Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011-08-10 "South Pacific islanders visit S.F. Bay, by canoe; Contingent from South Pacific isles arrives in replicas of ancient boats" by Carl Nolte from "San Francisco Chronicle"
SAN FRANCISCO -- Half a dozen canoes from islands of the South Pacific landed on the beach at Aquatic Park today as part of a weeklong visit to San Francisco - the first stop on the coast of what these Polynesian sailors call "Turtle Island."
Turtle Island is their term for the mainland of the United States, and the canoes are on a 15,000-mile ocean journey from New Zealand and various Pacific Islands. The canoes are replicas of the traditional vaka moana canoes Pacific people used to explore and settle the tropical islands of the Pacific and New Zealand centuries ago.
 The canoes, each about 70 feet long, carry a crew of 16 sailors from some of the smallest countries in the world, including the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tonga.
They began their trip in April from New Zealand, and sailed on the first leg to Hilo, in the Hawaiian Islands, navigating by the stars, as their ancestors did. However, the modern voyagers have canoes with hulls made of fiberglass instead of wood, and equipped with solar panels to power onboard equipment.
 Though the ancient mariners steered by the stars, their descendants communicate on the Internet. The expedition has a website - - and they are on Facebook and Twitter as well.
 The six-canoe flotilla came in through the Golden Gate a week ago and seemed surprised by the stiff winds and fog in the bay. The sailors held an open house over the weekend at Clipper Cove at Treasure Island and offered rides on the vakas to about 1,000 people.
Tuesday, they greeted visitors to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and let landlubbers peer into their canoes and listen to sea stories - mostly about their adventures, the environment and pollution in the ocean. Their message, they said, is "we are all in one canoe."
 One of the canoes - the Vaka from the Cook Islands - will sail to Pier 39 at 11 a.m. today, where the sailors will be greeted by Henry Puna, the country's prime minister.
 Puna and the canoe and its crew will be the centerpiece of Cook Islands Day at the pier. The event will include drumming and dance performances.
The islands, which were formerly a dependency of New Zealand, are a territory of only 92.7 square miles spread out over 15 coral islands.
 The six canoes will sail from San Francisco on Thursday, for Monterey.
 The flotilla will be in Monterey on Friday until Aug. 17 and then sail for Malibu on the Los Angeles County coast. At Malibu, they will link up with representatives of the Chumash tribe of Indians, who were noted for their own seagoing canoes.
 The South Seas canoe flotilla will also visit San Diego and Baja California before heading back to the Pacific Islands later this year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011-08-09 "Fourth Indian American Youth Congress Held in Venezuela" by Rachael Boothroyd
Coro, 9th August 2011 ( – Over 400 delegates from 18 different countries attended the fourth Indian American Youth Congress which concluded Tuesday in Caracas.
As part of the celebrations for international indigenous day, indigenous groups from all over the Latin American region met in the Venezuelan capital to discuss issues surrounding food security, human rights, the safeguarding of indigenous culture and how to strengthen the current political processes taking place in Latin America.
Dalia Yánez, Coordinator of the Indigenous Commission of the Latin American Parliament, highlighted the importance of the Congress since indigenous peoples were still subject to racism on the continent, despite political progress.
“The struggle and resistance continues...there have been some political advances, but there is still discrimination, we still have yet to reach our goal” said Yanez.
Many representatives emphasised that the current political processes taking place in Latin America had opened up the political arena to the region’s indigenous groups like never before, and that these groups now had a say in national political debate for the first time in the continent’s history.
“The struggle at a global level that the states recognise, which the Venezuelan state has recognised, are the rights of the indigenous populations, the right to land and its preservation in the face of the foreign companies that invade the natural spaces of the world” said Estaben Perez, Representative of the Venezuelan Indigenous American Parliament.
“In Venezuela there is a process that is conscious of these 12 years there have been advances within the sphere of public life” continued Perez.
Similarly, Jorge Alvarado, Embassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia in Venezuela, spoke positively about the government of Bolivia’s indigenous president Evo Morales, but also highlighted that the same oligarchy that traditionally subjugated Bolivia’s indigenous population “continues to make the job difficult”.
In the closing ceremony the delegates declared themselves to be “against capitalism and for socialism” and vowed to construct an alternative development model. The statement, read by Bolivian delegate Maya Yapú, also guaranteed social inclusion, as well as respect for economic, environmental, social and political rights. Declaring the movements’ solidarity with the Chilean Mapuches, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and regional initiatives such as the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), the statement also denounced U.S. and European imperialist aggression against Libya and Afghanistan.
In more concrete initiatives, Yapú also announced the creation of the Bolivarian Indigenous Youth movement, to serve as a space for participation, unity, integration and cultural exchanges amongst the region’s national indigenous movements.
Bringing the conference to an end, the Venezuelan government presented communities from the Amazon with over 22 million Bolivars (US$5.1 million) through Mission AgroVenezuela. The funds will be used for agricultural production and the implementation of socio-productive projects within the community. The Venezuelan Environmental Minister also gave communities in the Venezuelan town of Pemón over 1,600,000 (US$370,000) for the reconstruction of the Caroni river basin in the state of Bolivar.
In other celebrations, indigenous groups took to Parque Central in Caracas in order to stage a series of indigenous cultural activities that are set to last till Wednesday. As well as being dressed in traditional indigenous clothing and staging cultural shows, groups are also selling traditional indigenous crafts, including belts, dolls, and blankets.