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

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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

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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

Berta Caceres’ Daughter Blasts Police Repression of Activists

Police cracked down activists in Tegucigalpa during a peaceful protest by Indigenous communities and groups. | Photo: COPINH

Police cracked down activists in Tegucigalpa during a peaceful protest by Indigenous communities and groups. | Photo: COPINH

Reader Submission: 

By teleSUR English

The protesters were asking for justice after the killing of another environmentalist in Honduras when police violently evacuated the area.

Honduran security forces clashed with environmentalists, students and peasants on Thursday, who were protesting to demand justice following the assassination of two predominant leaders in the country.

Members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, which was once led by globally-renowned activist Berta Caceres who was murdered this year for opposing the construction of a dam, were also part of the peaceful protest.

Berta Zuñiga, daughter of Caceres, now heads the organization and pointed out that although her family and COPINH have police protection they were stopped from protesting less than two hours after Thursday’s march began.

The different organizations demonstrated outside the Public Ministry in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa and were met with water cannon and tear gas.

“We were met with weapons and repression, even when they knew there were children and elders,” Zuñiga said during a press conference after the police crackdown.

According to Zuñiga, corporate interest and the Honduran state are responsible for the death of her mother. She says the mining companies targeted Caceres for her work defending the natural resources of the Indigenous community of Lenca while Honduran authorities failed to protect her despite clear threats to her life.

“No company or the Honduran state has the right to come to our territory, destroy our forests and sources of water, divide our communities, and kill our leaders and our voices,” said Zuñiga.

The different organizations demonstrated outside the Public Ministry in Tegucigalpa and were met with water tanks, tear gas and strong police repression.

“We will continue to demand what lawfully belongs to us, we won’t back down,” said Zuñiga. During the press conference members of COPINH chanted, “She has multiplied, Berta lives, the struggle continues!”

The organizations also rallied to ask for an unbiased and formal investigation into the murder of Jose Angel Flores, president of the Unified Peasant Movement of Aguan MUCA, who was killed Tuesday.

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“#Honduras Fragments of tear gas used in the peaceful protests called by COPINH.”

The protesters denounced Honduran authorities for declaring the killing of Flores the result of an internal conflict among peasant organizations without properly investigating the crime.

Victor Fernandez, lawyer for the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice, said both killings were selective and follow a pattern of impunity. Since the 2009 coup against ex-President Manuel Zelaya, more than 200 activist leaders have been killed in the country.

Caceres’ associates believe that the Honduran company behind the dam project she rallied against, Desarrollos Energéticos, or DESA, and the Honduran government hired contract killers to murder activists like her.

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This project was opposed by the Lenca Indigenous people and by environmentalists in Honduras. The Lenca community was not consulted about the dam project, which would have flooded a significant tract of Indigenous land and cut off water supplies, which are required by law.

Caceres’ family and COPINH members have demanded an independent probe since day one, expressing skepticism in the justice system to carry out a reliable investigation given its track record of corruption, impunity and botched cases.

Article originally published in teleSUR English October 20, 2016

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Berta-Caceres-DaughternbspBlasts-Police-Repression-of-Activists-20161020-0017.html

Quebec First Nations May Try To Block Algonquin Land Claim

An eagle feather, an Indigenous symbol, is held up on Parliament Hill. The Algonquins of Ontario are one step closer to assuming tens of thousands of acres of their ancestral territory in a historic treaty. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

An eagle feather, an Indigenous symbol, is held up on Parliament Hill. The Algonquins of Ontario are one step closer to assuming tens of thousands of acres of their ancestral territory in a historic treaty. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Division in Algonquin nation over who should benefit from $300M treaty and who qualifies as Algonquin

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: Oct 19, 2016

The Algonquins of Ontario are one step closer to assuming tens of thousands of acres of their ancestral territory in a historic treaty, but their counterparts in Quebec are vowing legal action to stymie the agreement and delay a deal decades in the making.

The agreement-in-principle, signed Tuesday in Ottawa, encompasses roughly 36,000 square kilometres of land stretching from Parliament Hill to parts of Algonquin Park and up to North Bay, an area that Algonquins in Quebec also say is their territory.

“If it’s Algonquin territory, then every registered Algonquin should become a beneficiary to any treaty that’s happening on our territory,” Lance Haymond, the chief of Kebaowek First Nation, said in an interview with CBC News.

“We didn’t divide up the Algonquin territory. That was governments many, many years ago, that physically created separation.”

Preliminary estimates pegged the number of Algonquin beneficiaries at roughly 8,000, a figure he said should be much higher given their numbers in Quebec.

The cash payment associated with the treaty is currently set at $300 million, although Indigenous leaders are pushing for more.

‘Ten thousand legitimate Algonquins are going to be excluded from ever benefiting from a final treaty.’– Lance Haymond

Haymond said about one million hectares of the land that will be surrendered — when the treaty is finally ratified — actually belongs to the Kebaowek, Timiskaming and Wolf Lake First Nations over the provincial border, and the Algonquins of Ontario alone cannot extinguish that title.

He said he is meeting with his legal team to discuss whether they will file an injunction to try and stop the process altogether or file an Aboriginal title case for the same lands.

The Quebec chief also wants a sit-down with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, something he says he was promised in February but so far to no avail. He wants to impress upon her his serious concerns about the territorial overlap, and who her department considers “Algonquin” for the purposes of this treaty process.

“I can’t just legitimately sit back and watch that 6,000 non-Aboriginal peoples have voted yes for a land claim, but 10,000 legitimate Algonquins are going to be excluded from ever benefiting from a final treaty.”

The agreement-in-principle, signed Tuesday in Ottawa, stretches from Parliament Hill to parts of Algonquin Park and up to North Bay, an area that Algonquins in Quebec say is also their territory. (Algonquins of Ontario)

The agreement-in-principle, signed Tuesday in Ottawa, stretches from Parliament Hill to parts of Algonquin Park and up to North Bay, an area that Algonquins in Quebec say is also their territory. (Algonquins of Ontario)

Algonquin claimants questioned

Haymond’s community commissioned a study of the list of eligible voters who voted to ratify the agreement-in-principle with the federal government in March, and found that some had tenuous ancestral connections to the Algonquin nation.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would qualify under these rules, the chief said.

“At least 60 to 70 per cent of these individuals cannot qualify as being Algonquin,” Haymond said. “In fact most of those families have been removed from our nation for 200, 300 years.”

The figures are based on genealogical studies by researchers at the Algonquin Nation Secretariat.

The chief said the federal government has created two different standards: first, the rigid process a person has to follow to obtain Indian status — which requires you to show at least three generations of your family have had continual intermarriage with the Algonquin nation — and second, the one set-up for this land claim.

“Someone just has to self-identify, and be able to attach their genealogy to one of the 12 root ancestors part of the process.”

Robert Potts, the senior negotiator for the Algonquin claim, pushed back against such criticism Tuesday saying they have followed a rigorous vetting process of their own to determine eligible claimants. He has strenuously denied Haymond’s claims.

“I can assure you a tremendous amount of effort and thought is going into this,” he said, noting they are consulting with their own genealogical experts and it is being overseen by a judge.

‘Willing to take anything’

Kirby Whiteduck, the chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, the only First Nations band part of the Ontario treaty, said that simply claiming ancestry will not be enough.

“You can’t just be of descent,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

“If you don’t exercise your Aboriginal rights and belong to a collective, you don’t necessarily have Aboriginal rights, according to the law, but there are cases of extenuating circumstances that we have to consider.”

Kirby Whiteduck Algonquins of Ontario Land Claim

Kirby Whiteduck, chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, said he hopes to negotiate improvements to the agreement in principle signed this week. (CBC)

His own community, populated by status Indians, voted against the deal 327 to 256, but the negotiators moved ahead with signing the agreement despite his First Nations’ narrow opposition.

“We’ve had our internal agreements, and our spats, and disagreements with the other negotiating teams, and governments, and it’s not as easy at it looks,” Whiteduck said.

Ontario, the federal government and the Algonquins of Ontario have been negotiating for 24 years, but the Algonquins have laid claim to the land for more than 250 years — and they say the Crown never extinguished their title to the land.

“Look, they’ve waited 24 years for a deal, and at this point, you know, they were willing to take anything,” Haymond said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/quebec-algonquins-legal-action-1.3811602