Skip to main content

Editor’s note: Starting today, Indian Country Today will publish a weekly news roundup every Wednesday of some of the key coverage about Indigenous peoples around the world.

Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Since the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples on Sept. 13, 2007, Indigenous peoples around the world continue to go through untold suffering, brutality, racism, harassment and even death because of who they are. Here’s a roundup of stories for the week of Oct. 10-17.

CANADA: Prime minister apologizes to Indigenous people

Let’s start with Canada, where Reuters reported on Oct. 13 that the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was a mistake to take his family on holiday on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, to recognize those impacted by residential boarding schools.

Trudeau grew criticism from Indigenous leaders for failing to make reconciliation with First Nations people a priority. The decision to travel “was a mistake, and I regret it,” Trudeau told reporters. “I’m focused on making this right.”

The residential schools operated between 1831 and 1996, with about 150,000 Indigenous children taken forcibly from their families to attend. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called it “cultural genocide.”

AUSTRALIA: Government pushes to overturn ruling on deporting Indigenous people

National Indigenous Television — made by, for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — reported that the Australian government is pushing to overturn a high court ruling on deporting Indigenous “aliens.”

The high court sitting in Canberra ruled in a 4-3 decision in February 2020 that Indigenous Australians cannot be deported even if they do not hold Australian citizenship.

The so-called Love and Thoms ruling — named after two Aboriginal men, Brendan Thoms, Gunggarri, and Daniel Love who fought the effort to deport them — is being challenged by the government after a New Zealand man, Shayne Montgomery, Wakka Wakka and Mununjali, filed suit trying to use the case to stop his own deportation, The Guardian reported.

Montgomery is asking the court to extend the ruling to people, such as him, who have been adopted as Aboriginal even if they have no Aboriginal descent.

NORWAY: Sámi people ask for sacred drum from Denmark

The Guardian reported on Oct. 13 that Norway’s Indigenous Sámi people have asked that a sacred drum taken forcefully from them by Denmark in 1691 be returned to them permanently.

The drum reportedly was owned by a Sámi shaman, Anders Poulsson, who was imprisoned, the Guardian reported. The drum was seized and became part of the Danish royal family’s art collection until 1849, when it was moved to Denmark’s National Museum.

Since 1979, the drum has been on loan to the Sámi museum in Karasjok, Norway. The loan agreement expires on Dec. 1 and the drum is expected to return to Denmark. But the Sámi people want it back, and they have asked Danish Queen Margrethe for help.

The Sámi people say the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by Norway and Denmark, gives them a right to their historic artifacts.

GUATEMALA: Palm oil production causes friction with Indigenous people

Al Jazeera reported on Oct. 15 that Guatemala’s growing palm oil industry is fueling friction between palm-oil companies and the Indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ community of Chinebal in a rising land fight in eastern Guatemala.

Community members say a Guatemalan company has planted oil palms on disputed lands where they have built homes in an effort to reclaim the land. The disputed territory has been the scene of several police operations and a day of violence, according to the report.

The increased demand for land to produce palm oil in remote communities around the world is displacing Indigenous and minority communities and causing environmental degradation and climate change.

“The expansion of [oil] palm is dispossessing communities of their lands,” Marcelo Sabuc, the national coordinator of CCDA, a rural development and land rights movement organization, told Al Jazeera. “It is also causing environmental destruction.”

NICARAGUA: Land-grabbing attacks kill about a dozen people

Mongabay.com reported on Oct. 13 that as many as nine to 13 people were killed in what the government has called an “inter-ethnic” conflict between Indigenous communities. Residents, however, say the violence was carried out by colonos, or colonists, who forced their way onto protected territory.

The violent encounter occurred on a sacred hill in Nicaragua known as Kiwakumbaih, where the Indigenous Mayangna people have gone for generations to hold important events. It remains a popular site for weddings, funerals, debates and festivals, Mongabay.com reported..

It is not the first time local people had been killed by intruders at the site, according to the report.

More than a dozen Mayangna and Miskito people had gathered on the hill on Aug. 23 ogroup of armed men approached with guns and machetes. They raped several of the women, and killed others by shooting or hanging them.

UNITED STATES: Indigenous people arrested at White House

And lastly but not least, in a news release from the Indigenous Environmental Network on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and published by Indian Country Today, more than 130 Indigenous people were arrested at the White House while demanding that U.S. President Joe Biden stop the fossil fuel projects that are threatening Native communities from Appalachia to Alaska.

More than 500 people marched from Freedom Plaza to the White House. As Indigenous leaders rallied the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue, park police and Secret Service began to move in and cordon off the area. An Indigenous woman was handcuffed on the ground as she cried out, “I don’t want to die,” according to the release. More than 130 people were arrested for sitting at the White House fence. “The last people to be taken away by the police were those who led the march and rally: Indigenous women and grandmothers,” the release stated.

A final thought

As I conclude this week’s roundup, let me highlight one of the articles from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

Article 8
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them

 

Indian Country Today - bridge logo

Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 today to help Indian Country Today carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.