Underreported Struggles #19, October 2008
In this month’s Underreported Struggles: 400,000 Guatemalans Reject Development Model, Philippines Indigenous People Unite for the Land, Riot Police Target Algonquin Blockade, Chagos Islanders Denied the Right of Return, and 17 other stories that you probably haven’t heard about…
October 30 - De Beers withdrawal from Kalahari Reserve - Following their return to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, the diamond company De Beers has announced that it will no longer pursue mining or exploration activities in the region. This is an important victory for the Kgeikani Kweni, the First Peoples of the Kalahari, who are looked upon as backward and inferior by the government.
October 29 - 400,000 Guatemalans Reject Development Model - More than a dozen referendums on mining were carried out in Guatemala this month, paving the way for nearly 400,000 people from twenty municipalities to make their position loud and clear: NO to exploitative and environmentally destructive mining projects. Despite the near-unanimous opposition, the government seems intent on going ahead with their mining plans anyways.
Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq pursue land claim - The Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq communties in Canada’s east Coast have begin to pursue a land claim with the provincial and federal governments. However, it’s unlike the land claims we usually see, where the indigenous people are essentially forced to bow down as “lesser equals” to Canada. Rather, the Mi’gmaq are planning to conduct their own way of negotiations, based on their values, their interests, and their culture.
Tupinamba Community Assaulted by Police - On the morning of October 21, a group of 120 heavily armed police attacked the Tupinamba community of Sierra Padeiro in the Brazilian state of Bahia. “They attacked our children, threw bombs, smashed our houses, took our work tools, stole our food and beat our elders,” states an open letter by the community.
October 28 - Solidarity with Paraguayan farmers attacked by soja paramilitaries - Peasant organisations are resisting the beginning of the GM (Geetically-modified) soya season throughout Paraguay. They are demanding access to land, as well as land reforms and the end to pesticide spraying which impacts on their communities. So far at least 2 leaders have been murdered and hundreds of peasants have been arrested. Several evictions have also taken place.
Chagos Islanders Denied the Right of Return - The British House of Lords has overturned a 2007 high court ruling that allowed the original inhabitants of the Chagos Islands to return to their homes. The British government forcefully relocated the islanders in the 1960s at the request of the United States, who wanted to build a new military base.
Dalai Lama announces new strategy and does not rule out independence - The Tibetan The Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, announced that he has “given up” on his attempt to find a “middle way” in the conflict with CHina, saying that he would now consider more ambitious proposals such as full independence.
October 24 - Philippines: Indigenous People Unite for the Land - There have been at least two major gatherings this month in the Philippines, where indigenous communities have vowed to protect their rights and defend their lands against resource exploitation. In addition, there have been several prostests and an attempt to build friendship and solidarity between indigenous and non-indigenous People as well as the Catholic Church.
October 23 - Indigenous Communities Warn Oil Company to Leave - More than two dozen indigenous communities from Nuevo Alegría, in the Morona district of northern Peru, have issued a stern ultimatum to the Canadian oil exploration company Talisman Energy — warning them that they have until November 15th to withdraw from their territories or the communities will have no choice but to force them out.
October 21 - The Military Represssion of Xoxocotla, Mexico - Earlier this month, police and military forces in the were used against families in the indigenous town of Xoxocotla in the Mexican state of Morales. Reports indicated at least 70 people missing, of whom only 20 have been officially ‘arrested.’ Members from the community had set up a series of blockades in solidarity with teachers that have been on strike for the past 2 months.
October 17 - Amazon tribe lays waste to hydro dam site - In an attempt to protect the Juruena river in western Brazil, an estimated 120 members of the Enawene Nawe tribe occupied the construction site of a hydroelectric dam on October 13, and then burned it to the ground. At least 12 trucks were destroyed, along with a number of offices and housing units.
October 16 - Mapuche: Dam Renews Deep Ecological Fears - Another dam on Chile’s Biobío River has raised the spectre of more displacement and the loss of important cultural and historical sites for the Mapuche. Slated for development some time next year, communities near the dam site are scrambling to block the project, which has so far received little attention from the media.
Army responds to Indigenous uprising with bullets - More then 75 people were injured and at least one was killed after a violent military crackdown against the National Mobilization of Indigenous and Popular Resistance, or Minga, currently taking place in Colombia. The Mobilization began on October 12 to commemorate 516 years of indigenous resistance, and to demand “the Transformation of Colombia,” from states that violently represses indigenous people to one that respects them.
October 14 - Another step closer to Lubicon confrontation - The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has approved TransCanada’s proposal to construct a new major gas pipeline across unceded Lubicon Territory, inviting the company to take one more step toward a confrontation with the Lubicon.
October 13 - Tribe vows to fight mine with axes and arrows - One of India’s most isolated tribes, the Dongria Kondh, is preparing to stop the British company Vedanta from mining aluminium ore on their sacred mountain, after police and hired thugs forced protesters to dismantle a barricade a few days earlier. One Dongria man said “Now our people are very angry. We have to show the Dongria Kondh power to Vedanta.”
October 10 - Penan mount blockade against Interhill group - Penan communities from the Middle Baram area of Sarawak (East Malaysia) have mounted a blockade against the logging company Interhill. the communities want to stop the company from destroying what remains of the age-old Sarawak rainforest. The blockade also follows an announcement that the government will no longer recognize Penan tribal leaders who oppose the exploiation of their traditional lands by the logging industry.
Canada: Government Seizes Control of Pine Creek Reservation - Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has reportedly ‘taken control’ of Pine Creek First Nation in western Manitoba, placing the reserve under third-party management. Apparently, INAC decided to get rid of the Band Council last July, because of what they saw as ‘a total breakdown in band government’.
October 8 - Chiapas: Police attack Indigenous farmers, killing six - On October 3, 2008, federal and state police in Chiapas, Mexico, carried out a violent operation against the ejido (communally held land) of Miguel Hidalgo. Members from the ejido had reclaimed a Mayan archeological site with the plan of administering it themselves. Two waves of police were sent in, the first of which ws disarmed and locked up by the community. The second wave, however, held nothing back. Six people were killed, 17 were injured, and 36 more were detained.
October 7 - Riot Police Target Algonquin Blockade - After a group of families from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake set up a blockade in northern Quebec, to demand the Federal and Provincial governments uphold a set of agreements, and for Canada to stop interfering with their government, the Province sent in an anti-riot squad to break up the blockade. The families were overrun by the police, who launched tear gas and used “pain compliance techniques.”
October 3 - Indian Farmers Push Back Tata Motors - After weeks of protest, farmers in the West Bengal region of India have successfully pushed Tata Motors off their agricultural land. The West Bengal government “acquired” the land two years ago for the company’s Nano project, which aims to build the worlds cheapest car.
October 2 - Judge bars construction near Comanche sacred site - An Oklahoma federal district court has barred the construction of a military training facility near Medicine Bluffs, a site held sacred by the Comanche Nation. The judge stated that the facility would “impose a substantial burden on the traditional religious practices of the Comanche people,” which are “inextricably intertwined with the natural environment.”
October 1 - Indigenous group occupies Bukidnon ranch - Members of an indigenous group in the Bukidnon region of Mindanao, occupied and planted crops on a 520-hectare land that used to be the cattle ranch of a former Mayor. The group stated that they had to take action in order to avert a food shortage in their communities.
Rooting our Lives in a Sustainable Paradigm - A speech by Evon Peter, the Executive Director of Native Movement, at the third annual Symposium For Food and Seed Sovereignty, September 26-27, 2008.
Drowned Forests and Damned Lives - Drowned Forests and Damned Lives is a 32-minute video report that explores the Orang Asli’s struggle against the Kelau Dam project in Pahang state, Malaysia.
Voices from the Niyamgiri Hills - In this eight-minute video, you will hear members of the Dongria Kondh, the custodians of the Niyamrigi hills in Orissa, India, speaking out against Vedanta resources and the hardships they have had to endure as a result of the company’s aluminum refinery.