By SABAT ALI, age 9
MARISA HIRSCHFIELD, age 11
MARIANNE NACANAYNAY, age 13
AMIA McDONALD, age 11
TANYA PORCARI, age 12
MADISON ROBERTS, age 12
and IndyKids Staff
Introduction by MARIANNE MACANAYNAY, age 13
Across the globe, indigenous people, the original, native people of a land, have been oppressed in many ways. Indigenous ancestors have inhabited lands for much longer than modern governments, and yet today, native peoples often must rely on governments to recognize their indigenous identity. There are more than 5,000 indigenous groups worldwide, varying tremendously and differing in countless ways, but many groups face similar challenges, including displacement and military brutality. Indigenous resistance movements worldwide fight these struggles.
In July 2015, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, a 24-year-old Lakota mother of two, died in a jail cell in South Dakota after being denied needed medical attention. Sarah is one of many Native Americans killed by law enforcement.
Deaths of Native Americans are disproportionate to their population. They make up only 0.8 percent of the U.S. citizenry, and yet they are victims in 1.9 percent of all police killings.
Inspired by #BlackLivesMatter, indigenous activists began using the hashtag #NativeLivesMatter. In December of 2014, a #NativeLivesMatter rally was held in South Dakota to call attention to police brutality against Native peoples.
“The police, they are like a colonial occupying force in these communities,” said David Lane, attorney for Lynn Eagle Feather, mother of 35-year-old Paul Castaway who was shot by police in 2015. “They are not there to serve and protect.”
The Stateless Rohingya Muslims
For decades, the Rohingya Muslims indigenous to Myanmar have faced persecution and violence. The government of the mostly Buddhist Myanmar refuses to consider Rohingya Muslims formal citizens.
Many Rohingya are now refugees in their own land and have fled to nearby countries like Bangladesh and Thailand.
In Myanmar, Rohingya are forced to either prove family residence for over 60 years to qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed into camps and deported. Human rights groups say this policy, known as the Rakhine Action Plan, is ethnic cleansing.
Rohingya are combating these injustices by raising awareness. Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya co-founder of the #MyFriend campaign, seeks to reduce discrimination by asking people to post pictures with friends of different religious and ethnic backgrounds and tag them #MyFriend.
Te Tirohanga Offers Healing to Māori Prisoners
The Māori people are the native people of New Zealand. Fifteen percent of New Zealand’s population are Māori, and yet they now make up over 50 percent of prison inmates.
In 2014, Māori organizers created a program called Te Tirohanga, which means “the focus.” The program teaches Māori prisoners about their own history and culture. It encourages them to feel a special pride in being part of the Māori community and guides them in taking ownership of their own lives. Lasting 18 months per prisoner, this program helps them make a new start.
One Māori former prisoner said, “I have gained a better understanding of things and now know who my people are. I’ve got a vision of what I want to do and where I want to be in life because of this program.”
Europe’s Indigenous Protect Reindeer
The Saami are the oldest ethnic group in Europe’s Nordic countries. Today, they fight to protect their way of life.
Since 2006, Beowulf Mining, a U.K. mining company, has been developing its controversial Kallak North mining project in Sweden. The mine could destroy the lands that reindeer depend on for grazing. Reindeer herding is an important ritual for the Saami. Reindeer have been providing transport, fur, milk and meat to the Saami for thousands of years.
In 2013, Saami communities fought back by building a blockade out of large stones to prevent mining. The police dismantled it and six demonstrators were arrested, but the next day demonstrators put the blockade up again.
Although Kallak North continues, in June 2015 Beowulf agreed not to create new roads that would alter the path of the reindeer. If the reindeer population is harmed because of the mining, they must pay the local Saami.
Indigenous Peruvians Fight Against Oil Pollution
In Peru, the Achuar indigenous people of the Amazon are seizing oil wells built on their land. Originally, the Peruvian government owned the wells, but allowed foreign oil companies to control the wells and use the Achuar’s land.
The oil wells contaminate soil, rivers and streams, damaging habitats and causing health issues for the Achuar people such as birth defects and premature deaths, according to the Guardian. They started a protest organization called the Federation of Indigenous Communities of the Corrientes River (FECONACO). FECONACO’s demands are: “Clean water, reparations for oil pollution and more pay for the use of native lands.”
Currently, the government is trying to compromise with FECONACO’s demands. A new contract has been written that gives more benefits to the indigenous people, but doesn’t provide shares of oil profits.
Khoisan Walk for Liberation
The Khoisan community of South Africa is demanding the government amend the constitution and recognize them as being their country’s first indigenous people. Since 2013, Khoisan activists have organized an annual nine-day walk to the capital of Cape Town. There, Khoisan people discuss their grievances and deliver a petition and a list of demands to the government.
Under apartheid, the Khoisan were classified as lower-class “coloureds” and mistreated by the South African government. The discrimination continues today.
In August, the National Khoisan Council met with government leaders to discuss issues such as the violence affecting their communities and access to education, housing and economic opportunities. They demand legal rights as the oldest indigenous people of South Africa and demand access to their traditional lands.
“We don’t look like our ancestors any more,” said Klintin Heems Whitehead, one of the liberation walkers. “It is important for us to show our people how important it is to hold on to our culture and what happens when you let go and just accept things.”
Glossary of terms:
Reparations: When something of value (usually money or land) is given to help people who have been wronged.
Apartheid: A policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the basis of race.