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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to ICT

Around the world: Manitoba Indigenous leaders in Canada await the arrival of Pope Francis while a search begins at another residential school for unmarked graves, clashes have erupted in India’s largest national park over efforts to remove the Yobin communities, an Aboriginal health system gets a government funding boost and Nepal promotes the use of native seeds through seed banks.

CANADA: Manitoba leaders expecting apology from Pope

Indigenous groups from Manitoba, Canada, are traveling to Lac Ste. Anne to hear what they hope will be an apology from Pope Francis for the Catholic Church’s handling of residential schools, CBC News reported on July 15.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 26 First Nations, has arranged for 38 people so far to travel to the lake, which is considered sacred to several First Nations in the area.

The Manitoba Métis Federation said in a statement to CBC News that it is also planning to send citizens to Alberta for the Pope's visit. It said at least two buses have been confirmed and more information will be shared this week.

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The Pope arrives in Canada on Sunday, June 24, and will travel to Maskwacis, Edmonton, Quebec, Lac Ste. Anne and Iqaluit before departing on Friday, July 29.

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the visit has been a long time coming.

"This is very important for the people who have been harmed and have suffered much trauma in these institutions," he said, according to CBC News. "This is what they've been asking for, this is what they've been expecting, and it never came, so I think there's a sense of relief for a lot of the past leaders to see this event happen.

“The apology is one thing, to say that you're sorry, but what do you do to reconcile with that apology? That's something that should be discussed going forward."

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has documented more than 4,100 children who died at residential schools as part of its work to create a national memorial register. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and forced to attend church-run, government-funded schools.

INDIA: Deforestation sparks clash in national park

Satellite data shows that deforestation has intensified in India’s largest national park in the last 20 years, sparking a clash between the Indigenous Yobin communities and local authorities, Mongabay.com reported on July 15.

In the last few months, authorities have destroyed at least eight Yobin settlements inside Namdapha National Park and dismantled their farms.

Members of the Yobin communities have lived in parts of the park for generations, but now park authorities consider the settlements to be “encroachments” and the main driver of deforestation and poaching.

The park, which borders Myanmar in the Himalaya mountains, is home to thousands of species, including tigers, clouded leopards and an endemic species of flying squirrel that has only been seen once by scientists.

“Namdapha is home to some of the unique species,” said Murali Krishna Chatakonda, a professor at the Amity Institute of Forestry and Wildlife. “The list is pretty long.”

Yobin leaders say they have lived here for generations by relying on the forests. They have rejected the government’s offer to pay for relocation.

Namdapha National Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1972 and became a national park in 1983. It is also a tiger reserve under India’s Project Tiger.

AUSTRALIA: Aboriginal health gets funding boost

The Victorian state government has raised funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organizations to support culturally safe, healthcare services, National Indigenous Times reported on July 16.

Gabrielle Williams, Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, announced that 26 organizations will receive a share of $25 million. It is the second round of funding from the state’s Aboriginal Workforce Fund.

“Aboriginal organizations know what’s best for their communities – that’s why the workforce fund is essential to ensuring there is direct and culturally safe support wherever they think it’s most needed,” she said, according to the National Indigenous Times. “They have the skills and resources needed to continue this important work.”

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Amanda Hand, chief executive of Healesville’s Oonah Health and Community Services, said the $1 million investment the service will receive will help enlarge the clinic.

“At Oonah we are actively advocating for and welcome investment from the Victorian government in the east of Melbourne,” she said, according to the National Indigenous Times.

“It is an area that is under-resourced and so we’re excited to be able to expand community focused, community-controlled services in the area for the benefit of our community.”

The ACCHO employs 12 staff from the Aboriginal community, offering extensive clinical services and community programs such as gym and swimming.

NEPAL: Community-based seed banks conserve native crops

An effort to revive native food crops is gaining support with the establishment of seed banks across Nepal, Mongabay.com reported on July 14.

Most of the crop seeds in Nepal are imported, including 90 percent of vegetable seeds and nearly 30 percent of maize seeds. Advocates hope to promote seeds that are more resistant to the impacts of climate change in Nepal.

In the village of Maramche in Gandaki province in western Nepal, for example, Krishna Prasad Adhikari and other residents are continuing to use a native rice variety that is well-suited for the high altitude and wet climate.

“We are trying to save our heritage,” said Adhikari, secretary of the Maramche Community Seed Bank. “We have understood the importance of saving local varieties for future generations.”

The seed bank was established in 2020 to conserve local 12 varieties of crops that include rice, cucumbers, and maize, Mongabay.com reported.

CANADA: Search for graves begins at Alberni school

A search for unmarked graves using ground-penetrating radar has begun at the former Alberni Indian Residential School in British Columbia, APTN News reported on July 15.

Children from more than 100 First Nations in British Columbia attended the school, which was operated by the Prebyterian Church, then the United Church of Canada and Indian affairs, while it was open from the late 1800s until the 1970s.

Ken Watts, elected chief of Tseshaht, Wahmeesh, said the company, Geoscan, is doing the physical searching while being led by survivors, leadership and council members following ceremony and protocols.

He said the search is all about the children.

“It’s really for them,” he said. “It’s really to justify what they have been saying all along …We heard about these stories, and many of the survivors’ children or survivors have always talked these stories about the children who didn’t make it home for various reasons.

“This is going to help solidify what they have been saying for a long time. We consider this a sacred responsibility to do this to help them get the answers.”

Final thoughts

My final thoughts this week are in Canada where the Holy Father is expected to visit starting July 24. This visit has been long in coming, and the people are expecting a formal apology from the pontiff. I hope they will get it and in the right tone.

Finally, let me share with you Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 1
Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.

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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