Category Archives: Indigenous Peoples

California ecological collapse on the fast track

It is said that the name “California” came from the Spanish after a Greek adopted legend about an island fortress populated by “beautiful Amazon women warriors whom were gifted in the use of golden tools and weapons.”  Early European “explorers” described the place as having fog shrouded and rugged coastlines, vast mountains, deep valleys, desserts, and lakes. They dreamed and schemed about how to conquer the wilderness. Invasion and colonization of the west coast of the United States by Europeans began in earnest about 500 years ago. They did not know or care that they were preceded by at least 250 generations of people who were there first. People that had lived in relative harmony with the natural world and each other–Karok, Maidu, Cahuilleno, Mohave, Yo Semite, Paiute,  Tule–were now put under the colonial guns. The wilderness that supported all life was on the road to evisceration.

The Mother of the Forest, -Mother Tree of Calaveras County- Cut down for lumber 1902.  Height 300 plus feet. circumference 78 feet, bark off. Photo C.L. Pond, Buffalo, New York circa 1870-1880)

The Mother of the Forest, Mother Tree of Calaveras County, cut down for lumber 1902. Height 300+’. Circumference 78 feet, bark off. Photo C.L. Pond, Buffalo, New York (circa 1870-1880)

There was once a vast waterbody, Lake Tulare, located in the Central Valley. It was the largest freshwater lake in North America outside of the Great Lakes. At one point, pre-contact with Europeans, it is thought that 70,000 human beings lived along this beautiful productive lake. Around this lake and stretching to the coast, vast groves of Giant Sequoia and Coastal Redwoods stood as sentinels that helped to balance the atmosphere and the ecosystem in ways that we are only just learning about in 2014.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Forests, Indigenous Peoples

Farmers in the Philippines band together against palm oil plantations

Indigenous peoples and small farmers in the Philippines created a new alliance, the Coalition Against Land Grabbing (CALG), in order to prevent palm oil plantation expansion in the province of Palawan. According to a post on farmlandgrab.org, CALG nabbed more than 4,000 signatures demanding a halt on the plantations, which are ripping apart the native forests.

Oil palm plantations have taken over land that the Palawan used to grow coconuts. Photo: ALDAW

Oil palm plantations have taken over land that the Palawan used to grow coconuts. Photo: ALDAW

Like many land grab situations, the palm oil plantations tear through local forests and land with little to no concern for the ecosystem or the people who rely on those forests for their livelihoods. Fed up, the Palawan people have solidified their stance just in time — nearly 20,000 hectares are set to be wiped out for future palm oil plantations, a large source for biofuels.

Tribes and farmers unite to end oil palm expansion in Philippines
By farmlandgrab.org, 22 October 2014

[...]

Palawan, which is often referred to as “the Philippines’ last ecological frontier”, is a biosphere reserve and home to tribal peoples such as the Palawan, Batak and Tagbanua, who rely on their forests for food, medicines and for building their houses.

[...]

“To find medicinal plants we must walk more than half day to reach the other side of the mountain range,” said a tribal Palawan man. “Because of the far distance we must leave our young children at home, so they do not learn the name and uses of these plants. The old knowledge is being lost.”

The plantations have brought hardship to the local communities. Rates of poverty and malnutrition are rising fastest in the area with the largest amount of land converted to oil palm production. Indigenous community organiser, John Mart Salunday called the oil palm project a complete “fiasco” in terms of poverty eradication.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biofuelwatch, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Palm Oil

RCMP surveilled Indigenous environmental groups fighting Canada’s extreme ‘energy economy’

Photo by Ben Powless of the Wet’suwet’en Nation Enbridge protest that was one of the areas of focus for the RCMP. Extremist? Worthy of surveillance by the RCMP. Worthy of attention, for sure, but not RCMP surveillance.

Photo by Ben Powless of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s Enbridge protest that was one of the areas of focus for the RCMP. Extremist? Worthy of surveillance by the RCMP? Worthy of attention, for sure, but not RCMP surveillance. The sign now takes on new meaning. In response to ‘Respect Indigenous Rights,’ RCMP says, ‘No.’

Last week, APTN released findings from researcher Jeffrey Monaghan that show that the RCMP closely surveilled members of the IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network) and their allies in 2010 during organizing to fight the extreme energy extraction of the tar sands and the pipelines. Documents show that the RCMP categorized IEN as an extremist group, and might still do so, despite disagreements even among officers.

Global Justice Ecology Project is among several others who are named as supporters of a 2010 protest against the Enbridge pipeline, and named as “involved persons.”

“When you read the document closely it shows an intimate surveillance,” said Monaghan. “(The documents) show the breadth of and the normalization of the regular systematic surveillance of protest groups, of people who criticize government policy and critics of energy policy. You have national security bureaucracies, agencies, focused on domestic protest groups and it has nothing to do with terror, but with the energy economy.”

Yup, not surprising historically at all, but repression nonetheless. What to do? Hard to know, but political pressure couldn’t hurt. How dare RCMP target Indigenous environmental organizers in this way?

 RCMP tracked movements of Indigenous activist from ‘extremist’ group: documents
By Jorge Barrera. APTN National News. Oct. 17, 2014.

The RCMP closely monitored the movements of an Indigenous environmental activist as it tightened surveillance around possible protests in northern British Columbia targeting the energy firm behind the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, according to “confidential” documents obtained by APTN National News.

Read the whole article here.

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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Pipeline, Political Repression, Tar Sands

Brazilian Indigenous Peoples group under attack

While they do not typically use violence as a medium for their message, the organizations that shine a light on corporate agendas and corrupted governments often get those kinds of threats in return. Over the last few weeks the Brazilian organization Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) has come to know these tactics all too well.

CIMI ransacked office. Photo: World Rainforest Movement

CIMI ransacked office. Photo: World Rainforest Movement

Their office in Acre, Brazil, has been ransacked and equipment stolen. A letter from the World Rainforest Movement, signed by more than 50 groups, including Climate Connections’s own Global Justice Ecology Project, appeals to the Brazilian government, asking them to step in and demand an end to the violence.

Threats of violence against Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) in Acre, Brazil
by Chris Lang, REDD-Monitor, 17 October 2014

Over the past few weeks, staff at the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) in the state of Acre have faced a series of threats and intimidation. The office has been broken into twice, the room ransacked, a computer taken, files burned, and internet wiring destroyed.

CIMI is one of the key organisations in Brazil demanding the respect of indigenous peoples’ rights. In Acre, CIMI works to support indigenous peoples who are faced with ranching and logging companies taking their land and destroying the forests.

In an attempt to publicise and to stop the violence and threats, CIMI is holding a public gathering outside its office in Rio Branco today.

Since 2012, the state of Acre has received funding from the German government, through its “REDD Early Movers” programme. On its website the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), which is managing the REDD Early Movers programme, describes Acre as one of the “pioneers” in forest protection, “not just in Brazil but also beyond”.

Read the full article here.

 

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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression

Pacific Island land reform seeks to protect indigenous rights to land

Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Catherine Wilson of the IPS News Agency provides this really interesting account of indigenous land reforms on the island of Vanatu in the South Pacific. It seems like a heady mix of tourism and tax evasion has led to a global rush on lands owned collectively by those indigenous to the island. New laws seek to secure indigenous ownership and access to the land, which, as Wilson writes in the caption for the picture above, “remains a vital source of food security, cash incomes and social wellbeing.”

Vanuatu Puts Indigenous Rights First in Land Reform
By Catherine Wilson, Inter Press News Service, October 14, 2014.

PORT VILA, Oct 14 2014 (IPS) - Stemming widespread corruption in the leasing of customary land to investors is the aim of bold land reform, introduced this year in the Southwest Pacific Island state of Vanuatu, which puts the rights of traditional landowners above the discretionary powers of politicians.

Less than one hour from the capital, Port Vila, is the village of Mangaliliu, one of many across this sprawling nation of 82 islands and more than 247,000 people where livelihoods centre on agriculture and fishing.

Read the whole article here.

 

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Filed under Commodification of Life, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Rachel Smolker on IEN’s Indigenous Peoples’ Action Camp to Stop GE Trees

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Seminole Tribe from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

As we reported yesterday, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US last week for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees).

Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, participated in the action camp as a member of the steering committee of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees.

In her blog for the Huffington Post, Smolker provides a compelling account of the purpose for the action camp and the ideas coming out of it.

Rachel SmolkerColumbus Day and the Colonization of Land, Trees and Genes

By Rachel Smolker, Huffington Post Tech Blog, October 13, 2014.

I spent the past several days participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to Stop GE Trees Action Camp in the Qualla Boundary, homelands of the Eastern Band Cherokee in North Carolina. Participants included members of tribes across the Southeast, who came to learn about plans for growing genetically engineered trees on and/or adjacent to their territories.

On Columbus Day we can sadly reflect on the brutal history of colonization that American Indians faced when Europeans “discovered” and then claimed their lands. Now, centuries later, the ongoing colonization process threatens to colonize not only their lands, but even the genetics of the trees in their forests that are central to their history and livelihoods.

Read the whole essay here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Events, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples

This should be the last Columbus Day

When Howard Zinn wrote A People’s History of the United States, the first chapter was called “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress.”  After he passed away in 2010, The Zinn Education Project was begun in order to promote and support the use of the book. Two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change, coordinate the project.

The project publishes the If We Knew Our History Series, featuring articles by teachers, journalists, and scholars “that highlight inadequacies in the history textbooks published by giant corporations.”

An article published last week by the project was written by Bill Bigelow, author and teacher. We are  pleased to excerpt it and provide the full link below.

Native American and Chicano students protest the 500th anniversary of Columbus landing in the Americas, 10/12/1992 at UW-Madison

Native American and Chicano students protest the 500th anniversary of Columbus landing in the Americas, 10/12/1992 at UW-Madison

It’s Columbus Day…Time to Break the Silence

By Bill Bigelow, Zinn Education Project. October 3, 2014

This past January, almost exactly 20 years after its publication, Tucson schools banned the book I co-edited with Bob Peterson, Rethinking Columbus. It was one of a number of books adopted by Tucson’s celebrated Mexican American Studies program—a program long targeted by conservative Arizona politicians.

The school district sought to crush the Mexican American Studies program; our book itself was not the target, it just got caught in the crushing. Nonetheless, Tucson’s—and Arizona’s—attack on Mexican American Studies and Rethinking Columbus shares a common root: the attempt to silence stories that unsettle today’s unequal power arrangements.

 Read the full article here.

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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Political Repression, Racism

Indigenous Peoples unite to stop genetically engineered trees, calling them another form of colonization

0_w650_h230_s1Qualla Boundary, North Carolina–In the shadow of Columbus Day and the legacy of colonization in the Americas, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Eastern Band of Cherokee community members organized a gathering of Indigenous Peoples from across the Southeastern US for an historic Indigenous Peoples’ action camp against genetically engineered trees (GE trees). Participants condemned GE trees as a form of colonization of the forest.

The Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp focused on building an information-sharing and mobilization network of tribal representatives and community members to address the unique threats posed by GE trees to Indigenous Peoples, their culture, traditions and lifeways. Steering Committee members of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees were invited to present concerns about the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.

“All trees and the variety of life that depend on forest biodiversity have historically and will in the future continue to be a necessary part of Indigenous culture and survival, which GE trees directly threaten,” stated BJ McManama, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The action camp, which took place in the mountains of North Carolina, detailed threats of genetically engineering forms of native trees traditionally used by eastern Indigenous Peoples, specifically the American chestnut.

Cherokee participants expressed fears that American chestnuts, genetically engineered with DNA from unrelated species, would negatively impact their traditional lifeways, saying that GE trees are dead trees with no soul.

Lisa Montelongo, a Cherokee community member, mother of four and grandmother of two speaks of her concerns that Ge trees would impact future generations. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

Lisa Montelongo, a Cherokee community member, mother of four and grandmother of two speaks of her concerns that Ge trees would impact future generations. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

“I’m very concerned that GE trees would impact our future generations and their traditional uses of trees. Our basket makers, people that use wood for the natural colors of our clay work–there would be no natural life, no cycle of life in GE tree plantations,” said Lisa Montelongo of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Genetically engineered eucalyptus trees also threaten Indigenous lands in the US South. GE eucalyptus plantations, proposed by GE tree company ArborGen, are planned from South Carolina to Florida to Texas. The future development of millions of acres of non-native and invasive GE eucalyptus trees would threaten Indigenous lands throughout the region with devastating impacts including depletion of water, contamination with toxic herbicides and pesticides and loss of biodiversity.

Danny Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, based in Florida points out how real forests "mean life to The People, but Ge trees mean death." PhotoLangelle.org

Frank Billie of the Seminole Nation, based in Florida points out how real forests “mean life to The People, but Ge trees mean death.” PhotoLangelle.org.

“This needs to be stopped immediately. This is not how the forest was meant to be used.  The forest gives life to The People, but these GE trees mean death.They are not for The People, they are only to make money for a few rich people,” said Frank Billie of the Seminole Nation, based in Florida.

100% of participants at the camp oppose the release of GE trees.

More photos below:

Frank Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.

Frank Billie of the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation from Florida. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

T-shirt of the Cherokee woman responsible for feeding those in attendance at the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp. Photo by Photolangelle.org

T-shirt of the Cherokee woman responsible for feeding those in attendance at the Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign to STOP GE Trees Action Camp. Photo by Photolangelle.org.

 

 

 

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Filed under Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests