Chaco Canyon: BLM planning to auction public land to fracking industry

January 29th, 2018 by EARTH PEOPLES

We have heard the shocking news again that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) have announced plans to auction 25 parcels of 4,434 acres of public land in the Greater Chaco Landscape to the fracking industry in a March 8, 2018 oil and gas lease sale. The leases are located near the homes of Navajo people and are just outside the 10-mile buffer around Chaco Canyon National Historical Park.

Of particular concern is Parcel 30—located very near to the Great North Road and Chaco outlier site of Pierre’s Complex. While the BLM is in possession of LiDAR data that could reveal cultural sites in the Parcel 30 area, they have not analyzed this data in a clear disregard for the region’s rich cultural history and continued importance to Native peoples throughout the Southwest. The Great North Road has been recognized in the UNESCO World Heritage designation for the Chaco region, in particular for its profound cultural significance in Puebloan and Navajo history. The Pierre’s Complex holds prominent sites of ritual architecture, marking the Great North Road’s symbolic importance.

Join Conservation Voters New Mexico at the State Capitol this Thursday, February 1 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to make your voice heard! People and conservation organizations from across the state will be convening to talk with legislators about why it’s important to protect our environment, communities, and health—and the urgent need to protect the Greater Chaco Region from further rampant energy development. For more information, visit: https://www.congressweb.com/cvnm/156/

Watch and share the Solstice Project’s 4-minute video “Fracking Threatens Chaco’s Sacred American Heritage” Please share this informative piece widely with others concerned for Chaco’s protection.

Resistance to the BLM and BIA’s decisions to promote fracking has been strong and widespread. Tribal groups, businesses, farms, citizens, and other groups have already filed 120 appeals that strongly condemn the decision to lease these parcels. The All Pueblo Council of Governors released a protest, and the Pueblo of Acoma have also filed an independent appeal.

“This is the most appeals ever received around an oil and gas lease sale in New Mexico and this unprecedented show of opposition is a clear sign that the Bureau of Land Management has no regard for public concerns,” said Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians’ Senior Climate and Energy Campaign.

For the latest on oil and gas activity in the Greater Chaco region, see visit Frack Off Chaco and the Coalition to Protect Greater Chaco.

See also the attached map showing sites currently up for BLM leasing.

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Muslims paying Aborigines to convert to Islam, Rise Up candidate claims

January 1st, 2018 by EARTH PEOPLES

A growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are identifying with Islam. In the 2001 national census fewer than 600 Indigenous men and women nominated Islam as their religion.

August 30 2013

A federal election candidate in western Queensland has accused Muslims of paying Aborigines to convert to Islam.

Speaking to ABC Western Queensland, Rise Up Australia candidate Pam Hecht said the biggest issue facing people in the electorate of Kennedy, which Bob Katter holds by 18.3 per cent, was the conversion of Indigenous people to Islam.

”I don’t know whether people are aware, but many of the Aboriginal people in northern Australia are being targeted by Muslims and in some cases are being paid to convert to Islam,” she said, describing herself and the electorate as ”farmers . . . just ordinary everyday people”, who ”want to be free to go about our business”.

”Our concern with that is, the Muslim belief, that converting the first peoples of the land to Islam means that the land belongs to Allah, and Islam should be the only religion.

”There is an Aboriginal lady who works with the people up in northern Australia and she has spoken directly with the leader of our party, Daniel Nalliah [and told him about the practice].”

Of the 340,393 Australians who identified as Muslims in the 2006 Census, just 1011 were Indigenous.

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Indonesia’s Orang Rimba: Forced to renounce their faith

January 1st, 2018 by EARTH PEOPLES
, 17 November 2017

In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing “I will protect Islam till I die” and shout “There is no god but Allah”, in unison.

Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam. They were picked up and bussed into Jambi, the nearest city, and given clothes and prayer mats.

The Islamic Defenders Front – a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence – helped facilitate the conversion.

Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised.

“For now we are focusing on the children. It’s easier to convert them – their mind isn’t filled with other things. With the older ones it’s harder,” he says.

“Before Islam they just believed in spirits, gods and goddesses, not the supreme god Allah.

“When someone died, they didn’t even bury the dead, they just would leave the body in the forest. Now their life has meaning and direction.

“[Before] they lived in the forest. They just lived for each day, each moment. When they died, they died. But now they have a religion, they know there is an afterlife.”

‘No choice’

But village leader Muhammad Yusuf – Yuguk, to use his Orang Rimba name – was thinking about surviving in this life when he converted.

“It was a very heavy and difficult decision, but we feel like we have no choice, if we want to move forward,” he says quietly.

“So that our children can have the same opportunities as the outsiders, the people of the light, we had no other choice. We had to all convert to Islam.”

Outsiders are the “people of the light”, because they live in open areas and are often in the sun, unlike the people of the jungle.

The surrounding majority Muslim population calls the Orang Rimba “Kubu”.

“It means that they are very dirty, they are garbage, you can’t even look because it is so disgusting,” explains anthropologist Butet Manurung, who has lived with the Orang Rimba for many years.

“It also means primitive, stupid, bad smelling – basically pre-human. People say their evolution is not complete.”

It’s thought there are about 3,000 Orang Rimba living in central Sumatra. “If you came before, you would have seen our forest. It was pristine, with huge trees,” says Yusuf.

Now there are seemly endless ghostly white burnt-out sticks in one direction, and palm oil trees in neat rows in the other.

The absence of any natural sounds is eerie.

“It’s all gone. It happened just in the last few years. The palm plantations came in, and then the forest started to burn,” adds Yusuf, referring to 2015’s devastating fires, which burnt more than 21,000 sq km of forest and peat land.

Every year, landowners start fires to clear land with devastating effects, but those fires were catastrophic because of a longer dry season.

Half a million people were affected by the toxic haze from the fires and dozens died from breathing problems.

“I was terrified. We were so scared of the flames and smoke all around us,” Yusuf tells me.

His tribe ran to the nearest village to escape and this was where the conversion process started.

Endangered population

“After a while, we wanted to send our children to school, but the teacher wanted to see their birth certificates, and for that you have to have a state religion that the government recognises.

“So we had a tribal meeting, and discussed what religion we would choose, and decided to choose Islam,” says Yusuf.

Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim country – officially recognises six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Indigenous rights bodies are fighting to get recognition for the hundreds of other faiths practised across Indonesia.

The country’s constitutional court recently ruled in their favour, finding that it was against the constitution to force people to state a religion.

Rukka Sombolinggi, head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, has been a key figure in this fight.

“We have been around before the new religions arrived, but now it’s like they rule us, and want to clean us from this country. We have to fight back,” she says.

She says the Orang Rimba are one of the most endangered indigenous tribes in Indonesia.

“They reached the point of complete hopelessness and saw that embracing one of the official religions would probably help them come out of this very bad situation. It is a matter of survival.”

‘No space to live’

I experienced a sense of the discrimination towards Orang Rimba, when I met a remote tribe still practising this nomadic, polytheistic way of life.

We were eating with them in the jungle when a police officer and local government officials arrived and asked what we were doing and if we had permits.

Our Orang Rimba guide Miyak was visibly upset, and asked why such documents would be necessary on his own land.

“We have no space to live. We are always told we are nomadic people with no religion, no culture,” he told me.

“Our religion is not respected. The government is always insisting that we convert and live in houses in one place. We can’t do that. Our way of life is not like that.”

“Why you are making our lives so difficult?” he asked the officials.

The officer, Budi Jayapura, took me aside to check my documents and said: “We need to watch over them.

“They don’t understand the concept of stealing. They say the fruit grew by itself on the tree so it can be taken, but it was planted by someone. Maybe in their belief system it is OK, but not in our society.”

The pig problem

The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.

“This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig’s blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed,” the officer explained.

What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.

“Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it’s a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser.”

This clash of cultures began in the 1980s, when then-President Suharto gave land and incentives to migrants from overcrowded Java to move and open up the jungles of Sumatra.

Since then, vast areas of forests, traditionally home to the Orang Rimba, have been handed out to palm oil, rubber and pulp and paper companies without compensation to the indigenous tribes.

Zulkarnai, a Ministry of Forestry official, who helped facilitate the mass conversion of the Celitai tribe, admits that as a child, he thought the Orang Rimba weren’t human.

“One day a ‘Kubu’ child stole fruit from one of my neighbours, and he shot him. We went over to the body, and I realised it wasn’t a kind of animal, it was a human, just like us.

“I realised that we have to help them. I feel sorry for them. They will starve if they don’t change.”

In the last decades, millions of hectares of rainforest have been cleared in Indonesia, in what some studies call the world’s fastest rate of deforestation.

Polluted land

New palm oil plantations have been increasing at a rate of between 300,000 and 500,000 hectares per year for the past 10 years.

In the last 30-odd years, more than half of Sumatra’s forests have disappeared, replaced by monoculture palm oil plantations.

Sigungang’s family lives on a palm oil plantation. He tries to hunt wild pigs when they come.

“But if we can’t find anything, we are forced to eat palm oil fruit. It makes your head spin,” he says.The streams in the plantation are polluted with pesticide and his family is getting stomach problems drinking from it.

“There is no forest for them to hunt in, the water they fished in and drank from is polluted, and so is the air,” says social affairs minister Khofifah Parawansa, matter-of-factly. “So we are giving them houses, villages to live in.”

The government – working with plantation companies – has built a number of housing estates for the Orang Rimba.

Last year, President Joko Widodo announced more new housing and some land for them, following a meeting with tribal leaders – the first organised by an Indonesian head of state.

Minister Khofifah says faith is part of this process.

“On the identity card, they have to state what religion they have. There are those that have become Muslims, some who have become Christians. So now they are getting to know God.”

But many of the housing estates have failed and are effectively ghost towns.

Without work or a way to feed their family, many Orang Rimba who lived in them briefly went back to the traces of jungle that are left.

“What we want is for them to stop taking away our forest. We don’t want houses like the outsiders,” says Ngantap, one of the elders of an Orang Rimba tribe.

“I am at peace and happy in the forest, I am a person of the jungle.”

Ngantap wears the traditional loincloth of the Rimba people, with a bag of cigarettes hanging from the side.

Unmarried women traditionally wear simple sarongs covering the breasts. Once married, the sarong is tied around the waist leaving breasts open for feeding babies. Many now wear clothes from the outside.

But Ngantap insists they are holding on to their faith.

“It’s wrong to say we don’t have a faith. Religion is a personal right of every person. It’s very wrong to discredit someone’s faith.

“If our belief system is lost, and the gods and goddess have no forest home, disaster will reign.”

Ngantap’s wife Ngerung tell me they are connected to the trees from birth.

“After a baby is born, three trees must be planted, one for the placenta, one for the baby, one for the name. They can never be cut down or hurt. When we walk through our forest we remind people of this.”Mr Manurung explains: “Orang Rimba worship many gods, the tiger [being] one of the most powerful.

“They have a god of bees, a god of hornbill birds, gods and goddesses of many trees. They also worship a god of water springs. They will never go to the toilet or put soap in the river, so you can drink it directly.”

Sacrifice

Miyak, my guide, converted to Islam so he can travel and fight to try and protect his family’s forest.

They are trying to register the forest as their ancestral land, following a landmark 2013 court ruling which said indigenous people have rights over forests they have lived in for centuries.

He can take part in meetings but not in religious ceremonies or rituals. As he now uses soap to wash himself and eats chicken and cows, he can’t enter his family home.

“When I got educated in the outsiders’ ways, there were many things that I had to sacrifice.

“But I accept that, because I am a messenger and bridge for many people here with the outside world and the government, about our forest and rights.”

He still fears the gods and goddesses of the old religion.

“It’s the sacred people – our women shamans – [that] I fear. They can communicate and see the gods and goddesses.

“The shaman can become a tiger, can become an elephant if the gods are very angry, and attack people. I am scared of that. I worry about breaking the rules.”

But Miyak’s greatest fear is that is his people’s way of life will disappear forever.

 

To Watch VIDEO: BBC

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Chiapas: Indigenous Peoples converting to Islam

November 10th, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

In Chiapas, 400 Mexicans are building a new identity by merging their indigenous practices with Islam.

In a corn field in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Salma Palamo Diaz wears a traditional tzotzil skirt. Muslims in Mexico blend their indigenous ways of life with the customs required by Islam.

By Nina Strochlic
Photograph by Giulia Iacolutti

In photographer Giulia Iacolutti’s native Italy, the conversation about Islam revolved around fear and terrorism, but when she arrived in Mexico, she found none of that.

In 2014, a professor introduced Iacolutti to the imam of one of the mosques popping up around Mexico City to host a growing Muslim community. For a year, she embedded herself in their homes, rituals and feasts for a project called Jannah, an Arabic word that represents paradise in Islam.

A group of Sufi Muslims from Spain began building this mosque in the city of San Cristobal de las Casas to house the growing community in Chiapas.

Islam came to Mexico in spurts over the past decades, with immigrants from Lebanan and Syria, and even a group of Spanish Sufi Muslims who came to convert members of the Zapatista revolutionaries in the ‘90s. It caught on quickly. The country now has around 5,270 Muslims—triple what it had 15 years ago, Iacolutti says. An Arabic teacher helps them read the Quran and a scholarship offers a chance to study at a medina in Yemen.

In Mexico, which is largely Catholic, Iacolutti found that having a belief system is more important than following a particular religion. She spoke to Catholic mothers who didn’t want their daughters to convert to Islam, but were pleased when the change inspired a more pious way of life. “In Mexico it’s better to convert to Islam than in Europe,” she says. “They don’t think of terrorists.”

“They want to build identity,” Iacolutti says of the new Mexican Muslims. “What is pleasing about Islam is that it brings practical actions in daily life: You have to pray five times each day. You can’t eat pork and you can’t drink alcohol.” (Read more about progressive Muslim women)

Converts are fueling the growth in Mexico City, while high birthrates and large families spur it on in rural regions.

After a year of living with the community, Iacolutti asked for an introduction to the imams who tended to a rural community of Muslims in the southern state of Chiapas. By merging their indigenous practices with Islam, these 400 converts lived much differently than their Mexico City counterparts.

For one, they tend to blend in easily, since many indigenous women wrap their heads in scarves. “I want to speak my language, I want to put on the indigenous dress, but I also want to believe in allah,” they told Iacolutti.

Eid al-Adha, the “Sacrifice Feast,” is the second of the two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide every year. Tradition dictates they must sacrifice an animal, usually a goat or a cow, in the direction of Mecca.Right:

Long ago, ancient Mayans sacrified humans and extracted their hearts as an offering to the gods.
Photograph by Giulia Iacolutti

But the remoteness makes it difficult to maintain important tenets of their religion. Chiapas is a poor state, and meat that has been butchered in accordance to Islam, called halal, is rare. During one holiday feast, Iacolutti watched as the community sacrificed two cows and immediately brought meat to their Christian neighbors. “One ideal of Islam is you have to help a person that is poorer than you,” she says. “It’s not important if you believe in another god—you are my neighbor and you can eat the same food.”

Iacolutti is an atheist, but she was never once asked to convert. In such a devout country, her subjects seemed unbothered by a nonbeliever in their midst. Once, in a conversation with a Muslim woman in Mexico City she felt a longing for the other’s faith. “I think you have a very rich life because you believe,” Iacolutti told her. “I don’t believe. I see you and think you have a better life.”

The woman scolded her. “You take pictures,” she replied. “Your god is photography and beauty and information. You believe in this. I believe in allah.”

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Indonesian tribe converts to Islam

September 1st, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

Nomadic ‘Jungle people’ become Muslim so they can receive government financial support after their homes were destroyed

Around 200 members of the Orang Rimba tribe in the Batang Hari district of Jambi have converted to Islam. One convert from the tribe, Yusuf Muhammad, said: ‘Thank God, the government now pays attention to us’. But indigenous rights group said they have no choice but to convert as rainforest hunting lands are developed

Pictured: Members of the tribe dressed in loincloths. Not all of the members of the tribe have taken to the new faith, with some clinging on and searching desperately for food in the land once dominated by Sumatran rainforest.

Hundreds of members of a nomadic Indonesian tribe have converted to Islam as their rainforest hunting grounds are devastated by palm oil plantations and coal mines.

The new Muslims changed their religion to capture the attention of the government, which they say ignores their needs.

The Orang Rimba – ‘jungle people – are also hoping to be handed ID cards by officials, which will then entitle them to benefits such as healthcare and education.

Some tribesfolk, however, have remained faithful to old ways and continue to desperately hunt for prey in an area that was once lush Sumatran rainforest.

 

‘Thank God, the government now pays attention to us; before our conversion they didn’t care,’ says Yusuf Muhammad, a convert.

Pictured left: A young girl from the tribe who has not converted to Islam. Right: Another girl of a similar age wearing a hijab after becoming a Muslim. An elder in the tribe said the government might now begin listening to their problems after their conversion

Yusuf’s group converted to Islam, the predominant faith in Indonesia, and gave up their nomadic ways in January in a bid to improve livelihoods that have been devastated by the expansion of palm oil plantations and coal mines into their forest homelands.

 

Authorities insist the move is positive but critics say it amounts to a last throw of the dice for indigenous groups driven to desperation by the government’s failure to properly defend their rights against rapid commercial expansion.

Indonesia is home to an estimated 70 million tribespeople, more than a quarter of the total 255-million population, from the heavily tattooed Dayaks of Borneo island to the Mentawai who are famed for sharpening their teeth as they believe it makes them more beautiful.

But as a nomadic group, the Orang Rimba are a rarity.

The 200 who recently converted in the Batang Hari district of Jambi province – a handful of the approximately 3,500 Orang Rimba – decided to turn to the Muslim faith after being approached by an Islamic NGO, and the social welfare ministry has helped with the process.

Community leader Yusuf conceded the reason they were converting was because food was increasingly hard to find and they were constantly locked in disputes with companies on whose lands they hunt, rather than due to any deeply held beliefs.

The tribesman also said that he and his family – he has 10 children – wanted to get national identity cards, which would allow them access to public services including education and healthcare. Converting to Islam and settling in one location means they can get the cards.

But the decision has meant big changes.

The converts now live in basic wooden huts on stilts and no longer move to a new location every few weeks. They are fully-clothed in items donated by the government and NGOs, having abandoned the simple loincloths and sarongs they wore in the past.

‘It’s nicer living in a village like this, our lives are better,’ said Yusuf, whose old Orang Rimba name was Nguyup.

They have not completely abandoned their animistic traditions however – the tribe believes spirits inhabit the trees and their wavy-bladed daggers – and view Islam as a religion that overlays their own ancient beliefs.

Not all of the Orang Rimba are keen to convert however.

Just a couple of hours drive away, a group of about 300 Orang Rimba live under blue, plastic tarpaulins propped up on sticks and subsist by hunting the few animals they can find amid the palm oil trees.

They move on average three times a month in the hunt for new prey, and every time a member of the group passes away, as required under tribal customs.

Their existence is tough, and they appear skinny and malnourished – but remain steadfastly against conversion.

‘According to our tradition, conversion is not allowed,’ leader of the group Mail, who goes by one name, told AFP.

It is also in part due to superstitious beliefs. ‘We’re afraid if we break our oath, we will be captured by tigers,’ Mail added.

Conversion of tribespeople to Islam is not uncommon in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and the government insisted the change would be positive for the Orang Rimba.

Hasbullah Al Banjary, director of indigenous communities at the social affairs ministry, said it was now easier for authorities to provide for the tribespeople as they were not moving around. He said their traditions would not be eroded.

‘It´s a creative culture which has local wisdom we need to preserve,’ he said.

But indigenous rights defenders insist some tribespeople feel they have no option but to convert.

‘I view this as a result of the state failing to protect them,’ Rukka Sombolinggi, secretary general of leading Indonesia indigenous rights group AMAN, told AFP.

‘They turn to clerics or the church in some areas, because they offer protection.’

In recent decades, Indonesia has lost huge areas of rainforest – the habitat for many indigenous groups – to make way for plantations for palm oil, pulpwood and rubber, as well as coal mines.

Critics say local governments have prioritised making bumper profits by issuing permits for companies to set up operations rather than protecting tribes, who typically have no formal title to areas where they live.

Yusuf said he feels a sense of ‘tranquility’ after converting – but admitted it had not been a quick fix and his group were yet to receive the coveted identity documents.

‘It’s now up to the government – if they care about us they will work on our ID cards,’ he said

Original Article at Afp, click : HERE

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Brazil’s Temer threatens constitutional indigenous land rights

August 3rd, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres on 1 August 2017

– President Temer, influenced by the rural lobby in congress whose
votes he needs to not be tried by the Supreme Court on corruption charges, has okayed new criteria meant to delegitimize indigenous land boundary claims, legal experts say.

– One rule rejects any indigenous demarcation of land where Indians were not physically present on a traditional territory in 1988, which would disqualify many legitimate claims.

– Another allows government to undertake “strategic” public works, such as dams and roads, without indigenous consent, violating the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention, signed by Brazil.

– The administration also introduced a bill likely to be passed by congress that reclassifies 349,000 hectares (1,347 square miles) of Jamanxim National Forest in the Amazon, gutting protections, allowing economic activities — logging, ranching, farming and mining — and legitimizing land grabs there.

Hundreds of thousands of Indians live on indigenous lands in Brazil, but much of that land has never been officially demarcated due to decades of government delay. Now, President Temer’s political maneuvering threatens to shut down the demarcation process in favor of land thieves, ranchers, soy growers, mining concerns, and construction companies with much to profit from Amazon dam and road government contracts.

A storm of protest greeted the 19 July announcement that Brazilian President Michel Temer has approved a recommendation made by the Attorney General’s office (AGU), that federal government bodies should adopt new criteria for setting the boundaries of indigenous land.

Respected lawyer Dalmo de Abreu Dallari, who headed the University of São Paulo’s legal faculty for many years, said that the recommendation was a “legal farce,” with the objective of “extorting from the indigenous communities their right to the land they have traditionally occupied.”

But the bancada ruralista rural caucus in Congress is triumphant. Federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, a leading member of the caucus, celebrated the AGU recommendation, saying in a video circulated on social media that it will lead to a reassessment of more than 700 cases, resulting ultimately in the dismissal of 90 percent of ongoing indigenous territory land claims.

The Civil Office of the Presidency has already returned to the justice ministry 19 indigenous territories, covering 792,370 hectares (3,059 square miles), which were close to completion, saying that the recognition of these reserves is to be reviewed. With the process for recognizing many of the other new territories at an early stage, it is impossible to calculate precisely how much land is involved.

However, if created, the new reserves would undoubtedly add millions of hectares to the 177 million hectares (683,400 square miles), 13.8 percent of the Brazilian territory, that is in indigenous hands. By far the largest share — 98 percent of all indigenous territory — is located in the Amazon, where the reserves prove an effective bulwark against deforestation. The long process of recognizing indigenous ownership is not complete in all these territories, so some of these lands could become vulnerable to reclassification.

The “Marco temporal” debate

The most controversial aspect of the AGU’s recommendation is the introduction of the so-called “marco temporal” an arbitrary cut-off date for land claims.

Under the new measure, Indian groups will only have the legal right to claim traditionally held territory that they were physically occupying as of 5 October 1988, the day the most recent federal Constitution was approved — a date, historians point out, by which many Indian groups had already been forced from their lands.

The concept of “marco temporal” was first adopted by the Supreme Federal Court (STF), when it settled a long, contentious dispute over boundaries for the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous reserve in Roraima in 2009.

The Dilma Rousseff government, with its strong anti-indigenous bent, was keen to make this cut-off point vinculante, a norm to be universally followed for establishing other indigenous territories in the future, and the AGU issued Portaria 303/2012, an order to that effect. However, STF minister Ricardo Lewandowski, in a 2013 ruling, made it clear that the 19 conditions for such settlements — including the “marco temporal” — could not legally be applied to the demarcation of all indigenous lands. This decision, combined with strong indigenous pressure, led to Portaria 303’s eventual revocation.

The rural elite, however, never accepted the high court’s finding. It wanted the criteria, especially that referring to the “marco temporal,” along with another that forbids the enlargement of indigenous territory already marked out, to become vinculante, the norm and extended to all future cases.

Importantly, the AGU’s July recommendation also makes it possible to undertake “strategic” public works, such as hydroelectric dams and roads, without Indian consent. This seems to be a direct breach of the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention, signed by Brazil, in which nations commit to full consultation with indigenous people whenever a public work will affect their land or way of life.

Outcry against demarcation rule changes
Protests against the AGU’s recommendation, particularly the 1988 cut-off date, have been vociferous, despite the huge amount of civil strife already unfolding in Brazil — with landless peasants occupying elite estates, including one owned by the family of agriculture minister Blairo Maggi, and with President Temer’s legitimacy threatened by serious corruption charges.

Journalist Rubens Valente, who has just published a book about Brazilian atrocities committed against Indians during the military dictatorship, called Temer’s July decision “a 50-year setback. It’s as if the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention didn’t exist.”

Well-known forestry consultant Tasso Azevedo, former director of Brazil’s National Forest program under the Lula government, fumed: “Imagine a Polish law that said that the claimant — for example, a Jewish family persecuted during the Second World War — could only get their property back if they were living in the house when it was expropriated? It would be seen as absurd.” He went on: “The AGU recommendation shreds indigenous rights. You want a road? No need to ask. Just go ahead and do it.”

Others point to the tragic predicament of Guarani Indian groups in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. These indigenous people were forcibly evicted from their territories after the state government sold their land to farmers. For years they’ve struggled to regain their territories and many still squat at roadsides, barred by fences from moving back onto their land. But because they were evicted before 1988, the AGU recommendation would negate all claims.

Crizantho Alves Fialho Neto, from FUNAI, Brazil’s federal indigenous agency, says that the ruling ignores the legal standing of indigenous territory: “Indigenous possession of land is different from a landowner’s ownership of land. It is not possession as defined in civil law. It is possession as defined in the constitution.” In theory at least, this means that indigenous rights are “inviolable, exclusive and perpetual.”

Lawyer José Afonso da Silva, a specialist in constitutional law, also questions the validity of the 1988 cut-off date: “the beginning of the legal recognition of indigenous rights was in June 1611 with the Royal Charter (Carta Régia) promulgated by the Portuguese king Philip lll … All other constitutions continued along these lines. The 1988 Constitution just carried on this tradition.” Based on these legal precedents, he says, there is no reason to give that date a special status — unless, critics say, the government’s plan is to deprive indigenous people of their demarcation rights in order to legitimize land thefts that occurred before that date.

Many other legal experts have protested. Érika Yamada, an independent United Nations indigenous expert, says that the recommendation “exceeds all limits of administrative law, because the president is signing a recommendation that is an attempt to legislate, to alter the 1988 Constitution.” She argues that the new measure is unconstitutional and may well lead to challenges in the ILO, the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

Indigenous organizations have already called for a legal counteroffensive. The Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) will be challenging in the courts the legality of actions that replicate the “unconstitutional” conditions established in the Raposa/Serra do Sol case.

These legal challenges may well succeed, but that will take time. Meanwhile, serious damage could be done to indigenous groups. Temer has already said that he expects FUNAI and other government bodies to start implementing the AGU guidance.

The risk of escalating violence
There is another concern: Valente believes that the new criteria could catalyse unrest in the countryside, which is already at record levels: “The Indians want to regain their old lands and they are increasingly well organized.… The AGU recommendation may well provoke violence, as it is telling these groups that the doors are closing for them to get what they want through the justice system or from the executive.” The recommendation could also embolden land grabbers eager to exploit indigenous demarcation disputes, experts say.

Azevedo has no doubt why the president approved the AGU recommendations: “Temer endorsed the ruling for the worst possible motive: to buy political support in Congress so that he won’t be tried for corruption by the Federal Supreme Court.”


Indeed, the rural caucus has made no secret of the role it played in Temer’s rise, and that it could play in his fall. In the already mentioned video, Luiz Carlos Heinze revealed that the AGU recommendation was agreed to in an April meeting between then Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio (a leading member of the rural caucus), Presidential Head of Staff Eliseu Padilha, and Federal Attorney General Grace Maria Fernandes Mendonça. The three made a pact, he claims, that represents “a great advance for all Brazilian [agribusiness] producers who have been feeling frustrated and anxious because of the pressure they have been receiving from FUNAI” to vacate lands they’ve claimed for years.

Experts see the AGU recommendation as just one bargaining chip being used by Temer, an experienced Congressional operator, to make sure he gains sufficient votes in the Lower House to prevent a two-thirds majority from voting that he should be tried by the Supreme Court for the corruption accusation made against him by the Attorney General. That crucial vote is scheduled for this Wednesday. The latest opinion polls show that 81 percent of Brazilians want Temer tried for corruption.

Temer’s environmental concessions
Environmental protection also appears to be an expendable pawn in Temer’s congressional game.

In recent weeks, the president allowed his environmental minister, José Sarney Filho, to introduce a bill to reclassify a large portion of Jamanxim National Forest in the Amazon allowing economic activities within it — including logging, ranching, farming and mining — a dismemberment for which the rural elite has long lobbied, and that would legitimize land grabs underway there for years.

Munduruku (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

The Munduruku have battled for years with the Brazilian government to get their lands formally demarcated, as have many other indigenous groups. Temer’s actions are likely to make that fight more contentious, with an escalation of violence, as the ruralistas are emboldened to oppose indigenous territory claims. Photo by Rebecca Sommer

Previously, Temer planned to achieve this goal via a provisional measure (MP 756), which he himself proposed, but which in the end, he was forced to veto in the face of intense national and international pressure.

Groups at home and abroad are now campaigning hard to stop the newest Jamanxim dismemberment bill, which would reclassify an even larger part of the forest than the original provisional measure­­ –– 349,000 hectares (1,347 square miles). But this time the counterattack may not be as effective, because bills of this kind only require congressional approval and are not subject to a presidential veto.

The runaway power of the rural caucus in congress and within the Temer administration, and the ruralistas growing confidence that they will not be held accountable, is now having serious consequences for the environment, Indians, quilombolas (those living in communities set up by runaway slaves), peasant farmers and other rural inhabitants.

According to Global Witness, more rural and environmental activists have been killed in Brazil than in any other country in the world over the past five years. Moreover, nine out of ten murders occurred in Legal Amazonia, with most in Rondônia and eastern Pará state. There were 47 total homicides in the Amazon in 2016, with 33 in the first five months of this year, putting 2017 on track to be the bloodiest year in recent Amazon history.

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Banner image by Agência Brasil and used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil License.

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VIDEO: “Forced Marriage” the first film created by an indigenous Fulbe Mbororo from Cameroon

July 3rd, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

“Forced marriage” is the first film written, self-funded and produced by an indigenous Fulbe Mbororo,  from Cameroon.
Mbororo pastoralists are using the Fulfulde language spoken in this film across Africa. (French subtitles) Almost the entire crew of actors are from the indigenous Mbororo people.

This is a ground-breaking development!

Click below to watch the film by Amina Adamu:

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150 Jahre Kanada – Kein Grund zum Feiern!

July 3rd, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

Arbeitskreis Indianer Nordamerikas Menschenrechtsarbeit für Indigene Nordamerikas

PRESSEMITTEILUNG

150 Jahre Kanada – Kein Grund zum Feiern!

Kanada feiert am 1. Juli seinen Nationalfeiertag und zugleich das 150-jährige Gründungsjubiläum des Staates. Doch die Ureinwohner, auf deren Kosten und Leben diese Feier geht, haben keinen Grund sich zu freuen. Sie werden bis heute diskriminiert, marginalisiert und ihrer Rechte beraubt.
Als Justin Trudeau 2015 das Amt des Premierministers übernahm, verkündete er, seine Regierung werde die Beziehungen zu den indigenen Völkern Kanadas auf eine neue Basis stellen – in Übereinstimmung mit den Prinzipien der UN-Deklaration der Rechte der Indigenen Völker, welche 2017 ihr zehnjähriges Bestehen feiert.
Trudeau hat sein Versprechen nicht eingelöst. Die indigenen Völker Kanadas leiden unter Armut, Arbeitslosigkeit, dem Trauma der Internatsschulen, Zwangsadoptionen, den tausendfachen Morden an indigenen Frauen und Selbstmorden von Jugendlichen – Auswirkungen des rassistischen und kolonialen Systems einer Gesetzgebung, des Indian Act,die ihnen die grundlegenden Rechte der auch von Kanada unterzeichneten UN-Deklaration
verweigert. Art. 3 der UN-Deklaration besagt: „Indigene Völker haben das Recht auf Selbstbestimmung. Aufgrund dieses Rechts bestimmen sie frei ihren politischen Status und verfolgen frei ihre ökonomische, soziale und kulturelle Entwicklung.“1,4 Millionen Indigene leben in Kanada, d.h. 3,8% der 36,5 Millionen kanadischen Bürger sind indigener Herkunft, doch ihnen sind nur 0,2% des Landes geblieben – immerhin des zweitgrößten Landes der Erde. Auf dieser Basis ist keine eigenständige wirtschaftliche Entwicklung möglich, die zudem durch die rücksichtslose Ausbeutung der Ressourcen –
Kahlschlag, Uranabbau, Teersandgewinnung etc. – durch Regierung und Konzerne verhindert wird. Die Ausbeutung und Zerstörung der Lebensgrundlagen, u.a. durch Pipelines samt einhergehenden Unfällen, aber auch durch die Verseuchung der Gewässer durch Rückstände aus Fischfarmen, Papiermühlen oder Bergbau, steht in eklatantem Widerspruch zur UNDeklaration, die den indigenen Völkern das Recht auf Mitsprache einräumt, auf einen „free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)“ hinsichtlich aller sie betreffenden Entwicklungen. Kanada missachtet sogar Entscheidungen des Obersten Kanadischen Gerichtshofs, der die
(Land-)Rechte der Indigenen wiederholt bestätigt hat. Kanadas Reichtum basiert auf der kolonialen Ausbeutung indigenen Landes und der
Missachtung von Versprechen und völkerrechtlichen Verträgen mit indigenen Völkern. Die Fassade einer weltoffenen und toleranten Gesellschaft bröckelt sofort, wenn es um die Rechte und die Lebensbedingungen der indigenen Völker geht. Kanada präsentiert sich gerne als der
bessere Teil Amerikas, doch bei genauer Betrachtung sind die Verhältnisse viel schlimmer als im Trump-Land: Die kanadischen Indigenen können nicht einmal darüber selbst bestimmen, ob sie als Indigene gelten. Dieser Status ist jedoch nicht nur zwecks ihrer Identität entscheidend, sondern umfasst auch spezielle Rechtsansprüche.
Die Regierung hat Versöhnung und eine neue Politik versprochen, doch eingelöst hat sie nichts davon. So hat Trudeau 2015 eine nationale Untersuchungskommission angekündigt, um die Ursachen der Morde an Tausenden indigenen Frauen zu erforschen, doch bislang erst
eine Anhörung im Mai 2017 abgehalten. Der wachsende Widerstand der indigenen Völker gegen Rassismus und Kolonialismus im 21.
Jahrhundert wurde im Mai 2017 von Amnesty International mit dem „Ambassador of Conscience Award“ ausgezeichnet – eine Anerkennung, die von der Weltgemeinschaft geteilt werden sollte.
150 Jahre nach Gründung des Landes muss Kanada endlich anfangen, den Verspechen Taten folgen zu lassen und genannte UN-Deklaration in allen Bereichen umsetzen.
Arbeitskreis Indianer Nordamerikas: www.arbeitskreis-indianer.at

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Uranium Tailings Spill Commemoration on Navajo Nation, Saturday, July 15

July 3rd, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 28, 2017

Contact: Edith Hood, Red Water Pond Road Community Association
505.905.8051 home, 505.713-4085 cell
Susan Gordon, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, coordinator
505.577.8438 sgordon@swuraniumimpacts.org contact for photos or graphics

Red Water Pond Road Community: 38 Years Since North East Church Rock
Uranium Tailings Spill That Was Never Investigated Nor Cleaned Up

Uranium Tailings Spill Commemoration, Saturday, July 15, 7 am to 3 pm, 12 miles North of Red Rock State Park on State Highway 566 near Churchrock, NM

The Red Water Pond Road Community on Navajo Nation will be hosting their 38th annual commemoration of the 1979 Uranium Tailings Spill that is the largest uranium tailings spill in the United States.

On July 16, 1979, an earthen dam that held liquid uranium waste broke, releasing 1,000 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and more than 90 million gallons of acidic and radioactive liquids into the Rio Puerco. The contaminants flowed downstream through Gallup, NM and across nine Navajo chapters. Several days after the spill, United Nuclear Corporation sent a handful of people out with shovels and buckets in an attempt to remediate the mess. To this day there has been no reclamation, no study to see how far the contamination went and its impacts on local water systems and people’s health. United Nuclear Corporation has not been held accountable for the spill.

The commemoration is part of the first Cross-Border Anti-Nuclear Action, commemorating the uranium spill and the explosion of the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in NM.
https://swuraniumimpacts.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/17.06.27-Press-Release-Cross-Border.pdf

“Let us come together again and share these issues and concerns, collaborate and strategize, to push clean up of these contaminated environments among our Diné people, to restore, preserve and protect our Mother Earth,” said Edith Hood, Red Water Pond Road Community resident. “It is time for our state and tribal governments to stand up and help these impacted communities on Dinetah. There has been enough talk. It is time to take action on behalf of the people.”

The North East Church Rock community are concerned about the uranium contamination legacy that has poisoned Mother Earth, including our sacred waters, land, and livestock. This gathering will provide a venue to discuss and educate everyone about the impacts of uranium mining and milling and about the ongoing work to remove uranium contaminated soil from the surrounding areas to protect our families and environment.

There will be a 7 am walk to the spill site to offer healing prayers. Following the walk people will gather under shade for food, speeches, community education, and a silent auction.

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Video: Mexico’s indigenous minority converting to Islam

May 2nd, 2017 by EARTH PEOPLES

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