International Native News Wrap: Doctrine of Discovery Protest; LaDuke on Protecting Rivers; Europe’s Indigenous People

Indigenous People Demand the Pope Revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, This Time in Mexico

Today and Wednesday, “a delegation of Indigenous Peoples from the United States, Mexico and other Latin American countries, will be in Chiapas, Mexico to deliver a message to Pope Francis, in the form of a call to conscience petitioning him to take action and issue an official denunciation directed towards the dismantling of the “Doctrine of Discovery of Christendom,” according to an announcement from the Continental Commission Abya Yala.

This continues the work of two previous events, one in Columbia (2013) and the other in Pennsylvania (2015) when the Pope visited the United States.

Mexico has its own version of how the Doctrine of Discovery has affected government policies and indigenous peoples, as the Abya Yala announcement explains:

The land reforms that occurred in Mexico between 1940 and 1990 were based on these same [Doctrine of Discovery] principles with the result being the open plunder of indigenous lands, with structural reforms that pushed for the privatization of communal territories, reserves of petroleum and water resources. It is exactly the same rationalization in which today the nation-state claims the right to deliver indigenous territories as commodities for wind farm projects and mineral extraction leases, on behalf of the economic interests of “the nation”.

Click on the links above for more information.

Protecting Rivers is More than Economics

A recent article in The Circle Newspaper by Winona LaDuke — How Do We Grieve the Death of a River? — recounts how the three largest mine tailings pond disasters in history have occurred in the past year and a half. They did huge damage to the Rio Doco in Brazil, the Animas River in Southern Colorado, and the Frazier River in northern British Columbia.

“Aside from public policy questions, mining safety and economic liability concerns, there is an underlying moral issue we face here: the death of a river,” LaDuke writes. The article recounts the specifics of each disaster, and touched on an innovative response by one nation.

Half a world away in New Zealand, the question of the life of a river has taken on a new legal meaning. In 2012, the Whanganui River became a legal entity and was given the same status as a person. In an agreement between the Maori and the Crown, the  river is given legal status under the name Te Awa Tupua – two guardians, one from the Crown and one from a Whanganui River, Iwi (a Maori community) will be given the role of protecting the river.

Scandanvia’s Indigenous People Win Symbolic Victory, Still Struggle

You don’t often read about any indigenous people in Europe, but a couple of news items came to our inbox. They concern the Sami people who live in the Arctic region of Norway, Finland and Sweden. They are “the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples,” Wikipedia said.

One article from the Telegraph: Swedish reindeer herders win historic land use case, tells how the Sami got exclusive hunting and fishing rights in part of their homeland after a long legal battle. The article included some history of the Sami-Swedish relations.

The Swedish state has a dark history of persecuting the Sami, banning the Sami languages from schools, while Sweden’s National Institute for Race Biology from 1922 spearheaded a sterilisation programme which saw many Sami women rendered infertile.

During the recent legal proceedings over hunting and fishing rights, the Swedish attorneys referred to the Sami as “Lapps,” the article said, a term the Sami find offensive and colonial.

The second article, from Uutiset, read: Sámi Parliament President: “This past year has been tough.” It recounted how draft Finnish legislation that affected management of state-owned lands removed two important clauses defending Sámi culture — without notifying the Sámi community. The action drew a comment of “deep concern” from the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People.

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