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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world this week, India’s prime minister advised the public about Indigenous communities, youth in Australia vowed to fight for inclusion, regulation is threatening Indigenous medicine in Mexico, a First Nation in Canada seeks an apology from Pope Francis and Uganda’s Batwa people learn to survive.

INDIA: Take pride in Indigenous communities, prime minister says

We are starting in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi challenged youth to take pride in Indigenous communities because of their contribution to the struggle for freedom, The Times of India reported Oct. 25.

He was speaking during his Mann Ki Baat, a national monthly radio program that he started in 2014 to address citizen’s concerns.

Modi spoke about one of India’s Indigenous freedom fighters, Birsa Munda, of the Jharkhand tribe, and challenged the young people to read more about him.

“The more you learn about his contribution and that of all India’s tribal communities in struggle for freedom, the more you would take pride in them,” he said.

During the program, Modi also explained that the term, “Dharti Aaba,” which has been associated with Birsa Munda, means “father of the nation,“ adding that it is only a father who can lead a relentless struggle to defend the land, the water and the forests of his people.

AUSTRALIA: Youth team demands voice at UN COP26 climate conference

Australia’s lone Indigenous, youth-led environmental organization has blasted the federal government for excluding Indigenous people from its plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, National Indigenous Television reported on Oct. 28.

Tishiko King, a Kulkalaig woman and the director for SEED Indigenous Youth Climate Network, said she will attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to make sure that the concerns of Indigenous people are heard.

She said that the government’s announcement of achieving net-zero emissions without consulting the Aboriginal communities was absurd.

“When something impacts our future, we need to have voices there to represent us, so that we have the rights that we deserve,” the youth leader said, adding that Indigenous people need to have a seat at the table when important decisions are made.

COP26 is being held Oct. 31-Nov. 12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, and is being hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy.

MEXICO: Bill would regulate Indigenous medicine

Traditional medical groups and academicians in Mexico have warned the government that a proposed bill to grant the state authority to control and regulate the practice of Indigenous medicine could violate the country’s constitution and international conventions on the rights of Indigenous people, The Guardian reported on Oct. 26.

The legislation, presented by the governing Morena party and unanimously approved in the lower house earlier this year, intends to regulate and homogenize traditional and complementary healthcare. The senate is expected to vote next month.

“There is serious concern that if that happens, it would have negative social, cultural and economic consequences on indigenous people in Mexico,” The Guardian reported.

The state claims that the proposal aims to incorporate the contributions of Indigenous medicine into the country’s health systems, but Indigenous and traditional medicine scholars disagree.

CANADA: Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation seeks apology from Pope

In British Columbia, the leaders of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation urged the Catholic Church to provide an apology from Pope Francis for its role in the abuse of Indigenous children forced to attend Canada’s residential schools, Aboriginal Television Network reported on Oct. 28.

As an act of reconciliation, The Vatican confirmed that the Pope was willing to visit Canada anytime in the near future although no exact date has been set. But first Nation’s leaders say that it is not only about reconciliation but also “real action.”

FILE - In this June 6, 2021 file photo, Pope Francis speaks from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to a crowd of faithful and pilgrims gathered for the Sunday Angelus noon prayer. On Wednesday, June 30, 2021 Canada’s Catholic bishops said Pope Francis has agreed to meet in December with Indigenous survivors of the country’s notorious residential schools amid calls for a papal apology for Catholic Church’s role in the abuse and deaths of thousands of native children. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, file)

The leaders have urged the church to “show acts of remorse,” disclose residential school documents and raise funds for survivors and their families.

There has been an outcry from First Nations in Canada since May, when the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc announced that 215 unmarked graves had been detected at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Since then, more graves have been found at several sites of former schools in Canada.

UGANDA: Deprived of forests, Batwa people adapt their practices

Members of the Batwa Indigenous people of southwestern Uganda in East Africa — who were forcefully evicted from their ancestral lands three decades ago — have started adapting their sustainable practices, Mongabay.com reported on Oct. 27.

The Batwa people are marginalized, live hand-to-mouth, cannot access the forest for their traditional medicine and cannot afford to access modern medicine. Yet some Batwa groups are adopting new conservation practices involving reformative agriculture on small plots of land donated to them by the United Organization of Batwa Development in Uganda.

After the Batwa people were evicted from their lands, the government created Mgahinga National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Echuya Forest Reserve, all of which are home to a rich biodiversity including the endangered mountain gorillas.

Largely destitute since the 1990s, some of the Batwa are now living in settlement camps provided by organizations such as the Gorilla Organization and the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda.

“‘We have created only 33 Batwa settlements in Kisoro, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Alice Nyamihanda, the UOBDU education officer, told Indian Country Today. “Many more are still at large with no place to call home. We need support with resources so that we can acquire more land to create settlements for the majority still suffering.”

A final thought

As United Nations’ 26th Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, gets underway this week in Glasgow, Scotland, my final thought is with Article 24 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which talks about health and traditional medicine. Indigenous people demand inclusion in the decision-making process on all issues concerning climate change because they are stakeholders. Till next week.

Article 24

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services.

2. Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.

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.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to note that Alice Nyamihanda, education officer for the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda, spoke directly to Indian Country Today

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