August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, July 30, 2012

Heatstroke: Scrounging for banned authors in Tucson


Heatstroke: Scrounging for banned authors in Tucson

Tucson public schools missed out on banning some notorious local authors -- but at least they got Luis

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com
Watch Censored News video interviews with students below!

TUCSON -- After battling the sun and heat, I am happy to report it has won. It should just take what it wants. Southern Arizona was never meant to be watered.

Dodging the torturer, I duck inside the icy cold downtown Tucson library and scrounge for banned authors. Semi-conscious from heatstroke, I stumble around and find Simon Ortiz. He is not banned by Tucson public schools, but he should be. He deserves to be.

I pick up “Out There Somewhere,” a book of poetry by Simon Ortiz of Acoma Pueblo, and search for something to show you just why he should be banned. He’s too good of a writer not to be. A little purple marker in the book says, “Local Poet.” This is the Simon who marched with white crosses in the streets of Tucson, with the names of Zapatistas massacred in Acteal, Chiapas.

Turning to “Out There Somewhere,” Simon writes, “I know too well the powerlessness that poverty eventually becomes.”

The library has printed out an excerpt of one of his poems and placed it on a white marker inside the book. On Culture and Universe, Simon writes, “Turn into me, the Universe sings in quiet meditation.”

Simon writes from somewhere else, “It has been raining for days. It’s going to keep raining for days.”

It is not raining in Tucson for days. This is the monsoon season. The rain comes as a blessing and a sorcerer. It pours down, running off the sun-baked earth. It rushes into the washes and carries you away, but it does not rain for days. The monsoon rains tease you, taunt you, and leave you begging for more.

Meanwhile, on this shelf of local authors, I find Demetria Martinez, who definitely should be banned. Demetria is the award-winning author of “Mother Tongue.” The book was written after she was arrested on the border. Facing a 25 year prison sentence for smuggling migrants across the border, she was acquitted as a journalist on First Amendment grounds.

Nestled near Simon’s book of poetry, is Demetria’s “The Devil’s Works.” Now, really, what would be a better book to ban than this one, by a local award-winning author, who has carved her mark into border history.

“Why fight the enemy, when we can fight one another?” writes Martinez in “The Devil’s Works.”

In “Mother Tongue,” Demetria reveals the torture in Central America carried out by the US trained Latin American military leaders. Those fleeing torture and assassinations came north on the underground railroad, across the border and through Tucson in the 1970s and 1980s. Many were Indigenous Peoples fighting to protect their families, their villages, their homeland, and marked for death. This underground railroad was the Sanctuary Movement.

Now, at this point in the library, I search out “Rethinking Columbus, The Next 500 Years,” which was among the original seven naughty books banned by Tucson Unified School District. The collection of dozens of Native American authors in “Rethinking Columbus,” includes Buffy Sainte Marie, Winona LaDuke and Leonard Peltier.

Eventually, dozens of books were banned by Arizona’s Nazi-style school officials, after they decided to forbid Mexican American Studies in Tucson in January. The banned authors include Native American author Sherman Alexie, Spokane/Coeur d'Alene and an award winning novelist, and Ofelia Zepeda, an O’odham poet and professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Books by Roberto Rodriguez, Mexican American Studies professor at the University of Arizona, were also banned, along with many of the nation's leading Chicano and Latino authors.

Well, sadly, “Rethinking Columbus” is still checked out and on hold at the Tucson public library.

Over at Tucson public schools, the book was sentenced to the dark hole. It was among those books extracted from the Mexican American Studies classrooms and placed on the cart, doomed for the “depository."

At the downtown library, on the shelf of local poets, I spot Edward Abbey. Apparently, he didn’t even make it in the door to get banned at Tucson schools.

In Abbey’s book, I read the poem, “The Writer.”

“On a cold sea, empty of life, appeared, a solitary craft.”

Oh, the trickster, in this desert heat, has unleashed this genesis, this seed of the wild writer’s mind.

Nearby in the library, a hiking magazine is trying to seduce me with a photo of Montana. Sincerely, I want to be there, in that lake at Glacier. The trickster, however, always brings me here, to the Sonoran Desert, to be barbecued in summer.

Still scrounging for those banned authors, at a friend’s home in a stack of magazines, alas I find Luis.

There, in the 30th Anniversary edition of the Earth First! Journal, is banned author Luis Alberto Urrea. Now, what better place to find a banned author than in the Earth First! Journal. Luis writes of driving Ed Abbey’s ’75 fire-engine red Cadillac from Tucson to Denver. The article is, “A Mexican Writer Comes to Terms with the Ghost of Edward Abbey.”

Luis writes of leaving from the Safeway parking lot, “My candidate for Miss Universe loads her groceries into her whining little Coke-can imported car.”

Then, Luis writes, “I admire Edward Abbey. I enjoy his books. And I love his bad taste car – all the way down to the honky-tonk red carpet on the dash. This car is 20 steel feet of Ed’s laughter.”

Meanwhile, I remember the time Abbey walked through my front door. Abbey arrived in a stack of used paperbacks years ago, which I bought to read during heavy snows in my log cabin in the Chuska Mountains on Navajoland. Abbey introduced me to the machinations of Peabody’s coal mining, the monster gouging out Black Mesa, drinking its water, devouring it, a few mountain ridges away.

Now, Luis’ writing about Abbey makes it obvious why Luis was banned by Tucson public schools. Luis is the Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of “The Devil’s Highway,” non-fiction about migrants lost in the Arizona desert. Luis, featured author at this year’s Tucson Book Festival, is just too great of a writer not to be banned.

Good thing they got him.
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 Epilogue
After scribbling this with a pencil stub on scrap paper, I dash off to the best Sonoran style taco place in town, for a carne asado taco with charred scallions, grilled jalapenos and fresh avocado cream.
If you don’t know where it is -- I’m not telling.

Brenda Norrell, a journalist of Native American news for 30 years, has written for Navajo Times, AP and USA Today. After being censored and then terminated as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today, she created Censored News in 2006. After living on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, she moved to Tucson.
For permission to repost this article in full: brendanorrell@gmail.com, or feel free to share the link.
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Also see: Censored News article on banning of books in Tucson leads to new release of Mohawk poetry book
http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2012/05/aroniawenrate-peter-blue-cloud_10.html
Censored News honors these champions and iconoclasts, banned by Tucson public schools
High School Course Texts and Reading Lists Table 20: American Government/Social Justice Education Project 1, 2 - Texts and Reading Lists
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years (1998) by B. Bigelow and B. Peterson
The Latino Condition: A Critical Reader (1998) by R. Delgado and J. Stefancic
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2001) by R. Delgado and J. Stefancic
Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2000) by P. Freire
United States Government: Democracy in Action (2007) by R. C. Remy
Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History (2006) by F. A. Rosales
Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology (1990) by H. Zinn
Table 21: American History/Mexican American Perspectives, 1, 2 - Texts and Reading Lists
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos (2004) by R. Acuña
The Anaya Reader (1995) by R. Anaya
The American Vision (2008) by J. Appleby et el.
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years (1998) by B. Bigelow and B. Peterson
Drink Cultura: Chicanismo (1992) by J. A. Burciaga
Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings (1997) by R. Gonzales
De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views Multi-Colored Century (1998) by E. S. Martínez
500 Años Del Pueblo Chicano/500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures (1990) by E. S. Martínez
Codex Tamuanchan: On Becoming Human (1998) by R. Rodríguez
The X in La Raza II (1996) by R. Rodríguez
Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History (2006) by F. A. Rosales
A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present (2003) by H. Zinn
Course: English/Latino Literature 7, 8
Ten Little Indians (2004) by S. Alexie
The Fire Next Time (1990) by J. Baldwin
Loverboys (2008) by A. Castillo
Women Hollering Creek (1992) by S. Cisneros
Mexican White Boy (2008) by M. de la Pena
Drown (1997) by J. Díaz
Woodcuts of Women (2000) by D. Gilb
At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria (1965) by E. Guevara
Color Lines: "Does Anti-War Have to Be Anti-Racist Too?" (2003) by E. Martínez
Culture Clash: Life, Death and Revolutionary Comedy (1998) by R. Montoya et al.
Let Their Spirits Dance (2003) by S. Pope Duarte
Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz (1997) by M. Ruiz
The Tempest (1994) by W. Shakespeare
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (1993) by R. Takaki
The Devil's Highway (2004) by L. A. Urrea
Puro Teatro: A Latino Anthology (1999) by A. Sandoval-Sanchez & N. Saporta Sternbach
Twelve Impossible Things before Breakfast: Stories (1997) by J. Yolen
Voices of a People's History of the United States (2004) by H. Zinn
Course: English/Latino Literature 5, 6
Live from Death Row (1996) by J. Abu-Jamal
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven (1994) by S. Alexie
Zorro (2005) by I. Allende
Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1999) by G. Anzaldua
A Place to Stand (2002), by J. S. Baca
C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans (2002), by J. S. Baca
Healing Earthquakes: Poems (2001) by J. S. Baca
Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems (1990) by J. S. Baca
Black Mesa Poems (1989) by J. S. Baca
Martin & Mediations on the South Valley (1987) by J. S. Baca
The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools (1995) by D. C. Berliner and B. J. Biddle
Drink Cultura: Chicanismo (1992) by J. A Burciaga
Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States (2005) by L. Carlson & O. Hijuielos
Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing up Latino in the United States (1995) by L. Carlson & O. Hijuelos
So Far From God (1993) by A. Castillo
Address to the Commonwealth Club of California (1985) by C. E. Chávez
Women Hollering Creek (1992) by S. Cisneros
House on Mango Street (1991), by S. Cisneros
Drown (1997) by J. Díaz
Suffer Smoke (2001) by E. Diaz Bjorkquist
Zapata's Discipline: Essays (1998) by M. Espada
Like Water for Chocolate (1995) by L. Esquievel
When Living was a Labor Camp (2000) by D. García
La Llorona: Our Lady of Deformities (2000), by R. Garcia
Cantos Al Sexto Sol: An Anthology of Aztlanahuac Writing (2003) by C. García-Camarilo et al.
The Magic of Blood (1994) by D. Gilb
Message to Aztlan: Selected Writings (2001) by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales
Saving Our Schools: The Case for Public Education, Saying No to "No Child Left Behind" (2004) by Goodman et al.
Feminism is for Everybody (2000) by b hooks
The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (1999) by F. Jiménez
Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools (1991) by J. Kozol
Zigzagger (2003) by M. Muñoz
Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicana Literature (1993) by T. D. Rebolledo & E. S. Rivero
...y no se lo trago la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1995) by T. Rivera
Always Running - La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. (2005) by L. Rodriguez
Justice: A Question of Race (1997) by R. Rodríguez
The X in La Raza II (1996) by R. Rodríguez
Crisis in American Institutions (2006) by S. H. Skolnick & E. Currie
Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941 (1986) by T. Sheridan
Curandera (1993) by Carmen Tafolla
Mexican American Literature (1990) by C. M. Tatum
New Chicana/Chicano Writing (1993) by C. M. Tatum
Civil Disobedience (1993) by H. D. Thoreau
By the Lake of Sleeping Children (1996) by L. A. Urrea
Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life (2002) by L. A. Urrea
Zoot Suit and Other Plays (1992) by L. Valdez
Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995) by O. Zepeda
Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Yo Soy Joaquin/I Am Joaquin by Rodolfo Gonzales
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
Censored News Interviews with Mexican American Studies students in Tucson 2012

Student from Tucson public schools describes how Tucson pubic schools forbids her to discuss her culture, Mexcian American Studies, or books by Chicanos and Native authors on the reading list, in her classroom. When Tucson public schools forbid Mexican American Studies in Jan, the books were seized from the classrooms. Video by Brenda Norrell Censored News http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com


Crystal Echerivel, from the Mexican American Studies class now forbidden by Tucson public schools, interviewed at the Tucson Book Festival 2012. She describes how it made her feel to have her culture forbidden and books banned. Interview by Brenda Norrell Censored News http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com

On Martin Luther King Day in Tucson 2012, Tucson students spoke out on the seizure of books from their classrooms and the decision to forbid Mexican American Studies. The public school district, Tucson Unified School District, voted in Jan 2012 to forbid the studies after Arizona threatened to extract millions of dollars. Rethinking Columbus was one of seven books moved to a depository by the schools. There are 50 books on the reading list. Read more at Censored News http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com

First Nations delegation denied access to New England Governors’ Conference



First Nations delegation denied access to New England Governors’ Conference
By Global Justice Ecology ProjectSpecial to Climate Connections


http://climate-connections.org/2012/07/30/first-nations-delegation-denied-access-to-new-england-governors-conference/
Posted at Censored News

BURLINGTON, Vt. July 30, 2012—Members of the Innu First Nation from Quebec and the Nulhegan Abenaki of Vermont were denied access to the 36th Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers this morning.

Around 9:30 am, while governors and premiers were discussing access to renewable energy, Charles Megeso of the Nulhegan Abenaki and Elyse Vollant, from the Innu community of Uashat-Maniutenam entered the Hilton Hotel and asked to speak with governors and have a seat at the table, according to Megeso.

According to Megeso, they were told by conference director John Shea, “we just don’t have enough room for you here. There’s not enough breakfast.”

“I told them, ‘you’re being very kind’,” Megeso said, “the Quebec government was just saying no. They weren’t comfortable with us being here.”

Vollant, who traveled 12 hours from northern Quebec with three of her children and one other family member, is opposed to Hydro-Quebec development on the La Romaine River and the Plan Nord. The delegation sees themselves as stakeholders in these projects who have not been consulted, and are representative of many other Innu families. Both projects threaten their traditional lands and cultures, which have been under attack from the Quebec government for the past century.

Vollant was arrested in March 2012 during a blockade near her community along Highway 138. The blockade was in opposition to Plan Nord, an $80 billion dollar industrial development project on indigenous land north of the 49thparallel in Quebec.

While being denied access to the conference, the group remained calm and cooperative. Megeso said, “I made it clear to the authorities that we’re not here to protest, we’re not here to cause any dysfunction… we just came to ask for a seat at the table that we thought was [the Innu’s] right. It was quietly and politely disagreed.”

While the voices of First Nations people were silenced at the conference, a delegation of Chinese officials, including vice-governor of Heilongjiang Province, Liu Guozhong, were given 15 minutes of floor space to address the governors and premiers on trade and the Chinese economy.

According to Megeso, “The Chinese have invested a lot of capital into a lot of these places…the dam on the Yangtze River was built by engineers from Hydro-Quebec."

After being denied access to the conference, Vollant and Megeso, supported by members of Red Clover Climate Justice Collective, held a press conference on the lawn in front of the Hilton.

Megeso told reporters, “[the conference] is a power brokerage. This conference is a formality. The agreements have already been made. This is just a party for the leaders to get together to pat each other on the back.”

Megeso was present to provide solidarity to the Innu, and to help them tell their story to the governors, premiers, the press and residents of various New England states who were represented during Sunday’s massive demonstration. He told reporters, “Every country in the world has indigenous people and they are treated the same way. It’s how this is done.”

Regarding the Innu struggle to stop Hydro-Quebec’s development of massive hydroelectric dams on indigenous land—much of which will power aluminum smelters, mining operations, factories, or be sold as “renewable energy” to New England states—Megeso said “I am not anti-energy. There is no such thing as ‘green energy’. There is a price to pay for whatever choices you use. The whole idea is the ‘how’ this is going to be done. And…the ramifications to the environment and to the people who are actually living on the land is not being taken into account.”


Photo credits: Will Bennington



Indigenous at Rio 20 'The Future We Don't Want'

Participants at Kari-Oca II gathering during Rio+20 Summit.
Despite its many shortcomings, “The Future We Want” is the first official UN document to mention the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

By Miriam Anne Frank
Cultural Survival
Posted at Censored News
http://www.bsnorrell.blogpsot.com
The Future We Don’t Want: Indigenous Peoples at Rio+20
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/future-we-dont-want-indigenous-peoples-rio20
“Farce” and “failure” are a few choice words that Indigenous Peoples have used to describe Rio+20, known officially as the United Nations World Conference on Sustainable Development. The conference, held from June 20-22, was a follow up to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, a.k.a., the Earth Summit. With over 50,000 registered participants, the Rio de Janeiro-based event was the largest UN gathering in history. Perhaps not surprisingly, the event turned Brazilian Indigenous people into poster icons in the mainstream media. Yet, in spite of such high visibility and vocal presence, it seems the world’s heads of state were not listening.
According to the description on the official conference website, Rio+20 was intended to be a forum for a series of dialogues on “how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.” The “we” in this vision statement refers to 10 “major groups” formalized by this process: business and industry, local authorities, NGOs, the scientific and technological community, farmers, women, children, laborers, trade unions, and Indigenous Peoples.
The fact that Indigenous Peoples had a place at the table meant they were able to provide input into the formal document produced by the conference, which was given the (unintentionally) ironic title, “The Future We Want.” Despite its many shortcomings, “The Future We Want” is the first official UN document to mention the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As stated, “We recognize the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the global, regional and national implementation of sustainable development strategies.” While this recognition is a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen whether it will truly guide the implementation phase of Rio+20.
On the whole, “The Future We Want” has been widely panned. Many major groups, Indigenous Peoples chief among them, have complained that the document doesn’t actually represent a future that anybody wants. Much of the resistance has centered around the concept of the proposed “green economy. As per the United Nations Environment Programme, a green economy is defined as one whose growth in income and employment is driven by investments in systems to reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems. This development path is supposed to “maintain, enhance, and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital...especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature.” While perhaps well-intentioned in scope, the concept of nature-as-market capital is in direct conflict with the worldviews of many Indigenous Peoples who understand themselves to be inseparable from nature, as stewards and caretakers with a responsibility to protect the environment. The green economy proposed at Rio+20 also fails to address the inherent unsustainability of the practices that it outlines, ignoring the reality that natural resources are finite; if not properly cared for or respected, they will be depleted.
Issues of Access
Ensuring the participation of opposing voices was another major issue at Rio+20. Even those who were able to gain entry to the UN compound were restricted from attending the official meetings and thus had scant access to the decision-makers. The metaphorical distance between the two groups was underscored by the conference’s physical setup: world leaders were enclosed in a protected space with their backs to the relatively small, dimly lit area where the rest of the participants congregated. If one was lucky enough to gain entry to the guarded room (as few as 15 passes per major group were issued), one could only observe. Representatives were granted few opportunities to speak, and no real dialogue was possible.
The Sustainable Development Dialogues were meant to provide a forum for engagement between experts and participants on key topics, with the opportunity for those at the conference—as well as interested parties around the world—to vote online for the primary messages that would ultimately be discussed at the conference. As an example, the so-called dialogue on Forests consisted of 10 expert panelists who each made individual presentations, leaving very little time for an actual exchange. As one Indigenous representative remarked, most forest dwelling peoples, whose input would have been vital to discussions involving deforestation, do not have access to the Internet. Neither were many Indigenous people well informed about the online voting process.
Irrespective of these setbacks, Indigenous Peoples came to Rio prepared to make themselves heard. While often not well-considered in the main event, they succeeded in organizing three major meetings of their own.
Kari-Oca II                          
Twenty years after the first Indigenous Peoples’ Conference, which coincided with the 1992 Earth Summit, Kari-Oca II was realized. The gathering was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance; Land is Life; the Indigenous Environment Network; and the Inter-Tribal Committee of Brazil. Held at the sacred site of Kari-Oka Púku on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Kari-Oca II brought together a large contingent of Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and the Americas. The agenda for this week-long meeting focused on evaluating gains and losses since the first Rio conference, including the status of implementation of such key documents as the UN Conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Kari-Oca II was also designed to be a place for the participating groups to collectively strategize and share information. Time was set aside for discussion of major environmental issues like deforestation in developing countries and the impact of extractive industries and dams, among others.
The resulting declaration of Kari-Oca II condemned the UN’s current agenda: “We see the goals of Rio+20, the ‘Green Economy’ and its premise that the world can only ‘save’ nature by commodifying its life-giving capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years.”
Although this gathering was held miles from the site of Rio+20, on June 21 participants marched from Kari-Oka Púku to the UN compound. Only a small contingent were allowed onto the premises to formally submit their declaration. As Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations of the United States), who participated in the march, stated, “We cannot commodify the sacred and expect a good outcome.” Mossett spoke from direct experience, having witnessed the devastating effects of oil and gas drilling on her homeland in North Dakota.
Indigenous Peoples International Conference
The Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Sustainable Development and Self Determination: Standing Together for Our Food Sovereignty, Traditional Cultures and Ways of Life was organized by the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Coordinating Committee for Rio+20 in the framework of the official UN conference.  Held on the grounds of Rio’s Museum of the Republic from June 17-19, the conference was largely attended by representatives of Indigenous Peoples who work on environmental policy issues. For three days, participants discussed an agenda that included the impact of development models on Indigenous Peoples and food sovereignty, the right to food, the Andean idea of buen vivir(living well), and issues related to ecosystems and lifestyles.
The conference declaration addressed the fundamental relationship of culture to sustainable development and the importance of strengthening diverse local economies and territorial management. One critical point, which clearly refers to Rio+20’s notion of a “green economy,” states: “We will continue to reject the dominant neo-liberal concept and practice of development based on colonization, commodification, contamination and exploitation of the natural world, and policies and projects based on this model.”
During this conference’s formal side event at the UN compound on June 21, Indigenous representatives officially presented their declaration. Although many participants were associated with Rio+20 and active in the conference’s official preparatory processes, they remained skeptical of its outcome. As Onel Masardule (Kuna from Panama) stated: “Governments in most countries have already signed up to human rights agreements and environmental treaties and have endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are here in Rio once again to demand that States fulfill their obligations and commitments in all development policies, finance and actions and put proper arrangements in place at the national level to implement these agreements. Our rights must be secured so that our lands and territories are maintained for the benefit of our future generations and the whole of humanity.”
Terra Livre
From June 15-22, Indigenous representatives gathered together as Campamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp) during the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice in Defense of the Commons. The organizers of this dedicated Indigenous space included the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, the Indigenous Council of Central America, and the Guarani Continental Council of the Nation. Held in Flamengo Park in the heart of Rio, the People’s Summit was organized as a counter-conference; the anti-Rio+20. It centered around local and global struggles for anti-capitalist, -classist, -racist, -patriarchal, and -homophobic political framing.
The delegates of the Free Land Camp produced the Terra Livre Declaration, which focuses on the concept of buen vivir: “We advocate and defend plural and autonomous forms of lives, inspired by the model of Living Well/Healthy Life, where Mother Earth is respected and cared for, where humans are just another species among all the other compositions of multi-diversity of the planet.” The delegates also compiled a list of proposals for action with a focus on issues at the forefront for the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, such as the need for land demarcation to protect Indigenous territories, along with calls to improve health conditions and Indigenous education.
On June 20, an especially drizzly day, the Peoples’ Summit organized a protest march against Rio+20. Led by the Campamento Terra Livre, a contingent of Indigenous people gathered around a giant rainbow flag. [The icon represents to the Andean people the legacy of the Inca empire, and is a symbol of Indigenous Peoples’ resilience.] Thousands marched from Flamengo Park through the streets of downtown Rio, carrying signs and banners ranging from professional to homemade. Many participants wore creative costumes, some carried giant puppets, others walked stilts; all came together to create a joyous and carnival-like atmosphere. True to the spirit of Brazil, a truck blaring samba music, complete with samba school students dancing alongside, added the musical component to what turned into a daylong march.

Preserving the Environment for Our Relatives Still to Come
As was perhaps to be expected, the Brazilian government and media took full advantage of the many photo opportunities that colorfully dressed Amazonian peoples provided. At Kari-Oca II, the Brazilian government extolled the creation of a fund for the promotion of Indigenous culture. However, it has also recently approved the construction of one of the most controversial projects in the country’s history—the Belo Monte dam. The dam promises to bring devastating environmental consequences to the region, which happens to be in heart of the Amazon rainforest; thousands of Indigenous Peoples will be displaced as rising river waters flood their homelands.
Along with many others, Indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire, a chief of the 5,000-member Kayapó tribe, came to Rio to defend his peoples and protest the dam: “The white man doesn’t want to preserve the forest for the future. This worries me a lot. Why don’t they preserve green forests for our relatives who are still to come?” he implored. Metukire’s concerns are shared by Indigenous Peoples who recognize that their fate is not being considered among those in power, neither in international forums like Rio+20, nor in any real long term capacity.
Despite its many failings, Rio+20 succeeded in providing a platform for the convergence of social movements, NGOs, and Indigenous Peoples to advocate for their rights. Participants of the many side sessions and counter groups developed concrete visions for a just, sustainable development model—one that is based on what they believe is best for the planet and its inhabitants. Indigenous Peoples at Rio+20 made it clear that the “official” vision to emerge from the conference is not the future they want; what they seek instead is a future that is self-determined, and therefore truly sustainable.
---Miriam Anne Frank is an applied anthropologist who has been active in supporting Indigenous Peoples for over two decades. Presently she is working for the Sacred Land Film Project, teaches as an external lecturer at the University of Vienna, Austria, and consults for IPOs, NGOs, foundations, and museums.
© 2012 Cultural Survival. All rights reserved.