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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

AROUND THE WORLD: A Māori war veteran has accepted knighthood in honor of his comrades, Indigenous people demand a greater say in the Philippines, Aboriginal children are being held in detention despite being granted bail and a Māori journalist makes history.

NEW ZEALAND: Last Māori Battalion soldier to be knighted

We start the new year in New Zealand where Ngāti Whakaue descendant Robert Nairn Gillies, the last Māori Battalion soldier, will be honored with his second knighthood for services to the Māori people and war efforts, Te Ao Māori News reported on Dec. 31.

The 96-year-old war veteran, who was sent to fight in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, is the last surviving soldier of the 28th Māori Battalion. He served with B Company at the start of World War II.

Initially, he declined the latest knighthood, but realized the honor was bigger than just one person.

“Those who deserve this honor have passed,” he said in his Native language. “I told myself, this knighthood belongs to all my friends who have passed beyond the veil; they’re the reason I agreed.”

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He also had advice for future Māori generations.

“Normalize our customs in your way of thinking,” he said. “We are a spiritual people, lest we forget.”

He was awarded the Cavaliere or Knighthood Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2019, and has represented the battalion's troops at national and international gatherings for years.

PHILIPPINES: Tribal leaders demand a greater say

Tribal leaders in the Philippines are pushing to have a greater voice in steering the planned expansion of a geothermal energy plant near Mount Apo, a dormant volcano on the island of Mindanao, Mongabay.com reported on Dec. 31.

The Energy Development Corporation’s plans to build the plant drew opposition in the 1980s, but today it is considered to have fulfilled its obligations to traditional landholders, and its permit was renewed in 2017, Mongabay.com reported.

The geothermal project sits within the ancestral lands of the Obu Monuvu people, known as the Manobo. Mount Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines, is considered sacred and is a source of food and traditional medicines. It was designated a national park in 1936 and a heritage site by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1984.

The area is home to more than 250 bird species, including the critically endangered Philippine eagle, the country’s national bird, Mongabay.com reported.

The development corporation began surface drilling in 1983, when the company was owned by the Philippine National Oil Company. In 1988, the Catholic Church joined environmental and Indigenous groups in opposing the project.

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AUSTRALIA: Aboriginal children ‘kept in detention’

Aboriginal children in western Australia were kept in detention despite being granted bail because child protection services did not know where to put them, The Guardian reported on Dec. 27.

The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia wrote to the state’s minister for children, the attorney general and others saying it had “grave concerns” that the department had failed in its responsibility to the children.

The legal service contacted officials about eight children since 2019 who had been detained despite being granted bail. Children cannot be released on bail unless an adult, usually a parent or guardian, accepts responsibility. If the child is under the care of the state, the state must take responsibility.

A service official said the department failed in its responsibility to “regard the best interest of the child as the paramount consideration.”

NEW ZEALAND: Māori journalist makes history

Māori journalist Oriini Kaipara became the first person in New Zealand with a traditional chin tattoo to host a prime-time news program on national television, CNN reported on Dec.30.

She made headlines worldwide after hosting her first 6 p.m. bulletin for Newshub on the TV Channel Three on Christmas Day, a move praised as a landmark for Māori representation.

"I was really elated. I was over the moon," Kaipara, 38, told CNN of the moment she found out she would cover the prime-time slot. "It's a huge honor. I don't know how to deal with the emotions."

Kaipara's spent six straight days covering for the news show’s regular anchors, and is expected to be called again in the future. She is already the anchor of a 4:30 p.m. show, "Newshub Live." She made news in 2019 as well while working at TVNZ, when she became the first person with Māori chin tattoo to present a mainstream TV news program.

In the tradition of the Māori people of New Zealand, women wear tattoos known as moko kauae on the chin. Kaipara got her moko in January 2019. She says it reminds her of her power as a Māori woman.

"When I doubt myself, and I see my reflection in the mirror, I'm not just looking at myself," she told CNN. "I'm looking at my grandmother and my mother, and my daughters, and hers to come after me, as well as all the other women, Māori girls out there."

Final thoughts

My sympathy goes to all those that lost their loved ones in the previous year. Otherwise, welcome to the New Year. I hope you had great holidays. The struggle for Indigeneity continues, and Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is on our side. Till next week.

Article 11
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

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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