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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: An Indigenous heroine faces death threats in Ecuador, Canada finally agrees to compensate First Nations over its broken child-welfare system, Māori-led projects in New Zealand get funding, deforestation has doubled on Indigenous lands in Brazil, and women restore mangroves in Indonesia.

ECUADOR: Indigenous leader faces death threats

We start in Ecuador, where Indigenous association leader Josefina Tunki, faces death threats over her opposition to mining on Indigenous lands, reported on Jan. 5.

Tunki is the first woman to preside over the Shuar Arutam People as president.

The government in Ecuador has approved 165 concessions to mining companies for copper, gold and molybdenum, which covers 56 percent of the Shuar territory in the Condor Mountain range. The organization represents about 12,000 people living there.

Although Tunki said she would never order armed action, she has said that the Shuar people need to defend themselves against the mining companies and the government. She said she would put herself at the frontline to defend the mountains, forests and waterfalls that her people have looked after for centuries.

Tunki, who has been president since 2019, said she is not afraid of the security forces or the death threats.

CANADA: Government approves $31B child welfare reforms

First Nations people and the Canadian government have agreed on a $31 billion (U.S.) in compensation for more than 200,000 individuals and families who suffered because of the child welfare systems, The Guardian reported on Jan. 4.

Under the Canadian child-welfare system, Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in state care, or denied adequate medical care and social services.

Half of the settled will be reserved for reforming a system considered discriminatory by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and federal court. The other half is set aside for payments to First Nations people hurt by the on-reserve and Yukon child welfare systems between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022. First Nations people who went through delays or denials of medical care and social services between 1991 and 2017 will also get compensation.

“No compensation amount can make up for the trauma people have experienced, but these agreements-in-principle acknowledge to survivors and their families the harm and pain caused by the discrimination in funding and services,” quoted Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous services.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori-led conservation projects receive funding boost

Māori-led conservation efforts are among six projects that have received funding for so-called “jobs for nature” programs, Canterbury, Te Ao Māori News reported on Jan. 9.

Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan said the projects will receive $12.64 million in funding and will provide jobs for more than 70 people.

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“The six projects are diverse, ranging from establishing coastline trapping in Kaikōura, to setting up a native plant nursery, restoration planting at Lyttelton harbour, and increasing pest control across Banks Peninsula and Christchurch," Allan said in a statement, reported.

BRAZIL: Increased deforestation double on Indigenous lands 

Scientists at the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA) of Brazil say that during the three years of President Jair Bolsonaro's administration, deforestation on Indigenous lands has increased by 138 percent, reported on Dec. 23.

Scientists at the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA) of Brazil say that during the three years of President Jair Bolsonaro's administration, deforestation on Indigenous lands has increased by 138 percent, The Rio Times reported on Dec. 23.

According to the ISA report, which is based on satellite images, 20 of the 268 Indigenous lands in the study registered 80 percent degradation. The most deforested area, with a 54 percent increase compared to 2020, was the Jamanxim National Forest in Pará.

The ISA scientists examined deforestation between 2019 and 2021 in all Conservation Units (CUs), under states or federal protection and in Indigenous lands in the states of Amazonas, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, Amapá, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Maranhão and Acre, The Rio Times reported.

Indonesia has lost acres and acres of mangrove trees, shown here in a 2019 file photo, to clear-cutting for shrimp and fish farms in the past 30 years. Now a group of women, called the Womangrove collective in Tanakeke Islands, is working to replant the trees. (Photo by Peter Steward via Creative Commons)

INDONESIA: Dozens of hectares of mangroves restored

The Womangrove collective in Tanakeke Islands has re-established dozens of hectares of mangroves since its formation six years ago, reported on Jan. 6.

The collective, which aims at replanting mangroves on abandoned shrimp and fish farms that had been cleared, has so far planted more than 110,000 seedlings.

Tanakeke, home to about 7,000 people, is a small archipelago off the southeast coast of the island of Sulawesi. Indonesia, which has more mangrove areas than any other country in the world, has lost half to shrimp and fish farms in the past 30 years, officials said.

Final thoughts

In my final thought, I wish to stand with Josefina Tunki, an Indigenous association leader of the Shuar Arutam People of Ecuador, who is facing death threats due to her resolve in defense of her people’s lands. And lastly, but not least, let me share with you Article 17 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 17
1. Indigenous individuals and peoples have the right to enjoy fully all rights established under applicable international and domestic labor law.
2. States shall in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples take specific measures to protect Indigenous children from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, taking into account their special vulnerability and the importance of education for their empowerment.
3. Indigenous individuals have the right not to be subjected to any discriminatory conditions of labor and, inter alia, employment or salary.

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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