Barama forced to pull out of Akawini: Villagers demand compensation, or will take legal action

By Johann Earle

Guyana, South America -Barama Company Limited yesterday announced that it would begin to demobilise its equipment and close its St Monica/Akawini operation following a decision by the Akawini Village Council that the company and its sub-contractor must go.

The Village Council has, for the past several weeks, appealed for help saying that it was being taken advantage of and treated unfairly. The Amerindian Peoples' Association (APA) and the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP) had, on behalf of the people of Akawini, called on Barama and its sub-contractor Interior Woods Products Inc (IWPI) to cease all logging operations in the titled lands.

The council holds the view that Barama, which has a sub-contract to harvest on behalf of IWPI, is also complicit in the bad arrangement. Officials of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and IWPI were noticeably absent from the meeting, held at the Akawini Primary School yesterday.

Several persons holding placards met the Barama team at Akawini protesting the contractual arrangement and calling for Barama and IWPI to go.

General Manager of Barama Girwar Lalaram said at a meeting at Akawini yesterday that since the Akawini Village Council was holding fast to its position without giving a hearing to the company, he was left with no choice but to bring all operations to a close.

The village also accused Barama and IWPI of logging hardwoods in addition to the peeler logs used to make plywood. But an official from the company said that it logged "mostly" peeler logs, acknowledging that some hardwoods were cut, but to a lesser degree.

Further, the Village Council read out a list of demands to Barama. These included compensation for every log taken and for monies owed to workers. Compensation for degradation to ecosystems supporting wildlife and for loss of traditional way of life was also requested.

The Village Council said that if these demands were not met then legal action would follow.
Before he announced the end of operations, Lalaram had said that Barama would never attempt to cheat residents or deny them what is supposed to be delivered to them. He said if the residents wished, Barama would deliver on the promises made by the IWPI. According to Lalaram, IWPI was supposed to complete some social activities in the areas of health, education and recreation. "What IWPI has failed to do, Barama commits itself to delivering," Lalaram said to the villagers. "If the captain tells me what was promised, I will deliver them within a short time," he added.

According to Lalaram, at a Village Council meeting last Friday, the villagers had decided that they wanted to work out an arrangement with Barama, leaving IWPI out of the deal.

Lalaram said he was told that 54 people from the village and surrounding areas were employed by Barama and he insisted that people work in camps other then the one in St Monica, near Akawini. "I am also willing to make the investment in those people in the two villages to train them to work for Barama," Lalaram said.

The APA and GOIP said in their joint release some days ago that workers were very poorly paid, some earning as little as $17,000 per month. [Guyana dollars]

In response, Lalaram said: "On wages and salaries, I expect that Barama will not pay any person below the national minimum wage." He said too that overtime would be given to anyone who worked outside regular hours, as well as lunch allowances. He said the company would comply with all labour regulations.

"I stand firm, we will have nothing to do with IWPI. If the people decide that they don't want IWPI, then IWPI is out. I am willing to remodel the agreement between the community and Barama to reflect certain social commitments. I will provide to the children of Akawini and St Monica two computers, whether Barama continues to operate or not."

Toshao of Akawini, David Wilson asked Lalaram how long he knew of the company IWPI. Lalaram responded that he was not involved in the initial arrangement with IWPI and the Akawini Village Council. But he said he had checked at the Deeds Registry and found that the company was registered with two named directors.

Wilson said the Akawini Village Council had never seen the subcontract "and we were never consulted before IWPI entered into this subcontract with Barama."

Akawini has a timber harvesting and sales agreement with IWPI, which expressly states that IWPI could only engage the services of a sub contractor after consulting the holder, namely the Akawini Village Council.

The Village General Meeting of Akawini took a decision on February 28, 2007 to terminate the IWPI agreement because of alleged breaches.

The council said it wrote to the IWPI in March informing the company of the decision to end the agreement; no response was received.

Lalaram said the door was still open for negotiations on possible arrangements, but he decried the confrontational stance by the Akawini Village Council. He said Barama would issue a full press statement on the Akawini issue.

Article source: Stabroek News


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Remembering Puerto Ricans in Military Service

Photo provided by Jose Rivera
Jose Olivieri Rivera, father of today's essayist,
served in Puerto Rico's 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War.

Salute Latinos for defending America

(May 28, 2007) — Among those we need to remember this Memorial Day are the brave men of Puerto Rico's 65th Infanteria/Infantry Regiment who, like many others, sacrificed much to defend the American way of life.

The 65th or "Los Borinqueneers" (derived from "Boriken," the Taino Indian name for Puerto Rico) was a segregated Army unit composed of Puerto Ricans. The 65th began as an all-volunteer unit in 1899, soon after the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. government cultivated Puerto Rico as a strategic buffer in defense of U.S. interests in the region.

Then, in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act that made Puerto Rico a U.S. territory and granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship as well as the opportunity to serve in the U.S. military. He also signed the Compulsory Military Service Act, which ushered in the drafting of 20,000 Puerto Ricans into World War I. Puerto Ricans also served during World War II. However, it was during the Korean War that the 65th made its mark and saw extensive combat as part of the 3rd Army Division.

As a segregated unit, the 65th was not without challenges. My dad, Jose Olivieri Rivera, who served with the 65th during the Korean War, recently told me, the "65th Puerto Ricans themselves were segregated according to color and height, and when stateside were told to use facilities designated for 'whites' and 'Negroes' accordingly."

Nonetheless, serving in the armed forces has been an honorable tradition among many Puerto Rican families. So, I do not understand why Ken Burns' documentary series The War originally did not include interviews or information regarding the 500,000 Latinos who served during WWII.

It is time for us to recognize the significant contributions that we have all made in the defense of this country and to rewrite our textbooks and re-edit our films so that all of our young people can gain a better appreciation of the sacrifices we have all made as Americans.

In the soon-to-be-released The Borinqueneers, a documentary on the 65th Infantry, filmmaker Noemi Figueroa Soulet does provide us with a poignant account of the military history of the Puerto Rican soldier.

Through the use of rare film footage and interviews with 65th Infantry members and their American commanders, we gain a keen insight into the personalities that drove many decisions made in the field during the Korean War.

Rivera lives in Rochester.

Article Source: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.com

Seeking names

Some of the local members of the 65th Infantry or "Los Borinqueneers" include: Pedro Rodriquez (deceased), World War II and Korean War; Jose "Cheo" Cruz-Sein, (deceased), Korean War; Juan Rodríguez Flores (deceased), Korean War; Jose U. Olivieri Rivera, Korea War; Roberto Burgos Sr., World War II and Korean War.

If you have any information on other local members of the 65th Infantry, e-mail Jose Rivera at shoshin@Rochester.rr.com.


Amerindian groups call on Barama to cease Akawini logging

Guyana, South America - The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) and the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP) are calling on Barama Company Limited and Interior Woods Products Limited (IWPI) to immediately cease all logging operations in the titled lands of Akawini Amerindian Village in Pomeroon Region 2.

A release from the two groups said yesterday that Barama began logging in Akawini in February 2006 "ostensibly" on a subcontract it signed with the IWPI. According to Akawini Toshao, David Wilson, the Akawini Village Council has never seen this subcontract "and we were never consulted before IWP entered into this subcontract with Barama."

Barama was contacted by Stabroek News for a comment yesterday but up to press time there was no response.

Akawini has a timber harvesting and sales agreement with IWPI which expressly states that IWPI could only engage the services of a sub contractor after consulting the holder, namely the Akawini Village Council.

The press release said that the Village General Meeting (VGM) of Akawini which is the highest decision making forum for the village under the law took a decision on February 28, 2007 to terminate the IWPI agreement because of alleged breaches by the IWPI. The Village Council has since March of this year written to IWPI informing the company of the decision of the VGM to end the agreement. The council has to date received no response and the logging continues unabated. In the agreement between IWPI and Akawini, the release said, the postal address of IWPI is a home address and it has no stated telephone or fax number or email address.

"In reality, IWPI is a faceless company which strongly suggests that it is a shell or front company of Barama," the release said.

In early May, the APA represented by David James, attorney-at-law and Toshao David Wilson were invited by Swiss NGOs Bruno Manser Fonds and Society for Threatened Peoples to meet with officials of Credit Suisse and Samling Global Group of Malaysia.

The release said that at the meeting in Zurich, James and Wilson informed the officials of Credit Suisse and Samling that Barama through its purported subcontract with IWPI, is unsustainably logging the last remaining forest of the Akawini Village and in the process threatens the livelihood and violates the rights of indigenous people living there.

At the Zurich meeting, according to the release, Cheryl Yong, Communications Manager of Samling said that 55 persons from Akawini were employed with Barama. Toshao Wilson categorically refuted this and said that there are fewer than 12 persons employed by Barama who work for $17,000 a month. He also told the meeting that Barama/IWPI harvest over 20 different species of hardwood in Akawini and that Yong stated Barama only cuts peeler logs which have no commercial value to locals.

According to the release, Barama's April 2007 production report in Akawini shows that 92 pieces of Purple Heart, 31 pieces of Mora, 60 pieces of Locust, 44 pieces of Kabucalli and 92 pieces of Bulletwood amounting to 1,587 cubic metres of hardwood were harvested.

The APA and GOIP are calling on the Government of Guyana to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guyana and in particular the people of Akawini.




Alternative Viewpoint:

"These groups are wrong to call on Barama to cease operations in Akawini village lands"

See http://www.stabroeknews.com/index.pl/article?id=56521171


U.N. panel says indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of climate change

Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Indigenous people around the world are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of climate change, which will threaten their traditional cultures as glaciers melt, ocean temperatures increase and coral reefs disappear, panel members said at a U.N. discussion of biodiversity.

The loss of biodiversity to climate change will hit indigenous people hardest, John Scott, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity said Tuesday.

"Indigenous and local communities ... will bear the brunt of this catastrophe because of their close association with their lands and waters," said Scott said.

The panel marking the U.N.'s International Biodiversity Day included a reindeer herder from Norway and members of indigenous groups from Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Hindu Kush mountain range that straddles the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Panelists spoke of melting glaciers, rising ocean temperatures, avalanches, and the depletion of coral reefs as devastating to their social and cultural traditions.

Lakshan Bibi, of the Hindu Kush, said her people were affected by the air traffic from recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which had greatly increased pollution in the area.

A draft report circulated in April by the convention focused on the negative effects of climate change on indigenous people in the Arctic region, small island states, and high-altitude areas, and recommended further research.

The report also recommends, however, that the environmental knowledge of indigenous people be used to help mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Scott said that indigenous farmers in the Andes mountains in Peru have introduced potatoes that can withstand drought, frost and other extreme weather conditions.

"Traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities can play an important role in adaptation to climate change and its potential has yet to be fully explored," said Scott.

Roberto Borrero, of the Taino people in Puerto Rico, said that traditional-minded people have closer relationships to nature and more respect for the environment.

"I don't think it was an indigenous person who created pesticides, nuclear bombs or anything else of a destructive nature," said Borrero. "We need somebody with a traditional mind and attitude, or somebody who respects their environment as equally as they do their family."



Press Conference by Representatives of Indigenous Peoples: John Scott (right) from the Secretariat of the Convention of Biodiversity, addresses a press conference to brief correspondents on the indigenous peoples' vulnerability to climate change, at UN Headquarters in New York. With him are (left to right) Malia Nobrega from Hawai, Lakhan Bibi from Hindu Kush, Roberto Borrero, Taino from Puerto Rico, and Mattias Ahren, a Saami from Norway. Location: United Nations, New York. Date: 22 May 2007

Indigenous and tribal peoples -- especially those living on slowly sinking small islands and in increasingly polluted mountain ranges -- were now the “human face” of the devastating effects of global warming, and the traditional knowledge that their communities possessed should be tapped in the search for answers on how to craft an international response to climate change, an official from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity told reporters…

See the full story at:

*See the 22 May 2007 Archived Video at:


Indigenous Peoples Address Ways to Ensure Participation

Excerpt from United Nations Press Release on 22 May 2007:

MILDRED GANDIA REYES, representing the Indigenous Caucus of the Greater Caribbean, said her organization had submitted recommendations at other sessions, but had received no follow-up. She asked the Forum to urge the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to support the recovery of Caribbean heritage, culture and writings, and, further, to sponsor special regional meetings with indigenous experts as it worked with endangered education.

She pressed States and UNESCO to provide resources to develop language and cultural exchange programmes, in order to support ancient languages that had been virtually wiped out by dominant languages. Further, she encouraged States, including Puerto Rico, to review public education material and remove erroneous historical accounts that had rendered indigenous peoples invisible, or had misrepresented them in any way. She asked Caribbean States, particularly Puerto Rico, to work with indigenous Caribbean islanders to promote indigenous human rights and ensure that Constitutions recognized them, as such. She urged the Association of Caribbean States, the Rio Group and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish a special regional fund for indigenous representatives, so they are able to attend Forum events throughout the Second Decade.

To review the full statement presented at the United Nations visit:


Study to Protect Endemic Species in Cuba

Ciego de Avila, May 20 (Prensa Latina) - The enterprise of Flora and Fauna of Ciego de Avila province, together with other institutions are carrying out a study of endemic species and those in risk of extinction to help in their conservation.

The probe begun three years ago, is being carried out in keys Ana Maria, south of the Cuban archipelago, to facilitate a controlled management of that protected area of national interest.

Oriol López, director of Ana María keys, explained that the investigation helps to monitor the geographical distribution of animals, their state of health and make a population count of pink flamingos, pelicans, hutias, coruas, birds and ducks.

They are also monitoring tour types of chelonia, threatened and sought after in the world, mostly the carey (see photo) which lays its eggs, about 90-120 at one time in islets with sand and vegetation.

The Ana Maria keys, with 119 thousand hectares spread over 40 islets in formation covered with mangles, is the habitat of animals using the Ciego de Avila corridor in different seasons of the year.


An Elder Passes into the Spirit World...

The UCTP pauses to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of Elder don Teodoro Lugo Serrano who passed into the Spirit World on Thursday 17 May 2007... We know that our ancestors have welcomed him home...

Elder don Teodoro Lugo Serrano is the father of Kasica Elba Anaka Lugo, President of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos.

For those who would like to send a condolence card or donation to the family, please send all correspondence to:

Elba Anaka Lugo
HC 61 Buzon #5075
Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico 00976


Indigenous Peoples All But Forgotten During World Telecommunication and Information Society Day*

New York, NY (UCTP News) - At an event organized by the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) entitled “Tale of Two Worlds: Keeping Pace with a Moving Target” representatives of governments and UN agencies, along with civil society and industry executives met to share diverse perspectives on the occasion of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2007.

The event included not only a message from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon but also a message from Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and opening remarks by Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary General, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The opening remarks, welcoming statements and keynote addresses were followed by two sessions, one focusing on “Visions of a Connected Future” and the other on “Universal Access.”

Indigenous Peoples were brought to the forefront of the session in comments made by Roberto Múcaro Borrero (Taino) who was representing the International Indigenous ICT Task Force (IITF). Borrero informed the panel that the IITF was an indigenous initiative with a mandate to follow-up on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). He also noted that while indigenous peoples were a “major group” represented throughout the WSIS processes they were relatively “invisible” from all official follow-up mechanisms.

Offering a recent example, Borrero pointed out the lack of indigenous presence in the GAID publication “Foundations of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development.” He also stated that “transparency, inclusion, and genuine partnerships” were essential to follow-up initiatives. He then asked the panel, which included Mr. Sarbuland Khan, the Executive Coordinator of GAID, “How can we be speaking about the future when we cannot even communicate in the present?”

Borrero then noted the willingness of the IITF to share information such as the May 21 launching of a new international indigenous portal developed by Indigenous Peoples at the sixth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues but consistent outreach to GAID and the ITU yielded no response.

In direct response to Borrero’s comments, Mr. Sarbuland Khan, assured him and all those gathered that GAID was indeed interested in working with Indigenous Peoples and particularly the IITF. He stressed the networking potential being developed by GAID and hoped that the IITF would be come a part of the GAID “family.”

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is observed annually on 17 May and marks the anniversary of the signature of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union. World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated since 1969.

Related Stories:

UCTP President Returns from UN Summit in Africa


United Nations to Hold Information Summit

For information on the IITF visit


Two-Week Session on Indigenous Issues Opens at United Nations

New York, NY (UCTP News) - As delicate ecosystems supporting millions of lives hang in the balance, indigenous representatives from around the globe began a two-week session of discussions on Monday, May 14 with top United Nations officials, Government representatives and members of civil society to highlight the struggle to defend their rights to access and use the land and natural resources in their territories.

The sixth session was opened with an invocation from Tracy L. Shenandoah, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Eel Clan. Acknowledging “red willow” as the leader of medicines, Shenadoah said the “ the Creator had planted medicines, including berries, for people to use." He also gave thanks to the birds, especially the eagle, and to the “three sisters of all foods: corn, beans and squash.” Shenandoah also gave thanks to the waters for their help in creating peace. His statement was followed by a performance by the Laihui cultural group from Manipur, India.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, addressed those gathered by stating “without access to and respect for the rights over their lands, territories and natural resources, indigenous peoples’ distinct cultures -- and the possibility of determining their on development -- become eroded.”

Highlighting new developments, Tauli-Corpuz stated that one of the major thrusts for 2007 would be to press for the General Assembly’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by the Human Rights Council last year. Indigenous peoples worldwide had been “deeply disappointed” by the Assembly’s decision to defer action on the Declaration last year. Noting that amendments had been made to the text in the meantime, she said that every effort should be made to ensure that what was put before the Assembly was the Council-approved version, not one “which mangled the Declaration beyond recognition.” “The fate of this Declaration is in your hands and the Governments who are here today,” she said.

Among the many expert presentations and reports by representatives on United Nations agencies and Funds, Erica-Irene A. Daes, of Greece, an elected member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations and Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People’s Land Rights, said one of the most acute and complex situations facing the world’s indigenous peoples was the refusal by certain Governments to promote and protect their rights to land and natural resources. To understand the profound relationship of indigenous peoples to their lands and natural resources, cultural differences between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples should be recognized.

The doctrines of dispossession that had emerged in developing modern international law, particularly the concepts of “terra nullius” and “discovery”, had well-known adverse effects on indigenous peoples, she continued. Other problems included the State’s failure to acknowledge indigenous rights to territories lands and resources; to demarcate indigenous lands; to enforce or implement laws protecting indigenous lands; and the State’s expropriation of indigenous lands for national interest without the prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. Also, the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources and the scope of indigenous peoples’ right to own, develop and manage their territories, lands and resources, should be reviewed, she added.

Among the participants attending the meeting, Chief Reginaldo Fredericks of the Joboshirima Lokono Arawak Community of Venezuela noted the importance of meeting stating “it is critical for us as Indigenous Peoples to follow-up on the recommendations made and report on these activities to our peoples.”

Chief Fredericks is a member of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean, which forms annually at the UN meeting to lobby Caribbean indigenous issues.

Caribbean indigenous delegates also participated along with indigenous representatives of other regions at a rally in support of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Speaking on behalf of indigenous leaders from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Trinidad, Guyana, Venezuela, and Barbados, UCTP President and Chairman Roberto Mucaro Borrero reaffirmed their support of the Declaration as adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2006.

Also in attendance at the session, Taino artists John Marrero and Reina Miranda joined UCTP delegates Mildred Gandia and Borrero at the opening of the special art exhibition, which would run through the Forum. Selected works of Marrero and Miranda were on display along with various works of Lokono and Taino artists: George Simon, Mildred Torres-Speeg and Naniki Reyes Ocasio.

The Forum’s sixth session will run through 25 May and will consider solutions to end the senseless exploitation of traditional lands and natural resources, a key issue at the heart of indigenous people’s efforts to gain recognition of their rights.

UCTP delegates at the UN, (from left to right) Reina Miranda,
Roberto Borrero, Mainaku Borrero, John Marrero,
and Mildred Gandia. (UCTP Photo)


Brazil's Indians offended by Pope comments

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict's "arrogant and disrespectful" comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and a revival of their religions would be a backward step.

In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were "silently longing" for Christianity, he said.

Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.

Many Indians today struggle for survival, stripped of their traditional ways of life and excluded from society.

"It's arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs," said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab.

Several Indian groups sent a letter to the Pope last week asking for his support in defending their ancestral lands and culture. They said the Indians had suffered a "process of genocide" since the first European colonizers had arrived.

Priests blessed conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples, although some later defended them and many today are the most vociferous allies of Indians.

"The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians but they already asked forgiveness for that ... so is the Pope taking back the Church's word?" said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state.

Pope John Paul spoke in 1992 of mistakes in the evangelization of native peoples of the Americas.

Pope Benedict not only upset many Indians but also Catholic priests who have joined their struggle, said Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes.

"We repudiate the Pope's comments," Tuxa said. "To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening.

"I think (the Pope) has been poorly advised."

Even the Catholic Church's own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope.

"The Pope doesn't understand the reality of the Indians here, his statement was wrong and indefensible," Cimi advisor Father Paulo Suess told Reuters. "I too was upset."



United Nations, NY (UCTP Taino News) - Taino representaives participate in a rally in support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples held during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 14, 2007. The action was hosted by the North America Regional Indigenous Peoples' Caucus at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (East 47th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues) and the Master of Ceremonies was Roberto Mucaro Borrero (Taino).

Photo: Taino delegates - Maria Diaz, Inarunikia Pastrano, Roberto Mucaro Borrero, and Mildred Gandia


Caribbean Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

New York, NY (UCTP News) - Over 2000 Indigenous Peoples' representatives from all regions of the world will converge on the United Nations this week to engage senior government officials, UN agency representatives, civil society, and academia at the 6th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 14-25 May, 2006. The theme of the session is land, territories, and natural resources. Approximately 60 special events are also scheduled.
This year's theme goes right to the heart of indigenous peoples' efforts to gain recognition for their rights.

"With the increasing desire of states for more economic growth, senseless exploitation of indigenous peoples' territories and resources continues unabated," said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

She further stated that the majority of the world's remaining natural resources “minerals, freshwater, potential energy sources and more - are found within indigenous peoples' territories. Access to and ownership and development of these resources remains a contentious issue."

Although in recent decades some progress has been made in the area of legal recognition of indigenous peoples' rights to the protection and control of their lands, territories and natural resources, in practical terms this recognition has not always translated into reality. Threats to indigenous peoples' lands and territories include such things as mineral extraction, logging, environmental contamination, privatization and development projects, the classification of lands as protected areas or game reserves, the use of genetically modified seeds and technology and monoculture cash crop production.

Among the hundreds of indigenous representatives attending the session, a delegation of Indigenous Peoples from the Greater Caribbean will attend the session and include representatives of the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP), Caney Quinto Mundo, Joboshirima Lokono Arawak Community, Presencia Taína, and KuKarey Taino Spiritual Circle among others.

UCTP President and Chairperson of the NGO Committee on the UN International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Roberto Múcaro Borrero will have the honor to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the Forum’s opening Cultural Event and Art Exhibition inauguration on Tuesday 16 May, 2006. This special event will also feature a special performance by celebrated Grammy Award-winning Native American singer/songwriter Joanne Shenandoah.

The art exhibition will feature an incredible array of indigenous art works and photography from around the world including celebrated artists from the Taíno and Lokono Arawak communities such as George Simon (Lokono), Mildred Torres-Speeg (Taíno), Naniki Reyes Ocasio (Taíno), John "Aguilar" Marrero (Taíno), and Reina Miranda (Taíno).

A side event focusing on the Caribbean Indigenous Peoples is also scheduled during the second week of the session as well as a follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The WSIS follow-up event is hosted by the International Indigenous ICT Task Force and will highlight the launch of a new international indigenous portal, which will serve to educate the public about indigenous peoples from around the world including the Caribbean.

"The UN Permanent Forum is a unique venue where indigenous peoples’ concerns can be heard and discussed with governments, the UN and civil society," said Elissavet Stamatopoulou, Chief of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Estimates point to more than 370 million indigenous peoples in some 70 countries worldwide. While they are from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds, they share commonalities such as: lack of basic healthcare; limited access to education; loss of control over land; abject poverty; displacement; human rights violations; and economic and social marginalization.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 2000. The Forum was called upon to provide expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the UN system through the Council; raise awareness and promote the integration and coordination of relevant activities within the UN system; and disseminate information on indigenous issues.
See also:


Indigenous Training Session Includes Caribbean Indigenous Peoples

United Nations (UCTP Taino News) - Sponsored by the Tribal Link Foundation in partnership with the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous activists from around the world were selected to participate in the 2007 Project Access training session. The trainees included Mildred Gandia (Taino) and Reginaldo Fredericks (Lokono Arawak) and activities coincided with the preceding the Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City.


Sweet potato - the perfect food?

By Laurel Robinson, Dietician

In the Highlands in Papua New Guinea, the wealth of a man is determined by the number of sweet potatoes in his garden patch ... the one tended by his wife. The man with the most potatoes is the most powerful in the tribe.

The sweet potato is a native American plant found by Columbus. The genus Ipomoea that contains the sweet potato also includes several garden flowers called morning glories.

Early Spanish explorers are believed to have taken the sweet potato to the Philippines and East Indies, from there it was soon carried to India, China and Malaya by Portuguese voyagers. In Asia the American origin of the plant was long overlooked, many believing it native to southern and southeastern Asia.

The sweet potato is far more important in these subtropical and tropical areas than is the Irish potato because it thrives in a hot, moist climate, while the latter requires a cool climate. It is prevalent as a food source in the warm Pacific islands, the East Indies, India, China, and is now the third most important food crop in Japan.

Ipomoea batatas - “batata” being the original Taino name, hence “potato” - is the Latin name for the sweet potato. It is commonly called a yam in parts of the United States. It's distant cousin, the true yam is of the genus Dioscorea, and is rarely seen in the U.S. and Canada but is a staple in tropical regions, where they can grow up to seven feet in length.

One baked sweet potato (3 1/2 ounce serving) provides about twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, yet it contains only 141 calories, making it valuable for the weight watcher. This vegetable provides 42 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, 6 percent of the RDA for calcium, 10 percent of the RDA for iron and 8 percent of the RDA for thiamine for healthy adults. It is low in sodium and is a good source of fiber and other important vitamins and minerals. A complex carbohydrate food source, it provides beta carotene, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers. Despite the name “sweet,” it is actually a good food for diabetics, as preliminary studies on animals have revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance.

In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. According to these criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points over the next on the list, the common potato.

Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh have more vitamin A than those with light colored flesh.

Culinary Uses

When buying sweet potatoes, select sound, firm roots. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising. Store in a dry, unrefrigerated bin kept at 55-60 degrees. Do not refrigerate, because temperatures below 55 degrees will chill this tropical vegetable, giving it a hard core and an undesirable taste when cooked.

Wash cured sweet potatoes and bake in a baking pan until slightly soft for about an hour, here at altitude. Eat hot or refrigerate and eat cold or at room temperature with butter and salt. You can also eat them mashed as you would a white potato.

In South America, the juice of red sweet potatoes is combined with lime juice to make a dye for cloth. By varying the proportions of the juices, every shade from pink to purple to black can be obtained.

A unique variety of sweet potato grown in New Zealand, originally grown by the indigenous Maori, is the kumara, a red/purple variety with a unique flavor due to its isolation from other varieties.

Those Papuans ain't so crazy after all.

Laurel Robinson is a trained Dietitian who also practices NLP, a type of pro-active psychotherapy. She runs seasonal group cleansing classes in the spring and fall, and is available for private nutritional and weight-loss coaching, cleansing programs or eating-related psychotherapy at her office on Main Street. “Food Fore Thought” 708-0356.


U.N. Permanent Forum names North American representative

by: Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

NEW YORK - Tonya Gonnella Frichner, an impassioned advocate for the rights of more than 370 million indigenous peoples in some 70 countries worldwide, has been named the North American representative to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Frichner is the founder and president of the American Indian Law Alliance and the vice chair of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, both nonprofit indigenous organizations dedicated to supporting, promoting and maintaining sovereignty, human rights and social justice for indigenous peoples through advocacy, grants, training, technical assistance and other assistance.

A citizen of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, Frichner is widely known for her dedicated work as an attorney, educator, advocate and longtime leader on behalf of indigenous peoples' rights throughout North America and beyond.

Born and raised in the Onondaga's traditional territories (what is now known as New York state), Frichner was imbued with and shaped by her people's history and culture, which she then applied through two decades of work in the United Nations and other international forums.

''Her life has been guided and defined by the rich international advocacy heritage of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, as well as by the excellent oratory and critical thinking skills she learned directly from her mother and family, and her chiefs and clan mothers whose ancestors were the first Indigenous Nation to execute a treaty with the new United States in 1776,'' Christopher Peters, president of Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, said in a prepared statement.

Frichner's legacy has impressed her with the power and importance of an indigenous presence in international relations, and of the critical significance of treaty rights and obligations between nation states and indigenous nations, Peters said.

''Clearly, such a perspective will be of great benefit to her new role in the U.N. Permanent Forum,'' Peters said.

The U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

The forum is the United Nation's central coordinating body for matters relating to the concerns and rights of the world's indigenous peoples. The forum holds annual two-week sessions in New York and Geneva.

Frichner's three-year term will begin Jan. 8, 2008, and run until December 2010, a period in which the struggle for the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the U.N. General Assembly will continue to take center stage.

Frichner is committed to the declaration's adoption.

''This document is built of the sweat and tears of indigenous peoples, and when adopted, it will provide hope and optimism for meaningful change for our peoples throughout the world,'' Frichner said in a statement announcing her election as representative to the forum.

The declaration was finalized last year at the forum's fifth session and adopted by the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, but last fall the general assembly failed to adopt what has been called ''the most important international instrument for the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples'' by Roberto Mucaro Borrero, of the Indigenous Peoples' Caucus, and chair of the NGO Committee on the Decade of the World's Indigenous People.

During last fall's session, a group of African states, many of which had chosen not to participate during 24 years of negotiating the declaration, blocked its adoption by voting to hold more ''consultations'' about the document. The move was made with the support and encouragement of New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the United States. These opponents are all countries with large populations of indigenous peoples who own significant land and resources, including more than 560 federally recognized tribes in the United States.

The sixth session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will take place at the United Nations in New York May 14 - 25. This year's special theme is Territories, Lands and Natural Resources.


VENEZUELA: The Gift of Native Tongues, On the Air

by Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, May 4 (IPS) - Eiker García and Nelson Maldonado took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly, producing a long "mmm" sound, following the instructions of the professional radio presenter who was giving them breathing and elocution lessons.

García and Maldonado are young Ye'kuana Indians from the Watamo and La Esmeralda communities in the Amazon rainforest some 800 kilometres south of Caracas, where one of eight indigenous community radio stations, networked with the public Venezuelan National Radio (RNV) station, is to be installed later this year.

"We're learning to overcome our fear of the microphone and how to conduct interviews," García told IPS during a break in the lessons. He was still enjoying the excitement caused by his first airplane flight.

Maldonado told IPS that very few of their people were qualified for this work. "The community sent us on this first course because we are cultural promoters back home," he said.

Twenty-one young people from 10 different indigenous groups, nearly all of them from remote border regions, participated in the short introductory course on radio broadcasting in late April, in preparation for the installation of the radio stations next October.

The course was provided by the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL).

"CONATEL will assign the frequencies and provide the transmitters and other necessary equipment to instal eight FM stations, and will also give support in technical and management aspects to guide those responsible for the facilities," general services manager for CONATEL Wilfredo Morales told IPS.

RNV director Helena Salcedo said the public station has carried out trial broadcasts in indigenous languages, using its repeaters in border zones.

"The new stations will help indigenous people recover and preserve their culture, and to recognise it and value it for themselves," Salcedo told IPS.

Some parts of the country do not receive any Venezuelan radio signal at all.

Maldonado said that in the backwater of La Esmeralda, where his community is located, people can only tune in to Radio Casiquiare (the name of a river in the Amazon region), which retransmits broadcasts from government radio stations and is operated by members of the military.

In Páez, a municipality in the extreme northwest of Venezuela, between the gulf of Venezuela and the Colombian gulf of Guajira, "you can easily pick up Colombian television channels, but not Venezuelan ones," María Alejandra González, a young Wayúu woman who is studying journalism and took the CONATEL course, told IPS.

"Throughout the Guajira peninsula (most of which falls within Colombian territory but a small part of which belongs to Venezuela) we can listen to the Fe y Alegría radio station, which transmits in Wayunáiki (the language of the Wayúu, or Guajiro, people) and their news programmes cover events on both sides of the border," said González.

Fe y Alegría is a Catholic organisation, with radio stations in several parts of both Colombia and Venezuela.

González believes that the new indigenous radio station, further south where the Bari, Yucpa and Japreira peoples live, will be able to profit from the existing experience of Fe y Alegría's indigenous language radio station, especially the way it has taken up the concerns, claims and proposals of the indigenous communities.

"We also want to follow their example by creating an Indigenous Radiophonic Institute, like Fe y Alegría's but based on the new indigenous community radio stations," said Wayúu activist Anairú Canbar, who is part of the team leading the recently created Indigenous Peoples Ministry.

The eight radio stations "will begin by broadcasting in the languages of the communities where they are based, but later there will also be programmes to reach other communities within broadcasting range, in their own languages, as far as possible," Canbar said.

García is one of those preparing for the multilingual phase of the radio stations. His mother tongue is Ye'kuana, but he also speaks the language of a neighbouring indigenous community, the Yanomami people.

"We want to identify and train indigenous information workers in all the communities, to work as journalists and send their reports by radio, or by telephone to the radio stations, to provide material for indigenous newscasts, which will then interact on the network," Canbar said.

Funding for setting up the indigenous radio stations is being provided by the Information Ministry, as part of its programme for supporting community radio. CONATEL has registered 192 community stations so far. The Information Ministry also has oversight of the Venezuelan National Radio station.

CONATEL's Morales did not mention specific figures, but he said that "the investments are neither large nor costly in comparison with the service they will provide by empowering indigenous communities."

That is what young people like García and Maldonado are learning new skills for. "Get ready to project your voice," said their instructor as he gave them the microphone. "All Venezuela is listening to you now." At least a part of it will be listening, when the first of the indigenous community stations comes on air.

The planned date for this event is October 12, in many countries officially known as Columbus Day, but now celebrated by original peoples as Indigenous People's Resistance Day.


UNPFII Prep-Meeting: UCTP Reps. meet with North American Indigenous Leaders

Minneapolis, MN (UCTP Taino News) – The North America Region Preparatory Meeting for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 6th session took place at the University of Minnesota Law School Human Rights Center from April 21-22, 2007.

Indigenous leaders from throughout the region met to discuss the Permanent Forum’s theme 2007 theme - Land, Territories and Natural Resources. The meeting highlighted many critical issues, struggles and perspectives on the theme of Land and Natural Resources from the region and the preparatory meeting provided the opportunity for leaders to share important information as well as regional positions and recommendations on key issues. A strong focus on Treaties was put forth and there was a consensus on including the recommendations from the UN Seminar on Treaties and Agreements that was held in Samson Cree Nation in November 2006 in joint statements.

Among the participants attending this important gathering, representatives of the United Confederation of Taino People had the honor to attend and provide input to the discussions.

“This was an important opportunity to strengthen our networks of solidarity and to help raise awareness of Caribbean indigenous issues among our North American relatives” started UCTP representative Roberto Mucaro Borrero. The Taino delegation also included Liza O’Reilly and Cheyenne Velazquez who are both UCTP Liaison Officers in the State of Minnesota.

As the meeting was held in the Minneapolis area, the Minneapolis Indian Community organized a special reception/pow wow at the Minneapolis Indian Center in honor of the delegates and their work at the international level for Indigenous Peoples. At the reception/pow wow, the delegates of the preparatory meeting were introduced to the local community and were invited to address those gathered.

The 6th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum takes place from May 14-25 2007 at UN Headquarters in New York.

UCTP Taino News Online Editor's Note: To review the final report of the North American Preparatory Meeting, a pdf file is located at North American Region Preparatory Meeting for the United Nations or you can View as HTML . Courtesy of www.hrusa.org/workshops/prepsession2007/resources/Final%20Report.pdf