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World Bank-Funded Oil Project Would Displace Bagyeli in Chad and Cameroon

On June 6th, the World Bank approved funding for a $3.5 billion dollar project enabling oil exploitation in Chad and Cameroon. The project includes the construction of 3 oil fields in the Doba Basin of southern Chad, with oil production estimated at 225,000 barrels per day. Once the oil is extracted, it will be transported through a 600 foot-wide pipe crossing Cameroon. An international…

When Outrage Is A Scarce Commodity: Low-flying Maneuvers over Innu lands in Labrador

Italy was outraged and the world was shocked over the Cermis cable car tragedy of February 1998, during which an American low- flying military plane sliced through the cables holding a car full of skiiers, plunging all 20 of them to their deaths. Prime Minister Prodi called it an act of tragic recklessness. Outrage was renewed a year later when the pilot was acquitted by a U.S. military court.…

The Garifuna Journey: Perspectives on a Cultural Survival Special Project

Angel Ysaguirre, 32, was born in Belize and lived there with his family until they emigrated to Miami when he was 12. He remembers playing outside during the September 10th Belize Independence Day celebrations as a child when suddenly he heard the traditional Garifuna drums and saw a group of people approaching. He froze in terror for several minutes, certain that he would be harmed. He'd been…

The Ceramics of Raquira, Colombia: Gender, Work, and Economic Change

The Ceramics of Ráquira, Colombia: Gender, Work, and Economic Change Ráquira has been a pottery-making village since pre-Columbian times. It remained so throughout the Spanish Colonial period, when Mediterranean technology was introduced, and into the Republican era. However, in the last few decades the pre-industrial craft of pottery has been transformed into an industrial occupation. Today,…

Spirit Possession: Modernity and Power in Africa

As Heike Behrend and Ute Luig make clear in their introduction, this book is not a sequential account of the development of spirit possession cults throughout history, nor is it a desperate attempt to keep them alive. Instead, the essays included in this collection concern the influences of spirit possession on modern-day societies. The anthology, comprised of commentaries and reported fieldwork…

Power & Money: Economics and Conflict in Burma

General Ne Win overthrew Burma's short-lived democratic government in 1962's military coup, and, in an effort to move toward a socialist economy, instituted a new economic plan dubbed the "Burmese Way to Socialism." As part of this plan, Ne Win nationalized business and created government monopolies on staple goods such as rice and salt. More notably, in order to keep food prices low for urban…

Plant People to Save Trees

An unusual beam of light slashes briefly through the dark forest. Immediately, two alimaongs (Higaonon warriors) investigate. Their duty tonight is guarding twelve Higaonon elders: Datus (male chiefs) and Baes (female chiefs) sleeping on the floor of a small thatched-roof hut. Known as defenders of the rainforest, elders are often targeted by various groups involved in illegal exploitation of the…

Pa-O "Relocated" to Thailand: Views from Within

The Pa-O are one of the ethnic minorities of Burma. They live primarily in the Taunggyi area of southwestern Shan State. A smaller number live in the Thaton area of Mon State in Lower Burma. The Pa-O in the Thaton area have become "Burmanized" -- like their neighbors the Mon and Karen, they have adopted Burmese language, dress and customs. The Pa-O in southwestern Shan State have learned to speak…

Free Burma Movement Regains Momentum after Court Decision

On June 19, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts Burma Law. While this ruling is a setback for Free Burma advocates, it is not a fatal blow to the movement. The decision in fact sets the stage for renewed advocacy at local, state and federal levels. The situation in Burma is grim. The Burmese military junta annulled the 1990 elections in which the National League for Democracy (…

Forest Foragers: A Day in the Life of Efe Pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Kaybah!" yells ImaTufu to her toddler, who is veering too close to the fire. Chabo turns and looks at his mother, moves away from the hot coals, and continues his tottering journey across camp to carry a knife to his father. It's early December in the Ituri Forest of what until recently was northeastern Zaire, and the rainy season is almost over. Everyone is in camp because it has been too wet to…

Evicted & Excluded: The Struggle for Citizenship and Land Rights by Tribal People in Northern Thailand

Upland minority people in Thailand -- the `hilltribes' -- have traditionally lived on the edges of Thai society. Despite the volume of information being collected about tribal people, the demographic characteristics of these various upland minority groups remain largely unknown because existing data are both inaccessible and inaccurate. While the nine hilltribes of upper northern Thailand are a…

East Timor: Genocide in Paradise

News reports of the atrocities committed against the East Timorese people by the Indonesian government have been a sporadic feature of national news reports and human rights activism over the past year. Yet throughout the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in August of 1999 and the subsequent international intervention, the news coverage of East Timor's plight has delivered only an impoverished…

Double Jeopardy: Abuse of Ethnic Women's Human Rights in Burma

Many sociologists, anthropologists, and even Burmese politicians have maintained that Burmese women face less gender discrimination than do their sisters in other Southeast Asian countries. Burma's relative isolation for nearly forty years has helped perpetuate this myth, even as women's groups in exile make concerted efforts to debunk it. Despite Burma's ratification of the Convention on…

Crossing Borders: Indigenous Communities and Common Struggles

PT International Nickel Indonesia (Inco) is a majority-owned subsidiary of the world's largest nickel miner, Inco of Canada.1 Inco started exploring for nickel in Indonesia in 1967 and began actual commercial mining in 1978. Inco has already invested over $2 billion in its Indonesian nickel mine and smelting operation and is slated to continue working until at least 2025.(2) Arianto Sangaji,…

Court to Reexamine Environmental Impact of Controversial Makah Whale Hunt

For centuries, the Makah tribe has lived off of the sea, both physically and spiritually. In 1855 they signed a treaty with the federal government ceding their claim to land on the Olympic Peninsula in exchange for whaling and fishing rights, a trade-off designed to ensure the preservation of the central focus of Makah culture. At the time of the signing, one tribal negotiator said, "You can have…

Court Fails to Address Key Issue in Burma Law Defense

A Massachusetts bill intended to promote human rights in Burma turned into a court battle over states rights and the authority of the federal government to conduct foreign affairs. On June 19, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts's so-called "Burma Laws" in Crosby v. NFTC. Case Overview In 1996, the Massachusetts legislature passed the "Burma Laws," selective…

Celebration, Affirmation & Transformation: a 'Traditional' Festival in a Refugee Camp in Thailand

In 1996, approximately 1500 people lived in Camp 5, a refugee camp located in the jungle on the Thai-Burmese border. The camp was open and self-administered, with refugee-run schools, two churches, and one Buddhist monastery. Though unavoidably and significantly influenced by displacement, cultural life in Camp 5 was vibrant. Refugees were able to celebrate annual festivals in the camps; for many…

Persecution of the Hmong in Nan

Nan province is in the upper north of Thailand on the border with Laos and is home to large populations of tribal peoples. On June 19th of this year, lowland ethnic Thai from Chiang Klang, together with Royal Forestry Department officers, local police, and Border Patrol Police, cut off access to a road leading into an orchard and farm area in Nan province. The blocked road is used by both lowland…

Participation for Whom? Reflections on Participatory Research with Young People in Uganda

Introduction Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) reads, "State Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child." Children's participation is not clear…

New Amerindian Rights Center Advocates for Indigenous Peoples of Guyana

As of March 29, 2000, citizens in Guyana have had access to legal representation provided by the first-ever facility of its kind, the Center for Amerindian Rights and Environmental Law. The center was created through a collaboration between the Guyanese Amerindian Peoples Association and The Rainforest Foundation in partnership with one of Guyana's leading lawyers, Melinda Janki. The center will…

Negotiating a Land Claim: The Power of Community Consultation

In Canada, a Land Rights Agreement delineates the rights, responsibilities, and respective territories of a First Nation and of the federal and provincial governments. Once signed, an Innu Land Rights Agreement will become Canadian law, Newfoundland law, and Innu law. The Innu have conducted three Community Consultations to increase participation in ongoing negotiations with the government: the…

Memoria Lacandon

In April of this year, a unique event occurred in Nah, a small community in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Chiapas, Mexico, where the famous Maya culture of the Classic Period prospered. In their community center, men, women and children of the Hach Winik tribe interacted with the CD-ROM Memoria Lacandona, a compilation of their customs and traditions. The Hach Winik ("True People"), also…

In Pursuit of Schooling: Girls' Education and Economic 'Reform' in Tanzania

The sun is beginning to set as Zubeida Makiro and I walk down the road between Njema Secondary School, where I am a teacher and researcher, and our homes near the local primary school. Looking back, we can see the snow covering Kibo and Mawenzi, the twin peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, while in front of us lies the vast Maasai Steppe dotted with Chagga, Maasai and Meru communities. Zubeida is 18…

Human Rights, Forgotten Wars, and Survival: Burma's Indigenous Peoples

Ethnic conflict and human rights abuses against Indigenous Peoples or specific ethnic groups in East Timor, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda have captured the attention of the international community in recent years. The plight of indigenous ethnic minorities in Burma has received comparatively little attention. Burma is home to one of the world's longest-running civil wars, the victims of which…

Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

National governments frequently declare their intentions of settling, once and for all, outstanding land and other claims of their subaltern indigenous populations. Such intentions are often linked to a utopian notion of "security and economic certainty" and the desire to follow through on controversial development projects "held up" by "natives." Indigenous Peoples have their utopian notions as…

Ghost Dancing in the Darkest Hour

"Burma: In Search of Peace" was the title of the Cultural Survival Quarterly issue I guest-edited in 1989. Over a decade later, genuine peace in Burma remains elusive, although for the most part the widespread ethnic insurgency of 1989 has subsided. The absence of pitched battles between ethnic groups like the ceasefired Kachins or beleaguered Karens and the Burman-dominant State Peace and…

A Village on Fire: The Destruction of Rural Life in Southeastern Burma

They were going to burn our houses so they wanted us out of our houses, and they didn't give us any chance to take our possessions. We all ran away. The Burmese took all my things and destroyed whatever they didn't want. I had nothing. I fled and stayed in the forest. We had to run all the time, every month. We had no chance to build a hut all through hot season. Sometimes we made a roof out of…

Are there Indigenous Peoples in Asia?

At the heart of the worldwide indigenous movement is a serious and complex problem of labeling. A casual review of publications addressing indigenous issues reveals that native and non-native advocates of the `indigenous' cause define `indigenous' in widely varying ways. These definitions and overarching theories include: -- `Indigenous' Peoples are the original stewards of the environment,…

An Overview of Burma's Ethnic Politics

What little news exists about Burma usually concerns Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for democracy. But there is another, equally pressing problem in Burma: the ethnic nationalities' struggle for autonomy. While these two political battles are often considered separate issues, they are, in fact, inextricably linked. Ethnic nationalities are the dominant populations in…

Aceh: Conflict & Reconciliation

INDONESIA FACTS Note: Archipelago of 13,500 islands 6,000 of which are inhabited Total Area: 1,919,440 km(2) Population: 212,942,000 (1998 estimate, U. S. Census Bureau) National capital: Jakarta Religions: 87% Muslim, 6%Protestant, 3% Catholic, 2% Hindu, 1% Buddhist Ethnic Groups: 45% Javanese, 14% Sundanese, 7.5% Malays 7.5% Madurese, 26% Other Languages: Bahasa Indonesia (official), English,…

We Borrow the Earth: An Intimate Portrait of the Gypsy Shamanic Tradition and Culture

We Borrow the Earth by Patrick Jasper Lee is a book written so that gaujos or non-gypsies may hear the voice of a contemporary Romani gypsy of Britain. Lee tries to find the tacho Romano drom (the true gypsy path) that his family had lost in the emptiness of a modern spiritual context. He carries the burden of a "native" past left behind and is cognizant of the healing process that must be…

The Poisonwood Bible

In Kikongo, the language of the people of Kilanga, the word bängala has three meanings: most precious, most insufferable, or poisonwood. In the Congolese context, opposites are necessarily bound forever in definition; nothing can exist without its antithesis. The righteous and the heathen, the foreign and the familiar, devastation and redemption -- each half is a component of the whole, relevant…

Real People: Will They Survive in the 21st Century?

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of Russian society to the scrutiny of the West, the problems faced by the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North have finally begun to receive international attention. Many of these issues are similar to those faced by Indigenous Peoples elsewhere: land tenure, self- determination, cultural survival. The deteriorating state of the health of…