Category Archives: Indigenous Peoples

South Dakotans fight TransCanada on their own turf

Photo of crowd yesterday at hearing, posted on DRA's Twitter feed

Photo of crowd yesterday at hearing, posted on DRA’s Twitter feed

Pierre, SD – The fight to stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline can add one more state to its battleground: South Dakota. A powerful coalition of local allies intervened in the certification of the pipeline permit at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, and the battle for the open US Senate seat in South Dakota could be decided by voters strongly opposed to Keystone XL.

Four tribal nations and a number of grassroots Native groups, each belonging to the Oceti Sakowin, have petitioned to intervene. Those tribes are the Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux Tribes. Dakota Rural Action, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and several South Dakota landowners have also petitioned to intervene. This coalition, called No KXL Dakota, is comprised of tribal nations, non-profit organizations, individual tribal citizens and non-tribal landowners, each dedicated to the protection of Mother Earth and the natural resources of South Dakota.

TransCanada opposed the intervention of several applicants to party status, including the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Utility Commission Office, both Native entities dealing with energy issues in South Dakota.

This high-profile pipeline battle has intensified with the South Dakota congressional race. Republican candidate Mike Rounds is the only candidate fully endorsing the pipeline, while Democratic opponent Rick Weiland has gained local support because of his opposition to Keystone XL and Independent Larry Pressler has also courted the Native vote.

Lewis Grassrope of Wiconi Un Tipi: “We are here to ensure that this committee [the PUC] hears our voice on this opposition to the pipeline or any pipeline through these lands.”

Joye Braun of Pte Ospaye Spirit Camp: “Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp mission is stand in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the social evils that come with Big Oil, to educate the people about the KXL Pipeline, fracking, and the pollution that occurs with oil production. Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp is located just outside of the Bridger Community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and 2.2 miles from where the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline proposes to go through. It is a hugely historic area known for centuries as a crossroads for Natives Peoples to travel through on their way to the Black Hills. It is ground zero for the Lakota people fighting this pipeline as it would have to pass through this area first to try and get to the other camps and Nebraska.”

No KXL Dakota allies have pledged to stand their ground and not back down in the now local battle over property, land, water, human trafficking, and treaty rights.

Press conference: Capitol Building sidewalk, 15 minutes after PUC hearing ends

Dakota Rural Action will be live-tweeting the PUC hearing; follow @DakotaRural

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Indigenous Peoples, Keystone XL

Hopi Relocation Happening Now as Black Mesa Harassment Escalates

From Black Mesa Indigenous Support

Since 1974, U.S. federal relocation policy—known as Public Law 93-531—has forced tens of thousands of Dineh (Navajo) people from their ancestral homeland—now known as the Hopi Partitioned Lands—in Arizona. This constitutes the largest forced relocation of Indigenous peoples in the U.S since the Trail of Tears. The relocation is ongoing and impacts generations. The policy, crafted by the Department of Justice and Peabody Energy Company representatives, opened access to the mineral resources of Black Mesa – billions of tons of low-sulfur coal, uranium, and natural gas. A July 2012  report by the Navajo Human Rights Commission classifies the relocation as a massive human rights violation and demands the immediate repeal of PL 93-531 and an end to relocation efforts and harassment in the form of surveillance, livestock impoundments, and disruption of gatherings and ceremonies that the resistance community experiences.

Observers recording harassment by government agents-source Black Mesa Indigenous Support October 2014

Observers recording harassment by government agents-source: Black Mesa Indigenous Support October 2014

This summer has seen an escalation of tensions and calls for independent observers. Over the weekend comes a plea from Black Mesa Indigenous Support that harassment has escalated and help is needed.

URGENT: Widespread Impoundments & an arrest on the HPL, October 2014

Black Mesa Indigenous Support. 26 October 2014

UPDATE from HPL (Hopi Partition Land) residents: Shirley Tohannie and elder Caroline Tohannie had their entire herd of 65 sheep impounded by the Hopi Rangers (US federal government) Tuesday, October 22, 2014. If the fines aren’t paid the sheep will go to auction, and the family is being told that the sheep will not be able to return to the family’s rangeland. The cost to release the livestock is nearly $1,000.

Jerry Babbit Lane, the Tohannie’s neighbor on the HPL, was arrested by Hopi rangers when he attempted to check on his neighbors and was charged with disorderly conduct. He was released this evening, 10/23. Rangers told Shirley they plan to take Rena’s (Jerry’s mother) sheep too and that they’re going to start impounding across the HPL.

As we’re writing, another family on Big Mountain has had nearly their entire herd impounded.

Read the full post here.

More Background on the resistance of HPL communities here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Coal, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Mining

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