Category Archives: Indigenous Rights

Inherent Rights, Sovereignty and Ancestral lands

Developer offers to give land back to First Nation where Oka Crisis happened

Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and protester Brad Larocque come face-to-face at Kanesatake near Oka, Que., on Sept. 1, 1990. Now, a Quebec developer is offering to give back land that was at the heart of the dispute. (Shaney Komulainen/The Canadian Press)

Land is a part of The Pines, a forested area important to the Mohawks of Kanesatake

A Quebec developer is offering to give back to the Mohawks of Kanesatake part of a forested area of land that was at the heart of the Oka Crisis.

Grégoire Gollin said he’s committed to transferring around 60 hectares of the forest known as The Pines in the spirit of reconciliation, through a federal ecological gifts program.

“As a citizen, I don’t have to wait for the government to do my contribution to reconciliation,” he said.

“My concrete gesture is to initiate giving back to the Kanesatake this piece of forest I own and they value a lot in their heart because it has been planted by their ancestors.”

In 1990, the municipality of Oka, Que., planned to expand a golf course in The Pines, sparking the 78-day standoff known as the Oka Crisis between the people of Kanesatake, the Sû​ré​te du Québec and later the Canadian military. The area is a part of a 300-year-old land dispute over the seigneury of Lake of Two Mountains.

“At the heart of the Oka Crisis, it was not money, it was the land,” said Gollin.

“I have significant pieces of land adjacent to Kanesatake, so I decided to make my contribution.”

The Ecological Gifts Program is a federal program through Environment and Climate Change Canada. (CBC)

How ecological gifts work

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program offers a tax benefit to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient, via the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Quebec Taxation Act.

Scott Nurse, a policy analyst with the program, said it’s never been used to return land to a First Nation. In order for the gift to be approved, the land has to be certified by the province as ecologically sensitive, the recipient has to be approved and the land has to be appraised for fair market value.

“Recipients of ecological gifts must maintain the ecological gift and conservation status or receive authorization from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change for changing the use of the property or disposing of the property,” said Nurse.

Gollin has owned a section of The Pines for a number of years. In 2017, his housing project Domaine des Collines d’Oka sparked protests by people in Kanesatake for its proximity to The Pines.

Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel has long wanted a moratorium on all development within the area under dispute until the land claim is resolved. She said more land has been developed in the area in recent years than what they opposed in 1990.

“Let’s settle the land dispute that was promised during the negotiations in 1990, so people can get on with their lives and we don’t have to keep worrying,” said Gabriel.

“It’s the first stage. The ultimate goal is to live in peace.”

Claim nears settlement

Canada accepted the claim in 2008 under the Specific Claims Policy, and negotiations have been ongoing with the Mohawk Council.

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said significant progress has been made since negotiations began, and that it’s currently reviewing a settlement offer. Settlements for specific claims are typically a cash amount and the opportunity to buy land from willing sellers.

In addition to the ecological gift, Gollin is also offering to make around 150 hectares of his vacant land available for purchase by the federal government to transfer to Kanesatake. His commitments to both were signed in a declaration of mutual understanding and agreement with Grand Chief Serge Simon on behalf of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake in June.

Gabriel is skeptical of the agreement, as little information on its contents has been given to the community by the Mohawk Council.

“Nobody has seen it,” she said.

The agreement, obtained by CBC News, was first reported on by the Eastern Door newspaper in May.

While the agreement says it is subject to final approval by the Mohawk people of Kanesatake, consultation has yet to occur.

Mohawk leader Ellen Gabriel, far left, listens to Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon during a protest in 2017 at the site of Gollin’s Collines D’Oka housing development. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

“Gollin was kind of giving me hope that maybe we could progress, but if it’s such a good thing, why wouldn’t the agreement be made public to the community? And why weren’t we consulted on it?” said Gabriel.

She isn’t the only one questioning the agreement. Caitlyn Richard, 25, participated in the protests against Gollin’s housing development in 2017 and said seeing the clearing of the forested area was “scary, knowing that this is where I live and where I plan on living, and we’re polluting it.”

She says Gollin’s offer “sounds too good to be true.”

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon told CBC News the ecological gift suits the community’s goals with The Pines.

“Our goal has always been to protest the pine forest from any further development that undermines the peace of the region,” he said.

The band council will be seeking direction from the community on whether to accept, reject or seek changes to Gollin’s offer, he said.

Municipality calls meeting

Neither has Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon, who is calling a meeting for July 17 to discuss the agreement with Oka residents.

According to a July 5 Facebook post, the municipality wishes to be consulted by the federal government before any land is transferred.

“This agreement to transfer vacant land and the federalization of municipal lots adjacent to the neighbouring land are more than worrying for the sustainability of our municipality,” wrote Quevillon.

“This is a file that needs to be taken into consideration today, because important consequences could be felt in the years to come…. Our municipal administration is wondering when we are going to be consulted by the federal government.”

Jeremy Teiawenniserate Tomlinson, 38, is hoping people of Kanesatake attend the meeting. He’s concerned about the lack of information given to his community about the agreement, and also wants residents of Oka to understand the root of the issue.

“Kanesatake is one of the oldest Mohawk communities. We’ve been here for so long and our land has been taken from us,” said Tomlinson.

“We’ve been dispossessed of it over the years, and it still continues after every level of government is preaching about reconciliation.”

Tomlinson, who was nine years old during the Oka Crisis, said he can’t help but feel similarities between then and what’s happening now when it comes to the community’s relationship with the nearby municipality.

“The village of Oka going against the community of Kanesatake and openly trying to mobilize efforts against what we are doing with our land — it’s not too far from what was happening in 1990.”

By: Jessica Deer · CBC News · 

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Costa Rican Indigenous land rights activist assassinated by gunmen

Sergio Rojas indigenous land activist is pictured during a interview in Salitre, Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, Costa Rica, October 2, 2015. Courtesy of La Nacion via REUTERS

A well-known Costa Rican indigenous land rights activist was gunned down on Monday night.

Sergio Rojas was at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre, about 200 km (124 miles) south of the capital, San Jose, when the attack happened late on Monday, the office of President Carlos Alvarado said, calling the killing “regrettable.”

According to a press release, Rojas was assassinated by armed gunmen who shot him as many as 15 times at around 9:15 pm in his home in Yeri. It appears the armed assailant entered the back of Sergio’s home. Neighbors called 911. Over an hour later police arrived. Eventually members of the Red Cross entered and confirmed that he died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The Tico Times reports, an investigation into the murder has been initiated, led by the country’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) in collaboration with National Police. 

Alvarado said he has asked the Public Security Ministry (MSP) to provide all necessary support to OIJ to aid the investigation.

MSP officers maintain a presence at the location of Sergio Rojas’s apparent murder. (Via Casa Presidencial. )

Rojas was President of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of the National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP) in Costa Rica and was a staunch defender of the Bribri of Saltire Indigenous people who have been fighting for years to regain their rights to over 12,000 hectares of land in southern Costa Rica pledged to them by a 1938 government agreement, according to a 2014 teleSUR report.

In 2012, Rojas was shot at six times in an apparent assassination attempt near the reserve but escaped the shooting unscathed.

Reuters reports, in 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the government to provide Bribri and Teribe people with protection, arguing they were at risk because of actions taken to recover their lands.

Costa Rica has 24 indigenous territories inhabited by eight ethnic groups, with occupation and encroachment on their land by ranchers causing conflict since the 1960s.

Farmers, angered in a land dispute, burned down the home of an indigenous family in Salitre, a Bribrí indigenous reserve in south-central Costa Rica, July 5, 2014. (The Tico Times)

“He [Rojas] made a lot of enemies over the years,” said Sonia Suárez, a schoolteacher in Salitre.

In a statement, Costa Rica’s ombudsman said Rojas had requested further police protection on Friday after he and other members of his organization said they were shot at in connection with their “recovery” of a farm on Bribri land.

The Central American country has for years struggled to mediate land-right disputes between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Costa Rica’s 1977 Indigenous Law prohibits the sale of indigenous lands, but is not clear on what to do in cases where land within reserves was already farmed by outsiders.

Indigenous Chileans Defend their Land against Loggers with Radical Tactics

A Mapuche gathering in Ercilla, Chile. The Mapuche are protesting the presence of agricultural firms on their land. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Chile’s Mapuche people are resorting to increasingly extreme tactics to reclaim their ancestral land from exploitive industries

It is late autumn in southern Chile, and in the region of Araucanía, the leaves have turned copper and gold. But on the road to the mist-shrouded town of Lumaco, the hills are covered with rows of charred pines.

“We burned these forests as an act of legitimate resistance against the extractive industries that have oppressed the Mapuche people,” says Hector Llaitul. “If we make their business unprofitable they move on, allowing us to recover our devastated lands and rebuild our world.”

This year has already turned out to have been a particularly combustible one in a decade of rising attacks by indigenous Mapuche activists against the Chilean state and big business. Over several few days in April, crops were burned, roads were blocked and 16 forestry vehicles were set ablaze outside of the regional capital, Temuco.

Such actions have become more and more common. According to statistics published by a local business association, there were 43 attacks in the region in 2017, mainly arson attacks against logging firms.

“Anyone who hasn’t been in the Chilean forest doesn’t know this planet,” wrote Pablo Neruda, who grew up in the region – and whose verse was inspired by its wild landscapes, and the indomitable spirit of its native people who were only conquered after Chilean military campaigns in the late 19th century.

Today, however, much of the west of the region would be unrecognizable to Chile’s finest poet. In the last 50 years, monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations have replaced the biodiversity of the original forests.

Meanwhile, Mapuche groups have become increasingly aggressive in their efforts to reclaim ancestral lands and gain political autonomy. Llaitul is a spokesman for the Coordinadora Arauco-Malleco (CAM), an anti-capitalist organization that uses direct action and sabotage tactics.

The group has also demanded the release of the shaman Celestino Cordova, who was convicted in February 2014 for an arson attack on a farmhouse north of Temuco that resulted in the deaths of an elderly couple, Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay.

Hector Llaitul, an indigenous activist. Photograph: Mat Youkee for the Guardian

Cordova began a hunger strike in January after officials denied his request to complete a religious ceremony outside of the prison. He temporarily suspended the strike in April to negotiate.

“The government practices and respects Catholicism but it discriminates against Mapuche spiritual beliefs,” he said from a hospital bed, guarded by police officers. “The Mapuche have been impoverished spiritually, culturally and economically by Chile. I’m willing to sacrifice my life for my people.”

But Cordova’s conviction in the high-profile Luchsinger-Mackay case has made it tougher to win public sympathy for his cause, said Nicolas Rojas Pedemonte, a professor at Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago and author of a new book on the Mapuche conflict.

“That case was an inflection point for the conflict,” he said. “It was the first fatal attack, it turned Chilean media against the Mapuche and was used by the state as a Trojan horse for a repressive response.”

Police presence has since been heavily increased in Araucanía leading to the militarization of the region and increasingly indiscriminate targeting of indigenous people, according to Rojas.

In January 2017, charges against several Mapuche – including Llaitul – were dropped after it was revealed that police had used manipulated WhatsApp messages as evidence in arson cases. “I don’t even use WhatsApp,” says Llaitul, brandishing a tiny Nokia.

The Luchsinger-Mackay case was also the first sign of a split in Mapuche activist ranks. A new more radical group – know as the Weichan Auka Mapu (the Struggle of the Rebel Territory, WAM) – emerged, adopting an explicitly anti-Chilean stance and the tactic of burning churches – most recently during the Pope’s January visit to the region.

Llaitul says the CAM rejects the targeting of individuals and that direct action against forestry projects is the first stage towards reclaiming the land for Mapuche settlements.

On a former timber reserve overlooking Lumaco, his vision is being put into action. The logging firm, Arauco, abandoned the project following repeated arson attacks and today, in a small clearing, a dozen young men and women are hammering timbers together on the construction of a house in the woods.

A Mapuche red, blue and green flag flaps from the apex.

The destructive results of a forest fire started by Mapuche radical groups. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

“When we recover lands we plant crops, breed animals and reconstruct our cultural world,” says Llaitul. “We will build houses but our first priority is a spiritual centre, the rewe.”

The rightwing government of the current president, Sebastián Piñera, has a different vistion for the future of Araucanía, the region with the worst poverty and unemployment rates in the country.

Ministers visited Temuco in April to finalize plans for a major growth plan for the region, focusing on tourism, agriculture and energy investments and training programs to allow the 150,000 hectares of land turned over to Mapuche groups in recent years to return to production.

The plan, to be launched in August, is also expected to increase the purchase of private lands by the national indigenous development agency.

“People in Araucanía are calling out for peace and development. Over the years so much investment has been turned away due to security fears,” says Luis Mayol, the Santiago-appointed administrator of Araucanía. “Piñera won 63% of the vote in this region – the Mapuche people want growth like everyone else. However, there is a small number of terrorists with radical ideologies and the resources to generate fear.”

While the development plan aims to win the support of Araucanías indigenous groups, accompanying amendments to the anti-terrorism law aim to make it easier to convict arsonists under terrorism charges.

“Our current legislation is quite useless: too many violent acts are being processed as regular crimes,” says Mayol. “We need to bring our definition of terrorism in line with those of countries such as the UK and Spain. For me, the systematic burning of trucks and churches are terrorist acts.”

Back at the reclaimed timber plantation, Llaitul remains defiant as two young Mapuche lift roof rafters into place on the new construction. “When there was no Mapuche struggle, the government did nothing for us” he says. “We’re not asking for palliative measures or integration, we want territory and autonomy for the Mapuche nation.”

This article originally appeared in The Guardian

[SOURCE]

Kentucky Man Sentenced to 15 months in Federal Prison for Robbing Native American Graves

Gary Womack. WNKY.com

A Kentucky man described as a grave robber who plundered Native American burial sites will serve time in prison.

Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on Wednesday for violating a federal law that protects archaeological remains.

Womack pleaded guilty to three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) in March, including trafficking in archaeological resources (Native American artifacts) from the western United States.

According to the Glasgow Daily Times, the case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park.

A federal agent posed as someone interested in ancient artifact collections during meetings at Womack’s residence.

The investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in southcentral Kentucky and also burials from Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Mammoth Cave National Park

WKMS reports, Womack sold the undercover agent artifacts from a mound in Posey County, Indiana. Several people were prosecuted there in 1992 after digging into the mound. But prosecutors said Womack was able to purchase the artifacts as recently as 2015 in Warrick County, Indiana.

In sentencing, Judge Greg N. Stivers told Womack that he was disturbed the defendant had chosen to dig the graves of the ancestors of Native Americans for profit and had done so while being fully aware of the laws he had chosen to violate.

A letter from Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, of Miami, Oklahoma, was made a part of the record and read at the sentencing hearing.

The letter said, in part: “The remains that are within the soils of our original homelands contains the hallowed remains of human beings, our ancestors. We would urge the court to send a message to all those what would desecrate a grave, that ARPA violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

All artifacts in the case have been recovered and will be repatriated to tribes.

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

[SOURCE]