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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world this week: New Zealand gets its first Indigenous foreign minister, governments and private donors pledge $1.7 billion to help Indigenous people protect the forests, an Aboriginal educator in Australia wins a prestigious award, more than 1,000 communities in Peru are affected by deforestation, and patrons in Toronto demonstrate love for Indigenous art.

NEW ZEALAND: First Indigenous woman tapped as diplomat

We start off with Nanaia Mahuta, a Maori woman who was appointed New Zealand’s foreign minister, becoming the first woman to be named the country’s top diplomat, The Washington Post reported on Nov. 2.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, who won her second term in a landslide last month, described her ministers as “incredibly diverse.” The new cabinet, made up of 20 people, includes five Maori, the Indigenous people of New Zealand, and eight women.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta speaks during an interview in her office Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Wellington, New Zealand. Mahutu is the first Indigenous Maori woman to be appointed foreign minister in New Zealand, and promises to bring a new perspective to the role. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

Mahuta, who becomes the first woman in New Zealand’s history to serve as foreign minister, was first elected to Parliament in 1996 and has also served as minister for Maori development and local government.

“She is someone who builds fantastic relationships very, very quickly, and that is one of the key jobs in a foreign affairs role,” Ardern said of Mahuta. “You only need to look at the difficult work that she has had to conduct over, for instance, her local government portfolio, and that to me demonstrates those diplomacy skills that we need to represent New Zealand on the world stage.”

Mahuta also became the first woman in New Zealand’s parliament to wear a Maori traditional chin tattoo while serving as a legislator.

SCOTLAND: Indigenous peoples get $1.7B to protect forests

At the United Nations Climate Change conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, a whopping $1.7 billion was pledged to help Indigenous peoples around the world protect the forests, the Climate Change News reported on Nov. 2.

The pledge was made by the United States, Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, in collaboration with 17 philanthropic organizations around the world.

The statement by the donors recognized the fact that Indigenous peoples and local communities are the guardians of forests and nature.

The funding is indeed a noble gesture, since Indigenous peoples and local communities manage half the world’s land and care for an astounding 80 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity, largely under customary tenure arrangements, according to the World’s Resources Institute.

However, a study by the Rainforest Foundation Norway, found that Indigenous communities and organizations receive less than 1 percent of the climate funding meant to reduce deforestation.

Indigenous communities were skeptical about the latest pledge, saying that big announcements have been made before and not implemented. They said they would wait to see what would happen this time.

AUSTRALIA: Aboriginal educator wins top award

Cheryle Edwards, an Aboriginal education officer at a school for special needs students in Central Australia, has been named the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education of the Year for 2021, National Indigenous Television, reported on Nov.3.

Edwards, a liaison officer with what was described as a deep connection to the ancient Arrernte culture of Central Australia, has spent more than three decades in education and has worked 15 years at the Acacia Hill School, the only school in the region for special needs students.

“It was just mind-blowing, and a very emotional night, lots of tears, lots of smiles, lots of congratulations, and after 23 years I think it’s very well deserved, too,” she said of the award.

Acacia Hill School is known as the site for the Arrernte caterpillar dreaming story, and 70 percent of the school’s students are Indigenous. Many are far from their families.

The students have origins in New Zealand, Sudan, Syria, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India.

PERU: More than 1,000 Indigenous communities hit by deforestation

More than 1,200 Indigenous communities in Peru’s Amazon regions are being affected by illegal mining, illicit crops, or deforestation, Mongabay.com reported on Nov.6.

The devastation is occurring in the Amazon regions of Loreto, Ucayali, Pasco, Huánuco, and Madre de Dios.

The investigation of deforestation, illegal mining, and illicit coca crops in those areas also discovered that 647 self-identified Indigenous communities do not have official recognition from their regional authorities to certify their existence, making it impossible for them to obtain legal titles to their ancestral lands.

Peru’s many Indigenous communities, like many others around the world, are not officially recognized by their government. They know who they are and where their territories begin and end, but no documentation to show it.

CANADA: Patrons demonstrate love for Indigenous art

A pop-up Indigenous art market in Toronto is promoting and selling the work of Indigenous artists who have faced economic challenges throughout the pandemic, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Nov 6.

Patrons lined up outside the market while celebrating the Indigenous art market opening.

Barb Nahwegahbow, the curator and organizer, said that the reception from the community has been "beyond belief." "It's very heartwarming," Nahwegahbow told CBC News. "It brings the artists to tears to hear how people feel about their work."

The market will remain open throughout the holiday season until Dec. 24.

The pandemic has affected many businesses, including tours and exhibitions of works of art from Indigenous artists in Canada.

Final thoughts

With Indigenous lands under attack from businesses throughout the world, my final thought is about Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Till next week.

Article 10

Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

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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