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Photo credit (clockwise): Felipe Contreras (top left and right), Courtesy Aroha Mead, Taylor Hensel
Taking Strides in Addressing the Criminalization of and Impunity Against Indigenous Peoples Globally Amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic
By Joan Carling

Indigenous peoples across the globe are facing a serious crisis of criminalization and widespread human rights violations with impunity. While they constitute 6.2% of the global population, they are overrepresented in cases of killings of environment and land rights defenders. According to reports of Global Witness, 40% of the 200 defenders killed in 2016 were Indigenous. In 2017, Indigenous defenders constituted 25% of those killed while increased attacks resulted in serious injuries and more cases of criminalization in 2018.  These severe human rights violations were largely committed in response to protest actions of Indigenous peoples against commercial mining, agribusiness and energy projects. However, States and companies are not held to account and there is hardly any access to justice for victims, their families and communities.

This alarming condition is the backdrop for the establishment of  the Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) in September 2019.  IPRI is an indigenous-led organization leading a Global Initiative to prevent, reduce and respond to acts of criminalization and impunity against Indigenous peoples and to provide better protection and access to justice for actual and potential victims not only as individuals but as collectives or communities. This global effort is led by Indigenous leaders and organizations to strengthen coordination, solidarity and actions at all levels to improve the situation of Indigenous peoples.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, IPRI has undertaken research, advocacy and other activities on the situation and issues relating to the criminalization of and impunity against Indigenous peoples. In collaboration with Indigenous organizations, human rights organizations and advocates, IPRI held twelve webinars, circulated public petition letters gaining broad support from diverse organizations around the world, and issued communications to relevant UN bodies and procedures raising attention to urgent cases of criminalization and human rights violations. Likewise, IPRI has established partnerships with Indigenous organizations in its focus countries, namely Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Mexico and the Philippines, and mobilized attention and support to their defined priorities and urgent needs. IPRI has also extended legal and sanctuary support to a growing number of cases of criminalization of Indigenous leaders and communities.
Looking forward, IPRI intends to have more visibility in its focus countries through its national partners, intensify its engagement with the UN system, engage with States and companies, and broaden its network and collaboration with other organizations and networks to advance its goals. It will continue to collaborate with other entities to expand its legal and sanctuary fund, including with the Defend and Defenders Coalition, Indigenous-led rapid response funds in Colombia and Brazil, among others. IPRI’s Global Board, International Advisory Group and secretariat have been instrumental in building a solid foundation for IPRI to advance its mission for better protection of the rights of indigenous peoples globally.

Joan Carling is the Director of Indigenous Peoples Rights International
Indigenous Education Project in Micronesia
By Paul A. Hadik

On the island of Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a pilot education program is returning culturally relevant learning back into classrooms, and reinstituting traditional elders as formal teachers.

Since November of 2020, 10 traditional teachers have been teaching 3 days a week. Classes being taught are: canoe making, weaving, carving, traditional farming, Pohnpeian language, and traditional song and chants. There has also been an emphasis on eating healthy local foods as a way to combat a rise in non-communicable diseases.

Pohnpei’s governor, Reed Oliver, has worked closely with the island’s Director of Education to support the pilot project’s school during this past school year. Community engagement has increased significantly, as well as youth interest in traditional ways and means. This will all culminate in a large Traditional Skills Fair is being planned for April, which will take place in the home of the territorial Nahnmwarki (or “king”) and be attended by the President of FSM and other dignitaries.  

This project is in response to the gradual loss of traditional skills amongst the youth of Pohnpei – a topic that Jasmine Mendiola and Yolanda Joab brought up in last year’s Pasifika Peoples Forum that was hosted by Nia Tero in Hawaii. For the last 30 years, education in FSM has focused solely on improving English, Math and preparing students for college. Funding restrictions from the US Government (which continues to support most island nations in the Northern Pacific) require all classroom teachers to have college degrees. This has resulted in vocational and traditional skills teachers to be designated as “non-essential” and thus not considered for jobs or funding. The gradual erosion of traditional values and learning from formal education in these islands has contributed to a staggering rise in student absenteeism and a drop in parental engagement within the education realm, as many see the current system as irrelevant to their daily lives.  

Looking ahead, Governor Reed Oliver has repeatedly exclaimed his intentions to expand this project into other schools around Pohnpei for the next school year, 2021-22. 

Photo: Student of the pilot program perform for their community at Saladak Elementary School. Photo Credit: Bill Jaynes

Paul A. Hadik is the President and CEO of Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) a nonprofit organization with staff and programs located throughout the Pacific Islands, that collaborates with schools and school systems, families, community organizations, and government agencies to transform education and promote dynamic reciprocal learning communities built on strong social and cultural capital.
How Traditional Land Fellowship Can Save Life on Earth
Season 1, Episode 2

In the latest episode of Seedcast, we explore the ways in which Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous land sovereignty are essential tools to stop mass extinctions, alleviate climate change, and prevent future pandemics. We learn about the complicated history of Indigenous peoples and Western-guided conservation initiatives, and why efforts like the global 30x30 initiative to protect at least 30% of the land and sea on Earth by 2030 are essential (and why they may not go far enough.) Our guests include: climate activist Michael McGarrell of the Patamona people in Guyana, policy maker Jennifer ‘Jing’ Tauli Corpuz of the Kankana-ey Igorot people in the Philippines, and Eric Dinerstein, Director of WildTech and the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions program at RESOLVE. Produced by Jenny Asarnow; edited by Kavita Pillay; hosted by Jessica Ramirez.

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4th World Indigenous Media Lab
Apply Now for the 2021-2022 Cohort! 
The 4th World Indigenous Media Lab is a year-long fellowship for emerging and mid-career Indigenous filmmakers, providing opportunities to develop filmmaking skills and networks through festival participation, hands-on training, masterclasses, workshopping projects in development, pitch activities, and meetings with funders and other industry decision-makers.

Fellowship activities take place throughout 2021-22 at Camden International Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and Seattle International Film Festival.

Deadline: April 30th, 2021
Applications are processed through Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

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