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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: Aboriginal people win back land in Australia, environmental activist Greta Thunberg blasts the Swedish government over a decision affecting Sami land, a training center is relocating because of unmarked graves in Canada, young Indigenous artists are enlisted for a mural in Australia, and the Saskatchewan budget includes more money for First Nation and Métis people in Canada.

AUSTRALIA: Kakadu back in Aboriginal hands

This week starts in Australia with victory by the Aboriginal people of the Kakadu region regaining about 10,000 square kilometers of their traditional lands, National Indigenous Television reported on March 26.

The Aboriginal lands make up about half of the Kakadu National Park, which is listed as a World Heritage Site in the Northern Territory. It was one of two tracts of Aboriginal lands returned to Indigenous control the same day.

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The Aboriginal people had fought for the land since 1977 with the help of the Northern Land Council, which represents the interests of Traditional Owners.

Traditional Owner Violet Lawson, Murumburr, was among those who celebrated the occasion.

"I feel proud, I'm happy,” Lawson said. “I'd like to thank everybody for coming along to be here for our people, my people."

Earlier in the day at Mataranka, about 100 kilometers south of Katherine, lands in the Roper River region were also returned to Aboriginal people, National Indigenous Television reported.

SWEDEN: Greta Thunberg condemns mining on Sami land

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg strongly denounced the decision by the Swedish government to allow a British company to dig an open-cast, iron ore mine on the Indigenous Sami people’s land, The Guardian reported on March 24.

“Sweden today confirmed its shortsighted, racist, colonial and nature-hostile approach,” said Thunberg, 19, who is Swedish, according to The Guardian. “Sweden pretends to be a leader for environment and human rights, but at home they violate Indigenous rights and continue waging a war on nature. The world will remember this.”

London-based Beowulf Mining fought almost a decade to win endorsement for the mine, which had faced stiff opposition from the Sami people and environmentalists.

In announcing the decision, Sweden’s business minister, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, said the mine was in the public interest.

CANADA: Center relocating because of unmarked graves

The Nechi Institute of Indigenous Learning – which has trained more than 15,000 people in the area of addictions for almost 50 years in St. Albert, Canada – wants to leave its current home on the former Edmonton Indian Residential School site because of unmarked graves, APTN News reported on March 25.

Marilyn Buffalo, the institute’s CEO, said former students alerted the officials that they were operating among the graves.

“I have some very important persons that went to school here,” Buffalo said, according to APTN News. “One of them … showed me, showed my staff, exactly where he buried people. And that is immediately behind our backyard here at Nechi institute. I’ve had elders tell me personally … that our trailers are sitting on unmarked graves.”

Buffalo says Nechi is asking for help from the prime minister in moving to another location.

Hundreds of unmarked graves have been found across Canada at sites that once were part of the residential school system, starting with the Kamloops Residential School where 215 remains were found in 2021.

AUSTRALIA: Young Indigenous artists create wall painting

Western Australian artist Peter Farmer brought together local, upcoming young artists to create a large wall painting at Cockburn Gateway’s piazza, National Indigenous Times reported on March 27.

Farmer, who has worked with brands such as Jimmy Choo and Woodside, said he wanted to foster pride and ownership within the community. The painting is spread out over about 250 meters.

“It has just beautifully activated the space and encourages our customers to rest, relax and connect,” said Alexandra McAuliffe, Cockburn Gateway manager. “It’s created this renewed sense of vibrancy to the area and it’s quite amazing.’’

“It’s making people stop and slow down,” she said. “Whether they know it or not, they are being educated and they’re learning about our Indigenous culture.”

CANADA: First Nations, Metis peoples get budget boost 

First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan will get a 20 percent raise in cash from the province under a new budget, APTN News reported on March 26.

Payments will go to the Métis Addictions Council, the Saskatchewan Income Support Payments, and an increase in payments for shelter benefits. About half the people in Saskatoon shelters are Indigenous, officials said.

Critics say the budget does not do enough to help families survive.

“These pitiful tweaks just aren’t solutions,” said critic Meara Conway. “As desperate as that minister is for a good news story, this isn’t that.”

Kayla DeMong, executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction, said a comprehensive examination strategy for the vulnerable is still required.

“We know that in our province we have the longstanding, intergenerational effects of colonialism that are still existing today,” DeMong said. “Our systems and our policies really aren’t created or built to bring Indigenous people up and to empower them.”

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are with the Aboriginal people of the Kakadu region in the Northern Territory of Australia who won back their traditional land. Their victory yet again demonstrates that Indigenous people must continue to fight for their rights.

Finally, let me share with you Article 30 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 30
1. Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the Indigenous peoples concerned.
2. States shall undertake effective consultations with the Indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.

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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