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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to ICT

Around the world: Sacred Warlpiri objects are repatriated by the University of Virginia, a retired priest is charged in a decades-old residential school assault, Māori and Pasifika people more likely to have 'very rare' blood type, Quebec pledges funds to Indigenous issues and a report clearing a Kenyan conservancy of abuse is called a ‘sham investigation.’

AUSTRALIA: Sacred Warlpiri items return home 

A delegation of Warlpiri men from Yuendumu in Australia collected seven sacred objects from the University of Virginia to carry them home to central Australia, National Indigenous Television reported on June 19.

A private ceremony was expected to be held when the items returned to the Yuendumu community.

"All the objects overseas, if they belong to Warlpiri, they need to come back to our country, where they come from," according to a statement from the two Warlpiri men,  Geoffrey Jagamara Mathews and Warren Purnpajardu Williams Japanangka.

"We are glad to see this material come back to Australia from America, but we need more help for all our material to come back.”

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The University of Virginia houses about 2,200 Australian First Nations artifacts in its Kluge-Ruhe collection, one of the largest collections outside Australia. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies partnered with the university to repatriate the items.

"The primary aim of the program is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians to make decisions about their cultural heritage," the institute's chief executive, Craig Ritchie, told NITV.

CANADA: Retired priest charged with residential school abuse

A 92-year-old retired priest has been charged with indecent assault in a decades-old case involving a 10-year-old girl who attended the Fort Alexander residential school in Manitoba, Canada, CBC News reported on June 17.

The priest, Arthur Masse, 92, was arrested June 16 at his home in Winnipeg after a 10-year investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, CBC reported.

Officials said the assault occurred between 1968 and 1970 at the Fort Alexander residential school, which operated on Sagkeeng First Nation territory. The school, which opened in 1905 and closed in 1970, was managed by the Oblate priests, CBC reported.

“The victim in this case has endured a lot throughout the investigative process and has stood firm in speaking out about what happened to her," RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said at a news conference.

"The most important thing to her, today, is, she was heard."

The single charge brings to a close the investigation into residential schools by the Royal Canadian police in Manitoba, officials said, though allegations had surfaced that abuse and neglect was rampant at the facility.

"This arrest is the culmination of a decade of work by the RCMP investigators, who would not have been able to bring this to a conclusion without the incredible bravery of the victims and witnesses who were willing to relive past trauma and speak about what took place," Manaigre said.

"Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, many of the victims are not able to participate in the investigation, whether that be for mental or physical health reasons, or because the victim is now deceased."

NEW ZEALAND: Māori, Pasifika in demand as blood donors

The Māori and Pasifika people in New Zealand tend to have a “very rare” blood type known as Jk3 that makes them sought-after as blood donors, Te Ao Māori News reported on June 19.

The New Zealand Blood Service said the prevalence of the unusual blood type makes it particularly important for Māori and Pasifika people to donate blood, Te Ao Māori News reported.

“Māori and Pasifika blood is quite unique,” said Asuka Burge, blood service’s national marketing manager. “To build our database of donors and to identify more people with this unique blood group, we need to grow our Māori and Pasifika donor database by about 27 percent or roughly 3,000 new donors over the next 12 months.”

Burge said that about one in every 100 Māori and Pasifika donors has the Jk3 blood type, meaning they are more likely than other groups to have that unique blood type.

“While most people are aware of the four main blood groups – A, B, AB and O – not many of us are aware blood can be divided into dozens of sub-groups,” Burge said. “There are 43 recognized blood types, including the clinically significant Kidd (Jk) blood group."

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Fewer than the 9 percent of active donors – about 10,000 people – across New Zealand identify as Māori or Pasifika.

CANADA: Quebec unveils plan for Indigenous issues

The government of Quebec is pledging more than $140 million to work with First Nations and Inuit people in preserving language and culture, addressing challenges faced by Indigenous women and working to improve economic, social and justice issues within those communities, APTN News reported on June 17.

Quebec’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière released the action plan for First Nations and Inuit over the next five years, saying the plan came after an 11-month tour of the 55 Indigenous communities in Quebec.

The plan includes six areas of focus: culture, Indigenous languages and reconciliation; issues and challenges facing Indigenous women; development of children and families; health and wellness of Indigenous people; socioeconomic conditions and social inclusion; and justice and public security measures.

Odanak Chief Richard O’Bomsawin said the plan marks a change in relations between First Nations and the government.

“I believe that it is time that the Quebec government works with us,” he said. “And this is living proof that things can work. There’s a lot of good in this. We need to put it in practice. We need to work hard.”

Marjolaine Étienne, president of Quebec Native Women, said the plan also calls for consultations with Indigenous communities every year to evaluate and update the government’s strategy, according to APTN News.

“What I think is good about this plan is we won’t have to wait five years to say we want to change a project because the reality has changed,” Étienne said. “We won’t have to wait to ask to sit down and make the plan or program more flexible. There are more possibilities.”

KENYA: Report clearing conservancy called ‘sham investigation’

An independent review clearing the Kenya-based Northern Rangelands Trust of links to violence and killings was labeled a “sham investigation” that skimmed the surface of allegations, Mongabay.com reported on June 10.

The report released June 9 found “strikingly little evidence” to substantiate a November 2021 report from the Oakland Institute alleging links to violence, according to Mongabay.com.

The report was led by Kanynke Sena, director of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee and commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, one of NRT’s funders.

“The allegations appear to have emerged from a minimal investigative process and are deeply implicated in a complex political environment where attacks on NRT are widely understood as an electoral tactic and as a means to draw attention,” Sena wrote, according to Mongabay.com.

Sena and his team visited 19 towns in central Kenya, including nine in Isiolo County, where the killings are reported to have occurred. He wrote that in many instances, he was unable to validate details of the killings in his meetings with local representatives and community partners, or was told the deaths were caused by clashes with rival ethnic groups.

He said he was unable to arrange a meeting with a main source of the allegations — the Borana Council of Elders, which issued its own report in 2019 accusing NRT of taking part in the killing of 70 people.

Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, called the review a “sham investigation” and said Sena didn’t properly examine the claims.

Major Jillo, a Borana activist who helped facilitate the Oakland Institute’s report, said the council was suspicious of Sena’s goals.

A letter dated March 31, 2022, that was reviewed by Mongabay.com indicated that Sena introduced himself to the council as a contractor for the “joint donors” to NRT and asked for contact details for the Oakland Institute’s sources. According to Sena, the council didn’t follow up on a pledge to set a date for the meeting after the letter was received.

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are on the Oakland Institute’s report that accused the Kenya-based Northern Rangelands Trust of links to violence between communities and extrajudicial killings,  and on a separate review by the director of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee that trashes the report. There is something wrong here. One of the sides is not being honest and I call for more independent reviews in order to come to the bottom of this matter.

And finally, let me share Article 43 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 43
The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world.

Global Indigenous is a weekly news roundup published every Wednesday by ICT with some of the key stories about Indigenous peoples around the world.

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