Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Indigenous and Afro-Honduran Women’s Constitutional Assembly"

Learn more about the Nations of Garifuna [link]; Moskitia [link]

2011-07-12 by Margaret Thompson from "Upside Down World"  [http://upsidedownworld.org/main/honduras-archives-46/3122-indigenous-and-afro-womens-constitutional-assembly-in-honduras]
Proposals to radically re-formulate the constitution of Honduras need to incorporate the experiences and perspectives of indigenous and Afro-Honduran women, declared Berta Cáceres, a longtime feminist indigenous activist and an organizer of the Constitutional Assembly Self-Organized by Indigenous and Afro-Honduran Women. The historic event, which is taking place July 10-14, 2011 in Copán Ruinas, will include indigenous and Afro women delegates from all over Honduras, said Cáceres, who is also coordinator of COPINH  (Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations in Honduras).
Many of these women have been front and center in the popular resistance movement against the repression following the coup d’etat in their country in June, 2009, struggling against assaults on their lands, sovereignty, natural resources and cultures.  Likewise, many have been specifically targeted as leaders in these struggles with aggressive and violent assaults and detentions by police and private security forces.
Along the northern coast of Honduras, there are 48 Garifuna communities “who are suffering an accelerated expulsion from our territories that we have inhabited for 214 years,” said Miriam Miranda of OFRANEH (National Fraternal Organization of Black Hondurans) in a public letter she released after being violently detained and assaulted by security forces in March, 2011 for her role as a leader in the resistance. Communal lands of the Garifuna have been subject to widespread privatization as part of massive development plans by the government and World Bank to create big tourist resorts and “model cities.”  The Garifuna are matrilocal, meaning the land has been traditionally passed along matrilineal lines, so this massive assault on communal lands has hit women particularly hard (Vacanti Brondo, 2007).
 Women’s experiences and perspectives need to be taken into account in constructing a “pluri-national, pluri-cultural constitution that recognizes the richness of our indigenous knowledge, and that includes the right to autonomy of the indigenous,” noted Cáceres.
 The Constitutional Assembly, which brings women from the Lenca, Maya Chortí, Garifuna, Tawaka, Miskito, Pech and Tolopan indigenous groups, is a key step in the “Refoundation” process now underway among indigenous peoples in Honduras to demand autonomy and sovereign rights.  The women will contribute by developing concrete gender-specific proposals for the constitution related to land rights, protection of biodiversity, water, forests, and mining resources, as well as autonomy and self determination, and rights to communication.
Why a Constitutional Assembly? Responding to longtime demands by social movements for a new more inclusive Constitution, former President Mel Zelaya, who was forcibly ousted in the coup in June 2009, on that same day had scheduled a referendum vote for people to decide if they wanted to hold a Constitutional Assembly.  Since the coup, which was orchestrated by Honduran elites and corporate interests, a demand for a Constituent Assembly has been a key objective of the popular resistance movement.  Also in strong support  are indigenous and Afro-Honduran peoples who see a new constitutiona as a means to create legal protections for natural resources on indigenous lands, recognize multiculturalism of the country, and incorporate greater recognition of women’s rights.
 Women delegates will meet to share their experiences in the resistance and the situation in their communities and within their own organizations, said Cárceres.  This will enable them to better articulate strategies “to support the struggle not only against capitalism but also against racism and patriarchy...”  And making these connections requires going beyond reports of ongoing violations of indigenous and women’s human rights today to examine the patriarchal roots of colonialism and neoliberalism that have provided historical precedents and current strategies for the ongoing repression of indigenous and Afro peoples.  “This is part of the history of the resistence that we as indigenous and Afro-Honduran women continue to develop,” noted Cárceres.
Also a central part of the Indigenous and Afro-Women’s Assembly are large cultural and spiritual ceremonies led by women from the different indigenous communities.  Locating the event in Copán Ruinas is highly significant because in addition to being an important archeological site, the area has a long history of resistance of indigenous peoples, and the Maya Chortí in particular.

Berta Carceres, coordinator of COPINH
2011-07-12 Assembly of First Nations comes to Metro; National chief says assembly revisiting treaties and educating the entire country" by Alyssa Mosher from "Times & Transcript":
For Shawn Atleo, national chief to the Assembly of First Nations, the foundation for a better future for First Nations starts with adequately educating everyone in the country about First Nations history - whether they're of First Nation descent or not.
"There's such a deep and rich history of treaty making going back over 260 years," he said in a phone interview yesterday, just before the grand entry for the powwow that is part of this weeks' general assembly of the Assembly of First Nations in Moncton.
"It's something that every child should learn when they go through the education system so that they understand that it's not only First Nations who are parted to the treaty relationship. In fact, every Canadian is a treaty person."
The Assembly of First Nations, a national group that is meant to represent all First Nations across the country, is in the city for its 32nd annual general assembly. Atleo and others arrived in the city on Saturday, coming from Ottawa by motorcycle. Atleo led the group for the ride in support of Indigenous languages.
This year's assembly is being held at the Moncton Coliseum in Hall C, starting today and running until Thursday. Today starts with an address by Premier David Alward at 8 a.m., followed by an address by Atleo as well as internationally relevant presentations by Canadian Human Rights Commissioner David Langtry and H.E. Ambassador David Choquehuanca Cespedes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
This year the theme of the Assembly of First Nations' general assembly is The Spirit of Peace and Friendship, a reminder of how things used to be - and can become.
"It's about First Nations living together just (like it) originally occurred, with mutual respect, mutual understanding and everyone sharing in the prosperity of the land and the territories," Atleo said.
"It's important for any culture to be able to have the right to retain their culture and that's the reason why Regional Chief (Roger) Augustine ... reached out to the Acadian community.
"There's a sharing of territories that goes on and the original treaty, the treaty relationship, is something that can guide our work and the relationship forward."
Atleo says although it's sometimes hard to convey, an assembly like this is about relaying the original message of the treaties that were issued 268 years ago between First Nations and the newcomers. He says Moncton plays particular significance in this year's assembly because the first treaties were forged right here in Atlantic Canada.
"It's about being neighbours, it's also the fact that we're sharing a land," Atleo said. "And there's really important sentiment about making sure that we improve the level of understanding. That was the original intention of the treaties and it has drifted apart and somehow, as a country, we've allowed this sense of disconnection to arise."
Atleo does believe that many Canadians are starting to understand the need for reconciliation with First Nations, which includes an apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, occurring 150 years after the opening of residential schools in Canada.
But for many, including Sheila Fraser, former auditor general of Canada, the living conditions for First Nations peoples remains "shocking" and "unacceptable."
Many continue to live with unsafe drinking water, poor housing and lack of educational success with nearly 50 per cent of the First Nation population across the country not finishing grading school.
But "now we see that education could be the tool to really unleash potential - especially in our...youth populations," which make up over 50 per cent of our total population, Atleo said.
Atleo says it's a matter of First Nations governments and the federal government working together to develop common grounds.
"It's both about the need for more resources, but it's also about having more effective systems in place and placing the responsibility where it rightfully belongs and that's with the communities and not for these things to be run out of Ottawa."
According to Atleo, 500 people preregistered to take part in the visit of the Assembly of First Nations. Organizers expect that number to double over the course of the week's events.
* For more information on the Assembly of First Nations and its 32nd annual general assembly, visit www.afn.ca

2011-07-11 "Assembly of First Nations Kicks Off National Assembly" from "Indian Country Today Media Network"
First Nations from across Canada are gathering in Moncton, New Brunswick, this week, hosted by the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Nations, as representatives from 633 First Nations gather to discuss resource development and other aboriginal priorities, including education.
Starting on July 12, hundreds of First Nations chiefs, youth, elders, dignitaries and citizens will gather at the group’s National Assembly to strategize and create an action plan to address indigenous priorities under the theme “The Spirit of Peace and Friendship,” according to an AFN statement.
At the heart of the discussions will be aboriginals’ freedom of choice to say yay or nay when it comes to mining, oil and gas extraction, a freedom that has been bolstered by the signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by the U.S. and Canada.
When they do say yes to development, said Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Indigenous Peoples should be actively involved and/or receive a share of profits.
Among the speakers will be Ambassador David Choquehuanca Cespedes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, who will update attendees on international developments and relationships.
Preliminary events, including an AFN council and executive meetings, a half-marathon and a golf tournament, kicked off assembly events over the weekend, starting with a motorcycle ride on Saturday July 9.