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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: Māori and Aboriginal Australians protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a Mi’kmaw elder in Canada heads to the Vatican in hopes of winning an apology, a bridge project in western Australia may destroy Aboriginal ancient heritage sites, a report finds "stunning" racisim in a Canadian oil and gas agency, and evicted Indigenous residents in Brazil fight to return to their lands.

AUSTRALIA: Māori, Aboriginal people protest Ukraine invasion

We start in Australia, where Māori and members of the Aboriginal community protested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a show of support outside a Ukrainian Catholic Church in the western city of Maylands, Te Ao Maori News reported on March 1.

The group, which included Māori living in Perth, performed a haka and a corrobboree, an Aboriginal ceremonial dance.

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Leon Ruri, a member of Haka For Life from Kalgoorlie in western Australia and an organizer of the demonstration, said the group stepped in after a Ukrainian-Polish man asked members to stand with him and his people.

“It was something we were happy to be a part of,” Ruri told Te Ao Maori News. “He knows the power of haka and our culture and our passion for the people around the world, and Haka For Life is about standing for life and choosing life.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused an international uproar, with anti-war protests spreading around the globe.

CANADA: Mi’kmaw elder seeks apology from Pope

A Mi’kmaw elder who survived Canada’s notorious residential schools is headed to the Vatican in hopes of getting an apology from Pope Francis for the Catholic Church’s role in operating the schools, APTN News reported on March 3.

Phyllis Googoo is set to go the Vatican later this month with a team of 12 that includes other residential school survivors, elders and youth representatives.

“I saw so much in residential school, that it haunts me,” Googoo told APTN News. “We call upon the pope to issue an apology to survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

In October, the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Canada said Pope Francis had agreed to an invitation to visit Canada “on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.” The trip was delayed because of the pandemic.

Googoo, who is from We’koqma’q First Nation, was taken to the Shubenacadie residential school at the age of four and left at the age of 14. She says she has never forgotten the abuse.

“You can hear children crying because they are constantly being strapped … or someone wet their bed and they get beaten for it,” she said, according to APTN News.

AUSTRALIA: Bridge project may destroy heritage sites

An Australian city has approved a bridge project despite desperate appeals from Indigenous people to change the design they say will destroy Aboriginal heritage sites and biodiversity, the National Indigenous Times reported on March 4.

The Lloyd Street Bridge design project named “Midland’s Juukan Gorge” was approved by the City of Swan council and will cross the Helena River. The Traditional Owners, as they are known, had opposed the design.

Cr Ian Johnson, one of five Traditional Owners who sought to stop the design, said the bridge was a danger to an “extraordinary” ancient Aboriginal rock shelter less than a mile from Midland.

“Our reconciliation action plan acknowledges that the Whadjuk Noongar people are the Traditional Owners of the land and acknowledges the significance of their cultural heritage and beliefs and connection to the land and water,”Johnson said.

Western Australia Sen. Dorinda Cox, a Yamatji-Noongar woman, read a statement from three Traditional Owners at the meeting declaring that they had been forced into choosing the bridge design.

“We feel this bridge has been forced on us without consideration of how much destruction it will cause,” the statement said. “None of our recommendations were listened to and we were left out of the final design.”

Cox said 29 heritage sites and biodiversity in the area would be destroyed.

Swan Mayor David Lucas said delaying the project could see it scrapped completely. “In my view you have two options tonight, you approve this design or you have no bridge at all,” Lucas said.

CANADA: Report finds ‘stunning’ racism at oil, gas agency

A third-party investigation of working conditions at Indigenous Services Canada’s on-reserve fossil fuel regulator found “stunning” examples of racism, APTN News reported on March 1.

TLS Enterprises, a Winnipeg-based consulting firm, reported a dysfunctional environment at Indian Oil and Gas Canada, according to a Dec. 10, 2021, report obtained by APTN News. The IOGC is a distinct agency within the Indigenous Services Canada with about 85 employees on the Tsuutʼina Nation territory south of Calgary.

The report concluded that many employees viewed the organization as full of blatant racism, discrimination and misconduct that was tolerated or reinforced by managers, though the report notes the investigation is an analysis of staff sentiment and not a conclusion of fact.

“Interviewees believe that the workplace developed into a workplace where harassment is ignored or even tolerated,” according to the report. “Conflict goes unresolved and does not go away — but develops into acrimonious relationships throughout the organization.”

BRAZIL: Evicted residents fight to reclaim their community

The Indigenous community evicted from the Monte Horebe settlement in March 2020 is asking a court to instruct authorities to reimburse residents and permit them to go back to the area, Mongabay.com reported on March 1.

About 2,260 families, several of them Indigenous, were evacuated when authorities destroyed the Monte Horebe informal settlement on the peripheries of Manaus, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

“They said it was full of bandits. But it wasn’t. It had its problems like any place. But there were fathers and mothers and families living here, who were realizing their dreams,” Indigenous leader Yawaratsuni Kokama told Mongabay.com.

Indigenous leaders said some displaced residents continue to struggle with inadequate housing and poverty amid the ongoing pandemic. A study last year found that COVID-19 was disproportionately killing Indigenous people in the Amazon.

Final thoughts

My final thoughts are with the Indigenous people of Monte Horebe settlement who were evicted from their settlement and offered no alternative. Like many Indigenous people the world over, this displacement is causing untold and needless suffering. The court should do the right thing and order authorities to allow them back to the place they call home.

Lastly, let me share with you Article 23 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 23
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programs affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programs through their own institutions.

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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