Saturday, February 7, 2009

Zapotec Indigenous People Demand Transparency: Oaxaca, Mexico



We kindly request that you publish the present bulletin in your respective means of communication.

Towards the end of 2008, the results of the research project México Indígena (Indigenous Mexico) were handed over to two Zapotec communities in the Sierra Juárez in the form of maps. Research had been undertaken two years earlier by a team of geographers from University of Kansas. What initially seemed to be a beneficial project for the communities now leaves many of the participants feeling like victims of geopiracy.

In August 2006, the México Indígena research team arrived at the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO, S.C.) to present research objectives and garner support to commence work in the Sierra Juárez region. At the time, the team included a Mexican biologist Gustavo Ramírez, an Ixtlán native well known in the area, who was responsible for initially approaching UNOSJO.

Project leader and geographer Peter Herlihy explained the project objectives to UNOSJO, S.C., initially stating that it was to document the impacts of PROCEDE [a Mexican Government program has had on indigenous communities. He failed to mention, however, that this research prototype was financed by the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the United States Army and that reports on his work would be handed directly to this Office. Herlihy neglected to mention this despite being expressly asked to clarify the eventual use of the data obtained through research.
Sierra Juarez Oaxaca Indigenous Land
Herlihy mentioned that his team would collaborate with the following organizations: the American Geographical Society (AGS), Kansas University, Kansas State University, Carleton University, the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). He failed, however, to acknowledge the participation of Radiance Technologies, a company that specializes in arms development and military intelligence.

Although UNOSJO, S.C. participated in some of the México Indígena Project's initial activities, the organization soon ceased participation due to unclear project intentions. The Santa Cruz Yagavila and Santa María Zoogochi communities also ended up feeling the same distrust and they too abandoned the Project. For these reasons, the México Indígena research team localized activities within the San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila communities, both located in the Zapotec region known as El Rincón de la Sierra Juárez.

In November 2008, México Indígena members Peter Herlihy and John Kelly attended a meeting of the UCC, the Unión de Comunidades Cafetaleras "Unidad Progreso y Trabajo" (the Union of Coffee-Producing Communities "Unity, Progress and Work"), held in the community of Santa Cruz Yagavila. They announced the completion of the Yagila and Tiltepec community maps and offered their services to other organization-member communities. They went on to mention that research had been carried out with the collaboration of UNOSJO, S.C.'s own Aldo Gonzalez, a fact that was immediately refuted.

Following the aforementioned UCC meeting, UNOSJO, S.C. began looking into the México Indígena Project. Investigation revealed that México Indígena forms part of the Bowman Expeditions, a more extensive geographic research project backed and financed by the FMSO, among other institutions. The FMSO inputs information into a global database that forms an integral part of the Human Terrain System (HTS), a United States Army counterinsurgency strategy designed by FMSO and applied within indigenous communities, among others.

Since 2006 the Human Terrain System HTS has, since 2006, been employed with military purposes in both Afghanistan and Iraq and according to what we g=have been able to determine Bowman Expeditions are underway in Mexico, the Antilles, Colombia and Jordan.

In November 2008, the México Indígena Project completed the maps corresponding to Zapotec communities San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila. Contrary to the often-mentioned promise of transparency, México Indígena created an English-only web page, a language that the participating communities do not understand. Before the communities received the work, said maps had already been published on the Internet. Furthermore, the communities were never informed that reports detailing the project would be handed over to the FMSO.

In addition to publishing the maps, the México Indígena team created a database into which pertinent information was entered: community member names and the associated geographic location of their plot(s) of land, formal and informal use of the land and other data that cannot be accessed via the Internet.

According to statements made by those heading the México Indígena research team, this type of map can be used in multiple ways. They did not specify, however, whether they would be employed for commercial, military or other purposes. Furthermore, as the maps are compatible with Google Earth, practically anyone can gain access to the information. Yet only community members can decipher information expressed in Zapotec (toponyms), unless, of course, one has the capacity to translate them, as in the case of FMSO linguistic specialists.

UNOSJO, S.C. is against this kind of project being carried out in the Sierra Juárez and distances itself completely from the work compiled by the México Indígena research team. We call upon indigenous peoples in this country and around the world not to be fooled by these types of research projects, which usurp traditional knowledge without prior consent. Although researchers may initially claim to be conducting the projects in "good faith", said knowledge could be used against the indigenous peoples in the future.

We hereby demand that Peter Herlihy honor his promise of transparency and that the Mexican public be made aware all his sources of funding and the institutions that received information on findings obtained in the communities.

We further demand that, in light of these facts, the Mexican Government, firstly the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources for having financed part of the research, as well as the Department of Internal Affairs, the Department of External Affairs, Deputies and Senators for possible violations of the Indigenous Peoples' National Sovereignty and Autonomy, clarify its position on the matter.


The Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO) is a Zapotec indigenous organization, established in 1990 by 26 regional and community-based indigenous campesino organizations in Oaxaca’s Juarez Mountains.

The Zapotecs are one of the largest indigenous groups in the region. UNOSJO works to promote the rights of the Zapotec people and has been the leading organization defending resource rights for Juarez mountain communities, most notably in their work on saving forests from illegal logging, protecting watersheds and access to water and defending collective indigenous land rights.

Use the Search Function at the Top to Find More Articles, Fellowships, Conferences, Indigenous Issues, Book Reviews, and Resources

Friday, February 6, 2009

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Workshop in Indian Country

International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management
444 South Emerson Street
Denver, Colorado 80209-2176
Phone: (303) 733-0481; FAX: (303) 744-9808
E-Mail: Website:

A Workshop on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Indian Country. Designed for Tribal Council Members, Attorneys, Natural and Cultural Resource Specialists and Environmental Protection Professionals and Federal Agency Personnel and Contractors Working in Indian Country March 17-18, 2009 Radisson Hotel Denver Stapleton Plaza, 3333 Quebec Street, Denver, Colorado

Applied to the Colorado Supreme Court for Continuing Legal Education Credit

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) can be an important part of federal agency consultation with Indian tribes. However, effective tribal participation in the NEPA process requires an awareness of the workings and procedural requirements of NEPA, technical expertise, knowledge of the broad range of tribal environmental, social, cultural, health and safety interests that March be affected by federal programs and activities and a strategy that links NEPA responses to other legal and statutory requirements such as the federal-Indian trust doctrine, treaty rights, AIRFA, NAGPRA, etc. This Workshop will provide practical instruction and assistance to inform tribal decision-makers on: the requirements and latest developments in NEPA compliance and litigation; the role of tribal, federal and state regulators in the NEPA process; and strategies to identify and protect tribal interests that March be affected by proposed federal actions.

Preliminary Agenda

March 17, 2009

  • 8:15 a.m. Registration, Coffee and Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00 a.m. Welcome and Introductions: Mervyn L. Tano, International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management
  • 9:30 a.m. Small Group Exercise
  • 10:15 a.m. History and Overview of NEPA: James "Skip" Spensley, Spensley & Associates
  • 10:30 a.m. NEPA as a Tribal Environmental Protection and Development Strategy: Mervyn L. Tano
  • 11:30 a.m. Break
  • 11:45 a.m. An Approach to Identifying Tribal Interests Affected by Proposed Federal Actions: Mervyn L. Tano
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch (on your own)
  • 1:30 p.m. Planning for NEPA: What Tribes Need to Know About Federal Agencies, What Federal Agencies Need to Know About Tribes: Mervyn L. Tano
  • 2:30 p.m. The Environmental Impact Statement: The Process: James "Skip" Spensley
  • 4:30 p.m. Adjourn

March 18, 2009

  • 8:30 a.m. Registration, Coffee and Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00 a.m. Content of the EIS: Making Sure it's Adequate: James "Skip" Spensley
  • 10:00 a.m. Assessing Cumulative Impacts: Mervyn L. Tano
  • 10:45 a.m. Break
  • 11:00 a.m. Tribes as Cooperating Agencies: Issues and Opportunities: Mervyn L. Tano
  • 11:30 a.m. Other Issues including Programmatic EIS, Environmental Justice, etc.: James "Skip" Spensley and Mervyn L. Tano
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch (on your own)
  • 1:30 p.m. Indigenous Approaches to Adaptive Management: Mervyn L. Tano
  • 2:10 p.m. Strategic Approaches to NEPA Requirements: James "Skip" Spensley Mervyn L. Tano
  • 2:40 p.m. Small Group Exercise
  • 4:15 p.m. Adjourn

Workshop Faculty:

James W. "Skip" Spensley is one of the nation's experts on the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) working with its requirements from numerous perspectives including administrative, legislative, judicial, and project development. Mr. Spensley served as staff to the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in 1970 after NEPA was first enacted. He assisted in preparing the first CEQ guidelines on environmental impact statement (EIS) preparation. He subsequently worked with an environmental law firm in Alexandria, Virginia where he litigated NEPA cases.

In 1974, Mr. Spensley worked for a transportation and consulting firm which managed one of the largest urban transportation projects in New York where he was the architect of the EIS for the West Side Highway Project in New York City. In 1975, Mr. Spensley was hired by the United States House of Representatives to act as Legal Counsel to the Subcommittee responsible for NEPA. During his tenure there, he was responsible for writing the first and only amendment to NEPA in 1975.

In 1984, The Marchor of Denver hired Mr. Spensley to manage the preparation of the EIS for Denver's new international airport, the largest land area commercial airport in the world. Between 1989 and 1995, he has consulted with numerous large-scale projects concerning their NEPA requirements including among others the Vail Ski Area Expansion project; the Department of Energy's Technology Integration Program; the E-470 Toll Road Project in Denver; and the Rocky Flats Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement. Since 1995, Mr. Spensley has provided consulting and project management services to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the City and County of Broomfield, the Seattle Port Authority, Will County Illinois on the 3rd Chicago South Suburban Airport project and several private company clients concerning environmental documents related to major transportation and development projects.

Mr. Spensley has lectured on environmental law and NEPA at both the University of Colorado and the University of Denver in the law schools and other graduate programs since 1982. He is the author of the NEPA Compliance Manual for federal managers and author of the NEPA Chapter in the Environmental Law Handbook (Editions 12-16) for Government Institutes. He conducts regular annual national workshops on NEPA and the EIS process.

Mervyn L. Tano

Mervyn L. Tano, Esq. is an attorney and the president of the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the Church College of Hawaii, Masters Degree in Education from the University of Arizona and the Juris Doctor Degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. Mr. Tano has extensive experience working with Indian tribes and includes, as a small sample: assisting the Confederated tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation establish a comprehensive water quality management system; helping the Nez Perce tribe establish the tribal environmental restoration and waste management department to oversee the cleanup of Department of Energy facilities at Hanford; and, advising the Oglala Sioux tribe on solid waste management issues. Mr. Tano has been a member of several national advisory boards including EPA's Federal Facilities Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, DOE Office of Science and Technology's Community Leaders Network, the National Academy of Public Administration's committee on intergenerational responsibility and the National Research Council's committee on priority setting, timing and staging of DOE's environmental management activities. Mr. Tano has written numerous papers, articles and manuals on risk, environmental justice, environmental restoration, technology development, environmental law and radioactive waste management, and has written extensively on tribal strategies for NEPA responses.

Workshop Logistics:

All workshop sessions will be held at the Radisson Hotel Denver Stapleton Plaza, 3333 Quebec Street, Denver, Colorado. Rooms are available to workshop attendees at the special rate of $89.00 (single or double) per night. For reservations, call the Radisson Hotel Denver Stapleton Plaza at 303-317-3500 or 1-800-333-3333. Be sure to mention the "IIIRM NEPA in Indian Country Workshop" and make your reservation by April 20, 2009, to qualify for the special rate.

Registration Information:

Registration Fee: Early registration (until February 28, 2009) is $395.
After that date registration is $450. Tuition includes morning and afternoon coffee service and one copy of the workshop materials. For information on multiple registrations from one tribe, or other information, call the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management at 303-744-9686. Please fill out the registration form and send it and your check or purchase order to: IIIRM, 444 South Emerson Street, Denver, CO 80209-2176; or FAX to: 303-744-9808.

Use the Search Function at the Top to Find More Articles, Fellowships, Conferences, Indigenous Issues, Book Reviews, and Resources

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Social Fabric of Communities in El Salvador Impacted by Mining Company

Shredding Social Fabric

Company promoters "contaminate" communities in El Salvador

by Jesse Freeston

In El Salvador, the residents of one community are feeling the impact of mining long before any ground has been broken. Locals are talking about contamination ­ but not the kind caused by environmental pollutants ­ it is "social contamination" that is tearing apart the village of Trinidad, and a Canadian mining company that is being blamed.

Vancouver-based Pacific Rim operates the most advanced exploration project in El Salvador. Although the project is still in the exploratory stage, they have already spent US$77 million in the small Central American country. Some of this money has been used to hire mine "promoters."

Promoters are local people hired by a company to promote the best interests of the mine. Thus, the company voice comes from the face of a trusted neighbor or community representative, often without the community being aware of the promoter's status as a paid employee of the mine.

A promoter serves a variety of purposes in a community, including encouraging locals to sell their land to the mining company, denying and denigrating legitimate concerns about mining, spreading the company's story about development and "green mining," and sometimes even intimidating those who pose a threat to the company's plans.
Cabanas Region in El Salvador
This scenario has played out in countless mining-affected communities around the world. The resulting divisions and conflicts are what people in the village of Trinidad ­ a village in the gold-rich region of Cabañas ­are calling "social contamination."


Trinidad resident Fermán Menjívar found out that his community was of interest for mining when, "They entered people's lands without the permission of the owners ... they went around breaking fences and cutting barbed wire. We didn't even know who they were." "They" were a team of Pacific Rim geologists, who were hacking up surface rocks for clues to the region's geology.

Trinidad is located two hours by truck from the nearest paved road. When the company first arrived, people in the village knew little about what gold mining would mean for their community.

Distrusting information from Pacific Rim employees, and lacking knowledge of their own, the Environmental Committee of Cabañas organized a tour of the San Martín gold mine in the Siria Valley, in neighbouring Honduras.

A group from Trinidad was on that tour. What they saw and heard in Honduras left them with serious reservations about having a gold mine in their community.

The group returned to Trinidad with stories of rashes and skin disorders that resulted from people bathing or washing clothes in the Honduran river polluted by the mine. Studies, including one by the Honduran government, have indicated dangerously high levels of arsenic and other chemicals in the blood of people living in the Siria Valley.
Pacific Rim Mining in El Salvador
Of all mining's potential consequences, it is the fact that 10 rivers have dried up in the Siria Valley that scares people in Trinidad the most.

Trinidad gets almost all of its water from wells that already often run dry due to a crippling water shortage that is affecting the entire country. In fact, according to the Consumer Defense Center, Salvadorans have the worst access to potable water in all of Latin America.

Through the delegation to Honduras, and the screening of documentary videos about mining by the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, many community members have educated themselves about the potential impacts of mining.

The community is now divided between "those in the know and those with the dough,"­ those who believe that mining will destroy their community and those who are benefiting financially from Pacific Rim.


"Before the company arrived, life in Trinidad was great," Menjívar remembers. "Our whole family used to get together often, along with friends from all over the region. But now my father and I do not speak and my grandparents won't talk to me. All because my father's side of the family is supporting the company. They tell us that we are stupid for fighting."

When asked why his father supports Pacific Rim, Menjívar imitates his father¹s raving about the money and free rides into town he has received from company representatives.

By contrast, Menjívar's other grandfather was one of the community members who visited the San Martín mine in Honduras, and returned urging the village to stop the exploration immediately.

Armed with his grandfather's testimony, Menjívar joined with many of Trinidad's inhabitants to oppose the incursion of the Canadian mining company. When Pacific Rim ignored their opposition and brought in heavy drills to carry out exploratory drilling, the residents unified with those opposed to the mine in neighboring communities to physically stop the machines from entering the region. They occupied the highway on three separate occasions between November, 2006, and March, 2007, in order to stop the exploration.

In response to these direct actions, Pacific Rim put more resources into hiring grassroots promoters to convince the community from within.

Menjívar lives with his grandmother, Luciana Vela, who was unavailable for an interview due to lingering effects of a stroke she suffered after her first encounter with Pacific Rim, two years ago.

Vela's daughter, Edelmira Menjívar, recounts the story in her mother's absence. "Employees arrived asking for permission to enter our land, and my mother refused. Some days later another man returned to explain that 'whether she liked it or not they were going to enter her land.' After that discussion my mother suffered a stroke and lost her ability to speak."
Mining Protests in El Salvador
In response, the company offered money. "They wanted to pay us for what happened to my mother, but we didn't accept any money, we asked them to leave instead."

Pacific Rim did not leave. With the price of gold hovering around $1000 per ounce, Luciana Velas's family was becoming an obstacle because they wouldn't leave their land. That is when, in January, 2008, a member of the community's Board of Directors brought a series of allegations forward against Edelmira Menjívar, including the attempted murder of a board member's husband.

Edelmira's charges came only months after Fermán had 15 accusations leveled against him by a paid Pacific Rim promoter. Despite the promoter's claims at an earlier date that he had no connection to the company, Pacific Rim representatives accompanied him to court.

Although Fermán and Edelmira could not afford legal counsel ­ something the company was likely banking on ­ the Environmental Committee of Cabañas stepped in to provide a lawyer.

Every one of Edelmira and Fermán's charges was dismissed in court due to "lack of evidence." The board member who charged Edelmira resigned from the board after the trial and now, like Fermán's accuser, works openly as a promoter for Pacific Rim in the community.


A short walk from Fermán and Edelmira¹s house stands the home of José Santos Rodriguez, a corn and bean farmer. Santos lives here with his wife Dora and their six children.

"We were good friends; we used to go fishing together in the Lempa river," says Santos. He is talking about his relationship with Oscar Menjívar. Oscar is Santos' neighbor, Fermán and Edelmira's cousin, and a paid promoter for Pacific Rim. "The problem started when the miners arrived," he says.

Three weeks prior to the June, 2008, interview with Santos, Oscar attacked his lifelong friend Santos with a corvo (small machete), cutting off two of his fingers and making it nearly impossible for Santos to provide for his family.

When the memory becomes too difficult for Santos to continue, Dora takes over. "[Santos] came home and told me that Oscar had attacked him... there was blood everywhere."

Ramiro Rivera, President of Trinidad's Community Board, explains the reason for the attack. "Santos went to Honduras and told us all about the situation

"For that, his life was threatened, and for that, they almost killed him."

Ramiro claims to have received death threats as well. "We all do," he says. "You have people coming up to you saying that ŒI heard something bad is going to happen to you if you continue, but you will be fine if you support the mining. And you know they are for real because of what they did to Santos."

Santos tells me that when Oscar approached him, weapon in hand, Santos said: "We have the right to defend our environment. This country is so small and it deserves our respect." According to Santos, it was then that Oscar attacked.

With her husband bleeding profusely and without access to a vehicle, Dora called the police to bring Santos to the hospital.

Santos believes that what happened next was evidence of the pervasiveness of the mining company's influence.

"They brought me there as a victim," Santos recounts. "But once we arrived they handcuffed my arm to the bed, as if I was the bad guy." The police never formally put Santos under arrest nor informed him of his rights, illegally detaining him under Salvadoran law.

In contrast, Oscar was released after three days and had his assault case thrown out for "lack of proof." Santos was never approached to testify.

Although Santos does not excuse Oscar's actions, he repeatedly says "It is Pacific Rim who is responsible for this, because Oscar and I were great friends before they arrived. They are the source of all of this."

After recounting a series of harrowing tales from his visit to Honduras, Santos points to Cerro Pelón, a hill less than one kilometre away and one of the potential mine locations being considered by Pacific Rim.

"These people [promoters] go around dividing families, siblings, mothers and fathers. They don't care how much we lose, they get their cheque at the end of the month and with this they are happy for now, because they have no idea that they will contaminate this country."

To some, it appears that they already have.


Just one week after these interviews were conducted 18-year-old José Dolores Velasco committed suicide after his family threw him out of the home. He wasn't thrown out for coming home too late or using drugs, but for joining the Environmental Committee of Cabañas in their campaign against Pacific Rim.

Jesse Freeston is a freelance journalist whose upcoming documentary project, ¡Fuera!, deals with the ongoing confrontation between Canadian mining companies and communities in El Salvador.

Use the Search Function at the Top to Find More Articles, Fellowships, Conferences, Indigenous Issues, Book Reviews, and Resources

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

January 28-Feburary 3, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of January 28, - February 3, 2009

International: Stateless Peoples Defend Diversity at World Social Forum

The immense diversity of peoples was apparent at the World Social Forum (WSF), which ended Sunday in Belém, the capital of the state of Pará in the Brazilian Amazon region.

The presence of 1,900 indigenous people representing 190 ethnic groups as well as 1,400 Quilombolas (people of African origins living in traditional communities) was conspicuous among the 133,000 participants from 142 countries. They had their own tents, discussions and celebrations at the event.

For the first time, there was also a tent for the Collective Rights of Stateless Peoples, initiating a reflection at the WSF about a "radical democracy" that upholds the self-determination of peoples, said Arnau Flores, a Catalonian journalist responsible for communication at the Escarré International Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN).

A map showing 32 of these peoples-without-states was displayed in the tent, but "there are many more," Flores told IPS. Some are well-known - like the Palestinians, Basques, Roma, Kurds, Tibetans and Saharawi. Others are seldom thought of in this context, like the South American Mapuche and the Australian Aborigines.

More than 20 organizations of such peoples took part in the activities organized by CIEMEN, with discussions ranging from strategies for emancipation and building their own institutions, to topical questions linked to the main themes of the WSF - such as the crisis of civilization and globalization.

The seeds of a global network of "stateless peoples" claiming their collective rights were sown at this WSF, aiming at a new kind of decolonization and running counter to the "idea of the imperialist nation-state" as the only institution possible in the world, said Quim Arrufat, a Catalonian political scientist in charge of CIEMEN's international relations. Read more about the World Social Forum here....

Australia: Protesters Storm High Court Over NT Intervention Ruling

About 50 protesters have invaded the High Court in Canberra to protest against its decision to reject a legal challenge to the Northern Territory Intervention.

The High Court has ruled against the group of Indigenous leaders from Maningrida in the Northern Territory who argued the takeover of their community was not constitutional.

Dozens of protesters angered by the decision have stormed the building, chanting slogans and waving banners.

About 12 of them scuffled with police and at least one protester has been arrested.

After about 20 minutes protesters left the building and staged another impromptu protest in the courtyard of the High Court.

They said the High Court has trampled on the rights of Indigenous people and many say they will not move until the decision is reversed.

Northern Territory Indigenous elder Barbara Shaw says the protesters are angry that the Court has helped the Government steal Aboriginal land. Read more about the Australian protests here....

International: Tourism and Its Impact

Social movements and tourism watchdog groups from around the world met in the Brazilian Amazon last week to discuss the damage done by predatory neoliberal capitalism and the proliferation of megaresorts and real estate developments along the coastlines of tropical poor countries.

Under the theme "Another Tourism is Possible", dozens of tourism non-governmental organizations and social activists convened at the World Social Forum (WSF 2009) between Jan 27 and Feb 1 to help the travel and tourism industry learn from its mistakes and seek alternative paths to sustainable tourism development.

A main theme of WSF 2009 was the impact on indigenous peoples whose mobilization was said to be the largest in the WSF history, according an announcement by the organizers.

Around 27% of the Amazon territory across nine countries is composed of indigenous lands and 10% of the Latin American population (around 44 million people) is composed of 522 original peoples.

They argue they are being pushed out by the expansion of transnational corporations that mine, drill for oil, build hydroelectric plants and wood mils, conduct agribusiness and tourism, among other projects.

This and the world campaign in defense of Earth was on indigenous peoples' agenda during the WSF, according to a statement.

The venue of WSF 2009 was Belem, capital of the Brazilian state of Para, considered the most important gateway to northern Brazil. It is the biggest city in the Brazilian Amazon with about 1.5 million inhabitants. Read more on the impacts of tourism for indigenous peoples here....

Taiwan: Government Working to Reduce Alcohol Abuse Among Indigenous People

The government will continue promoting its policy to help reduce alcohol abuse among the country's aboriginal people, after initial signs of progress in this area, said officials at the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples Sunday.

Last year, 12 of the more than 30 aboriginal townships across the country joined the council's efforts and succeeded in bringing down alcohol use among their residents to 53.1 percent, an average reduction of 7.6 percent compared to the 2007 ratio, said Council Minister Chang Jen-hsiang.

Chang called for greater participation by indigenous people in her council's efforts so as to help decrease the number of injuries and accidents among them resulting from alcohol use and to take better care of their health.

The mortality rate among Taiwan's aboriginal peoples is four to five times than that of the rest of the population, and the leading causes of death among the indigenous people are malignant tumor, liver diseases and accidents -- all of which are closely related to alcohol abuse, Chang said. Read more about alcohol and indigenous people in Taiwan here....

Dominica: Eight Million Dollar Project for Dominica's Indigenous People

An $8.7 million capacity building project, launched in the Carib Territory of Dominica on January 27, is expected to provide several benefits for the Kalinago people.

The project was first submitted to the Caribbean Development Bank in 2005; however, due to the country’s fiscal conditions at the time, the proposal was deferred to mid-2007. The project has been designed with a high level of flexibility in order to respond effectively to the needs of the Kalinago people.

The primary objective of the project is to enhance the capability of residents and institutions in the Carib Territory. A Steering committee has been set up to plan and manage the development interventions and to provide basic infrastructure support systems for income generation.

Chairman of the Project Steering Committee, Dr Charles Corbette, said that the project will address many issues in the Carib Territory, including the management of several important projects.

“The capacity building project will see the construction of a new road from the Salybia Catholic Church to the Kalinago Barana Aute as well as a link road from the Horseback Ridge Road to the hamlet of Concord. In addition, resource centers will be built in St Cyr and Bataca and the project will also include the rehabilitation of the existing road from the Carib Council Office to the end of the Horseback Ridge Road. Dr Corbette highlighted some of the many benefits that can be derived from these projects,” said Charles. Read more about Dominica indigenous people here....

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

Use the Search Function at the Top to Find More Articles, Fellowships, Conferences, Indigenous Issues, Book Reviews, and Resources

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Indigenous Chin People Suffer in Burma According to Human Rights Watch

Burma's military government should end human rights abuses against the ethnic Chin population in Burma's western Chin state, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch also called on the Indian government and newly elected Mizoram state government to extend protection to Chin who have fled to neighboring India to escape ongoing abuses and severe repression in Burma.

In the 93-page report, "'We Are Like Forgotten People': Unsafe in Burma, Unprotected in India," Human Rights Watch documents a wide range of human rights abuses carried out by the Burmese army and government officials. The abuses include forced labor, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, religious repression and other restrictions on fundamental freedoms. In Mizoram state, India, Chin people remain at risk of discrimination and abuse by local Mizo groups and local authorities, and of being forced back across the border into Burma.
Indigenous Chin People in Burma
"For too long, ethnic groups like the Chin have borne the brunt of abusive military rule in Burma," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "It is time for this brutal treatment to stop and for the army to be held to account for its actions. India should step forward to protect those desperately seeking sanctuary."

This detailed report is based on extensive research carried out from 2005 to 2008. Human Rights Watch conducted about 140 interviews, some with Chin currently living in Chin state, but who cross the border to Mizoram for trade. Others interviewed have fled the country permanently, most in recent years. It provides a rare glimpse into the plight of Burma's "forgotten people."

Burma's military government regularly arrests and imprisons ethnic Chin to stifle political dissent and intimidate them. The army places restrictions on many aspects of life for the Chin, including: curtailing their freedom of movement; regularly confiscating and extorting money, food, and property; exacting forced labor, and coercing them to plant certain crops. One Chin man told Human Rights Watch, "We are like slaves, we have to do everything tells us to do."

"We Are Like Forgotten People" also documents abuses committed by the opposition Chin National Front and its armed branch, the Chin National Army, such as harassment, beatings and extortion from Chin villagers. One Chin church leader now living in Mizoram said, "These underground groups, rather than being a help, make life even more difficult for us." Human Rights Watch called on both the Burmese army and armed groups to end abuses, and for Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to Chin State.

Chin farmers and their families regularly are forced to leave their fields to porter goods for the Burmese army, build roads, and construct army barracks, sentry posts, and other military buildings. This undermines the ability of Chin people to survive in one of Burma's poorest states, particularly in areas suffering food shortages and famine caused by a massive rat infestation. The Burmese government's aid restrictions hamper humanitarian agencies trying to provide relief to populations at risk.

"The famine in Chin state is a natural disaster, and aid restrictions and demands for forced labor are only making the situation worse," said Pearson.

Abuses have led tens of thousands of Chin to flee Burma, with many crossing the border to neighboring Mizoram state in India without documents. But local voluntary organizations and government officials in Mizoram have at times forcibly evicted Chin and returned them to Burma.

This violates India's obligations under international law not to return people to a country where their lives or freedoms could be threatened, or where they could be at risk of persecution. Although many of the Chin who flee Burma would qualify as refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is barred from accessing the Chin population living along the border, so only those who make the 2,460 kilometer trek to UNHCR's office in Delhi can file their claims. India is not a party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees but it has signed the Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
Indigenous Ethnic Chin People of Burma
Chin who manage to remain in Mizoram also face religious repression and severe discrimination in access to housing and education.

Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to protect Chin asylum-seekers and refugees, and to give UNHCR access to Mizoram state to register them. On December 2, 2008, Mizoram state elections resulted in a sweeping victory for the Indian National Congress, the country's governing party, which has not been in power there for a decade. In the past, members of Mizoram's Indian National Congress have called for action against Chin migrants and have been even less sympathetic than the previous state government to the plight of those fleeing human rights abuses in Burma.

"Instead of ignoring the plight of the Chin, the Indian government should protect them and prevent any actions or initiatives to forcibly return them to Burma," said Pearson, "It will be a test for the new state government of Mizoram to address ongoing discrimination against the Chin."

The report also calls on members of the international community such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United States and the European Union to increase humanitarian assistance to Chin state, provided it can be delivered without unnecessary interference from Burma's military government, and to strengthen targeted sanctions if Burma does not meet specific human rights conditions.

"The Chin are unsafe in Burma, and unprotected in India, but just because these abuses happen far from Delhi and Rangoon does not mean the Chin should remain 'forgotten people'," said Pearson. "ASEAN, the EU and the US should tell Burma and India that it long past time for these abuses to end."

*Selected accounts from ethnic Chin interviewed for the report*

"The army has called me many times to porter, more than 10 times. When I cannot carry their bags, they beat me. get angry and slap us and kick us. They tell us to go faster. Normally, I'd have to porter for two to three days. It's not possible to refuse. One time I tried to refuse to go because I was so tired and the things we are made to carry are very heavy. When I tried to refuse, they beat me. They said: 'You are living under our authority. You have no choice. You must do what we say'."
– Chin woman from Thantlang township, Chin state, Burma

" beat me with a stick and they used the butt of their guns. They hit me in my mouth and broke my front teeth. They split my head open and I was bleeding badly. Repeatedly, they hit me in my back with their guns. Because of this, my back is still injured and I have trouble lifting heavy objects. They also shocked me with electricity. They had a battery and they attached some clips to my chest. They would turn the electricity on and when I couldn't control my body any longer, they switched the battery off. They kept doing this for several hours. They did the same thing to the pastor's son. They told me they would only stop beating us when we told them information about the CNA . We kept telling them we didn't know anything."
– A Chin man from Sagaing division, Burma, describing how the police arrested, tortured, and detained him for three days after being accused of having affiliations with the Chin National Army

"Many times the SPDC force us to give them our chicken or rice. They come and ask for these things. If we don't give it freely to them, they just take it. They will kill our chickens in front of us and take it all."
– An 18-year-old girl from Matupi township, Chin state, who left Burma in

" take advantage of our position and demand money, threatening that if we don't pay up they'll inform the police or the YMA . There are some Mizos who simply just hate the sight of us and challenge us or threaten to beat us up. Life is hell for us. We cannot protect ourselves, as this will cause further furor. We have to just make ourselves seem small and avoid these dangers. To be Burmese is to face discrimination."
– Chin woman living in Mizoram, India

Human Rights Watch Press release
W A Laskar
Freelance Reporter and Human Rights Activist
with Barak Human Rights Protection Committee,
15, Panjabari Road, Darandha, Six Mile, Guwahati-781037, Assam, India
Cell: +919401134314

Use the Search Function at the Top to Find More Articles, Fellowships, Conferences, Indigenous Issues, Book Reviews, and Resources

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Multiculturalism and Ethnic Minorities in the Americas: Call For Papers

The objective of the Forum is to explore from a multidisciplinary viewpoint the presently growing ethnic diversity, multicultural and pluricultral practices in the Americas, and the response to the multicultural phenomenon through public policies. We will concentrate on the debates revolving around cultural and political rights of ethnic minorities, the social construction of ethnic and racial identities, the relationship between governments and ethnic minorities, and the public policies designed in order to resolve social conflicts produced as a result of the multiple cultures that constitute multicultural and pluricultural societies.

The panels will be organized according to the following themes:

  • Multiculturalism, ethnic minorities, and political representation.
  • Democracy and human rights.
  • Integration policies and cultural diversity.
  • Majority nationalities in Pluricultural States.
  • Indigenous peoples: inclusion, exclusion, and marginalization.
  • Multicultural citizenship.
  • Double marginalization: ethnicity, race, and multiculturalism.
  • Interculturality and multiculturalism.
  • Cultural identities.
  • Ethnic immigrant minorities.
  • Afroamerica: The third root.
  • Globalization and multiculturalism in the Americas.
  • Minorities and majorities: Ethnic and racial relations.
  • New minorities in the Americas.
  • Immigration and cultural diversity in contemporary Mexico.

Proposals and papers

Please submit a one-page abstract for a 20-minute (7-10 pages) presentation no later than February 13, 2009. Panels will include three presenters. Each one will have 20 minutes to read or present his/her paper. There will be 10-minutes for discussion.

Submit the following information:

  • Title of paper
  • Name/s of Author/s
  • Institution
  • Postal and e-mail addresses
  • Telephone number
  • Key words

The acceptance or rejection of proposals will be notified by March 13, 2009. Those whose proposals are accepted must confirm their participation via e-mail until, at the latest, April 24th, 2009, for their names to appear in the Forum’s program. The proposal’s abstracts will be published in the Forum’s website

Those interested in publishing their work should send a revised manuscript for a book entitled Multiculturalismo y Minorías Étnicas en las Américas. The manuscript should be in Spanish. The deadline for manuscript submission is March 30th, 2009. The essay should not be longer than 25 pages (including tables, graphics, annexes, and bibliography), Arial font, letter size 12, margins 2.5 cm., double space. The papers for publication will be reviewed by an evaluating committee. Only the accepted proposals will be subject to the evaluation for publication.

The list of accepted papers and the participants on each panel will be available in the forum’s website: by the end of April.


The cost of registration for the Forum is 250 Mexican Pesos for presenters and 100 Mexican Pesos for students and the general public. Registration includes free access to the exhibitions, a certificate of participation, the Forum’s poster and proceedings.

Registration will start on May 21st, 2009 at 8:00 a.m. at the University of Colima (the Specific place to be announced later).

The e-mail address for sending papers and manuscripts as well as for further information is:
Dr. Adriana Cruz Manjarrez
Center for Social Research
University of Colima
Ave. Gonzalo de Sandoval 444
Colima, Col. 28040
Phone: 52-312-316-1127
Fax: 52-312-316-1127
Visit the website at

Use the Search Function at the Top to Find More Articles, Fellowships, Conferences, Indigenous Issues, Book Reviews, and Resources

Contribute to Indigenous People's Issues Today

Do you have a resource on indigenous peoples that you would like to share? Indigenous People's Issues is always looking for great new information, news, articles, book reviews, movies, stories, or resources.

Please send it along and we will do a feature. Email it to the Editor, Peter N. Jones: pnj "at"

Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources

Privacy Policy for Indigenous Peoples Issues Today (

The privacy of our visitors to Indigenous Peoples Issues Today is important to us.

At Indigenous Peoples Issues Today, we recognize that privacy of your personal information is important. Here is information on what types of personal information we receive and collect when you use visit Indigenous Peoples Issues Today, and how we safeguard your information. We never sell your personal information to third parties.

Log Files

As with most other websites, we collect and use the data contained in log files. The information in the log files include your IP (internet protocol) address, your ISP (internet service provider, such as AOL or Shaw Cable), the browser you used to visit our site (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox), the time you visited our site and which pages you visited throughout our site.

Cookies and Web Beacons

We do use cookies to store information, such as your personal preferences when you visit our site. This could include only showing you a pop-up once in your visit, or the ability to login to some of our features, such as forums.

We also use third party advertisements on Indigenous Peoples Issues Today to support our site. Some of these advertisers may use technology such as cookies and web beacons when they advertise on our site, which will also send these advertisers (such as Google through the Google AdSense program) information including your IP address, your ISP, the browser you used to visit our site, and in some cases, whether you have Flash installed. This is generally used for geotargeting purposes (showing New York real estate ads to someone in New York, for example) or showing certain ads based on specific sites visited (such as showing cooking ads to someone who frequents cooking sites). Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on this site. Google's use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to users based on their visit to sites on the Internet. Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the Google ad and content network privacy policy.

You can chose to disable or selectively turn off our cookies or third-party cookies in your browser settings, or by managing preferences in programs such as Norton Internet Security. However, this can affect how you are able to interact with our site as well as other websites. This could include the inability to login to services or programs, such as logging into forums or accounts.

Thank you for understanding and supporting Indigenous Peoples Issues Today. We understand that some viewers may be concerned that ads are sometimes served for companies that negatively depict indigenous peoples and their cultures. We understand this concern. However, there are many legitimate companies that utilize Google Adwords and other programs to attract visitors. Currently, we have no way of deciphering between the two - we leave it up to the viewer to decide whether the companies serving ads are honest or not.