Who is Métis? Statistics Canada numbers open window on debate

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, middle, carries the Métis flag in Ottawa on April 14, 2016 (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

‘It’s not simply you just get a little check mark and say I’m Métis. You have to prove your identity’

The president of the Manitoba Metis Federation says the 2016 census numbers for Métis in Canada are wrong — but his objections point to a larger debate about who in fact is Métis.

“People just think that because you have potentially First Nation blood in you that you can quantify yourself as Métis,” David Chartrand said Tuesday. “I can guarantee there’s not 125,000 Métis Nation citizens in Ontario.”

The 2016 census asked people whether they were Aboriginal, and then further broke that down to First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

There were 587,545 people who self-identified as Métis, a growth of more than 50 per cent since 2006, with the most in Ontario, where there were just over 120,000. Almost 90,000 in Manitoba self-identified as Métis.

But Chartrand says a lack of understanding prompted many people to incorrectly self-identify as Métis, a word with roots in the French for mixed blood.

“Our nation is probably about no more than 400,000, from parts of Ontario all the way to parts of British Columbia and all of the Prairies. That’s our population. We know it. We know where we live, we know who we are,” he said.

Chartrand’s organization strictly regulates who gets Métis Nation citizenship cards.

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

They must show they trace their ancestry back to the mixed First Nations and European people who lived in Western Canada during the time of the fur trade.

“It’s not simply you just get a little check mark and say I’m Métis,” Chartrand said. “You have to prove your identity and prove your connection to the historical and collective homeland of the Métis Nation. It’s a long process.”

However, not everyone agrees with Chartrand’s definition.

A 2016 Supreme Court ruling about Métis rights launched some infighting among Métis about who meets the definition.

The Daniels vs. Canada ruling states the Métis and non-status Indians are “Indians” under the Constitution and thus fall under federal jurisdiction, so they must turn to Ottawa when negotiating rights or for new programs and services.

The ruling determined Métis status must be granted on a case-by-case basis, with the generally agreed upon criteria including ancestry and community ties.

The Métis Federation of Canada has a broader criteria for membership than the Manitoba Metis Federation.

“The true history of the Métis is very inclusive,” said president Robert Pilon said following the Daniels ruling.

“If you want to have a true representation of Métis in Canada, they got to make sure all Métis are at the table,” Pilon said in 2016. “Not just pick and choose just because one group has been around longer.”

A Statistics Canada analyst said the census did allow a wide variety of people to identify as Métis, but more data is being gathered to learn exactly what people mean by the term.

“We understand that there’s no single definition of Métis that’s endorsed by all Métis groups in Canada,” said Vivian O’Donnell.

Statistics Canada is trying to find out what people mean when they self-identify as Métis, she said.

Statistics Canada added two new questions to the Aboriginal Peoples Survey for those who said they’re Métis.

“We asked them, ‘Do you have a card or certificate issued by a Métis organization that identifies you as Métis?’ and if they say yes, we ask what Métis organization issued the card or certificate,” O’Donnell said.

“We also have other questions about sense of belonging — trying to capture some cultural connectedness — so there’s a lot of research potential there to better understand how people are identifying with the Métis nation or the Métis population.”

‘Capital M Métis’

Jacqueline Romanow, chair of the department of Indigenous studies at the University of Winnipeg, says she uses the terms “capital M Métis” and “small m Métis” in her classes to define two separate groups.

Small m Métis are people with mixed blood, which is how many people interpret the word, which has its roots in the French for mixed blood, Romanow says.

Capital M Métis are members of the Métis Nation who trace their ancestry back to the Red River Settlement and Ruperts Land before the creation of the province of Manitoba, she said. She is a member of that group.

Those Métis developed a culture with its own language and traditions in a specific region, she says.

“This is a unique place in history and in time, where you have the genesis of a whole new kind of culture,” she said.

“This didn’t happen everywhere — a new culture with a new language, new traditions that evolved that are very unique and specific.”

There are also specific rights given to those who can trace their heritage to Red River Métis, including land entitlements tracing back to the creation of Manitoba, when Métis were promised land that many never got.

Chartrand said only those who meet the Manitoba Métis Federation’s citizenship requirements are entitled to those rights.

People who are not members of the Métis Nation but want to be identified as part Indigenous should embrace their heritage, but it is not Métis, he said.

“We worked too damn hard to get where we are as a nation,” he said. “We do not take kindly to others who are just trying to jump in to something we’ve been working on for 150 years.”

CBC News

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Tribe Sharpens Arrows against Amazon invaders

A man aims a bow-and-arrow at the Waiapi indigenous reserve in the Manilha village, in Amapa state, Brazil (AFP Photo/Apu Gomes)

The Waiapi still use poisoned arrows 

Waiãpi – (AFP) – They appear silently, seemingly from nowhere: a dozen figures, naked except for bright red loincloths, blocking the dirt road.

These are the Waiapi, an ancient tribe living in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest but now fearing invasion by international mining companies.

Leading AFP reporters to a tiny settlement of palm-thatched huts hidden in foliage, the tribesmen streaked in red and black dye vow to defend their territory. They brandish six-foot (two-meter) bows and arrows to reinforce the point.

“We’ll keep fighting,” says Tapayona Waiapi, 36, in the settlement called Pinoty. “When the companies come we’ll keep resisting. If the Brazilian government sends soldiers to kill people, we’ll keep resisting until the last of us is dead.”

The Waiapi indigenous reserve is in pristine rainforest near the eastern end of the Amazon river. It is part of a much larger conservation zone called Renca, covering an area the size of Switzerland.

Surrounded by rivers and towering trees, the tribe operates almost entirely according to its own laws, with a way of life at times closer to the Stone Age than the 21st century.

Yet modern Brazil is barely a few hours’ drive away.

And now the center-right government is pushing to open Renca to international mining companies who covet the rich deposits of gold and other metals hidden under the sea of green.

In August, President Michel Temer abruptly ended mining restrictions in swaths of Renca, sparking an outcry from environmentalists and celebrity campaigners like Leonardo DiCaprio.

Temer backtracked in September. However, the Waiapi, who were nearly wiped out by disease after being discovered by outsiders in the 1970s, remain terrified.

The rainforest, says 35-year-old Moi Waiapi, another inhabitant of Pinoty, “is the foundation for our survival.”

The road

The dirt road is the only route into Waiapi territory. Pinoty, where a few dozen people sleep in hammocks under roofs with open sides, is the first village — the frontier.

To get here requires several layers of authorization, then a bumpy two-hour drive from the small town of Pedra Branca. The Amapa state capital Macapa, one of the most remote in Brazil, is several hours further.

By the time you reach Pinoty and a government sign reading “Protected Land,” you are already well beyond cellphone reception, the electric grid, the last gas station, and many Brazilian laws.

But for all the remoteness, the Waiapi have scant protection against the powerful forces that for decades have pushed industry and agribusiness deeper and deeper into the Amazon in a bid to make Brazil a commodities exporting superpower.

The road itself is a monument to those ambitions.

Known as the Northern Perimetral, highway 210 was started under the 1964-1985 military dictatorship with the aim of linking Brazil to Venezuela.

Funding collapsed and the road was abandoned in the 1970s, literally stopping dead in the deep jungle, more than 700 miles (1,100 km) from its intended goal.

But even unfinished, the pharaonic project retains an ominous presence. Barely a car a day passes, yet the road to nowhere, slicing in a broad red scar through the tree-covered hills, has been remarkably well maintained.

Calibi Waiapi, another tribal villager, suspects that the government hopes one day to resurrect that dream of a thoroughfare through the wilderness. Wearing a circular headdress of parrot feathers, Calibi frowns at the thought.

“There’d be cars, trucks, violence, drugs, robberies. The culture would change. The young would want the cellphones, the clothes, the computers,” the 57-year-old says as he imagines Brazilians pouring down the road.

“If a lot of white men came, it would be the end.”

Arrow ‘for Temer

Hotter heads threaten a violent response to any attempt at encroachment.

“If Temer comes here, anywhere near me, this is what he’ll get,” says Tapayona Waiapi, brandishing one of the long arrows, tipped in a lethally sharp sliver of wood.

Although the Waiapi have had shotguns for hunting since first contact with the government in the 1970s, they still also use arrows, which are poisoned.

“These are our weapons so that we are not dependent on non-Indian weapons,” said Aka’upotye Waiapi, 43, in Manilha village, as he carved a new bow.

But the show of force by the tribesmen, one of whom swung a club in the shape of a wooden ax, was mostly bravado.

There are only about 1,200 Waiapi, scattered in villages reached by foot or river: they can barely monitor, let alone protect their territory. Just this May, an illegal mine was discovered and shut down a mile south of Pinoty.

Jawaruwa Waiapi, 31, says that fighting or even fleeing into the forest will no longer work.

Last year he was elected to the municipal council in Pedra Branca, the first member of his tribe to hold a Brazilian political post. He says peaceful persuasion is the only viable way now.

“We have another road, another strategy, which is to participate in political life,” he said.

“Today we don’t have to fight with arrows or clubs. We have to fight through knowledge, through politics…. This is our new weapon.”

[SOURCE]

Online Threats, Arson and Illegal Traps: Feud between Indigenous, other Fisherman in Nova Scotia at Boiling Point

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. CP/Andrew Vaughan

Non-Aboriginal fishermen have held a series of protests, saying some Indigenous fishermen were illegally selling lobster outside of the commercial season, and federal authorities have seized more than 300 illegal traps

A drydocked boat owned by a non-Aboriginal fisherman was torched, followed a few days later by a boat owned by a Mi’kmaq man.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said it wasn’t clear what was going on in picturesque St. Mary’s Bay, and the RCMP said even less. But suddenly, a simmering dispute over the province’s Indigenous lobster fishery had taken on a new sense of urgency.

Non-Aboriginal fishermen have held a series of protests, saying some Indigenous fishermen were illegally selling lobster outside of the commercial season, and federal authorities have seized more than 300 illegal traps, though it remains unclear who owns them.

The tensions represent unfinished business from a September 1999 ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada that confirmed that First Nations have sweeping fishing and other treaty rights but left lingering questions about the limits.

“Some people are patient, but I think what we’re seeing is that some people are not patient — or have given up on a timely resolution,” said Bruce Wildsmith, legal adviser to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.

Wildsmith has been involved since the beginning. He represented Donald Marshall Jr. in the 1999 case, when the country’s highest court ruled that Marshall had a treaty right to fish for eels when and where he wanted — without a licence.

Marshall — previously best known for being wrongfully convicted of murder — had caught 210 kilograms of eels one day in August 1993, and then sold them for $787.10.

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. CP/Andrew Vaughan

The Marshall decision also said Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy bands in Eastern Canada could hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood,” though the court followed up with a clarification two months later, saying the treaty right was subject to federal regulation.

However, the Mi’kmaq communities at Burnt Church in New Brunswick and Indian Brook in Nova Scotia defied federal authorities and immediately set lobster traps under their own band management plans.

That led to the seizure of traps, arrests, charges, collisions on the water, shots fired at night, boat sinkings, injuries and threats of retribution.

Over the course of three turbulent years, most First Nations in the Maritimes and Quebec signed interim fishing agreements with Ottawa, which has spent more than $600 million providing Indigenous bands with boats, equipment and licences.

But those interim agreements remain just that — temporary fixes for a festering problem, says Wildsmith.

He says negotiations with Ottawa following a framework agreement in 2008 have dragged on with no end in sight.

The latest clash in Nova Scotia is focused on the Indigenous food, social and ceremonial fishery. Under a previous ruling from the Supreme Court, known as Sparrow, First Nations are allowed to fish outside the regular commercial season to feed their communities or to supply ceremonial gatherings — but they are barred from selling their catches.

In mid-September, non-Aboriginal fishermen in western Nova Scotia started a series of peaceful protests at federal offices to draw attention to their claims that a small faction of Indigenous fishermen were selling their catches out of season, using the food and ceremonial fishery as cover.

“The powers that be simply aren’t enforcing the rules and regulations,” said Bernie Berry, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association.

Berry stressed that non-Indigenous fisherman support the food, social and ceremonial fishery, but he insisted the federal Fisheries Department must put a stop to what he described as a growing black market.

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. CP/Andrew Vaughan

Morley Knight, an assistant deputy minister with the Fisheries Department, says Fisheries officers have stepped up their patrols in the area, which has resulted in the seizure of illegal traps.

As for the pace of negotiations with Indigenous groups seeking permanent fisheries agreements, Knight said progress is being made despite the long time frame.

“It’s not unusual, given other experiences where there have been negotiations related to treaty-related rights,” he said in an interview. “They do take a very long time.”

He said the Marshall decision made it clear that a “moderate livelihood fishery” must be conducted under federal regulations to ensure conservation of the resource.

“The response that the department has made … to Marshall has been to provide access (to the fishery) for the purposes of sale, which contributes to the economies of the communities and therefore to a moderate livelihood,” he said.

Wildsmith disagrees with that assessment. He repeatedly stressed that implementing a permanent agreement that addresses what it means to earn a moderate livelihood has yet to be resolved at the negotiating table.

“To think that the negotiation process that has been ongoing since 2008 is going to solve this immediate crisis is California dreaming,” he said. “That process is nowhere close to resolving these issues and it will certainly will not be done in a timely way for those folks who want to go sell fish.”

He said access to the commercial fishery doesn’t equate with a “moderate livelihood” fishery, which must have a separate and distinct set of rules and regulations. That’s why the Indigenous groups that he works with are calling for a separate moderate livelihood licence.

A livelihood fishery would focus on individuals providing for their families, rather than the simple creation of commercial wealth, he said.

“Commercial is not the same as livelihood, and the Supreme Court said that in Marshall … There was never any agreement to have the livelihood fishery conducted under the commercial rules.”

As well, the Marshall decision made it clear that Indigenous Peoples have an existing constitutional right to engage in a moderate livelihood fishery, Wildsmith said. That’s why some Aboriginal fishermen may believe they can sell lobster caught outside the commercial season, he said.

“Constitutional rights supersede the statutory requirements,” Wildsmith said.

Knight said the federal government is open to discussing creation of moderate livelihood licences.

“The federal government … is open to any and all suggestions that make sense, as long as there are measures in place to ensure the fishery is sustainable and conservation objectives are maintained … within a regulated fishery.”

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Tobique Marijuana Dispensary Raid Came Close to ‘Full-Out Conflict,’ Chief Says

Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley. (Tobique First Nation)

Ross Perley says First Nation band sees RCMP raid on Tribal ReLeaf as an ‘attack’ on sovereignty

The chief of Tobique First Nation says the RCMP raid on the community’s new marijuana dispensary Thursday prompted a blockade that could have turned into a “full-out conflict.”

Ross Perley says Tribal ReLeaf, which opened in July, is 51 per cent-owned by the band and has the full support of band council as a “pain management centre.”

“We’re sick and tired of doctors and pharmacists shoving opioids down the throats of our people, paid for by Health Canada,” he said. “So this is a way … for people to get the medicine they need to try and live happy, peaceful lives.”

Perley said the marijuana can help people in the community with medical conditions such as cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those trying to kick addictions to opioids and other narcotics.

And the band’s share of the revenue can go back into the community — everything from programs for youth and assistance for the elderly to helping the unemployed find jobs and infrastructure projects.

It’s only been a couple of months, but Perley said the initiative has been “good for the community” and that’s why there was such a strong show of support during the raid.

About 100 members and several vehicles blocked officers from leaving “for a number of hours,” he said. It was peaceful and no weapons were involved, but the situation was “delicate.”

The search and seizure by police was viewed as a “disrespectful” “attack” on the band’s sovereignty, said Perley.

“Luckily, me and my council were able to negotiate their safe release,” he said. “Basically, we avoided a full-out conflict and crisis in our community.”

Perley declined to disclose any details about the negotiations but did say charges against three arrested employees were dropped.

“We strongly believe in self-government and self-determination,” he said. “We regulate and license our own gaming, our own alcohol, our own tobacco and our own marijuana, and we do it efficiently.”

Tribal ReLeaf reopened within hours of being raided by the RCMP on Thursday. (Facebook)

RCMP contend the dispensary, located on Route 105 in northwestern New Brunswick, is illegal and unregulated and failed to comply with a “cease and desist” order last month.

​No charges have been laid and the investigation is continuing, spokesperson Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said on Friday.

Police are trying to determine who is supplying the shop, she said.

Perley declined to disclose the identity of the supplier or the names of the other part-owners.

“All I’ll say is we have the educational capacity and the sophistication to do proper quality control and regulation,” he said.

More serious problems

Perley questions why the RCMP would focus on the marijuana dispensary when the community is struggling with narcotics, such as opioids, fentanyl and cocaine — particularly when the federal government is expected to legalize recreational marijuana use by July 2018.

“People are sick, they’re dying on these [other] drugs,” said Perley, who has been the chief for three years.

“For us, that’s what the RCMP should be focusing on. We’ve been asking them to do something about it, they’ve done absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“When you have the support of the leadership and you have the support of the community to raid other real drug dealers,  and you’re not doing it, and you’re wasting your time and your resources on something that’s supported by leadership and by the community, I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP have to enforce the laws as they exist today, including the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, under which marijuana is still considered illegal.

She said she couldn’t speak about other “enforcement efforts ongoing.”

“There are different investigations at different stages,” she said.

CBC News, Posted Oct 6, 2017

[SOURCE]

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Winnipegers Rally for Indigenous Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thousands call on MPs to vote for Bill C-262 and adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

WINNIPEG, MB—On Saturday, September 23, starting at 1 pm, a group of Indigenous peoples and settlers from Winnipeg (Treaty 1 territory) will walk 12 km from Stephen Juba Park to a public gathering at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba to urge the Canadian government to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The Declaration is a landmark document that provides a framework for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and a guide for legislators, courts, human rights groups, and other institutions. The adoption of the Declaration was one of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In April 2017, NDP MP Romeo Saganash, who spent 23 years at the UN helping negotiate the Declaration, tabled a private member’s bill, Bill C-262. The bill provides a legislative framework for how the Declaration would be implemented and monitored in Canada. The anticipated date for Bill C-262’s second reading is October 18.

Senator Murray Sinclair, environmentalist David Suzuki, Conservative MP Candice Bergen, and singer-songwriter Steve Bell are a few of the thousands of Canadians who have lent their signatures in support of Bill C-262.

“We’re urging our MPs to vote for Bill C-262,” says Leah Gazan, an Indigenous rights advocate who teaches at the University of Winnipeg. “The Liberal government promised to implement all 94 of the TRC’s calls to action and fully adopt the UN Declaration. I’m holding them to their promise.”

While the Canadian government supports the UN Declaration in theory, so far there is no legislative framework for its implementation and review; Bill C-262 provides both.

A key right supported by the UN Declaration is free, prior and informed consent: the right of Indigenous peoples to say “yes” or “no” to initiatives such as resource projects that impact their lands and lives.

“I’m behind this issue not in addition to, or in spite of my Christian faith, but precisely because of it,” says Steve Bell. “The gospel message is inextricably bound to issues of justice. The Scriptures take a dim view of those who possess by dispossession.”

In Winnipeg, Bill C-262 has gathered a broad coalition of grassroots supporters from churches, mosques, and community organizations.

Community organizer Michael Redhead Champagne plans to bring a group of Indigenous youth on the walk. “As an Indigenous man, I’m afraid to have children because of how I’ve seen Indigenous families treated here,” says Champagne. “The UN Declaration would guarantee that their rights would be respected.”

After the march, Winnipeggers will convene at 6:30 pm at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The event will feature stories and performances by Ray ‘Coco’ Stevenson, Ry Moran director of NCTR, Leonard Sumner, Shahina Siddiqui and others.

Sign Petition here: http://www.adoptandimplement.com/
Read Bill C-262 here: http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/…/bill/C-262/first-reading (the bill includes the 46 articles of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

Walk the Talk Coalition For Bill C-262 is a grassroots organization of people supporting Bill C-262.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is the permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The NCTR is located at the University of Manitoba and works in partnership with a wide variety of agencies and organizations to advance Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

Posted: Sept. 13, 2017

[SOURCE]

Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 

[SOURCE]

Brazil: Increase in Land killings as Political Crisis Threatens Amazon

The 14th ‘Free Terra’ Camp in Praça dos Ipês, Brasília, during April 24-28 2017. Over 4,000 representatives from 200 indigenous peoples from all regions of the country were present in a large demonstration of strength of the indigenous movement. Photo: NINJA Media / National Indigenous Mobilization via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

By Joe Sandler Clarke & Sam Cowie / Greenpeace Energydesk 

There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.

New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.

The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.

CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.

At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.

A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.

Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.

Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence:

“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer. Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”

Indigenous rights agency cut

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence. She explained:

“There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is nobody trying to protect them.”

Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function. She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff:

“We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip … I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating.”

Months later, the UNSR said that the recommendations she made to Brazilian officials have not been addressed.

In May, a congressional committee led by a powerful farming lobby moved to replace the indigenous rights agency with a body controlled by the justice ministry – a move which campaigners believe could have terrible consequences.

Impunity

According to Bellini, a culture of impunity around rural killings in Brazil is also to blame for the worsening situation. CPT states that of the 1,800 killings the organisation has recorded since 1985, only 112 ended up in court with very few ending with conviction.

She said: “Given all the political instability in Brazil since last year, those who are looking to accumulate land, in whatever way they can, have found an opportunity to accelerate the process and apparently they feel quite convinced of impunity.”

In response to this story, Amnesty International Brazil – which uses CPT’s data in its own work – sent us the following statement.

“Amnesty International believes, that in the light of the recent attack on the Gamela community in Maranhão state, it is absolutely essential that the Brazilian government makes a strong statement committing to upholding the Constitutional obligations to demarcate and deliver Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands.

“Funai must be strengthened, by making available necessary financial resources, and recent appointments to the agency should be reviewed, in order to ensure that those in leadership positions in the agency have the necessary political independence to do their job.

“The Brazilian government must ensure security to human rights defenders and withdraw any initiatives to criminalize or limit their work.” 


Joe Sandler-Clarke is a UK-based journalist specialising in investigative and public interest stories. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Independent, The Sunday Times, VICE and others, and he curently works at Greenpeace UK.

Sam Cowie is a freelance journalist based in São Paulo, Brazil.

This article was originally published on Greenpeace Energydesk.

Read more: Amazon deforestation rises as government moves to weaken Indigenous protections.

Article originally published in Ecologist on Jun 7, 2017

[SOURCE]

“We Don’t Believe In Words Anymore”: Indigenous Peoples Stand Against Brazil’s Temer Government

Munduruku warriors at the roadblock. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Red Power Media | May 09, 2017

by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres, Mongabay

Indigenous groups are making a defiant stand against the current wave of fiercely anti-Indian policies being rapidly implemented by Brazil’s Temer administration and Congress.

Protests blossomed last week in Brasilia where a four-day demonstration — the largest in the nation’s history — brought together over 4,000 indigenous leaders from more than 200 tribes seeking government redress of grievances. The protesters were met with teargas.

Likewise, a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state ended in violence when their camp was raided by ranchers and hired gunmen who beat the Indians brutally, even hacking off hands with machetes.

In the Amazon, members of the Munduruku tribe, armed with bows and arrows, set up a roadblock on the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of trucks loaded with this year’s soy harvest.

The blockade came in protest of the government’s refusal to demarcate the Indians’ lands as assured under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The commodities roadblock also sent a clear signal to the bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, which dominates Congress and the administration, and which pushed for the dramatic upsurge in federal initiatives rolling back indigenous land rights and protections.

A glimpse of the traffic backup at the Munduruku blockade. Video by Mauricio Torres

Violence in Maranhão

On 30 April gunmen and ranchers attacked an indigenous camp in Maranhão, an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, long dominated by powerful landowners led by the Sarney family (one of whom is Pres. Temer’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho).

The violence was triggered by events two days earlier, when several dozen Gamela Indians occupied disputed land near the town of Viana, 214 kilometers (133 miles) from the state capital of São Luis.

This land was traditionally occupied by the Gamela, but the military dictatorship (1964-1985) illegally ejected them from it. Ranchers then occupied the area, clearing the forest, planting pasture and raising cattle. As years passed, the ranchers began to see themselves as the legitimate owners.

About 300 Gamela families remained in the region, however, determined to regain their land despite the slight odds of doing so. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claim, the Indians received little help from authorities, with the federal Indian agency FUNAI, under pressure from the ranchers, refusing to begin the process of marking out the boundaries of the Gamela territory.

Three years ago the Indians went to court to force the ranchers to relinquish the land, but the case was stalled by bureaucratic delays. With their living conditions worsening year-by-year, the Gamela became convinced that they would only survive as a people if they took action. So they began a series of retomadas or re-occupations of their traditional land.

They timed the latest reoccupation to coincide with both the indigenous protest in Brasilia and a national one-day general strike, the first in 21 years, organized by Brazil’s trade unions in protest over the Temer government’s severe austerity measures.

A cell phone photo taken just before the attack on the Gamela camp, showing a police car and group of ranchers. Photo courtesy of Cimi

It was a risky strategy, particularly in view of the strong anti-indigenous sentiment in Brasilia, and the local ranchers responded rapidly. According to one report, they sent out a WhatsApp message, calling on ranchers and their gunmen to gather near the indigenous camp.

Messages supporting the ranchers flooded the media. Federal deputy, Aluisio Guimarães Mendes Filho, (the state’s Public Security Secretary during the government of Roseana Sarney, another member of the Sarney clan), spoke out in a local radio interview, accusing the Gamela of being “troublemakers” and encouraging violence against them.

“He fanned the flames,” said one Indian later.

The ranchers had a barbecue, drank a lot of alcohol, and became increasingly abusive in their talk about the Indians. It was clear that an attack was being planned, but when it happened, the military police (who had arrived on site earlier) didn’t intervene.

The Indians were vastly out-numbered and could do little but flee into the forest when attacked by men wielding rifles and machetes.

According to Cimi (the Catholic Missionary Council), 13 Indians were injured. Two had both hands lopped off. Others were severely beaten; one had a fractured skull. One of the injured is Kum ‘Tum Gamela, a former priest, who has received numerous death threats in the past.

The Ministry of Justice issued a press statement in which it promised to investigate “the incident that involved small farmers and supposed Indians in the hamlet of Bahias.” The term “supposed” generated a wave of indigenous anger and was quickly deleted from the statement. Later the term “small farmers” was also removed, as it was widely criticized as being a euphemism for the gunmen employed by the ranchers. In the end, the statement merely said that that the ministry would investigate a “rural conflict.”

The Human Rights Commission of the prestigious Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) is to request help from the human rights body, Amnesty International, to resolve the dispute.

Munduruku roadblock

Another serious conflict is still underway, though it has not, as yet, resulted in violence. On 28 April, 130 Munduruku Indians and members of the Tapajós riverside communities of Montanha and Mongabal blockaded the Transamazonian highway, occupying a bridge about 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the new port of Miritituba, a key transhipment point for the soy industry, where international trading giants, such as Bunge and ADM, have large terminals.

With the soy harvest in full swing, the road soon became highly congested, with at least a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of large trucks, carrying soybeans to Miritituba. The blockade was lifted during the night from 28 April forward, but was then re-imposed as a 24-hour blockade on the morning of 3 May.

A Mongabay contributor was accidentally caught up in the traffic, and on arriving at the road block he stayed to cover the showdown.

The Munduruku blocked the Transamazonian highway this week in protest of the failure of the Brazilian government to demarcate their traditional lands. The blockade is ongoing. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Antonio Munduruku, a young Indian, told Mongabay two reasons why the blockade was imposed: “We want the FUNAI employees who were working with us to be reinstated. We need them. They are our greatest tool in getting our lands marked out. And we won’t leave with empty hands. The FUNAI president told us on Friday that he’d sorted it out. But we don’t believe in words any more. We want their reinstatement published in the official gazette.”

He went on: “The second reason is to get the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory properly marked out. It’s our land but nothing is happening. Loggers are carrying on extracting timber.”

Vicente Saw, an old cacique, leader, said that stopping traffic on highways was effective: “The heart of the government is here on the road,” he said.

The will to resist

The Munduruku were shocked but not surprised by what happened to the Gamela: “They’re a different ethnic group but they are our brothers, with the same blood,” said Jairo Saw Munduruku. “We mustn’t let what’s happened to them happen to us. The government must mark out our land. If not, big loggers, big mining companies, will come in. And they will start conflicts, attacking us, assassinating leaders. That’s what the government wants but we must stop it happening. We don’t have anyone speaking for us in Congress. We have to defend ourselves.” Attempts by Mongabay to reach the Brazilian government for comment in recent weeks have been met with no response.

The Munduruku feel no hostility toward the truck drivers. An old indigenous leader, Tomas Munduruku, said: “We’re in favor of the truck drivers. They need our support too. It’s not right that the government is cutting their pensions.”

More surprisingly perhaps, many of the truck drivers are supportive of the Indians too. Trucker Mario de Nascimento said: “This road is essential for Brazil and the protest must stop. But the Indians’ rights aren’t being respected, just like ours aren’t being respected. But we are carrying Brazil on our backs. We can’t stop. We need the government to sort it out. None of us deserves the way we’re being treated.”

Another trucker, who didn’t want to give his name, said: “They [the Indians] are right. You can’t deny that. And if some of the people here want to lynch me for saying that, then let them lynch me.”

David and Goliath: One truck driver threatened to drive over the Indians, but other truckers found common ground with the Munduruku in their grievances against the repression and austerity measures of the current government. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Time and again, the truckers, like the Indians, blamed the government for failing to listen, declaring flatly: “The biggest problem is the government.”

The concern is that the Amazonian heat, hunger and thirst will affect both Indians and truck drivers, and that tempers may begin to fray. One truck driver, who also didn’t give his name, threatened: “We’re going to drive our trucks over the Indians, pushing them all over, Indian after Indian. If our dreadful federal government doesn’t manage to get the blockade lifted soon, that’s what we’ll do.”

Another trucker said, in exasperated jest: “It’s getting terrible for all of us. I haven’t had a shower for more than 24 hours, in this heat. I feel like throwing my underpants into the river. They’d kill the fish. So the Indians wouldn’t have fish to eat, nor any of us have fish either.”

With the drivers stretched over many miles, it’s difficult to assess the truckers’ overall mood, but there was a surprising development Wednesday afternoon. A substantial group of truckers and Indians held a meeting beside the highway, during which both sides expressed support for the other’s struggle, saying that their chief complaint is against the current government.

Although not all truckers share this opinion, a significant number do. That is an extraordinary new development because, in the past, Indian actions of this type caused huge resentment among affected parties, particularly truck drivers. It is indicative of the very high level of rejection in Brazil of the ruling government by voters of all kinds, with Pres. Temer’s support now standing at an unprecedented low of 9 percent.

Growing dissent

Protests in Maranhão and Pará are not isolated cases. All over Brazil Indians are expressing grave fears about the future. Paulo Marubo, an Indian from the Javari Valley in the state of Amazonas, not far from the border with Peru, says that FUNAI, decimated by budget cuts, will have to close many of its offices for ethno-environmental protection (Bapes), which play a key role in monitoring the territory occupied by uncontacted tribes.

Marubo told Survival International: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”

Instead, the federal government seems to be turning its back on indigenous demands. During his first 55 days in office, justice minister Osmar Serraglio didn’t have a single meeting with an Indian but found time to sit down behind closed doors with a 100 landowners plus businessmen accused of corruption in the Car-Wash scandal.

During the large protest in Brasilia, Serraglio and Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s chief-of-staff, belatedly offered to meet the Indians, but that offer was turned down. The two officials are known to have drawn up the government’s anti-indigenous strategy and, with no offer of compromise on the table, the indigenous leaders saw little point in meeting with them.

The current assault on indigenous rights is the most severe since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The NGO ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) says there has been an “exponential increase in rural violence” since Temer took over. It comments: “The fact that the ministry of justice is occupied by [Osmar Serraglio], an advocate of injustice reinforces the sinister omens of what lies ahead.”

(Leia essa matéria em português no The Intercept Brasil. You can also read this article in Portuguese at The Intercept Brasil)

[SOURCE]

West of Standing Rock, the Blackfeet Win their own Fight for Sacred Land

These sculptures can be found at the entry to the reservation near East Glacier. Credit: Martina Nolte/Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

These sculptures can be found at the entry to the reservation near East Glacier. Credit: Martina Nolte/Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

By Graison Dangor | PRI · Dec 12, 2016

As the Standing Rock Sioux celebrate halting, for now at least, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, another Native American nation is also seeing a victory regarding its holy lands.

The federal government has now canceled 15 oil and gas leases on land revered by the Blackfeet Nation. The Badger-Two Medicine area includes 168,000 acres in Montana, southwest of the Blackfeet reservation and to the south of Glacier National Park.

The government’s recent move caps two years of intense negotiations among the Blackfeet, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, US Sen. Jon Tester from Montana and Devon Energy — which owned the leases but had never drilled.

Blackfeet leaders consider these oil and gas leases, spread over 30,000 acres, to have been granted illegally in 1982.

“The federal government didn’t consult the tribe,” said Tyson Running Wolf, secretary of the Blackfeet Tribal Council. “They didn’t follow their own process on how to involve Blackfeet people on land that we still feel is owned by the Blackfeet themselves.

“We have documented historical data that we’ve been here for 10,000 years or longer.”

Badger-Two Medicine “includes a lot of our cultural, spiritual areas for the Blackfeet people,” Running Wolf said. He said a number of rivers are vulnerable to potential malfunctions of oil or gas equipment.

But despite the recent action by the federal government, the Blackfeet’s fight against development is not over. Running Wolf said two companies — the identities of which are unknown and being investigated by the tribe — continue to hold leases to develop an additional 11,000 acres of land.

It is just as important to stop those remaining leases as it was to cancel the first 15, he said. Until that happens, the whole area is still compromised, he added.

In the longer term, the Blackfeet want to have a larger say in decisions affecting the Badger-Two Medicine area, as co-managers of the land, said Running Wolf. Right now, the land is managed by the US Forest Service as part of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.

“We want to be sitting at the table,” Running Wolf said. “We would like to put back to the two most important things on the landscape and that’s the buffalo and the Blackfeet.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-12-12/west-standing-rock-blackfeet-win-their-own-fight-sacred-land

The US And Canada Have Blood On Their Hands In Honduras

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Members of the military police march during a parade commemorating Independence Day of Honduras. | Photo: Reuters

By: Grahame Russell, teleSUR English‎, Oct 22 2016

The international community needs to be held to account for propping up and subsidizing the murderous regime in Honduras.

Honduran military and police forces, backed by the international community and in particular millions of U.S. dollars, once again brutally attacked peaceful protesters in a week that saw more social movement blood spilt.

The march on Thursday organized by the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, and OFRANEH, an organization which represents the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people, converged outside the Attorney General’s office to demand justice following the assassination of two more prominant social movement leaders in the country.

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During the attack, heavily armed police and COBRA forces (Special Operations Command) indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters and water cannons and physically beat girls and boys, women and men, and the elderly.

Police and COBRA forces attacked just as OFRANEH was initiating a drumming and spiritual ceremony. COPINH was once led by globally-renowned activist Berta Caceres, who was murdered this year for opposing the construction of a dam. They are two of the most respected community organizations in Honduras since before the 2009 U.S. and Canadian-backed military coup, and particularly since then.

Eyewitness Karen Spring from the Honduras Solidarity Network reported:  “The repression was brutal and I’ve been in a lot of repressive marches since the 2009 coup.  This one was up there with the worst, especially since a COPINH member reported that one police took his gun out and fired a shot at his feet.  It all happened so fast and no one expected it; there was no time to get children and elderly out.  People were grabbing kids and running with them as they were crying and choking from the teargas.  The police chased protestors for almost 2 kilometers from the Attorney General’s office.”

COPINH and OFRANEH marched to denounce the assassinations  this week of Jose Angel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George, two leaders of MUCA, or the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, and the recent attempted killing of two COPINH members. The organizations also are demanding justice for the March 3 assassination of COPINH co-founder Caceres; the establishment of an independent international commission to investigate her assassination; and to demand cancellation of the concession granted illegally to the DESA corporation to develop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project in Rio Blanco, along with numerous other illegal mining and hydroelectric concessions on Lenca territories in western Honduras.

Berta Caceres’ Daughter Speaks

After the attack, Berta Caceres’ daughter – Bertita – spoke in a press conference:

“This is yet another act of repression against people demanding justice for the assassination of our compañera Berta Cáceres. How is it possible that soldiers, weapons and repression are the only way the regime deals with us, even when we have Protective Measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights? … Despite all this repression, harassment and criminalization, we will not permit the construction of development projects of death in our communities.”

Do Not Write Letters of Protest to the Regime

Wondering what to do about this latest act of State repression in Honduras?

Don’t write letters of protest to the regime.

They are impervious to them.  In power since the 2009 coup, the economic, military and political elites care about two things: maintaining their mutually beneficial economic and political relations with and support from the international community (primarily: governments of U.S., Canada and the European community; the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank; and a host of global investors and companies working in the sectors of African palm, sugar cane, bananas, garment “sweatshop” factories, mining and tourism); and, maintaining relations with and support from the U.S. military.

The repression, corruption and impunity in Honduras are not “Honduran” problems. They are problems of this so-called “international community” together with the Honduran elites. International economic and military relations are the lifeblood of the regime.  This is how power works.

Through our denunciations and activism, we have to make this “international community” take responsibility for its actions. If accountability is not brought to complicity of the military, economic and political backers of the Honduran regime, the repression, corruption and impunity will not stop.

Grahame Russell is a non-practicing Canadian lawyer, author, adjunct professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and, since 1995, director of Rights Action (www.rightsaction.org / info@rightsaction.org).  Follow, also, the work of the Honduras Solidarity Network (http://www.hondurassolidarity.org/).

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-US-and-Canada-Have-Blood-on-Its-Hands-in-Honduras-20161022-0010.html