Friday, 24 August 2012

Grass-roots campaign to save Pe'Sla

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, issued a call for consultation to occur over the proposed auction of land in South Dakota that is revered as a sacred place for the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples.

The auction has been cancelled, but the future status of the sacred land remains unclear at this time.

Pe'Sla has a unique and special place in the cosmology of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota peoples.

Since word of the planned auction spread, there has been a concerted effort by individuals and tribes to raise awareness about Pe’Sla and to raise funds to try to purchase at least some of the land at the auction.

The call for consultation by the UN Special Rapporteur is one that is significant. Under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there are several provisions that address indigenous rights to sacred land such as Pe’Sla.

Article 8(2)(b) requires states to have “effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for... any action which as the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.” State obligations go much further than that, however. Article 26 requires states “to give legal recognition and protection” to lands which have been “traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.”

There can be no doubt that Pe’Sla fits the description of lands given in Article 26. The United States should heed the call to consult with indigenous groups, but its obligations transcend mere consultation. It has a duty to protect Pe’Sla.

But waiting on the United States to take actions to protect Pe’Sla might prove fruitless. To this end, an amazing grass-roots campaign was sparked, seeking donations and raising awareness about both the sacred nature of Pe’ Sla, and how the planned auction jeopardised Pe’ Sla. This campaign, organised through joint efforts of and the Rosebud Sioux .. call for donations to help raise money towards the purchase of at least part of Pe’ Sla.

The response has been tremendous, with on-going donations now totalling over $ 266,000 with a further contribution of funds from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of $1.3 million.

International instruments are often criticised for providing rights that are not practically accessible. It is hoped that the combined efforts of the campaigners to save Pe’ Sla, and the call issued by the UN Special Rapporteur will result in the protection of Pe’ Sla as required by the United Nations Declaration—an instrument now endorsed by the United States. Just as grass-roots advocacy movements were the genesis for the campaign for indigenous rights going international, it seems that grass-roots movements have not lost their importance in continued efforts to promote and protect indigenous rights.

28 days and counting...

In Chile, representatives from one political party have expressed the “lack of solutions and insensitivity of the government" by the recent situation at UNICEF. Since Thursday 26 July, the office of UNICEF in Santiago de Chile was peacefully occupied by members of the Mapuche Territorial Alliance. Today the only people that remain are Sandra del Rosario Meza Huencho and her two year old daughter Kimwn. The other members, mainly mothers, have gradually left the building.

Why this extreme measure? The Mapuche community is asking the government to withdraw police forces in the Araucanía Region. It is reported that police violence against Mapuche communities has now been extended to children who have been injured by bullets when police carried out their procedures.

UNICEF While the body restates that the office is not the place to address the needs of welfare of a minor, both physical and psychological, UNICEF rejects to evict the occupants of the place.

Finally, the delegate Accorsi said that the government has not yet publicly repudiated what happened in La Araucanía with minors, given that it is the responsibility of States to assume special obligations in this area due to International Conventions on Human Rights and the Rights of the Child signed by Chile. He also referred to the ILO Convention 169, specifically Article 3 (2), which states “No form of force or coercion shall be used in violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples concerned, including the rights contained in this Convention”.

Sources UNICEF (here)and Camara de Diputados de Chile (Chamber of Deputies) (here).

Saturday, 11 August 2012

At Risk: "The Heart of All that Is"

“The Heart of Everything that Is”—that is how the peoples of the “Great Sioux Nation” describe the Black Hills. The Black Hills are regarded as sacred, an integral part of the essence of life. Treaties in 1851 and 1868 recognised the Black Hills as land of the “Great Sioux Nation” but it did not take the United States long to break those treaties in search of the gold believed to be under those hills. Over time the land that had been granted by the treaties was seized by the United States government until only a very small percentage of land remained with the indigenous peoples of the Great Sioux Nation.

This land taking was denounced by the United State Supreme Court: “"A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will
never, in all probability, be found in our history..” (quoting the Court of Claims)in the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in United States v Sioux Nation of Indians in 1980.

Despite the denunciation, little has been done to restore the Black Hills to their rightful possessors. The loss of the Black Hills is not a lamentable historical fact. The loss continues right up until this moment in time.

Land that is privately held, the Pe’ Sla, one of the few remaining pristine areas of the Black Hills, and an area held to be deeply sacred by indigenous peoples, is due to be auctioned off on August 25. There are very realistic fears that the pristine and sacred prairies will be sold to development interests.

A campaign has been organised to try to raise money to purchase the land at the auction. This campaign is organised through LastRealIndians, Inc. More information on the urgent need for donations to save the land and how to donate, as well as the significance of this land, can be found here. Even a small donation will help—as many small donations add up!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Recognition of TK in the Latin America region - an example to follow

A couple of weeks ago the Peruvian National Institute for the Defence of Competition and Intellectual Property (INDECOPI), in order to preserve the knowledge that native peoples have on the use of biodiversity, presented 453 titles of collective knowledge to communities located in the Loreto region in Peru. 

The indigenous peoples of this region managed to register 453 knowledge related to more than 120 plants in the Amazon area, covering different uses such as food, medicine, vegetable dyes, etc. To date, INDECOPI has registered over 800 TK in the name of indigenous communities.By these titles the Peruvian State through the INDECOPI guarantees the rights of these peoples that the use of their knowledge is made only with their consent -- they are the true owners.

In August 2002, Law 27811 was enacted in Peru establishing a sui generis intellectual property protection for collective knowledge of indigenous peoples linked to biological resources, ie the properties, uses and characteristics of the biodiversity.

Since 2010, the Office of Inventions and New Technologies of INDECOPI works with the Research Institute of the Peruvian Amazon (IIAP), through its programs PIBA (Biodiversity Research Program Amazon) and Cultural Diversity Research and Economics Amazon (Sociodiversity) in the recovery of the collective knowledge of indigenous peoples. They live with the people, experiencing their customs and needs. Only then TK is identified, reassessed and recorded, so that in future the indigenous community gets the benefit.