Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous’

May30

When the Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword: A Shuar Poet Redefines Her Culture

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By Nataly Kelly, reposted from Cultural Survival

Much has been written about the Shuar, an Indigenous group from the Ecuadorian Amazon; many words have been used to describe them. Warriors, head-shrinkers, and shamans are some of the most common associations. But one word that is not typically seen in reference to the Shuar? Poet. Until now, that is—especially if María Clara Sharupi Jua has anything to say about it.

As the Battlefield Changes, So Do the Battle Plans

The history of the Shuar has been told predominantly through the lens of their warrior culture. Known for their fierce independence, the Shuar are often viewed as one of the few “winners” in the continuous battle that Indigenous people must fight to maintain their cultures, languages, and traditions. Their success arguably can be attributed as much to their strategic thinking and adaptability as their superior fighting skill.

In 1599, the Shuar shocked the Spanish by successfully driving them out of their territory. They are the only Indigenous group ever to achieve such a victory over their would-be colonizers, and their exceptional skill in battle enabled them to retain their independence for centuries. But in the 1940s the Shuar found themselves facing a new kind of threat: oil. Once oil was discovered in the region, missionaries and other colonists soon followed. The Shuar recognized that a different kind of fight—a nonviolent, political one—would be needed to protect their culture. They responded by establishing the Federacíon Interprovincial de Centros Shuar-Achuar, a political alliance that has been working to represent and protect the Shuar people’s interests for almost a half century.

Today, as the forces of globalization expand and the world continues to become more interconnected, the Internet offers new possibilities for ethnic minority groups fighting for the survival of their cultures and the languages that hold their collective knowledge. For a language like Shuar, which is spoken by some 40,000 people, the Internet has become a vital platform for disseminating the community’s native language and the ideas uniquely expressed within it.

Words as the New Weapon

María Clara Sharupi Jua is harnessing the power of words to help carve out what she hopes will be a fuller appreciation of her culture. “The Shuar culture is highly publicized but little understood…Many people continue to think of us as savages,” she says.

Even within Ecuador, Indigenous groups often face stereotyping and discrimination. Sharupi was born in the Amazon rainforest and currently lives in the capital city of Quito, where she is pursuing a university degree while also working full time at a government office. She says that Ecuadorians often question her about why she is living in an urban environment instead of in the jungle. “The questions people ask me range from ignorant to downright rude,” she says. The thing that Sharupi finds most disrespectful is when people fail to address members of the Shuar community by their names, instead referring to them with generic titles such as “la María” or “doñita.” She explains, “I always tell them, ‘I have a name, so if you’re going to address me, you need to use it.’”

Sharupi feels that the Shuar are often looked down upon, as though people believe they are somehow lacking in knowledge or are incapable of accomplishing the same things as others. However, she notes that there have been positive changes recently, among youth and women in particular. She explains, “I think that President Correa has given us greater recognition, particularly by making sure the Constitution and all of the laws are available in our mother tongue, which shows respect for us as human beings.” Sharupi was part of a team of individuals who helped edit the translation of the constitution in Shuar.

According to Sharupi, foreigners are also guilty of disrespectful treatment toward the Shuar. “When foreigners visit our communities,” she says, “it’s as if they hope to see a culture of savages. They want to live among people who are irrational, walk around naked, and have nothing. They want to report only on what’s different – not on what we have in common. I often feel they look at us solely as the finishing touch that enables them to complete an anthropological study or a graduate thesis.”

Through her poetry, Sharupi hopes to reveal a more complete and nuanced picture of the Shuar people, using an authentic voice that comes directly from her community. “Poetry is important because it’s our way of life. Poetry is song, everyday life, ritual, and where the heart and soul of the world unite. It’s a form of paying tribute to what exists beyond just what we see. It is also important for keeping the memory of our ancestors alive for our children and their children.”

In Sharupi’s eyes, the Shuar language is full of beautiful concepts that reflect cultural values far beyond just the typically associated warrior attributes. Her favorite phrase is “enenteimjai chichasta,” which simply translated means, “speak from your heart.” But the phrase also implies the opening of one’s heart to another person, speaking to them sincerely and free of any filters. Another of Sharupi’s favorites, “yuminsajme,” is a form of thanking someone but in a way that conveys a much deeper sense of gratitude, closer to “thank you from my very being.” Sharupi explains: “In this expression of thanks, the person gives all of their love to the other person, not as if that person is simply a person to whom love is directed, but as if that person is actually an extension of one’s self.”

Translation Is the Best Defense

Sharupi and her poems are steadily gaining international acclaim. She has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Collar de historias y lunas, an anthology of Latin American female Indigenous poets, and Amanece en nuestras vidas, the first book of poetry from Ecuadorian Indigenous women writers. She has conducted poetry readings at universities and book fairs, and she was invited to participate in the 2012 International Poetry Festival in Medellín, Colombia. She is also a member of the World Poetry Movement, and recently participated in the first International Colloquium of Indigenous Women Writers. Sharupi is currently working on a trilingual collection in Shuar, Spanish, and English that will include poetry, stories, and songs in celebration of the wisdom embedded in her culture.

Translation can help a poet reach a wider audience, and Sharupi knows firsthand how powerful it can be. Three of her poems have been translated into English and published by the London-based Poetry Translation Centre. Making these poems available in English, and online, is an important milestone because her work is now accessible to a world of readers who would otherwise not be able to understand it. Through her poetry, Sharupi hopes to add a new chapter to the Shuar legacy; one that extends beyond the typical associations of their warrior heritage. If the pen truly is mightier than the sword, then perhaps translation can give even more power to the pen—and the people who hold it.

AYA ENENTEIJAI TAYIMásh inijiatar, éntsa michamchat nunkan imichna aintsank
numi chupir kunkunti ainis
nunka yaki micha nupártincha nekaptai
nuyá chukirahua kunkuntia
pauji nampetairijai juaniriniawai

jíi kia takatsui
tumaitkiusha íimiawai
ichipras aujtai papin iniakmawai
miniakas papí nukeen winchirpatin

ewejrum-sha atsawai
tumaitkiush, ayásh nekàpmat, takame
uwi, tsawant, washim uwi, misuch aya enketui
antújat yumin pachimpar, mura ainis

ame áarma nuna mejentsat nakua wakeraj
aya takatsan nakua, antinkish atsutai nui
chimiamu atsana nui,
mamush-sha, ami yapí atsana
nantakim mayai aínis weame

ame wakannish atsana nui
tíi penker amin juame
inchimprusam, wishiram, métek-matin, winia nankamataei apapeame
numi yankú takáku kukújrukma ainis
winchirpatin amuachma

yamai pujai, atakak pujatsji
yajá jíiminia nui nukap papíi miniakeame
mayai chichamee itiana nuna
yampinkia jerer ajá ainisa
nuyachunka panki ainis
séjik-nium shirimp kanaru mash iímia
nekáchmin aya nekatsmee

winia kanarmari, penkesh chicham-ka juratsme
mesékramma jiru aínis ana nunash
nawek wekámur-nasha
imiátkin taritkia-numsha
ni nekas enentairi tichamunsha
winia enenteiriun  antinchamu aiti

winia enenteir-yajá kampuntinnium enenteimiawai
chinchip nakutan, awankeas pujurainianash
chikichik pipíi aínia nankiniam tseas-sha nakurawai
warínsha juyur nékachmin najantainmaya natém-jai
iwiakmari imiátkin  akinia nui.

 

 

PARADISE CAME

Drenching myself, like cool rain on mother earth
with the scent of smoke from damp firewood
that tastes like the mountain plains
and the chukirahua flower’s aroma
blends with the birdsong of the paují.

You have no eyes
and you watch like the windstorm
peeling back the contents each paragraph holds
nestling them within your colored pages.

You have no hands
but even so, you shape my senses
and you strip the 21st century, which shelters the years, the days
made of sweet, coarse sounds.

I want to kiss your words
without brushing my lips
where there are no scars
and no curtains to conceal your face.
The freedom of not having you
makes your steadiness intense
coy and playful, you chase my footsteps
like a flowering tree
in a boundless color.

We don’t know if you’re here or not
behind your eyes you hold a thousand tales
always at the tip of the wind’s tidings
like the roar of the jaguar
or perhaps an anaconda
graffiti skin, cloaked in dreams
you don’t remember infinity.

You don’t threaten my childhood dreams
or my speckled nightmares
in a faded metal box
or my bare feet
which refuse to wear high heels
or the fake smiles that unleashed my tears without wounding my soul.

I think of my beloved jungle
vines swaying from tree to tree
a drop of poison resting on an arrowhead
possessed by magic ayahuasca dust
where the maker of life is born.

By María Clara Sharupi Jua

(English translation by Nataly Kelly)

–Nataly Kelly is the translator of María Clara Sharupi Jua’s works in English and a former Fulbright scholar in Ecuador. She is the co-author of the newly released book, Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World.

Bringing Shuar Poetry to the World through Digital Multimedia

 

May15

The Woman Who Refused an Oscar

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Rausser

In retrospect, it’s hard to tell whether Roger Moore and Liv Ullmann knew ahead of time that the 45th Academy Awards ceremony was about to get turned upside down. They certainly looked nervous as they announced that Marlon Brando had won the Oscar for best actor, for his role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. They glanced warily toward the audience as a young Native American woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, stood up and made her way to the stage. Brando was nowhere in sight. He was, ostensibly, watching from home. In his place was this very beautiful, very serious-looking woman in traditional Apache dress and long black ponytails. As Littlefeather approached the podium, Moore offered her the statuette. She raised a hand, palm toward the Oscar, and turned purposefully toward the microphone.

It was March 27th, 1973. The occupation of the town of Wounded Knee in South Dakota by 200 Oglala Lakota and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) was only a month old, and showed no signs of resolution. The group was protesting the failure of the United States government to uphold treaties it had made with Native American tribes, but the government had made it clear that no compromise was to be made, and gunfire had already been exchanged. At that time, the only image of the Native American available to the public was often a white person playing an Indian on the big screen or on TV. Twenty-six-year-old Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache actress, had met Marlon Brando through her work to improve the representation and treatment of Native Americans in the media. Brando had been a longtime supporter of Native American rights, and had chosen the upcoming Academy Awards to make a statement calling for a peaceful end to the Wounded Knee siege, and for change in the way the film industry portrayed Indigenous people. He chose Littlefeather to deliver that statement.

Here is what she told the audience of famous filmmakers that night:

Hello. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache and I am president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee. I’m representing Marlin Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech which I cannot share with you presently because of time, but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry, excuse me…

—here some members of the audience had begun to boo, while others clapped—

…and on television in movie re-runs and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.

The show’s producer had threatened to have Littlefeather arrested if she tried to read the entire 15-page statement Brando had prepared, so she improvised the speech. She later learned that John Wayne, who was backstage, had become so angry while she spoke that several people had to restrain him from going onstage to stop her.

Born Marie Cruz to a white mother and a father of mixed White Mountain Apache and Yaqui descent, Littlefeather grew up unaware of her father’s culture, and disconnected from her own racial identity. But she knew that she was different, and that others around her did not always think that was a good thing. In an interview with the Native American Times, she remembers she and her mother having to use separate restrooms in public, and a sign that read “No Dogs or Indians Allowed.”

While attending college in San Francisco in the late 60s, Littlefeather began to learn about her Apache heritage and join Native American activist groups. She participated in the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island, carried out by the group Indians of All Tribes (IAT) under the premise that the federal government was obligated to return the island to its original Native American occupants once it was no longer in use. The elders leading the occupation helped her and other urban Indians learn the old ways. “If you’re quiet enough and sincere enough, people will teach you what you need to know,” she said. Navajo friends gave her the name Sacheen, or “little bear,” and her new community helped set her on a lifelong path of activism and helping others.

After her Oscars speech, Littlefeather was blacklisted in Hollywood. She received death threats. The media tore her apart, claiming that she wasn’t a real Indian, that her dress was rented. She never landed another acting gig, but she didn’t look back. She became an advisor on documentary projects about Native Americans, taught film students at Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, and founded the National American Indian Performing Arts Registry, which encourages the film industry to hire real Indians to play their ancestors. She has studied and taught traditional medicine, and founded the American Indian AIDS Institute of San Francisco.

“I knew that I was on the right track when I got a note from Coretta King, Martin Luther King’s wife. She told me she was proud of me,” Littlefeather told the Native American Times.

Littlefeather talks about her Oscars speech in the recent documentary Reel Injun, which explores the depiction of Native Americans in the movies. The film also features Russell Means, a prominent leader of the occupation of Wounded Knee, who also speaks about the Oscars moment. “We don’t believe we’re going to get out of there alive and the morale is down low,” he says, “and Marlon Brando and Sacheen Littlefeather totally uplifted our lives.”

You can watch Littlefeather’s speech to the Academy and the world on YouTube—it is a rare opportunity to see the bravery of a Native American activist at work.

Sources: Native American Times, Indian CountryBusiness Insider, Entertainment Weekly, New York Times

May14

Indigenous Music With a Message

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Photo: Sarstoon Temash National Park

First Peoples Worldwide recently received a wonderful Spring gift from one of our grantees in Belize, the Sarstoon-Temash Insitute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM). This original song about SATIIM’s work, written and recorded in collaboration with Belizean musician Denroy Garcia, puts the struggle and optimism of Indigenous Peoples in Belize to powerful, danceable music.

Click here to listen to the song: SATIIM’s Fight Is Also Our Fight

Here’s what SATIIM’s executive director, Gregory Ch’oc, had to say about the song:

SATIIM and the indigenous communities in southern Belize have been engaged in tense political and legal advocacy against oil drilling inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park and Maya Ancestral lands. I made this song as part of our campaign to sensitize the larger Belizean public to SATIIM and the indigenous peoples fight/struggles in southern Belize. I want for the Belizean public to recognize that the struggles of SATIIM and the indigenous people is the struggle of every Belizean. The song is written in a mix of English and Creole. Creole is a dialect spoken by Afro-Caribbean Belizeans which is commonly spoken in Belize. I [have tried] to translate the lyrics into English. It has a brukdown/Punta Rock music beat. The song was written Denroy Garcia with my input. Denroy Garcia is a Garifuna artist who has released many albums. He is the singer. This song will be used at public events, radio shows, and press conferences, etc.

Here are the lyrics:

SATIIM’s Fight Is Also Our Fight

Fighting for the rights and dignity of our people, that is SATIIM Mantra,
That is why we are on fire,
With the help of all the people, we will prosper in the Nation
Sustainable development we need for our future generation

It is SATIIM that we support, and that we do not hide.
B’cas through our farming and our land is how we survive
SATIIM’s fight is also our fight
I want you to understand
That is why I am proud to be a Belizean

It is SATIIM that we support, and that we do not hide
B’cas through our farming and our land is how we survive
SATIIM’s fight is also our fight
I want you to understand
That is why I am proud to be a Belizean

People will mislead you about the work that SATIIM does
As Bob Marley said, they will slander you
Who the cap fit let them wear it
You can look around your village; you will see a lot of it

It is SATIIM that we support, and that we do not hide
B’cas through our farming and our land is how we survive
SATIIM’s fight is also our fight
I want you to understand
That is why I am proud to be a Belizean

It is SATIIM that we support, and that we do not hide
B’cas through our farming and our land is how we survive
SATIIM’s fight is also our fight
I want you to understand
That is why I am proud to be a Belizean

Yes, All of us are with SATIIM (translation from Q’eqchi’—a Maya language)
It is SATIIM that we support, and that we do not hide
B’cas through our Farming and our land is how we survive

Songwriters: Denroy Garcia and Gregory Ch’oc
Singer: Denroy Garcia

Read more about the situation in southern Belize in our recent blog post.

May20

12th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to Discuss Six Key Areas

By Britnae Purdy

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The twelfth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) began Monday, May 20 at the UN headquarters in New York City, New York, USA. During the ten-day forum, the members of the permanent forum will address six key issues relating to indigenous peoples. Additionally, this year’s forum will feature a review of policies implemented to address the previous year’s special theme, The Doctrine of Discovery: Its Enduring Impact on Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Redress for Past Conquests. Here, we’ll take a closer look at those six themes that the forum will be discussing as most relevant to the needs of indigenous peoples.

Economic and Social Development – The UN identifies the need to address the consequences of historic injustice to indigenous peoples and the common practice of both colonial and modern states of denying indigenous peoples the right to appropriately develop their communities in favor of more economically lucrative development. Indigenous peoples make up only five percent of the world’s total population, but account for fifteen percent of the world’s poor and an incredible one-third of the world’s extremely poor rural population. Studies indicate that poverty is a crushing constant in many indigenous communities – even when indigenous groups are “able to accumulate human capital such as education or training, they are unable to convert that to significantly greater earnings or to reduce the poverty gap with the non-native population,” indicating a much deeper issue than simple economics.

Environment – Though the indigenous population of the world totals only 370 million, it inhabits 20 percent of the world’s territory. Though indigenous groups have achieved increased recognition of their environmental rights at the international level, this international law has not effectively translated into reality on the national and local level. Most nations do not acknowledge indigenous peoples’ rights to their traditional territory, and even when they do, official land titling and demarcation is often delayed or ignored altogether due to politics. Though the UN calls for the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities in issues regarding their land, many governments continue to lease out native territory to mining and logging companies without indigenous consultation or consent. Unsustainable development such as large dams and mining projects lead to the eviction or dislocation of entire communities without proper consultation or compensation. Additionally, indigenous communities often feel the negative effects of genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the introduction of cash-crop cultivation, contamination of eco-systems, and climate change.

Culture – Indigenous peoples face the threat of extinction, not only on a territorial and environmental level, but on a cultural level as well. As the UN states, “due to being excluded from the decision-making and policy frameworks of the nation-states in which they live, and being subjected to processes of domination and discrimination, [Indigenous] cultures have been viewed as being inferior, primitive, irrelevant, something to be eradicated or transformed.” The 370 million indigenous people of the world come from over 5,000 different cultures, many of them speaking rare and declining languages. Horrifically, the UN predicts that 90 percent of the world’s 6,000-7,000 languages may become extinct within the next 100 years. 97 percent of the world’s population speak only 4 percent of the world’s languages. The loss of a language quickly destroys the sense of community. The loss of traditional knowledge and traditional food also threaten the existence of indigenous peoples.

Education – Indigenous youth face many obstacles to obtaining an education – they are more likely to be malnourished, poor, ill, tired, bullied at school, and subjected to corporal punishment at school. When they are able to attend school, they often encounter a lack of respect for indigenous life and deficit of culturally-appropriate educational material. Schools may teach individualism and competition instead of the communal and cooperative ethics valued by many indigenous groups. This has numerous negative effects on the indigenous populations. As the UN states, “when indigenous school children are introduced only to the national discourse at the expense of their native discourse, they are in danger of losing part of their identity, their connection with their parents and predecessors. They are not taught relevant survival and work skills suitable for indigenous economics, and they often return to their communities with a formal education that is irrelevant or unsuitable for their needs. They are forced to seek employment in the national economy, leading to a vicious cycle of social fragmentation, brain drain, and a lack of development.”

Health – Indigenous populations face health problems in different ways than the general population. Over 50 percent of all indigenous adults over the age of 35 have type two diabetes. The life expectancy of an indigenous person is typically 6-20 years shorter than their non-indigenous counterparts, depending on the country. Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to issues such as tuberculosis, maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, and malaria. Indigenous communities suffer malnutrition resulting from environmental degradation, contamination, loss of land and territory, and a decline in the abundance or accessibility of traditional food sources. Mental health issues stem from a history of colonization and dispossession, and along with crushing poverty lead to other societal issues such as higher rates of suicide, violence, incarceration, smoking, and substance abuse, especially in “urban areas, where indigenous peoples are detached from their communities and cultures, yet seldom fully embraced as members of the dominant society.” Furthermore, national health systems are rarely appropriate for the indigenous context.

Human Rights – Indigenous peoples are all too often victims of violence, forced assimilation, abuse, and systemic racism. Indigenous women suffer high rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse; one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime. When communities attempt to call attention to and address their lack of human rights, their protests are often criminalized.

In addition to these six issues, the forum will also pay special attention to four cross-cutting issues: gender and indigenous women, indigenous children and youth, the Millennium Development Goals, and the challenges of inconsistent data and indicators accompanying the discussion of many indigenous issues.

Follow the Proud To Be Indigenous campaign on Facebook and the Twitter hashtags #Proud2BIndigenous and #P2BI for more information on UNPFII and Proud To Be Indigenous Week.

Photo by Johnson Cerda (www.dialoguebetweennations.com)

May13

Proud To Be Indigenous Week Starts Next Week – May 20th!

Updated 5/14/2013

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Proud to Be Indigenous Week starts Monday, May 20th. Are you part of it yet?!

Indigenous Peoples from around the world will be descending on New York City for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). While most of us can’t make it to New York, our voices need to be heard! Proud To Be Indigenous is an online campaign for Indigenous People to share their stories. The Proud To Be Indigenous coalition includes over 40 Indigenous and Indigenous-friendly organizations, large and small and from all over the world, that will be sharing photos, videos and stories about Indigenous, Native and Aboriginal people online during UNPFII (see the full list of coalition members below).

But most importantly, Proud To Be Indigenous is about you, the Indigenous People from around the world, and sharing your story and voice. How? Throughout the week, we are encouraging people to share photos, videos and stories of themselves and why they are proud of their people and culture. We have already started receiving photos, videos and stories from Indigenous People in the Arctic, Amazon, and Central Africa! Join your Indigenous sisters and brothers and send us a photo of you holding a #Proud2BIndigenous sign so that next week, thousands of Indigenous people are showing their pride and sharing their voice. And make sure you are following us on Facebook and Twitter because during the week, we will be sharing Indigenous stories and news coming out of UNPFII.

How can you get involved? Its easy, no matter where you are.

TAKE A #PROUD2BINDIGENOUS PHOTO

Take a photo of yourself with your homemade #Proud2BIndigenous sign. See a few of the great examples we have already received below:

Share_your_P2BI_Photo

Then post them on the Proud To Be Indigenous Facebook page with a message telling us your name, your People and where you live.

If you are on Twitter, tweet your photo using the hashtag #Proud2BIndigenous or #P2BI and we will retweet it.

And if you only have email, just email is the photo to proud2bindigenous@firstpeoples.org and we will share it for you.

That’s it! Make sure you sign up and join the movement so we can update you throughout the week on what is going on. And check out the schedule below for the Proud To Be Indigenous events in New York during UNPFII.

Thank you to the Proud To Be Indigenous Coalition: First Peoples WorldwideCultural SurvivalSmithsonian’s National Museum of the American IndianIndian Country Today Media NetworkAmazon WatchNative American Rights FundUnited Nations Global CompactA World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (AWISH); Action Communautaire pour la Promotion des Défavorisés Batwa (ACPROD-BATWA); Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group; Bajoh Indigenous Development Association; Bible Hill Youth Club; Borena Amara Wetatoch Mehaber (BAYA); Borneo ProjectBuffalo Nickel CommunicationsConscious Living; Council of the Maya Ancestral Authorities of the Ixil Region; ELEMENTALEnterprise Development & Enterprise FacilityFundación Paso a PasoGlobal HandGulu Deaf AssociationGwich’in Steering CommitteeHiga-onon Ha Migsabuwa Ta Lanao, Inc.; Il’laramatak Community ConcernsIndigenous Peoples Issues and ResourcesIndigenous WavesInternational Indian Treaty Council (IITC); Literacy Action And Development Agency (LADA)Longhouse Media; Maya Leaders Alliance, Mindanao Fish, Wildlife Degenders and Parks Association; Mengbwa: Actions Jeunes (MAJE)Native Arts CollectiveNumi Organic Tea; Organisation d’Accompagnement et d’Appui aux Pygmées (OSAPY); Organization of Indigenous Communities of Masisea (OCOIM); Peopleriver; Pikhumpongan Dlibon Subanen, Inc. (PDSI); Pueblos Indígenas Chorotega (CPICh); Pwani Leadership Council (Kenya); Pygmy People Association for a Sustainable Development; Red Alliance MediaRunaSATIIM – Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management; Sundarbon Adibasi Munda Sangastha (SAMS), sweetriotTankaTebtebba; Toledo Alcaldes Association; Uganda Gender Rights Foundation; Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), Urunji Child-Care Trust; and Vision Maker Media.

 

PROUD TO BE INDIGENOUS WEEK

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

Updated 5/14/2013

Annual Children’s Festival: “Aloha Days at the NMAI”
Saturday & Sunday, May 18 & 19, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM EST
at National Museum of the American Indian
Celebrate the culture, traditions and values of Native Hawai’i through dance, storytelling, workshops and much more.  Activities and workshops will be lead by Hālau O ‘Aulani.

First Peoples Worldwide Annual Board Meeting
Sunday, May 19 & Monday, May 20

Donor Breakfast
Tuesday, May 21 (Invitation only)
A chance for funders and First Peoples’ grantees to meet and explore future funding opportunities. Invitation only.
Contact nmorrison@firstpeoples.org for details.

Corporate Leadership & Indigenous Peoples
Tuesday, May 21, 12:30 – 2:30 PM EST
A workshop for companies establishing leadership roles within the growing global trajectory for Indigenous Peoples’ rights. RSVP is required.
Contact npelosi@firstpeoples.org for details.

Leadership Training for Indigenous Peoples
Tuesday, May 21, 6:00 – 9:00 PM EST
A culturally appropriate leadership training for Indigenous Peoples. RSVP is required.
Contact jtiller@firstpeoples.org for details.

UN Global Compact Consultation
Thursday, May 23, 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM EST
Workshop for Indigenous Peoples to provide feedback and comments to the UN Global Compact’s Business Reference Guide to UNDRIP. RSVP is required.
Contact npelosi@firstpeoples.org for details.

Native Right to Water
Thursday, May 23, 6:00 PM EST
Diker Pavilion at National Museum of the American Indian
In conjunction with the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the museum and the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals presents a discussion of Native water rights with Cecelia Belone, (Diné) and Native activist/attorney James Zion. This program will also be broadcast live on the web at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nmai-ny

Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award
Thursday, May 23, 6:00 – 8:00 PM EST
at National Museum of the American Indian
Hosted by Cultural Survival
Contact agnes@culturalsurvival.org for details.

Cultural Survival Baazar
Friday May 24, 10:00 AM – 6PM EST
at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza
833 1st Ave, New York, NY 10017
Hosted by Cultural Survival
For more information, visit: http://bazaar.culturalsurvival.org/may-24-new-york-city-ny

Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) Guidebook Meeting
Tuesday, May 28, 1:15 – 2:30PM EST
An introduction to Indigenous Peoples Guidebook to FPIC & Corporation Standards developed in partnership with First Peoples Worldwide, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), and Trillium Asset Management.
Contact npelosi@firstpeoples.org for details.

Times are tentative and subject to change. All events wil take place in New York City. Sign-up to be alerted of additions and changes to the schedule.

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May08

Guaraní People vs. Repsol: The Importance of Indigenous Self-Determination

by Mark Betancourt

Yanagawa_quote

In an open letter sent from a pan-Amazon meeting on climate change and Indigenous Peoples, Brazilian Indigenous leader declared, “we are tired of anthropologists, environmentalists, church-related organizations, and other specialists speaking for us and using us for their self-interest. Please respect our self-determination to make our own decisions.” This statement echoes the sentiments of Indigenous Peoples around the world as they struggle to make self-determination a central tenet of the Indigenous rights movement.

Among the most insidious challenges Indigenous leaders face is from organizations that claim to advocate for Indigenous communities but end up doing more harm than good. Many non-Indigenous grantmaking and advocacy organizations try to address Indigenous problems through their own agendas, and without ever consulting the communities they are meant to support. Often these organizations receive funding while Indigenous groups are left to fend for themselves. Without the freedom and resources to make their own decisions, Indigenous Peoples remain essentially enslaved to outside interests.

The recent history of the Itika Guasu Guaraní in Bolivia, who are represented by their own organization, the Assembly of the Guaraní People of Itika Guasu (APG IG), is a prime example of the dangers of outside interference in Indigenous affairs, and demonstrates the enormous benefits of Indigenous self-determination.

In 1997, the Spanish oil and gas company Repsol began the exploration and drilling of massive gas reserves located in Guaraní territory. This was done without the community’s consent, and caused environmental damage that directly threatened the Guaraní way of life. APG IG enlisted the help of outside non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to defend their land rights. Because conflict with these organizations is a source of ongoing hardship for APG IG and its community, we have been asked not to name them here.

Despite Repsol’s clear violations of Bolivian law, the intermediary organizations advised APG IG not to take legal action against the company, claiming that any such effort would inevitably fail. APG IG later learned that the major funder of these organizations was also a consultant to Repsol, and that it was being funded by the Bolivian government, as well as other governments that stood to profit from Repsol’s operations.

This kind of experience is typical for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Outside NGOs supposedly acting on behalf of Indigenous Peoples siphon millions of dollars away from communities while pursuing agendas that often work against the communities’ best interests. In the meantime, Indigenous organizations like APG IG are often overlooked by funders, and ignored by governments, corporations and international development institutions.

But rather than give in to Repsol, APG IG’s board of directors consulted with Spain-based human rights organization Equipo Nizkor, which helped the community develop a long-term legal strategy for the Guaraní to retain control of their land. Equipo Nizkor also offered to provide training and education that would help the community make informed decisions about how to protect its sovereignty over its territory.

The original intermediary NGOs, who were supposed to be advocates for APG IG, immediately criticized this new strategy, and began withdrawing their support. With no access to funding of its own, APG IG was paralyzed. It was critical that the organization involve its entire community in decision-making, but there was no money for travel between the many remote Guaraní villages.

At that time First Peoples Worldwide, an Indigenous-led grantmaking organization based in the United States, provided APG IG with a grant of US$11,124 through its Keepers of the Earth Fund. With this relatively modest grant, the organization traveled to each of the villages, the community came together to make an informed decision, and APG IG was able to reach an agreement with Repsol and two other oil companies, British Gas and E&P, a representative of British Petroleum. The agreement officially recognized the Guaraní’s rights to their land and created an Itika Guasu Investment Fund of US$14.8 million to benefit Guaraní communities in the region.

Clearly, relationships with outside advocacy organizations can be of vital importance to Indigenous groups. Without the expertise of Equipo Nizkor, APG IG could not have made an informed decision about its community’s future. Without First Peoples Worldwide, the community could not have raised the funding it needed on its own. But unlike the intermediaries that tried to sabotage APG IG’s efforts, Equipo Nizkor and First Peoples Worldwide did not attempt to make any decisions for the Guaraní. In the end, the community was able to use tools provided by its allies to choose its own course.

“The thing to retain here is that no NGO may replace the Indigenous authorities,” says Gregorio Dionis, president of Equipo Nizkor, speaking through an interpreter.

“We give a lot of importance to the legal strategy and to the training and education of community members,” he says. “As a consequence you get empowerment and consolidation of the structure of the community.”

As in the case of APG IG, corporations can become allies to Indigenous communities when both parties have equal footing. First Peoples Worldwide not only provides grants directly to Indigenous organizations, it also engages with corporations, educating companies about Indigenous communities and issues while giving them an opportunity to contribute positively to Indigenous development by funding our grants.

First Peoples Worldwide has had tremendous success with its Traditional and Contemporary Self Governance initiative, funded by Shell in 2011, which awarded grants to communities that are taking steps to enhance their internal decision-making processes. In funding this initiative, Shell had clear intentions to support Indigenous self-determination, forge closer relationships with Indigenous communities, and garner lessons that could inform interactions between Indigenous Peoples and outside entities in the future. Nearly $200,000 was granted to 18 communities, and the results of their projects will form a webinar that will be distributed to Shell, the World Bank and the United Nations, as well as to Indigenous groups worldwide.

APG IG has shown that successful community development depends not on where funding comes from, but on the framework of values and strategies with which it is given. Any funder that supports the community’s right to make its own decisions, whether it is a foreign NGO, a government, or a corporation, can be an invaluable ally to the community. On the other hand, even the most well-intentioned organization will inevitably cause more harm than good if it fails to respect the community’s wishes and its right to determine its own future.

May07

Tanzanian Land Grab Threatens Maasai Way of Life

by Mark Betancourt

Young_Masai_herder

Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced in March that it plans to forbid 30,000 Maasai tribespeople from entering a 1,500-km stretch of their traditional homeland bordering Serengeti National Park. The Maasai, who depend on this land to support their cattle herds, will face abject poverty if the measure goes through.

This is not the first time the government has denied the Maasai the right to live in Loliondo Game Controlled Area (LGCA), which they legally own under Tanzania’s Village Land Act. In 2009, the government evicted more than 3,000 Maasai from eight villages bordering the national park. More than 200 Maasai huts were burned down and some 50,000 cattle were driven into an area plagued by extreme drought, plunging the community into an immediate crisis. Members of the community also reported rapes and beatings at the hands of government riot police.

Maasai have also been evicted from a total of 13,000 square kilometers of parkland in Tanzania and neighboring Kenya. In addition to the imminent Loliondo evictions, the Tanzanian government has also proposed the removal of 40,000 more people from Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which borders Loliondo to the south.

Maasai women’s organizations have organized sit-ins to protest the Loliondo measure after broader protests failed. At least 1,000 women have participated in the sit-ins, despite a government ban on public gatherings and intimidation from police forces.

The highlands encompassed by the proposed “wildlife corridor” in Loliondo are crucial to Maasai herdsmen during the dry season, and comprise 40% of their total cattle grazing area. Cattle are already stressed by increasingly later rainy seasons as a result of global climate change.

According to Tanzanian officials, the Maasai are overgrazing the land and must be removed in order to protect the area’s wildlife. To drive the point home, the country’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, recently told a group of Maasai pastoralists that “living a nomadic life is not productive.”

Contrary to the government’s stated reasoning, studies show the Maasai are especially good at managing livestock sustainably without taxing the land, and that their methods actually improve conditions for wildlife. Several Maasai organizations, in a recent press statement, claimed that wild animals take refuge in their villages when fleeing recreational hunters. The Maasai also lived in stable balance with the now “protected” ecosystem for more than two centuries before the national park was established. In fact, the LGCA was created with the intention of allowing the pastoralist Maasai to continue their traditional way of life within its borders, but the area’s tourism industry, along with its conservationist façade, has muddled that purpose and whittled away the Maasai’s territory.

Enter the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), a hunting tourism company from the United Arab Emirates. In 1992, the Tanzanian government gave OBC free reign of the LGCA, where it constructed high-end hunting lodges and a private airstrip for use by UAE dignitaries arriving on hunting excursions. OBC security forces have clashed with Maasai tribespeople ever since, and they are reported to have been involved in carrying out the evictions in 2009. Another tourism company, the US-based Thomson Safaris, has also been accused of violently pushing Maasai herdsman off of its land.

The Maasai are not the only African indigenous group fighting for their land rights. In East Africa alone, the Samburu, Ogiek, Sengwer, Endorois, Turkana and dozens of other tribes are all facing eviction or land rights disputes. In most cases, these groups are fighting to remain on land their people have occupied for hundreds or even thousands of years.

While tourism factors into many of these conflicts, government conservation initiatives and agricultural “land grabs” are the driving forces behind most evictions. The Ogiek of the Mau Forest and the Sengwer of Embobut Forest in Kenya have faced violent removal from their homes, a measure the government claims is necessary to protect some of the region’s vital water catchment areas—despite the fact that settlers from outside the forests, and not the hunter-gatherer native peoples, are responsible for existing environmental damage. Some estimates put the number of Africans displaced in the name of conservation at more than 14 million.

The government also leases huge parcels of land to foreign agriculture companies that replace thousands of small, family-owned vegetable plots with vast corporate farms, crippling local subsistence economies.

Land grabbing destroys the livelihood and culture of pastoralist and hunter-gathering societies by cutting them off from the natural resources on which they depend. Women are particularly vulnerable, as their land rights are less often recognized, their voices are rarely included in negotiations, and they often bear the main responsibility for providing food to their families.

Some indigenous groups have succeeded in bringing legal action against their governments and other responsible actors. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights recently ruled in favor of the Ogiek community in an ongoing trial regarding the tribe’s customary land tenure in the Mau Forest, placing an injunction on any further evictions until the case is decided. In 2010 the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a body associated with the African Court, ruled that the Kenyan government’s 1970 eviction of the Endorois people to make way for a wildlife reserve violated international law. The San people living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana, long the victims of government abuses, have won two cases in Botswana’s high court establishing their land and water rights.

But even when indigenous groups succeed in winning favorable court rulings, governments often drag their feet in implementing changes. The San have just initiated a third case demanding that the government of Botswana honor its court’s previous rulings by issuing the permits necessary to live and hunt within the CKGR, which it still refuses to do. Despite Kenya’s acknowledgement of the African Commission’s ruling, which is not legally binding, the Endorois are still waiting for any tangible government effort to compensate them for their eviction. And even when governments do take steps to make reparations, it isn’t easy. Once a group has been displaced, it can be complicated, and usually impossible, to return them to the status quo prior to eviction.

Laura Young, a lawyer with ProRights Consulting, a firm that supports communities facing eviction in Kenya, acknowledges how difficult it is to defend the land rights of a group once it no longer occupies the land in question. “If you can stop land loss from taking place in the first place, and stop land status from changing, that is definitely a top priority,” she says. “That stops the chain of incredibly messy legal nightmare that you have to deal with once a community is evicted.”

Often current landowners have bona fide title to their land, and had nothing to do with the eviction of residents before they purchased it. According to Thomson Safaris, it legally acquired its 12,600-acre “Enashiva Nature Refuge” in 2006. Regardless of how companies like Thomson comport themselves now, legally challenging their ownership of the land can be difficult.

Young also points out that any legal action must also be accompanied by capacity building and rights-based education within communities. Without these tools, community members cannot properly assess the threat of land grabs or negotiate with the government once they are initiated. She suggests that governments also need capacity and education, including cultural sensitivity in negotiating with Indigenous groups. For example, despite claims that it would be open to comments from the Maasai community, a general management plan proposed by the Tanzanian government for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was drawn up and implemented without Maasai participation, let alone approval.

Whether in the name of conservation, tourism, or even human rights, the process of developing Indigenous territories must begin with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the communities affected. No progress can be made when the rights of a community to determine its own future are ignored, and the FPIC process itself depends on well-informed leadership on both sides of the negotiation.

“I firmly believe there are ways to deal with these very complex situations,” says Young. “We can all work together on this and come up with a solution that may not be 100 percent perfect, but it’s going to be better than a whole community of people ending up as squatters.”

Young also stresses how important it is for communities facing land conflicts to support each other. She points out that the Endorois have become ambassadors for land rights in the region, advocating not only for themselves but for indigenous communities throughout the continent. And the network reaches beyond Africa—a petition by the global civic organization Avaaz.org successfully stopped Maasai evictions in Tanzania in 2012, with nearly a million signatures. The petition, which is still active, has now been signed by nearly 2 million people.

First Peoples Worldwide has partnered with Ogiek, Sengwer and Sumburu organizations to fund the kind of education and training projects that strengthen the capacity of these communities to defend their FPIC rights. Two grants to organizations representing the Sengwer helped the community map and document its land claim and receive rights-based training in order to fight government evictions. Several grants to the Ogiek Peoples Development Programme funded a series of workshops for the community members about their rights under Kenya’s new constitution. An emergency grant to the Samburu in early 2012 helped the community attend a similar constitutional rights forum, where they met directly with government officials and, through coordinated media efforts, brought their case to into the public eye.

(Photo from Wikipedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Young_Masai_herder.jpg)

Mar19

Did Companies Invest in Peace During Kenyan Election?

by Nick Pelosi on Making the Business Case

Kenya Election_Leff

During the weeks preceding Kenya’s 2013 prime ministerial elections, numerous companies invested their resources in peace campaigns to deter a repeat of the ethnic violence that followed the country’s 2007 elections.  Crown Paints put up billboards displaying its various paint colors to represent unity among Kenya’s tribes.  Employees of construction firm PG Bison collected signatures from citizens vowing to do their part to maintain peace during and after elections.  Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator, partnered with government agencies to disperse peace messages through its vast media networks.

Their efforts were not in vain.  On March 4, Uhuru Kenyatta was announced as Kenya’s next Prime Minister, defeating incumbent Raila Odinga.  Despite widespread allegations of electoral rigging from Odinga’s supporters, The New York Times reported that the election’s aftermath has been relatively peaceful compared to the last.  The peace is fragile, and the courts have already begun to hear petitions requesting the release of more information about the elections.  Regardless, these actions set a positive example for companies around the world operating in regions marred by external sociopolitical conflicts.

The violence, rooted in a complex web of ethnic divisions involving Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, has resulted in an estimated 1,500 deaths and 250,000 displacements in Kenya.  Far from being solely an ethical pursuit, investing in peace has direct material incentives, as evidenced by the drastic economic slump that coincided with the violence.  In 2008, direct foreign investment in the country plummeted by nearly 75 percent – from US$729 million to US$183 million.  The Kenya Association of Manufacturers estimates reported job losses of over 4,000 due to the violence, and that “a repeat of the same could bring the industry to its knees.”

In 2010, Canadian-owned Bedford Biofuels obtained permission from the Kenyan government to plant 10,000 hectares of jatropha (a non edible plant with oil-rich seeds that have potential for biodiesel production) in the particularly volatile Tana Delta region.  Despite promising jobs and infrastructure development to local communities, the companies’ progress has been stalled by local conflicts, and so far only 19 hectares have been planted.  According to company spokesperson Joel Ruhu, “if there are conflicts in the area of operation, you can’t do anything. You literally can’t do anything. So instability causes a lot of delay in us moving forward with the project.”

In addition to actively promoting peace, companies must understand that while they may not be the direct cause of conflicts, they can indirectly contribute to them.  In Bedford’s case, several community members allege that the company’s use of limited natural resources in the region, especially water, is exacerbating tribal tensions.  For this reason, regional conflicts must be fully integrated into all financial, technical, social, and environmental risk assessments undertaken by companies.

(Photo Source: AP)

Feb28

Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Save Native Corn

By Gilyn Gibbs on Native Abundance

Native Corn

From time immemorial, indigenous communities in the Western Hemisphere have depended on corn not only as a source of nutrition, but as the center of their cultural traditions and spirituality. This past September, the Yaqui Peoples of Sonora Mexico hosted the inaugural “Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn” in the Zapoteca Nation of Oaxaca Mexico. The conference, attended by 48 Indigenous Nations across from North, Central and South America, was created to encourage unity among indigenous communities, restore traditional economies, and ensure the survival of all native varieties of corn.

The Indigenous Corn Peoples are a part of long-standing cultural tradition tied to the natural world. The core principle of the Yaqui Peoples, “is the sacredness, mystery and life-sustaining power of the natural world and living things.” They are deeply connected to their environment and express this through traditional ceremonies, songs, and dances. They consider their relationship with plants and animals as inter-dependent and interwoven. It’s for this reason that corn, the fundamental means of nutrition and healing, is so respected and cherished.  In indigenous communities, the people are directly related to all steps of the corn production process. Before the planting of the corn, there are ceremonies to express appreciation for the earth that allows the corn to be planted and for the water to allows it to grow. When it is time to harvest the corn there is a ceremony celebrating corn as the source of life and creation. The harvesting of corn isn’t simply to acquire food, but celebrates the all-encompassing lifestyle of devotion to the earth.  One member of the Yaqui reiterates: “Our struggles to protect corn as a source of our lives cannot be separated from our struggles to defend our rights to land, water, traditional knowledge and self-determination.”

Environmental degradation is a global issue, but for the Yaqui community, it comes with devastating consequences. The booming agri-business has not only pushed many Indigenous communities off of their land, but also heavily promoted the use of chemical pesticides and genetically modified (GMO) corn. The Mexican government has been a source of conflict, creating programs that cut off access to land and clean water, and mandating the use of this GMO corn for small farmers. The introduction of these corn variations has dramatically decreased the diversity and resiliency of traditional seed varieties.  The new strains of corn require much higher levels of agro-chemicals and water, which the Sonora desert ecosystem cannot provide. These negative effects aren’t only environmental. In 1997 Dr. Elizabeth Guillette conducted a study that detected high levels of pesticides in mothers’ milk and found severe learning and development disabilities in Yaqui children living in these high pesticide areas. The Yaqui people started the Corn Conference as a way to gain support of Indigenous Corn Peoples from the area and to stop the environmental, cultural, and health degradation.

Corn_people

The Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn created an atmosphere where all Indigenous Corn Peoples could unite around a single mission to protect their sovereignty and identity. They called “for a new focus on sustainable and respectful use of corn as a basis for our traditional and collective economic, social and cultural development”.  The Indigenous Corn Peoples committed to halt the use of pesticides and GMO corn in their territories.  They also resolved for all communities to focus on restoring and strengthening local markets and economies by protecting their food and seed sovereignty. The conference attendees decided that the way to do this is by reestablishing Indigenous seed banks and trade relationships so that the seeds with the most resistance and adaptability to climate change can be used, replicated, and shared among communities. They believe that the renewal of an indigenous trading system in the Americas will be the most beneficial way to share knowledge across communities and ultimately, bring change.

Although the conference was only one step in the movement for Indigenous rights, the Yaqui ultimately achieved their greatest goal: to organize fellow Indigenous communities and Peoples to defend Mother Earth and her lands, water, forests and corn against the threat climate change and unsustainable industrial food practices. By embracing their heritage as Indigenous Peoples to protect mother earth, they are also protecting the culture, spirituality, health, and traditions that have been passed on to them for centuries from being lost forever.

Feb26

Balancing Economic Development with Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Peru

by Nick Pelosi on Making the Business Case

In January 2013, at least a dozen people were injured in clashes between police and members of a Quechua community at Candente Copper Corporation’s Canariaco Mine in northwestern Peru.  The incident coincides with an alarming increase of civil unrest in the country, spurred by extractive companies operating on Indigenous territory without obtaining Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).  The Peruvian government admits to over 200 conflicts between miners and Indigenous communities, many of which turn violent.  Human rights activists attribute the conflicts to over 15 deaths since 2011.  The conflicts are likely to be exacerbated by Peru’s plans to auction additional Indigenous territory for oil exploration and drilling in early 2013.

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Indigenous Peoples protest the Minas Conga Mine in northwest Peru. (Source: Rachel Carson of Today)

The civil unrest presents a challenge to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, who was elected on a social democratic platform that pledged support for Indigenous communities in such disputes.  Yet the social programs promised by Humala’s administration depend heavily on revenue generated from mining and oil development. Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of copper, silver, and zinc and sixth-largest producer of gold, and minerals constitute 60 percent of the country’s exports.  As conflicts with Indigenous Peoples increasingly jeopardize the viability of an industry so crucial to the country’s economic growth, Peru is strengthening its safeguards for Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

In 2011, Peru passed a law requiring consultation with Indigenous Peoples before developing projects on their territories, claiming that the reduction in social conflict would encourage foreign investment.  The first official consultations are scheduled for early 2013.  While the law is a step in the right direction, Indigenous Peoples are skeptical because the consultations are not binding; the Peruvian government reserves the right to make the final decision about projects.  The consultations will only be effective if the communities’ decisions are respected and FPIC is obtained.

In September 2012, Peru’s Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that an Indigenous community in southeast Peru could limit outsiders’ access to its territory.  In an effort to thwart mining companies, the community built a guarded gate on a dirt road passing through their lands.  Two of the companies sued the community for violating their freedom of movement.  A lower court ruled in the companies’ favor and sentenced four community leaders to fines and six years in prison.  The Constitutional Tribunal reversed this decision and nullified the community leaders’ sentences, stating “while freedom of movement is a fundamental right, it is subject to certain constraints, such as not invading other people’s land without the owners’ consent.”  It is the first Peruvian court ruling to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination within their territory, which is mentioned in Article 89 of the Peruvian Constitution.

The delicate balance between economic development and Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Peru poses both risks and opportunities for companies operating in the country.  Those that fail to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights will be subject to protest movements, tighter government regulations, and disapproval from the international community, resulting in financial and reputational damages.  On the other hand, companies developing best practices towards Indigenous Peoples can take advantage of the country’s desire to prioritize both economic and social development.