Tag Archives: Government

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.


Anti-terror Bill C-51 to be changed as Tories respond to criticism

The government is set to propose amendments to Bill C-51, including an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The government is set to propose amendments to Bill C-51, including an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

CBC News

The government will propose a handful of amendments to the proposed anti-terror bill when it goes to clause-by-clause review on Tuesday, CBC News has learned, including a proposal that would protect protests from being captured by the new measures.

“Many witnesses were concerned that by saying “lawful” protests would not be considered terrorist acts, it meant that protests which were not necessarily terrorist, but not necessarily legal, could be,” CBC News correspondent Chris Hall explained in an interview on CBC News Network on Friday afternoon.

“For example, incidents of chaining yourself to a fence to protest, a logging decision or mine development.”

That section will be changed to narrow the scope of what might be captured as a terrorist-related activity, he said.

The government will also put forward an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people.

Other government-backed changes in the works include limits to information-sharing and adjusting a provision that would have given the public safety minister the power to direct air carriers to do “anything” that, in the minister’s view, is “reasonably necessary” to prevent a terrorist act.

Sources have told CBC News that the Tories will propose four amendments. They could also vote to reject particularly problematic elements during clause-by-clause review.

“As we have said for many weeks, we are open to amendments that make sense and that improve the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015,” a senior government official told CBC News.

New Democrats waiting to see amendments

Thus far there is no indication the government will heed the calls for increased oversight.

The Tories could, however, introduce separate legislation to expand the mandate and boost the powers of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that oversees CSIS.

Both the New Democrats and the Liberals have already served notice that they plan on putting forward amendments as well, the bulk of which would go further than what the government will propose.

NDP deputy public safety critic Rosane Doré Lefebvre told CBC News that her party will wait to see the proposed amendments before deciding whether to support the changes.

“Initially, the prime minister and Stephen Blaney said it was ‘ridiculous’ for Tom Mulcair and the NDP to criticize this bill, and now they’ve been forced to change their tune,” she added.

“Unlike the Liberals, we decided to stand by our principles and oppose this bill. We put pressure on the Conservatives to amend this bill and they finally gave in.”

She says the NDP will continue to oppose the bill, as “it goes too far and undermines Canadians’ rights and freedoms.”

The House public safety committee will begin clause-by-clause review on Tuesday.

Protester shut down Carcross Tagish First Nation offices

The main administration building of the Carcross Tagish First Nation was shut down Monday by protesters. (Karen McColl/CBC)

The main administration building of the Carcross Tagish First Nation was shut down Monday by protesters. (Karen McColl/CBC)

CBC News

‘They’re deciding our future and we don’t have a say’ says Stanley Jim

A member of the Carcross Tagish First Nation shut down a council meeting over the weekend and prevented Chief Dan Cresswell and council from entering their offices Monday, protesting his government’s lack of consultation with its members.

“Right now, all I see is they’re deciding our future and we don’t have a say,” says Stanley Jim while sitting in front of the main administrative building where he built a wooden door jamb to bar the entrance.

Jim says the tipping point for him was when his government signed a financial agreement without consent from its members, something he believes chief and council don’t have the authority to do. He argues decisions like that should be brought in front of a general assembly and he says he has the support of other Carcross Tagish members.

He says he shut down the office to make a point. “Get our word out and also put pressure on our First Nation to be accountable, to be transparent.”

Harold Gatensby is among Jim’s supporters, and says his community needs to change.

Stanley Jim

Stanley Jim says the Carcross Tagish First Nation is not consulting its people. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

“A lot of announcements made about wonderful things happening in Carcross but we never hear about it until it’s announced either in the newspaper or over the radio,” says Gatensby.

“Big things that change our lives: subdivisions being developed, big $44 million projects being done. Everything that’s being done over here, we don’t know. We hear about it when it comes out in the newspaper.”

The protest has spurred chief and council to have an open meeting with its members, scheduled for March, says Laurenda James, who came out to support Jim.

“I’m glad that they have set up a meeting and what not. So hopefully they won’t just brush us off again without addressing each individual’s concerns,” says James.

Jim says the building will re-open Tuesday.

CBC was not able to get a hold of Chief Cresswell or council for comment.


Canada rallies to remember missing and murdered aboriginal women

Eighth Annual Women's Memorial March in  Winnipeg  (Photo: Red Power Media)

Eighth Annual Women’s Memorial March in Winnipeg. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

Hundreds of aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered across Canada.

On February 14th annual marches were held across the country to remember the missing and murdered.

Hundreds gathered in Vancouver, Winnipeg and other cities. Over 400 people marched in Toronto in what’s known as the Strawberry Ceremony, named after the fruit which has become a symbol for aboriginal female victims of violence. Many attendees brought strawberries to mark the 10th annual march.

In Montreal thousands marched.

The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family.

Twenty five years later, the women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women.

Betsy Bruyere, an indigenous woman in Vancouver, has attended the marches for more than a decade.

“I was kind of depressed,” she says. “It just doesn’t stop and it looks like it’s getting worse — the situation, the crisis, the invisible war against indigenous women. They’re trying to kill us, I’m pretty sure of it.”

Hundreds marched through downtown Vancouver to support calls for a national inquiry into 1,200 aboriginal women nationwide who have been murdered or are missing.

Eighth Annual Women’s Memorial March in Winnipeg. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

Eighth Annual Women’s Memorial March in Winnipeg. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

About 300 people gathered at the eighth annual women’s memorial march outside the University of Winnipeg to call attention to missing and murdered indigenous women.

The rally later moved inside the U of W. Bulman Centre, where many listened to speakers.

Among those in attendance for part of the time were Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Premier Greg Selinger.

Inside the U of W. Bulman Centre, where the aroma of burning sage filled the room, Nahanni Fontaine said “families of victims must continue to put pressure on police and the justice system to find missing women or find those responsible for their deaths,” adding there is a misperception in society that many of the missing and murdered came from families where they weren’t loved and supported.

Eighth Annual Women's Memorial March in Winnipeg  (Photo: Red Power Media)

Mayor Brian Bowman at U of W. Bulman Centre. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

“There’s concern from families that people are speaking on their behalf” without first consulting them, said Fontaine, special adviser to the province on indigenous women’s issues.

Fontaine said Manitoba should draft the first protocol in Canada on how to engage with families of victims of violence. Fontaine said “it seems odd” to have to put something in writing, “But it’s needed.”

Some rallies across the country included displays of the growing anger and frustration around such issues as an inquiry and the Harper government’s lack of action.

Creeative Native Traverse in Winnipeg, wearing a t-shirt she designed. (Photo: Red Power Media)

Creeative Native Traverse in Winnipeg, wearing a t-shirt she designed. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

Last May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reported that 1,017, aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012. Another 108 are missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952.

Rights groups have long been demanding that law enforcement agencies do more to prevent and solve crimes directed at aboriginal women and girls. They have also started to put increasing pressure on the federal government to open an inquiry into the hundreds of missing or murdered cases.

Demonstrators also held a national day of action on February 13th called #ShutDownCanada, where hundreds of activists used various forms of civil disobedience to temporarily close down major roads, railways and other public infrastructure. The goal was to put pressure on the Harper government and demand an inquiry. In Winnipeg First Nations set up a blockade on portage avenue near the west perimeter highway.

#ShutDownCanada Winnipeg. (Photo: Red Power Media)

#ShutDownCanada Winnipeg, blockade at the west perimeter. Feb 13th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)


5 Ways The Government Keeps Native Americans In Poverty

Indian Reservation

Native American Reservation

By Shawn Regan | Forbes

Imagine if the government were responsible for looking after your best interests. All of your assets must be managed by bureaucrats on your behalf. A special bureau is even set up to oversee your affairs. Every important decision you make requires approval, and every approval comes with a mountain of regulations.

How well would this work? Just ask Native Americans.

The federal government is responsible for managing Indian affairs for the benefit of all Indians. But by all accounts the government has failed to live up to this responsibility. As a result, Native American reservations are among the poorest communities in the United States. Here’s how the government keeps Native Americans in poverty.

Indian lands are owned and managed by the federal government.


Chief Justice John Marshall set Native Americans on the path to poverty in 1831 when he characterized the relationship between Indians and the government as “resembling that of a ward to his guardian.” With these words, Marshall established the federal trust doctrine, which assigns the government as the trustee of Indian affairs. That trusteeship continues today, but it has not served Indians well.

Underlying this doctrine is the notion that tribes are not capable of owning or managing their lands. The government is the legal owner of all land and assets in Indian Country and is required to manage them for the benefit of Indians.

But because Indians do not generally own their land or homes on reservations, they cannot mortgage their assets for loans like other Americans. This makes it incredibly difficult to start a business in Indian Country. Even tribes with valuable natural resources remain locked in poverty. Their resources amount to “dead capital”—unable to generate growth for tribal communities.

Nearly every aspect of economic development is controlled by federal agencies.

All development projects on Indian land must be reviewed and authorized by the government, a process that is notoriously slow and burdensome. On Indian lands, companies must go through at least four federal agencies and 49 steps to acquire a permit for energy development. Off reservation, it takes only four steps. This bureaucracy prevents tribes from capitalizing on their resources.

It’s not uncommon for years to pass before the necessary approvals are acquired to begin energy development on Indian lands—a process that takes only a few months on private lands. At any time, an agency may demand more information or shut down development. Simply completing a title search can cause delays. Indians have waited six years to receive title search reports that other Americans can get in just a few days.

The result is that many investors avoid Indian lands altogether. When development does occur, federal agencies are involved in every detail, even collecting payments on behalf of tribes. The royalties are then distributed back to Indians—that is, if the government doesn’t lose the money in the process.

Reservations have a complex legal framework that hinders economic growth.


Thanks to the legacy of federal control, reservations have complicated legal and property systems that are detrimental to economic growth. Jurisdiction and land ownership can vary widely on reservations as a result of the government’s allotment policies of the nineteenth century. Navigating this complex system makes development and growth difficult on Indian lands.

One such difficulty isfractionated land ownership. Federal inheritance laws required many Indian lands to be passed in equal shares to multiple heirs. After several generations, these lands have become sofractionated that there are often hundreds of owners per parcel. Managing thesefractionated lands is nearly impossible, and much of the land remains idle.Energy regulations make it difficult for tribes to develop their resources.Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow Tribe in Montana, puts it plainly: “The war on coal is a war on our families and our children.” Coal provides the greatest economic opportunity for the impoverished tribe, but regulations are making it hard for the tribe to capitalize on their natural resources. Some are even trying to prevent the tribe from exporting coal to Asia.The federal government has repeatedly mismanaged Indian assets.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-13-at-3.03.58-AMTribes historically had little or no control over their energy resources. Royalties were set by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the agency consistently undervalued Indian resources. A federal commission concluded in 1977 that leases negotiated on behalf of Indians were “among the poorest agreements ever made.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten much better. A recent class action suit alleged that the government mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian assets. The case settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion—far less than what was lost by the feds.

Reservations contain valuable natural resources worth nearly $1.5 trillion, according to a recent estimate. But the vast majority of these resources remain undeveloped because the federal government gets in the way. Ron Crossguns of the Blackfeet Tribe recently put it this way: “It’s our right. We say yes or no. I don’t think the outside world should come out here and dictate to us what we should do with our properties.”

As long as tribes are denied the right to control their own resources, they will remain locked in poverty and dependence. But if tribes are given the dignity they deserve, they will have the opportunity to unleash the tremendous wealth of Indian nations.

Originally curated by Forbes 3/13/2014