Posts Tagged ‘Canada’


Changing Legal Landscape in Canada

Tahoe Resources is asking the Supreme Court of BC to dismiss a lawsuit filed by seven Guatemalan citizens who were allegedly injured by security forces during protests against the Escobal Mine, which is operated by the company’s Guatemalan subsidiary Minera San Rafael. The plaintiffs are pursuing the lawsuit in Canada because “it offers the better opportunity to have their cases heard.”

According to Human Rights Watch, 98 percent of violent crime goes unpunished in Guatemala due to corruption and witness intimidation. Tahoe contends that the case should be heard in Guatemala because Minera San Rafael is a “separate entity” with “very limited connecting factors” to its parent company. In 2013, Hudbay Minerals brought a similar challenge to a lawsuit related to a separate incident in Guatemala, but voluntarily withdrew it.

A judge later dismissed Hudbay’s argument that it is not liable for the actions of its overseas subsidiaries, and the case is currently moving forward in Canada.

Since then, several other Canadian companies have been brought to court domestically over their activities abroad. Besides Tahoe and Hudbay, Nevsun Resources is on trial for alleged human rights abuses in Eritrea, and Joe Fresh is being sued for its alleged responsibility in last year’s deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.

Sources: Canadian Lawyer


Unrest in the Peace Valley

By: Katie Redmiles| First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent

In a battle for human rights, First Nations of the Peace River region in northeastern British Columbia are not backing down from the longstanding fight to be heard and respected by the government.

The Site C dam, if constructed, would be the largest industrial project in British Columbia to date. This would cause extreme disturbances to the environment, cultural heritage, and economy of the First Nations who have lived on the territory for more than10,000 years. The Treaty 8 Tribal Association, on behalf of Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations, is “opposed to the proposed Site C Project for a number of reasons, including the estimated $8-billion cost to ratepayers, the environmental impacts, and the loss of sacred archeological, burial and sites, as well as the impacts on Treaty rights.”

Treaty 8 was signed in 1899 with Queen Victoria, in order to protect First Nations’ traditions and lifestyle on their Indigenous lands—including the right to hunt, trap, and fish. The Peace River itself is a major source of maintaining the Aboriginal culture that is so rich in BC Canada. The Peace River already houses two major hydroelectric dams, despite being in the middle of Treaty 8 territory. The two dams already active on the River caused massive amounts of wetland and important wildlife to be destroyed, as well as greatly altered the lives of the First Nations people.

The Treaty 8 First Nations are not taking the approved plan for the Site C dam lightly. Since its conception in 1970, they have combated its construction, and today are fiercely continuing the fight for the protection of their rights. The approved plan for the dam violates their cultural and spiritual rights under Treaty 8 by causing the destruction of sacred sites and prime land for hunting and fishing and gathering of ingredients for traditional medicines necessary for their continued health and wellness.

The Treaty 8 First Nations, along with the Peace Valley Landowners Association, are taking BC Hydro, the company responsible for the dams, to court in response to the gross Treaty 8 violations of the Site C dam project. Those opposing the dam implore that alternative sources of energy be considered to circumvent the need for the dam. It has also been made clear that the need for the dam is not as great as the destruction it would cause, making it an erroneous decision to eradicate important Indigenous land and culture.

To help stop the production of the dam, donating to the First Nations case, even if just a small amount, would greatly increase the chances of First Nation rights to be upheld and respected in court. To donate go to



Everything Is Connected: Tla-o-qui-aht People and Climate Change

This article has been reposted from Cultural Survival Quarterly 39-1 Upholding Indigenous Rights Is Good Business (March 2015)

By Gleb Raygorodetsky

Eli Enns, co-director of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tribal Parks. Photo by Gleb Raygorodestky.

Eli Enns, co-director of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tribal Parks. Photo by Gleb Raygorodestky.

When Canada created the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in the 1970s, the government did not consult with the Tla-o-qui-aht people and other Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, whose traditional territories it subsumed. Among many other negative consequences for Tla-o-qui-aht, the Park’s establishment erased any future options for their community to grow. But recently a deal was brokered to support an 86 hectare (nearly 1 square km) expansion of the Esowista reservation.

Now, after a few years of construction, a new Tla-o-qui-aht community, Ty-Histanis, is springing to life. Over 170 single family houses, more than 30 duplexes, and a dozen or so elders’ units are planned, along with a school, health clinic, pharmacy, recreation center, and a bus hub. Most of it is yet to come, but the main infrastructure has been built, several houses raised, and some families have already moved in.

The second of two Tla-o-qui-aht reserves, Esowista (and now, Ty-Histanis) is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia on the southern edge of Clayoquot Sound. Ty-Histanis was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of more efficient heating, electrical, and mechanical systems. A central geothermal station makes it possible for each house to have radiant floor heating, an important feature in the region’s wet climate, especially now, when winter precipitation is expected to increase. Each household will also save money because it won’t be necessary to rely on electricity for heat. Most importantly, the expansion will allow people to relocate to safer, higher ground above the Esowista shoreline, which is increasingly being eroded by stronger and more frequent winter storms—the consequence of changing climate.

Eli Enns, the great-grandson of Nah-wah-suhm (a public speaker and historian for Wickaninnish, the Grand Chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation), is a political scientist with expertise in constitutional law and a longtime resident of Clayoquot Sound. Of the new community, he says, “As with everything the Tla-o-qui-aht people do, we have tried to apply our traditional teaching to achieve sustainable community development in Ty-Histanis, paying particular attention to climate change.” As part of a climate change adaptation design to deal with increasingly intense rains, over 40 percent of the land in and around the community has been left undisturbed. Several stormwater retention ponds have been constructed with new pavements made of porous material to allow water to seep through them, into the soil, instead of letting runoff overflow the community storm sewage system.

The Tla-o-qui-aht people and their long-term partner, Vancouver-based Ecotrust Canada, also looked for ways to reduce the amount of fossil fuel used in construction and transportation of building materials. They have designed and built a model house incorporating Nuu-chah-nulth traditional long-house designs and local building materials as part of the “Standing Tree to Standing Home” program. Their hope is that this more energy-efficient traditional house model will become a preferred option for the new families moving to Ty-histanis from Esowista or Opitsaht, or even families returning to their traditional territory from other parts of British Columbia or the rest of Canada. “We have a constitutionally recognized Aboriginal right to be self-governing. And a part of our tradition of self-governance is to look after our traditional territory for the benefit of future ancestors. Now we have to find thoughtful, creative, and innovative ways of reapplying those traditional concepts and values in a modern context of natural resource management,” Enns says.

Enns was profoundly affected by regular childhood visits to his father’s homeland, Clayoquot Sound, and seeing his great-grandfather’s house gave him an overwhelming sense of belonging and connectedness to the landscape, something that has guided his life and work ever since. “Several things came out of that experience for me,” he says. “The first thing was, ‘live under the heavens and upon the earth.’ And what that meant to me was to be aware of the sun and the moon cycles that govern our lives every day and every year, and act appropriately: simple.”

With the establishment of Meares Island Tribal Park in 1984, Tla-o-qui-aht people began to manage their lands according to their traditional values. The Tla-o-qui-aht elders, however, were never satisfied focusing solely on Meares Island without bearing in mind their entire traditional territory, because of their understanding of Hishuk Ish Tsa’walk—everything is one, everything is connected. “You can’t disconnect the Island from mudflats, and inlets, and rivers, and salmon,” says Enns. “So we always knew that we would need to go back to managing our whole traditional territory. [After] Meares Island, we focused on Ha’uukmin, the Kennedy Lake watershed, which became our first attempt to figure out Tribal Parks management based on our traditional principles.”

The resulting Ha’uukmin Tribal Park management and land use plan informs proponents of development projects about what kind of activities are allowed in the Park before the developers approach Tla-o-qui-aht traditional territory. Following traditional practices and laws of their people, the areas least disrupted by logging and other development activities were set aside as traditional qwa siin hap, or “leave as is,” areas, similar to what scientists would call a conservation or protected area. Other parts of the Tribal Park that had been logged or affected in some other way, like the Kennedy Flats, are called uuya thluk nish, or “we take care of.” This is where certain types of economic development and ecosystem healing take place, like salmon habitat restoration.

“Then the goldmine proposal came,” Enns recalls. “So we said, ‘No, you can’t do that’, and created the Tranquil Creek Tribal Park and the Esowista Tribal Park to protect our territory from mining. Now we have pretty much the entire traditional territory covered. But our salmon go out into the open ocean. Our responsibilities follow salmon, because what happens in international waters is going to affect what happens here. That is where we’re trying to get Indigenous voices into discussions about international waters and the management of the Pacific Ocean.”

Climate change presents a particular challenge because the environmental conditions that had enabled the temperate rainforests to mature for millennia are simply no longer there. There is also not enough salmon to bring the necessary nutrients into the system to sustain the growth of ancient trees. Moreover, the increasing air and water temperatures undermine the future of those wild salmon species, like sockeye, that depend on cold water to successfully reproduce and grow.

In partnership with groups like the Wilderness Committee, Ecotrust Canada, and Parks Canada, the Tribal Parks have chosen a path toward developing a conservation economy that is meant to support the natural and social systems making up Clayoquot Sound and serve as a foundation for ensuring the Tla-o-qui-ahts’ well-being. Though some traditional subsistence practices like whaling are no longer viable, the Tla-o-qui-aht are hoping to strengthen local traditional subsistence, trade, and exchange models with newer elements of conservation economy. “The most fundamental thing is water,” Enns says. “We need clean drinking water sources for ourselves and for the future generations, and it is one of the key resources that we have in our traditional territory in abundance. So, we intend to keep it that way. What we are doing in our climate change adaptation work now is basically preparing for the big crash. If the crash never happens, that’s fine. Because these are still things that need to be done. So we may be just creating a better way of doing things in the long run.”

This article is adapted from a six-part series, “Everything is Connected: Tla-o-qui-aht People and Climate Change.” Follow Gleb Raygorodetsky on Twitter @ArchipelagoHope and Tla-o-qui-aht Park on


Social and Emotional Well-Being of First Peoples: How it’s different, why it’s important, and what’s being done about it

By Elizabeth Gunggoll

Is there a half life on historical trauma?

Or in other words, as Mike Myers discussed this question in an Indian Country Today article, will 500 years suffice for North America’s First Peoples to surpass countless murders, the loss of Indigenous civilizations, languages and cultures, as well as Indigenous agricultural economies that began in 1493? The thought is that maybe they will be able to return to a model of Indigenous nationhood founded on their original principles and teachings that will endure into future generations by the year 2500. However, musings such as these do little to speak to solutions for Indigenous mental health practiced today.

Instances of colonization, genocide, alienation and other historical traumas posed on entire Indigenous communities have had severe repercussions on mental health, and often Western Psychology practices are not fully suited, or trusted by Indigenous communities, to offer aid. Research is now being done in a new field of mental health, working to combine traditional healing and modern scientific technologies in order to offer a culturally-tailored method of care to First Peoples.


Historical context

The harrowing effects of European colonization, spanning from the 1500s onward, are well known. Encounters with European explorers fast-tracked Indigenous communities for cultural change, and the introduction of foreign diseases and stressors lead to a suppression of Indigenous cultures tantamount to genocide (The Mental Health of Aboriginal Peoples). Children in colonized countries were often taken from their parents and enrolled in boarding schools created to enforce “proper” European values on Indigenous children so that they were “deemed fit to participate in local government.” This continued in North America until the 1970s, however it is still an active example of trauma in Indigenous groups around the world.

Even after coming to terms with what Westerners historically put Indigenous peoples through, colonization did not actually stop there. Even in the past decade, the Canadian government has imposed restrictions on First Nations, distancing them from their land and therefore their sense of identity. A recent example would be the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would once again displace Indigenous communities from land that historically serves a spiritual purpose in their daily lives. Consequently, this continuous colonization causes negative effects on well-being to pervade present generations.


The issues at hand

Social and emotional well-being is often confused with “mental health”, however well-being encompasses much more than observing how someone thinks and feels. The term acknowledges a person’s social, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and cultural welfare. A connection to land, family history, relationships with family and friends, and engagement with community are all important factors contributing to social and emotional well-being in Indigenous communities.

However well-being can be difficult to measure considering most data come from self-reported surveys and interviews, which can be biased when individuals are hesitant to admit they need help. Additionally, Indigenous peoples globally might not seek medical assistance due to language barriers, and many live in rural communities where hospitals and psychologists are simply out of their reach. However, enough information has been gathered over the years to show that Indigenous peoples show higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide than non-Indigenous peoples.

The effects of colonization continue to permeate present generations of the San peoples in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve: children are still sent to boarding schools for Western education, so they inadvertently lose their language and connection to the land that comes with being raised in their native culture. Forcefully taking children away from their parents expectedly has hugely negative effects on both ends. The children feel torn from their culture and lose their sense of identity, while parents are constantly worrying where their children might be and wondering when they might see them again.

“It is so painful leaving or being separated from our children, we have a lot of depression. Kids being taken away… divides the family. It teaches them a different kind of life.” – San individual, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana

Additionally, San people have expressed their sadness, pain, and worry regarding the stressors the government causes on a daily basis. They feel helpless under the control of the local police, and feel that little can be done to create self-sufficiency in their environment. Moreover, there is a “pervasive lack of hope and motivation” which stem from the restrictions imposed on their own livelihood.

The mental well-being of the San peoples is severely compromised due to the factors under which they are forced to conduct their lives. There is a constant need to prioritize food, water, mobility, and physical health, which understandably makes mental well-being a secondary issue. On top of these factors, it is nearly impossible to get help because their rural settlement is a multi-day journey from the nearest hospital. San peoples are hopeful that countries aware of their situation will offer help – but whoever comes their way needs to be cognizant of their needs as identified by the San people, and mold an approach to aid their well-being that is specific to the context of the situation in which they live.


Working toward an “Indigenous Psychology”

We have seen that the stressors stemming out of marginalization from the government cause Indigenous peoples to lose sight of hope and motivation. Communities are further hindered by needing to consistently place basic human needs for food and physical health before attending to personal well-being, and even when the opportunity arises to reach out for help, the journey to recovery is miles out of reach.

A number of individuals working in medical and psychological fields have taken notice of the need for an Indigenous-tailored approach to well-being. What they found to be most important is the ability to mesh the best of both realms: culture-specific healing methods alongside modern psychology.

“As Indigenous communities are individually governed and culturally diverse, there exists a need for community-specific language and approaches based on language, traditional knowledge, and cultural practices.”

Elicia Goodsoldier is one such example. Elicia Goodsoldier, Dine’/Spirit Lake Dakota, has jumpstarted a number of programs and councils to provide more culturally aware and responsive forms of outreach in multicultural communities. Through her work, she acknowledges the severity of the effects historical and intergenerational traumas have on mental health, and works to educate mainstream behavioral health care providers about both native issues and mental health care issues on a national scale. By bringing awareness to the significance and potential efficacy of traditional and spiritual healing alongside modern neuroscience, she makes the journey to healing more accessible and attainable to Native communities.

Many Indigenous peoples are reluctant to reach out for help because it is frowned upon within their communities. This is particularly true for Indigenous youth, who are at times discouraged from bringing up thoughts of suicide to adults in their community. A support system of similarly-minded youth that share the same perspective is a valuable resource: The Center for Native American Youth in Tucson, Arizona holds bi-weekly meetings where youth representatives from each district are able to discuss the issues facing their peers. Concerns such as suicide are openly discussed, and this program has helped a number of youth take steps to escape such debilitating stages of depression. The center takes an innovative approach by directly asking the teens what would be most helpful and where they would feel most safe to express their needs. Youth are more comfortable opening up to their peers when there is an environment of mutual respect, and the adults involved in this program feel that in order to be the best resource possible, they need to be able to better understand and relate to the youth. Additionally, they work to make the environment as all-encompassing as possible since so many different Indigenous communities exist in the area.

The integration of traditional remedies and cutting edge science alongside direct efforts to openly offer aid to apprehensive Indigenous youth is a step in the right direction in decreasing the disparity of care between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. But more can be done to increase well-being among Indigenous peoples.


Marginalization from the state has detrimental effects on the self-efficacy and self-worth of First Peoples, and simply allowing participation in their local politics improves mental well-being for many individuals. It is critical to reinforce a sense of community and empowerment by increasing participation in developing self-governance, meaning less is being asked for from the “outside” and Indigenous communities rely more on themselves.

As Indigenous mental health solutions continue to develop, we continue to see a discrepancy in the number of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. What is clear is that a balance needs to be created in Western Psychology, using both traditional remedies and modern science to advance services for the mental well-being of Indigenous peoples. The increasing availability of such services are showing improvement within local communities, but the largest changes will come when Indigenous communities can address mental well-being with their own solutions.



  • Kirmayer, Laurence J, Gregory M Brass, and Caroline L Tait. “The Mental Health Of Aboriginal Peoples: Transformations Of Identity And Community.” Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry 45.7 (2000): 607-616.Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.
  • Executive Summary, “FPW Needs Assessment and Community Engagement in Botswana”, First Peoples Worldwide, 2012


Keeping Tabs on Country Risk

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

In 2014, the Western Australian government announced that up to 150 of the state’s remote Aboriginal communities might be closed because their “lifestyle choices” are not financially viable. The announcement met strong criticism from Aboriginal leaders, who fear that the government will begin eliminating basic services, such as electricity and water, for these communities, forcing them to abandon their traditional land.

Meanwhile, Aboriginal leaders in Canada are protesting a proposed “antiterrorism” bill that would make it easier for the government to conduct surveillance and restrict the movement of suspected terrorists. It is widely believed that the bill is really about suppressing Aboriginal resistance to unwanted resource extraction.

It’s important for companies to keep tabs on events like these in countries where they operate, even if they’re not directly involved. Poor relations between Indigenous Peoples and governments almost always add a layer of difficulty to corporate engagement with Indigenous communities.

The closure of the Oombulgurri community in Western Australia has left it a ghost town [photo credit:]

The closure of the Oombulgurri community in Western Australia has left it a ghost town [photo credit:]

Sources: BBC, National Post

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership: What It Means for Indigenous Peoples

This article has been reposted from Cultural Survival, originally published April 13, 2015.



The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is a massive, controversial free trade agreement currently under negotiation behind closed doors by officials from the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The TPP would elevate multinational corporations and private investors to equal status with sovereign nations, and therefore above individual citizens, empowering these entities to sue nations via private tribunals.  The TPP has been marked by an alarming lack of transparency and public input. The public has not been allowed to see the draft text, and the majority of information that is available is the result of leaks. Even members of Congress have been provided only limited access to the proposed agreement. US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has called for increased transparency in trade negotiations for the TPP, warning that, “Without transparency, the benefit from robust democratic participation—an open marketplace of ideas—is considerably reduced.” Meanwhile, more than 600 official corporate “trade advisors” have been given special access to the draft text.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: What Does It Mean for Indigenous Peoples?

In the same vein as deals like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization, the TPP is being drafted with no input from the Indigenous Peoples who live in countries that will be affected by the deal. The TPP could have broad implications for Indigenous Peoples living in the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The secrecy of the TPP entirely disregards the concept of Free, Prior, Informed Consent, a tenant of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states that policies affecting Indigenous Peoples should not move forward without the full understanding and approval of those it might affect.


Corporate Rights over Human Rights

The agreement threatens to dramatically affect Indigenous Peoples by ramping up trade policies that have allowed for transnational corporations to engage in oil, gas, and mineral extraction without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of their communities.  TPP policies would encourage the natural gas industry, which has already severely affected Native and First Nations communities in North America.  “The TPP would facilitate increased exports of liquefied natural gas by requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to automatically approve all natural gas exports to TPP countries. Increased exports would mean an increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the dirty and violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations,’’ explains the Sierra Club.  Natural gas companies have already begun encroaching otherwise off limits native lands. Uniquely affecting native women, fracking operations tend to be correlated with increased sex trafficking, rape, missing women, and influxes of drugs and alcohol into communities, in addition to its obvious environmental effects contaminating local water and air quality.

The TPP would also allow companies to evade financial responsibility for environmental contamination, even when it occurs on Indigenous Peoples lands. Under the TPP, investors would have the ability to demand taxpayer compensation for imposed fines, effectively burdening the public with the cost of environmental cleanup. According to Professor Jane Kelsey of New Zealand, the TPP draft chapter on environmental regulations fails to define its key terms, leaving vagueness that will allow for inconsistent interpretation and implementation of regulations. Nowhere in the chapter does it detail a mechanism for setting penalties for environmental offenders. It excludes resource management practices and ignores standards set by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mother Nature®

The draft article on Trade and Biodiversity recognizes the rights of states over natural resources and genetic material. This would allow for multinational corporations like Monsanto and industries like Big Pharma to benefit enormously by allowing them to exclusive rights over things like seeds and traditional plant-based medicines found in biodiverse areas managed by Indigenous communities. The agreement flagrantly ignores the United Nations’ specific mention of this in the Declaration, which states that

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop…the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora.” –Article 31

The patenting of plants that have been used traditionally by Indigenous Peoples without their consent or benefit sharing has been called bio-piracy, and would snowball given the approval of the TPP.  Indigenous activist Te Kaituhi, a Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand, exhorts us to “Imagine a world where Indigenous knowledge, language, and customs are outright owned by multinational corporations and copyright enforcement is heavily backed by government police forces.” According to Kaituhi, “The TPP won’t only affect Indigenous freehold land, nor will it just push our people further into poverty. The TPP will give multinationals the right to exploit the ecosystem and further aid them in the acquiring of enforced trademarking and copyrighting of Indigenous intellectual property and cultural or traditional knowledge;” in other words, a new form of colonization.


Suing for lost profits

One of the most troubling aspects of the TPP is found in the draft chapter on investment deals with investor-state dispute settlement which gives corporations the right to sue a government for unlimited cash compensation — in private and non-transparent tribunals — over nearly any law or policy that a corporation alleges will reduce its profits. Kelsey notes that “the vast majority of investment arbitrations under similar agreements involve natural resources, especially mining, and have resulted in billions of dollars of damages against governments for measures designed to protect the environment from harm caused by foreign corporations.” Under the proposed TPP, the investor-state clause can be used to pressure governments into allowing the continued operation of the severely polluting industries out of fear of being sued for lost profits.  Governments around the world are already extremely reluctant to regulate industries like mining and oil, which can bring them large revenues in royalties. With the potential that States could be held financially responsible for reigning in harmful business practices, corporate profits gains an even stronger precedence over disenfranchised Indigenous Peoples living with destructive industries in their backyards.

Fast Track

Negotiators have announced that they are very close to concluding the agreement, with just a few outstanding issues remaining. However, several countries have said that they won’t present their final offers until the US Congress grants President Obama “Fast Track” Authority.

Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), is a process that would rush trade deals through Congress and remove the ability of elected officials to ensure that trade pacts protect workers, communities and the environment. Fast track would allow the president to send already signed trade pacts, including the TPP, to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments and a maximum of 20 hours debate.

Despite mounting opposition, The Obama administration is throwing its full weight behind Fast Track and the TPP.   In response, a national day of action against Fast Track  has been declared for April 18th, 2015. The national day corresponds to a global day of action to promote fair rather than free trade deals  with events spanning the globe.  Now is the time to spread the word about the detrimental effects of the deals like the TPP and advocate for something better.

Cultural Survival signed on along with over 550 organizations in sending a letter to then US Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) firmly rejecting fast track trade promotion authority in the United States and calling for a new system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements. In the letter, this diverse coalition stated that “fast track,” an outdated mechanism that would limit Congressional and public oversight over trade negotiations, is “simply not appropriate” given the broad subjects covered by today’s trade pacts, such as the TPP and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. “Fast track is the wrong track for Americans who care about the health of our families and access to clean air, clean water, and land,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “We need a new model of trade—one that protects communities and the environment while keeping the public engaged in the policy-making process.”

Communities, workers, and especially Indigenous Peoples must have a say in these deals. The fast track is the exact opposite of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent that is laid out as a human rights standard when negotiating deals that will affect Indigenous Peoples, as the TPP will in a dozen countries.


What can you do?

  1. Get in touch with your area Representatives and Senators.
  2. Share on social media: Fast tracking the TPP ignores the rights of #Indigenous Peoples across Pacific nations. #NoFastTrack for #TPP Atn.@RonWyden .@BarackObama
  3. Learn more with Public Citizen


Since 1972 Cultural Survival has been advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.


“We Belong”: The Vancouver Native Health Society’s Story of Reconnection

By Katie Redmiles

Addiction, obesity, factory farming, added hormones, artificial flavoring, diabetes, and cancer: all negative effects of the way today’s society views and operates with food. Food has become something to be consumed fast and in large quantities, to satisfy an appetite rather than a hunger in many cases. Prices of food, with healthier options of organically grown produce on the expensive end and fast, unhealthy options such as McDonalds on the cheap side, cause many communities to suffer from major health issues. The East Vancouver area, with a high population of Indigenous people, is one such community whose high rates of poverty has led to high rates of food insecurity, with less accessibility to options beneficial to the body.

The Indigenous community residing in the East Vancouver area suffered greatly from being separated from their lands during colonization. These lands provided healthy food practices and allowed for Indigenous knowledge to be passed down through the generations.

What happens when a community is disconnected not only from its food but its traditional food systems? The disparity between a community and the nourishment it receives from its traditional foods is increased when their traditional way of obtaining, preparing, and connecting to the food has disappeared. After colonization occurred, a dominant European culture spread throughout the territories adding to the disappearance of Indigenous food systems. Today, the East Vancouver Aboriginal community experiences severe poverty with high rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other food related diseases.

The Vancouver Native Health Society is combating such adversities by helping East Vancouver’s Indigenous community to return to its traditional food systems, a process synonymous with its Indigenous values of healing the body and the self. The Aboriginal community in Vancouver, primarily comprised of Coast Salish territory with First Nation bands such as the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh, greatly values the healing power that exists from the sacredness of food, which provides energy and nourishment to the body and spiritual self.

Combining two great powers of nature – food and native lands, untouched by urbanization – VNHS’s Tu’wusht Garden/Kitchen Project has been working to lower the devastating number of serious diseases rampant in the community since 2005. The project teaches traditional healthy food practices while strengthening bonds between families, individuals, youth, elders, and adults across the First Nations East Vancouver community. The project uses the phrase “We Belong” on its emblem, reaffirming that the project will ultimately restore a sense of belonging for a community struggling to maintain its culture.

The Tu’wusht Garden/Kitchen Project includes harvesting food (fishing, hunting), cooking, and feeding up to 2,100 community members throughout the year. The project conducts weekly kitchens where healthy, culturally sensitive foods are prepared and served, and workshops are held for sharing the healthy practices and food knowledge derived from the Indigenous traditions.

The harvesting and hunting trips are supported by a grant from First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund. In the 2013-2014 harvesting year, the project conducted two trips to adjoining Indigenous territories with about 30 community participants, and one hunting trip with eight participants. During these trips they harvested chum salmon in Cheam, Sockeye Salmon from the Musqueam territory, and tipi poles on the Bridge River First Nations Reservation, in British Columbia, Canada.

Harvesting Salmon

During the fall of 2013, VNHS led six community participants to Cheam, a valley in British Columbia located under a mountain known as “Cheam Peak”, or “Lhílheqey” in the indigenous language. In Cheam, they harvested 100 salmon and smoked half of their harvest during their stay. The other half was smoked during two sessions back at the University of British Columbia (UBC) farm, where the project’s activities are usually held. The process of catching and smoking the salmon are vital activities that demonstrate natural and healthy ways of procuring food as taught by the traditions of East Vancouver’s Aboriginal community.

Then, at the end of the harvesting year and beginning of summer, the project led another harvesting trip closer to home in the Musqueam territory where the UBC farm is located. There, 100 Sockeye Salmon were purchased, prepared, and served as the year went on.

The fish being prepared and smoked using Indigenous techniques. Courtesy of

The fish being prepared and smoked using Indigenous techniques. Courtesy of


Tipi Pole Harvesting

VNHS also led a third, and unexpected, harvesting trip to gather tipi poles on the Bridge River First Nations Reservation. The experience was especially rewarding because it gave a chance for children, youth, and elders to camp and immerse themselves in the rich land of the Bridge River First Nation band.

The campsite was surrounded by the beautiful natural landscape of the territory and the journey was led by two of the band’s elders through a nearby mountain, part of the Band’s ancestral lands. This experience allowed for exchanges between elders and youth, sharing in knowledge of the earth which surrounds them, deepening the connection to their culture that has been compromised because of colonization and urbanization. They came away from this trip with 10 new tipi poles to be used for the Tipi, a traditional tent, used for workshops, feasts, and other traditional activities – a safe space for community gatherings.

The festivities of preparing and sharing in the food harvested with the traditional tipi in the forefront. Courtesy of

The festivities of preparing and sharing in the food harvested with the traditional tipi in the forefront. Courtesy of

Harvest Feasts

The project also hosts two feasts each year commemorating the start and end of harvest. All of the Tu’wusht activities take place on the Musqueam territory. The Musquem tradition is also greatly rooted in the vision of “One Heart One Mind” which strives for the unification of a strong community based on the cultural values and ideas.

Each time the Tu’wusht project gathers on the land, they give thanks to the Musqueam people and ancestors for the honor of being on their beautiful land and use of natural resources. The recognition given to the Musqueam and to the Indigenous people participating in the activities is key to keeping the connection strong between the Indigenous community of East Vancouver and the land they were separated from.

Volunteers cut and prepare the fish to be cooked. Courtesy of

Volunteers cut and prepare the fish to be cooked. Courtesy of

The VNHS, through the Tu’wusht project, is now able to feed and teach the community healthily and in accordance with their traditional culture. Where it once saw the insurmountable health problems of increasing numbers of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, they now realize the knowledge and traditions of their own culture are the best solution. Prevention is always stressed as the best option to combat serious issues, and the Tu’wusht project has been working for a decade toward the goal of preventing the health adversities faced by so many in the community.

A major cornerstone of the VNHS’s mission is their use of the medicine wheel. The medicine wheel is a way of approaching healing of the body and mind by acknowledging a person is made up of a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self. The Tu’wusht project is remarkable in its ability to heal each component of the self represented on the medicine wheel. Through the healthy feeding of their community the physical self is healed. By learning and participating with the whole community as well as close loved ones, the emotional state of their people improves. By giving a sense of belonging and community, as well as hope for the state of their health, the peoples’ mental selves are comforted. When they take excursions to Indigenous territories, the spirit resonating in themselves is reacquainted with the spirituality that is present in the land. The VNHS uses the Tu’wusht project activities to help bring balance to individuals and to the community as a whole.

The emblem used for the project, courtesy of Tu’wusht Project twitter

The emblem used for the project, courtesy of Tu’wusht Project twitter


VNHS grant application to the Keepers of the Earth Fund, 2013
VNHS grant report for Tu’wusht Garden/Kitchen project, 2014
VNHS grant application to the Keepers of the Earth Fund, 2014


The Importance of Inclusive Engagement

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

A recent article published in The Guardian is accusing the Canadian government of “pushing First Nations to give up land rights for oil and gas profits.” The article cites private meetings between resource companies and the Assembly of First Nations, organized and funded by the government, that are reportedly sparking strong criticism from grassroots communities.

The style and nature of dialogue with Indigenous Peoples about resource extraction is often just as important as the dialogue itself. Private meetings with elite Indigenous leaders, without participation from grassroots communities, gives the impression that the government is trying to “buy off” chiefs, a tactic used to divide and conquer Indigenous Peoples throughout history in Canada and elsewhere. A more inclusive and transparent approach would likely yield less criticism.

A rally against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, in November, 2014. [Photograph Credit: Mark Klotz/flickr, The Guardian]

A rally against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, in November, 2014. [Photograph Credit: Mark Klotz/flickr, The Guardian]

Sources: The Guardian

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


Introducing FPW’s Indigenous Leadership Regional Network Program!

Indigenous Leadership Regional Network (1)

Indigenous leadership has its own unique cultural context. Indigenous leaders often arise out of necessity rather than by election or a sense of personal ambition. Leadership itself is a collective effort in Indigenous communities, a cumulative gathering of wisdom and experience in deference to the greater good. This lack of formal structure builds trust and solidarity within a community, but it does not necessarily cultivate bonds between leaders in one community and those in another – the Indigenous movement is made up of thousands of grassroots efforts acting in relative isolation. In an increasingly globalized world, with large-scale problems such as climate change and the spread of international industries, Indigenous leaders need community beyond their communities.

To begin to identify and bring these Indigenous leaders together on a global and regional level, First Peoples Worldwide is excited to announce the launch of the Indigenous Leaders Regional Network Program, an initiative to enhance and amplify cultural leadership through trainings, shareholder advocacy, and network building.

The Indigenous Leadership Program will work to cultivate a globally connected Indigenous leadership network through training on social media and a new online networking platform for Indigenous Leaders: the Celebrating Indigenous Leaders: Knowledge and Wisdom Facebook group. Celebrating Indigenous Leaders is a place for Indigenous leaders across the globe to share information about their communities, challenges they face as Indigenous leaders, and development solutions that are working in their region.

On a regional level, the Indigenous Leadership Program will help to build internal and external capacities of Indigenous organizations, through Shareholder Advocacy and Leadership Training Centers (SALT). Regional SALT Centers will serve as platforms for determining leadership needs, sharing technical assistance, and building regional networks among Indigenous Leaders. First Peoples Worldwide will establish SALT Centers in Argentina, Mexico, and Canada, and will hold the first shareholder advocacy and leadership workshop at the 2015 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 25, 2015.

Through establishing robust regional and global networks among Indigenous organizations in the Americas, the Indigenous Leadership Regional Network Program will begin to amplify the voices of local and regional Indigenous leaders, and provide them a space for growth and development.



How We Make Progress, How We Have Change: Rebecca Adamson

Reposted from the Cultural Survival Quarterly

By Agnes Portalewska


Her voice reflects her passion. Her work reflects her commitment. Her legacy is an inspiration for many. Rebecca Adamson (Cherokee) is a businessperson and Indigenous rights advocate. She is the former director, president, and founder of First Nations Development Institute and the founder of First Peoples Worldwide. Born to a Swedish-American father and a Cherokee mother, Adamson grew up in Akron, Ohio and spent summers with her Cherokee grandmother in North Carolina. Reflecting on these early years, she says, “My journey and my vision has been driven by knowing we could solve our own problems and really wanting to listen to the ways our cultures helped us and supported our problem solving.”

Early in her career Adamson was hired by the coalition of five Indian Controlled Schools in the country. As she tells it, “the schools sued [then-President] Nixon to release the Title IV Indian Education funds. Title IV provided funds for parental involvement, among other things.” With the release of that money, the Coalition of Indian Controlled Schools were able to help tribes start their own schools. “All of this dovetailed into the Indian Education Self Determination Act. After they won and then they hired me, and I got to work in our communities, and it was amazing.” She also worked to get the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 passed, giving tribes authority for how they administered the funds.

Adamson’s background was in philosophy, a field she entered with “an undying belief that as Indigenous Peoples, we needed our own models. People constantly look at our systems and they talk about them being quaint. We get pushed back on two things: one is that the principles that I call ‘fundamental design principles’ are called romantic notions in Western thinking. But then they get caught up thinking that we’re saying individual Indians are better than individual Westerners. Both of those are just wrong. We [have] built systems that actually incentivize the good behavior.”

Later, as she pursued a graduate degree in economics and “began really looking into the finances of it,” she says, “what really hit me was how all the models that we were taking out into our communities carried Western values—they weren’t our values. So I thought if we had a development process that really listened and brought the technical and the resources together with the brilliant thinking and problemsolving of Indigenous peoples, we would get new models.” This is how the idea for First Nations Development Institute was born in 1980.

Initially, the primary purpose of First Nations Development Institute was to create a development process for Native people to do their own problem solving. The Institute created the land consolidation model, the tribal investment model, marketing, arts, food sovereignty, traditional food processes, agriculture, and the first micro-loan fund in the United States. The first 15 years were devoted to exploring Indigenous economics domestically, and the Institute began global outreach in 1994. Their first international field project grew into First Peoples Worldwide.

Since 2007, First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund has awarded nearly $1.5 million to Indigenous communities around the world representing 427 Indigenous groups in 53 countries. “Making that international transition has been extremely rewarding,” Adamson says. “It is magnitudes more difficult, more violent, and more discriminatory internationally, with what other Indigenous groups are facing. The grants are really what bring the energy and excitement and the heartbeat into our work.” She adds that the fund has supported projects that are “really struggling in dealing with huge global corporations and the pressure of being surrounded by the extractive industries and the governments that want the resources. In those cases we may be the only funder out there that is funding our communities to make their own decisions. One-third of our grantmaking portfolio had never had funding before. So we’re building those links back up to national and international groups so that we build that political machinery, bit by bit.”

For Adamson, getting corporations and governments to respect Indigenous rights requires a multipronged approach. “In the long run I think the activist groups keep the heat on. Social media has absolutely been bringing attention to it. If corporations want to manage by headlines, we’ve got to get them headlines. The activist groups are doing good work on that. Legal and rights groups are trying to get legal precedents set. What hasn’t really been approached in all this is the market. That’s why First Peoples Worldwide did the Indigenous Rights Risk Report (see page 14), to try to get one more strategic tool out there that we could all use. I think it really will bring more power and augment what we’ve already got underway,” she says.

Forward progress, however, isn’t always linear: “We don’t have a silver bullet anywhere. We could win a court case and the government decides not to uphold it. We could win an activist and media campaign, and as soon as the headlines die down they turn around and do it again. We make progress and then we slide back. [But] that is how we make progress and that is how we have change. “

After concluding its risk assessment of US-based extractive companies, First Peoples Worldwide is now turning its attention to Canada; Adamson estimates that about 70 percent of the global equity capital financing oil, gas, and mining comes from the Canadian exchange. “What we hope to do is bring the Indigenous groups in areas where we’re researching together with the other groups in the areas we’ve already researched. That’s the idea, to really start sharing this information among ourselves,” she says.

To aid in this information sharing, First Peoples Worldwide is currently developing curriculum on shareholder advocacy and planning to organize Indigenous shareholder advocacy leadership training centers in Indigenous areas where resource extraction is rampant. “We are organizing these centers so that our people in those places have the accountability they need to really negotiate and control their destinies with these corporations and with the government,” she explains.

Getting resources and information to the grassroots is a must for Adamson. “Real successes have been primarily [achieved] by us, by Indigenous people. We’ve got thousands of grassroots groups out there, and we need to be able to link them with the international and national groups. We have an ability to build the political machinery globally that we need to achieve change. We need more local capacity. Funders right now tend to build somebody else’s capacity, to study us, to work for us, to be an intermediary with us, but never fund us.” She cites the adoption of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a prime example: “We saw hundreds of thousands of dollars going out to non-Indigenous groups to do FPIC studies. The Indigenous groups are the ones having to figure out how to implement it, and yet all of the resources went to other folks to study us in doing it.”

Adamson believes that Canada, at the epicenter of so many protests and recent controversies around FPIC and Indigenous rights, “is really the microcosm of all of this. What the First Nations have made [Prime Minister] Harper’s administration understand is they can stop his resource development agenda.” She also points to the Amazon region, which “has had the lowest bids on concessions in its history,” a cause she attributes directly to protests and work stoppages. “We can stop the production and the extraction of these resources and get heard, but it’s a path that could lead to violence, which in many cases has been a struggle for our lives,” she says.

As the First Peoples’ risk report illustrates, in-country risk is one of the biggest drivers of corporate risk. “Corporations want to go to where there’s the least risk, and if it’s working with us, we can be at the table directing the government to title our land, uphold our rights,” Adamson says. “We are finding out through the risk report that it’s good business when countries uphold Indigenous rights. My hope is that we can get the results into the market quicker; that we can prove that countries that want economic performance have to uphold our rights to get it, and companies that want profit have to uphold our rights to get the profit. We’ve got to get that message out more and more.”

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about. To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.