Foundation for Endangered Languages
5. Appeals and News from Endangered Communities
Isolated Amazon Tribes Threatened By Logging: the Mashco-Piros, Amahuaca, Yaminahuas, and Yora
Forest Networking a Project of Forests.org, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Jan 28, 200 (IPS) - The survival of four indigenous tribes of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest - who have decided to live in voluntary isolation - is being threatened by commercial logging, warned indigenous leaders who traveled here this week from the South American country.
Dressed in traditional robes, multicolored feathered headdresses and beaded necklaces, the tribal leaders told environmental organisations here Friday that the government of Peru is in the process of granting large logging concessions to foreign and domestic companies in the southeastern state of Madre de Dios, where these tribes live.
They warned that allowing logging and other companies into this area threatens to end the Mashco-Piros, Amahuaca, Yaminahuas, and Yora tribes' way of life and culture, which could possibly even become extinct, as has happened to other previously uncontacted groups in the Amazon.
The tribes - which have refused all contact with the modern world - will be exposed to new diseases and face the destruction of their environment if logging companies move into the biologically-rich area, said Jeremias Sebastian, a representative from the indigenous community of Monte Salvado, located in Madre de Dios.
"Hundreds of years ago, when the Spanish came, they took away our rights as indigenous people and now today the big logging companies are taking away indigenous rights," said Sebastian, one of the few individuals to have come across the tribes living in isolation.
Natural resource exploitation and colonisation has led to the deaths of many indigenous people previously living in isolation in the Peruvian Amazon, said Antonio Iviche, president of the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios Region (FENAMAD), the regional indigenous organisation.
The Kugapakori-Nahuas and the Yora tribes lost more than half of their population to violent confrontations and simple diseases like the flu as a result of contact with loggers and oil workers, he said.
"This is why tribes have isolated themselves; they don't want to disappear," said Iviche.
The current controversy over the logging concessions started in July 1998 when the local government office of the Ministry of Agriculture illegally granted licenses for timber extraction outside of its district in regions inhabited by the isolated tribes, explained Lily la Torre Lopez, a lawyer from Peru who works closely with FENAMAD.
The Tahuamanu Forest Industrial Company and the Mississippi-based Newman Lumber Company had been given logging concessions to cut down cedar and mahogany, she said.
After FENAMAD brought this to the public's attention, the federal government began an investigation and prohibited logging in the area.
Indigenous groups demanded the government declare this area where the tribes are living "off-limits" or "untouchable."
About 10 kilometres of unauthorized dirt logging roads have been cleared, said Iviche, who feared this would open up the area to small-scale miners, oil companies, and other resource exploitation.
Friends of Aboriginal Languages in Montreal
My name is Chief Ron. E. Ignace; I am the chair of the National Chiefs Committee of languages for the Assembly of First Nations. I would inform you of our agenda and to enlist all the support I can. The Committee 's objective is to get our languages legally recognized by way of legislation and to set up a Language Foundation - a la ROYAL COMMISSION, which can be capitalized to $100M, of which $50M is to be raised privately. We are establishing a committee called Friends of Aboriginal Languages; we hope,with the support of our National Chief, enlist Senators, MP's,National Business leaders,Sports Personalities, Musicians, Individuals who are interested and concerned, etc.
The AFN Chiefs in Assembly have declared the year 2000, a year dedicated to Aboriginal languages. The AFN's next National Assembly which will be held in Montreal is dedicated to Languages. There will be fund raising activities leading up to and during the assembly. All proceeds will be targetted at the communities which are the cradles of the languages and to facilitate intergenerational transfer of the languages.
I would appreciate your support. Any questions or suggestions you can e-mail me or +1-613-241-6789- Louise LaHache-language sector
Good-ish News for Celtic in Utrecht
On 14 January 2000 I sent the following letter to N. Bullinga at the University of Utrecht:
I wish to add the voice of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, a worldwide membership organization which is registered as a charity in England and Wales, to the chorus of concern at the prospect that the University of Utrecht will close its Celtic department.
The Celtic languages represent a tradition that is older than the Roman conquest of Europe, and is particularly relevant in the present age when small language communities are being noticed and honoured all over the world. By maintaining such a department, Utrecht marks itself as providing its students with a more profound view of European history and culture. Furthermore, with its publsihing activities, the department has played an important part in the development of Celtic studies worldwide.
Please do not allow cost considerations to overwhelm the case for keeping this department, one of the very few Celtic studies centres which exist outside the British Isles. Within the Netherlands, it provides a unique beacon of learning about this ancient family of European cultures
We very much hope that the regents of Utrecht University will take action explicitly to eliminate the threat to this department. This will send a message to the Netherlands, and the rest of the academic community, that the University is above all concerned for the propagation of humane studies, with an emphasis on the contribution of smaller communities and ancient traditions. In the long run, I am confident that this will redound to Utrecht's credit.
On 21 March, I received the following reply from the Dean of the Faculty of Letters at Utrecht, Prof. Schenkeveld-van der Dussen
It has been decided that the existing programme of Celtic Studies will be preserved. After the retirement of the current Professor of Celtic Studies in 2001, continuity will be guaranteed by attracting an extraordinary or part-time successor from a foreign university where Celtic Studies are taught. Student from Utrecht who want to graduate in Celtic Studies will follow the larger part of their Master's programme at this sister institution, taking courses that are the joint responsibility of the two universities. However, these students will receive their Master's degree in Utrecht. At present students from the University of Utrecht who are working towards their Master's degree in Celtic Studies atre already taking a fair share of their courses at foreign universities. For student s who choose to do a minor in Celtic Studies, or who are simply interested in the discipline, wewill continue to offer various courses in Utrecht. Thus, the continuity of teaching and research will be guaranteed. We will also continue to expand the Celtic collection of the University Library, which will remain available to thwe public on open shelves.
Contrary to the impression that has been created, the unique discipline of Celtic Studies will be preserved in Utrecht.
We are of the opinion that in joining forces with a foreign university to offer courses in a discipline which does not attract large numbers of students, we have found a constructive way to guarantee the continuation of small departments within the Faculty of Arts.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if this letter gives rise to any questions.
Thanking you for your concern, also on behalf of the University Board, …
I have now written back enquiring about the identity of this "foreign university".
Igloolik elders win northern science award
January 21, 2000 SEAN McKIBBON Nunatsiaq News
IGLOOLIK - Elders in Igloolik were recognized with a national science award last week for their efforts in preserving traditional Inuit knowledge.
Since 1986, elders in the community have worked with researchers such as John MacDonald, the co-ordinator of the Igloolik Research Centre and George Qulaut, the centre's former operations manager to record their knowledge for posterity on paper and audio tape.
U'wa and Embera-Katío Statement: Why They Resist
On the 3rd of April, in a "Communiqué to Public Opinion", the U'wa authorities announced why they have been mobilized for 43 days in peaceful protest, blocking a road in Cobaria, to preserve life, the environment and their nation's sovereignty, against incursion by the Occidental oil company. They note that this action has been vindicated by the injunction (fallo de tutela) granted the Judge 11 of the Circuit of Bogota. They also note the international interest in their cause, in the European Parliament, and NGOs in Sweden, Canada, Germany, France, China, Spain, Belgium and the USA, who have called on the Colombian government to respect the agreements signed with the OIT (Indigenous Legislation, agreement 169). They complain of various abuses by the XVIIIth Brigade, under the command of Maj. Mauricio Pérez.
In a communiqué "Why do we have to mobilize?" (4 April 2000), the Cabildo Mayor of the Uwa and the Cabildo Mayor of the Embera Katio have written eloquently and rationally as follows:
We indigenous peoples have begun a national uprising for our fundamental rights. Before the intransigence and do-nothing policy of the National Government in the face to our legitimate claims, we have no choice but to mobilize, while the members of the Indigenous congress are conducting a hunger strike from this 4 April. The Occidental multinational oil company and the National Government are crushing the U'wa people and Mother Earth. They do not recognize the traditional U'wa territory and do not hesitate to eliminate indigenous culture. They have removed the U'wa from their own territories and further they have attacked them, killing three children and causing the disappearance of 9 indigenous people.
The Government issued, without any consultation with the indigenous peoples, Decree 1320 of 1998 that violates Agreement 169 of the OIT and they put it in use with the collusion of the Council of State. This decree, dictated by the multinational oil, electricity and mining companies, is the basis for the non-recognition of traditional territory and while it is not countermanded our fundamental rights will continue being violated as it they have been in the case of the U'wa. Judge of the Republic and before Constitutional Court has already found in favor of the U'wa but the Government and the Council of State insist on disregarding the Constitution, international treaties and the greater right of the indigenous peoples.
Something similar is happening with the Embera Kato people of the Upper Sinú. There the hydroelectric company Urrá S.A.. has destroyed the fishing of the Sinú river and its river basin condemning the indigenous peoples to hunger, and in addition forcing 10 thousand families of condemned fishermen to migrate to Montera. The Urrá dam denied the Indians the river that was their life and their means of communication with the Lower Sinú. The Embera Katío culture is threatened with fast death by hunger, the epidemics resulting from the dam and by the policy of the Government who at all costs have divided and bribed, although without managing to break the consequent resistance of the Cabildos and indigenous communities of the rivers Sinú and Verde and the community of Beguid.
We indigenous peoples have mobilized and we will maintain and increase the mobilization until the demands of the U'wa people and the Embera Katío people and their organizations, the Association of U'wa Authorities and the Cabildos Mayores of the rivers Sin and Verde are resolved favorably.
But in addition we indigenous peoples understand that the attacks of which our U'wa and Embera Katío brothers have been victims, are part of a general offensive of the Government and the multinational companies against all the indigenous peoples of Colombia. It is what we see with the repeated attempts to eliminate the standards for consultation, for example with respect to earth and with the three failed attempts to eliminate the necessity of licensing for oil exploration in the forest, that luckily have been demolished 3 times, declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. It is what occurred with the issuing of decree 1320 in 1998.
This is what is happening in the ill-named project of "agrarian reform" by the Government, when it would force us to do "productive" projects that would hand over our territories in supposed strategic alliances with landowners and multinational companies, bringing back large-scale land-use fees. It is what is happening in non-recognition by the Department of the Interior for Indigenous Affairs of Reservations from the colonial and republican periods and indigenous civil communities, and with the recent signature of oil contracts and the approval of reserves for coal exploitation in Wayuu territory and the Putumayo, without consultation with the indigenous peoples. It is what is happening when the national, departmental and municipal authorities block the recognition of Reservations in areas of mega-projects of investment, as in Jurad (Chocó).
Most serious is the fact that President Pastrana in his speech in the "Congress of Quality " of the industralists of 11 February, announced at one and the same time that Colombia will enter the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Canada and Mexico and will reform the constitution to give freedom to foreign investment. We well know what this has meant in Mexico. A condition of the United States to sign NAFTA was that Mexico quash the inalienability of indigenous communal lands, that had existed in Mexico since 1917: this has caused armed rebellion by the indigenous peoples.
Furthermore, this constitutional reform to enter NAFTA would above all eliminate our main constitutional right, the inalienability of the collective ownership by indigenous peoples of their communal Reservations and land, as well as the paragraph of article 330 of the Constitution that forbids any exploitation of natural resources to the detriment of our cultural, social and economic integrity.
As if this were a small matter, North American senators Coverdell and De Wine have included in the bill that the Senate of the United States is enacting on the call Colombia Plan, a clause making the military aid to Colombia conditional on greater freedom for foreign investment and especially to the oil industry.
In our statement and mobilizations we demanded of the Government that it commit not to touch our constitutional rights and especially the inalienability of the ownership of the Reservations and communal land and the paragraph of article 33 of the Constitution.
The Colombia Plan will also cause damage through its fumigation of illegal cultures, because the thousands of farmers who cultivate them will have no other choice than to go away to do such cultures deeper in the forests, invading more and more our territories, destroying us and forests more and more, and will leaving their property to the landowners and narcotics traffickers, who will take them for cattle ranches and palm plantations.
The Colombia Plan is only going to favor to the oil companies and foreign mining interests, and to the landowning cattlemen, palm and banana plantations. It is not going to serve to eliminate drug trafficking: rather, this will benefit by keeping drug prices high. It is not going to serve to finish the war that on the contrary will be increased the number of displaced persons, more settlement of the forest zones, more confrontations, more armament of the Army, more paramilitaries, more guerrillas, more destruction of the forest, more invasion of indigenous territories.
We are therefore facing serious threats. Instead of seeing our own territorial organizations, as recognized by the constitution, regulated, instead of orderly land assignment, we are facing the imminent possibility of a constitutional counter-reform that will eliminate rights whose recognition cost us 500 years of resistance, as well as the 300 companions who have given their lives since the Constitution and Agreement 169 of the OIT were approved in 1991.
On the fight of the U'wa and Embera Katío peoples our future depends. This fight will define our future entitlement to agrarian reform, land assignment, cultural diversity, autonomy, and LIFE.
Forward then in defense of the Earth, with the U'wa and Embera Katío peoples!
COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF THE NATIONAL INDIGENOUS UPRISING
The above statement emphasizes that, besides allowing irresponsible short-term development of oil exploitation in disregard of the safety and cultural integrity of these indigenous peoples, the Colombian Government is apparently prepared to abolish the main constitutional guarantee for their future. Furthermore, it is adopting measures to eliminate drug cultivation which will have as a side-effect the further encroachment of cultivators onto indigenous land.
Gaelic in Scottish Parks: Cause for Concern
In response to Summary of Responses to Consultation on the National Parks (Scotland) Bill, Roddy McLean macleanr(at)globalnet.co.uk submitted the following comment to the Scottish Minister of the Environment:
Dear Ms Boyack
I wrote to you on 31 January this year regarding my disquiet over the approach taken by the National Parks Bill Team to the question of the Gaelic language in Scotland's National Parks. I have now received and read the "Summary of Responses" document, and I write again to express to you my dismay at the total lack of understanding of the issue among the civil servants dealing with the National Parks proposal.
I refer specifically to the section entitled "Gaelic" in Annex 1 of the document. The following two sentences of that summary show either a total failure on the part of the team to comprehend the issue, or a wanton disregard of the justifiable and reasonable claim of Scotland's Gaelic-speakers to some degree of consideration: "Some respondents commented that there was no mention Bill [sic] of arrangements for Gaelic speaking communities. ... It will be a matter for individual National Park authorities to decide their policy on Gaelic issues to cater for any Gaelic communities within their areas."
All the communities within or immediately adjacent to the boundaries of the two proposed National Parks are now linguistically dominated by English, as your officers would well know. And it is highly unlikely that either National Park body would be sympathetic to the claims of Scotland's Gaelic-speakers.
The community of which I am a part is the national Gaelic community of Scotland and it is this community which stands to lose out badly in this affair. We live throughout this land, not simply in the vicinity of the Cairngorms or Loch Lomond/Trossachs and we are being utterly ignored in the National Parks' Bill, despite the fact that these parks are Gaelic landscapes which are of deep spiritual and cultural significance to our community. I am a very regular visitor to the Cairngorms and am dismayed by the thought of it becoming an English-only National Park.
Your officers claim that "The Bill is an enabling Bill covering the whole of Scotland" and employ that argument to gainsay the claim of what they consider are "Gaelic communities within their areas". But it is precisely that argument which supports the claim of the national Gaelic community to some degree of respect and consideration in this Bill. There is a national responsibility on the part of our national government to support and encourage the use of our national native language in our National Parks. It is not simply a local issue, to be brushed under the table and forgotten about.
I am appalled by this document. It would never have seen the light of day in our sister Celtic countries of Wales and Ireland. Each Welsh National Park, regardless of whether the surroundings are largely English-speaking or predominantly Welsh-speaking, has had to create a language action plan to encourage and facilitate the use of the native language because the issue is a national one. No one park in Wales is allowed to stand out from the rest, even if its board is virulently opposed to the Welsh language. The Welsh are not shirking their responsibilities. We in Scotland, if this bill stands as it currently appears, certainly will be, and we should be condemned for it.
I did not receive a reply to my letter of January. I would be most grateful if you would respond to this letter, explaining what action you intend to take on this matter. It simply cannot be allowed to rest as it is or a severe and reprehensible injustice will be done.
Thankyou. Yours sincerely, Roddy Maclean
If you want to join the letter campaign about this, please contact: