Ten major Indigenous stories that should’ve made more headlines in 2013

International Cry

Over the course of 2013 we observed a handful of stories that seemed to suffer from an extraordinary amount of media isolation in the Western hemisphere. As we head in to 2014, we would like to draw your attention to some of those stories:

Human Safaris
India Courts allow the profitable Human Safaris to continue on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

For a few short months, the Jarawa Peoples had the chance to remember what life was like before the Andaman Nicobar Trunk Road was constructed. The controversial highway, which connects Port Blair and Diglipur in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has been used by tourists for more than a decade to go on “human safaris” in which Jarawa men, women and children are literally treated like apes in a zoo.

After years of public outcry over the inhuman practice, India’s Supreme Court banned all tourists from traveling along the Andaman Nicobar Trunk Road. Sadly, the much-need victory was not long to last. In March 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the ban, allowing the safaris to continue unabated once more. Tour operators who had been unable to use the road were reportedly readying their vehicles within days of the decision, gearing up to resume the profitable sideshow. The total u-turn was accompanied by equally distressing news that the Supreme Court had asked the island’s authorities if they wanted to keep the Jarawa isolated or assimilate them into the mainstream.

These events were covered fairly well in India the UK, even though we almost never got to hear from the Jarawa themselves. Here in North America, however, IC Magazine was about the only regular source of grassroots coverage.

The Himba and Zemba
Few people notice the efforts of the Himba and Zemba

Over the course of 2013, the Himba and Zemba Peoples carried out several protests to express their fears and concerns over the construction of the Orokawe dam. If completed, the Orokawe dam would put a dangerous amount of pressure on the region’s scare water resources. With the effects of climate change all too clear in Namibia, the Himba and Zemba already find themselves searching frantically for grazing and water for their livestock.

Both the Himba and Zemba also continuously expressed their frustration over a laundry list of other problems including the Namibia government’s refusal to recognize their traditional leaders, implement the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002, and allow their children to attend school in traditional cultural attire.

Our friends at Earth Peoples did a superb job covering the many Himba and Zemba demonstrations. They were, however, the only one.

“Take These Tribes Down”
An anti-tribal sovereignty movement emerges in the US and no one notices

An alarming conference dedicated to opposing tribal governments in the United States went by almost completely unnoticed and unchallenged. Held at the Lakeway Inn in Bellingham, WA, about ten miles from the Lummi Nation, on April 6, 2013, the conference was sponsored by “Citizens Equal Rights Alliance” (CERA) one of the most prominent anti-Indian organizations in the United States. The event featured a rogues gallery of speakers including Elaine Willman, a CERA board member who once famously claimed that “Tribalism is socialism and has no place in our country” and Philip Brendale, who has considerable experience fighting tribal sovereignty. The event was also organized with the help of Skip Richards, a Bellingham property rights activist who has a history of recruiting Christian Patriot militias to back up his domestic terrorist threats.

CERA went on to host three more such conferences across the US in 2013, sending a clear message that they are working to build a nationally coordinated campaign against federally recognized Tribes while seeking to mobilize racial resentment against Native Americans.
Given the long history of American barbarism against Indigenous Peoples in the United states, these developments are troubling indeed. Unfortunately, the only attention this received came from the Lummi Nation and their local allies along with IC Magazine, Cascadia Weekly and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR).

Meet The Rohingya
One of the most persecuted populations in the world and one of the most ignored

In 2012, the United Nations identified the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted populations in the world. It’s no exaggeration. Whether they’re found in Bangladesh, Burma or Thailand, the Rohingya are treated like vermin. In all three countries, their freedom of movement is restricted; their basic rights are deprived; and they are subjected to land confiscations, evictions, deportations, and ruthless attacks on a near-daily basis.
Unlike many other Indigenous Peoples and minority populations who face a total media black out, attacks on the Rohingya are frequently covered. In the last few days alone, more than 200 articles have been published detailing the endless barrage of cruelty that the Rohingya face for nothing more than being Rohingya.

Despite the significant amount of media coverage, however, the Rohingya never really seem to “get” any attention. For instance, just a few short weeks ago, Reuters revealed that Thailand, the supposed “land of a thousand smiles”, is secretly selling Rohingya refugees into human trafficking rings under the guise of deportation. The story went on to be covered by the Globe and Mail, CNN, The Nation and many others. In turn, the UN called for a probe and a few Nation States added their 1.5627 cents, but that’s basically where it ends. NGOs aren’t coming out in full force, awareness campaigns aren’t being organized, protests aren’t being coordinated.
The Rohingya just don’t seem to be on our radar, here in the Western Hemisphere. Never have been.

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