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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to ICT

Around the World: A Cree Nation athlete wins eight medals, an Australian First Nation wants to heal the forest, a report finds police misconduct toward the Māori and an Indigenous community in Colombia works to offset climate change.

CANADA: Cree Nation athlete wins eight international medals 

Cree Nation athlete Trina Ross was given a hero’s welcome at the Winnipeg airport in Canada after winning eight medals – including three golds – at the 2022 Dragon Boat World Championships in the Czech Republic, APTN News reported on Sept. 8.

She was the only Indigenous woman on Team Canada to compete in the International Canoe Federation championships, which were moved from Ukraine to Račice, Czech Republic, this year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I was very happy to be there,” Ross said, according to APTN News. “Especially even after COVID, we couldn’t even race or anything and then to see all the other countries coming together again and paddling together, it was nice out there.”

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The events, which were held Sept. 1-4, include nine disciplines for canoe – canoe sprint, paracanoe, slalom and extreme slalom, wildwater, marathon, polo, ocean racing and freestyle – as well as Dragon Boat and stand-up paddling competitions. Details were not available on the specific competitions in which Ross won or placed.

Several First Nations leaders greeted her as she arrived at the Winnipeg airport.

“We’re very proud of Trina,” said Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse.”You’re an inspiration to our men, our women, our First Nations young people and for living a healthy lifestyle. And for showing many of us what can be done.”

Ross was presented with flowers and gifts, and was wrapped in a star blanket made to reflect the Pimicikamak Cree Nation flag.

Ross said she hopes her story of success can inspire other Indigenous youth.

“If you’re a paddler, runner, anything, any sport, just keep going even if you have injuries or setbacks – don’t give up, just keep going, keep working hard,” Ross said, according to APTN News.

AUSTRALIA: Forest needs First Nations help to heal

An Aboriginal group in the Australian state of Victoria is asking to take the lead in healing a forest area destined to become a national park on the outskirts of Melbourne, National Indigenous Times reported on Sept. 5.

The 173,000-acre Wombat State Forest, which was subjected to extensive logging during the 1800s and is today a popular four-wheel-drive, bushwalking and bird-watching area about 18 miles west of Naarm on Dja Dja Wurrung lands.

The Victorian state government in 2021 pledged to turn the forest into a national park by 2030.

Djaara Chief Executive Rodney Carter said Traditional Owners should be allowed to bring the lands back to health.

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“You take a look at our country at the moment, and you think, it’s not well – there’s something we’ve got to do,” he said, according to NIT. “Let us be what our ancestors expected us to be.”

NEW ZEALAND: Māori are targets of police surveillance, report finds

An investigation by New Zealand’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner found that police unlawfully took and kept photographs of thousands of young Māori people who looked suspicious or out of place, Te Ao Māori News reported on Sept. 10.

The investigation by OPC, done jointly with the independent Police Conduct Authority, found ingrained problems in the way police took, stored and used the information, Te Ao Māori News reported.

In one police database, more than half the stored photos were of Māori people, according to the investigative report.

The findings are not surprising, said Tracey McIntosh, a professor of indigenous studies at the University of Auckland whose research has concentrated on poverty, inequality and social justice and their relations to Māori incarceration.

“Even though the people taking the photos don’t see themselves as racist, this is the whole thing about racism without racists,” McIntosh said. “If you have particular types of policies and particular types of practices that differentiate between different types of groups and then that group is over-represented right through the entire criminal justice system, then you have systemic discrimination.”

COLOMBIA: First Nation works to reverse impacts of climate change

The Kogi people in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia have launched a campaign to buy back their stolen lands to reverse the impacts of climate change, National Indigenous Times reported on Sept. 7.

The Kogi people, descendants of the Tayrona, are among four Indigenous groups in the mountain range known as “The Heart of the World,” with others being the Arhuaco, the Wiwa and the Kankuamo.

The Kogi are working on the campaign with Deadbeat Films, the nonprofit Jaguar Siembra, and streaming service WaterBear.

“We devise, we express, we answer questions,” said a Kogi man identified by NIT as Lorenzo. “We can teach the Westerners how to care for the environment.”

The aim is to raise 10,000 Euros, or about $10,125 U.S. dollars, to support Jaguar Siembra’s community projects in sanitation, native forest and sacred site protection and conservation. Mining and logging have had a grave impact on health and the environment.

“If we harm nature, we are contaminating and making ourselves sick,” Lorenzo said.

My final thoughts

My final thoughts go to Trina Ross, an Indigenous athlete from Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba who represented Canada and her community in the 2022 Dragon Boat World Championships in the Czech Republic and returned to a hero’s welcome. She won a whopping eight medals including three gold medals. If this is not a show of talent, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately, she was the only Indigenous woman on Team Canada. I hope officials have noted the talent and will give more Indigenous people a chance to shine for their countries, their communities and for themselves. Congratulations Trina, you have done all Indigenous people proud. Let us all proudly bask in her glory!

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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