This message is to spread the news that in Geneyes-sur-Coffrane, Switzerland, a conference of European support groups for North American indigenous peoples started today, Sunday July 30. The conference is being organized by Inocmindios, Switzerland, Big Mountain Action Group, Germany and AKIN, Austria. These are the minutes I took during the opening session this morning:
Oliver Kluge, Big Mountain Aktionsgruppe
We officially welcome you to the Euromeeting '95 - the Planning Session of Support Groups of North American Indigenous PeopleS. 24 organizations from 10 different European countries have already registered:
Amnesty International, Germany
Arbeitskreis Indianer Heute, Germany
Big Mountain Aktionsgruppe, Germany
For Mother Earth, Belgium
ATD Forth World, Switzerland
Society for threatened peoples, Germany
Hopi Arbeitsgruppe, Switzerland
Indian Support Group Cologne, Germany
Individual observer from Poland
Nederlands Centrum voor Inheemse Volken, Netherlands
Innu Support Group, Netherlands
Arawak Indians private observer, Great Britain
Ombre Rosse, Radio Onda Rossa radio station, Italy
Sacred Eye film production, Germany
Friend of people close to nature, Germany
Soconas Incomindios, Italy
Verein zur Unterstutzung nordamerikanischer Indianer, Germany
In particular, we welcome the indigenous representatives from the US, Canada and Hawaii. Dionys Zink: The indigenous representatives will introduce themselves:
Mary Ellen, is from Heart Butte, Montana and she is here with Floyd Heavy Runner
Mary Ellen: Good morning. My name is Mary Ellen Little Moustache. I do the technical stuff when working for/with Floyd. It is good to see the support, this is an experience.
Floyd Heavy Runner: My name is Floyd Heavy Runner. It all started in '89 in Geneva. We are representatives to protect our Blackfoot sacred lands, to keep our land the way it is. We have battles against multinational oil companies. People looking for fossile fuels damage the land. Since '89 we hoped that it would get better, but it didn't. We have people pro western development and people that want to keep the tradional ways.
Marlene Laroque: My name is Marlene Laroque. I live in Saskatoon, I am a Cree indian. Do not only focus on Uranium minig, because there are many issues connected to it.
Doreen Spence: My name is Doreen Spence, under which I am known in the western world. My grand mother said, a time would come to speak out. When I was little, this was not possilbly, because teaching was not possible. So I became a volunteer on women issues and issues connected to colonization. I work from a holistic perspective. One of the real issues back home is the new regulations with gun control. This will affect many people hunting.
Donna Johns from Hawaii: My name is Napua, Child of the Flowers. I came here to observe my brothers and sisters here. After travelling thousands of miles to Geneva, I figured it was not so hard to travel the addtional miles here. In Hawaii, the women have the second biggest breast cancer rate in the world. The US government denies us the right to self determination, although they illegally took over the land.
My name is Samantha Rainbow. I am from South Dakota. I grew up in the Black Hills Paha Sapa. I came on behalf of some elders that could not make the journey, to look what is going on in the international arena. I study water issues. Kevin Costner wants to pump a large quantity of water for a golf course.
My name is Reinie Jobin from the Lubicon Cree. Daishowa, a japanese pulp mill is going to destroy our forests. It is our land, we never sold it to anybody. Unocal, an American gas and oil multinational, played havoc with the health of our people. They opened a gas plant on our land. All issues are still not resolved in the court system. We have racism in our country, we had to stand up for the last 300 to 400 years. To this day the genocide is not over. We are in a very sorry state. We need a lot of help, our fight is not over. Even if we do a land settlement, we have to fight Daishowa and Unocal.
Frank Dreaver and Michael Eckhardt representing Leonard Peltier Defense Committee organization: I am Frank Dreaver and I am a Saskatchewan Cree. We as Indian people are born into the struggle. That we are still the only ones not recognized as peoples is proof of that. Leonard Peltier is an extreme example of what happens when all things fail. We have highest death rates, the highest this and that. All of us who are concerned of what happens, are aware that to everyone could happen the same things that happened to Leonard Peltier. It is important to continue the struggle. Leonard Peltier represents all issues, including Uranium mining. We bring our solidarity to Leonard Peltier. Leonard's case represents the last stage before complete destruction. It's the priciples of our identity that we are protecting here.
Greetings, I am Michael Eckhardt. I am a non-indigenous member of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committe. I come from Ohio and I am responsible for six states within the committee. We want to present Leonards case in a way it has not been presented before. I come here with the knowledge to dicuss the case. Our efforts which I hope will become common efforts, have been stepped up. I come in the spirit of putting my motions, my feelings and my heart in front of people I mostly do not know. The Peltier struggle represent land rights, fishing rights, sovereignty among other rights. We want to open up channnels of communication.
Edison Cassadore from the San Carlos Apache reservation is next.
I am here to talk about the defense of the sacred site of Mount Graham, which is threatened by a consortium to build a telescope there, which would be desecration. They never consulted the Elders, although they claim that they did. The project - an example of neo-colonial domination and white supremacy-thinking - is funded extensively with European money (e.g. Max-Planck- Institute, Vatican and others). All issues are connected, all of us here fight the same thing. We want to get the UN to move during its decade of indigenous peoples. We should pressure the UN to have a legally binding convention.
I am Robert Cruz, Papago. Indian prisoner rights are an issue. They are being denied their religious freedom. A white person interpreting Indian religion is not acceptable. Laws on land regulations are being changed by Mexico because of NAFTA. North of Sonora, at the US- Mexican border, we have to deal with seven different agencies (FBI, secret services, county and sheriff departments...). But our law is still violated. Non- Indians are being helped to get Indian lands. I want to help the Eurpean supporters help us. I seems that we have been silent too long. We haven't been so active after the 1970s and becoming more active will help people back home.
My name is Daniel Zapata. I am Chicano-XiXimeka. This is the first time I came here, and I represent the people of Black Mesa: The Dene communites of Cactus Valley, Forrest Lake and While Willow. Among others, Peabody coal is threatening the land and the people. For a long time, I have been trying to help the community. The law for relocating the Dene people is something that has to be questioned. The way to mine in the area by Lord Hanson's company is something that has to be questioned. This is why Dene elders have the right to question authority and travel to Lord Hanson shareholders' meetings to express their view.
Monika Seiller: Euromeetings normally focus on specific cases to which the European support groups plan actions and campaigns. However, we need an overall direction of what is going on in North America. This is why we have invited Tony Gonzalez , Sari (IITC) to give us a broad overview on the situation of the indigenous peoples living within the borders of the US.
US assessment report:
Good morning. A little bit of history first: As a result of Wounded Knee Indian people came to Switzerland to seek assistance to gain world attention. In 1977 there was the first indigenous conference and the IITC was the first indigenous organization to receive UN-consultative status in 1977. Incomindios was the first support organization to be created by native peoples using the logo of the IITC.The aim was to set up international committees for the indians of the Americas (=Incomindios) in all Eurpean countries. After I returned from Vietnam war, I had to do a lot of healing. IITC helped and I was with them. I am still learning. The IITC received a substantial grant to provide training and leadership on international laws and standards of indigenous peoples in the Americas. Now we are working out a program for this. Some of you might ask "what is the International Indian Treaty Council"? We work at the UN to develop standards for the protection of indigenous peoples, inventing mechanisms for the implementation of these standards. Proceeds for complaints have to be developed. We are achieving a lot of good work, but work has to be looked over many years to see what acutally has been done. We are also concerned with nuclear effects on people. High and low level radioactive waste is a big problem today, as native reservations are targeted to become the toxic and radioactive dump sites for the waste of white civilization.
California: There has been a military base with Minuteman rockets, and there has been fear that it would affect people. In New Mexico once a bomber airplane crashed on the land, and the effects were drastic to the neighboring Zuni people. The Mohave should take up nuclear waste which would endanger the quality of the Colorado river. Alaska: An oil pipeline was planned down to Valdez, which would threaten wildlife, namely the arctic wildlife refuge. Currently there is a bill in Congress to open up the country. Tourism may be the first stage of taking over the country step by step. Developers sell real estate at higher prices where they know artifacts may be some feet under ground. NAFTA absolutely removes all sovereignty from indigenous peoples when it comes to resources. Sovereign rights are being minimized. Chiapas: The Zapatistas in Chiapas have put up an international questionnaire we like everyone of you to fill in. They want to know whether they have the right to stand up as an independent political force supported by the native population (revolutions are not static, you have to keep on moving).
With regard to Mexico: Are you aware of the massacre in Guerrero? The mexican army is being mobilized to get into the area of Guerrero, like in Chiapas. Back in the US again, the US have signed the UN convention on the rights of the child, but did not yet ratify it. It would reinforce the Indian Child Welfare Act (73). It may positively affect the rights of Indian childs, but the US may reduce these effects. In Montana there is a strong militia force. In some area they are pro Indian, and in some they are not. We have to be very conscious of those racist militias. Beware, people that are talking of home stability are not indigenous.
Another topic: Mass media. After Dances with Wolves, which did serve some good, there are many Hollywood productions that have problems portraying Indians correctly. Unless we can write the script ourselves, there won't be a correct representation. Disney currently has "Pocahontas" running, which is a very racist movie.
The mascot issues is still going on. In the sports arena fierce looking, racist mascots and logos (e.g. Redskins) are used, and this is just plain racist. As you may be aware, in Round Valley a policeman was shot and an Indian man being shot and killed. Now there is a massive man hunt for a man known as Bear in his community. He may be a witness of the crime and he now fears for his life, so he will be hiding. In the US affirmative action is part of the Civil Rights Movement. People of colour are not allowed to have equal opportunities. The positive action of this is to pay back for the racism of the past, but conservative governments in many states and Congress try to roll this back.
Low intensity conflict is a military strategy of insinuation, propaganda - agencies enter organizations and create instability. It was created by the US intelligence in the mid-60s and promoted by the CIA. The campaigns were extended to Central and South America (=covered action against civilian population in the so-called banana republics). Be aware, countries around the world might adopt this policy. More police, additional mobilization of military - there will be a presence of the government everywhere, including dis- and misinformation, false accusals and penetrating NGOs.
Kenneth Deer has also been working with the UN for a long time, mostly because of the Mohawk conflict. He also is publisher of Eastern Door, a paper focusing on indigenous issues. He will give also give us an assassment report.
Canada assessment report:
Canada is one big lump made up of many little lumps sitting on top the United States.
A liberal government came to power last year. The previous government basically tried to reduce the self government of indigenous peoples. The new governmenn claims to have a much broader definition for self government of Indians. Brian Mulroney promised four major changes to the indigenouse: Native people should be included in the legislation making process for the constitution, but this of course did not happen. In BC there was a negative court decision in the Gitksan case, saying that the native people do not have a claim to the land, and that the Gitksan are no people as such. But this is not the only racism. Oil drilling on native land and clearcutting is also a prime issue. Changes are promised on these issues, and this may give reason to hope for a better future. In Manitoba, all action is being shifted from the Indian Affairs administration towards the natives themselves. This can be used as a model for indian control of indian programs for other provinces as well. Also in Manitoba, urban indians are being accepted as a political factor. The former Minister on Indian Affairs, Dan Goodleaf, a Mohawk that really was a government man, has been appointed ambassador of Canada to some Central American countries.
Another big issue is C31: Who can decide who is native and who is not? The Human Rights Commission found that in the case of women losing indian status after marriage is a violation of the Human Rights Bill. Still governments can decide that someone is a member of a given community, and that community cannot do anything against it.
In New Brunswick there was a blockade for the preservation of the salmon fishing rights of the Micmaq. Native people had been arrested, and blockades have been erected. To make things really silly: Fishing department put a much bigger net in the river than the Micmaq, so to claim that they are killing the fish is silly, because the fish cannot spawn when they are blocked entry to the river.
The issue of Oka never seems to go a away. The Mohawk cemetary is now full. Now recently unfortunately two Mohawks drowned. They had to be buried on ground that is technically speaking owned by the municipality of Oka.. The mayor tried everything to stop that, even sending the police, which did not really enter the area, fearing a Mohawk trap.
Quebec separation: If the Quebecers hold a referendum, the Cree will do their own referendum. The Mohawks try to keep out of an argument of two parties on land they cannot even claim. In November we will all see what is acutally happening in the separation issue, which by now they no longer call it this way, they use some evasive terms nowadays. Misinformation leads to great misconceptions in the public. A recent poll showed that 54% of the Quebecois feel indigenous peoples live better than the average whites.
The Cree and the Mohawk do not say that Quebec has no right to separate, but the fight is over land that is not theirs. We don't know what will happen to our inherent right of self determination.