Posts Tagged ‘geography’

Ancestor-worshipping village shaman divines a path around Indonesia’s bureaucracy

Ancestor-worshipping village shaman divines a path around Indonesia’s bureaucracy

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Rob Kerby, BeliefNet News (BeliefNet), blog.beliefnet.com/news/

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A Kaharingan practitioner

In Tumbang Saan, a village of huts built on stilts in Borneo’s vast rainforest, village elder Udatn had a problem.

He’s a spiritual leader in Kaharingan, one of a number of names for the ancestor-worshipping, spirit-divining religion of Borneo’s indigenous forest people, the Dayak.

In Indonesia, bureaucrats cite a law that citizens must choose between the government’s six officially recogized religions: Islam, Roman Catholicism, Christian Protestantism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism, reports Aubrey Belford for the International Herald Tribune.

So Udatn couldn’t get government funding for local needs unless the bureaucrats had the right entries in their paperwork.

His solution: He has announced that his sect is a branch of Hinduism, reports Belford:

Of all the people in this tiny settlement, he speaks better than any other the esoteric language of the Sangiyang, the spirits and ancestors of the upper world, known simply as “Above.” His is a key role in the rituals of Kaharingan, “In the beginning, when God separated the darkness and the light, there was Kaharingan,” said Mr. Udatn, as he sat smoking a wooden pipe on the floor of his stilt home. (Like many Indonesians Mr. Udatn uses only one name.)

The world’s most populous Muslim-majority country is no Islamic state, but it is a religious one. Every citizen must subscribe to one of six official creeds: Kaharingan, like dozens of other native faiths, does not officially exist. Even in this village, a frontier where land clearing and mining is fast erasing ancient forest, people have long seen their faith under threat from officialdom.

Villagers have seized on a strategy being used by many Dayak: They are re-branding. On paper at least, most of the people of Tumbang Saan are now followers of Hinduism, the dominant religion on the distant island of Bali.

Here is a video of Dayaks using their age-old tapping technique to give a visitor one of their famed tattoos:

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Are Indonesian bureaucrats pleased with the solution? After all, notes Belford:

Few here could name a Hindu god or even recognize concepts, like karma, that have taken on popular meanings even in the West. But that is not the point. In a corner of the world once famed for headhunters and impenetrable remoteness, a new religion is being developed to face up to an encroaching modern world and an intrusive Indonesian state. The point, in short, is cultural survival.

“The Hindus have helped us,” said Mr. Udatn. “They’re like our umbrella.”

“What exists in Tumbang Saan is a strange compromise, born of the Indonesian religious system, where government functionaries play a key role in allocating funding and guiding religious doctrine,” writes Belford. “Some see it as a fake faith, invented for appearances; others hail it as a rediscovery of long-lost beliefs.”

So, welcome to Kaharingan Hinduism … or perhaps Hindu Kaharinganism, a ”new” religion birthed by bureaucrats faithful to official rules.

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http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/09/ancestor-worshipping-village-shaman-divines-a-path-around-indonesias-religious-bureaucracy.php

WATCH LIVE: Tarsands Civil Disobedience Sept 26, 2011

WATCH LIVE: Tarsands Civil Disobedience Sept 26, 2011

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Brenda Norrell, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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APTN Photos
CBC Live Ottawa
http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Politics/1244504890/ID=2129385867

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Hundreds gather on Parliament Hill to say ‘No to Tar Sands’

(Ottawa) – Hundreds of people from across North America are gathered this morning on Parliament Hill for a rally followed by a mass civil disobedience sit-in. Participants are responding to a call to action for a large peaceful protest where many will risk arrest to tell the Harper government they don’t support his reckless agenda and urge him to turn away from the tar sands and build a green energy future that promotes climate justice, respects Indigenous rights and prioritizes the health of our environment and communities.

“It is morally justifiable to risk arrest if you see and witness a crime occurring or about to occur. We are saying the tar sands industry is unlawful. We need to stop it before the damage is done. It’s worth getting arrested to send that warning out to the rest of Canada,” said Louisette Lante, a housewife from Waterloo.

The action began at 10 a.m. with a solidarity rally in front of the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill featuring a number of speeches from prominent individuals from environmental organizations and Indigenous communities directly impacted by the tar sands Following the speeches, waves of participants in groups of 20 or more will separate from the solidarity rally and choose to risk arrest by participating in a peaceful sit-in near the front doors to Centre Block.

Ottawa action live

http://www.livestream.com/ottawaaction

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http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/ottawaaction?layout=4&color=0xe7e7e7&autoPlay=false&mute=false&iconColorOver=0x888888&iconColor=0x777777&allowchat=true&height=340&width=560

Watch live streaming video from ottawaaction at livestream.com

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http://www.ustream.tv/flash/viewer.swf

Video streaming by Ustream
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WATCH LIVE TODAY MONDAY Sept. 26, 2011

Watch Live: Twin Cities Tar Sands Action
Today 10AM to 2PM CDT!

http://www.ienearth.org/ien-pipeline.html

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE OTTAWA TODAY
“We have hundreds of people who have signed up to risk arrest,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, a campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “At a time when we need to be fundamentally reducing our emissions, at a time when we need to be generating investments in zero-carbon energy technology, we’re allowing Big Oil and this Harper majority government to lead us on a backward path, which is destroying Canada’s image internationally,” he said.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/oil-sands-opponents-to-descend-on-parliament-hill/article2179710/

Embattled pipeline at centre of mass Ottawa protest
CTV News Canada
Protesters started collecting on Parliament Hill on Sunday, taking part in protest training sessions ahead of a planned mass confrontation with the federal government over its support for the oilsands and a proposed pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
Hundreds of environmentalists are expected to turn out for Monday’s mass rally, which organizers expect will become “the largest civil disobedience action in the history of Canada’s climate movement.” More:
http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20110925/protesters-gather-for-pipeline-protest-110925/

KEYSTONE XL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT HEARINGS COMING TO YOUR AREA
Background
www.ienearth.org

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would consist of approximately 1,711 miles of new 36-inch-diameter pipeline, with approximately 327 miles of pipeline in Canada and 1,384 miles in the U.S. TransCanada filed an application for a Presidential Permit with the U.S. Department of State to build and operate the Keystone XL Project. The proposed Project would have the capacity to transport 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to delivery points in Oklahoma and southeastern Texas.

On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of State released a final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline saying the pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the environment. According to the U.S. administration, they are saying President Obama now has three months to determine whether the controversial project is in the national interest of America.

Our concerns with this FEIS are similar to the concerns of a previous pipeline project called Keystone (with no “XL” attached to it, sometimes called Keystone 1) and its final EIS that was done in 2008. The basic concern was the EIS was incomplete, and didn’t thoroughly address all the issues. Keystone XL fails to take seriously the potential damage to American Indian Tribes and their Tribal members in the States of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. These damages could threaten, among other things, water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other resources vital to the Tribal peoples of the region in which the pipeline is proposed to be constructed. Lack of adequate consultation has been a consistent concern expressed by Tribal members of all the affected Tribal Nations who to this day have not been thoroughly informed of the potential effects of this pipeline.

With over 12 spills caused by the Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs through eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas with links to Missouri and Illinois, it is critical that the State Department take the potential environmental and cultural resource impacts seriously. The FEIS is not even requiring TransCanada, the company that hopes to build Keystone XL, to submit an emergency response plan before final approval. In spite of the reported spills on Keystone I, the XL EIS predicts 1.78 to 2.51 spills, of any size, per year.

Tribal Nations deserve and have a right to be thoroughly informed and have a truthful account of the damage Keystone XL can cause. The toxic corrosive crude oil that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline comes from the tar sands in northern Alberta, Canada. The tar sands are located in the homelands of the Cree, Dene and Métis communities. The pipeline will cross hundreds of miles of indigenous territory, including Lakota territory, and violate treaty rights under the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 as well as human rights under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

U.S executive approval is needed before the pipeline can be laid in place. The State Department has announced the schedule for a series of public input meetings in States along the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Written comments will be accepted by the State Department until October 9th, 2011.

Public Hearings on Keystone XL Pipeline

Monday, September 26, 2011

Texas:
Bob Bowers Civic Center
3401 Cultural Center Dr., Port Arthur, 4:30 – 10 p.m.
Kansas:
Kansas Expo Center
1 Expocenter Dr., Topeka, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4– 8 p.m.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Montana:
Dawson Community College
Toepke Center Auditorium, 300 Community Dr., Glendive, 4:30 – 10 p.m.
Nebraska:
Pershing Center
226 Centennial Mall, South Lincoln, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4. – 8:00 p.m .

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Texas:
University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium,
2313 Red River St., Austin, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.

Thursday, September 29, 2011
South Dakota:
Best Western Ramkota,
920 West Sioux Ave., Pierre, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.
Nebraska:
West Holt High School, 100 N. Main St. Atkinson, 4:30 – 10 p.m.

Friday, September 30, 2011
Oklahoma:
Reed Center Exhibition Hall,
5800 Will Rogers Rd., Midwest City., noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.

Friday, October 7, 2011
Washington, D.C.: To be announced via website and public notice.

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/watch-live-tarsands-civil-disobedience.html

Navajo President fails the Earth and the Navajo People

Navajo President fails the Earth and the Navajo People

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Posted 23 September 2011, by Calvin Johnson, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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Navajo President Ben Shelly, who urged the protection of the earth and respect for Dine’ culture at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, has line item vetoed the Navajo Green  Economy Office.
President Shelly’s words to the world will be meaningless if he continues to promote coal-fired power plants. The Navajo Nation already has three coal-fired power plants, with coal mines, and Shelly is pushing for another coal fired power plant.

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TOO LITTLE TO LATE
NAVAJO PRESIDENT MISSED THE OPPORTUNITY IN FEBRUARY 2011 TO SAVE THE PEAKS

By Calvin Johnson, Navajo from Leupp, Ariz.

Censored News
http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com

Calvin Johnson

This is a response to a video of Navajo President Ben Shelly at the United Nations making a plea for Protection of San Francisco Peaks. The Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly as a leader of Navajo Nation had a prime opportunity in February of 2011 to negotiate usage of reclaimed water of San Francisco Peaks. At the time, The City of Flagstaff wanted to drill 6 new wells utilizing C-Aquifer on Red Gap Ranch which is city-owned land near Winslow. Then Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly then threatened to file a suit against the City of Flagstaff. But then in May of 2011, Navajo Nation and City of Flagstaff agreed to a deal regarding C-Aquifer water usage of up to 2.6 trillion gallons a year.

Why would the Navajo Nation agree to such a deal when the City of Flagstaff is selling reclaimed water for skiing? The Navajo Nation President missed the prime opportunity to negotiate the taking of the reclaimed water usage off the table. This is so (bleeped) up!!!

The City of Flagstaff wants to use clean Navajo water underlying the Navajo Nation but the Nation buckles down to City of Flagstaff (Non-Natives including Corporations). I wished our Navajo Nation leaders would take a stand and defend human rights and protect sacred sites, period.

Now am watching the video of Ben Shelly pleading for help, it is sickening — am sorry this is not defending human rights and protecting sacred sites. Maybe this will be a lesson learned from our leaders. But kudos for finally speaking up.

Calvin Johnson
PO Box 5527
Leupp, AZ 86035

Also see: Anna Rondon: Navajo president vetoes Navajo Green Economy Office funding
http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/anna-rondon-navajo-president-vetoes.html

 

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/navajo-president-fails-earth-and-navajo.html

OTTAWA Tar Sands Civil Disobedience Sept 26, 2011

 

OTTAWA Tar Sands Civil Disobedience Sept 26, 2011

Canadian First Nations, US-based Tribal Governments and Indigenous Advocacy Groups Endorse Mass Civil Disobedience Action to Protest Canadian Tar Sands

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Posted 23 September 2011, by Brenda Norrell, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

 

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Press statement
Posted at Censored News

OTTAWA, Ontario – Canadian First Nations, American Indian Tribes, Territorial, Provincial and Federal First Nations Governments and Advocacy groups have added their support for a rally featuring a civil disobedience sit-in against the tar sands on September 26 in Ottawa.

“Current operations in the tar sands are violating our human and constitutionally protected treaty rights.  Our community is currently in court with some of these companies and plan to oppose any and all future development with similar legal action,” said Lionel Lepine of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation “We demand free, prior and informed consent for development in our traditional territories as recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Hundreds of people from across North America have endorsed the call to action for September 26, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in front of the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill. The action is to oppose the tar sands industry and push for a clean,green energy future that honors Indigenous rights and prioritizes the health of the environment and communities.

First Nations leaders from British Columbia, North West Territories and Alberta, three provinces most heavily affected by the tar sands development, will travel to Ottawa to lend their names and voices to raise awareness of the devastating environmental and social effects of the tar sands. US-based Native American Tribes and advocacy groups along with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Yankton Sioux Tribe have also endorsed the day of action.

“Enbridge is trying to ram its tar sands pipeline right through our territories and the lands of many other First Nations,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation, amember of the Yinka Dene Alliance. “We have used our laws to forbid these pipelines in our lands. We will use every means available to us under Indigenous, Canadian and International law to enforce our decision and stop the Enbridge pipeline. If we take care of the land and water, it will take care of us. If we ruin our water with oil spills and once the tar sands kill the waters of our brother and sister nations, our people will be finished.”

On September 16 and 17, on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota, an Accord was signedopposing the proposed Trans-Canada Keystone XL pipeline and endorsing the Ottawa Action.  The emergency Tribal meeting, which included Canadian First Nations and Native AmericanTribes affected by the proposed pipeline, focused on Tribal opposition to the Trans-Canada Keystone XL.  The Accord highlights the neglected concerns of First Nations in Canada regarding the Canadian tar sands, the industry’s disproportionate impacts on Treaty and Aboriginal rights and the detrimental health and social consequencesfor affected First Nations communities.

“The tar sands represent apath of broken treaties, eroded human rights, catastrophic climate change, poisoned air and water and the complete stripping of Canada’s morality in theinternational community,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Our communities should not be sacrificed on the altar of Canada’s addiction to dirty fossil fuel; wewant a new economic paradigm that protects our relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth.”

Other First Nations groups endorsing the September 26 action include: Dene Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Yinka Dene Alliance, Wet’suwet’en and Unis’tot’en Nations.

For more info: ClaytonThomas-Muller (English), Indigenous Tar Sands Campaigner, IndigenousEnvironmental Network (IEN), (613)297-7515 monsterredlight@gmail.com

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Join the IEN Newsletter!
https://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/tools/subscription.php?username=ienearth
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Clayton Thomas-Muller
Indigenous Environmental Network
Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign
180 Metcalfe Street, Suite 500
Ottawa, ON, CND, K2P 1P5
Office: 613 237 1717 ext. 106
Cell: 613 297 7515http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html
www.ottawaaction.ca Please visit!!!!
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Please visit Defenders of the Land: http://www.defendersoftheland.org
Please visit Global Justice Ecology Project: http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/

 

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/ottawa-tar-sands-civil-disobedience.html

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

OTTAWA TARSANDS ACTION – Why am I attending?

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Posted 24 September 2011, by George Poitras, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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George Poitras is a former Chief, Mikisew Cree First Nation

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George Poitras

In the past year and even more so in the past few weeks a lot of debate has focused on the tarsands in northeastern Alberta as “ethical oil.” Advertisements taken out on the Oprah Winfrey Network by EthicalOil.org, why Oprah Winfrey has endorsed this propaganda by big oil is anyone’s guess?! The advertisement suggests why should America be dependent on Saudi Arabian oil, “a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.” That there is a better alternative, “Ethical oil from Canada’s oil sands.” Apparently meaning a more human alternative.

Names synonymous of this “ethical oil” notion include Alykhan Velshi, Ezra Levant. Proponents who happily began to espouse the controversial two words include Canadian politicians like environment minister Peter Kent and prime minister Stephen Harper as they traverse the globe promoting investment in the tarsands.

The tarsands have been mined, primarily open-pit, for the past 40 years in what is known as the traditional lands of many Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 First Nations. The total tarsands deposit, the size of England, is known to be the second largest oil deposit in the world, second to Saudi Arabia. Only 3% of the total deposit has been mined in the past 40 years and Dr. David Schindler, a world renowned water expert, proved last year that there has been virtually no monitoring of what has also been characterized the largest industrial project in the world. A claim that the local Indigenous peoples have made for decades with proof of deformed fish, observation of poor water quality, receding water levels, impacts to animal health, and more recently in Fort Chipewyan, an increase in rare and aggressive cancers.

Tarsands a humane alternative?

When local physician Dr. John O’Connor raised concerns of disproportionate numbers of unusual cancers in Fort Chipewyan in 2006, the government of Canada, or physicians from the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch lodged complaints against him including a charge of “causing undue alarm” to residents of my community of Fort Chipewyan. Canada’s charges against a family physician has never before been heard of in the history of Canada. For my community of Fort Chipewyan, this unprecedented action by the government of Canada essentially signaled to us that Canada didn’t care what claims Dr. O’Connor was making or that people in Fort Chipewyan might be living in a situation with an epidemic of rare and aggressive cancers. The claims were eventually proven by an Alberta Cancer Board Study in 2009 because of our unrelenting efforts; perhaps we shamed the Canadian and Alberta governments into doing so by successfully making our concerns a part of the international debate of this “dirty oil” campaign and not because the governments felt it was the “ethical” or “humane” thing to do.

Despite this, both the Alberta and Canadian governments continue to this day, to deny there is any concern with cancers in Fort Chipewyan.

The governments of Alberta and Canada have for the past 15 years relied on the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) to monitor the Athabasca River and the fish health. Every study since then has concluded that there was little to no impacts from tarsands development on the water or the fish health. A position that was proven wrong by Dr. David Schindler. Essentially, the RAMP which is 100% funded by the oil companies and who’s data is proprietary, and the Alberta and Canadian governments have been lying to the downstream impacted communities but also to Albertans and Canadians. They both shamefully admitted this following Schindler’s study just days before Christmas in 2010.

Fishermen in Fort Chipewyan have been saving deformed, tumoured, discoloured, and other problem fish for many years. Many residents in my community have chosen not to eat any fish from the Athabasca River or Lake Athabasca, a sad commentary to impacts on a peoples way of living. In June 1970, a Suncor pipeline break spilled 19,123 barrels of oil, roughly 3 million liters, into the Athabasca River which reached Lake Athabasca. This shut down the fishing industry on Lake Athabasca for two consecutive years. The fishermen held a press conference in October 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta displaying many of the collection of problem fish. This generated further international attention to the tarsands industry and its impacts to water and fish health.

Indigenous leaders in the downstream community of Fort Chipewyan have been chastised by oil company executives when they speak publicly to the press about their concerns of impacts from tarsands. They have gone so far as threatening, that should the Indigenous leaders continue, there would be repercussions to their First Nation-owned company’s contracts within certain oil company sites. Oil company executives regularly question the Indigenous leaders when their own community members speak out publicly on issues and I have seen those members silenced.

Two years ago I attended a protest in Trafalgar Square in London, England. We drew a crowd of about 500 supporters and this protest generated so much publicity internationally by England’s BBC and Canada’s CBC who were present and did live interviews. Three weeks after this action which I dubbed the “bloody oil tour” an executive from a major oil company flew to my community to meet with my Chief & Council and in no uncertain terms stated that they didn’t like that I traveled internationally and generated so much negative publicity on the tarsands industry. They also stated that they knew of all my actions in the past years because they said they had a binder “this thick” to prove it. He further suggested that somehow I should be “silenced” or even “terminated” or there would be repercussions. Two weeks later, the First Nation-owned company contracts worth millions were terminated displacing approximately 65 employees. I chose to leave my employment shortly thereafter.

An ethical, humane future for impacted communities?

In a recent trip to the Amazon and in conversation with a colleague from Nigeria, I told him many of our issues, our concerns, the repercussions we receive for being vocal. He was in complete disbelief. He said in a million years he would not believe all of this would occur in Canada, a developed G8 country. He said Canada is known as a safe country for its citizens. Canada is known as a country that prides itself for protection of human rights within its own borders and beyond.

I also tell my fellow leaders in Fort Chipewyan and to those young, brave members of my community, that the repercussions for speaking publicly is nothing compared to what we will see in the future. That if only 3% of the total deposit has been mined and the environmental impacts are so significant, that there will be many more generations of our people who will take up this challenge and they will face much more backlash than what we are seeing today from what has become a ruthless and aggressive race to exploit the tarsands. That many of our people will continue to see the early demise of their lives from rare and aggressive cancers the same way we watched our youngest victim at the age of 28 succumb to his cancer just months after being diagnosed. That if we see our environment in such a negative state today, do we think that we are capable of handing down to future generations a healthy environment? That if Canada and Alberta today ignore and repeatedly, knowingly infringe on our Constitutionally protected Treaty Rights, will our future generations be able to meaningfully exercise their right to hunt, fish and trap? Will our people in 20 years from now be able to enjoy a traditional diet of fish, moose, ducks, geese, caribou?

While I do not condone any ill-treatment on women in Saudi Arabia, Indigenous peoples in Canada’s tarsands should not be a pawn or be sacrificed to allow certainty for Canada, Alberta and multinational corporations to exploit the tarsands at all costs! From an Indigenous perspective, watching and being victim to the 40 years of unrelenting, unfettered, unmonitored development of the tarsands, there is nothing “ethical” or “humane” about the development of the tarsands!

I will be in Ottawa on Monday, September 26th to oppose the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline because an approval means an expansion of production of tarsands by a million barrels a day, further exacerbating local Indigenous peoples grave concerns about the development of the tarsands.

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/cree-george-poitras-ottawa-tarsands.html

Sri Lanka’s women deminers clean up legacy of Asia’s longest war


Sri Lanka’s women deminers clean up legacy of Asia’s longest war

Biruntha Ravichandran, 21, a deminer working for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), searches for mines in a mine field in Kannaddi, located in Mannar district in Sri Lanka (reuters_tickers)

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Posted 23 September 2011, by Nita Bhalla, SwissInfo (Swiss Broadcasting Corporation), swissinfo.ch

 

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MANNAR, Sri Lanka (AlertNet) – Wearing a visor and a protective vest over grey fatigues tucked into black military boots, former housewife S. Dishanty crawls on her hands and knees through dense bush, slowly inching forward and methodically scanning the ground.

A year ago, this 23-year-old Sri Lankan woman was looking after her elderly parents and young son in their war-devastated village. Nowadays, she searches for an instrument of that destruction: landmines.

“My husband went missing during the war. My family and I lived in a camp for displaced people … when we returned home after the fighting, everything was destroyed,” Dishanty told Reuters in a cleared patch of a mine field in Sri Lanka’s northwestern district of Mannar.

Dishanty is part of a small number of women in post-war Sri Lanka who are taking on the risky role of clearing up the legacy left from a conflict which lasted a quarter of a century — and changing age-old views in this conservative and patriarchal, largely Hindu Tamil community.

“I had to find a job to support my family. This job gives me an income and has made people proud of me.”

The Indian Ocean island is in its third year of peace after government forces defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009, but the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) lies buried under swathes of agricultural and forest land, as well as some villages.

After almost 10 years of the army and aid groups “de-contaminating” the island, reports of casualties are dropping. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, there were six deaths in 2009 compared with 11 the year before.

But experts say there are hundreds of thousands more mines, mainly in the north of the country, which could take another decade to clear.

In an environment where skills are scarce, funding low and pressure high to clear farmland to restart cultivation, women like Dishanty — survivors of the violence — are stepping forward.

“These women work on the front line of the humanitarian demining effort in Sri Lanka,” said Nigel Robinson, country programme manager for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), which counts 75 women among its 750 deminers.

SURVIVORS TO DEMINERS

Aid workers estimate Asia’s longest-running modern war left behind as many as 90,000 war widows or women whose husbands just disappeared.

“Many of these ladies head their households — their husbands are missing or were killed in the war — so this is an opportunity for them to earn money to take back to their families.”

As displaced communities return home and begin to rebuild, many women are being forced to change from their traditional roles as carers to providers for families with as many as six or seven mouths to feed.

With a scarcity of skills and jobs in this war-ravaged region, opportunities offered by organisations like FSD — although seen as dangerous and against the traditional view of a woman’s role in this society — have been welcome.

Among the three main demining groups, there are now about 200 women deminers.

The women, like the men, attend a camp for three weeks learning about the types of explosives and landmines they are likely to encounter, plus the skills and techniques required to search and mark landmines.

In the minefields of Mannar, deminers work in searing temperatures in heavy protective clothing, using shears to cut through the overgrown grassland which was once paddy field.

The work is painstaking and stressful — the deminers systematically scrutinise the ground inch by inch, with the potential of a deadly or dismembering explosion ever-present.

But the women say the job, with a salary of $250 (162 pounds) a month and full insurance, provides not only income but also respect, even if they have to spend three weeks at a time away from home.

“I did have concerns about the safety at the beginning, but we have a standard operating procedure and if you are careful and follow instructions, it’s safe,” says Biruntha Ravichandran, 21, who is supporting nine family members.

“People used to come up and say ‘How can a woman do that job?’ But now they ask me to get them a job here too,” she says, smiling as she puts on her baseball cap and heads back to camp after finishing a seven-hour shift.

(AlertNet is a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit http://www.trust.org/alertnet)

(Editing by Bryson Hull)

Reuters

 

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http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Sri_Lankas_women_deminers_clean_up_legacy_of_Asias_longest_war.html?cid=31199490

Chicomoztoc and Origin Myths of Mesoamerica

Chicomoztoc and Origin Myths of Mesoamerica

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Posted 23 September 2011, by , About (New York Times), archaeology.about.com

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Chicomoztoc - Cave of Seven Niches. From the "Historia Tolteca chicimeca", ca. 1550 Photo of the image by Nanahuatzin

Textbooks and general public outreach articles about Mesoamerica often of necessity split Mesoamerica into discrete pieces: Toltec, Aztec, Maya, Olmec. It is plainly easier for us modern types to think of (and write about) these groups as separate entities, separate cultures with distinct cultural ethos.

But in reality, or at least as close to reality as archaeological research can take us, there were many points of interconnectedness. Much of this is visible in evidence of religious beliefs, the systems that people use to make sense of their world. How did we get here, what happens when we die, what is the meaning of life? These are questions that are universal to human societies. Because humans are social beings, when we create our own personal understanding of the way the universe works, we use what we understand of our ancestors’ and our neighbors’ belief systems to create our own.

An example of one of these interconnected bits is the origin myth of Chicomoztec, the mythical Aztec and Toltec “Cave of Seven Niches”. Chicomoztec is an origin myth that argues that people came out of the earth, a myth common to many groups in Central and North America.

Or get into the nitty gritty with About.com’s

Photo of the image by Nanahuatzin

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http://archaeology.about.com/b/2011/09/23/chicomoztoc-and-origin-myths-of-mesoamerica.htm