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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: An Australian teen uses a smartphone to shine a spotlight on in-custody deaths in Australia, the Danish prime minister apologizes to Inuits from Greenland who were snatched from their families 70 years ago for a social experiment, a First Nations disability advocacy service opens in Australia, a Māori scientist leads new vaccine research in New Zealand, and First Nations leaders say they've lost faith in Thunder Bay police in Ontario, Canada.

AUSTRALIA: Teen’s film shines spotlight on Indigenous deaths

A 17-year-old filmmaker has won the initial First Nations Award for her short film, “Eight Minutes Forty Six Seconds,” which casts light on the George Floyd death in the U.S. and Aboriginal in-custody deaths in Australia.

The entire documentary, filmed on her smartphone, runs exactly eight minutes and forty-six seconds – the amount of time a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd protested, “I can’t breathe.”

Kara Rose, Kamilaroi, of Sydney, Australia, received the award from the Aussie Smartphone Filmmakers Scoop Awards. She also received the Best Female Creative award, National Indigenous Times reported on March 11.

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The film, one of 12 Rose has produced, details the Floyd case and identifies Aboriginal people who have died while in police custody.

“It is very important for me as an Indigenous woman to tell the stories of my own people and spread a message through my films,” Rose is quoted as saying.

“A similar incident happened to an Indigenous man called David Dungay, who said, ‘I can’t breathe,’ just like Floyd, and it hasn’t been spoken about at all,” she said. “The government should be more accepting of Aboriginal people, and we shouldn’t be wronged for being a part of that community.”

According to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 475 Aboriginal people have died in custody in Australia since 1991.

DENMARK: Prime minister apologizes for Inuit ‘experiment’

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen apologized to six Inuit people from Greenland who were forced from their families 70 years ago as children to take part in an experiment to create a Danish-speaking elite, The Local reported on March 10.

The personal apology from the prime minister followed a written apology and came two weeks after the last remaining survivors received financial compensation of about 250,000 kroner, or about $37,000 USD.

“What you were subjected to was terrible. It was inhumane. It was unfair. And it was heartless,” Frederiksen is quoted as saying at an emotional ceremony in Copenhagen. “We can take responsibility and do the only thing that is fair, in my eyes: to say sorry to you for what happened.”

In 1951, 22 Inuit children between the ages of five and eight were sent to Denmark, which was under Danish control at the time. Greenland has since gained independence but remains part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The parents were assured their children would have an improved life, learn Danish and go back to Greenland one day as the future elite. The children were not allowed to have any communication with their own families, however, and after two years, 16 were sent back to Greenland orphanages instead of returning to their families. The remainder were adopted by Danish families, and most never saw their families again.

An investigation concluded that more than half were harmed by the experiment.

AUSTRALIA: Disability advocacy service opens in Queensland

A new disability advocacy service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has opened in Queensland, Australia, the National Indigenous Times reported on March 10.

First Peoples Advocacy will work with people with disabilities and their families to sort out issues with support services, access or discrimination. The service, established by the Aged and Disability Advocacy, joins the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disability Network of Queensland.

The new service “supports the most vulnerable in our community to have a voice and is the foundation for inclusion and equality,” according to Geoff Rowe, chief executive for ADA Australia.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori scientist takes lead in vaccine research

A Māori scientist is leading a new category of vaccines for breathing illnesses, including COVID-19, Te Ao Maori News reported on March 9.

Dr. Theresa Pankhurst, from Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou, has been researching additives that make vaccines more effective and that could be added to nasal vaccines. She is based at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington.

She told Te Ao Maori New that her study is developing a nasal spray to produce “defensive immunity.” She adjusted her study of influenza to include COVID-19.

“Mucosal vaccines have a real potential to provide a vaccine that will prevent transmission and initial sickness and these are things that current vaccines aren’t able to do effectively because they don’t generate the most potent and safe immune response in the mucosa where the virus infects,” Pankhurst told Te Ao Maori News.

CANADA: First Nations leaders demand changes to police

First Nations leaders in northern Ontario are calling for additional oversight of the Thunder Bay Police Service, saying they’ve lost confidence that the officers will serve the community, CBC News reported on March 10.

"There are many people who have lost faith that they will get justice," said Anna Betty Achneepineskum, a deputy grand chief with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization that represents 49 First Nations across the province.

The call for changes – including disbursing the police service and making it subject to provincial oversight – comes just days after a report for Ontario's attorney general cited grave concerns about the handling of the deaths of 14 Indigenous people between 2006 and 2019. The investigators said the cases should be reinvestigated.

"I see their faces, I know many of the cases and also others who have died on the streets and rivers in Thunder Bay, where it was quite obvious their deaths were not investigated," Achneepineskum told CBC News.

Final thoughts

In my final thoughts, I would like to celebrate the 17-year-old Indigenous filmmaker who was inspired by the coverage of George Floyd’s death to draw attention to Indigenous deaths in custody. Indigenous people the world over celebrate her talent and her sturdy sense of social justice. Go on, Kara Rose; you are making a big difference, especially to the bereaved families who are still looking for answers and demanding justice.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 25
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

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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