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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to ICT

Around the world: First Nations are taking charge of child-welfare services in Canada, a study finds primates are safer on Indigenous lands, plans proceed for an Aboriginal Cultural Center in Australia, farmers protest over paper plantations and special Mi’kmaw peak caps are being made to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women and children.

CANADA: First Nations taking over child welfare system

Three First Nations are on track to sign the first agreement in Alberta, Canada, in what could be the first collective to take over child welfare services in Canada, CBC News reported on Aug. 12.

The Loon River Cree Nation, Peerless Trout First Nation and Lubicon Lake Band would join several other Indigenous communities that have stepped up since a new federal law passed in Canada in January 2020 affirmed Indigenous jurisdiction over child intervention services for their own population.

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"It's going to work," said Mona Auger, executive director of KTC Child & Family Services, which already provides child welfare services under provincial law for the three First Nations that are members of the Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council.

"I believe that we're going to be able to provide a better service to our own members rather than the provincial system that they put upon us," Auger said.

Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations in Treaty 3 in Ontario already signed trilateral agreements with the federal and provincial governments to take over the child welfare services.

Other Indigenous communities across Canada have notified the federal government of plans to do the same.

COLOMBIA: Paper plantation faces backlash from Indigenous farmers

A paper company in Colombia is facing backlash from Indigenous and local farmers over land disputes and environmental impacts, Mongabay.com reported Aug. 15.

The Smurfit Kappa Cartón de Colombia paper company has attracted the ire of most Indigenous Misak and local community members in Cajibio, who say the company is defying Colombia’s forest regulations and is lessening access to water, according to Mongabay.com.

The company is a subsidiary of Irish multinational Smurfit Kappa Group, a chief producer of paper and cardboard products in the country.

Smurfit has been working since 1986 in Colombia, which is considered one of its most significant sites. Products are derived from pine trees such as patula pine and rose gum trees from plantations with more than 170,000 acres.

About a third of the company’s national plantations are in the department of Cauca, with more than 7,000 acres in the town of Cajibio. The plantation there is approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible management of forests.

The company has drawn protests, however, including protests at its annual meeting in April 2022 in Dublin, Ireland.

STUDY: Primates safer on Indigenous lands

A new study released in the journal Science Advances found that primate species found on Indigenous lands face fewer threats of extinction than do species on non-Indigenous lands, Mongabay.com reported on Aug. 11.

The paper concluded that Indigenous peoples autonomy over their land was key to ensuring the continued existence of primates, according to Mongabay.com.

The population of non-human primates such as monkeys, apes, tarsiers or prosimians are declining swiftly around the world, with at least 68 percent in danger of extinction. More than 90 percent have deteriorating populations worldwide, according to the study.

The major threat to primates is loss of territory due to large-scale deforestation for construction of infrastructure projects such as roads and rail lines and for increases in agriculture.

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Indigenous beliefs, practices and knowledge systems, however, use the resources in the environment in a sustainable way that does not also drain resources from the primates.

It is the latest report to conclude that Indigenous peoples and their traditional beliefs hold important conservation lessons for the world, Mongabay.com reported.

“In writing this paper, the realization we came to was that probably the single most important action one could take to prevent the primate extinction crisis is to allow Indigenous peoples to maintain sovereignty over their land,” says anthropologist Paul Garber, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois and one of the lead authors of the new study.

AUSTRALIA: Site chosen for Aboriginal Cultural Center

A new deal between state and federal governments has been struck to make Western Australia home to a “world class” Aboriginal cultural center, National Indigenous Times reported on Aug. 15.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan, and Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney announced the center would be built on a parking lot between the Perth Concert Hall and the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) by 2028.

The site was selected due to its proximity to the river, Matta Gerup (Heirisson Island) and Katta Koomba (Kings Park).

The center will be a place of education and reconciliation, said Western Australia Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti.

“It is envisaged the center will become a powerful symbol of truth telling and reconciliation, giving Aboriginal people from across the state a voice, and educating visitors about our shared history,” he said, according to National Indigenous Times.

The state and federal governments have devoted about $50 million each to the building, with extra funds to be raised from corporate donors.

CANADA: Mi’kmaw peak caps a tribute to MMIWG

Family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Nova Scotia are creating special Mi’kmaw peak caps to honor their loved ones, APTN News reported on August 12.

The project is being run by the nonprofit Women of First Light, which was started by Natalie Gloade, who lost her mother to violence in 2007.

“We need to stand up, we need to speak our truth, and even if you shake, speak your truth,” Gloade told APTN News.

Photos of the caps are on display, but not the caps themselves - they are considered sacred by the women who made them, according to APTN News. The photos are expected to be exhibited in a museum as part of an effort to raise awareness of missing and murdered women and girls.

My final thoughts

My final thoughts are about a new study that has revealed that primate species found on Indigenous peoples’ lands face significantly less threat of extinction than those on non-Indigenous lands. This is a scientific study, and yet governments continue to displace Indigenous peoples in the name of conservation. I hope and wish that they put these findings to use.

And lastly, let me share with you Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 13
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations, their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.
2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that these rights are protected and also to ensure that Indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.

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

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