The Whanganui River, New Zealand. Photo: Pinterest
In mid-March of this year, New Zealand officially recognized the Whanganui River as a living entity with rights. The river, which the Maori consider their ancestor, is now offered protection through the New Zealand legal system against any human or human-led project that threatens its well-being. It is a critical precedent for acknowledging the Rights of Nature in legal systems around the world.
The communities seeking protection for their natural entities through this approach are operating from a non-Western, often indigenous paradigm that holds a spiritual reverence to homelands and natural systems and an urgency to protect their natural resources. These values are not held in the laws of colonial governments like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or the United States. But that does not mean they cease to exist, and, in fact, we are seeing a revival. Continue reading →
The O’Odham nation lives on both sides of the US-Mexican border, and for that they are persecuted.
By Ophelia Rivas and Neil Howard. Published 8-28-2017 by openDemocracy
My name is Ophelia Rivas, but my family knows me as Ilya. You know, the place where I come from is beautiful land. We’ve lived there for centuries and we have a way of life that we’ve followed for all those years. We continue parts of it right now, but the political effects that are imposed on our people because of these borders are greatly impacting our people.
After 9/11 the world discovered that there was the O’Odham nation, which is the second largest reservation in the United States after the Navajo. These reservations are considered concentration camps of the indigenous people in the United States. Our traditional lands are divided into different political boundaries. Less than one-third of our lands are now cordoned off, like a concentration camp. Continue reading →
“We are fighting for our lands, for our water, for our lives,” Jakeline (right), who has received death threats for protesting mining in Colombia, told Global Witness for the report. (Photo: Global Witness)
Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week.
Defenders of the Earth, released by U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade. Continue reading →
Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction.
These are the words of Berta Cáceres, the community organizer, human rights defender, environmental activist, indigenous Lenca woman, leader and rebel who was shot dead one year ago, on March 3, 2016, by unidentified gunmen at her home in La Esperanza, the capital city of the department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.
Berta was a co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), an organization fighting neoliberalism and patriarchy in Honduras and working for respect of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in particular. She was a long-term opponent of internationally funded exploitative development projects in indigenous territories in Honduras, such as the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, set to be built on the territory of the Lenca people in the Río Blanco. Continue reading →
“Law enforcement agents seemed to be enjoying what they were doing.”
Sacred Stone Camp Flags of Nations, North Dakota
This Occupy World Writes Exclusive Report written by Carol Benedict.
On October 27, mass arrests were made of 83 people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). When Davis Gonzalez heard about it, he decided to do something. He knew he had 4 days away from work in which he could get there, find his clan, and see how he could help. He and Shaw Day, a Bois Forte, Ojibwe tribe member, along with their daughter, left Minneapolis for an incredible journey.
Before they even reached Sacred Stone Camp, they got word that 49 of the people arrested were being released from jail – 200 miles away from where they had been arrested at. Davis and Shaw decided to go directly to that location to see if those being released had immediate needs and contact with their families.
What they saw at the law enforcement facility was quite unique. The North Dakota courts would not release any of the people until Saturday morning, after businesses were closed for the week, and demanded cash only with no bonds. Each person released had to have $1,500 cash paid on their behalf. Once that had happened, no effort was made to put the person released back where they came from – they were on their own with nothing.
The most concerning to everyone that had been arrested was the observation that the “out of state law enforcement officers seemed to be enjoying what they were doing to us,” one of them told Davis. They were placed in cages, similar to dog kennels, clad only in underclothes and left that way for long periods of time. Access to toilets, medical assistance and water were denied.
Supporters rallied for the cause, and a bus was supplied to take some of the people back to the camps. Davis and Shaw took two young women with them and headed back to Sacred Stone Camp.
By the time they got back, the roads were all closed going into the camps. They drove around until finally parking outside the camps and trying to rest in their vehicle. When morning arrived, they were able to find their clan and talk with other water protectors.
They observed that within the camps, the youth wanted to do something; march, dance, any activity. The elders, however, were encouraging conversation and reflection. The sense of spirituality was prevalent. Everyone there was there for the same reason, driven by the same compelling force that this was something far bigger than any of them as individuals will ever be.
The following things were also noticed and discussed:
Internet inside the camps has been blocked.
A no-fly zone has been placed over the area to prevent news crews from filming any actions on the ground
After the no-fly zone was enacted. law enforcement destroyed the camps
Possessions returned to the camps were smashed, destroyed and thrown in a pile like a heap of garbage
Cars that were impounded by law enforcement had the oil drained out of them and mechanical sabotage was performed on steering columns and engines
North Dakota is the 1st state in the country to legalize use of weaponized drones
Jack Dalrymple, Governor of North Dakota, has financial interests in DAPL
Remember that the original route for this pipeline went through Bismarck. When the people of Bismarck rejected the plan because they were concerned about the pipeline poisoning their water, the pipeline was re-routed through land belonging to Native Americans through a treaty that remains in effect, and was forced on them under eminent domain laws, even though all 5 of the criteria for meeting eminent domain requirements had not been satisfied.
What should concern us all though is the utter disregard shown by the authorities for the rights and well being of the residents of Standing Rock, as well as the people who’ve gathered to support them. As winter approaches and no resolution presenting itself, the water protectors have vowed to stay. Meanwhile, the world watches as our government continues to violate the treaties it made with the original inhabitants of our country. We as a people need to tell the authorities that their callousness and greed are not OK; that as human beings we have to do better by our fellow man or woman than this.
A prominent Honduran leader of a rural land rights movement was killed on Monday night in what supporters claim was an assassination organized by wealthy landowners.
Jose Angel Flores, president of the Unified Campesinos Movement of the Aguan Valley, or MUCA, had been under police protection since March, teleSUR reported, after the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights ordered the Honduran state to protect him from death threats in 2014. Continue reading →
Today, March 8, 2016, is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Pledge for Parity” and will be recognized around the world as women gather in discussion, workshops, rallies and through outreach programs to not only celebrate the achievements of women in the past, but to also encourage future endeavors and accomplishments.
Pledge For Parity. We thought throughout the last year about who, while aligning with the mission and values we hold to, best represented the struggle of fighting for equality, be it gender, nationality, economic or ethnic in orientation. The goal with this year’s theme is to raise global awareness and bring women center-front in roles of governance, leadership, employment and opportunities in education. Efforts are also being made to eliminate gender-specific issues such as child brides, female genital mutilation, honor killings and other forms of female oppression and dehumanization to exert control.
Women have led the way in activism as well. If it were not for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center in Flint. Michigan, the world might still not know of the lead-poisioned water crisis still unfolding there. Without Jane Kleib and her efforts with Bold Nebraska, there would most likely be a really ugly pipeline being installed in Nebraska. If it were not for the life of Rozerin Chukar, we might not have a full understanding of the tragedy unfolding in Turkey’s SE region. All these women are considered worthy of the honor of our International Woman of the Year award.
Unfortunately, something occurred last Thursday that simplified our task, leading to our first and hopefully last posthumous nomination for International Woman of the Year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Our 2016 International Woman of the Year award goes to Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). An internationally known indigenous and environmental activist and organizer, Berta was assassinated in her home last Thursday. Democracy Now! ran an excellent piece on her the morning after she was assassinated; we’ve taken the liberty of republishing it here:
Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.
In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.
According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.
In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”
HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.
Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.
Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.
Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.
Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.
It’s been nearly 400 years since the Wampanoag people encountered the starving, cold pilgrims in Plymouth Bay. With an already thriving agricultural model in fertile Massachusetts, the Indigenous tribe taught the uneducated British settlers how to cultivate their own food, eventually culminating in a three-day-long shared meal celebrating the harvest — and securing the future of colonial expansion in the United States.
That historical event, which will be memorialized at Thanksgiving tables across the country this week, reflects the fact that Native American tribes were once the most agriculturally prosperous groups of people in the U.S. But a lot has changed over the past several centuries. Continue reading →
Ometepe Isle in Lake Nicaragua. Popular tourist destination. Picture taken by Jose Carlos Manuel Hugo, Enero 2005
Last June, the Nicaraguan government announced a deal granting 50 year rights to the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND) for building a competitor to the Panama Canal across Nicaragua. The project’s cost is estimated to be $40 billion, and the Nicaraguan government claims that the canal would: 1) raise the country’s GDP 11% annually, and 2) create a million new jobs. While this sounds good on paper (Nicaragua’s the second poorest country in the Americas), what they aren’t saying should be what’s being discussed.
Both the Nicaraguan government and HKND bypassed any environmental review of the proposal. When you see what would be impacted by the proposed canal, you’ll understand why they wouldn’t want those pesky treehuggers to have any say in the matter.
First of all, with all the proposed routes, the canal would go through Lake Nicaragua. The lake is the primary source of drinking water for the whole country, and in addition to the pollution that would be created by the ships themselves, the proposed industries along the lake would add to the decline in drinking water. There’s also the obvious salt water contamination; you’re connecting to the ocean on both sides, after all. And then, there’s the sludge. The lake would be dredged to double its current depth of 15 meters to accommodate larger ships, and all the sludge would need to go somewhere. But wait- there’s more!
Panama Canal “mule” used to guide ships. Stan Shebs [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Building the canal would lead to the destruction of 400,000 hectares (almost one million acres) of rainforests and wetlands. Furthermore, the canal would endanger the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor, which incorporates the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, and the Cerro Silva Nature Reserve, all of which are homes to many endangered species of plants and animals. But wait- there’s still more!
The canal’s entry and exit would be right in the middle of the sea turtle nesting grounds on both coasts- you guessed it; another endangered species. It would also destroy the coral reefs and mangroves that act as a buffer protecting inland Nicaragua from tropical storms. And, then there’s the impact on the indigenous communities. Hundreds of villages would need to be moved as they’re in the canal’s proposed path. Were they asked? Silly question- of course not. But wait- there’s still more!
As bad as all of this sounds, we need to add to it the rather sketchy history of the man behind HKND; a man named Wang Jing. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega cited Wang Jing’s wireless communications company as a reason why he was awarded the contract. However, in the twenty foreign countries where Xinwei (the company) is supposedly expanding, they’re either woefully behind schedule or (even more telling), trade officials in the country have never heard of him or his company. Just the kind of person who I’d trust with 40 billion dollars. But wait- there’s still more!
The really crazy part of the story? The canal’s redundant. The Panama Canal is 1/3 of the length of the Nicaraguan proposal, and it’s in the process of being widened and deepened for larger ships. Plus, the canal handles only a small fraction of world shipping; why would we need another canal a couple hundred miles north of the current one?
“Sure, we destroyed the planet- but we earned our shareholders a profit!”