What We Are Doing With Your Money
At the tenth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which took place May 16-27 in New York, Cultural Survival and FAIRA co-organized a side session titled: Creating Community Dialog around the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through the Use of Community Controlled Media.
And at this year's conference organized by International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Survival produced two sessions, on Grassroots Indigenous Language Revitalization and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
Samburu families who are suing Kenya’s former president Daniel arap Moi celebrated a small but significant victory in a Kenyan courtroom May 12, when their lawyers persuaded a high court judge to allow them more time to prepare their case. The Samburu families were forcibly evicted from a property owned by the former president, and their homes were burned to the ground. The African Wildlife Foundation reportedly was in the process of purchasing the property to develop a “community conservation” project.
The Samburu people’s lawyer, Abraham Korir Sing’oei, was joined in court by the well-known constitutional lawyer Yash Pal Ghai. “It is a great and refreshing day for the poor Laikipia East Samburu community in the struggle for justice,”said Samburu representative Richard Leiyagu. As this issue went to press the next court hearing was scheduled for June 8 and 9 in Nyeri. The UK’s Channel 4 television is soon expected to air a documentary film that chronicles the eviction case as an example of how conservation programs can have negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples. Cultural Survival raised funds for transportation and lodging so that the evicted families and witnesses can testify at the trial. Mr. Leiyagu wrote, “The community thanks you so much for the timely assistance. The success just achieved [in the May 12 hearing] could not have been possible without such support.” We submitted our Samburu report on police violence to the May 12 Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Indigenous Peoples in Africa. The U.S. congressional hearing is one of three on how American foreign policy is affecting Indigenous Peoples.
We arranged for a Wixárkia (Huichol) delegation to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in May. We also helped them prepare statements for the forum and some media events. Global Response director Paula Palmer worked with the delegation to help publicize their efforts to prevent a Canadian mining company from destroying their sacred sites in the Wirikuta Natural and Cultural Reserve (see the Global Response action alert in the previous issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly or on www.cs.org).
We also arranged travel to the UN forum for Norvin Goff of Honduras, the president of MASTA, the largest Miskitu organization in Honduras. Paula Palmer worked with him there to publicize and promote the campaign to stop construction of dams on the Patuca River on which the Miskitu, Tawahka, Pech, and Garifuna peoples depend (see the action alert on page 17).
For our ongoing campaign to stop construction of a huge open-pit coal mine that would displace communities and destroy valuable productive farm land in Bangladesh, we translated our GR action alerts into the Bangla language, and arranged to have them printed in Bangladesh and circulated there. Local Bangladeshi campaign organizers are especially excited about using the youth action alerts to encourage Bangladeshi students to write letters to their prime minister. They will publish the alerts in their local organizations’ newsletters and websites, too. Huge street protests against the Pulbari coal mine continue in Bangladesh.
Global Response director Paula Palmer met in Panama with Ngöbe leaders Feliciano Santos, Enoc Furmin Villagra, and Tomás Villagra and discussed strategies for negotiating the best possible outcomes for Ngöbe communities that will be affected by construction of the Chan 75 dam. Our Global Response letters helped Ngöbe people convince the president to revoke a reform to the mining law that would have permitted multinational mining companies to exploit Indigenous territories.
Endangered Languages Program
One of the important tasks of Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program is to collaborate with our grassroots language program advisors—the Euchee Language Project in Sapulpa, Oklahoma; the Northern Arapaho Language Lodges in Wyoming; the Sauk Language Department of the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma; the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project in Massachusetts; and the Alutiiq Museum Language Program in Alaska— to raise the money they need to revive their languages. We commit to supporting a minimum of five funding proposals or fundraising events, based on the unique needs identified by each community-based program.
Since 2007-2008 these collaborations (from a range of private, federal, and tribal government funders) have yielded nearly $1million in local support—primarily for Native language immersion instruction, master-apprentice teams, preschool and kindergarten classroom equipment, language grammars, teaching books, youth after-school programs, summer camps, and educational language teaching activities and materials. These commitments to grassroots language instructors and students are at the core of our endangered languages program, and we are currently working to expand our circle of language advisors to include another half-dozen tribal communities that are grappling with urgent language reclamation and revitalization efforts with few first-language or fluent speakers.
In 2010, Cultural Survival helped the National Alliance to Save Native Languages in coalition with nearly a dozen other intertribal organizations to craft a proposed executive order on language revitalization for President Obama. That order would mandate extensive federal interagency collaboration and support for tribal language programs. Our goal throughout 2011 is to collaborate with dozens of tribal, educational, and cultural organizations to pressure President Obama to sign this proposed executive order. To to build support for it, we have collaborated with the Linguistic Society of America’s Committee on Endangered Language Preservation to provide guidance on their general membership resolution (representing more than 5,000 social scientists), and together we will launch letter-writing campaigns this summer through the fall, to urge both Congress and the president to improve support for Native languages.
During June 2011, Cultural Survival will again hold Washington, D.C.-based summer Native language events: a June 21 educational program at the Library of Congress, Celebrating Native American Language Revitalization in Practice, and a June 22 Language Rights Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Our goal throughout the week is to engage more than 60 members of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees in language revitalization success stories through direct constituent visits, letters, and phone calls from tribal language workers and advocates.
The education program at the Library of Congress (open to Congress and the general public) will involve film screenings to showcase heroic language revitalization efforts, raise public awareness, and to provide an experiential window into this urgent and important work. The documentary WE STILL LIVE HERE Âs Nutayuneân—which tells an extraordinary story of cultural survival and Indigenous language recovery among the Wampanoag Nation of southeastern Massachusetts—will be featured, along with short films on language revitalization efforts throughout Indian Country. Âs Nutayuneân, directed by filmmaker Anne Makepeace and produced with the assistance of Cultural Survival Endangered Languages program officer Jennifer Weston, recently received the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival’s “Inspiration Award,” sponsored by the Hartley Film Foundation and presented annually to “the film that best exemplifies the value and relevance of world religions and spirituality.”
Âs Nutayuneân also screened recently at film festivals around the world, from Kathmandu to London to Amsterdam, and will be broadcast in November on the PBS program Independent Lens.
Âs Nutayuneân stars Cultural Survival’s Endangered Language Program advisors from the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, and a portion of the proceeds from the film will benefit Cultural Survival’s Endangered Languages Program. DVD copies are available for purchase online at www.makepeaceproductions.com and at this summer’s Cultural Survival Bazaar series (www.cs.org/bazaar).