Survival’s campaign: Progress can kill

July 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Rights | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

And actually, it does kill, as it shows one of the most shocking campaigns. To keep the post on topic I will include here only the information related with polar tribes, but please, go and check the full campaign as it deserves all your attention.

Progress can kill

Forcing ‘development’ or ‘progress’ on tribal people does not make them happier or healthier. In fact, the effects are disastrous. The most important factor by far for tribal peoples’ well-being is whether their land rights are respected. Some of the problems affecting tribal peoples are HIV/AIDS, starvation, obesity, suicide or addiction. The last three specially affect the indigenous people living around the polar circle.

Obesity
Tribal peoples without land are forced into a sedentary life and many become dependent on processed foods. This change in lifestyle and diet – from high-protein to high-fat food – is often disastrous, leading to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the Pima reservation (Arizona), more than half of Indians over the age of 35 have diabetes; while those living in the mountains suffer far less from this condition. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that excess weight and diabetes will lead to ‘earlier deaths and disabilities’. If untreated or detected late – as is common with tribal peoples – diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease and amputations. The impact on future generations will be catastrophic.

‘The human costs of unrestrained development on our traditional territory, whether in the form of massive hydroelectric development or irresponsible forestry operations, are no surprise for us. Diabetes has followed the destruction of our traditional way of life and the imposition of a welfare economy. Now we see that one in seven pregnant Cree women is sick with this disease, and our children are being born high risk or actually sick.’
Matthew Coon-Come, Cree, 2002

Addiction
Dispossessed and alienated tribal peoples often take to drugs, usually the cheapest and most easily available such as alcohol and petrol. The health of individuals and families collapses. Babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome, children get little care from addict parents, teenagers follow suit, and once-respected elders are alienated from younger generations. Cycles are fixed which cannot be broken by merely treating individuals or symptoms. The entire society falls apart.

Among Innu youth, sniffing petrol is an acute problem. In the long term this addiction can cause convulsions and permanent damage to the kidneys, eyes, liver, bone marrow and heart. In 2000, 11-year-old Charles Rich died by accidentally setting himself on fire when sniffing petrol. A child who witnessed this horrific death said:

‘My name is Phillip. I’m a gas [petrol] sniffer. I sniff gas with my friends. In wintertime, we steal skidoos and we steal gas… I don’t go home because I sniff gas. And I sniff gas because both my parents are drinking and I’m mad at that… At one point Charles ran towards me when he was in flames but because I was sniffing gas and the fumes were very strong on me, I ran away. I was afraid I would be caught on fire too.’

Suicide
Tribal people across the world suffer from the trauma of forced relocation and settlement. They find themselves in an environment they are not used to, where there is nothing useful to do, and where they are treated with racist disdain by their new neighbours.

Their children may be taken to boarding schools which separate them from their communities and often forbid or ridicule their language and traditions.

Alienated and without hope, many take to drugs and alcohol. Domestic violence and sexual abuse soar. Many resort to suicide. In Canada, Indian groups who have lost their connection to their land have suicide rates up to ten times the national average; those with strong links often see no suicides at all.

The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land. We don’t have space any more. In the old days, we were free, now we are no longer free. So our young people look around them and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live. They sit down and think, they forget, they lose themselves and then commit suicide.’
Rosalino Ortiz, Guarani Ñandeva, Brazil, 1996

I think that the words speak for themselves. If you want to learn more about it, you can take a look at the whole campaign and also read the full report.

Advertisements

Survival International: Siberian tribes

March 28, 2008 at 12:11 am | Posted in Naming | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

I started a series of posts linking the information offered by Survival International. This week, I am continuing with Siberia tribes. When I was a child, I heard of Siberia because it was an inhospitable place where people was deported. Even that, its name attracted me. Last year I found an illustrated journal about it, and it surprised me. I think that despite its harshness it is a place worthy of discovering.

Siberian Tribes

Siberia’s 30 different tribal peoples range in number from under 200 (the Oroks) to 34,000 (the Nenet). They live in an area that covers 58% of Russia.

How do they live? Some of these peoples are nomadic reindeer herders, living in the tundra (arctic plain); others, who live in the forest tundra or taiga (coniferous forest), rely on a mixture of reindeer herding and hunting and gathering, and often live in settlements. Today 10% of Siberia’s tribal peoples live a nomadic or semi nomadic life, compared to 70% just 30 years ago. The languages the different tribes speak are from a range of linguistic families: some bear no similarity to any other language, and none bear any relation to Russian. Some larger indigenous peoples, the Sakha (formerly called Yakuts) and Komi, have their own republics within the Russian state.


What problems do they face?
Under the Soviet administration, the tribal peoples lost their land to state-run industries. With industrialisation, their region was taken over by outsiders, and the authorities made strong efforts to suppress indigenous languages, culture and ways of life. Today their biggest problems are the environmental degradation caused by the oil, gas and logging industries in the area, and the lack of clarity about land rights.

How does Survival help?
Survival supports Russian indigenous organisations such as the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), backing their demands that indigenous peoples are consulted about industrial projects and given the right of veto, and given compensation where their land has already been destroyed. We also support the call for Russia to ratify International Labour Organisation Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, and specifically for tribal land ownership rights to be recognised.

It is been quite surprising for me to find out how minority tribal rights and environment is binded. How in Siberia, Scandinavia or Labrador they are thrown out of its own lands because they are considered mere power sources.

Survival International: the Innu

March 16, 2008 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Canada | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

After deciding to take charge of this personal project, I soon realized that it would be unfair to do it without taking into account the whole situation of indigenous Arctic people. As I has sensed, I soon confirmed that they have to face heavy adversities to maintain this way of life, and I would consider it a lack of responsibility not to write about it.

As I learned from my last entry, there is a NGO, Survival International, who works supporting tribal people worldwide. They have an excellent website, packed with tones of information. I will tell you what they say about the Arctic people, and then it is up to you to continue learning from them.

Innu

The Innu are the indigenous people of most of the Labrador-Quebec peninsula, in eastern Canada. They were formerly referred to as the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, and are unrelated to the Inuit (or ‘Eskimo’) who live further north.

How do they live? Their homeland, where they have lived for millennia, is a vast area of sub-arctic spruce and fir forest, lakes, rivers and rocky ‘barrens’. They call this land Nitassinan. Up until the second half of the 20th century, the Innu lived as nomadic hunters. For most of the year, the waterways of Nitassinan are frozen, and they would travel in small groups of two or three families on snowshoes, pulling toboggans. When the ice melted, they would travel by canoe to the coast or a large inland lake to fish, trade, and meet friends and relatives. They hunt animals including bear, beaver and porcupine, and also fish and gather berries – but most of all they rely on the herds of caribou which migrate through their land every spring and autumn. Until recently, the Innu got all that they needed – food, clothing, shelter, tools and weapons – from the caribou, which have a huge cultural significance. Today the Innu have been settled into villages; although many hunt, fish and gather, some have paid jobs as well, or depend on social security.

What problems do they face? During the 1950s and 1960s, the nomadic Innu were pressured into settling in fixed communities by the Canadian government and Catholic church. The transition was difficult and traumatic. Life in the communities is marked by extremely high levels of alcoholism, petrol-sniffing amongst children, violence, and record levels of suicides. Many of the Innu are still fighting to retain much of their traditional lifestyle, increasingly difficult as the government hands out their land in mining concessions, floods the heart of their territory for hydro power schemes, and builds roads which cut up the remainder. In April 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee described the situation of tribal peoples as ‘the most pressing issue facing Canadians’, and condemned Canada for ‘extinguishing’ aboriginal peoples’ rights.

How does Survival help? Survival is calling on the Canadian government to rethink its approach to negotiations with the Innu and other similar groups – currently they will only recognise Innu land rights if the Innu agree to surrender most of their land. Canada must recognise the Innu’s right to own their land, and live on it as they choose.

I know this is little help, but it is just the beginning. You will read more soon 🙂

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.