Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 17-23, 2008: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of December 17 - 23, 2008

Canada: Climate Change - Arctic Is the Canary in the Coalmine

Nearly 1,000 scientists and representatives of indigenous peoples from 16 countries have braved a major winter storm to share their findings and concerns about the rapidly warming Arctic region at the International Arctic Change conference in Quebec City.

The Arctic is "ground zero" for climate change, with temperatures rising far faster than anywhere else on the planet. Some predict an ice-free summer Arctic in less than five to 10 years -- the first time the Arctic Ocean will be exposed to the sun in many hundreds of thousands of years.

The speed of change has scientists scrambling to understand the impacts on indigenous people, wildlife and ecology.

"The Arctic will be full of future surprises," said David Carlson, an oceanographer and director of the International Polar Year programme office.

"Protected by its cover of sea ice, the Arctic Ocean is the last unblemished ocean on the planet," Carlson told IPS.

The loss of the ice, the thermal blanket that keeps the Arctic region cold, will have huge impacts on the weather in the northern hemisphere. The difference in temperatures between the polar regions and the tropical regions is what drives the planet's weather. A warmer Arctic means storm tracks and precipitation patterns will shift all across the middle of North America, Europe and Asia, he said.

"The extraordinary attendance from all over the circumpolar world illustrates the urgency of coordinating action to face the impacts of warming and modernisation in the Arctic, said Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian research network and host of the International Arctic Change conference. Read more about climate change in Canada here....

Australia: The Big Read - The 2008 NIT Blacklist

2008 was a year of highs and lows for Aboriginal Australia. The high was, undoubtedly, the national apology in February. But the lows were... well, take your pick. The federal government's failure to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its handling of the NT intervention, the NT government's axing of the bilingual education program. And the list goes on. In no particular order, AMY McQUIRE and CHRIS GRAHAM take a look at 101 of the 'less impressive' moments of 2008.

1. In November, NT Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour, who is the most senior Indigenous politician in the country, announced that English would be taught in the first four hours of the school day in bilingual schools, effectively ending bilingual education in the NT. All of the available evidence - both in Australia and internationally - shows that bi-lingual education is the best way to teach children whose first language is not English. The NT government's decision to abolish it will undoubtedly lead to poorer literacy outcomes, and reduced school attendance among Aboriginal students.

2. Federally, Labor promised to make the "protection, preservation and revitalisation" of Indigenous languages a "major priority".

3. Kevin Rudd's sorry speech inspired a nation. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson's speech in reply did not. And nor did the conduct of quite a few of his Liberal colleagues. About 1,000 people listening to Nelson's speech in the Great Hall of Parliament stood and turned their backs on him, including two of Rudd's own staffers. Why? Because Nelson seemed to mistakenly think the day was all about him and his own troubled childhood. He also thought it was about reminding everyone of child abuse in Central Australia.

4. Member for O'Connor, Wilson Tuckey couldn't help himself either. After loudly reciting the Lord's Prayer, Tuckey walked out of the chamber and boycotted the apology.

Read the rest of the NIT list here....

Brazil: Ruling Puts Brazil Closer to Creating a Large Indigenous Reserve

Brazil’s Supreme Court this week appeared to pave the way for the creation of a huge indigenous reserve in the Amazon that is larger than the state of Connecticut but home to only 19,000 Indians.

In a vote being closely watched by environmentalists and by advocates for the rights of indigenous people, 8 of 11 judges on the court voted Wednesday to uphold President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s creation of the Raposa Serra do Sol reserve, which runs along the Venezuelan border in the northern Brazilian state of Roraima.

The reserve would be one of the largest protected indigenous areas in the world. It has set off a sharp controversy over property rights, the limits of government authority and the rights of Indians to their original lands.

The reserve was decreed by Mr. da Silva’s government in 2005 after a legal battle of more more than 20 years. At more than four million acres, it encompasses about 42 percent of Roraima State and is 11 times bigger than the city of São Paulo.

The Supreme Court suspended the enactment of its ruling indefinitely after one judge, Marco Aurélio Mello, said he needed more time to consider his decision. The court needs only a majority to approve the measure.

The suspension seemed to lower tensions that had been mounting in the territory in recent days, as Indians and farmers both threatened violence before the court’s vote.

Justice Minister Tarso Genro sounded a conciliatory note, saying in televised comments on Thursday that the confirmation of a majority of judges was not a victory of Indians over non-Indians, but rather a reaffirmation of a policy meant to protect the rights of Indian communities “without giving up the sovereignty of national territory.” Read more about Brazil's landmark ruling here....

Argentina: Bringing Films and Filmmaking to Indigenous Communities

With the assistance of experts from Bolivia, indigenous communities in the northeastern Argentine province of Chaco are learning how to make films, as a means of helping the rest of the world understand their way of life and the problems they face.

"Just as indigenous people once adopted writing, which allowed others to get to know us, we now want to make use of this new tool to help people learn about us," Juan Chico, a historian from the Qom (Toba) indigenous community in Chaco, told IPS.

"Whites tend to show images that cast us in a negative light," said Chico, who took part in a recent workshop for indigenous people interested in learning about filmmaking. "For example, in the Chaco provincial government building, there are photos of malnourished indigenous people taken without the subject’s permission. Perhaps the aim is to awaken pity. But no one ever shows that there also excellent writers, musicians and artists among us."

The idea arose this year in the Under-Secretariat of Culture in Chaco, one of Argentina’s poorest provinces. The provincial population of around one million people includes 60,000 members of the Qom, Mocoví and Wichí indigenous groups, who have their own leaders and institutions that represent them.

Most of the population of northern Argentina is "mestizo" -- of mixed European and indigenous origin. Read more about indigenous filmmaking in Argentina here....

Mexico: Indigenous Groups Keep Ancient Sports Alive in Mexico

Athletes file onto the field carrying a mystifying array of sporting tools: tree trunks, gourds, dried palm fronds and balls made of woven cornstalk.
These aren't your typical ballplayers.

Instead of jerseys and spandex, the girls wear brilliant white dresses embroidered with purple and red flowers; the boys wear the track suits of yore: loose-fitting pants made of flowing cotton.

Five centuries after the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, soccer is the premier sport of Latin America. But dedicated indigenous groups and aficionados are trying to keep alive the ancient sports of the Americas.

"We have 4,000 years of history in Mexico, and these games connect us to that," said Alida Zurita Bocanegra, president of the Mexican Association of Traditional and Autoctonous Games and Sports . "Globalization is permeating us, and that's why it's so important at this moment to revive the roots that give us identity."

Once a year, supporters of the ancient sports stage an exhibition of games like pash pash, corozo, garabato and kuachancaca. In November, they came to Villahermosa, a humid, lowland capital in southern Mexico's Tabasco state that was once home to the Olmec, an ancient civilization that predates the Maya.

Organizers hope to keep the sports from dying off, as have a number of indigenous languages and traditions in the modern age. Their goal is to teach the games in schools and arrange tournaments among indigenous groups from around the country.
King of the pre-Hispanic sports scene was "ballgame," a fiendishly difficult game played on a court in which a 9-pound rubber ball is moved along with the hip or thigh — something like volleyball without a net.

Once the continent's dominant sport, a version of the game was played by both the Mayans and the Aztecs. Read more about indigenous sports in Mexico here....

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

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Indigenous Peoples Education: News from the World Conference in Melbourne

Shaping the Future of World Indigenous Education is an update on the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education, held in Melbourne last week. This post comes from friend Kevin Rennie over at the Labor View From Bayside blog.

Last week 3000 delegates from around the world shared their experiences at The World Indigenous Peoples' Conference: Education at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. There has been little coverage by the mainstream media and surprisingly little activity in the global blogosphere that I’m aware of.

Carbon Media produced excellent video for National Indigenous TV (NITV) that is available at Black Tracks. Their 5 episodes include interviews with leading keynote speakers and conference delegates. A sample of the video interviews:

Read more about the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education here.

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