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2011’s Memorable Moments From the World

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Indigenous issues were constantly bubbling over around the world, whether it was Bolivia’s fight over coca rights or the struggle to keep the Belo Monte dam from happening in Brazil, the effects on Indigenous Peoples were felt around the world and Indian Country Today Media Network is highlighting the memorable issues from 2011.

Our Coca Right

Earlier this year Bolivian President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president the country’s had, vowed to protect his country’s right to chew the coca leaf. The coca leaf is often confused with cocaine and the other negative aspects the illegal drug brings with it and is frowned upon by the United Nations. The fight continued throughout most the year, until July 7 when Morales announced he had withdrawn Bolivia from the U.N. treaty that bans chewing the leaf. The withdrawal would stand until an amendment was made on the treaty.

Dirty Hands a Sign of Guilt

In February an Ecuadorian Judge found oil giant Chevron guilty of polluting an area of the Amazon after 17 years. The landmark decision that came February 14 ordered Chevron to spend $8.6 billion to clean up the mess. Though Chevron appealed and seeing real action could be slow moving the decision marks a historic event.

Homeward Bound

In February, Yale University signed an agreement with the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco to return 5,000 artifacts and remains to the famed citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru after a century of exile in the United States.

Dam You Belo Monte

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In June the Brazilian government ignored all challengers, whether in courts or through protests, of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. As the dam that will displace at least 20,000 people and ruin the livelihoods of approximately 40,000 mostly indigenous Brazilians, President Dilma Rousseff was unveiling an anti-poverty program called “Brazil Without Misery.” Oh the irony.

Stepping Out of the Shadows

As only a few countries recognize the existence of Indigenous Peoples in Southern Africa, while many others have been willing to let them fade into the backdrop, a new Indigenous Rights Programme that was announced in July was set up by the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa to benefit the indigenous communities. Only the programme was announced to mixed emotions in the very communities it was created for. Those who aren’t supportive feel the government still needs to do more.

One Small Step for Indigenouskind

In August, the Peruvian government under new President Ollanta Humala took a step in favor of Indigenous Peoples within the country. A law was unanimously approved and then signed by Humala mandates that Native populations must first be consulted for any developments within indigenous territories.

The Road Less Traveled

In September, a heated confrontation took place in Bolivia as police fired tear gas at protestors. The indigenous marchers protesting a road that was to cut through the National Park and Indigenous Territory Isiboro-Secure (TIPNIS) were forced onto buses and told to return to their villages before they were able to reach the end destination on their 350-mile journey—the capital. President Evo Morales condemned the police for firing the tear gas, the marchers were able to continue the march and ultimately the road had been stopped, though tension is still high, before the end of the year.

Making History

In September a Costa Rican indigenous community sued the Costa Rican government successfully to recover territory that had been theirs—a first in Costa Rican history. Federal agencies were ordered to expropriate more than 11,000 acres of land to be returned to the Bribri community of the Kekoldi reservation—an area currently occupied by non-indigenous people.