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Celebrating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, with the Meaning of Living Well
By Sara Mersha
August 9th, 2013
In 1994, the United Nations designated August 9 as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Today, we at Grassroots International celebrate the lives, leadership and struggles of Indigenous Peoples around the world, including our partners who courageously defend their rights to land, territory, water, and food sovereignty, as well as the rights of Mother Earth.
By Nikhil Aziz
June 17th, 2013
Ingredients: 183 member organizations. 88 countries. 5 continents. 500 representatives of 200-plus million women and men. Numerous allies from movements of women, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, environmental/climate justice activists and more. One global peasant movement. All with fearless commitment to social, economic and gender justice.
On this Earth Day, I’m inspired to share a story of the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC). One of Grassroots International’s US allies, BMWC organizes in indigenous communities, going up against powerful corporate interests in the fossil fuel industry, and engaging in movement building toward a vision for a transition to an economically and ecologically just society.
Cicero Guedes, a former sugar cane cutter turned land rights activist, worked in Campo dos Goytacazes, a settlement in Brazil. There he organized with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) to help families achieve what he had received: legal claim to land as part of Brazil’s agrarian reform movement.
For his tireless work, Cicero was murdered, shot more than a dozen times while he rode his bicycle to the fields. His assassination seemed intended to send a message to other would-be land rights activists: organize and you will pay the ultimate price.
The real costs of the industrial food system on people’s lives and the planet are as extensive as they are hidden. The article below by long-time Grassroots International friends, Beverley Bell and Tory Field of Other Worlds, offers a thought-provoking summary of those costs—all of which challenge small farmers in the Global South on a daily basis.
The True Costs of Industrialized Food
Roughly the size of New Jersey, Belize is one of the smallest countries in Central America. The country is also in the epicenter of the Mayan territory. More than half of Belize’s population of 300,000 are Mayan indigenous and Afro-descendants, known as Garifunas.
“The Conquistadors came and they subjugated us and they killed us, but they couldn’t make us disappear because we always had corn. Through corn, we survived and we kept our feet in our territories. With corn at the center of our homes we kept our languages, kept writing our histories. We continued as villages, as families, as workers, as fighters, as a community with our own government, because we had and because we have corn. Now, with the invasion of genetically modified corn they are trying to throw a mortal blow at our existence, the blow that they have not been able to throw in 500 years.”
--The Organizations and Communities of the Network in Defense of Maize (Translated from Spanish from the article El maíz, corazón de la esperanza de los pueblos—Corn, heart or the hope of the village—by Veronica Villa of the Red Maiz—Network in Defense of Corn)
Last month, Honduras passed legislation to allow the construction of charter cities in the ancestral land of Afro-descendant Garifunas and peasant communities.
January 28, 2013 was marked around the world as an International Day of Solidarity with Idle No More, a movement sparked in November 2012 by First Nations women in Canada, in resistance to legislative threats to indigenous sovereignty. One particular piece of legislation which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promoting, Bill C-45, would nullify provisions of provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act which since 1882 has mandated consultation and approval by First Nations for projects that could affect waterways on indigenous territories.