participate in the Australian economy. These opportunities simply were not widely available to our older generations. And when they position their lives according to the foreign values of these institutions, many fail due to this cultural difference. That failure can produce a tension between Indigenous people and these organisations or institutions. This is how Australian nation-building can negatively impact Indigenous communities and values.
The “last of his tribe” imperialist trope has now been replaced with “the first of her tribe” as an indicator to Indigenous people entering elite institutions solely by merit and fortitude. This new narrative causes a subtle racism of low expectation in the fact that each instance of success is considered remarkable, an exception to the rule. Their accomplishments elevate them above their peers as role models and are used to send the message that any individual can succeed, so those experiencing poverty and oppression have only themselves to blame. This brand of shaming has the potential to cause more economic marginalisation and social isolation.
Framing positive narratives of Indigenous life can place pressure on an Indigenous social presence in mainstream Australian culture. When Indigenous success invokes a political or ideological agenda, tensions rise because it applies Australian mainstream’s concept of success as the roadmap. Such traps are avoided when an Indigenous concept of success is viewed equally. When considering Indigenous employment statistics in areas of health, education, business, economics, law, the presence of Indigenous participation emerges. But the other side of these statistics shows how much more work is required. When narratives lead with the latter, deficit discourse seems to always prevail.
Most Australians, and our international visitors, first learn about Indigenous people through conversations that are often grounded in disadvantage: the automatic assumption that the male Aborigine is akin to an unemployed criminal, for example, or the fetishisation of the female Aborigine as a sexually wild beast, sprawled drunk under the shade of a eucalyptus tree. These narratives draw unsettling conclusions where the blame is placed solely on the Aborigine. They also seek to elicit shock, outrage and, in a Helen Lovejoy fashion, a paternalistic concern for the vulnerable children.
Negative fantasies of Indigenous communities’ lead to destructive representations that do not help. Nigerian-born Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns that if you tell “a people what they are over and over again, that is what they become.” It is without surprise that many loathe discussions of deficit discourse that paint a picture of Indigenous communities only in a negative way.
Native Alaskan academic Eve Tuck argues “that the research on our communities has historically been damage centered, intent on portraying us [Indigenous] as defeated and broken.” Therefore, we must forge new narratives to sit alongside as indicators of achievement. But how do we shift deficit discourse and allow Indigenous success to be seen, heard and told first? While there is no one correct answer, a practical solution is the rise of an Indigenous intelligentsia.
Intelligentsia is a term to describe a collection of people who push the boundaries of critical thinking. For Indigenous Australia, this intelligentsia includes Indigenous academics, lawyers, doctors, CEOs, consultants and a lot of young leaders and entrepreneurs. Indigenous intelligentsia should be understood, at least in part, as a cure to the crisis of low expectations and an end to the thought that Indigenous anything is first and foremost deficit, damaged or broken. To do this, however, we must affirm the growth of this intelligentsia in both Indigenous and Australian cultures.
Some believe that Indigenous achievements in Australian mainstream culture are merely markers of assimilation. Some stir the pot by assuming any goal toward economic stability is to “sell out,” while others obsess over the emerging black bourgeoisie by using them to prop up their social capital. When this way of thinking is normalised, it shadows the brilliance of Indigenous success discourse by confirming disadvantage as the only margin from which Aboriginality can be performed. It redefines Australia’s tall poppy syndrome with the idea that there are too many crabs in the bucket.
This group of intelligentsia must guide and harness an archetype of Indigenous leadership in Australian society’s culture and polity to allow Indigenous people stand on the other side of the door entirely while contributing to the Australian economy. Professor Marcia Langton captures and propels the sentiment knowingly: “with one gate open, we should now think about removing the fences.”
The building of an intellectual community should be seen as an incredible and exciting journey that cultivates the thought that Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people can exist outside of deficit narratives, sporting arenas, and art exhibitions. That they too can capitalise on Indigenous ways of knowing to guide and shape the positive rather than continue the primitive, negative silhouette. These truths are not told to mask the areas of despair in Indigenous affairs, but to highlight that transformation and revolution occur when success outweighs deficit.
We must go beyond the idea that sport, art or welfare dependency is the only avenue to “success” and change the narrative through education and career-making. This logic goes beyond the superficial symbolism that sometimes results from reconciliation efforts. While it seems like an easy task to do, what makes this so complex is challenging the idea that Indigenous people are inherently disadvantaged and marginal rather than capable and successful, as, increasingly, so many are. It demands that we have to do better and it starts by challenging the notion that success is exclusively white.
Published on The Guardian on October 22, 2017.
By Ashifa Kassam
When the fur-trader-turned-politician William Benjamin Robinson pulled up to the shores of the river that links Lake Superior and Lake Huron in 1850, his mission was clear: he was to gain access to as much of the vast territory around him as possible.
Acting on behalf of Queen Victoria, Robinson soon launched into formal negotiations with the indigenous people who lived in what would later become north-eastern Ontario in Canada.
Robinson treated with nearly two dozen communities whose connection to the land stretched back millennia.
Few of them could read, write or speak English fluently, but the two sides eventually struck a deal: in exchange for access to more than 35,700 square miles of land, Robinson offered hunting and fishing rights – and an annual payment equivalent to C$2 (£1.20/$1.60) per person each year.
In 1874, the payment was increased to C$4 a year. Since then, it has remained stagnant.
Now, 167 years after the Robinson Huron Treaty was signed, the document – and its original intent – is at the heart of a landmark legal challenge playing out in Ontario.
Twenty-one First Nations, representing about 30,000 people, have taken the federal and Ontario governments to court, accusing them of failing to uphold the deal Robinson hashed out with their ancestors.
Central to the case is the question of how the annual payment – a promise that dates back more than a century – should be interpreted.
The First Nations claim that their ancestors initially balked at what seemed like a paltry sum for their resource-rich land. “So what William Benjamin Robinson said – and I’m paraphrasing – was: ‘Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll offer you this annuity and if the territory produces more revenue for the crown, the annuity will be increased accordingly,’” said Mike Restoule, one of the representative plaintiffs in the case.
The treaty stipulates that any increase in the annuity “shall not exceed the sum of 1-pound provincial currency in any one year, or such further sum as Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to order”.
More than a century after the first increase, despite petitions and appeals from First Nations chiefs to various levels of government, the annuity remains unchanged.
“They’re still today paying that C$4 a year to each individual from the First Nations,” said Restoule. “Despite the fact that trillions of dollars have been gained from the territory for the Crown and for corporations,” he added, pointing to mining, forestry and other resource development that has been carried out on the land.
The case has shone a spotlight on treaty annuities, a tool used in some of the more than 600 treaties that exist across Canada. The annual payments were often added to treaties to sweeten the deal as Britain, and later Canada, pursued access to indigenous lands for white settlers and resource development, said James Dempsey, a professor of native studies at the University of Alberta.
Last year, according to government figures, about 580,000 people were eligible to collect annuities stemming from treaties signed between 1850 and 1921. For many, the meagre payment has become a potent symbol of the complex relationship their ancestors forged with the crown.
Part of the complexity lies in the fact that treaties were never meant to be enduring documents, said Dempsey. “It was believed that Indians were literally going to either die out or be assimilated,” he said.
But the documents – much like the peoples they represent – instead proved resilient, opening the door to legal challenges. In 2015, a class-action lawsuit attempted to force an increase in annuities, citing the billions of dollars in natural resources that had been extracted from the territories since the documents were created. The case was dismissed on a legal technicality.
The case concerning the Robinson Huron treaty is more nuanced. The treaty is one of two in the country, signed within days of each other, that included the prospect of an increase. The second treaty – known as the Robinson Superior treaty – is also being challenged in an Ontario court in a concurrent case.
Plaintiffs are pushing for a retroactive payment from 1874 onwards, as well as increased annuities in future. Some have estimated that the land may have yielded between C$500m and C$1bn in revenue from resource development over the years, and the First Nations have said they want to see a full accounting of these profits before deciding on a compensation amount.
“It’s time for us to get justice on this,” said Restoule. “Industries, the crown and other people have gotten very wealthy from the territory – everyone except the First Nations people. The First Nations people today continue to live in poverty in their very wealthy land.”
Ontario’s ministry of indigenous relations and reconciliation declined to comment on the case as it is before the courts. But in a statement to the Guardian, the government noted its respect for Aboriginal and treaty rights. “We are committed to meeting the province’s constitutional and other obligations in respect of indigenous peoples,” it said.
The court cases, which have hearings scheduled into early 2018, have attracted attention across the country, said Restoule. “Other First Nation groups are watching this very carefully because they’re saying they don’t have a good deal either,” he added. “So they’re saying, if this case is won by the Robinson Huron treaty First Nations, they’re going to look very closely at efforts to increase their annuity as well.”
Published on The Guardian on October 15, 2017.
The Peruvian government is neglecting the health of hundreds of Indigenous people whose only sources of water are contaminated by toxic metals and who lack access to adequate health care, Amnesty International said in a new investigation published today.
A Toxic State reveals how the Peruvian government has failed to provide adequate healthcare for Indigenous communities in Cuninico and Espinar, in the country’s Amazonian and Andean regions, respectively. Studies found that their only sources of fresh water were contaminated with toxic metals harmful to human health.
“For decades, Indigenous Peoples across Peru have been treated like second class citizens,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General at Amnesty International.
“The fact that the Peruvian authorities choose to do very little in the face of evidence that hundreds of Indigenous people have been exposed to toxic metals is not only cruel, but a violation of their right to health.”
Community members in Cuninico, in the country’s Amazonian region, told Amnesty International that in 2014 the river water and the fish, on which the community depend, started to taste strange.
Women interviewed by Amnesty International say they are experiencing stomach cramps, burning when urinating, allergies, skin rashes and miscarriages. They say their children suffer many similar symptoms and are not able to concentrate at school.
A 2014 study by DIRESA (Peru’s Regional Health Authority) revealed that the levels of aluminum and total petroleum hydrocarbons in the water in Cuninico exceeded those allowed for human consumption. The results of another analysis of the water in 2017 have not yet been made public.
In 2016, a study by Peru’s Ministry of Health revealed that more than half of people in the community had abnormal levels of mercury in their blood. Alarming levels of cadmium and lead were also detected in people, including children. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to mercury and lead can cause extremely serious health problems and irreversible damage to foetal development.
Conny Llerena Trujillo, a woman from Cuninico, said that her three-month-old baby, who was born in 2014, began suffering from hives after she first bathed him in the river. Medical tests confirmed he had lead in his blood, as did 65% of those tested for lead exposure in Cuninico.
The State’s response has been utterly inadequate. Despite the fact that the government declared a public health emergency in the area in 2017, no real steps have yet been taken to provide health care to the communities and address the water contamination, including investigating the source of the contamination.
People living in the area have now resorted to collecting rainwater for their household consumption and are forced to drink contaminated river water when rainwater is insufficient. The government has also failed to determine the causes of the contamination of the river.
The closest health centre to Cuninico is an hour and a half away by speedboat and does not have the specialists required to meet the needs of a local population exposed to toxic metals.
In the province of Espinar, in the Andean region of the country, the situation is similarly concerning.
Studies conducted by the Peruvian authorities concluded that a number of entire communities in Espinar have been exposed to heavy metals and other chemical substances and that their only sources of water are contaminated.
Women living in these communities in Espinar complained of constant headaches, stomach pains, diarrhea, burning eyes, as well as respiratory and renal problems.
Carmen Catalina Chambi Surco told Amnesty International that four out of her six children are ill. One of them was born with a blocked ear and one had a cyst removed from his lung. Carmen suffers from chronic pain in her lungs, has lost hearing in one ear and has been operated on for liver stones.
A 2010 study by the National Centre for Occupational Health and Environmental Protection for Health found that nearly all the community members who were tested had either lead, cadmium, mercury or arsenic in their blood. Prolonged exposure to these toxic metals is known to cause a variety of chronic health problems including memory loss, infertility, vision loss, diabetes, liver disease, kidney failure and cancer.
The Peruvian state has utterly failed in its duty to protect the communities in Espinar and guarantee their right to health.
“Instead of turning a blind to the desperate plight of Indigenous Peoples, the Peruvian authorities are putting their health and lives at risk. Authorities must ensure that people in Cuninico and Espinar have access to clean water and that the causes of the contamination are established and tackled,” said Salil Shetty.
Published on AI on September 13, 2017 (www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/09/peru-las-autoridades-desatienden-a-los-pueblos-indigenas-expuestos-a-agua-contaminada/).
By Alan Tormaid Campbell
On 23 August it emerged that the president of Brazil, Michel Temer, had issued a decree abolishing the protected status of an immense area of the Amazon forest. The area is in the north of the country, beyond the Amazon river, going up to the frontiers with French Guiana and Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana). The estimated size is 4.5 million hectares, the size of Denmark or Switzerland.
The decree was shocking, but not entirely unexpected. Temer is in political difficulties, facing corruption charges and needing political allies. There are more than 30 registered political parties in Brazil, and to get anything done in Congress they form bancadas (“benches” or coalitions). One of the most powerful is the bancada ruralista, consisting of powerful, wealthy agribusiness interests (mostly cattle and soya) together with those who represent mining and other extractive industries. And, making things gloomier, the evangelicals attach themselves to this bancada.
For years now the ruralistas have loudly condemned environmental laws that protect the Amazon forest. The national parks protect biodiversity and the “áreas indígenas” (Indian reservations) protect the indigenous peoples. The ruralistaswant rid of the lot. Specifically, they want to abolish Funai (the Indian Protection Service, a government department) and get rid of, as they put it, “NGOs and anthropologists”. Temer needs the support of this bancada and is seeing to their desires.
Temer made his move at the end of August, centring on Amapá and the Jarí river. Although it is on the Atlantic coast, the state of Amapá is to many Brazilians as remote as you can get. There is no access by road, except one to the north into French Guiana, still not wholly paved. A mining enterprise called Icomi (Indústria e Comércio de Minérios), a subsidiary of the US company Bethlehem Steel, began extracting manganese in a remote mine from the late 1940s onwards. Icomi pretty well owned Amapá. In 1973 geologists from Icomi exploring westwards came across uncontacted Indians. They alerted Funai and a team arrived to establish what was known as an “attraction front”, finding out who these people were and getting them under some sort of control.
They had found the Wayapí people, occupying territory that went westwards across a watershed into affluents of the Jarí river. It was a kind of resurrection, as their presence in that area had been recorded historically. Their language is of the Tupi-Guaraní family. They are excellent gardeners, hunters and fishers. When contact was made they were hunting with bows and arrows. Many shotguns were handed out as part of the “attraction” process. Today they are wholly dependent on guns and ammunition. Fishing with canoes is more important in the west, where waters flowing into the Jarí are much richer in fish than the eastern waters that flow into the Atlantic. They practise “slash-and-burn agriculture”, felling trees and burning out the garden area. Bitter manioc is the staple crop along with a range of potato-like tubers. Bananas, pineapples, and various other fruits are grown. They wear scarlet loincloths and use two kinds of body paint – urucú (arnotto), a red, sticky paste, and genipa, a black dye which is applied carefully and dries into patterns which can’t be washed off. Women make manioc beer, called caxiri, and the social high point is the regular caxiri spree, sometimes accompanied by rather wonderful dances, sometimes just leading to what one might call the usual high spirits.
There was an urgency about this contact because the military dictatorship that took over Brazil (from 1964 to 1985) had embarked on a large programme of road building in the Amazon, the most famous being the “Transamazônica” running through the centre of the country. The Wayapí were in the way of a planned road called the “Northern Perimetral”, which was to run along the Guiana frontier and all the way to Venezuela. The 1973 oil crisis wrecked the Brazilian economy and grandiose schemes had to be abandoned.
The Wayapí had made sporadic contacts with outsiders before this. Some had wandered north and found a small Brazilian air force base near the Jarí river. Those returning from there to their villages brought back devastating diseases – dysentery and measles. Their land had also been invaded on occasions by gold prospectors both from the east side and from the west via the Jarí. These contacts always resulted in epidemics, respiratory complaints being particularly serious. What might be a slight cold or a cough to us can be fatal to those with no immunity. When Funai began its operation in 1973 the situation was already precarious.
Funai’s record in its dealings with Brazil’s indigenous people is not good. Chronically underfunded, often poorly staffed, often failing in elementary procedures, careless, offhand, the organisation certainly deserves the criticisms it gets. But like so much else in Brazil, muddling through in some way or another does eventually get some sort of result. In this case it’s clear that had Funai not intervened, the Wayapí would have faced extinction. There were 152 souls in the area in 1974. Now there are more than 1,000. Everyone has muddled through and they’ve made it. And although health programmes may not be particularly good, they are significantly better than the healthcare available to poor Brazilians.
Protecting the health of the Indians goes along with the other priority – protecting their land. During the 1970s and 80s gold prospectors continued to enter Wayapí territory. Confrontations sometimes became violent. There was an urgent need to get the land demarcated and recognised with legal protection. Largely through the relentless and indefatigable efforts of an NGO based in São Paulo, the Wayapí reserve was legally secured by 1996. The estimated area is about 600,000 hectares.
Muita terra, pouco índio (“much land, few Indians”) is the grumble you hear on the streets of local towns from frustrated prospectors. But it’s not just Indian land that’s involved in the crisis. For a number of years organisations at all levels, municipal, state, and national, have shown remarkable initiative in creating (with legal protection, it should be emphasised) a network of “conservation units” under various headings: national parks, areas of ambiental protection, biological reserves, sustainable development reserves, and so on. These now form a continuous block from the Guiana frontier southwards, enveloping the reservations of the Wayapí and the Wayana-Apalai further to the west, giving these two reserves extra protection.
But Temer discovered Renca. This is the “Reserva Nacional de Cobre e Associados” (National Copper Reserve), established in 1984 by the military dictatorship, not to protect the environment, but to secure possession of minerals in the area and make sure that the government could control their extraction. This is the targeted area that Temer wants to open. It includes eight “conservation units” and the two Indian reserves (Wayapí and Wayana-Apalai).
A federal judge, Rolando Valcir Spanholo, has blocked Temer’s decision pending consultation by Congress. This cannot be more than a holding move.
The Wayapi were facing extinction until a state agency intervened. Photograph: Alan Tormaid CampbellWhy destroy the Amazon forest? Why remove protection from Indian lands? The motive is simply opportunistic greed: “Enrichissez-vous.” Dressing up the project in economic terms comes close to lying. When the BBC World Service broke the Renca story on 24 August the commentator went “over to our business reporter in Hong Kong”. The wisdom from Hong Kong (about the fate of Amapá) was that “the government needs the money” and that the initiative will “create jobs”, and “raise revenue from taxes and royalties”. The stupidity of this response should make comment unnecessary. Given that the levels and layers of corruption in Brazilian political life are stupefying, where will the taxes and royalties go? Temer claims that “only a third” of the area is to be opened for mining. Only? The disruption will be colossal. Frontier violence will spread. Land-grabbing will be rife. And once the process is begun it is very difficult to stop or control. The damage is permanent.
It is also claimed that the indigenous reserves will be protected. How, precisely? The grimmest aspect of Brazilian expansion into the interior of the country concerns the dispossession of Indian lands, so often by violence and murder. There are particular struggles going on now in a number of places where the various authorities appear incapable of defending those who are attacked. It was ever thus. On top of that, being “Indian” in Brazil means that you will frequently collide with intense habits of prejudice and racism.
It’s more protection that’s required, not less – protection for the land and protection for the people – the obvious point being that everyone benefits. All the reservations, natural and indigenous, are enormous assets to the country. All Brazilians deserve better than to have these assets trashed by this surge of corrupt greed.
Published on The Guardian on September 9, 2017.
Written by Elizabeth Rivera and Laura Vidal
Translated by Clara Guest
The Southern Mexican state of Chiapas is known for having a diverse population of people from various ethnic and faith groups, creating a unique social interplay of people whose cultures com together and intertwine with one another.
For a long time, the region’s communities, many of whom are indigenous, witnessed a conversion from Catholic groups to Evangelist ones and the fusion of these new beliefs with a vision of the world that remained compatible with Mayan traditions. However, it is the Tzoztil communities from San Cristobal de las Casas who have most recently caused a stir in the media, due to a rise in conversions to the Islamic faith.
Many reports and online commentaries have reacted towards these communities with shock, rejection and fear. In a time when indigenous groups are already targets of racism and discrimination, these recent conversions to Islam have brought to the surface debates surrounding the complexity of identity as well as a rise in online attacks from those who fear what these changes might mean in Mexico (...)
Members of the Tzotzil Muslim community report being victims of discrimination, targets of defamation campaigns.
The online media company Zoomin.TV Latinoamérica has collected testimonies that reflect the difficulties and social adaptation process that converts to Islam face. Despite what some may think, the Tzotzil people’s ancient traditions are not simply forgotten or thrown away but instead adapted to the practice of Islam (...)
Despite these problems, members of other faith groups and residents of San Cristóbal recognize that Tzotzil Muslims are peaceful members of the community and are figures that combat stereotypes about Islam.
The number of Tzotzil Muslims continues to grow and their communal activities are developing. Families study the Koran and the new generations learn Arabic from an early age. The community organises group trips to participate in the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. For many members of the community, this is often the first time they travel outside of Mexico and have the opportunity to meet Muslims from all over the world.
Origins of Islam in ChiapasIslam was first introduced to Chiapas by missionaries from the Murabitun World Movement. The missionaries arrived in the country looking to create links with leaders of the Zapatista uprising, an event that took place in Mexico in 1994, the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect.
At first, the objective of the armed uprising, led by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), was to create a new state model and defend indigenous populations. These peoples had, historically, had their rights violated. According to the document sent by the Muslim missionaries, they were hoping to unite and support this Zapatista cause, but it seems that the EZLN didn’t respond to them.
Nevertheless, one person did respond to the missionaries’ invitation to Islam, and that was Salvador López, who now goes by the name Mohammed Amín. Amín was the first Muslim originating from the region. It was at this moment that the region's Muslim community was established and started to grow, though this was not without internal and external conflicts. Often such conflicts resulted in divisions within the new community, and today Chiapas is home to four different groups of Muslims.
Evolving IdentitiesThe work of Paulina Villegas, Marcela Zendejas and Lasso de la Vega, published in the magazine ‘Letras Libres’ (Free Letters) –and later leading to the creation of a documentary – tells the story of these communities and explores the complexity of their history, from beliefs inherited from pre-Columbian cultures to the melting pot of Chiapas today. The testimonies collected by the authors reflect a new direction in an ancient history and a spiritual quest of identity that connects many around the globe (...)
Published on Global Voices on September 5, 2017.
By Sue Branford
Brazil’s Supreme Court made two key decisions that strongly favored the country’s indigenous communities Wednesday, rulings that appear to refute the current administration’s recent attempt to link all indigenous land claims to an arbitrary 1988 occupation date, rather than to a long history of documented occupation, as required by Brazil’s Constitution.
The court ruled that both of the civil actions that the Mato Grosso state government had brought against the indigenous agency, Funai, were inadmissible. About a hundred Indians, gathered in the courtroom, greeted the decision with cheers. Outside the building, dozens of Indians, who had spent the night waiting in Brasilia’s central square (the Praça dos Três Poderes), celebrated noisily.
In both cases, the Mato Grosso government claimed that federally established indigenous reserves had been set up on land that belonged to Mato Grosso state, and that had not been traditionally occupied by the indigenous people living there today. Through ACO 362, Mato Grosso claimed compensation for land the federal government used to establish the Xingu Indigenous Park, created by the Villas-Boas brothers in 1961. Through ACO 366, Mato Grosso claimed compensation for land federally demarcated as indigenous territories for the Nambikwara, Pareci and Enawenê-Nauê Indians in the 1980s.
Judge Marco Aurelio Mello said that there was enough evidence to show that indigenous communities had occupied the area of the Xingu Indigenous Park for at least 800 years. Judge Alexandre de Moraes concurred: “Indigenous communities cannot be denied this traditional settlement. Funai does not need to compensate the state for the use of its own lands.” Similar statements were made with respect to the Nambikwara, Pareci and Enawenê-Nauê reserves. The Mato Grosso state government was ordered to pay Funai’s legal fees.
The rulings are a major setback for President Michel Temer, who had openly supported the state government claims, reportedly under pressure from the powerful bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress on whom he depends for his political survival.
But the rulings did not directly address the controversial “marco temporal,” the recent recommendation made by the Attorney General’s office and signed by President Temer, stating that indigenous groups should only have the right to legally claim land if they were physically occupying it on 5 October 1988, the day the current Brazilian Constitution was promulgated. If this recommendation is applied throughout Amazonia, scores of indigenous communities, forcibly evicted from their land during the military government (1964-1985), will lose their land rights.
However, all members of the Court, with the exception of Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes, indirectly rebutted the idea of a 1988 cut-off, by clearly stating that the basis of “traditional occupation” — which the Indians must demonstrate to have their land rights confirmed — is founded on very different criteria. “The vast majority of the ministers of the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the concept of traditional occupation is related to the way they [indigenous people] have occupied their land, and is based on legislation much earlier than the 1988 federal Constitution,” said Cleber Buzatto, the director of Cimi, the Catholic Church’s Missionary Indigenous Council.
Rafael Modesto dos Santos, legal consultant at Cimi, said that in his view the rulings were a serious setback for the federal government: “Despite not being directly examined in the rulings, the concept of the marco temporal was severely damaged and the indigenous communities have been strengthened. This directly affects the recommendation from the Attorney General’s office signed by Temer.”
Minister Luis Roberto Barroso made it clear, in his vote, that he opposed the marco temporal: “In my understanding, traditional indigenous occupation will only lose its validity if it is demonstrated that the Indians voluntarily left their territories or it is shown that their cultural links with the area have been broken.”
Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes, the main advocate for the marco temporal, was not allowed to vote on ACO 362 because he had already made his position clear in the 1990s when he was Attorney-General and, at the time, believed that the state government was wrong in its claim. As a result, the vote on ACO 362 was unanimous.
Although he was the last to speak and was thus defending a lost cause, Mendes made a long speech that denigrated indigenous land rights, saying that, without the marco temporal, “we will end up handing back Copacabana [Rio’s most famous beach] to the Indians.”
Luis Enrique Eloy, a Terena indian and lawyer for the Articulation of the Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib), expressed a different view: “The Supreme Court decided that these lands never belonged to the Mato Grosso government, and it’s impossible to ignore the presence of the Indians,” he said.
Though important, it is unlikely this week’s decisions will be the final word on the marco temporal, but experts suggest the rulings may cause Temer and his rural caucus allies to pause for thought and to reconsider their strategy. Although Brazil’s top judges have often been overruled by the executive in recent years, they are still a power to reckon with, and able to put a check on perceived presidential excesses.
Published on Mongabay on August 17, 2017.
The United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have condemned Brazil’s “attack” on its indigenous peoples.
In a new statement, UN and IACHR experts have warned that Brazilian Indians are at great risk as politicians continue pushing to weaken their hard-won land rights.
Brazil’s constitution states that indigenous territories must be mapped out and protected for the Indians’ exclusive use. But anti-indigenous politicians linked to Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby are calling for changes to the law which could enable them to steal and destroy these lands for large-scale plantations and “development” projects. This is the most serious attack Brazilian Indians have experienced in decades.
Without their lands, indigenous peoples cannot survive. Tribes nationwide have united in protest against this onslaught on their rights. One indigenous leader, Adalto Guarani, said that the politicians’ plans “are like an atomic bomb… which could kill all the Indians in Brazil” and has called for people around the world to take action.
Brazil is home to over 250 tribes, including over 100 who are uncontacted and reject contact with mainstream society. Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They face genocide and will be killed by disease and violence brought by invaders if their land is not protected, but the teams charged with keeping outsiders away are paralyzed by recent budget cuts.
The statement slams the “illegitimate criminalization” of indigenous peoples’ allies. The anti-indigenous agribusiness lobby instigated an inquiry whose recently published report attacked indigenous leaders, anthropologists, public prosecutors and NGOs, including Survival International. The report was met with outrage and incredulity in Brazil and beyond.
The experts also highlighted that over the last 15 years, Brazil has seen “the highest number of killings of environmental and land defenders of any country”. Dozens of indigenous leaders have been assassinated in recent years, following attempts to reoccupy their ancestral land, and last month, thirteen Gamela Indians were hospitalized after a violent attack by men armed with machetes in the Amazon.
The UN and the IACHR have recommended that “Brazil should be strengthening institutional and legal protection for indigenous peoples”.
Survival has launched a campaign to defend indigenous rights in Brazil.
Published on Survival on June 9, 2017.