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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: A Queensland massacre site has been handed back to Indigenous owners, thousands of Maasai people in Tanzania appeal to the west to stop their imminent eviction, the Manitoba government lacks a strategy for reconciliation efforts, and Indigenous knowledge and science team up to help reindeer in Canada.

AUSTRALIA: Massacre site returned to Traditional Owners

This week starts in Australia, where a sacred site at the base of Mount Gai-i in Queensland has been handed back to the Darumbal people, National Indigenous Television reported on April 21.

The 13.5-hectare reserve – where more than 300 Indigenous people were massacred more than 100 years ago – was already surrounded by lands for which the Darumbal people already hold title.

The land is now being held by the Gawula Aboriginal Land Trust on behalf of the Darumbal people. The mountain, formerly known as Mount Wheeler in Queensland, reverted to its original, Indigenous name, Gai-i, in 2018.

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Aunty Sally Vea Vea, Darumbal woman, said stories of the massacre in the late 1800s have been handed down through generations.

“They treated killing us like a sport,” she told NITV. “We have stories of people with us today whose grandmothers and aunties saw these atrocities. Now we've got the massacre site back, there's been a settling inside me. I know we've done right by our old people, who still live there in spirit."

The land was handed back in a ceremony in Bushland, southwest of Yeppoon. Craig Crawford, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships minister, said the return of the land and renaming of the mountain mark a step toward healing.

“By acknowledging the true story of the site, it allows for a proper process of healing,” Crawford said. “This sort of justice is symbolic of all of our efforts towards true reconciliation for all Queenslanders.’’

TANZANIA: Maasai seek international help to stop removal

Large numbers of Maasai people in northern Tanzania have written to the British and U.S. governments and the European Union asking for help to stop plans to evict them from their ancestral lands, The Guardian reported on April 22.

The Tanzanian government is about to expel more than 150,000 Maasai people from their ancestral lands because the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, and a safari company are planning to use the land for conservation and commercial hunting.

About 82,000 Maasai could be forced out of the area over the next five years under plans drawn up by Tanzania’s national commission for UNESCO in 2019 to enlarge the conservation area. The Maasai say their lives are at stake, since they will be unable to keep livestock or provide food for themselves if they are expelled.

“We have nowhere else to go,” according to the letter obtained by The Guardian. “Losing this land will mean the extinction of our community. Over 70 percent of our homelands has been taken for conservation and investment reasons.”

The letter asks those governments to stop support for those who are trying to seize the land.

“We are asking for your help to let our government know that our land is not for sale and that we will continue to resist this long-standing assault on our rights and the ecological integrity of our land,” the letter said. “You can keep providing funding to those responsible for appropriating our land in the name of profit or you can make it clear to our government that you will not stand by as our right to live peacefully on and conserving our land is denied to make space for elite tourism and ‘trophy’ hunting.”

The government plans to relocate the Maasai in the Ngorongoro conservation area, which is selected to be a world heritage site by UNESCO, and Loliondo, near the Serengeti national park. Both are famous for luxury safari tourism.

The Tanzanian government and UNESCO believe Ngorongoro is overpopulated with wildlife.

Farther north in Loliondo, near the Kenyan border, 70,000 Maasai face expulsion to make way for the growing operations of Otterlo Business Corporation, a United Arab Emirates-owned hunting company.

CANADA: Report says Manitoba lacks strategy for reconciliation

Manitoba’s provincial government has not lived up to its promises to encourage reconciliation with Indigenous people, according to a report released by Tyson Shtykalo, Manitoba's auditor general, CBC News reported on April 21.

Shtykalo said the province had not established a plan for reconciliation efforts as required under the Path to Reconciliation Act, which was approved in the Manitoba Legislature in 2016.

"Without a strategy, efforts towards reconciliation are hampered, ultimately lacking focus and vision," Shtykalo was quoted by CBC news.

According to the report, a review of five divisions within the provincial government found that just one minister — the minister for Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations — had any noteworthy mention of encouraging reconciliation in recent letters outlining their plans.

Niigaan Sinclair, a University of Manitoba professor of Native studies, said those actions aren't enough.

"There are some very small ornamental changes that have been done ... but there really is no mandate and there really is no directive from the government, no leadership in the areas of reconciliation," Sinclair told CBC News.

Shtykalo called on Manitoba to develop a plan for reconciliation and provide obligatory training for all provincial staff on the history of Indigenous people, treaties, Indigenous rights and Indigenous law. He also recommended the province annual reports be interpreted as required under the Path to Reconciliation Act.

CANADA: Indigenous-led program triples reindeer herd

An Indigenous-led conservation program aimed at pairing Indigenous knowledge with science has helped a caribou herd in western Canada triple its numbers in less than 10 years, Mongabay.com reported on April 21.

Although caribou are represented on Canada’s 25-cent coin, they are on the edge of extinction, Mongabay reported.

Since 2013, two First Nations communities in central British Columbia have joined hands with scientists and government officials to handle the decline of the caribou, also known as reindeer.

The mix of traditional knowledge from Indigenous elders, community involvement and Western science have provided a model for conservation, conservationists said in a recent study published in March in the journal Ecological Applications.

“We had a feeling the caribou could be lost within our generation,” said Clayton Lamb, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia and one of the study’s authors.

“This work sort of rewrites that narrative. Indigenous elders talked about them once being as abundant as bugs on a landscape.”

Since the collaboration began, the Klinse-Za Mountain caribou herd has risen from 38 animals in 2013 to 113 this year.

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are with the Maasai people of Tanzania who face imminent expulsion from their ancestral lands. They have written to the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union asking for help. I hope these powers will do the right thing. Indigenous people have lived with nature for millennia and scientific evidence shows that there is poor biodiversity management in areas where they have been evicted. Therefore, the solution for conservation and tourism is not to evict Indigenous people but to include them in the planning and the proper execution of all those efforts.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 35, one of the shortest articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 35
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the responsibilities of individuals to their communities.

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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