Saturday, October 18, 2008

Two Economic and Development Programs Run by Native Americans for Native Americans

Native Americans have continued to work towards a variety of goals over recent years, including self-determination, control and management of natural resources, economic dependency, and protection of cultural practices and beliefs. Two economic and development programs that have recently been launched which serve these continuing goals are the Native American Trade Network and the Native American Energy Group.

Native American Trade Network Launched

Aims to Spur Economic Development for more than 500 Indian Tribes

Representatives from several Native American tribes gathered at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on Tuesday, Sept. 23 to announce the launch of the first-ever Native American economic consortium.

Called the Native American Group, initial participants include the Seminole Tribe of Florida; the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, California; the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Oregon; the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, South Dakota; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, North and South Dakota; the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, Washington; the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, California; and the Yankton Sioux Tribe, South Dakota.

The Native American Group will bring the most economically advantaged tribes -- especially those with diverse business interests -- together to leverage their collective buying power to benefit all of Indian Country. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, the consortium has enlisted the support of federal officials to help identify additional tribes to participate in consortium programs.

"Our overall goal is economic development for more than 500 Indian tribes," said Richard Bowers, president of the Board of Directors of the Seminole Tribe. "We want to spread economic opportunity in Indian Country by encouraging more tribes to get into business and by offering more products and services to each other. The consortium offers a ready-made market for tribes with available products or the opportunity to develop them."

  • WHO: Tribal leaders from across Indian Country
  • WHAT: Launch of the "Native American Group"
  • Tribal Trading Consortium
  • WHERE: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • WHEN: Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 11:00 a.m.
  • CONTACT: Michelle Kincaid, John Adams Associates
  • (202) 737 - 8400 or

Native American Group
Michelle Kincaid, 202-737-8400
Weekend phone: 202-577-9545

Native American Energy Group

Native American Energy Group is a publicly traded energy resource development management company. Seven years ago the founders of the Company initiated its current philosophy of commitment and dedication to American Indian Nations who have abundant natural resources but very few opportunities to develop them due to isolationism politics and/or an understanding of the energy industry's lack of desire to lead these nations into becoming producing nations who can explore, produce, and control their own natural resources.

The land that the U.S. Government created on the reservations that they forced Native people onto was for the most part land that was viewed as unneeded by the colonial society. When the non-Native colonial society became increasingly dependent upon natural resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, and minerals for industrial production they found that a lot of the resources they wanted were on the remaining indigenous Native land.

Covering more than fifty million acres in the West, Indian Country encompasses large areas of oil, gas, and other mineral production regions of current exploration activity and many vast areas yet to be investigated in detail. This fact presents unique opportunities for Native peoples.

Applying social and economic measures, along with advanced technology systems that help tribes progress with energy development, the Native American Energy Group is working to help indigenous Native peoples to develop their own mineral, gas, oil, and other natural resources and to use revenue from such resources to implement tribal programs.

Native American Energy Group
108-18 Queens Blvd Suite 807
Forest Hills, NY 11375

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 8-14, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of October 1 - 7, 2008

Russia: Indigenous Peoples Face Hard Times

Ethnic Peoples Populating the Russian North Are Extremely Diverse. But as the economic and cultural pressure to assimilate into the greater Russian population increases, their remoteness makes it ever harder for them to maintain unique identities and traditions.

Fifty thousand people—a number that could easily fit inside many sports stadiums—is the upper threshold for defining an “indigenous small nation” in Russian terms. There are approximately 40 such nations in Russia, according to Professor Igor Nabok of the Institute of Nations of the North at the St. Petersburg’s Herzen State University. These peoples—along with their larger neighbors, such as the Yakuts and the Buryats (both over 400,000 strong)—are mostly found in Siberia, the Far East, and the Far North.

The diversity among these groups is striking. The Paleo-Siberian peoples, such as the Chukchi and Itelmen, are of great antiquity and belong to a language group not demonstrably related to any other. The Khanty and Mansi, two small peoples isolated near the Ob River, are the closest linguistic relatives to the Hungarians. The Yakuts, who occupy some of the coldest territory on Earth in northern Siberia, are in fact a Turkic people. The small Tungusic peoples, such as the Udege and Nanai, are the linguistic kin of the Manchus, who conquered China and gave that country its last imperial dynasty. These nations represent a range of religious traditions—shamanistic, Orthodox, Islamic, Buddhist, and syncretistic (mixing elements of different religions). However, their remoteness from Russia’s Slavic heartland has not saved them from all kinds of economic and cultural pressure; and it’s an open question as to whether they will be able to maintain their distinctiveness.

Nabok said that it is impossible to give an objective scientific answer to the question of these peoples’ long-term survivability. However, many factors are contributing to changes in their situation. It is remarkable, given the forces acting on them in the last century or so that many of them maintain both a strong sense of identity and a dedication to a traditional way of life. Read more about indigenous peoples in Russia here....

Mexico: Marching On the Capital

Dozens of indigenous people walking naked along a main avenue in support of their demand for land, or thousands of stick-wielding teachers blocking main streets at rush hour, are almost daily occurrences in the Mexican capital.

On average, there are 250 demonstrations a month in the city. In the space of a year, an estimated 12 million people participate in protests in this sprawling metropolis with a population of 20 million.

The city government, in the hands of the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) since 1997, refuses to interfere with "legitimate" social protests. The police must only act if there is violence, it says.

From January to September this year there were 2,261 demonstrations in Mexico City, 63 percent of which were protests against the administration of conservative President Felipe Calderón. The rest targeted the city government or private groups, according to reports from the capital's Secretariat (Ministry) of Government.

In 2007 there were 2,932 street marches. But not all of these were protests: nearly 500 were for religious, sporting or cultural reasons, according to reports obtained by IPS from city hall.

The Transport Secretariat (Ministry) at city hall publishes regular alerts about marches in progress, on its website and in the media, so that pedestrians and drivers can avoid areas blocked off by demonstrators.

Lawmakers and residents are demanding some form of regulation of these demonstrations, which cause a number of different problems. There are laws that impose sanctions on those who block main streets or avenues, but they are not enforced.

The city's Law of Civic Culture states that preventing or hampering the use of the public thoroughfare, free circulation of traffic, or the action of persons in any way, without permission or due cause, is a misdemeanour punishable by detention for 13 to 24 hours or a fine of between 56 and 100 dollars.

The law adds that due cause is understood to exist if the obstruction of roads or traffic is inevitable, necessary, and does not constitute an end in itself but is a reasonable means of expressing ideas, association or peaceful congregation. Read more about indigenous people in Mexico here....

India: Continued Military Repression and Human Rights Violations in Chittagong Hill Tracts

The movement of the Jumma indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts started with a demand for self-determination in 1972. It was democratic in nature, but turned into an armed struggle from the late 1970s when the then authorities of Bangladesh rejected the demand and instead advised the then indigenous leaders to "forget their ethnic identity and become Bengali".

The armed struggle which claims, among others, at least 15,000 indigenous lives ended with the signing of the 1997 “CHT Peace Accord” between the Awami League government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS, the political party spearheading the CHT movement. The Accord provides provisions for local self-government, land right of the indigenous peoples, and demilitarization of the CHT region, among others.

The terms of the two democratically elected successive governments led by Awami League and the 4-party Islamic extremist coalition demitted respectively in 2001 and 2007 leaving the key provisions of the Accord highly manipulated and violated, and the military took over power through a silent coup since the mid January this year with a so-called Caretaker Government in place in Dhaka keeping the general elections in the country in abeyance. Read more about the Jumma struggle here....

Peru: Native Groups Hemmed in by Coca Threat

Small farmers from Peru’s impoverished Andean highlands provinces of Ayacucho are moving into indigenous land in the country’s central jungle region to grow coca.

The growing numbers of people occupying land in the traditional territories of Amazon jungle communities are driving away members of the groups, who fear drug traffickers and guerrillas that operate as allies in the area.

The areas that are being encroached upon are along the Apurímac and Ene river valleys, a region known by the acronym VRAE, which comprises the provinces of Ayacucho, Cuzco and Apurímac in southern Peru.

Amidst this explosive mixture of poverty, drug mafias and remnants of the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas, one of the areas affected by the arrival of coca-growing farmers is the village of Shimpenshariato, perched in the remote hills along the Ene river.

The commissioner for peace and development in the central jungle region, Mario Jerí Kuriyama, told IPS that he had received a number of complaints from local indigenous people about outsiders moving onto their land aound Shimpenshariato.

"Many small farmers have come into the central jungle region in the last few years to plant coca because of the higher profit margins it offers. But local indigenous people are opposed to their arrival, as they don't want strangers on their land," said Jerí Kuriyama. Read more about indigenous Peruvian struggle here....

Guam: Testimony - Harmful Effects Of Guam's Colonization

Today, a delegation of Chamorus testified in front of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) in New York City on the question of Guam's continued colonization. For the first time in years, the Committee received testimony from a Guam elected official Senator Vicente Pangelinan prepared a testimony, read by Chamoru attorney Aileen Quan. The rest of the delegation included Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero of I Nasion Chamoru, Craig Santos Perez of Guåhan Indigenous Collective, and Michael A. Tun'cap of Famoksaiyan. The delegates discussed the cumulative adverse impacts of U.S. colonization and the current military build-up, highlighting such issues as environmental contamination, Chamoru displacement, alarming cancer rates, and the infrastructural strains expected from the island's unprecedented population boom—which will make the Chamoru people a minority group in our homeland. The Chamoru delegation will be meeting this week with the President of the General Assembly, UN Fourth Committee Chairman Jorge Arguello of Argentina, and world leaders from the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Virgin Islands to discuss ways to successfully expedite Guam's Chamoru self-determination process.

Guam Senator Vicente Lino Cabrera Pangelinan’s Testimony to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee. Hafa Adai distinguished members of the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) and Chairman, H.E. Mr. Jorge Arguello, Ginen y anti y espiritu yan y man fotna na taotao Guahan na hu presenta este na testimonu, yan u fan libre y taotao pagu. It is from the soul and the spirit of our ancestors that I present this testimony today for the liberation of the people today. Read the rest of the testimony here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Indigenous Peoples Day: Replacing Columbus Day

The idea of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day was not a new one. It was first proclaimed by representatives of Native nations and participants at the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, which took place in 1977 in Geneva, Switzerland. The declaration of this body was applauded and echoed by Native peoples around the globe.

Indigenous peoples and human rights/peace/social justice/environmental organizations were beginning to gear up for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage, 1492-1992, which marked the beginning of the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere and Native resistance to it. While governments were trying to make it into a celebration of colonialism, Native peoples wanted to use the occasion to reveal the historical truths about the invasion and the consequent genocide and environmental destruction, to organize against its continuation today, and to celebrate Indigenous resistance.
Christopher Columbus Explorer
With representatives from 120 Indian nations from every part of the Americas, the all-Indigenous First Continental Conference on 500 Years of Indian Resistance, held in Quito, Ecuador in July 1990, saw itself as fulfilling a prophesy that the Native nations would rise again when the eagle of the north joined with the condor of the south. The conference resolved to transform Columbus Day, 1992, "into an occasion to strengthen our process of continental unity and struggle towards our liberation."
Resistance 500

Upon return, all the conference participants and like minded others began organizing in their communities. A year and a half before the Quincentenary, Indian people of Northern California met at Native American D-Q University in Davis, California, and organized the Bay Area Indian Alliance for counter-quincentennial planning. They resolved to "reaffirm October 12, 1992 as International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples." The final day of the conference was moved to Oakland and was opened to non-Native people. This conference organized a broad coalition to coordinate 1992 activities with Indigenous leadership, called Resistance 500. The Resistance 500 coalition broke down into four committees revolving around different municipalities, planning local activities in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and the South Bay.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area had been chosen by the U. S. Congress as the national focus for the planned Quincentenary Jubilee hoopla, with replicas of Columbus' ships scheduled to sail into the Golden Gate and land in a grand climax (eventually canceled). Berkeley Resistance 500 asked the City Council to set up a task force to make recommendations regarding Quincentenary planning.

After meeting for a number of months, the Resistance 500 Task Force proposed replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

To make the case for changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, the Task Force had to convince the community not only that Native people should be honored with a day, but that Columbus should no longer be honored. The Task Force presented their research which showed overwhelming evidence that Columbus himself took personal leadership in acts that would today be called genocide.
Abolish Columbus Day: Native American Genocide
Columbus planned to conquer and colonize all the Caribbean islands and the mainland. The islands were populated by over a million Taino Indians, peaceful farmers and fishermen. Unable to find enough gold to finance his schemes, Columbus captured thousands of Tainos and shipped them to the slave markets of Spain. The Tainos resisted with fishbone-tipped spears, but these were no match for artillery. Columbus demanded that each Taino pay a tribute of gold dust every three months, under penalty of amputation of the hands. In two years over a hundred thousand Tainos were dead, and the survivors were slaves in the mines and plantations. Columbus personally invented European imperialism in the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade.

Once the Berkeley City Council understood the proposal and that there was wide support for it in the community, they voted unanimously in its favor, declaring October 12th to be commemorated annually as "Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People."

The Council also declared 1992 the Year of Indigenous People (also proposed by Native groups to the U. N., who ultimately gave them 1993 instead), and supported a series of ideas for its implementation in the schools, libraries, museums, arts, and the University.

Finally the City approved the Task Force's proposal to replace the old broken fountain in the park behind City Hall with a new fountain designed as this country's first monument dedicated to Indigenous Peoples. This fountain, known as the Turtle Island Monument, designed by Lee Sprague, Potawatomi, has a life of its own , and the City of Berkeley is currently finalizing plans for its construction, which will include a time capsule buried beneath it containing messages from today's Native peoples, to be opened by the Seventh Generation.

Other municipalities have followed Berkeley's lead, have dropped Columbus Day and have begun to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead, including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, CA. The State of South Dakota, in a related move, also dropped Columbus Day and replaced it with Native American Day.

At first there was some outrage from the large San Francisco Italian-American community, which always came together for an annual Columbus Day parade and reenactment, so felt attacked. But on quiet evaluation of the historical record, the leaders of the Italian-American community decided that Columbus was no hero of theirs either, so requested that the City of San Francisco drop Columbus Day like Berkeley did. However, San Francisco replaced it with Italian-American Day, which is how it is celebrated there today.

Meanwhile, at the request of the world's Indigenous groups and led by Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, the United Nations declared the International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, and declared the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (1995-2005), to address the human rights of the estimated 300 million Native Peoples in more than 70 countries, and to cultivate a partnership between Indigenous Peoples and the international community. But instead of changing Columbus Day, which was seen as too threatening to some governments, the U.N. declared a different day as Indigenous Peoples Day, August 9th.

Holiday not celebrated by Native American tribes

For many, the second Monday in October is known as Columbus Day, a holiday that is often observed by residents making a trip to the post office only to find it closed.

It's not just those needing to send an urgent letter not thrilled with the holiday being officially sanctioned by state and federal governments, some American Indians see it as a reminder of the harsh treatment of their ancestors at the hands of Europeans.

While attitudes about the holiday among American Indians differ, most agree that Columbus Day is not a holiday that reflects the point of view of American Indians.

On Columbus Day, the Cherokee and Creek nations' tribal offices remain open and the day is not observed, while the Osage Nation's and United Keetoowah Band's tribal offices close, but refer to the holiday as Osage Day and Native American Day, respectively.

"Because it's a federal holiday and federal offices are closed anyway, it's the thought of exercising a little tribal sovereignty over what we have a little control over," said Osage Nation Chief Jim Gray. "Indian Country has mixed issues about who discovered whom, and if this is a celebration of who discovered the New World, those of us who had ancestors here before Columbus certainly might be allowed to have a different point of view about the whole thing." Read more here....

Columbus Day Disregards American Indians' Struggles


It's that time of year again when America celebrates its origins with the recognition of Columbus Day, and if you grew up in the mainstream, you probably don't think twice about it. But if you grew up as an American Indian, you do, especially if you know your history. That history tells a much different story than the usual one of a benign explorer who "discovered" a new world, one that would ultimately present vast expanses of uninhabited land for the taking of European settlers seeking liberation from religions and economic persecution. For Indian people, Columbus Day is a day of mourning, a reminder of incalculable loss and unspeakable pain. As Native students here at UNM, we take a stand to reframe this dark day, choosing instead empowerment and a celebration of survival and cultural renewal, and we reclaim it as
Indigenous Day.

As we celebrate our heritage, we also acknowledge that our struggles have never ended. We continue to resist modern colonial efforts to undermine our cultures, our lands and resources, which are threatened continually. We struggle to assert our worldview in a dominant culture, which regularly discredits and attempts to delegitimize our often very different way of thinking and living. Yet we know we have something to say that the world desperately needs to hear, and we cannot be silent. The spirits of our ancestors beat in our hearts and advance unseen upon the land, and honor them we must. It is for them and the ones who yet are to come that we carry on.

Please join us today for our Indigenous Day Celebration sponsored by the Native American Studies Indigenous Research Group and Kiva Club. Festivities begin with a sunrise ceremony on Johnson Field at 6:45 a.m., a breakfast potluck at 9 a.m. at Native American Studies in Mesa Vista Hall, Indigenous theater and poster presentations in the SUB from noon to 1 p.m., a poetry slam in the SUB at 1 p.m., Aztec dancers on Smith Plaza at 2 p.m. and a film festival in Zimmerman at 3 p.m. Share with us the beauty and intelligence of Native America.

Dina Gilio
UNM student

Sign the Petition to Replace Columbus Day

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