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We live in a world where freedom, dignity, and equality are cherished but little realized. The British left India after 200 years of colonial rule, yet immediately after their departure, on September 11, 1958, the newly independent Union of India imposed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on 45 million Indigenous people in Northeast India. The first use of AFSPA was on August 15, 1942, employed by the British to thwart Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement, which demanded an end to British colonial rule.


Crimean Tatars are the Indigenous Peoples of the Crimean peninsula. In the 15th century, they formed the Crimean Khanate, which was dismantled by the Russian Empire in 1783. The dispossession of Indigenous Peoples in Crimea from their land, followed by systematic policies of repression and assimilation, led the Crimean Tatars to become a minority in their homeland.


I am proud to be Karen, an Indigenous Peoples in eastern Burma. Karen have been persecuted in periodic waves by the military junta that has ruled Burma for most of the last seven decades. Hundreds of thousands of Karen have been forced to flee from the junta’s violent attacks, resulting in the deaths of thousands. One wave of persecution came when I was a child that profoundly influenced my worldview, and another wave is taking place now, after the attempted coup in February 2021.


I remember reading somewhere that culture is constantly under construction. This passage began by recalling an anthropological conference where one eager student’s question became a key to understanding humanity: “Anthropologist Margaret Mead, what do you consider to be the oldest sign of civilization in a culture?” All of the attendees, rooted in their disciplinary structures, expected the answer to be about material vestiges such as spears, clay pots, or grinding stones.


In Kava Jee Kua’a (Guerrero Grande), a community located in the high mountains of the Mixteca in Oaxaca, Mexico, we can see the stars with astonishing clarity. But the night they came in to burn our houses, we did not see stars—just flashes of fire and strange sounds we had never heard before. We know exactly when it started, because grandmothers always tell us those things, especially when the rain and cold come together. But we never imagined that we would have to see how people, who, years ago, sat with us at the same table to eat, would cloud their hearts.


In 2017, the Tanzanian government ordered the Massai communities of Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo, and Arash to move from their traditional territories. The land, which comprises 580 square miles adjoining the Serengeti National Park, has been a target of dispute between the communities who hold land ownership titles and the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Tanzanian government has forcibly evicted thousands of Maasai in the Loliondo area since 2009.


In February 2022, Russia escalated its invasion of Ukraine, an effort that began with the unlawful annexation of Crimea in 2014. The war on Ukraine is not new or covert; it is the next step in a long history of Russian imperialism. The ongoing invasion is inflicting a humanitarian crisis upon the Ukrainian people, further revealing the depth of the Russian State’s imperialist ideology and its economic and geopolitical objectives.


In December 2019, the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction allowing construction of a 669-kilometer-long Coastal GasLink pipeline that will cut through 22,000 square kilometers of unceded Wet´suwet´en land. The injunction gave the Coastal GasLink pipeline unlimited access to the ancestral lands of the Wet´suwet´en, and was firmly rejected by the Wet´suwet´en people. On January 7, 2020, the Wet´suwet´en Hereditary Chiefs served Coastal GasLink with an eviction notice, effective immediately.


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