Mining company destroys sacred Aboriginal cave in Western Australia. They're "sorry."

Multinational mining operation Rio Tinto destroyed an Aboriginal cave north of Perth, Australia last week. Indigenous people lived in the cave as far back as 46,000 years ago. From Reuters/New York Times:

Explosives destroyed two ancient rock shelters, where artefacts discovered included 4,000-year-old plaited human hair with genetic links to the present day traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

The mining giant, which had been granted state government approval in 2013 to damage or destroy the site under a legal framework that is currently under review, apologised on Sunday.

"We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, and we are sorry for the distress we have caused," Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said in a statement.[...]

"As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all other sites in the Juukan Gorge area," Salisbury said.

image: Puutu Kunti Kurrama And Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation Read the rest

South Dakota governor tries to crush Native American efforts to contain the coronavirus

In hopes of minimizing the spread of coronavirus in their community, the Cheyenne River Sioux have established a series of checkpoints on state highways that run through tribal reservations in South Dakota. As Truthout explains:

Commercial drivers and South Dakota residents are being allowed to travel on tribal lands, but non-state residents are only allowed entry onto the reservations if they can provide proof of tribal membership or proof that they live there. Non-state residents are also being banned from hunting or fishing on tribal lands.

These, of course, are far more active measures than anything that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has done so far in this pandemic. And this clearly made her upset, or possibly embarrassed, because she wrote a letter to tribal leaders stating:

I request the Tribe immediately cease interfering or regulating traffic on U.S. and State Highways and remove all travel checkpoints. If the checkpoints are not removed within the next 48 hours, the State will take necessary legal action.

Under normal circumstances, there may be a valid argument about what some would consider the vigilantism on display here. However, when it comes to Native American land rights and legal jurisdictions, things get complicated. But they've been putting up with this shit for a while now, and many of them have a keen understanding of how things with the US government — namely, that it won't do shit to help them, except when it wants something, which usually ends up hurting the members of the tribe. Read the rest

Inside the effort to save an indigenous Pacific Island language that the US tried to destroy

The United States "liberated" Guam and the Marianas Islands from 1898 during the Spanish-American War. As is usually the case with American Liberation, this meant further colonization, conversion into military outposts, and a forced re-education of the native Chamorros. To be fair, those indigenous inhabitants had already endured some 300 years of Spanish colonialism by then. By the time the US showed up, most Chammoros spoke in Spanish. But they also had their own language, called CHamoru.

But, as the Guardian tells it, the imperialist force that famously boasts about its firm belief in the freedom of speech (from a country that doesn't even have an official language) tried to stomp out the language at all costs:

The US navy banned CHamoru in 1917 “except for official interpreting”. The naval administration even burned CHamoru-English dictionaries.

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the ban on speaking CHamoru in schools was lifted, says Michael Bevacqua, a CHamoru language educator on Guam. Until then, schoolchildren who spoke CHamoru were punished, and their parents were sometimes even fined.

[…]

A decade ago, the US census estimated there were about 25,827 CHamoru speakers on Guam, just 2,394 of whom were under the age of 18, and only 14,176 CHamoru speakers in the rest of the island chain.

Robert Underwood, the former president of the University of Guam, says most of the fluent speakers are likely to be over the age of 50.

“In another 20 to 30 years there may not be any real first-language speakers of CHamoru,” he says.

Read the rest

Thousands of Zapatista women gather in the mountains of Mexico

There was an inspiring sight for indigenous and women's rights in the mountains of Chiapas this week, as more than 3,200 women from 49 countries reportedly gathered together for the second annual International Gathering of Women Who Struggle.

From the opening statement at the event:

As the Zapatistas that we are, we know that they will give us many examples of women who have advanced, triumphed, won prizes and high salaries—who have been successful, as they put it. We respond by talking about the women whom have been raped, disappeared, murdered. We point out that the rights they talk about above are won by a precious few women above. And we respond, we explain, we shout that what is lacking is the most basic and most important of rights for all women: the right to live. We’ve said it many times, compañera and sister, but we’ll repeat it again now:

Nobody is going to grant us our right to live and all the other rights we need and deserve. No man—good, bad, normal, or whatever—is going to grant these to us.

The capitalist system is not going to give them to us, regardless of the laws it passes and the promises it makes.

We will have to win our right to live, as well as all our other rights, always and everywhere.

Read the rest

A Canadian podcast reveals everything wrong with the Trump administration's migrant baby adoption policy

The US government detained more than 69,000 migrant children last year in the course of its brutal family separation policy. There's no guarantee these kids will ever be reunited with their parents; in fact, some of them have already been put up for "adoption" (read: legalized kidnapping) after their parents were deported. Many of these adoption agencies are of course Christian organizations, who genuinely believe themselves to be acting from a compassionate, altruistic pro-life perspective.

This is not breaking news; nor is it necessarily unique to the Trump administration. But I was reminded of it as I scrolled through Twitter over the weekend:

And for whatever reason, this reminder flagged another connection in the mind: the second season of the "Missing and Murdered" podcast, produced by CBC, the Canadian public broadcasting service.

Also known as "Finding Cleo," the 10-episode second season follows host Connie Walker as she tries to track down the truth about a deceased Cree girl named Cleo. According to Cleo's sister, Christine, all of the siblings in their family were forcefully taken from their First Nations home by Canadian child protective services. Somehow, Cleo ended up being adopted by a white Christian family in the United States until she was allegedly raped and murdered. Read the rest

Rare footage of the "uncontacted" tribe that killed the missionary who illegally went to their island to preach

The Sentinelese are one of the world's last "uncontacted" indigenous peoples, a hunter-gatherer tribe who live on the remote North Sentinel Island in India's Andaman Islands chain. You may recall that last November, a missionary named John Allen Chau, 27, obsessed with trying to convert the tribe to Christianity, paid local fishermen to help him get near the island. As soon as he illegally landed his canoe on the shore and started preaching, the Sentinelese fired arrows. He escaped with injuries but returned twice later and was eventually killed.

This footage above of the Sentinelese from 1991 was taken by anthropologist T N Pandit of India's Ministry of Tribal Affairs who attempted to visit them for several decades. Usually, the Sentinelese hid or fired arrows, but in 1991 they waded into the ocean to meet Pandit and his team peacefully.

"We were puzzled why they allowed us," he told the BBC last year. "It was their decision to meet us and the meeting took place on their terms."

"We jumped out of the boat and stood in neck-deep water, distributing coconuts and other gifts. But we were not allowed to step onto their island."

According to the BBC, "Mr Pandit says he does favour the re-establishment of friendly gift-dropping missions with the tribe, but says they should not be disturbed. 'We should respect their wish to be left alone, he said.'"

Well, duh. Read the rest

Remote "uncontacted" island tribe killed an interloping missionary with arrows

The Sentinelese are one of the world's last "uncontacted" indigenous peoples, a hunter-gatherer tribe who live on the remote North Sentinel Island in India's Andaman Islands chain. This week, John Allen Chau, 27, eager to meet the tribe and hopefully convert them to Christianity, paid local fishermen to help him get near the island. As soon as he illegally landed his canoe on the shore, the Sentinelese fired arrows. He escaped with injuries but returned twice later and was eventually killed. From CNN:

"We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island," said (Dependra Pathak, Director General of Police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands).

Chau did not inform the police of his intentions to travel to the island to attempt to convert its inhabitants...

"According to the fishermen, they used a wooden boat fitted with motors to travel to the island on November 15," Pathak said.

"The boat stopped 500-700 meters (1,640 - 2,300 ft) away from the island and (the American missionary) used a canoe to reach the shore of the island. He came back later that day with arrow injuries. On the 16th, the (tribespeople) broke his canoe.

"So he came back to the boat swimming. He did not come back on the 17th; the fishermen later saw the tribespeople dragging his body around."

(A) 2011 survey only spotted 15 Sentinelese on their island -- the count was done from a distance due to the danger in approaching the tribe.

Read the rest

A Native American folk/rock/country soundtrack for Indigenous Peoples' Day

In honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day today, I suggest cranking up the following selections from Light in the Attic's essential Grammy-nominated box set "Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985, Morley Loon's "Northland, My Land," and Willie Thrasher's "Spirit Child."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UziyzXf2QP4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6U2aUNAtpw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwft0S_2kZE

(top photo: Quebec’s Sugluk) Read the rest

Canadian professor working towards inclusion for British Columbia's Indigenous communities

Our European immigrant ancestors did an unspeakable number of shitty things to North America's Indigenous peoples. Massacres, rapes, pillaging and residential schools designed to destroy their culture – we ticked off all of the genocidal boxes.

Take a visit to a nearby reservation and you'll find that the legacy of our white asshole doings still echo on today. Amidst the systematic racism and down-home bigotry that many natives in the United States and Canada are still putting up with, federal and local government officials are doing what they can to make amends for the atrocities of the past. Issuing an official apology for the indignities, pain and death visited upon those forced into Canada's residential school system is a good example of this.

However, not every gesture needs to be as grand in scope: inclusion, education and acceptance of indigenous cultures that were, for generations, forced outside of the mainstream, can go a long way towards healing the wounds of the past on a local level. To help move things along in this area, Professor Onowa McIvor of the University of Victoria's Department of Indigenous Education has put together a collection of words, greetings other and phrases in the languages of British Columbia's Indigenous peoples that can be incorporated into our day-to-day lives.

From The CBC:

Learning how to say "hello" or displaying a welcome sign in the language of the local First Nation are just a few ways the author is encouraging people to get involved.

"To learn a greeting but also the appropriate response is a way of deepening our understanding of that language a little bit, and being able to have just a very short conversation," McIvor told On The Island host Gregor Craigie.

Read the rest

Native American Tribe to DHS: Keep your dumb border wall off our land

In 1853, the U.S. Government bought a 29,670 square mile chunk of dirt in a deal that, as history buffs will tell you, ended up being called the Gadsden Purchase. It was a dick move: purchasing the land meant bisecting the territory of the area's indigenous Tohono O’odham Nation. This left half of the Tohono O’odham in Mexico and the other half in the United States. Today, the Tohono O’odham are a federally recognized tribe, with somewhere around 34,000 members. This number includes around 2,000 Tohono O’odham who live in Mexico. It's not uncommon for the tribe to cooperate with Homeland Security where protecting the border is concerned. But guess what? A tribe that had their lands split up by the Federal government once isn't crazy about having it done again.

According to Splinter, the Tohono O’odham Nation controls the second largest land base in the United States. This includes a full 75 miles of the U.S./Mexico border. Given that members of their tribe live on both sides of the border, they're less than chuffed with the notion of allowing the National Guard onto their lands to surveil their territory or to allow a border wall to be built on their property. The reasons for their objections are sound: Having a wall thrown up in the middle of their land would keep members of their tribe from easily traveling to participate in culturally important events on their own frigging land.

From Splinter:

Tohono O’odham chairman Edward D.

Read the rest

Pharma giant Allergan pays Mohawk tribe to serve as human shields against patent challenges

Allergan has disclosed that it transferred title to six of its contested eye drug patents to the St Regis Mohawk band in upstate New York, in a bid to use the band's sovereign immunity to prevent generic pharma companies from dragging the company into court to show that its patents are invalid. Read the rest

Culturally insensitive 1979 TV commercial for Faygo's Redpop, starring Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H

Almost 40 years later and we're still treating indigenous peoples like this. (r/ObscureMedia, thanks UPSO!)

Read the rest