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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: Illegal mining is bringing sexual violence and disease to Indigenous people in Brazil, a First Nations man is named a finalist for an NHL award, deforestation continues to claim Indigenous lands in tropical countries,  and a new tourist attraction offers an Indigenous experience in Queensland.

BRAZIL: Illegal miners brings violence and disease, report says

Illegal miners in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory in the Brazilian Amazon are forcing girls as young as 11 into sex work, and bringing other violence and disease into Indigenous communities, according to the findings of a new investigation reported by Mongabay.com on April 28.

“Many miners are enticing teenage girls and women in the Yanomami communities,” according to the report published April 11 by the Hutukara Yanomami Association. “There are 11-, 12- and 13-year-old girls being bribed to stay in the tent with them. They offer food, clothes and work materials [in exchange for sex].”

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Areas within six miles of illegal mining operations on the Yanomami reserve are facing incidents of rape, murder, organized crime, malaria and malnutrition, and reports of Indigenous youths being drawn into the mining operation, according to the report.

The organization estimates that more than half the 27,000 residents from 273 Yanomami communities have been affected by illegal mining.

“The Yanomami Indigenous Territory is going through its hardest times since it was created in 1992,” Mongabay.com quoted the lead investigator for the Indigenous association, who asked not to be named after receiving recent threats.

CANADA: First Nations man named finalist for NHL award

Ryan Francis, of Acadia First Nation in Nova Scotia, is one of three finalists for the National Hockey League’s Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, APTN News reported on April 29.

The award, named for the first black player in the National Hockey League, is given to an individual who inspires his or her community, culture or society through hockey.

The other finalists are Noel Acton of Baltimore, Maryland, and Meredith Lang of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Francis said his parents ensured he maintained his connection to the Acadia First Nation, even though he grew up off the reserve, in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. 

“Whether that was through things offered by Acadia First Nation or through our Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre here, both of my parents were quite intentional helping me understand my identity,” Francis said, according to APTN News. “I’ve always felt that connection to my community and that support.”

In 2020, Francis started the Indigenous Girls Hockey Program Nova Scotia, to encourage young Mi’kmaq girls to join the sport. The 10-week program has attracted almost 200 girls from three different Mi’kmaq communities.

“We put heavy emphasis on supporting our leadership and on-ice administration so that the participants ... see their own community members and have that recognition and have that familiarity,” Francis said. “Where we can incorporate things like culture and things like language is certainly areas that we look to do.”

Acton founded the nonprofit Tender Bridge Foundation, whose programs include hockey teams for at-risk youth. Lang co-founded two organizations to encourage young girls of color to learn and play hockey.

The winner, who will be announced during the Stanley Cup Finals later this month, will receive $25,000. The two finalists will each receive $5,000 to be donated to a charity of their choice.

TROPICS: Loss of forests continues unabated, data shows

The loss of tropical forests remained high in 2021 with no sign of abating, despite efforts by some companies and governments to control deforestation, according to new data reported by Mongabay.com on April 28.

The data, from the University of Maryland, indicates that tropical countries lost more than 27 million acres of tree cover in 2021, with more than nine million of those acres lost in main tropical forests, according to the report.

Although some countries, notably Indonesia and Gabon, saw significant declines in loss of primary forest in recent years, the improvement was offset by high deforestation rates in other tropical countries such as Brazil and Bolivia.

Frances Seymour, a senior fellow in the forests program, said the trend is a tragedy for the climate, biodiversity, Indigenous peoples and local communities.

“We’ve got 20 years of data now, showing … persistent annual loss of millions of hectares of primary tropical forest alone, Seymour said, according to Mongabay.com. “But we don’t run out of fingers counting the number of years we have left to bring that number down to zero.”

The data is available on the Global Forest Watch platform maintained by the World Resources Institute.

AUSTRALIA: New Indigenous ‘experience’ opens for tourists

Tourists who want an “authentic Indigenous experience” can learn about the Bunya people at a new center teaching about First Nations traditions on ancestral lands in Queensland, National Indigenous Times (NIT) reported on May 1.

The so-called “in Country” education space offers walking paths, a sculpture honoring songlines and areas for presentations in the Bunya Mountains, which the Aboriginal people once traveled to get from the coast to the area for ceremonies.

Chairwoman Lurlene Henderson of the Bunya People’s Aboriginal Corporation said acknowledgement of the area’s importance has been sought for some time.

“The Bunya Mountains is a very culturally sensitive space for many Aboriginal people and is now recognized by many Australians as a place of healing and spiritual connection with its unique physical environment in our country,” Henderson said, according to NIT. “To have our footprint on the mountain through the Bunya Bush University project is essential for the continuity of Aboriginal culture and traditions.”

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are with Yanomami Indigenous Territory in the Brazilian Amazon where people are struggling with prevalent sexual violence, rape, murder, organized crime, malaria and child malnutrition because of illegal mining on their land. The Brazilian government should not sit idly by; the government should intervene to stop this situation.

And lastly, let me share with you Article 36 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 36
1. Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders.
2. States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take effective measures to facilitate the exercise and ensure the implementation of this 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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