3/30/2006

CARIBBEAN INDIGENOUS REPRESENTATION AT SEVENTH SESSION OF THE OAS DRAFT DECLARATION


President Lula Da Silva of Brazil meets with indigenous leaders at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia during the OAS.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL (UCTP Taino News) – Representing indigenous organizations and peoples of the Americas, about 55 indigenous delegates participated in the Organization of American States' (OAS) "Seventh Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus", which was held in Brasilia, Brazil, from March 21 to 25, 2006.

Among the indigenous delegates present, was Damon Gerard Corrie, a Lokono-Arawak who attended the Brazilian session on behalf of the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks, the United Confederation of Taíno People & the Pan Tribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations. A hereditary Chief of the Eagle Clan Arawaks who resides in Barbados with his family, Corrie actively participated throughout the meetings as a member of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus.

Corrie, like the majority of Indigenous representatives participating in the session were able to attend due to the tireless efforts of Mr. Jorge Sanin of the OAS. Mr. Sanin is credited for working to obtain the sponsorships for those representatives who could not obtain travel funding to Brazil.

While the work and the attention of the Indigenous Caucus focused on the "quest for points of consensus" of the OAS draft declaration, delegates also participated in other related activities.

The entire Caucus was invited to attend a special ceremony by President Lula Da Silva of Brazil at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia. Rex Lee Jim of the Navajo Nation read an address to his Excellency President Da Silva on behalf of the Caucus. Other indigenous delegates attending the ceremony were availed the opportunity to say a few words to the President, shake his hand - and even receive a “surprising” but warm embrace from the Brazilian President. The only Caribbean indigenous representative in attendance at this ceremony; Corrie remarked "It is amusing that I can meet with the President of Brazil - the most powerful country in South America - yet I cannot meet the Prime Minister of my own country Barbados."

Linking the international work taking place at the OAS to the United Nations, Corrie was the first indigenous delegate to sign a petition, which called for the United Nations to urgently adopt the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Miskito Nation of Nicaragua was the second signatory to the document, and other indigenous signatories supported the initiative in a clear display of solidarity among those present. The petition was circulated by Paul Joffe of the Grand Council of Crees in Quebec Canada.

In an unfortunate turn of events, during the course of the meetings, Mr. Albert DeTerville, a representative of Saint Lucia, circulated a letter that elicited a protest from the indigenous representative of Colombia and the government delegation of Colombia. In response, the Caucus met on Friday night, March 24 and at the start of the meeting on Saturday, March 25, Héctor Huertas (Panama) took the floor to say that the Caucus regretted the circulation of the letter and considered it interference in the internal affairs of a country. Huertas also stated that type of action affected the transparency and credibility of the Caucus and that DeTerville had resigned from further participation with the Caucus. DeTerville, working in collaboration with a representative from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Oswald T. Robinson (Garifuna), were the only other individuals identifying themselves as Caribbean Indigenous Peoples in attendance at the session.

Notably, the only CARICOM member state of the OAS to attend the seventh meeting was Suriname. The State Representative of Suriname made known the that the constitution of Suriname "allows International Human Rights Laws to take precedence over the Suriname Constitution." It was noted by several indigenous delegates that the lack of attendance of CARICOM member State representatives could be interpreted as a sign that a majority of Caribbean State Governments have little genuine interest in Indigenous affairs. In stark contrast, Corrie noted that the “government of Brazil was the session’s greatest supporter of Indigenous Peoples as well as a wonderful host to the Indigenous representatives who visited from nearly every country in the Americas.”

Corrie also praised the work of FUNAI and Ms. Azelene Kaingang, who he and others felt deserved much of the “praise and credit for a generally successful seventh meeting of negotiations in the quest for points of consensus.”

On the final day of the session, and in an historic first for Caribbean Indigenous Peoples, Damon Gerard Corrie was asked to read the 2 page closing Statement on behalf of the Indigenous Caucus of the Americas; an honor which he accepted and undertook on Saturday March 25th 2006.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is an inter-governmental organization that brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. It is the region’s premier forum for multilateral dialogue among governments and for their concerted action.

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*See related press release:


3/28/2006

Indigenous peoples from Suriname call for Recognition of their Ancestral Territory

Indigenous peoples from Suriname call for recognition of their ancestral territory and effective protection of their traditional practices

Curitiba, Brazil - Governments and conservationists attending the eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP8) heard from indigenous leaders of the Lokono and Kaliña peoples about their own study of customary use of natural resources in their territory in the lower Marowijne area of Suriname. In two separate public presentations, the leaders showed how their customary resource use practices and traditional village authorities promote the sustainable use of biological resources in their area. They pointed out that these sustainable practices are threatened by imposed mining and logging concessions and government sale and privatization of their ancestral lands.

The presenters noted that existing protected areas undermine traditional practices because the Nature Conservation Act prohibits all hunting, fishing and gathering activities in such conservation areas. Henry Zaalman, chief of Marijkedorp community on the banks of the Marowijne explained:

Our land and territorial rights and our customary norms are not recognised under national laws, and the government has issued a number of logging and mining permits affecting our lands. Logging and mining by outsiders has driven away game animals. Our coastal areas are being invaded by commercial fishing boats. Nature Reserves limit our traditional hunting and fishing activities. The national school system does not take into account indigenous languages nor the knowledge systems of our peoples. Our lands are being reduced against our will. We are losing traditional control over our territory and resources and existing laws and policies on conservation and development are undermining our way of life.

CBD delegates were reminded by the indigenous leaders that under article 10(c) of the Convention governments have committed to protect customary use of biological resources and associated traditional practices.

Under article 8j of the CBD, Parties are also required to protect traditional knowledge, innovations and practices.

The leaders called for the legal recognition of their traditional ownership, use, and management of lands and natural resources in their territory. They stressed the need for official measures to
improve implementation of commitments under international conventions that have been ratified by Suriname, including articles 10c and 8j of the Convention on Biodiversity.

Steps to recognise the right of free prior and informed consent were also called for. It was noted that there may be a requirement for annulment of existing logging and mining concessions. The need for bilingual and multi-cultural education and school teachers in who can speak the native language was also highlighted.

The leaders emphasises that they have their own initiatives underway to secure their lands and protect their territory, including a proposal to prepare and implement their own natural resource and territorial management plan for the Lower Marowijne. They invited national and international agencies to back this important initiative of the Kaliña and Lokono peoples.

3/27/2006

Protests in Puerto Rico mount against FBI over Tactics

The FBI is under attack in Puerto Rico for operations that critics say unfairly target pro-independence activists.

BY FRANCES ROBLES
frobles@MiamiHerald.com


SAN JUAN - Students masqueraded as rifle-toting federal agents, while others donned T-shirts with the face of a man they called Puerto Rico's ``liberator.''

Near the angry shouts and political placards stood Elma Beatriz Rosado with a calm explanation for it all: ``I want the FBI out of Puerto Rico. The time has come for them to leave, now.''

Rosado's husband -- convicted bank robber, fugitive and pro-independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Ríos -- was killed in an FBI shootout in September. In the months since, the FBI has catapulted onto the front pages here, accused of deliberately letting the founder of the radical Macheteros group bleed to death as well as stonewalling follow-up investigations.

Last month, federal agents executing search warrants on the homes of independentistas were captured on video pepper-spraying journalists covering the story, with seemingly little or no provocation, further fueling anti-FBI sentiment.

The Puerto Rico Department of Justice sued the FBI last week in federal court, saying the agency is obstructing local law enforcement investigations into the two incidents. Puerto Rico's Justice Secretary recently traveled to Washington to lobby Congress to pressure the FBI into releasing information about them.

Citing an ongoing investigation into Ojeda Ríos' death, the FBI officials declined to be interviewed for this article. In media releases, the FBI said it acted in good faith when facing an armed fugitive as well as reporters who were impeding an investigation by crossing a police line.

`VERY OFFENDED'

''People are very offended with what the FBI did,'' Puerto Rico Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá told The Miami Herald. ''We have to recognize they have No. 1, made mistakes in those cases, and No. 2, they have not been open and communicative with the people of Puerto Rico to understand what happened'' in both incidents.

Now protests demanding the FBI's ouster are growing not just in frequency but also in participation. Thousands of Puerto Rican students, union activists, environmentalists and other sympathizers of liberal causes are joining the independentistas to rally against the FBI's presence on the island. When the international media convened at a San Juan baseball stadium for the World Baseball Classic earlier this month, they encountered demonstrators -- some wearing shirts bearing Ojeda Ríos' face -- stretched for a half mile across one of San Juan's biggest avenues.

VIEQUES CAMPAIGN

Some say the percolating distrust of the FBI and small but growing interest in ousting them could be the start of an important movement, like the one that eventually led the U.S. Navy to abandon its bombing range and other facilities on the nearby island of Vieques, east of Puerto Rico.

''I remember in 1979 when there were pickets against the U.S. Navy in Vieques, it was just us, the independentistas with our little picket signs,'' said attorney Wilma Reverón who is representing independence activists under investigation by the FBI. ``It took 20 years, but eventually everyone united. The struggle against the FBI will be long-term.''

The FBI has historically had a mixed image in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory where a decades-old independence party garners some 5 percent of the popular vote. Over the years, some activists who consider the United States an imperialist colonizer have placed bombs, robbed banks and even shot their way into a U.S. president's home.

In one of the island's most notorious scandals, the FBI was accused of helping cover up the killings of two independence activists shot by Puerto Rican police in 1978. After a Puerto Rican Senate investigation five years later, Justice Department lawyers returned to San Juan and convicted 10 local officers of perjury or obstruction of justice.

During a 2000 House appropriations subcommittee hearing, then FBI Director Louis J. Freeh acknowledged that the FBI for decades kept secret files on dozens of members of the independence party. Freeh called it ``egregious illegal action, maybe criminal action, that occurred in the past.''

Created in 1956, the counterintelligence program was designed to investigate people viewed as threats to national security. At the time, Puerto Rico's independence movement was thriving; members had already shot their way into the Blair House where President Harry Truman was living. A White House guard and one of the Puerto Ricans was killed.

In the 1970s, Ojeda Ríos helped create los Macheteros -- Spanish for machete wielders -- an independence movement that advocated using violence against military targets. The group claimed responsibility for a 1979 bus ambush that killed two Navy technicians and wounded 10 other people and a 1981 attack that destroyed nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard planes.

In 1983, the Macheteros robbed a Wells Fargo bank in West Hartford, Conn., making off with $7.1 million. On the eve of his 1990 bank robbery trial, Ojeda Ríos vanished. He remained a fugitive until Sept. 23, when the FBI located and raided his Puerto Rico hideout, when they realized they had been detected. Ojeda Ríos opened fire on the agents, the FBI said, wounding one agent. Agents shot back, and waited to go inside until tactical agents from the States arrived the next day because they feared the house could be booby trapped, according to an FBI statement at the time.

FBI Director Robert Mueller asked the Justice Department's Inspector General's office to investigate the shooting.

''The death penalty is illegal in Puerto Rico,'' said Héctor Pesquera, a doctor who heads the Hostos National Independence Movement. Pesquera, who attended Ojeda Ríos' autopsy, said he bled to death after being shot in the shoulder.

Pesquera and other independence party members believe the FBI has launched a renewed campaign to discredit them at a time Congress is considering two bills that would address the future political status of Puerto Rico.

''This offensive is trying to criminalize the independence movement and to scare the United States and Congress of the possibility of becoming a state,'' he said. ``They want to portray Puerto Rico as a place full of terrorists.''

`POTENTIAL ATTACK'

On Feb. 10, the FBI executed six search warrants on independence movement leaders to prevent ''a potential domestic terrorist attack'' against ''privately owned interests in Puerto Rico,'' according to an FBI statement. Activists and politicians scoffed at the statement, because the governor and law enforcement authorities have said they were unaware of any such threats.

Puerto Rican politicians were infuriated when FBI agents were captured that day on video, showering reporters and photographers with pepper spray as the agents executed search warrants on activists' homes. The FBI defended the move, saying agents ''acted with restraint'' considering reporters had crossed a police perimeter.

Puerto Rico's justice secretary has said the FBI turned over weapons used on the Ojeda Ríos raid, but has not made agents available for interviews. In the pepper spray incident, the FBI has refused to identify the agent in the video, he said.

Indigenous People from Guyana call for Respect of their Rights

Indigenous people from Guyana call for respect for their rights and recognition of their traditional practices that protect the environment

Curitiba, Brazil - Three indigenous leaders of the Wapichan people from Guyana have told an international gathering of governments and conservationists attending the eighth conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that they are already protecting their environment through their traditional land and resource use practices.

In a public presentation held on 27th March, the leaders said that these practices are under threat because land laws in Guyana do not protect their extensive and sustainable land use system, and national conservation policies fail to recognise the contribution of indigenous peoples to the maintenance of biological diversity. They also stressed that the new Amerindian Act, adopted in early 2006, does not provide sufficient protection. As Patrick Gomes, leader of Marora Naawa village from the South Rupununi region of Guyana explains:

"We have carried research into our traditional resource use with a team drawn from our own communities. They have found that the key to sustainability is the low intensity of our customary occupation and use of a wide area that we call wa wiizi: 'our territory'. This extensive territory sustains our way of life and our traditional practices. The government of Guyana ratified the CBD in 1994 and is
required to protect the customary use of biological resources under article 10(c), but our traditional practices and ownership over our traditional lands are not fully recognised by the State. Therefore, our territory is not secure and is threatened by so-called national development policies that promote logging, mining, roads and infrastructure development. Freedom to practise our traditional livelihoods is even faces threats from protected area projects planned by the government and conservation NGOs."

The leaders told participants that the findings of their study have been backed up by a recent report this month issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which states that Guyana's laws do not properly protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands.

Key recommendations for improved implementation of CBD requirements for protection of customary use and traditional practices in Guyana, include the need to amend laws and policies, particularly through recognition of indigenous peoples' territorial rights and their extensive systems of traditional resource use. The leaders also made a strong plea for national and international support for their efforts to develop a territorial and sustainable use management plan.

3/22/2006

Land titles fight continues



The first Amerindian lawyer of Guyana David James (left),
along with his associate, Martin Cheong, programme assistant,
legal services unit, APA recently took a tour of Dominica,
St Vincent and Barbados.

by Tracy Moore

GUYANA'S FIRST Amerindian lawyer, David James, is making his mark in his homeland and the Caribbean.

He recently became the legal advisor to the Amerindian Peoples Association of Guyana (APA), a non-governmental organisation, with objectives to promote the social, economic, political and cultural improvement of the Indigenous communities and to promote and defend their civil rights.

In other words, he has his work cut out for him.

James, along with his associate, Martin Cheong, programme assistant, Legal Services Unit, APA recently took a tour to Dominica, St. Vincent and Barbados lecturing about the plight of the Amerindians in Guyana.

"One of the purposes is to create awareness and we are also looking for solidarity from other indigenous people and non-indigenous people. I think there is still a thinking that indigenous people either not exists or that there are so few in numbers that nobody pays much attention to them.

"In Guyana, we number some ten per cent of the population which approximates to about 70 000," said the attorney-at-law.

He said that there were two main areas that the indigenous people and their organisation were concerned about.

"One has to be with the protection of our rights to lands, territories and resources which we have traditionally owned, occupied and used going back all the way to our ancestors.

"We are concerned that the present law – the new law – does not adequately equip us. For indigenous people, the land is the source for everything for us. It is the source for which our culture flows, our way of life depends on that and if we do not have legal security to that land in the form of title, then it means that we will face an uncertain future.

"At the moment, the law does not state that right and therefore it does not protect that right as far as I am concerned.

"All it does is say that power is in the hands of the relevant minister to determine whether indigenous communities are able to obtain title to their land or not, or extensions to titles," he explained.

Cheong added that the issues were deep-rooted from the days of Guyana's independence in 1966, when one of the conditions of independence were to resolve land rights issues pertaining to the Amerindian peoples.

"The next year, the government commissioned an Amerindian Lands Commission which went out to over 100 communities to listen to the concerns of the people. In 1969, a report was published," he cited.

He said the commission recommended that "some 24 000 square miles of Guyana should be titled as indigenous title land, but that the government did nothing until 1976."

"Seventy communities obtained titles, but that only amounted to 4 500 (square miles). During their visit of the commission, the indigenous leaders themselves and communities had said that some 43 000 square miles was their land – just a little over half of the country."The commission disagreed and said 24 000. Finally, what did we get? 4 500," he recalled.

"The struggle is with the law" said James, who added that it was based on a "philosophy of paternalism".

He explained that the law was steeped in "colonial ideology" which assumed "indigenous people basically couldn't think for themselves and therefore had to rely on the state to protect their interest".

"So under the law, we were seen as wards of the state. Basically, like children, and therefore the state had a lot of power over us in determining what was best for us," he said.

James and Cheong both acknowledged there had been a few improvements to the law recently, but not enough to meet their full approval.

"So although we have a new law now, we are not happy with some of the provisions. In 1991, the government issued a few more titles and then in 2004 at least two other titles were granted. Today, it stands at about 10 000 square miles" said Cheong.

With a total land mass of 83 000 square miles, a diverse population of three-quarters-of-a-million people – which the single largest population in the hinterlands are indigenous people – James and Cheong recognise that they have a battle ahead of them, but insist they will continue their struggle for their people.

MARCH FOR PEACE, JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY

Too much is too wrong in this country: a foreign policy that is foreign to our core values, domestic policies wreaking havoc at home, and the environment is being destroyed.

The situation is urgent. We must act.

MARCH FOR PEACE, JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY
End the war in Iraq - Bring all our troops home now!

SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 2006, NEW YORK CITY
Unite for change - let's turn our country around!

As people concerned about the environment we say:

*End the war and stop nuclear poisoning in Iraq via widespread use of depleted uranium.

*No more never-ending oil wars! Break our oil addiction by getting serious about conservation, efficiency and the urgently needed transition to clean, sustainable energy.

*Support environmental justice for Indigenous, low-income and people of color communities most affected by community-destroying energy policies.

*Protect our civil liberties and immigrant rights. End illegal spying, government corruption and the subversion of our democracy.

*Rebuild our communities, starting with the Gulf Coast. Stop corporate subsidies
and tax cuts for the wealthy while ignoring our basic needs.

*Act now to reverse the climate crisis and end the war on nature.

Our message to the White House and Congress is clear:
Stand with us or stand aside! We are coming together
to march, to vote, to speak out and to turn our country around!

For details, information on how to get involved or to see the full list of co-sponsors and endorsers, visit http://www.april29.org/ or call 212-868-5545.

Partial List of Endorsers: Sharon Abreu, Director, Irthlingz; Glen Barry, Climate Ark Climate Change; Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth; May Boeve, Middlebury College student; Roberto Borrero, United Confederation of Taino People; Jose T. Bravo, Executive Director, Just Transition Alliance; Mary Bull, Greenwood Earth Alliance; Waverly de Bruijn, Student Environmental Action Coalition; Valorie Caffee, environmental justice activist; Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association; Lisa Dekker, Cascade Chapter Sierra Club; Prof. M.K. Dorsey, independent intellectual; Rev. Deacon Francesca Fortunato, St. John’s Independent Catholic Community, NYC; Michele Fox, environmental activist; Ted Glick, Climate Crisis Coalition; Leslie Glustrom, Mother and Activist; Eban Goodstein, Green House Network; David Gordon, Pacific Environment; Dave Hamilton, Director, Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Program; Loie Hayes, Parents for a Better Future; Jamie Henn, Middlebury College student; Connie Hogarth, Hogarth Center for Social Action; Mike Hudema, Independence from Oil Director, Global Exchange; Alderperson Pete Karas, City of Racine, Wi.; Deb Katz, Executive Director, Citizens Awareness Network; Jane and Tom Kelly, environmental activist; Steve Kretzman, Executive Director, Oil Change International; Alana Lea, Director, Peace Through Art; Russell Long, Ph.D., Founder, Bluewater Network; Coraminita Mahr, Vice-President, 1199/SEIU; Richard H. McNutt, Chairman, STAND of PA.; George Naylor, President, National Family Farm Coalition; Mike Neuman, Wisconsin activist; Nokomis, Native American Alliance of Bucks County, Pa.; Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project; Francisca Porchas, Lead Organizer, Labor/Community Strategy Center; Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network; Lorna Salzman, N.Y. Green Party; Alice Slater, Abolition 2000 N.Y.; Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center; Julia Willebrand, Green Party of the U.S.; Annie Wilson, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter; Daphne Wysham, co-Director, Sustainable Energy and Economy Network

3/20/2006

Cloud over Puerto Rico Rain Forest

As development eats up the national park's buffer zone, advocates warn of dire implications

By Ray Quintanilla
Tribune staff reporter

March 20, 2006

CARIBBEAN NATIONAL FOREST, Puerto Rico -- The scent of flowering tropical plants fills the moist air amid a chorus of whistling birds and singing frogs. The only other sound for a mile in any direction is water crashing over a 100-foot falls.

Despite 28,000 acres of lovely scenes such as this, the tropical rain forest that Puerto Rico's prehistoric Taino Indians called "El Yunque" or "Land of the White Clouds" is struggling for survival. Thousands of surrounding acres of forests and green lands that insulate the only tropical rain forest in the USDA Forest Service
from development are being cleared at a torrid pace.

"This has got to be stopped, or what we are going to have very soon is irreversible damage to this wonderful rain forest," said Pablo Cruz, supervisor of the Caribbean National Forest.

"It would be a travesty for all Puerto Ricans and the millions of visitors who come here every year if development isn't put in check soon," Cruz added while assessing a large tract that a developer had begun clearing illegally.

El Yunque's future is caught between powerful forces: conservationists on the one hand, and on the other those who view lands surrounding the rain forest as among the last parcels of open space for development. Puerto Rico's government relies on construction jobs to ease a 12 percent unemployment rate on this section of the island.

There are consequences to clearing these lands, beyond harm to hundreds of rare plants and wildlife in El Yunque. The rain forest, located 25 miles east of metropolitan San Juan, provides one-third of the island's fresh drinking water.

"This deforestation is not the fault of any one governor or government on the island," said Jesus Chinea, a professor of ecology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. "It's all of them.

They all want to create jobs, but look at what this is doing to the rain forest. The changes around the rain forest in the last five years alone are pretty shocking."

Chinea said a quirk in Puerto Rico law enables developers to begin clearing land before obtaining building permits. That is adding to the rapid pace of development approaching the rain forest, he said.

Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock said environmental groups must not be allowed to scuttle development of two hotels slated to be built within 2 miles of the Caribbean National Forest.

The island still is reeling from job losses it suffered when the U.S. government closed Roosevelt Roads Naval Station here two years ago.

"The environmentalists have to work together with developers. There's no other option. Period," McClintock said. Without the new hotels, Puerto Rico's tourism economy will suffer and that could lead to more job losses, he said.

A Puerto Rico land-use report released last spring showed that in the three decades since the island set aside about 30,000 acres surrounding El Yunque as secondary forest and green space, more than 50 percent now has construction on it. That development includes several hotels, a golf course and dozens of condominium complexes with spectacular views of the rain forest.

A crucial buffer zone

Cruz, the Caribbean National Forest supervisor, said the buffer zone insulates the forest from fires and provides an important barrier protecting wildlife and plants from habitat change. Cruz said it also ensures that the flow of water through the forest is not altered. The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority says the
island cannot afford to lose any of the 100 billion gallons of drinking water El Yunque produces annually.

Tropical forests such as El Yunque constitute about 6 percent of Earth's surface and account for 50 percent to 80 percent of the world's plant species. Rain forests once covered 14 percent of the planet's land surface, but development and deforestation have cut that by more than half.

Some of the development has arrived within 30 feet of El Yunque's main entrance.

"I'd like to think we live in harmony with El Yunque," said Martha Herrera, 69, who bought a two-story house next to the rain forest a decade ago.

"Some people say I'm hurting El Yunque. But how am I hurting anything?" she asked as her three dogs and a flock of chickens in her back yard roamed in and out of the park one recent morning.

About a quarter-mile away, construction crews were pouring concrete and rushing to finish a 20-acre condominium complex.

"People who buy these units want the views of the rain forest," said Hecter Ramirez, 35, a construction worker at the site. "I have a job. That's important to my family and me. People tell me this isn't doing to damage anything."

Another worker, Marco Colon, 30, offered a similar observation: "Don't come in here trying to take my job. Who is going to feed my family if I lose this job?"

The future of tropical rain forests holds great importance for everyone, not just the people of Puerto Rico.

Riches used in medicine

The National Institute of Health says more than 60 percent of the anti-cancer drugs in use today are derived from natural sources such as those found in rain forests. Those drugs, including taxol, have proved effective in treating breast and ovarian cancer in millions of women around the world. Similar agents in rain forests hold great promise to one day treat AIDS and scores of other medical conditions, officials said.

El Yunque is home to 240 native tree species--more than in any other national forest. Federally listed endangered plants grow in the forest, too, such as the miniature orchid and palo de jazmin.

Endangered wildlife species include the Puerto Rican sharp-shinned and broad-winged hawks, the Puerto Rican boa and the island's own parrot, one of the most vulnerable bird species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Within 500 years, these bright green parrots in Puerto Rico have dropped in number to fewer than 50 from about 1million.

To protect the rain forest, Luis Fortuno, the island's non-voting representative in the U.S. House, won approval for the Caribbean National Forest Act last year. It designates nearly 10,000 acres of El Yunque as off-limits to construction.

"Development around the forest continues to threaten the biodiversity and the balance of the ecosystem of the forest," Fortuno said. "Due to the inaction of the local government, it is necessary that Congress create a mechanism to protect this national treasure."

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rquintanilla@tribune.com

3/13/2006

RECLAMATION OF CULPEPPER ISLAND BY LOKONO-ARAWAK & KARIFUNA-CARIB



On this the 12th day of March 2006, we the descendants of the first peoples who discovered and inhabited all of the islands of what is now known as the ‘Caribbean’,

Do hereby declare to the world that rumors of our extinction are greatly exaggerated and we are in fact still very much alive and among you – the inhabitants of our islands who came after we were robbed of our birthright in the name of ‘civilization’ and ‘progress’.

Second, we collectively condemn the fact that the Karifuna-Carib inhabitants of the islands now known as St. Vincent and Trinidad – still have no territory to call their own after five centuries of being discriminated against and marginalized in their own lands!

We call on the Governments of St. Vincent and Trinidad to shed the cloak of neo-colonialism and recognize a part of the occupied lands they inherited from the European invaders – as Karifuna-Carib Territories.

Third, we collectively condemn the fact that although the Karifuna-Carib nation of the island now known as Dominica is approximately 5% of that countries total population – they are forced to accept a grossly inadequate five square mile territory and the illegal presence of a foreign (non-Karifuna-Carib) police presence on their officially recognised territory – in violation of International Indigenous Rights Laws.

We call on the Government of Dominica to do what is right, just and fair – and increase the ‘Carib Territory’ to atleast 15 square miles, for this would be commensurate with the percentage of the Karifuna-Caribs within the total population of this country; and remove the Police presence from ON the ‘Carib’ Territory – to OFF the ‘Carib’ Territory on government lands.

Fourth, we the descendants of Princess Marian – daughter of the last Hereditary Lokono-Arawak Chief Amorotahe Haubariria (Flying Harpy Eagle) of the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks resident on this island now known as Barbados, and the Karifuna-Carib ambassadors from the island now known as Dominica – do hereby jointly re-claim from the Government of Barbados - the small uninhabited island outcrop known to locals as Culpepper Island.

Damon Gerard Corrie,
Lokono-Arawak Nation

Jacob Che Frederick,
Karifuna-Carib Nation


For more information contact damoncorrie@yahoo.com

Related Story at:
http://www.nationnews.com/301413480808638.php

3/09/2006

Caribbean Islands and Bahamas make Top 20 Extinction Hotspots...

New List: Top 20 Extinction Hotspots
By Bjorn Carey
LiveScience Staff Writer


Animal conservation efforts generally focus on the areas richest in species diversity or where many species are believed to face increased risk of extinction.

But a new study suggests these efforts should be redirected to spots where animals possess specific traits that will be most threatened by future human activity.

Using the newest geographic, biological, and phylogenetic databases for nearly 4,000 mammal species, researchers have identified 20 regions around the globe as potential extinction hotspots.

The research is detailed in the March 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The areas where predicted latent risk is highest include the northern regions of North America and the islands in the southwest Pacific. Currently, these areas are relatively unmodified by humans, and mammals in these areas don’t appear threatened.

But add humans to the mix and that could quickly change. Take for example the dodo, which was doing just fine until humans found it and then hunted it to extinction in just a few hundred years.

Top 20 Extinction Hotspots ranked by "Hotspot", "Mean latent risk" and "Projected annual human population growth percentage":



1.) Southern Polynesia 0.97 0.46
2.) Greenland 0.63 0.76
3.) Andaman and Nicobar Islands 0.61 1.96
4.) Melanesian islands 0.54 2.78
5.) Indian Ocean islands 0.54 2.15
6.) Maluku 0.51 0.05
7.) Bahamas 0.41 0.65
8.) New Guinea 0.36 2.91
9.) Lesser Antilles 0.35 0.51
10.) Nusa Tenggara 0.34 0.8
11.) Northern Canada and Alaska 0.32 0.09
12.) Sulawesi 0.31 1.92
13.) Tasmania and Bass Strait 0.31 0.11
14.) Borneo 0.27 1.82
15.) Siberian tundra 0.27 0.56
16.) Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia 0.26 1.62
17.) Eastern Canadian Forests 0.26 0.84
18.) Patagonian Coast 0.25 1.64
19.) Western Java 0.25 1.3
20.) East Indian highlands 0.23 0.69


Potential Mammalian Extinction "Hotspots". Credit: PNAS

3/08/2006

International Women’s Day and Month

UCTP PUBLIC NOTICE: In the spirit of our great Kasike Anacaona, the UCTP pauses in its work to recognize and the national and international celebrations of International Women’s Day and Month around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. For many, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in the history of women's rights.

3/07/2006

North American Indigenous Delegation Examines Venezuelan Health Care

By: Brenda Norrell - Indian Country Today

CARACAS, Venezuela - An indigenous delegation to Venezuela, inspired by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's new indigenous health care initiatives, met with Amazonia's indigenous governor and began discussions for new models of village health care in the jungle.

''Venezuela is serving as a model of respect for indigenous peoples and their right to culture, land and sovereignty,'' said Robert Free Galvan, Indian activist and organizer of the delegation aimed at creating new social and economic bonds between indigenous in the Americas.

Following the recent World Social Forum in Caracas, the indigenous delegation first visited a training camp for Mission Guaicaipuro in the mountains near Caracas. The delegation was comprised of Galvan; Alex Louie, Okanagan from British Columbia; Sarah James, Gwich'in from Alaska; and Casey Camp, Ponca from Oklahoma.

''Mission Guaicaipuro is in charge of implementing indigenous rights that are in the constitution of Venezuela now,'' said Galvan, adding that it is one of numerous missions that include improving education, health care, housing and services.

In Mission Guaicaipuro's training facility, the delegation met with 150 Indians from 23 tribes. They had never met before, but they now represent tribes in the new initiative for indigenous health care.

''Here we were, in Venezuela with front-line community workers; while in our own country, the Bush administration was cutting out indigenous health care programs.

''We met the trainers and after a while, we were singing together,'' said Galvan, adding that the necessity of translating from Native languages to Spanish and English did not hamper the process of becoming friends.

Chavez launched Mission Guaicaipuro in October 2003 as one of the Bolivarian Missions, a series of anti-poverty and social welfare programs. Carried out by the Venezuelan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the program is restoring communal land titles and human rights. The mission defends indigenous rights against resource and financial exploitation by the dominant culture, according to the Venezuelan government.

The mission is named after an indigenous chief, Guaiceiporo (1530 - 1568), who led both the Teques and Caracas tribes. Guaicaipuro formed a coalition of tribes and led Native resistance against the Spanish colonization of Venezuela.

The delegation met with food providers from another of Chavez's innovative programs.

''We were in Barrio St. Augustine and met with the people who make food for the elderly and anyone else that needs hot meals. The government provides the food, and they are set up every few blocks as volunteers to provide the meals to whoever needs them.''

Galvan praised Chavez for the food program and other programs, including a drama program for youth that produces plays that pay tribute to indigenous history and struggle.

''It is beautiful,'' Galvan said of the youth-performed plays, which were included in presentations at the World Social Forum.

James and Camp became ill before the delegation departed for Amazonia and had to return home. Galvan and Louie, however, were able to continue on the rugged journey to the jungle and meet with indigenous Gov. Liborio Guarulla of Amazonas State.

Dr. Noly Fernandez, Wayuu tribal member and director of Venezuela's Ministry of Indigenous Health, hosted the North American delegation and began the journey to Amazonia with them. Fernandez, however, also became ill and departed for Caracas after meeting with Guarulla.

Galvan said, ''We were flown by military plane to the Amazonia Province. It is 70 percent indigenous and they have elected an indigenous governor.''

The delegation learned of the struggles of indigenous in the Amazon region of South America, including the Native fight against bio-pirates, scientists stealing indigenous herbal and medicinal knowledge for profit.

''The governor insisted that we meet the traditional medicine healer before we left and the governor summoned him to come meet with us. The health care system incorporates both Western and traditional healers.''

Galvan earlier created the concept of the BEAR project which brought traditional healers together with modern doctors, leading to a new delivery of services, especially for American Indians with AIDS in the United States.

In Venezuela, Galvan said, ''The health directors had heard of my efforts to have traditional healers as part of the health system, which was followed by heavy resistance from Western academic and health systems.

''I also discussed the Potawot Health Village, of the United Indian Health Service in Arcata, Calif., as a model healing center where they could get some ideas for their own development of indigenous health.''

During the exchange of gifts in Amazonia, Louie presented Guarulla with an Okanagan drum.

''The governor welcomed us and thanked us for coming. He asked us to return and bring other tribes to form bonds.''

Then the delegation began another journey upriver.

''We were taken by military gunboat up the Orinoco River.'' Passing jungles and villages, they came to an island. There, the regional director of indigenous health consulted with Galvan about new visions for village health care.

''They asked me about the history of indigenous health care and about the BEAR Project, which I started to bring health care to tribal members in the United States,'' he said.

''They asked me to continue to consult and design health care facilities for the villages. They felt my type of front-line exposure is valuable, and that it is much better than relying on academics that are not involved themselves.

''I am so honored that they would value and give recognition to the struggle that activists go through. I'm just honored. In the United States, activists without white academic credentials are looked at as a fly on the rear of an elephant.''

Galvan and Louie, looking forward to returning for more cultural exchanges to Amazonia

Galvan, longtime advocate for indigenous rights, asked the Venezuelan government, as an act of solidarity in August 2005, to provide lower gas and oil to poor communities and tribal lands. In the United States, Venezuelan officials and CITGO Petroleum Corp. responded and began meeting with Indian tribes. So far, four Maine tribes have entered into an agreement for 900,000 gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount.

While in Venezuela, Galvan said he explored business ventures for several tribes in Nevada and the Great Lakes region.

For more information on future delegations, contact robtfree@earthlink.net.

3/04/2006

In Memory of O'PEQTAW-METAMOH - FLYING EAGLE WOMAN

On the anniversary of the death of Ingrid Washinawatok and her colleagues, the UCTP pauses and joins our relatives in reflecting on her life, her death and her vision concerning the continuing need for justice and for positive action on Indigenous issues.

O'PEQTAW-METAMOH (FLYING EAGLE WOMAN)
INGRID WASHINAWATOK EL ISSA
JULY 31, 1957 - MARCH 4, 1999

"Since the time that human beings offered thanks for the first sunrise, sovereignty has been an integral part of Indigenous peoples' daily existence. With the original instructions from the Creator, we realize our responsibilities. Those are the laws that lay the foundation of our society. These responsibilities manifest through our ceremonies … Sovereignty is that wafting thread securing the components that make a society. Without that wafting thread, you cannot make a rug. Without that wafting thread, all you have are un-joined, isolated components of a society. Sovereignty runs through the vertical strands and secures the entire pattern. That is the fabric of Native society."
- O'PEQTAW-METAMOH (INGRID WASHINAWATOK EL ISSA)

O’Peqtaw-Metamoh passed into the spirit world on March 4, 1999. She was a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and proud member of the Menominee Nation. Ingrid was an internationally known humanitarian who worked for Indigenous peoples’ rights, Indigenous women’s issues, sovereignty, human rights throughout the world.

To learn more about Ingrid and to support her vision for indigenous peoples, please visit
http://www.flyingeaglewomanfund.org/about_ingrid_washinawatok_el_issa.htm