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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

This week around the world: Indigenous women protest at COP26 about the violence against Indigenous women and girls, West Papua calls for international help, Indigenous agents fight deforestation using high tech, police commissioner opposes COVID plan for Indigenous communities and how Indigenous methods can reduce wild fire risk.

COP26: ‘Femicide is linked to ecocide’

We start off with Indigenous women activists at the United Nations Climate Conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, who told stories of how extractive industries are interconnected with violence against Indigenous women and girls, The Guardian reported on Nov. 10.

The demonstration for murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people included stories of lost loved ones from Alaska to the Amazon, and the impact it has had on their families and communities.

“Remember my face,” Sii-am Hamilton of British Columbia told the crowd gathered near the COP26 summit, The Guardian reported. “Remember because it’s not if, it’s when you will go missing, if you are involved in land rights.”

“Say their names,” said Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en activist. “Do not forgot our sisters who have been stolen …

“The femicide is directly linked to the ecocide,” she continued. “There needs to be more awareness that these extractive industries, all that is affecting our climate and destroying our territories, is intertwined with violence against our women and girls.“

In the U.S., Indigenous women faced murder rates more than 10 times the national average, while in Canada, Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to go missing or be killed than any other group.

Hamilton has been involved recently in protesting the logging of old-growth forest in southern Vancouver Island.

“It’s all over the world,” she said. “Wherever you find people that are struggling for the land, you will find missing women.”

INDONESIA: West Papua calls for international help

The West Papuan independence movement wants to make destruction of the environment a crime and is asking for international help to save its rainforest, The Ecologist reported on Nov. 8.

“Indonesia tried to build development on the bones of our people,” said Benny Wenda, interim president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua Provisional Government. “The international community must stop the genocide and ecocide of my people in order to protect planet earth. If not, the rainforest will be destroyed by Indonesia.”

The comments came at the launch of the independence movement’s plan for a “green state,” in which ecocide is a crime and Indigenous people have guardianship of natural resources, The Ecologist reported.

Many West Papuan Indigenous independence leaders, including Wenda, are in exile from their homeland, which is half of the island of New Guinea. Once a Dutch colony, it is home to the world’s third-largest rainforest after the Amazon and the Congo, The Ecologist reported.

The Indigenous people in the provinces are Melanesian and are ethnically different from the people of Indonesia.

West Papuans have disputed Indonesia’s occupation for more than half a century, and last year announced the formation of a temporary constitution and provisional government.

The area is being considered for massive deforestation under the Indonesian government, however, and Wenda called on the international climate movement to help West Papua win independence.

“If you want to save the world, you must save West Papua,” he told The Ecologist.

BRAZIL: Fighting deforestation with drones, artificial intelligence

Indigenous agents have turned to high technology in a bid to fight deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, using drones and artificial intelligence, reported on Nov.10.

In a study developed especially for Mongabay, the AI tool shows that the Brazilian state of Acre has 878 square kilometers (339 square miles) of land that is at high or very high risk of deforestation.

The rate of deforestation has increased in recent years in Acre, which is now in the top five for deforestation risk, according to a forecast by an artificial intelligence tool developed by Microsoft and Brazilian nonprofit Imazon.

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One Indigenous agroforestry agent told Mongabay that he and his peers rely on technology such as drones and GPS to monitor forest fires, guard against poaching, and thwart illegal invasions.

The city of Feijó has the greatest area at high risk of deforestation, Mongabay reported.

AUSTRALIA: Police official opposed COVID plan for Aboriginal communities

A top police official in New South Wales convinced government officials to reject measures that could have helped save Indigenous communities from COVID-19 outbreaks, saying a lockdown was “impossible to police,” ABC News reported on Nov. 11.

The opinion from the deputy police commissioner who controls the state’s COVID-19 response apparently helped sway the government’s decision despite appeals from Aboriginal communities and endorsements from Australian health departments, ABC News reported.

In New South Wales, the Indigenous infection rate is escalating, with 22 percent of COVID-19 cases affecting Aboriginal people. At least 15 Aboriginal people have died from the virus.

A chief health officer approved a draft order last year that would have allowed any remote community to choose to go into a lockdown and prohibit movements in and out of their towns. A leaked email by the deputy police commissioner revealed the opposition.

"This is another example of a slap in the face for Aboriginal communities across NSW," said James Ward, a member of the national advisory group and leading Indigenous epidemiologist at the University of Queensland.

In New South Wales, 83 percent of Aboriginal people have received a dose of a COVID vaccine, compared to 94 per cent of the total population. But, in communities such as Boggabilla and Toomelah, near Moree, the rate is below 50 percent.

Across Australia, only 55.3 per cent of First Nations people are fully vaccinated, compared to 81.1 per cent of all Australians aged 16 years and older, ABC News reported.

CANADA: Using Indigenous methods to reduce wildfire risk

The Penticton Indian Band is working with British Columbia Wildfire Service on a new wildfire risk reduction project using traditional syilx methods, APTN News reported on Nov.14.

“All of the PIBprojects are informed by elders and knowledge keepers,” James Pepper, director of the band’s natural resource department, told APTN News. “They write the prescriptions, then we implement them.”

The newest project, which started on Nov. 9, includes burning about 1,300 piles of wood debris in syilx territory around the city of Penticton. The controlled burn allows helps clear out brush and debris.

“Traditional prescribed burning has been suppressed for many decades,” Pepper said. “And as a result, fuel has built [on the] forest floor…If there’s a wildfire now, it’s kind of catastrophic.”

Pepper says the band is working closely with syilx elders and traditional fire knowledge keepers from multiple communities throughout the syilx Okanagan Nation.

Final thoughts

My final thought this week is with the Indigenous people of West Papua who are fighting for independence in order to protect the third largest forest in the world. Articles 3 and 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples talks about self-determination. Till next week.

Article 3

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4

Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

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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