Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues Every Week - News

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues For The Week Of June 9 - 15, 2011: Philippines, United States, Peru, Australia, Panama


Philippines: NASSA’s Statement On The Killing Of Agta Leader




With local Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Infanta, we in the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), strongly condemn the murder of one of our advocates for indigenous peoples’ rights in Casiguran, Aurora. Armando Maximino, Chieftain of the Agtas in Sitio Delebsong, Barangay Nipoo was shot dead last May 17.


The suspected perpetrators belonged to the security personnel enlisted by the contesting party that falsely claims ownership of the ancestral domain, even with the reported knowledge of the city mayor, local police, and other officials. Denied burial at his property among departed kin, Armando was instead laid to rest at the site where he took not one but several bullets.


When the Agtas briefly left their vigil at the grave, they returned to find six of their houses burned. Previously, barbed-wire fences were installed around their property by the suspects. When they questioned the move, five members of their tribe were arrested, with some women wounded from the resulting scuffle, but eventually released because there were no grounds to file charges against them. Read the rest of the statement on the killing of the indigenous Agta leader here....


United States: GAO Finds That Smithsonian Institution May Still Take Several More Decades To Repatriate Native American Remains And Objects


The Smithsonian Institution’s process to repatriate thousands of Native American human remains and funerary objects in its collections is lengthy and resource intensive and it may take several more decades to return items to tribes under its current system, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).


This GAO report is the second of a two-part, three-year effort to examine how publicly funded institutions are complying with the two federal laws that direct repatriation to Native Americans. Last year the GAO examined the repatriation work of eight key Federal agencies and the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).


According to the GAO report, Smithsonian Institution: Much Work Still Needed to Identify and Repatriate Indian Human Remains and Objects, examiners suggested that Congress should consider ways to expedite the repatriation process and that the Board of Regent’s consider four administrative changes. Read more on the GAO report and repatriation of Native American remains from the Smithsonian here....


Peru: Landmark Agreement On Amazon Oilfields Shows Indigenous Movements' New Power


When reviewing a story about a recent deal between the government and Indians regarding multinational oil companies in the Peruvian Amazon, the editor of an important national news magazine said the story seemed "bereft of drama" and too full of "insidery [sic] negotiations."


He was right. And that was what made it news.


After having to seize oil facilities, capture airfields and blockade roads and rivers in recent years in order to grab attention and force talks, the Quechua people of Northern Peru this week won a landmark agreement with the regional government of Loreto - a virtual dream sheet, really, considering the decades of neglect - for services and projects in their communities along the Pastaza River near the border with Ecuador. A key feature of the freshly inked "Pastaza Act" is a sweeping investigation of health and environmental impacts that could bolster the Indians' case against Plus Petrol, the Argentinean oil company that they blame for polluting their rivers and ancestral territory for years.


The twist on an otherwise old story was that, after several years of violent protests over resource extraction throughout the Amazon, this group of 18 Quechua Apus, or community chiefs, confidently strode into the government building wearing face paint and headbands, flanked by a team of lawyers, anthropologists and media, and demanded to see the governor. They walked out three days later with a contract for new schools, doctors, and other infrastructure, as well as a government pledge to conduct blood and water tests that could be used as evidence in a possible lawsuit. And, with Gov. Iván Vásquez, they seemed to have made a powerful new friend. Read more about Peru's landmark agreement on Amazon oilfields here....


Australia: Historic Hand Back To Traditional Owners In Central Australia


One of the largest parcels of Aboriginal land in the history of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) has been returned to traditional owners.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard today handed back the deeds to four parcels of land to traditional owners at a ceremony in Alice Springs.


Two of the four parcels - Finke Gorge National Park and Simpson Desert stage 4 - were some of the earliest claims lodged under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.


Simpson Desert stage 4 is a parcel of two pieces of land, which together measure an area of approximately 1,827,600 hectares, making it one of the largest grants of Aboriginal land in land rights history.


This is a historic day for the Arrernte peoples of Central Australia and a milestone in the history of land rights in Australia. Read more about the hand back to traditional Aboriginal owners of the Finke Gorge National Park and Simpson Desert here....


Panama: Dam Construction Threatens Ngobe


Flooding has begun with native population still living near the project site.


Panama’s Ngobe indigenous communities are about to be flooded out of their homes as a large dam begins construction even before they have been evacuated from the area. Community members and international rights organizations are decrying the advancement of construction on the Changuinola River dam, and demanding the local communities be protected.


“It’s simply unacceptable for the Panamanian authorities to allow this area to be flooded until they can ensure all the Ngobe families have safely moved away,” said Sebastian Elgueta, researcher on Central America at Amnesty International in a statement on May 25. “People are still living in the water’s path, and their lives and safety are in danger.” The Changuinola 1 dam, or Chan-75, as it is often referred to, is being built by Panama subsidiary of US-based energy company AES Corporation, which operates power plants around the world. AES Panama, which runs four other power plants in Panama, is planning three river dams on the Changuinola River, near the border with Costa Rica. Read more about the Chan-75 dam in Panama and Ngobe people's struggles here....


Last Weeks Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues can be found here.

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