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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: The Archbishop of Canterbury promises release of residential school records, an Australian health partnership marks 10 years of service, a UN report urges governments to listen to Indigenous landholders, the Māori Battalion's last survivor is knighted, and racism holds back Indigenous participation in the popular sport of netball in Australia.

CANADA: Archbishop vows release of school records

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby vowed to release any records about Canada’s residential schools that are being held by the Church of England, CBC News reported on May 2.

The Church of England is facing demands from survivors who attended the former Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ontario, to release any records held overseas in hopes they may shed light on the true number of children who perished at the residential school and where they are buried.

"Anything in the possession of the archives of the Church of England will be made available," Welby said during a visit to James Smith Cree Nation, about 125 miles northeast of Saskatoon.

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Welby originally planned to meet with Six Nations officials and visit the old site of the Anglican-run institute, which is now the Woodland Cultural Centre, during his trip through Canada April 29-May 3, but he was unable to attend because of a flight cancellation.

During a visit to Saskatchewan, however, he nonetheless apologized for the Anglican Church’s role in permitting abuse at residential schools, which he equated to cultural genocide.

"I am more sorry than I could ever, ever begin to express," Welby told survivors. “To molest a child while you read them the Bible, how can a human being do that and look themselves in the mirror?"

His comments marked the first time the top archbishop from the Church of England has apologized about the residential schools’ crimes. Church officials in Canada have apologized twice, in 1993 and 2019.

The Anglican Church had 36 residential schools — the most after the Roman Catholic Church – between 1820 and 1969. Documents related to the institution's early days are believed to be in England.

AUSTRALIA: Health partnership marks 10-year milestone

A Victorian health partnership is celebrating 10 years of work supporting the health of Indigenous populations in Australia, the National Indigenous Times reported on May 2.

The cooperation between the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and the launch of the Healthy Ears Clinic for Indigenous Children, launched in April 2012, officials said.

Since 2012, the Ear and Eye Hospital has performed more than 220 ear, nose and throat surgeries, while the Healthy Ears Clinic has treated more than 1,500 youths. Reports of hearing problems in Indigenous children have dropped about 5 percentage points but still remain higher than in the general population, officials said.

Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Kelvin Kong, Wormi, said Indigenous people still face problems accessing healthcare.

“We need to develop the pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a meaningful and real contribution,” he said, according to CBC News.

UN REPORT: Indigenous land rights key to restoration

A United Nations report is recommending scaling up the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities to boost the success of nature restoration projects, Mongabay.com reported on May 2.

The Global Land Outlook 2 report, by the U.N.’s Convention to Combat Desertification, found that food systems are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s deforestation and 70 percent of freshwater use, and contribute to 40 percent of the land degradation around the world.

It is the broadest study yet of land degradation and its impact on people wildlife, climate and the world economy, Mongabay.com reported.

“Conserving, restoring, and using our land resources sustainably is a global imperative, one that requires action on a crisis footing,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the UNCCD, according to Mongabay.com. “Business as usual is not a viable pathway for our continued survival and prosperity.”

For the first time, the report also recommends giving Indigenous peoples and communities a larger role in protecting lands.

“Land … is the connector between biodiversity and climate change, between humans and nature,” said Miriam Medel, the U.N. Convention’s chief of external relations, policy, and advocacy, according to Mongabay.com.

The report covered five years and included work from 21 organizations.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori Battalion's last survivor wins knighthood

The Māori Battalion’s last survivor is now a Knight of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Sir Robert “Bom” Gillies, 97, who served in World War II as a teenager, took his knighthood not as an opportunity to celebrate but to seek justice for the 28th Māori Battalion, Tea Ao Māori News reported on May 4.

“I accepted it on behalf of the Māori Battalion and the Māori people,” he said according to Te Ao Māori News.

He has been fighting for decades for acknowledgement of the poor treatment the Māori Battalion received, and is pushing for the battalion’s honors to be enshrined on its flag, as other regiments have done.

“We've been downtrodden for a long time,” he said. “I think it's about time we settle all these grievances."

Gillies said the impact of the mistreatment is still being felt, and that he wouldn’t enlist again if he could turn back time, Te Ao Māori News reported.

“It's deception,” he said. “That's the problem of this government, of every government. We want this government to make it right.”

AUSTRALIA: Indigenous athletes leaving netball 

A new study found that racism is pushing Indigenous athletes out of the popular sport of netball, the National Indigenous Times on April 29.

The Black Diamond report conducted by the Shooting Stars organization and Netball Western Australia, found that questionable judging and on-court practices, lack of support and segregation were the largest barriers for First Nations girls to participate in netball, a popular game worldwide that is similar to American basketball.

“(Netball) has a reputation for being sort of purple-circle and cliché-y,” Shooting Stars research manager Rose Whitau said, according to the National Indigenous Times. “A lot of it is systematic and unconscious on the part of the people perpetrating it, recreating these systems that disempower Aboriginal people.”

More than 100 members and establishments were studied to find out what factors are turning people away. The report assessed netball’s appointment and retention of Aboriginal people in the sport and proposed solutions for expanding stronger alliances between governing bodies and First Nations communities.

Celebrating culture, refining pathways for Indigenous players and enhancing support were identified as key first steps.

“People really want the system itself to be challenged,” Whitau said, according to CBC News. “Netball is the biggest female participation sport in the country so it really needs to lead by example in this space.”

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are on the report of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The report cautions about the world’s deforestation, freshwater use, and the planet’s land degradation. For the first time, the report also recommends scaling up the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities to guarantee the success of nature restoration projects.

This is not an individual’s opinion, but the findings of the broadest study yet on land degradation and what it means for the world. All of us have a stake in this; we only have one Earth. We need to stand up together to implement the recommendations of this report for posterity. Governments, please, do the right thing.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 37 of The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 37
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honor and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.
2. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of Indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

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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