Friday, June 27, 2008

Indian Community Defeats Giant Logging Corporation Through Direct Action

How an Indigenous Community Defeated a Logging Giant
By Jessica Bell, AlterNet. Posted June 23, 2008.

It was below zero degrees Fahrenheit on the night of Dec. 2, 2002, when sisters and young indigenous mothers Chrissy and Bonnie Swain from the Grassy Narrows First Nation drove from their reserve, located in the southern fringe of the vast Boreal Forest in northern Ontario, to the logging road just a few miles from their home.

The sisters felled trees over the road to protest unwanted logging on their land by Abitibi Consolidated. They then headed home, afraid their father would be mad at them. Instead, he was proud. Their protest was the spark that ignited their small community of 1,000 to launch a sustained direct-action campaign to stop logging.

Located about 250 miles north of the Minnesota border, Grassy Narrows First Nation's traditional lands span approximately 2,500 square miles. Throughout the 20th century the Ontario government has granted logging companies rights to log on Grassy Narrows' land, even though the permit violates the Canadian government's 1873 treaty agreement with the community and has been actively opposed by First Nation members. In recent years the logging -- currently being done by Abitibi Consolidated -- has intensified, often being conducted around the clock. By 2002, approximately 50 percent of the marketable wood on Grassy Narrows land had been logged.

Roberta Keesick, a Grassy Narrows blockader, grandmother and trapper, described the severity of logging in an interview with Rainforest Action Network campaigner David Sone in 2005:

"The clear-cutting of the land and the destruction of the forest is an attack on our people. The land is the basis of who we are. Our culture is a land-based culture, and the destruction of the land is the destruction of our culture. And we know that is in the plans. The logging companies don't want us on the land; they want us out of the way so they can take the resources. We can't allow them to carry on with this cultural genocide."

From Dec. 2, 2002, onward, members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation established a permanent encampment on the road and turned back all Abitibi logging trucks. The reserve's only school moved to the blockade site and conducted classes there for a summer, and the community began pulling in outside supporters, including national and international environmental and human rights groups, to campaign with them. In response, Abitibi transferred its logging operations to a more remote section of Grassy Narrows territory.

This year, Grassy Narrows secured another win. On June 3, AbitibiBowater, the largest newsprint company in the world and the only one still logging on Grassy Narrows land, announced it would leave Grassy Narrows effective immediately. The company had the license to log on most of Grassy Narrows' territory until 2024. The victory sends a message that sustained, peaceful direct-action campaigns are capable of yielding powerful results.

Of course, this campaign took a lot of work. Prior to the blockade, Grassy Narrows advocated for decades using more traditional means of dissent, such as meetings with the government, letter writing and protests, before escalating to direct action. In Ontario, some Grassy Narrows members maintained their blockade and worked internally to ensure that the community remained united and strong in its opposition to corporate logging. They also undertook the crucial tasks of empowering the community's youth to take action and of reviving their cultural heritage.

Amnesty International produced rigorous research reports and lobbied the Ontario government and the United Nations to respect the right of indigenous communities to say no to resource extraction. Local solidarity groups provided direct support, and Christian Peacemaker Teams maintained a monitoring presence to reduce the risk of racist violence.

Environmental groups led by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a sustained direct-action campaign against corporate buyers of wood and paper products from the region. Logging company Boise Inc. agreed to stop purchasing from the region in February 2008 after RAN linked wood sourced from Grassy Narrows to paper being sold in Boise-owned office supply chains Office Max and Grand & Toy, and organized dozens of actions outside the stores. Boise had been Abitibi's top purchaser of Grassy Narrows soft wood.

In fact, peaceful direct action was a defining trademark of the Grassy Narrows campaign, which included the longest-running blockade in North American history. A turning point in the campaign was a daylong direct-action blockade of the TransCanada Highway on July 13, 2006, along the route used by logging trucks as they carried wood logged in Grassy Narrows to the Weyerhaeuser mill in the nearby town of Kenora. As part of the action, one woman locked herself to a Weyerhaeuser logging truck carrying Grassy Narrows wood. Another suspended herself from a metal tripod in the middle of the highway. The action put Grassy Narrows back in the headlines and back into the consciousness of a public whose attention to the issue had begun to wane. Staff working for the premier of Ontario cited the TransCanada Highway action as having as much influence on the government's response to indigenous rights and environmental protection as any other activity organized in Ontario that year.

Not only will this victory result in the protection of two and a half million acres of forest, an area more than three times as large as Yosemite National Park, it represents a powerful step forward in the movement for indigenous self-determination and the right of First Nations to control industrial activities on their lands and say "no" to colonialism. Canada's resource-rich Boreal Forest is the second-largest unlogged forest on Earth.

For Grassy Narrows, the arrival of Abitibi was just the latest in a series of incursions by the Ontario government and corporations whose impact has constituted a full-out attempt to annihilate the Grassy Narrows culture and strip the community of its land and resources.

Like most indigenous communities in Canada, Grassy Narrows has been through many traumas over the past century, including forced relocation of children away from their families into white-governed residential schools, which stripped many of their language, family and culture. This was followed by long-term mercury poisoning of community members through the contamination of fishing areas by the Reed Pulp Mill company; flooding of wild rice harvesting sites, sacred grounds and burial sites for hydroelectric damming operations; and clear-cut logging of their forests.

These traumas have caused many social, health and economic problems, as well as the near devastation of the culture. Grassy Narrows exhibits the signs of distress that have become typical of First Nation communities across Canada. Indigenous people, as compared to any other racial or cultural group in Canada, have the lowest life expectancies, highest infant mortality rates, substandard and overcrowded housing, lower education and employment levels, and the highest incarceration rates.

But the people of Grassy Narrows and First Nations across Canada are fighting back and winning against the external assaults on their people. They are actively reclaiming the land from which the strength of their communities flows. Understandably, the resurgence in First Nations' advocacy to regain control over their land and community has been closely intertwined with a cultural revival, where communities are also reclaiming their identity, their culture, their ceremonies and their native language.

Keesick said in an interview with CBC radio on June 5 that the victory gives Grassy Narrows new hope to claim its future: "It gives us hope that we're being listened to. It gives our young people a purpose in life. With our persistence, we've been able to accomplish this, and it definitely encourages us to keep on fighting and standing up and speaking and reaching out."

The success in Grassy Narrows also provides inspiration and hope to the dozens of other communities across Canada -- from the Haida in British Columbia to the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation in northern Ontario -- who are fighting for the right to regain control over their territories from the government.

Indeed, the snowballing movement for self-determination is forcing Canada's provincial and federal governments to acknowledge that piecemeal change is not enough and that systemic change to address indigenous rights needs to happen now. Their collective impact has forced Canada's Supreme Court to set a rapid succession of new legal precedents requiring governments to accommodate First Nations' interests when determining what activities can take place on their lands. The groundswell has also forced politicians to begin rewriting laws, including Ontario's draconian Mining Act, which allows companies to stake mining claims anywhere in the province without any prior notice.

The resurgence of indigenous people power is global. On Sept. 13, 2007, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly. The declaration affirms indigenous land rights and the right of self-determination. The only four dissenting countries were the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. The Grassy Narrows campaign is a powerful example of how First Nations and we, civil society, can take matters into our own hands and implement human rights for all when governments fail to do so.

Meanwhile, Grassy Narrows leaders are currently engaged in negotiations with the Ontario government to ensure the government does not grant logging rights to another company but instead issues a moratorium on all logging until control over the land is restored to the community. Until that time, they continue to maintain and expand the blockade, now in its sixth year, and the site has turned into a cultural hub and a symbol of their continued resistance.
As former organizer for Rainforest Action Network's Old Growth Campaign, Jessica Bell worked to support Grassy Narrows. Now she works for the California Food and Justice Coalition and volunteers for Direct Action to Stop the War.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. This article reprinted with the written permission of Alternet.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Legal Scholars and Experts Urge Canada to Abandon Opposition to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

[Editor's Note: After the US Supreme Court's unprecedented intervention in the State of Florida's recount in the 2000 Presidential election, resulting in the appointment of George W. Bush to the highest office in the land, several thousand lawyers, legal scholars and professors signed a letter declaring the Court's interference to be a political intervention without precedent or a justifiable legal rationale. Why have we not seen from these same legal experts a letter similar to the one reported on in this news story? Similarly, one wonders if any US Congressman or Senator has been sufficiently embarrassed and disgusted by the current US administration to introduce a resolution or legislation calling for US ratification of the UN Declaration. If anyone knows of either such occurrence, please send me an email with the information, so we can report it to our readers. Send it to]

May 1, 2008
Press Release

Legal scholars and experts urge Canadian government to abandon "erroneous" and "misleading" opposition to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In an Open Letter released today, more than 100 legal scholars and experts asserted that there is no sound legal barrier to prevent Canada from moving ahead with implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The current minority Conservative government has strongly opposed the Declaration, claiming that it is incompatible with Canada's Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Cabinet ministers and government spokespersons have asserted that the Declaration fails to balance the rights of Indigenous with those of non-Indigenous peoples and other state obligations.

The Open Letter signed by 101 lawyers and academics from across Canada, states "No credible legal rationale has been provided to substantiate these extraordinary and erroneous claims."

In fact, the Open Letter points out that the UN Declaration includes 17 articles affirming individual rights as well as "some of the most comprehensive balancing provisions that exist in any international human rights instrument." "The Declaration provides a principled framework that promotes a vision of justice and reconciliation," the expert letter states.

"In our considered opinion, it is consistent with the Canadian Constitution and Charter and is profoundly important for fulfilling their promise. Government claims to the contrary do a grave disservice to the cause of human rights and to the promotion of harmonious and cooperative relations."

The legal scholars and experts go on to state, "We are concerned that the misleading claims made by the Canadian government continue to be used to justify opposition, as well as impede international cooperation and implementation of this human rights instrument."

The Declaration was adopted on September 13, 2007 by a vote of the overwhelming majority of UN member states. Canada was one of only four states to vote against the Declaration. The government of Stephen Harper has since claimed that Canada should be exempted from its implementation and not judged by its standards.

On April 8, 2008 the House of Commons adopted a motion endorsing the Declaration and calling on Parliament and the Government of Canada to "fully implement the standards contained therein."

Coinciding with the release of the Open Letter, a coalition of Indigenous peoples' organizations and human rights groups in Canada stated, "The UN Declaration is an essential, universal human rights standard that is urgently needed to inspire and guide states and public institutions to address the marginalization and discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples around the world. We hope that with the release of this carefully considered and reasoned interpretation backed by so many Canadian legal scholars and experts, it will be apparent to everyone that the Government of Canada has no excuse to continue to flout world opinion and the will of Parliament by opposing this Declaration."

For further information, please contact:

Daniel Wilson
Special Advisor / Conseiller spécial Assembly of First Nations / Assemblée des Premières Nations
T: 613.241.6789 #220

Craig Benjamin
Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Amnesty International Canada
T: 613.744.7667 #235

Béatrice Vaugrante
Directrice générale et militante Amnistie Internationale Canada
T: 514.766.9766 #224

Jennifer Preston
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
T : 416.920.5213

Stephen Hendrie
Senior Communications Officer
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Cell: 613-277-3178

Ed Bianchi
Indigenous Rights Program Coordinator / Coordonnateur, Programme relatif aux droits des Autochtones
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives / Initiatives canadiennes œcuméniques pour la justice
T: 613.235-9956

Joshua Kirkey
Team Lead of Communications and Education
Native Women's Association of Canada/ Association des Femmes Autochtones du Canada
T: 613.722.3033 ext. 231
Cell: 613.290.5680

Rod Jacobs
Media Coordinator, Native Women's Association of Canada/ Association des Femmes Autochtones du Canada
T: 613.722.3033, ext. 259

[Text of Open Letter]

May 1, 2008
Open Letter

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Canada Needs to Implement This New Human Rights Instrument

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by an overwhelming vote of 144-4. The UN Secretary-General, other prominent international leaders, and human rights experts hailed this historic event as a victory for the human rights of the world's most disadvantaged and victimized peoples.

There are over 370 million Indigenous people worldwide. Indigenous peoples urgently require international affirmation and protection of their human rights.

Their rights are routinely trampled by national governments, even when these rights are entrenched in law. Canada was one of only four states that opposed the Declaration. Government ministers characterize the Declaration as incompatible with Canada's Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They state that the Declaration affirms only the collective rights of Indigenous peoples and fails to balance individual and collective rights or the rights of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. No credible legal rationale has been provided to substantiate these extraordinary and erroneous claims.

We, the undersigned, have researched and worked in the fields of Indigenous rights and/or constitutional law in Canada. We are concerned that the misleading claims made by the Canadian government continue to be used to justify opposition, as well as impede international cooperation and implementation of this human rights instrument.

The Declaration contains some of the most comprehensive balancing provisions that exist in any international human rights instrument. Article 46 of the UN Declaration states that every provision must be interpreted "in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith". These are the core principles and values of not only Canada's Constitution, but also the international system that Canada has championed.

Further, seventeen provisions in the Declaration address individual rights. The UN Declaration also states that the rights of Indigenous peoples may be limited when strictly necessary "for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others". This approach allows for both flexibility and balance.

In response to Canada's position, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Louise Arbour, publicly expressed her "astonishment" and "profound disappointment". The Declaration provides a principled framework that promotes a vision of justice and reconciliation. In our considered opinion, it is consistent with the Canadian Constitution and Charter and is profoundly important for fulfilling their promise. Government claims to the contrary do a grave disservice to the cause of human rights and to the promotion of harmonious and cooperative relations.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Canada has a duty to "uphold the highest standards" of human rights for all. This mandate is guided by principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. Elimination of politicization of human rights is a vital objective. For Canada to act otherwise is prejudicial to Indigenous peoples' human rights. It undermines Canada's credibility and international role.

September 13, 2007 was a shameful day for Canada but a tremendous achievement for the world's Indigenous peoples and the international system. It is time for the government of Canada to cease publicizing its misleading claims and, together with Indigenous peoples, actively implement this new human rights instrument.

Signed by:

Professor Jennie Abell, Director, Institute of Women's Studies, University of Ottawa
Merle C. Alexander, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Sharry Aiken, Faculty of Law, Queen's University
Warren Allmand, former Attorney General, Minister of Indian Affairs and President of Rights and Democracy
Professor Kirsten Anker, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Professor Rachel Ariss, Department of Sociology, Lakehead University
Professor Constance Backhouse, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Professor Michael Barutciski, Glendon School of Public Affairs, York University
Professor Nigel Bankes, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Tom Berger, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor John Borrows, Law Foundation Chair in Aboriginal Justice, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Professor Nehal Bhuta, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Dougald Brown, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia
Murray Browne Barrister and Solicitor
Paul Cavalluzzo, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Larry Chartrand, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Professor Gordon Christie, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia
Professor Lynda Collins, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa
Paul Copeland, Barrister and Solicitor, Bencher (director) of the Law Society of Upper Canada
Wendy Cornet, Cornet Consulting and Mediation Inc.
Professeur François Crépeau, Chaire de recherche du Canada en droit international des migrations / Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law, Directeur scientifique / Scientific Director, Centre d'études et de recherches internationales / Centre for International Studies, Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
Paul Crowley, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Margaret Denike, Coordinator, Human Rights Program, Carleton
Professeur Denys Delâge, Faculté de sociologie, Université Laval
Marlys Edwardh, Barrister and Solictor
Fay Faraday, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor L. M. Findlay, Director, Humanities Research Unit, University of Saskatchewan
Professor Craig Forcese, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Stacey M. Edzerza Fox, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Evan Fox-Decent, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Professor Donald Galloway, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Myriam Gervais, Research Associate McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women
Professeur Sébastien Grammond, Vice-doyen à la recherche / Vice-Dean, Research Section de droit civil / Civil Law Section Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law, Université d'Ottawa
Peter Grant, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Vanessa Gruben, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Debra Hanuse, Barrister and Solicitor
Veryan Haysom, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Sakej Henderson, Research director, Four Direction Council, Research Director, Native Law Centre of Canada
Professor Shin Imai, Director, Intensive Program on Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments, Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall, York University
Barbara Jackman, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Michael Jackson, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia
Paul Joffe, Barrister and Solicitor
Roger Jones, Law and Policy Consultant
Professor Jennifer Koshan, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Lois Leslie, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Linda Kreitzer, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary
Professeur Émérite, Jean-Paul Lacasse, Faculté de droit, Université d'Ottawa
Professeure Emérite Andrée Lajoie, Faculté de droit, Université de Montréal
Professor Lucie Lamarche, Chaire Gordon F Henderson en droits de la personne / Gordon F. Henderson Human Rights Chair, Université d'Ottawa
Professeur François J. Larocque, Directeur du programme national / National Program Director, Faculté de droit, Université d'Ottawa
Chief Wilton Littlechild, former United Nations Permanent Forum member
Professor Jennifer Llewellyn, Faculty of Law, Dalhousie University
Professor Roderick Macdonald, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Professor A. Wayne MacKay C.M., Faculty of Law, Dalhousie University
Professor Audrey Macklin, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Professor Joseph Eliot Magnet, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Louise Mandell, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Egla Martinez, Institute.of Interdisciplinary Studies/Human Rights, Institute of Women's Studies, Carleton University
Professor Maxine V. H. Matilpi, Director, Academic and Cultural Support Program, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Professor June McCue, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia
Professor Kent McNeil, Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall, York University
Professor Errol P. Mendes, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
John Merritt, Barrister and Solicitor
Loretta Michelin, Director of Legal, Services with the Nunatsiavut Government
Professor Patricia Monture, Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan
Maria Morellato, Barrister and Solicitor
Nancy A. Morgan, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Bradford W. Morse, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English-Speaking Branch)
Professeur Pierre Noreau, Faculté de droit, Université de Montréal
John Olthuis, Barrister and Solicitor
Arthur Pape, Barrister and Solicitor
Professeure Sylvie Paquerot, École d'études politiques, Université d'Ottawa
Laurie Pelly, Barrister and Solicitor
Bruce Porter, Director, Social Rights Advocacy Centre
Professor Dianne Pothier, Faculty of Law, Dalhousie University
Professor Emeritus Richard J. Preston, Faculty of Anthropology, McMaster University
Professor Janna Promislow, Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall, York University
Owen Rees, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Ben Richardson, Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall, York University
Professeur Guy Rocher, Centre de recherche en droit public, Université de Montréal
Allan Rock, former Member of Parliament and Ambassador to the United Nations
Professor Sanda Rodgers, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Professor Rémi Savard, Département d'anthropologie, Université de Montréal
Professor William A. Schabas,, Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights
National University of Ireland, Galway
Professor Craig Martin Scott, Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational
Human Rights, Crime and Security, Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall, York University
Professor Elizabeth Sheehy, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Professor Peter Showler, Director, The Refugee Forum, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
Professor Brian Slattery, Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall, York University
Richard Spaulding, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Joanne St. Lewis, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, British Columbia Representative for Children and Youth
Lorne Waldman, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Rosemary Cairns Way, Faculty of Law, Common Law, University of Ottawa
Michael (Jerry) Wetzel, Barrister and Solicitor
Professor Christiane Wilke, Faculty of Law, Carleton University
Peigi Wilson, Barrister and Solicitor
Gary Yabsley, Barrister and Solicitor
Maxwell Yalden, former Canadian Human Rights Commissioner and member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee
Professor Norman Zlotkin, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan

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15th Protecting Mother Earth Conference

If you are planning on attending the Protecting Mother Earth conference this summer and plan on flying out – please book your tickets now – flight prices are supposed to increase substantially in the next week or so. Thank you and hope to see you soon!

15th Protecting Mother Earth Conference
July 17-20, 2008

"Enough is enough. This earth is our mother. If we keep on contaminating her and abusing her where are we going to go? Everything should come to a standstill and we should take a look at ourselves and what we are doing to the earth.
Carrie Dann
Western Shoshone Grandmother

As Western Shoshone, we are honored to welcome our brothers and sisters from around the world to our beautiful homeland, share with you our struggle, and learn about your struggles and strong works in your own homelands. This conference will be an important opportunity for Indigenous peoples and our allies to come together in a good way to strengthen our solidarity and find ways to work together to protect our Mother Earth for all life. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Thank you,
Larson Bill
Western Shoshone Defense Project

July 17-20th, 2008

Newe Sogobe (Western Shoshone) Territories

Located at the (So Ho Bee) South Fork Pow-Wow Grounds in
Lee, Nevada (approximately 22 miles South of Elko, Nevada)

Traditional Gathering – Sacred Fire, Sweats, Camping Style, Circle Talks - Meals provided, bring your own reusable eating utensils. Donations welcomed at the entrance, but not required, please leave dogs and pets home.

Click Here to Signup for the conference online.

Véase abajo para Versión española

For more information, contact:

Simone Senogles, IEN, (218) 751-4967,

Larson Bill, WSDP, (775) 744-2595,

For printable flyer and Agenda please check out our website:

Topics To Include:
Traditional L.A.W.S. (Land, Air, Water, Sun); Mineral Extraction, Energy, Climate Change, Water; Rescinding the Doctrine of Discovery; Food Sovereignty; Un-Doing Colonialism; Youth Activities; Organizing and Action Trainings; Indigenous-Based Environmental Protection & Ecological Knowledge.

Hosted by: Western Shoshone Defense Project (WSDP)
Sponsored by: Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)

For assistance in travel or hotel arrangements, contact: JUST TRAVEL (775-738-9847)

There is an AMTRAK Station in
Elko, NV - for schedules click here.

We are able to help coordinate rides for those who wish to rideshare

Free shuttles are available for those taking the train or flying into
Elko, NV

No Alcohol, No Smoking of Marijuana and Illegal Drug Use

Daycare Available

Camping available~ Camping is free at the site. Some local host homes will also be available (Elders and international guests will be given priority)

Note: Nearest hotel (at your own cost) is 30 miles away from conference site.

Craft/art booths are available for a small fee on a first come first serve basis.

Donations needed: The Indigenous Environmental Network and the Western Shoshone Defense Project would like to thank those who have donated funding and or volunteer time to the conference. If you have not already given and would like to help support the conference we are still in need of donated funds to help us bring people in on travel scholarships, particularly youth who need travel assistance. Donations of frequent flyer tickets are also very welcome!

Volunteers make the Protecting Mother Earth Conference possible: We still need many volunteers!

Weather~ Gathering place is hot during the day (80's Fahrenheit), and chilly (40's Fahrenheit) in the evenings. Be prepared for hiking, walking in the water, and being near the mountains.

This Conference may be photographed or video taped. By submitting your registration for the Conference you are consenting to being photographed and video taped while attending and for the potential use of your image for education and informational purposes.

For Craft Booths, Rideshare postings, Elko Shuttle, Donations and Volunteering, as well as general questions, please contact Simone at 218-751-4967 or

15th Conferencia "Protejiendo a la Tierra Madre"
Respondiendo a la Llamada de Recuperacion de La Tierra Madre - Reafirmado Nuestras Raices.

Los temas a tratarse incluyen:
Leyes Tradicionales (relacionadas con la tierra, el aire, el agua y el sol);
Calentamiento Global, Cambio Climático y Energia atravéz de las Enseñanzas Indígenas;
Junta de la Juventud y los Ancianos (personas mayores) de la Tribu;
Anulando la Doctrina del Descubrimiento. ~

Chasquido Aquí a Signup para la conferencia en línea.

Imagen de Chasquido para Ver Escenas de la Conferencia del Año Pasado
Western Shoshone Defense Project

Presentado por el Projecto de Defensa Shoshone del Oeste (PDSO)

Reunion Tradicional: Estilo Acampar
Territorio Newe Gogobe

Pour plus de renseignements, contactez :

Julie Fishel, IEN, 775-744-2595,

Larson Bill, WSDP, (775) 744-2595,
Courrier électronique:

Para asistencia en arreglos de viaje u hospedaje, pongase en contacto con JUST TRAVEL (775-738-9847)

Pronóstico del Tiempo~El lugar de reunión es muy caluroso durante el día (80° F/ 27°C) y frío al anochecer (40°F/4.5°C). Esté preparado para excursiones a pie (senderismo), caminatas por lugares con agua y cerca de montañas.

Correo electrónico para más información o llamada

Lugar Disponible para Acampar ~ Usted puede acampar sin costo alguno en el terreno donde la conferencia se lleva a cabo. También habra algunas casas particulares dispuestas a tomar huespedes (estas darán prioridad a las personas ancianas y a los huéspedes internacionales)

El hotel mas cercano (estos gastos corren por su propia cuenta) está a 30 millas (48 Kilómetros)
del lugar de la Conferencia.

Comidas serán proporcionadas. Por favor Traiga Sus Propios Utensilios de Comida Reutilizables

Los alimentos serán proveidos durante la reunion sin cargo adicional (gratis)
Correo electrónico para más información o llamada

The Indigenous Environmental Network • PO Box 485Bemidji • MN • 56619

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Mayan Indians Risk Reprisals by Insisting on Right to Control Mining on Their Land

Goldcorp Inc. & The Danger of Democracy Print E-mail
Written by Grahame Russell
Monday, 23 June 2008

ImageIn unison, hundreds of Mayan Mam community leaders raised their hands in the Gimnasio Municipal (municipal gym) of San Miguel Ixtahuacan (SMI), Guatemala on April 30. These hundreds of raised hands indicated a "yes" vote for the municipality of SMI to hold a legally binding community consultation concerning whether or not to permit mining.

I had come to SMI with a delegation of 14 Canadians and Americans, investigating the many negative impacts of Goldcorp Inc.’s open pit, cyanide leeching mining operation. I feel honored to witness this decision.

After months of education work, planning and deliberations, this decision represents a rare act of democracy in a very undemocratic country. This decision is courageous in a country where the economic and political elites consistently respond to expressions of democracy with repression. It is no small matter for the generationally impoverished Mayan Mam people of SMI to publicly say that they want control over their lives.

This decision is galling and threatening to the powerful political and economic interests backing the open-pit, which include the Canadian and Guatemalan governments and the World Bank. Since 2005, Goldcorp has been operating its open-pit, cyanide leaching "Marlin" mine in SMI, making multi-million dollar profits for far-away owners, shareholders and investors at the expense of local communities’ health and human rights.

The impoverished people of SMI are going to do what the Guatemalan government ought to have done before giving Goldcorp its licenses to explore and exploit mineral resources, and what the government of Canada, the World Bank and Goldcorp Inc. company ought to have insisted that the government of Guatemala do – consult with the people!

Basic Legal Requirement

National and international law requires that governments consult with and obtain the consent of peoples and communities, particularly indigenous peoples, who will be affected by economic enterprises (like mining). In Guatemala, the government has never abided by this requirement. Foreign governments (like Canada), institutions (like the World Bank) and companies (like Goldcorp Inc.) with major economic interests in Guatemala, never insist on it; they know that their "development" projects (mining, hydro-electric dams, resource extraction, large-scale tourism complexes) will likely be rejected by the populations that will be harmed; or, at a minimum, the local populations will demand stringent environmental, human rights and profit sharing conditions that global companies rarely, if ever want to agree to.

Why consult, when you can get "permission" from a few politicians behind the backs of the population, and begin your "development" project before anyone knows what is happening.

ImageActing Democratically is Dangerous

This act of democratic empowerment increases the risk of serious repercussions. Acts of repression have already been committed in association with Goldcorp Inc’s "Marlin" mine.

During the December 2004 – January 2005 road blockade of a huge piece of equipment destined for Goldcorp’s processing plant in San Marcos, the pro-mining government of President Oscar Berger ordered 1000 anti-riot police and soldiers to break up the protest leaving 2 dead and 20 hospitalized.

In March 2005, a security guard in the pay of the company left a bar one night and shot and killed a local bus driver.

In February 2007, hundreds of special police forces illegally and violently entered the homes of poor SMI farmers and detained 21 of them, based on trumped-up criminal charges related to a peaceful protest against the mine a month earlier. Local communities had organized road blocks around the mine site because the company refused to dialogue with them about providing compensation for a list of harms caused by the mining operation: forced sale of lands at shamefully low prices, damaged homes due to use of explosives, lung problems due to dust; water contamination and depletion due to mining, labor issues for mine workers, etc.

After the company refused to even discuss their grievances, company security forces attacked the community leaders (the very ones illegally detained weeks later) with rocks and sticks, firing shots over their heads. Though these attacks were properly denounced to the competent authorities—with eyewitness testimonies—no charges were filed against Goldcorp’s security guards.

The legal system is a tool of repression used, in this case, to defend the company’s interests. Thus, it is not surprising that the people of SMI told our delegation they feel more afraid after their vote to hold a community consultation; they are equally clear that they have no choice, given the extensive and continuing environmental and health harms and human rights violations that they mining operation is causing.

Much of the environmental and health harms and human rights violations have been documented in "Investing in Conflict", a report by Dawn Paley with Mining Watch and Rights Action, as well as in many other news articles and reports.

Denying Democracy

Over the past few years, many indigenous communities have held legally binding community consultations throughout Guatemala. Every time, the people have massively voted ‘no’ to large scale mining and hydroelectric dam projects in their regions. Every time, the government of Guatemala, along with the companies, investors and shareholders, have ignored the results.

The politically corrupted Constitutional Court ruled that indigenous communities have the right to carry out community consultations with respect to "development" projects and that the results are not binding! That’s like saying you have the right to vote and the results are not binding. Like saying that murder is against the law and if someone is murdered, the law prohibiting it cannot be applied.

Contentious Consultation

The SMI community consultation promises to be contentious.

Elsewhere, community consultations have been held before mining or dam projects were constructed and operating. Even then, there has been repression associated with some of these consultations.

The people of SMI will carry out their community consultation while the mine is in full operation and wealthy people and powerful institutions in North America and Guatemala are making huge profits. The price of gold is at record highs. There are millions of dollars of incentives to block or delegitimize SMI’s community consultation.

The date and details of the SMI consultation have yet to be decided. People and groups that Rights Action works with are in the planning and discussion stages with their own communities. The Traditional Indigenous leadership of SMI will play the key role in this process.

Support Needed

Firstly, funds and technical support are needed to pay for and plan the consultation process in the 59 rural villages of SMI. Rights Action has a full proposal available for institutions that might be able to provide funding.

Secondly, human rights accompaniers and international delegations will be needed as an international presence, in the weeks and months leading up to the consultation. The risk of tension and repression is high and international attention is crucial.

Thirdly, observers will be invited the day of the consultation to witness and report on the results. If indeed the people of SMI vote ‘no’ to mining in their territories, it is predictable that the company and governments of Guatemala and Canada will try and delegitimize the process and results, or ignore them altogether. Part of the responsibility of observers will be to help publish the results of the community consultation and bring pressure to bear in North America on our companies and governments to ensure respect for the democratic will of the people of San Miguel Ixtahuacan.

Grahame Russell works with Rights Action. Rights Action funds and works with community-based Indigenous, development, environment and human rights organizations in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas); and educates about and is involved in activism related to global development, environmental and Indigenous and human rights struggles.

Photos by Miguel Iriondo.

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