Welcome to the First Peoples Worldwide Blog. First Peoples is the first and only Indigenous-led organization working to restore Indigenous Peoples’ control and authority over their assets by making grants directly to Indigenous communities, and by engaging directly with corporations and investors to promote Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. Our Mission is to build upon a foundation of Indigenous values to achieve a sustainable future for all. Visit our main site at www.FirstPeoples.org for more information about our grants and how to apply.

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Recent Updates

Jul29

Fighting Relocation with Mapping: DITSHWANELO’s Initiative for the Basarwa/San Peoples

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By: Hannah Stack  | First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

For the Basarwa/San Indigenous People living on the Central Kalahari Game Reseerve (CKGR)

within Botswana, culture and lifestyle have been threatened in the name of conservation. For the

group, which relies heavily on hunting and gathering for sustenance, a hunting ban has declared

its sustainable practices to be “poaching” in the eyes of the law. While diamond mining persists

within the reserve, the government has chosen to evict the Indigenous Peoples from their land,

declaring their practices to be inconsistent with the conservational intent. Despite a 2006 court

ruling proclaiming the relocation of the Basarwa/San unconstitutional, the government has not

ceased in its efforts, and has used hunger – through the perpetuation of the hunting ban and the

removal of smaller livestock– to keep the Indigenous Peoples off of their ancestral lands.

DITSHWANELO, or the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, is a human rights advocacy group

that has come to the aid of the Basarwa/San Peoples in their time of need. Founded in 1993, it

seeks to “affirm human dignity and equality irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual

orientation, social status or political convictions”. While the organization looks to be

comprehensive in its scope of work, special attention is given to particularly vulnerable groups –

such as the Basarwa/San– that are generally unsupported by other advocacy organizations.

Through education, research, counseling, and mediation, DITSHWANELO hopes to create a

society in which human rights are strongly reinforced and every citizen is equal before the law.

As a member of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve NGO Coalition, DITSHWANELO

maintains its human rights-based mission by working to alleviate the tensions between the

CKGR authorities and members of the Basarwa/San Indigenous group. With help from First

Peoples Worldwide’s Keeper of the Earth Fund, the organization has implemented an innovative

mapping project aimed at protecting the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Basarwa/San and

countering their forced migration from the CKGR area. Through the initiative, the first of its

kind for the region, DITSHWANELO is measuring land usage and creating a new plan for

sustainable management, one that will allow the CKGR authorities and the Indigenous group to

live in greater harmony. The project, which also seeks to determine alternate food sources within

the region, will support the Basarwa/San lifestyle by giving the natives a larger role in the

conservation process. Enabled to work with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in its

anti-poaching endeavors, the members of the Indigenous group will be able to protect their

native lands from the generally tourism-based hunting practices.

While the involuntary relocation of the Basarwa/San Indigenous Peoples has been detrimental to

the group’s traditional lifestyle, DITSHWANELO’s initiative is enabling the natives to reconnect

with their ancestral lands. Looking forward, the organization hopes its efforts will not only aid in

the cessation of the relocation movement, but also empowering the Indigenous Peoples with a

renewed sense of hope and steadfast resilience.

Sources:

“DITSHWANELO”

< http://www.ditshwanelo.org.bw/>

“Survival International: The Bushmen”

<http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/bushmen>

Jul27

More Violence in Brazil

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In June 2016, gunmen attacked the Guarani Kaiowa Apika’y community in Brazil, killing one person and injuring six others. A few days before the incident, the community was given an eviction order from a judge, at the request of farmers who claim to own the land on which the community resides. The community refused to leave, claiming they had been promised the land. The violence is likely related to the conflict between the two groups.

Given Brazil’s history of conflicting land policies, it is likely that both the farmers and the community were promised the land at some point. The frequency of these events led Global Witness to rank Brazil as the deadliest country for environmental and human rights defenders, with 50 murders in 2015. Many of the attacks towards Indigenous Peoples are tied to the agriculture sector.

Sources: Indian Country Today, Reuters, Global Witness

Jul25

FBI Turns Attention to North Dakota

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In June 2016, the FBI opened a new field office in North Dakota to address the wave of illegal activity caused by the Bakken oil boom. This is likely to be welcomed by the Fort Berthold Reservation, which has been overrun by crime, drugs, prostitution, trafficking, violence against women and other problems, and given few resources to combat them. According to Tribal Chairman Mark Fox, “the illegal activity here is literally killing our people and tearing us apart.”

This is a positive sign, but there is no mentioning of industry involvement in these efforts. The government’s heightened attention to North Dakota creates opportunities for public private partnership to address the social impacts of the Bakken oil boom, which may worsen in conjunction with the waning oil economy.

Sources: FBI

Jul22

Broadcasting Unity: the Goal of Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio

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By Hannah Stack

For Indigenous communities in Guatemala, unity is partially a problem of communication.

Although an estimated 60 percent of the country’s population has an indigenous background, the

rural locale and generally high poverty level of the native communities, along with the

substantial distance between one community and another, make communication between the

greater Indigenous population challenging. As effective communication is key to spreading issue

awareness and developing cultural unity, overcoming this challenge is crucial for resisting

outside marginalization of the region.

For Cultural Survival, an Indigenous advocacy group working in Guatemala, the importance of

maximizing Indigenous communication throughout the country has not been overlooked. While

the organization offers several other services to benefit Indigenous Peoples including support for

grassroots movements and the publication of a quarterly magazine, its Indigenous Rights Radio

program has become vital in its pursuit of greater unity. Through this program, Cultural Survival

looks to empower native communities by informing their members of their fundamental rights.

Stories and subject matter are gathered from communities around the world and broadcasted to

rural Indigenous populations in their native languages. While radio communication may seem

outdated to the modern world, it is a valuable tool in these regions due to its overall affordability

and its capacity to reach remote areas.

With the help of a Keepers of the Earth Fund grant from First Peoples Worldwide, the

organization has been able to air a radio series on the United Nations-declared right to Free,

Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). This right, which ensures Indigenous participation in

matters concerning their well-being, rights, and traditional land, requires organizations and

governments whose endeavors affect native lands and lifestyles to gain the willing consent of the

communities they disturb. Through its radio broadcasts about FPIC, Cultural Survival is

informing its Guatemalan Indigenous listeners of the rights they possess and of outside actions,

such as land concessions, that could violate these rights.

While Cultural Survival’s radio program has been hindered by legal loopholes that allow

community stations to be forcibly terminated, its broadcasts continue to be vital to many

Guatemalan Indigenous communities. By equipping listeners with a greater knowledge of their

rights, Cultural Survival is enabling Indigenous Peoples to better defend their cultures and

territories.

Sources:

“Cultural Survival.” Cultural Survival.

<http://www.culturalsurvival.org/>.

“Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala.” International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.

<http://www.iwgia.org/regions/latin-america/guatemala>.

“Indigenous Rights Radio.” Indigenous Rights Radio.

<http://consent.culturalsurvival.org/>.

Jul21

Indigenous People Must Lead World to Sustainability

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7/21/16

Rebecca Adamson’s decision to close First Peoples Worldwide by year’s end is an opportunity for other organizations to take over innovative and compelling projects intended to restore to Indigenous Peoples their rightful position of leadership in today’s troubled world.

Adamson rebecca_adamsons_ted_talk_dominates_times_square_new_york1tells ICTMN, “Whether we like it or not the simple truth is that Indians have to become leaders beyond their own communities. We have to get out there and we have to start leading now. There’s no choice.”

What we see in today’s Western societies, she says, “is fear-based — a scarcity of resources and individuals with insatiable appetites. When you look at an indigenous economy that’s survived for tens of thousands of years you see [an assumption] of prosperity and a kinship-based sense of enoughness. In one economy you hoard and you compete and you beat your competition down. In the other economy you share and you collaborate. One of them will sustain and be sustainable and the other won’t.”

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/07/21/indigenous-people-must-lead-world-sustainability-165220

Jul20

Upholding Agreements

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In June 2016, 200 U’wa men, women and children occupied a plant belonging to Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-owned oil and gas company, demanding that the government uphold an agreement signed two years earlier. Traditional authorities said the agreement, which obligates the government to recognize U’wa territory and cleanup oil spills, has been ignored. The occupation coincided with a larger protest movement in Colombia called Minga Agraria, in which 100,000 people demonstrated against the government’s favoring of business interests over those of Indigenous and rural communities.

When companies or governments enter agreements with Indigenous Peoples, they must include detailed implementation plans and timelines to ensure accountability from both sides. The U’wa have struggled with oil and gas drilling for decades, and each broken promise reduces the likelihood of constructive solutions in the future.

Sources: Intercontinental Cry

Jul18

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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In June 2016, the Organization of American States adopted the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adding to the list of international instruments that promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. The Declaration recognizes, among other things, Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and includes special provisions for Indigenous women and for communities living in voluntary isolation.

Minority Rights Group International expressed concern that some “rights and recognitions set forth in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are conspicuously weaker or not included at all. The lack of need to seek FPIC before relocation of Indigenous Peoples from their lands is particularly worrying. In addition, the requirement for Indigenous Peoples’ land rights to comply with the national legal systems of each state has the potential to undermine the valuable protections afforded by international human rights law.”

While the Declaration provides another important legal framework, companies must remember that UNDRIP still constitutes the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples around the world.

Sources: MRGI, OAS

Jul13

World Bank Continues Lowering the Bar

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The World Bank is waiving the application of its Indigenous Peoples Safeguard in order to fast track a loan to the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) project. Although SAGCOT will relocate cattle herders who meet the international criteria for Indigenous Peoples, the government is circumventing the Indigenous Peoples Safeguard by arguing that “no ethnic groups in Tanzania are more Indigenous than others because all Tanzanians are equal under the law.”

The current draft of the Bank’s revised Safeguards is improved from the first in that there is no longer an explicit opt out option for the Indigenous Peoples Safeguard, but according to the Bank Information Center, “another possible opt out option remains in force; Borrowers that do not want to implement [the Indigenous Peoples Safeguard] may in rare instances still be able to initiate a waiver process.” It appears that one such rare instance has occurred before the Safeguards are even finalized. This sets a dangerous precedent that will further erode the Bank’s legitimacy with Indigenous Peoples.

Sources: Bank Information Center, Huffington Post

Jul11

The Importance of Communication

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During a speech at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, the CEO of SM Resources said the oil and gas industry’s failure to communicate effectively is causing what he perceives to be “overreaching regulations, misguided legislative efforts and destructive ballot initiatives.” To address this, the company is hiring a PR firm to create “open source software for improving the industry’s communications.”

Enhanced communication is a good idea, but this may miss the mark for several reasons. The goal is to develop digital materials and social media messages that will “engage customers with positive messages on how the industry’s products make peoples’ lives better” and “highlight the use of oil and gas products for transportation, agriculture, medicine, clothing, cooking and other purposes.” However, most grievances with oil and gas are triggered by the process of creating the products, not the products themselves.

Additionally, customers are not the only stakeholders with whom the industry must communicate; long-term shareholders and neighboring communities are among the other audiences that warrant attention. Finally, communication is a two way street, so for this to be effective it must include ways for the industry to both give and receive information.

Sources: Bakken Magazine

Jul06

State-Owned Company Ignores Best Practice

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The Marap Indigenous group is invoking customary law to retake 1,300 hectares of land that overlap with a palm oil plantation operated by PTTP, a state-owned company in Indonesia. They say the company has paid no attention to their well-being during its thirty years of existence, so they are taking back the land and have no interest in further dialogue. The area is now under police watch. According to a company spokesperson, “since we’re a state-owned company, we can only listen to all aspirations and complaints and pass them on to the local government for further action. There is not much we can do.”

State-owned companies must adhere to the same best practices as private companies. Government ownership makes it equally, if not more, important for companies to have effective community relations functions and obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Indigenous Peoples.

Sources: Asia Pacific Report