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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

This week’s column starts off with some great strides by two Indigenous women in Australia and New Zealand, but tensions continued in Canada, Paraguay and Ecuador.

AUSTRALIA: First female Aboriginal senator sworn in

Let’s start Down Under, where Western Australia got its first Indigenous woman representative in the federal Senate, Australia’s National Indigenous Television reported on Oct. 18.

Dorinda Cox, who hails from the Yamatji and Noonger, was sworn in wearing an Aboriginal kangaroo robe, known as a buka or booka. She become the seventh current Indigenous representative in the federal parliament.

Cox, who had previously told reporters she never believed or dreamed that she would be an Australian senator, said that climate was a major topic of focus because of the way it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations.

She said that weather patterns were going to be more extreme and would affect minority communities and Indigenous people — and many others — who lack the means to plan for it.

Before joining politics, Cox was a Western Australia police officer. She joined the force as a teenage cadet.

NEW ZEALAND: First Indigenous female governor-general 

Dame Cindy Kiro was sworn in as the first female Maori governor-general in a ceremony in the New Zealand Parliament, Radio New Zealand reported on Oct. 21.

Dame Cindy, as she is known, rose from modest circumstances to become pro-vice chancellor at the University of Auckland. She recited her oaths in English and Maori.

She is the first wāhine Māori to hold the position, and is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent.

A university professor with a background in public health, Kiro vowed to use her role to acknowledge the unsung heroes that hold communities together and to reach out to marginalized people in ways that are more inclusive of those who have been “faceless, disenfranchised and voiceless,” such as the Maori and refugees.

She said she would be a leader for all New Zealanders. The governor-general serves as a representative to Queen Elizabeth II of England and is largely ceremonial.

BRAZIL: Troops deployed after killings on Indigenous land

Brazil's Justice Ministry sent security forces to an Indigenous community in the south of the country where two people had been murdered in a dispute over renting land to commercial farmers for growing soy, Reuters reported on Oct 20.

Government police told reporters that they were exploring the deadly shooting of two members of the Kaingang tribe amid a wave of barbarism fueled by disagreements within the community over sharing of the income from farms.

Luri de Oliveira, the inquiry lead, said that Rosenildo Batista and Lucas Caetano were murdered after being removed from the reservation over their differences with the leader of their tribe. He said police have not yet made any arrests but have leads about potential suspects.

Human rights leaders and activists of the Kaingang community say that the murders are related to the agreement made by community members to lease 12,000 hectares of land for soy growing but have disagreed on how to share money from the 60 kilograms of soy produced on each hectare.

CANADA: Chiefs call for prime minister to resign 

Stewart Phillip, the grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would resign “if he had a shred of honor left,” Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reported on Oct. 21.

He was referring to a comment made by the prime minister’s office that all records regarding the more than 150,000 Indigenous children forced to attend residential schools between 1831 and 1996 had been given to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.

“We have provided over 4 million documents to the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation,” a spokesperson with the prime minister’s office said. “To the best of our knowledge, all documents were provided.”

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And yet, according to a statement posted on the NCTR website, NCTR is still waiting for Canada to provide the final versions of school narratives, supporting documents used in the Independent Assessment Process and vital statistics, including death certificates for children lost at the schools.

“A man that declared that Indigenous people were the most important relationship to the Canadian government and yet there have been a litany of broken promises, empty commitment and meaningless apologies,” the grand chief is quoted as saying.

ECUADOR: Lawsuit seeks to halt oil development

Indigenous communities from Ecuador's Amazon sued the government to halt plans by President Guillermo Lasso to increase oil development in the country, calling the expansion efforts a "policy of death," reported on Oct 18.

Indigenous communities from Ecuador's Amazon sued the government to halt plans by President Guillermo Lasso to increase oil development in the country, calling the expansion efforts a "policy of death," Reuters reported on Oct 18.

Lasso had issued two decrees in the first days of his government intended to enable the expansion of oil blocks in environmentally delicate jungle areas and entice more foreign investment for mining projects.

Amazonian Indigenous communities are asking the Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, to invalidate the decrees.

"The Ecuadorean government sees in our territory only resource interests," the Waorani leader, Nemonte Nenquimo, said in remarks outside the court.

"Our territory is our decision and we'll never allow oil or mining companies to enter and destroy our home and kill our culture.”

PARAGUAY: UN says nation failed to stop poisoning

The United Nations Human Rights Committee said that the Paraguayan government failed to stop the illegal use of pesticides being sprayed on the land of the Ava Guarani Indigenous community, reported on Oct 21.

For more than a decade, the fumigation from bordering soybean estates destroyed the community’s plants and animals, while creating health problems for many residents.

The committee also found out that the government of Paraguay has the laws and institutions in place to control commercial agriculture but has proved unwilling to use them.

The UN committee found that the Paraguayan government failed to regulate the use of harmful chemicals near an Indigenous community, resulting in severe health challenges and the degradation of its culture.

The failure by Paraguay to regulate the use of chemicals near those lands led to severe impacts on the Indigenous families, livelihoods, culture and tradition, as it made many Ava Guarani youth and many other members of their community migrate in search of better areas to live.

A final thought

I will continue to share with you the articles enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, one article at time, based on the stories of the week. Till Next week.

Article 26

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

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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