Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Indigenous World Water Day March 22

For further information, contact Robert Shimek, 218-751-4967 or 877-436-2121 (USA) Tamara Brennan, 521-962-109-4824 (Mexico) Chief John French, Takla Lake First Nation (British Columbia, Canada) 250-613-9150.


March 20, Bemidji, Minnesota.

Indigenous Communities around the world will celebrate the first annual Indigenous World Water Day on March 22nd. The celebrations are in response to an appeal sent out by the Minnesota-based Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) for Indigenous communities to take action to protect the water. Honor the Water, Respect the Water, be Thankful for the Water, Protect the Water is the theme of this years activities. Various communities from North America, Asia, and New Zealand will be holding community events to build the awareness to protect local sources of water. “Indigenous communities around the world will be holding a variety of events to mark the first Indigenous World Water Day.” stated Robert Shimek from the IEN national office in Bemidji. “We sent out a call to action earlier this year to encourage Indigenous communities to take action on March 22nd to send the message to all that the water resources of the world continue to be impacted by a variety of contamination and privatization issues, and that we need to take additional action to protect the water. We have had a wonderful response from communities from as far away as India to as close as the Leech Lake Ojibwe reservation here in Minnesota. It is truly an exciting time to see how Indigenous Peoples around the world have embraced this idea.”

A variety of issues are confronting Indigenous communities as this years ceremonies unfold around the world. Agricultural, industrial, human and mining wastes are among the disposal problems that pollute Indigenous community water supplies both in the United States and worldwide. Privatization of public water supplies and sale of bottled water continue to threaten community water supplies in other areas. Mining waste alone contaminates forty percent of the watersheds in the western U.S. Recent efforts to use Submarine Tailings Dumps (STDs) for mine waste hit a road block when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a petition to block the use of a natural lake for a STD at the Kensington Mine in Alaska.

First Nations in Canada haven’t faired as well with STD’s as Northgate Minerals continues to pressure Tse Keh Nay to allow for the destruction of Amazay (Duncan) Lake, a 242-hectare fish-bearing headwater of the Finlay and Peace Rivers in north central British Columbia, Canada. Northgate Minerals has declared this is the only ‘economic’ way to mine at Kemess North gold and copper mine. The mining company plans to destroy Amazay Lake by using it as a dump for over 700 million tons of waste rock. Takla Lake first Nation Chief John French states, "As a Nation we are not opposed to mining or economic development but we have to remember what is important. Gold does not run through our blood. We are all made of water. We have pushed the boundaries too far if we are willing to destroy life itself, water, as a means of getting cheaper gold. The Tse Keh Nay are the true stewards of our land and water. From time immemorial, our laws and principles have compelled us to govern with respect for the lands, water and living things that occupy our traditional territory. We will continue to protect our unextinguished title lands and water, especially when Canada and British Columbia fail to uphold their duty to protect our pristine lakes."

In the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas, Mexico, industrialized forestry has recently caused flooding problems as well as declines in songbird populations. This critical habitat loss has also contributed to the decrease in North American bird populations. Indigenous communities in this region heavily rely on the land and the water to provide for their subsistence. A recent gold mining proposal threatens to exacerbate an already difficult ecological situation. To assure the preservation of Indigenous Peoples’ culture and land base in Chiapis, the Comisión Jurídica para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (CAPAJ) and the Organización de Medicos Indígenas de la Sierra are holding celebrations to raise the awareness of the critical role of access to clean water for their communities. “Access to adequate amounts of clean water is a human right that must not be violated,” stated Tamara Brennan, spokesperson for the Sexto Sol Center For Community Action, an organization assisting with the coordinating of events for Indigenous World Water Day in Chiapis. “We will continue to promote the need for clean water for our villages and communities as well as all the ecological functions that sustain the complex web of life.” she went on to say.
The Indigenous World Water Day will be held each year as long as the need exists to protect water for all.

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