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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: Indigenous people in Mexico win a case in the Supreme Court, a Canadian nonprofit is working to raise awareness and end violence against Indigenous women and girls, Australia rejects a request by a mining company to impact a sacred site without consent, Māori kiwifruit growers thrive despite COVID-19 setbacks, and 54 potential grave sites have been discovered at two more residential schools in Canada.

MEXICO: Supreme Court cancels mining concessions

We start the week with yet another victory for Indigenous people. The Supreme Court in Mexico canceled a contentious mining concession in a community that has been fighting to stop the projects for almost two decades, Mongabay.com reported on Feb. 18.

The Nahua Indigenous community in Tecoltemi won its case against the Secretariat of the Economy for unlawfully giving mining concessions to a Canadian company that wanted to extract gold and silver in open-pit mines.

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“Canceling the concessions is the correct decision. It means these violations will be corrected,” said Itzel Silva of the Fundar Center for Analysis and Investigation, one of the organizations that represented the communities in the lawsuit.

According to the mining company, Almaden Minerals, the municipality of Ixtacamaxtitlán, in the state of Puebla in central Mexico, has about 7 million ounces of gold and 1.4 billion ounces of silver, Mongabay.com reported.

The lawsuit claimed that the “prior consultation” process — in which Indigenous communities are supposed to be informed of a project before giving their consent — was never done. Mexico signed the international treaty for prior consultation in 1990 and has since made its own laws to guarantee the treaty is properly applied.

In this case, however, the Secretariat of Economy contended that the communities near the concessions were not Indigenous enough to need prior consultation and had not sufficiently proved their connection to the territory, Mongabay.com reported.

The National Institute of Indigenous Peoples said in 2019 there are 71 Indigenous communities in the municipality, nine of which were within the concession’s area of operation.

CANADA: Nonprofit gets funds for anti-violence program

An Indigenous-led, nonprofit organization in Winnipeg, Canada, will a $130,000 grant to develop a plan to help end violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited and LGBTQ people in Manitoba, CBC News reported on Feb. 14.

The funding for the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, a nonprofit formed in 1984 that delivers a variety of programs and services to Indigenous families in Winnipeg, was announced by the Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere and Families Minister Rochelle Squires.

Mongabay.com quoted Diane Redsky, Ma Mawi executive director, as saying officials are glad the voices of families and survivors would continue to guide the process for implementing the national action plan.

AUSTRALIA: Corporate bid to mine sacred site rejected

The Australian government has rejected a bid by a multinational mining company to destroy an ancient stone tools quarry so it can expand its McArthur River mine, National Indigenous Times reported on Feb. 18.

Northern Territory Heritage Minister Chansey Paech refused to approve Glencore’s application, which opponents say would threaten a sacred site called Damangani, or Barramundi Dreaming.

The company has been told it must go back to the so-called Traditional Owners for consent for the project, which would double the size of the zinc and lead mine near Borroloola, about 125 miles from the Queensland border, National Indigenous Times reported.

Glencore said it had an agreement from six Aboriginal custodians, to whom it promised cars, food and fuel vouchers and $250,000 for housing. The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority rejected the agreement, however, because about 180 custodians had not signed it.

McArthur River Mine officials said they would seek wider negotiations with Traditional Owners over sacred sites and cultural heritage protection.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori kiwi growers thrive despite pandemic

The Māori people grew about 10 percent of the kiwifruit exported from New Zealand last year, generating about $114 million in income, Te Ao Maori news reported on Feb. 19.

Anaru Timutimu, chairman of the Māori Kiwifruit Growers, said the volume came despite setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will continue to rise as consumers around the world during COVID-19 want more fresh fruit, such as the New Zealand kiwifruit,’’ Timutimu told Mongabay.com.

A shortage of workers caused by the pandemic has caused problems for growers, however. A shortage of about 6,000 workers is expected for the estimated 26,000 workers needed this year, though wages have gone up to $40 an hour.

“It is because borders are closed and we are feeling the weight of not having extra harvesters available at the moment,” Mongabay.com quoted Māori Investment Ltd chief executive Kiriwaitingi Rei.

Māori Investment Ltd. owns and operates two kiwifruit orchids, Whiritoa in Te Teko and Rauotehuia in Awakeri.

Kiwifruit harvesting is expected to begin at the end of March.

CANADA: 54 more potential graves discovered around 

More than 50 potential grave sites have been found at fwo former Indian residential schools around Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan,  CBC News reported on Feb. 16.

The eastern Saskatchewan community announced that ground-penetrating radar surveys had found 54 "hits" — 42 on the former Fort Pelly school site and 12 at the former St. Philips school site.

The findings bring to more than 1,000 the number of graves found at residential schools in Canada, starting with 215 found in May 2021 at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia.

Officials said the search efforts in Keeseekoose were led by the oral history shared by survivors and knowledge keepers.

"It's important to acknowledge the courage of those that are willing to stand up here, and have in the past, to share their stories, to inform us so that we know the truth," said Russ Mirasty, Saskatchewan’s first Indigenous lieutenant governor and a citizen of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

Final thoughts

In my final thoughts, I would like to congratulate the Nahua Indigenous community in Tecoltemi, Mexico, for their Supreme Court win after a two-decade long fight for justice. Indigenous peoples’ struggles against the desecration of their ancestral lands continues.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 9 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 9
Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an Indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.

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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