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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: More burial sites are believed to have been found at a former Canadian residential school, the Maasai people are facing eviction from their homelands, a Māori family-owned company wins an international award, Illegal logging threatens Cambodia’s Kuy people, and a platform launches to empower Indigenous youth in Australia.

CANADA: Burial sites likely at another residential school

This week starts in British Columbia, where the Indigenous community of Williams Lake First Nation has found 93 possible burial sites on the land of a former residential school, the Washington Post reported on Jan. 26.

Ground-penetrating radar found indications of remains at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. Further investigation will be done, Williams Lake Chief Willie Sellars said.

The inquiry at St. Joseph’s came after the findings in May 2021 of the unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which at one time was the largest in Canada.

From the 1800s to the 1990s, more than 100,000 Indigenous children were forced from their homes and families to attend residential schools, where they were prohibited from speaking their language or practicing their traditions, and where many were abused or neglected.

In a 2015 report, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded the residential school system committed “cultural genocide.” The commission identified at least 4,100 students who perished at the schools during that time.

The last government-run residential school closed in 1997, but the search remains under way for other remains at residential school sites.

TANZANIA: Maasai people face forced eviction

The government of the United Republic of Tanzania is planning to evict more than 70,000 Maasai people from their ancestral lands in Loliondo Division, Ngorongoro District, Arusha region, east of the Serengeti National Park, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs reported on Jan. 26.

John Mongella, the regional commissioner for Arusha, told leaders of the Maasai community in Loliondo, on Jan. 11 that the government was going to evict them from more than 600 square miles of village land.

Maasai leaders refused to sign the list of participants at the meeting, fearing that it could be taken as their consent to leave their homelands. They also refused to accompany the commissioner and his team to visit the land.

The eviction would displace about 70,000 Maasai people and more than 200,000 of their livestock, while destroying an area rich in biodiversity.

The Maasai are appealing to the government to stop the evictions and also to the international community to stand in solidarity with them. The eviction is believed to be part of a plan to lease the land to a wildlife hunting firm owned by Dubai royals, the work group reported.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori company wins environmental prize

Māui Energy, a small Māori family-owned energy company, has won the grand prize in a global philanthropic campaign to address social or environmental issues launched by Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade, Te Ao Maori News reported on Jan. 30.

Māui Energy's winning proposal, “Solar Solutions for Indigenous Māori Communities,” was announced by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

“We were blown away that we had won. We all kind of looked at each other because we weren’t sure if we heard it right… We were all a bit in shock to be honest,” said Marareia Hamilton, a member of the winning proposal’s team, according to Te Ao Maori News.

The team proposed installing a renewable energy farm using solar panels from Taiwan to build a self-sustaining green energy power system, Te Ao Maori News reported.

CAMBODIA: Illegal logging threatens Kuy people

Illegal logging of protected forests is threatening the cultural survival and livelihoods of the Kuy Indigenous people in Cambodia, Amnesty International concluded in a new report published on Jan. 28.

Cambodia lost almost 2.5 million hectares of forest cover between 2001 and 2020, according to the report, with Illegal logging threatening the country’s remaining primary forests, biodiversity and climate.

Members of the Kuy people, one of the largest of Cambodia’s 24 Indigenous groups, said deforestation in two protected forests, along with government limitations on access, have destabilized their way of life.

The Kuy people are linked culturally and spiritually to protected forests such as Prey Lang and Prey Preah Roka.

“The forests around us are a part of the health of our community — our connection to the spirits, and the forest they live in, is what maintains our well-being as a community and our sense of friendship and solidarity to one another,” one of the Kuy people told Amnesty International.

AUSTRALIA: Platform launches to empower Indigenous youth

A Yuin artist, producer and radio host in Australia known as Nooky has launched a platform, “We are Warriors,” to inspire and empower Indigenous youth, National Indigenous Times reported on Jan. 26.

The platform is aimed at connecting Indigenous youths to First Nations role models.

“When I was struggling as a young lad, my mother looked at me and said three very powerful words, “We are warriors,” Nooky told National Indigenous Times. “It lit a fire inside of me.”

Nooky continued, “We need to be proud of who we are and remember that our ancestors have walked these paths before us, and plenty of people are walking the same path as we are now.’’

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are with the more than 70,000 Maasai people in Tanzania who face eviction so their lands can be used for a hunting ground. They are appealing to their government to stop the eviction and to the international community to stand with them in solidarity. I do hope their cries won’t be ignored. Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is on their side. Till next week.

Article 28
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.
2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

Global Indigenous is a weekly news roundup published every Wednesday by Indian Country Today with some of the key stories about Indigenous peoples around the world.

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