Category Archives: International News

Indigenous Current Affairs & News

Plan for Indigenous People to Watch Cops

Plan for indigenous people to watch cops

  • Staff | The Australian, July 13, 2017

Indigenous communities across Australia could be trained to expose police harassment with mobile phones and social media if a human rights group’s plan succeeds.

The Copwatch project will provide human rights lawyers and journalists to teach indigenous communities how to film and share interactions with police and authority figures.

Sydney-based National Justice Project is developing the program as a response to complaints of over-policing in indigenous communities.

Sixteen Aboriginal communities in NSW’s central west will put their hand up for Copwatch if it gets off the ground.

“The community shouldn’t be the ones monitoring the police behaviour but we have to because of ongoing abuse,” Murdi Paaki chair Des Jones told AAP on Wednesday.

“It will teach people their rights, how to use their phones. It’ll train them to be aware and when to lock-and-load their recording device.”

Mr Jones, whose organisation represents 16 communities, said he wants to put the experiences Aboriginal people have with police in front of human rights watchdogs.

NSW Police respects the rights of citizens to film in a public place, a spokesman told AAP.

He added that there were existing avenues to file complaints about the conduct of officers but did not comment on allegations of over-policing among indigenous communities.

Copwatch has raised more than $23,000 of its $50,000 goal through crowdfunding online at

Australian Associated Press


After A Decade In Jail For Raising A Flag, Political Prisoner ‘Filep Karma’ Freed

Jubilant crowds celebrate the release of prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma

Jubilant crowds celebrate the release of prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma.

By Red Power Media, Staff

A high-profile West Papuan dissident leader has been released from prison after more than a decade behind bars for raising a flag.

Political prisoner Filep Karma walked free from jail in Papua, Indonesia last week, after spending 15 years in prison — charged with treason — for raising the banned West Papuan independence flag.

According to a Survival International article, Karma, 56, was arrested in 2004 after leading a peaceful demonstration in West Papua, calling for independence from Indonesia and raising the “Morning Star flag.”

He was named by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. His detention was condemned as “arbitrary” by the United Nations.

In August this year when the government of Indonesia offered him a pardon in exchange for admission of guilt.

Amnesty International wrote, Karma refused because he felt it would give legitimacy to his arrest, which he felt had no basis in law.  In a statement refusing a pardon he wrote, “I will only accept an unconditional release… I did not commit any crime when I raised the Morning Star flag in 2004.”

The government eventually reduced his sentence for ‘good behaviour’ so that he could be released.

However, raising the Morning Star flag remains an imprisonable offence in West Papua and responding to the news of Karma’s release, Indonesia’s chief of National Police, Gen. Badrodin Hait said, “If you say he’s a political prisoner, I say [Filep was] a criminal.”

A Papuan holds the Morning Star independence flag, an act for which dissident Filep Karma was jailed for 15 years. Photo: Reuters

A Papuan holds the Morning Star independence flag, an act for which dissident Filep Karma was jailed for 15 years. Photo: Reuters

The release of Karma came as Indonesian President Joko Widodo once again pledged to improve livelihoods in the region. But there is little evidence that the security force’s brutal repression of Papuans is over. At the end of September there were at least 45 Papuan political prisoners behind bars and political assassinations, fatal shootings, arbitrary arrests and torture, at the hands of the security services, remain rife.

For Peace, Colombia Must Return Stolen Land, Respect Rights: Amnesty

FARC Guerrillas

FARC Rebels

By Anastasia Moloney | Reuters

BOGOTA – The Colombian government must ensure indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities uprooted by warring factions can return home and have a greater say in how their lands are developed, rights group Amnesty International said.

Over five decades of conflict, more than six million Colombians have been forced off their land by fighting among Marxist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops, government figures show.

The issue of how to return stolen and abandoned land to its rightful owners is a key talking point at peace talks in Cuba between the government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Displaced communities wanting to return also face the problem of exploitation by mining companies, according to a report published by Amnesty on Wednesday.

“Any peace deal will be meaningless unless the rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to return to their lands and decide how they are used are prioritized above companies’ desire to exploit those lands for their own profit,” said Erika Guevara, Amnesty’s Americas director, in a statement.

At least eight million hectares of land – some 14 percent of Colombian territory – have been abandoned or illegally acquired through fraud, violence or extortion, the report said.

Most of those affected are farming, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities who earn their living from their land and whose land is rich in resources.

Displaced people who owned their land are eligible to claim it back under a historic land restitution law passed in 2011.

The law, a crucial reform of the government of Juan Manuel Santos, aims to return millions of hectares of stolen land to its rightful owners and to enable displaced people to return home and claim reparations.

The law is a “significant step forward,” but land return is plagued by problems ranging from bureaucracy to intimidation, including death threats against claimants, Amnesty said.

“Nearly four years since the process began … only a relatively small proportion of such lands have been returned to their rightful occupants,” the report said.

Ricardo Sabogal, who heads the government entity charged with overseeing land restitution, said the government has handed back 173,000 hectares of land benefiting about 20,000 Colombians.

“It’s not easy to push ahead with a process of land restitution in the middle of a conflict,” Sabogal told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

“That’s why peace is so important, so that families can go back quickly and safely to their lands.”

He said ensuring displaced people return to their lands is also made difficult because of landmines, mostly planted by FARC rebels, littering parts of the countryside.

Since 2000, successive governments have granted licenses to local and international mining and other companies looking to tap into Colombia’s mineral and oil resources, the report said.

The economy is driven by commodity exports, and the country is Latin America’s fourth largest oil producer.

By law, companies planning projects must first consult communities living on or using the land they want to exploit.

Amnesty said it had written to several companies with mining projects on lands where indigenous communities live.

In response mining company AngloGold Ashanti, which operates gold mines in western Choco province, told Amnesty it was committed to the “lawful consent of indigenous communities” for projects on lands traditionally owned or used by ethnic groups “and are likely to have a significant impact on these groups.”

But Amnesty said in general licenses have often been granted to companies which have not consulted communities nor obtained their free and informed consent.

“Unless the authorities can ensure that these rights are effectively respected as a matter of urgency … it risks leaving one of the principal causes of the armed conflict unresolved. This could have serious repercussions for the long-term viability of any eventual peace agreement,” the report said. (Reporting by Anastasia Moloney, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

Athletes Share Cultural Knowledge During First World Indigenous Games In Brazil

New Zealand Maori in a tug of war competition. (Getty.)

New Zealand Maori in a tug of war competition. (Getty.)

The Associated Press | Published, Oct 27, 2015

PALMAS, Brazil — Supersized Maori from New Zealand, diminutive Aeta from the Philippines and native peoples of all shapes and sizes in between tested their mettle at the first World Indigenous Games, a chaotic, kaleidoscopic celebration of first peoples from around the globe.

Organizers billed the nine-day event as a sort of indigenous Olympics.

But for many of the nearly 2,000 participants from some 20 countries who converged last week on host city Palmas, a remote agricultural outpost in Brazil’s scorched heartland, the sports themselves took a back seat to what they said really matters — cross-cultural sharing and learning.

“This restores your faith in humanity,” said Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, a 46-year-old schoolteacher from the Nehiyaw people of Canada’s Saskatchewan province, as he followed round one of the spear-throwing competition. “An elder once told me that our culture will save us. I think this is what he meant.”

Despite the obvious differences between participants — Brazil’s Tapirape wore only body paint and tiny loincloths while the sole Russian delegate was covered in Siberian furs in defiance of the sweltering tropical heat — the commonalities that unite indigenous people from around the globe are palpable, Oksasikewiyin said. From Ethiopia to Ecuador, first peoples worldwide are still reeling from the lingering effects of colonialism and fighting to preserve their cultures and lands, he said.

“We see we’re all in the same boat,” he shouted over the roar of spectators cheering a particularly impressive spear toss. “Being here, all together, it becomes so clear.”

The event, which kicked off Friday, comes one year after Brazil played host to soccer’s World Cup and ahead of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The indigenous event’s hypnotic opening ceremony swirled with eye-popping feather headdresses, sumptuous silk robes, buttery suede dresses and revealing loincloths as the 40-odd delegations melted into one chanting, dancing, pulsating mass of humanity.

The far-flung cultural mash-ups multiplied over the following days.

Mongolian archers in velvet mantles traded tips with their feather-crowned brethren, the Xerente people, reputed to be among Brazil’s most-skilled archers. A knot of Tarahumara women from northern Mexico haggled mercilessly over the price of a gourd-and-palm leaf headdress with an equally hard-nosed group of artisan women from the Amazonian state of Para.

An American Indian man from the United States participates in the archery competition. (AP)

An American Indian man from the United States participates in the archery competition. (AP)

The Games are the biggest thing ever to roll into the sleepy town of Palmas during its short 27-year history as the capital of Brazil’s newest state of Tocantins. Non-indigenous locals got in on the action, too, filling the bleachers and swarming the handicraft fair. And everyone snapped endless selfies.

Still, the Games have been hampered by technical glitches and allegations of mismanagement. On opening day, construction workers were still busily working on the installations. The sporting events got off to a late start after a wall in the cafeteria collapsed, slightly injuring several workers and leaving many without breakfast and unable to compete on Saturday.

The debut competitions were pushed back to Sunday, which saw a surprise upset in the blistering tug-of-war event: New Zealand’s fierce Maori warriors lost a battle of the titans against the fridge-sized Bakairi people of central Brazil. The Javae women, also from central Brazil, made short shrift of the Mexican women, in their Crayola-hued circle skirts, and a hefty combined U.S-Philippines team outweighed the forest-dwelling Macuxi people.

Native Brazilians representing around two dozen of the country’s more than 300 tribes make up the lion’s share of participants at the Games — and their problems have taken centre stage at the event. Small but boisterous protests against a proposed constitutional amendment that would give a Brazilian Congress largely dominated by the agricultural lobby the right to demarcate indigenous lands erupted at the opening ceremony, where embattled President Dilma Rousseff was booed. The proposal could come up for an initial vote this week.

“It would be a disaster for us,” said protester Merong Tapurama, of the Pataxo Ha-Ha-Hae people, adding that he saw the Games themselves as a bid to paper over the dire reality of Brazil’s beleaguered indigenous people.

Estimated at between 3 million to 5 million in pre-Columbian times, Brazil’s indigenous population is now under a million people, making up just 0.5 per cent of the country’s 200 million inhabitants. They continue to suffer from racism, poor education and health care, and remain locked in sometimes-bloody battles with loggers, miners, cattle-grazers and soy farmers intent on pushing them off ancestral lands.

“It’s great that the world is getting to see our culture, see how rich it is,” said Timbira Pataxo, who travelled from Bahia state to sell knickknacks at the entrance to the Games. “But the world also needs to know about the real existential threats we face.”


First World Indigenous Games Off To Colorful, Rocky, Start In Brazil

By Red Power Media, Staff

A parade of feathered headdresses, grass skirts and body make-up was on show Friday, as more than 2,000 competitors joined the opening ceremony at the first World Indigenous Games in Brazil.

Athletes from The Ingorot tribe in the Philippines, New Zealand’s Maori and indigenous people from Ethiopia, Mongolia and Canada danced and sang in Palmas, a small city in the central state of Tocatins.

From the host country, 24 different indigenous groups are taking part in the games which was previously an all-Brazilian affair.

Photo By Eraldo Peres

Photo By Eraldo Peres

The participants will compete in 10 sports ranging from running and swimming to wrestling and football, as well as more traditional games like spear throwing and racing with heavy logs. Unlike the Olympics which Brazil will host next year, every competitor will get a medal. The minimum age for entry is 16, but there is no upper age limit and some events will see men compete with women.

Billed as indigenous people’s answer to the Olympics, the nine-day event got off to a rocky start as the opening ceremony’s colourful parade was marred by technical hitches and a noisy protest against the Brazilian government.

Embattled Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff attended the ceremony, and although she did not address the crowd, she was initially greeted by boos and hisses.

Karaja indigenous woman Narube Werreria protests the World Indigenous Games outside the arena in Palmas, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

Karaja indigenous woman Narube Werreria protests the World Indigenous Games outside the arena in Palmas, Brazil, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

When a traffic jam kept busloads of participants from reaching the venue, sparking a long and uncomfortable mid-ceremony delay, several groups of indigenous spectators unfurled protest banners and broke into anti-government chants.

“Dilma’s not good for Brazil and she’s not good for us,” said Jose Cicero da Silva, a farmer from the Wassu Cocal nation in Brazil’s impoverished Alagoas state. “For a supposedly leftist government, she has done nothing to help the indigenous cause.”

“Brazilian politicians are increasingly against indigenous peoples,” said Jaira da Silva of the Tingui-Boto people. “There’s a super conservative congress that’s trying to take away indigenous rights that are enshrined in the very constitution.”

Narube Werreria said she saw the event as a bid to cover up the real situation of Brazil’s beleaguered indigenous populations.

“The government is using the event to cover our eyes and say everything is all right here,” said Werreria, a state government employee from the Karaja tribe, whose lands are near Palmas. “But everything is not all right.”

Colourful competitors at the games opening ceremony. Picture: Getty Read more: Follow us: @TheScotsman on Twitter | TheScotsmanNewspaper on Facebook

Colourful competitors at the games opening ceremony. Picture: Getty

Still, for many in the audience, the event transcended politics. Many spectators and participants alike were moved to tears by the opening ceremony.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Reinaldo Quispe, an Aymara Indian in the Bolivian delegation. “I never in my life thought I would meet my brothers from the different tribes around the world.”

This was the first year that Brazil has opened its annual indigenous games to foreigners, giving it the flavor of what some describe as a low-key version of next year's Summer Olympics (AFP Photo/Christophe Simon)

This was the first year that Brazil has opened its annual indigenous games to foreigners, giving it the flavor of what some describe as a low-key version of next year’s Summer Olympics (AFP Photo/Christophe Simon)

Brazil’s indigenous people now make up just 0.5 percent of the country’s 200 million-strong population. They face rampant poverty and discrimination and clash frequently with farmers, ranchers and illegal miners eager to oust them from their ancestral lands.

Unconquered Kayapó Warriors Fighting For Their Amazon Land


By Deutsche Welle

The Kayapó people of the Amazon are excellent guardians of the forest but big business interests and a change to Brazil’s constitution could threaten the ecosystem they have managed to preserve until now.

In Brazil’s northern interior, the once pristine forest has been stripped in many places leaving behind swathes of barren fields and destroyed ecosystems. A notable exception is an area spanning 11 million hectares of primary tropical forest and savanna. The land is legally-owned by the Kayapó indigenous peoples.

About 10,000 tribal members live in 46 villages scattered across the vast territory roughly the size of Bulgaria. Satellite images of the area confirm what scientists have known all along: The Kayapó are the most effective defenders against illegal logging, ranching and gold mining. However, powerful political and economic forces are working against them, say conservationists.

The Kayapó and other environmental activists are currently fighting a proposed constitutional amendment known as PEC 215, which is intended to transfer the Brazilian executive government’s right to designate which land is indigenous to the country’s parliament – the National Congress.

It sounds harmless enough, except that the congress is home to a powerful “ruralist” bloc that has close ties to the agricultural, forestry, energy and mining industries. As a result, many see the proposed amendment as a threat to what is left of the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity. And while the Kayapó land is the largest of its kind, it is only one of about 690 recognized territories concentrated in the region that could face the chop.

Photo: Kayapó fishing (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

The Kayapó know how to hunt sustainably

Hunters, gatherers, guardians of the ecosystem

In exchange for their guardianship of the land, the Kayapó count on the forest for food. They fish some of the 3,000 species in the Amazon River, and hunt mammals, birds, and tortoises while women gather nuts and fruit.

Barbara Zimmerman, director of the Kayapó Project at the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) says their stewardship has little negative impact on endangered species.

“They’re not putting a dent even in the most sensitive game species like white-lipped peccary, tapir, fish and so on,” says Zimmerman who added that such species are being wiped out at an alarming rate in other parts of the Amazon where they are hunted.

Researchers are concerned that giving large resource industries access to the land would threaten several endangered species in the area, including the white-whiskered spider monkey, giant otter, and hyacinth macaw. Other vulnerable large-game species like the giant armadillo, bush dog, and jaguar are found within hunting range of Kayapó communities as well.

“Scientists working in the Amazon would tell you that indigenous lands are absolute key to any hope for conservation of Amazonian biodiversity,” Zimmerman told DW.

The forest also mitigates the effects of climate change and plays an important role in maintaining rainfall patterns on a larger geographic scale. It’s an important buffer for cities in the region, including São Paulo, which suffered power cuts and drastic water rationing in 2014 during its worst drought in 80 years. Scientists attributed the drought to Amazon deforestation .

Powerful economic interests

The hunger for rainforest lands that drives large-scale illegal logging and ranching in the Amazon is linked to Brazil’s booming agricultural sector. According to global auditor PwC, agribusiness employs roughly a third of the working population and accounts for 22 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country is one of the top three beef exporters in the world. In 2013, 40 percent of global exports for products such as coffee, sugar, soybeans, and orange juice came from Brazil .

Photo: Kayapó on a destroyed patch of forest (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

Slash and burn techniques clear the way for farming but little remains of the forest

Agribusiness has grown so powerful it has an army of lobbyists in government setting agendas like PEC 215. At the helm is Kátia Abreu, the minister of agriculture appointed in December 2014 by President Dilma Rousseff. In an interview with ‘The Guardian’ earlier that year, Abreu described her goal of increasing agricultural output and weakening forest controls.

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many things holding back progress – the environmental issue, the Indian issue and more,” said Abreu, referring to the Amazon tribes. “But even with these problems we keep producing high levels of productivity. Imagine how high it might be without those obstacles.”

Abreu also noted the agricultural industry’s role in lifting many average Brazilians out poverty. But Sarah Shenker, campaign officer with Survival International , disagrees with the minister’s take. Shenker says only a small group of people benefit from Brazil’s agricultural industry.

“These projects will make big companies richer, some of the money will go to the government as well, but they’re not projects which are going to make poor people richer,” says the environmental campaigner.

Only the tip of a developmental agenda

A group of indigenous peoples, parliamentarians, and civil society organizations believe PEC 215 is only the tip of a massive developmental agenda that will “permit the approval of large-scale enterprises within these protected areas.” According to a manifesto they signed and delivered to congress in June, these projects include hydroelectric dams, mines, extensive agribusiness and the construction of highways, waterways, ports and railways for industrial transport.

“It is for the whole world that I am fighting to succeed in preserving the forest,” said Kayapó chief Raoni Metuktire in an online appeal against the controversial Belo Monte Dam project on the Xingu river in northeastern Brazil that is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The local tribes say the dam will damage their livelihoods and the environment. The government argues it will provide clean renewable energy for the region as well as economic development.

Chief Raoni and fellow Kayapó Chief Mekaron-Ti have worked for more than 40 years to save the Amazon and have fought off mega dams proposed along the Xingu River since the 1980s – armed with the tribe’s strong leadership and combative spirit. In the distant past, the Kayapó have gone so far as to evict and kill intruders when threatened.

Corruption hindering environmental protection

In a country where thousands of citizens marched in August in the wake of a massive investigation linking top bureaucrats and company executives to bribery, money laundering and kickbacks, there’s evidence to suggest environmental protection is at the mercy of corruption.

Photo: A group of Kayapó (Source: International Conservation Fund of Canada)

A David and Goliath Story? Kayapó face-off with big business and politics to save their land

For instance, Paulo Roberto Costa , former director of semi-public company Petrobras and one of the first high-level executives to be arrested and convicted, exposed politicians involved in corruption in sectors such as transportation and dam construction.

Another convicted executive, Dalton Avancini, ex-president of one of Brazil’s largest engineering firms Camargo Corrêa, revealed that the company paid millions to two political parties in exchange for 15 percent of the contract to build the Belo Monte mega dam.

Given the money at stake, the indigenous peoples living in the forest are facing an uphill struggle, say conservationists.

“A giant black storm is building on the horizon,” says Zimmerman of the ICFC. “Ranchers want in. Colonists want in. Given that [the Kayapó] have the last valuable stocks of timber in the entire region, the pressures are intense.”

Renowned Colombia Indigenous Leader Arrested For Kidnapping Soldier


Feliciano Valencia is a well-known and respected leader of the Nasa community.

By Colombia Reports | Sep 17, 2015

A national peace prize winner and indigenous leader of a reserve in southern Colombia was arrested for kidnapping an army officer in 2008, striking tensions between indigenous and the state.

Feliciano Valencia was arrested on Tuesday by the The Technical Body of Investigation (CTI) branch of the Prosecutor General’s Office for kidnapping and physically abusing Jairo Danilo Chaparral Santiago a corporal in Colombia’s military, during an indigenous protest in 2008.

According to Semana weekly, Valencia was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

“The evidence collected by the prosecution has established the indigenous leader as responsible for the case. Subjects with covered faces holding batons and machetes, accosted the third corporal of the army, Jairo Danilo Chaparral Santiago, and forced him in to a van. In the presence of 400 indigenous people, they beat him and then moved him to a town council building where he was put in a guarded cage, tied up and blindfolded,” said the Prosecutor General.

The leader’s arrest has allegedly unsettled members of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), a protest group in the province where Valencia is appreciated as an important social leader.

“This is another set up by the state,” a spokesperson from the indigenous authorities of the province told El Tiempo newspaper on Wednesday, demanding clear answers for why Valencia had been arrested.

According to reports, the military member was detained and punished under indigenous legislation after locals suspected that he had infiltrated the protest.

In 2010 Valencia’s involvement in the 2008 kidnapping was flagged, but subsequently not pursued. During Alvaro Uribe’s presidency, the esteemed indigenous leader was detained by the now defunct Administrative Department of Security (DAS), after the Cauca Piendamo Court ordered his arrest in February.

The Nasa and Guambiano indigenous communities within the department allegedly stood in the leaders’ defense, and the Cauca judge dropped the case.

In March 2015, he was charged for being involved in a car accident in the rural area of Santander de Quilichao and being under the influence of alcohol.

According to local media, Valencia was awarded the peace prize in 2000 for being an example of passive resistance to the armed conflict that began in 1964.

Brazil’s Guarani-Kaiowa Tribe Allege Genocide Over Land Disputes

Indigenous leaders have accused landowners of murder

Indigenous leaders have accused landowners of murder. (Screenshot)

By BBC | Posted September 8 2015

Genocide is an emotive and powerful accusation to make against anyone but it is exactly what some indigenous leaders in Brazil say is happening to their people because of their government’s ignorance, if not its compliance.

For the past week hundreds of members of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe have been mourning the death of a 24-year-old man, Semiao Vilhalva. He was killed – shot in the face – during an invasion, or re-occupation, of three farms in the western state of Matto Grosso do Sul.

I looked on as elderly members of the tribe chanted tributes in their native tongue and led mourners across fields they say have belonged to their people for centuries – long before their present white so-called owners arrived, cut down the trees and populated the area with cattle.

A Guarani leader denounces the murder of indigenous leader Simao Vilhalva during a protest in front of the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, 1 September 2015.

The Guarani have taken their protests to Brazil’s capital, Brasilia

Mourners at Semiao's funeral 08 September 2015

The Guarani hold their own ceremony for Semiao

Semiao's grave 08 September 2015

Semiao Valhala was buried on disputed land

Semiao was buried on this land, now occupied by the Guarani but also claimed as legally theirs by several influential and powerful farming families here in the state of Matto Grosso do Sul.

Guarani men showed me the very spot, on the bank of a small river, where Semiao was shot and died. The gunman, say my guides, was a hired “pistoleiro” brought in by the farmers to intimidate and scare off the Guarani.

Map of Brazil

But, if anything, the murder of their young leader has made these indigenous people even more resolute to remain.

“This is a deliberate policy of genocide. It’s a long legal process designed to kill our people, slowly but surely,” says Guarani elder Tunico Benites.

He goes on: “Our rights are being violated and we don’t have even the basic conditions to survive. So we have no choice but to occupy, to retake our lands – otherwise we can’t survive as a people.”

Tunico Benites 08 September 2015

Tunico Benites says his people face a threat

One of those farmers whose land is claimed by the Guarani, under a legal ruling dating back to 2005, is Roseli Ruiz. She is also the chairwoman of the local farmers’ syndicate, or union, and is completely mistrustful of the way the dispute has been reported in the international media.

In her office in the rural town of Antonio Joao, Roseli Ruiz dismisses any suggestion that farmers had a hand in the death of Semiao.

Arguing that that there was no obvious gunshot wound on his body (in contrast to a video I was shown which suggested otherwise) the combative Ms Ruiz offered an explanation that the Indians themselves brought someone who had died earlier, and presented it as a murder, just to discredit the farmers and advance their claims to the land.

Roseli Ruiz in her office 08 September 2015

Roseli Ruiz: “I was known as Roseli of the Indians”

Roseli Ruiz paints a picture of a hitherto mutually beneficial relationship between indigenous and farmer.

“I was known as Roseli of the Indians,” she cries. “I took them to hospital if they were ill and even built them a school.”

It was a relationship that, according to Roseli, only started to deteriorate when the Guarani began to pursue claims to the land – claims which she insists are baseless.

Ranchers have long been part of Brazil’s drive for development – deep into the interior of the country and into conflict with indigenous people.

While some farmers have taken their cattle and moved on from the disputed land, others are refusing to move.

Gino Ferreira with horse 08 September 2015

Farmers like Gino Ferreira refuse all attempts to move them out

Gino Ferreira, like many farmers, has legal titles to his fazenda – or farm. He blames the government for doing nothing while an inevitable conflict loomed.

“This is my family’s land,” says Gino. “If the Indians arrive and take it over what do you think I’m going to do? Lose all I’ve worked for?”

He too, dismisses any allegations that farmers had a hand in the death of the Guarani leader, Semiao.

“We’re not bandits and we don’t hire gunmen,” says the 50-year-old farmer.

He goes on, “There are political reasons why they to try and make us look bad but none of it is true.”

Indigenous leaders protest with a coffin against the murder of the leader of the Guarani Kaiowa ethnicity, Semiao Vilhalva, in Brasilia, Brazil 01 September 2015.

But the Guarani’s reputation for dogged determination and their struggle has attracted attention beyond this rugged border region between Brazil and Paraguay.

Survival International, one of several pressure groups to criticise the hitherto unexplained death of the tribe’s leader said, “What is particularly harrowing about this murder is that the Guarani knew their reoccupation was likely to end in bloodshed.”

The mood among the Guarani is militant. As other Brazilians this week celebrated their independence day, the land’s original inhabitants mourned what they had lost.

For now the Brazilian army is doing a good job of keeping the two sides apart – preventing new land invasions and more retribution.

Occupying these 10,000 hectares the Guarani may have succeeded in recovering some of what was historically theirs.

But it has come at a high price and their lives are still burdened by poverty and discrimination.

Brazil Indigenous Group Guarani-Kaiowa ‘Attacked’

There were protests in the capital, Brasilia, after the death of Semiao Vilhalva

There were protests in the capital, Brasilia, after the death of Semiao Vilhalva

BBC News

Members of the Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous community in western Brazil say they have come under attack from local farmers.

A group of armed men in about 30 vehicles drove onto their land in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul and began to shoot randomly, they reported.

They said they had to run for their lives and hide in a nearby forest.

Tension has been high since an indigenous leader was killed during a land occupation protest a week ago.

Federal troops have been sent to the area to try to restore order.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations that local farmers have set up a militia to fight the indigenous groups in Mato Grosso do Sul.

‘Warriors pulled back’

The latest reported incident took place in the municipality of Douradina.

The attack happened on Thursday afternoon but has only now been reported.

“They came in and began to shoot everywhere,” said indigenous leader Ezequiel Guyra Kambi’y.

“Our warriors began to pull back, but they kept pushing, driving towards us and shooting. We had to run away and hide in the forest.”

The farmers returned in the evening and fired more than 50 shots, he added.

A member of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe recorded the demonstration outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia

A member of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe recorded the demonstration outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia

The violence started when about 1,000 Guarani-Kaiowa occupied five ranches on 22 August, taking hostages who were later released.

A week ago, indigenous leader Semiao Vilhalva was killed when farmers tried to retake the ranches.

The tribe says those are their ancestral lands, which had been stolen.

The Brazilian Indigenous Agency (Funai) has already designated the area as an indigenous territory, but farmers got an injunction earlier this year suspending the process.

The state of Mato Grosso do Sul is a major cattle raising and soya producing area and has a long history of clashes between indigenous communities and farmers.

Many Guarani are forced to live in overcrowded reserves or in makeshift camps on the roadside where malnutrition, disease and suicide are high.

Seizing Wells And Going On Strike, Peruvian Protesters Stand Up To Big Oil

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by Common Dreams, Published on Sept, 02, 2015

The Indigenous activists want clean water, compensation for oil pollution, and more pay for the use of native land

Demanding reparations for industrial pollution and adequate compensation for use of native lands, Indigenous activists in Peru shut down 11 wells in an Amazonian oil block on Tuesday.

According to the Spanish EFE news agency, native protesters led by the Federation of the Achuar and Urarina Indigenous Peoples of the Corrientes River (FECONACO) occupied 11 oil installations and seized control of the Trompeteros airport and three storage tanks in Lot 8, which is operated by Argentine energy firm Pluspetrol.

The protesters want clean water, compensation for oil pollution, and more pay for the use of native land, said Carlos Sandi, FECONACO chief.

Reporting in February for Fusion, journalist Manuel Rueda wrote:

Over the past 15 years, dozens of villages located near oil wells in the Northwest of Peru have had to deal with similar oil spills that have poisoned rivers with dangerous levels of cadmium, lead and other toxic materials.

Pollution along the Marañon, Tigre, Corrientes and Pastaza rivers has reached such levels of toxicity that Peru’s Environment Ministry has declared all of them environmental emergency zones over the past two years.

“Many of our brothers have already died from poisoning,” Carlos Sandi, a leader of the Achuar tribe said during a recent visit to the capital city to meet with government officials. “In the 21st century, we cannot allow the Peruvian state to condemn indigenous people to death.”

Lot 8 is located in Peru’s northern region of Loreto, near Lot 192—the nation’s largest oil block.

Sandi told Reuters that the Achuar in and around Lot 192 would soon seize wells there following a dispute with the government over a failure to provide sufficient proceeds for communities in a new contract awarded to Canada’s Pacific Exploration and Production Corporation.

Furthermore, an assembly of social organizations in Loreto voted last week to carry out another 48-hour strike starting Friday to protest the government’s move to privatizate Lot 192 for two years instead of allocating it to the country’s state-owned company.

According to TeleSUR, Indigenous activists are calling for the creation of a fund to compensate for 40 years of exploitation of this oil block and an increase on the 0.75 percent of profits currently offered by the government to tribal members.

As Miguel Lévano Muñoz, Oxfam’s Peru-based program officer for extractive industries,explained last month: “For more than 40 years, Indigenous peoples in this region of northern Peru have lived on territories where petroleum is being extracted—resulting in serious environmental, health, social, economic, and cultural consequences. The Kichwas, Quechuas, Achuar and Urarinas, whose community territories overlap with the boundaries of Block 192 have already decided to allow oil exploitation on their land, but what they’re calling for now is the right to benefit from what is being taken.”

For more on how Peru’s Indigenous people are fighting Big Oil, watch this six-minute documentary from filmmaker Gregory Kershaw:

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