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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to ICT

Around the world: Dene woman tapped as NWT chief justice, thousands protest against the monarchy in Australia, Māori fisheries rights are celebrated, youth learn about marine conservation and Guatemalans strongly reject a gold-mining project in a local referendum.

CANADA: Northwest Territory gets first indigenous chief justice

Justice Shannon Smallwood has been named chief justice of Canada’s Northwest Territory Supreme Court, becoming the first Indigenous person to lead the territory’s high court, CBC News reported.

Smallwood, who stepped into the position on Thursday, Sept. 23, was the first Dene, or K'ashógot'įne, person to be named as a justice to the NWT Supreme Court in 2011.

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She filled the seat left vacant by the retirement of former Chief Justice Louise A. Charbonneau, who retired July 11.

Smallwood, from Fort Good Hope, NWT, attended law school at the University of Calgary. Before being appointed judge in 2011, she was a senior counsel and team leader with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Yellowknife.

"Chief Justice Smallwood brings over two decades of legal experience … to her new role," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Friday. "I know she will continue to serve northerners with dedication and wish her every success."

Chief justices are appointed by the Governor General of Canada on the advice of the cabinet and the prime minister’s recommendation, CBC News reported. They also serve as members of the Canadian Judicial Council.

AUSTRALIA: Thousands protest monarchy after Queen’s death

Thousands of demonstrators marched across Australia in opposition to the Day of Mourning for Queen Elizabeth II and against “racist colonial imperialism, calling for an end to the monarchy for the nation, National Indigenous Television reported on Sept. 22.

They poured into the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra for the National Day of Protest, which was organized by a group known as The Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, or WAR.

Protest organizer Ruby Wharton said the lead-up to the public holiday felt similar to Invasion Day on Jan. 26.

"[Australians] need to ask themselves why our head of state doesn't even come from this country,” Wharton, who is Gomeroi/Kooma, told NITV.

“And how the head of state got to this country – that's through murder, through pillaging, through [the] dispossession of lands and First Nations people, and that's a continuing, ongoing project,” she said.

NEW ZEALAND: 30 years of Māori fisheries celebrated

New Zealand celebrated the 30th anniversary of an historic settlement over fishing rights that has put the Māori people at the center of the industry, Te Ao Maori News reported on Sept. 23.

Rino Tirikatene, the parliamentary under-secretary to the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, said the Fisheries Deed of Settlement helped transform communities.

The Māori people now own 40 percent of commercial fisheries, 100 percent of customary fisheries and make up a “good proportion” of the recreational fishing sector, Tirikatene said

“The agreement between the Crown and Māori righted past wrongs, delivered on the Crown’s Treaty obligations, and set a platform for Māori to realize the potential of their fisheries taonga,'' Tirikatene said, according to Te Ao Maori News.

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“The agreement is unique in the world in that it recognizes Māori rights to manage their customary fisheries and as partners in the management of New Zealand’s fisheries. We can look back over many successes in the past, and recognize this is an enduring relationship, one that will continue to grow and evolve over time,” Tirikatene said, according to Te Ao Maori News.

The settlement was reached in 1992.

CANADA: Youth learn about marine conservation

Four Wolastoqey youth took a four-day voyage aboard the Polar Prince science vessel learning about marine conservation and surveying lobsters for microplastics, CBC News reported on Sept. 24.

The Bay of Fundy expedition was part of a research voyage held by the Students on Ice Foundation.

"If I didn't get on that ship I wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to do everything I did on there," said Korey Lyons, from Sistansisk, St. Mary's First Nation, near Fredericton, according to CBC News.

"I just never seen the water the same."

The 20-year-old was joined by three others aboard the science vessel on Sept. 13-18 for a portion of a larger expedition that explored areas around Grand Manan Island, Campobello Island, and Wolf Island.

The vessel's month-long main expedition brought together students, researchers, artists and media and partnered with some Mi'kmaw and Passamaquoddy communities.

GUATEMALA: Guatemalans reject mining project

Voters in the city of Asunción Mita in southeastern Guatemala voted overwhelmingly against metallic mining in their community, Mongabay.com reported on Sept. 23.

Nearly 88 percent of voters said “no” to a referendum that would have cleared the way for an open-pit gold mining operation proposed by Canadian-owned company Cerro Blanco. The legality of the vote is now being challenged by Cerro Blanco owner Bluestone Resources, the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines and a pro-mining group.

Residents in the town of about 50,000 people had feared the mining operation would pollute the water and soil, affecting onion, maize, bean and others crops.

‘’This is something that affects everyone,” said 24-year-old Cecilia Lopez, according to Mongabay.com.

The referendum question asked whether voters agreed with the installation and operation of metallic mining projects that impact natural resources and the environment in the municipality.

My final thoughts

My final thoughts go to the Guatemalan municipality of Asunción Mita, home to more than 50,000 people in southeastern Guatemala where almost 88 percent voted against metallic mining in a municipal referendum.

But unfortunately, their fight might not be over. After the vote, the Canadian mining company, the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines and industry groups have all opposed the legality of the referendum.

It is my sincere plea that all stakeholders including the ministry should accept the people’s verdict.

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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