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Indigenous Forum Blends Old and New: Kamawak Foundation Gathering to Be Broadcast Worldwide From France

PAU, France – The city of Pau, France, is mobilizing for an event of planetary proportions this summer where “people of the land” will gather at the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples to share their cultures and wisdom with whoever will listen.

The event is a project of the Kamawak Foundation, spearheaded by French documentary filmmakers Veronique and Frederic Hadengue.

Their stated intent is to “share the truth and hope that springs from the aboriginal worldview,” and they will do so by using cutting-edge technology.

“Its main role is to offer as many tools as possible to communicate indigenous messages throughout the world,” Veronique Hadengue said of

the foundation.

Representatives from more than 20 aboriginal nations will converge June 19 – 25 for a week of conferences, demonstrations, performances and films at the multicultural gathering, also known as fiPAU, in the southwest of France.

“At this point in time, when mankind is discovering what the peoples of the land have always practiced, the necessity for sustainable development, it is our duty and our privilege to listen to the life lessons they bring, and our joy to share in the rich

variety of their cultures,” according to information found on the gathering’s Web site,

The event was launched in January at a news conference with the visionary mayor of Pau, Andre Labarrere, who died May 16.

Labarrere had welcomed Haida Nation President Guujaaw; Haida Hereditary Chief and artist Jim Hart; forum president and James Bay Cree activist Dianne Reid; Innu poet Rita Mestokosho; Fredy Alvarado of the Kichwa people; and other reformers to the city, extending his full support to the fiPAU mission.

The reason given by Alvarado for his participation captures the spirit of the event.

“I have come so that the whites realize the disasters caused by their way of life, realize that to go on consuming ever more nonrenewable energy will drive us all into endless wars,” he said. “There must be no more genocide in the name of development.”

Reid will preside at the opening ceremonies June 19. Others to participate throughout the week include Guujaaw, speaking about forest sustainability; Max Havelaar, an expert on fair trade; African musician Youssou N’Dour, with a message on the rights of Native children; and Quebec Innu lawyer Armand McKenzie, with information on human rights.

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Aboriginal people will also have an opportunity for their voices to be heard through “Messages from Around the World,” where letters they send will be read on a stage, under the directorship of Rita Mestokosho.

A film festival featuring 30 works by Native filmmakers is also scheduled.

“Not to be confused with a mere festival and far from ethno-museum cliches, this first forum will be resolutely a live occasion,” according to fiPAU organizers.

The Haida Nation will be honored this year, with a traditional village constructed in Pau’s Beaumont Park, where Hart will oversee the carving of several totems to be erected for the occasion.

Hart said he appreciates the opportunity to draw the world’s attention to such topics as global warming.

“Nobody listens to indigenous people; business takes over,” he said. “We don’t have much of a chance left. If we all go the other way, then we have a chance.”

Also in the mix will be a slate of musical performances, kayak building, a rugby match and the creation of a mandala from colored sand by Tibetan artist Dorjee Sangpo, who is exiled in Paris.

Presentations are planned throughout the city and with presentations being projected on giant screens in strategic locations. The proceedings will also be beamed around the planet via the fiPAU Web site, using the city’s sophisticated broadband network.

Pau is one of the first municipalities in Europe to be fully wired with optical ethernet technology.

The area’s children, who have already been provided an officially sanctioned “Indigenous Peoples” curriculum, will have the opportunity to participate in a global Internet conversation where they can ask questions and voice concerns regarding the world’s aboriginal people.

The gathering is financed in part by the city of Pau, the regional council and participating artists donating a portion of the revenues from their performances, Hadengue said.

The Kamawak Foundation will dedicate a ship to travel the world’s seas, at the service of Native groups who need to publicize their struggles and views. Described as a veritable floating forum, it will cast off in the direction of aboriginal peoples who wish to make their voices heard via film and the Internet.

“The foundation is preparing for 2008, an expedition aboard a very big barge, specially dedicated to sound and filming,” Hadengue explained. “These tools will be offered to indigenous people. A team will train them for the technical part.”

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