Friday, October 16, 2009

Indigenous Resistance Day - Venezuela

Venezuela Returns Land to Indigenous Communities On Indigenous Resistance Day
October 13th 2009, by Kiraz Janicke -

Indigenous Resistance Day in Caracas (Prensa YVKE Mundial)
Caracas, October 13, 2009 ( - Celebrating 517 years of indigenous resistance to invasion and colonisation Venezuela marked Indigenous Resistance Day on Monday with a street march through the capital, Caracas, the granting of title deeds to indigenous communities, and a special session of the National Assembly.

Across the Americas October 12 is widely celebrated as Columbus Day, the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus, representing the Spanish Crown, first arrived in the Americas. In 2004 the Venezuelan government officially changed the name to Indigenous Resistance Day.

In Caracas, thousands of members of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), together with members of Venezuela's 44 indigenous groups, marched to the National Pantheon, in order to celebrate achievements for indigenous peoples under the Chavez government and claim their rights as the original inhabitants of the country.

A special session of the National Assembly then took place in the Pantheon, where the remains of 16th Century Indigenous Cacique (Chief) Guaicaipuro lie as well as those of Venezuelan independence leader Simon Bolivar, who fought against Spanish colonialism.

Also during a special ceremony in Zulia state, Venezuelan Interior Relations and Justice Minister, Tarek el Aissami, handed over title deeds covering some 41,630 hectares of land to three Yukpa indigenous communities in the Sierra de Perija National Park.

"Today we join in this celebration of Indigenous Resistance Day, the day of the dignity of the indigenous peoples of Latin America and particularly of the Bolivarian and Revolutionary Venezuela," stressed the minister.

Yupka community spokesperson Efrain Romero said, "It's historic to receive title to the lands we inhabit," and added, "We reaffirm our fight for this revolution to continue advancing (...) we reaffirm our support for President Hugo Chávez."

In recent years the Sierra de Perija region has been the scenario of a fierce conflict between large "landowners" and the indigenous communities who were forcibly driven off their lands during the Perez Jimenez dictatorship in the 1940s.

The situation came to a head in July 2008 when Yukpa indigenous communities occupied 14 large estates to demand legal title to their ancestral lands. Estate owner Alejandro Vargas and four others, armed with guns and machetes, responded by attempting to assassinate the Yukpa cacique (chief) Sabino Romero, who was leading the occupations, and beat and killed Romero's elderly 109-year-old father Jose Manuel Romero.

Then on August 6 hundreds of armed mercenaries, hired by large landowners, attacked the indigenous communities.

At the time Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed what he described as the "ambiguous attitudes" of some government functionaries in dealing with the land demarcation process and ordered an investigation into the violent attacks.

"There should be no doubt: Between the large estate owners and the Indians, this government is with the Indians" Chavez said.
read entire story here

Chile to apply antiterrorism law to prosecute indigenous dissidents

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Chile to apply antiterrorism law to prosecute indigenous resisters
Ximena Marinero at 6:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Chilean Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced Tuesday that Chile will use a 1984 antiterrorism law [text, in Spanish] to prosecute indigenous Mapuches for attacks allegedly committed in the southern region of Araucania. The Chilean government has declared that it will apply the measure to criminals regardless of their ethnicity, and that only a minority of Mapuches are responsible for the recent attacks in an attempt to disturb negotiations over Mapuche demands.

The government has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council , which maintain that the antiterrorism law unfairly singles out Mapuches, who are Chile's largest minority, accounting for an estimated 4 to 6 percent of the country's population. The law dates from the Pinochet regime and abrogates due process rights for the accused, including a longer wait before arraignment and access to a lawyer once charged. The law also allows the imposition of sanctions up to three times what is established by the Chilean Criminal Code, and considers that acts perpetrated with the general intent of causing fear in the general population or imposing demands upon authorities have a terrorist intent.

Last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proposed the creation of an Indian Affairs Ministry. The proposal has been rejected by the Mapuche indigenous group, which continues to advocate for autonomy. Chile has ruled out such an option but has undertaken land redistribution [Santiago Times report] in Araucania to Mapuche members in response to their demands. Recently, Chile has also attempted to accommodate the demands] of the Rapa Nui residents of Easter Island, another indigenous group, by undertaking a consultation process on the subject of immigration and tourism to the island. The consultation comes as the Chilean Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] last week that a measure requiring all visitors to Easter Island to fill out Special Visitor's Cards with information about the length of and reason for their trip is unconstitutional.
original article

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

US Schools Showing Columbus' Dark Side

Sunday, 11 Oct 2009
By CHRISTINE ARMARIO, Associated Press Writer
TAMPA, Fla. - Jeffrey Kolowith's kindergarten students read a poem about Christopher Columbus , take a journey to the New World on three paper ships and place the explorer's picture on a timeline through history.

Kolowith's students learn about the explorer's significance -- though they also come away with a more nuanced picture of Columbus than the noble discoverer often portrayed in pop culture and legend.

"I talk about the situation where he didn't even realize where he was," Kolowith said. "And we talked about how he was very, very mean, very bossy."

Columbus' stature in U.S. classrooms has declined somewhat through the years, and many districts will not observe his namesake holiday on Monday. Although lessons vary, many teachers are trying to present a more balanced perspective of what happened after Columbus reached the Caribbean and the suffering of indigenous populations.

"The whole terminology has changed," said James Kracht, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development . "You don't hear people using the world 'discovery' anymore like they used to. 'Columbus discovers America.' Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?"

In Texas, students start learning in the fifth grade about the "Columbian Exchange" -- which consisted not only of gold, crops and goods shipped back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, but diseases carried by settlers that decimated native populations.

In McDonald, Pa., 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, fourth-grade students at Fort Cherry Elementary put Columbus on trial this year -- charging him with misrepresenting the Spanish crown and thievery. They found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.

"In their own verbiage, he was a bad guy," teacher Laurie Crawford said.

Of course, the perspective given varies across classrooms and grades. Donna Sabis-Burns, a team leader with the U.S. Department of Education's School Support and Technology Program , surveyed teachers nationwide about the Columbus reading materials they used in class for her University of Florida dissertation. She examined 62 picture books, and found the majority were outdated and contained inaccurate -- and sometimes outright demeaning -- depictions of the native Taino population.

The federal holiday itself also is not universally recognized. Schools in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle will be open; New York City, Washington and Chicago schools will be closed.

The day is an especially sensitive issue in places with larger native American populations.

"We have a very large Alaska native population, so just the whole Columbus being the founder of the United States, doesn't sit well with a lot of people, myself included," said Paul Prussing, deputy director of Alaska's Division of Teaching and Learning Support .

Many recall decades ago when there was scant mention of indigenous groups in discussions about Columbus. Kracht remembers a picture in one of his fifth-grade textbooks that showed Columbus wading to shore with a huge flag and cross.

"The indigenous population was kind of waiting expectantly, almost with smiles on their faces," Kracht said. "'I wonder what this guy is bringing us?' Well, he's bringing us smallpox, for one thing, and none of us are going to live very long."

Kracht said an emerging multiculturalism led more people to investigate the cruelties suffered by the Taino population in the 1960s and '70s, along with the 500th anniversary in 1992.

However, there are people who believe the discussion has shifted too far. Patrick Korten, vice president of communications for the Catholic fraternal service organization the Knights of Columbus, recalled a note from a member who saw a lesson at a New Jersey school.

The students were forced to stand in a cafeteria and not allowed to eat while other students teased and intimidated them -- apparently so they could better understand the suffering indigenous populations endured because of Columbus, Korten said.

"My impression is that in some classrooms, it's anything but a balanced presentation," Korten, said. "That it's deliberately very negative, which is a matter of great concern because that is not accurate."

Korten said he doesn't believe such activities are widespread -- though the lessons will certainly vary.

In Kolowith's Tampa class, students gathered around a white carpet, where they examined a pile of bright plastic fruits and vegetables, baby dolls, construction paper and other items as they decided what would be best for their voyage.

"Do you think it would be good to take babies on a long and dangerous boat ride?" he asked the class. "No!" they replied.

Fifteen miles away, in Seffner, Fla., Colson Elementary assistant principal Jack Keller visited students in a colonial outfit and gray wig, pretending to be Columbus and discussing his voyages. The suffering of natives was not mentioned.

"Our thing was to show exploration," he said.


Crawford's Pennsylvania class dressed up as characters from the era, assigned roles for a mock trial and put Columbus on the stand. Out of a jury of 12 students, nine found him guilty of the charges.

"Every hero is somebody else's villain," said Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a scholar and author of several books related to Columbus, including "1492: The Year the World Began."

"Heroism and villainy are just two sides of the same coin."

Columbus Day: Yea or nay?

Indian-Killer Re-enactors Lead Columbus Parade in Denver

The Buffalo Post - October 10, 2009

Many places will commemorate Columbus Day on Monday. For some people, that means a long weekend. For others – and not only Native Americans – it’s an affront. Lots of news organizations weighed in on the topic. Here’s a sampling:
The Wall Street Journal gets us started, with this story archly headlined “Is Columbus Day Sailing Off the Calendar?” It outlines the various ways in which places celebrate the day – or have decided not to. And even the ones that do tread lightly.As Dan Williamson, a spokesman for Mayor Michael B. Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, says: “It would be stupid to pretend there is no controversy around Christopher Columbus.”
In Barre and Montpelier, Vermont, the Times-Argus features letters from Spaulding High School students on the topic. One of those students, Jacob Eli Trepanier, recommends replacing the current parades and other celebrations with a moment of silence in recognition of the slaughter and suffering of Native people that began with Columbus’ arrival. (Read his letter and the others here.)
This Christian Science Monitor piece recounts how Hawaii has changed the name of the holiday to Discover’s Day – and goes on to suggest changing it, nationwide, yet again to honor a Native American, such as Crazy Horse or Chief Joseph. And it quotes the latter, terming his words a “distinctly American” philosophy:
“Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think, and act for myself – and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.”
In Denver, which has seen decades of controversy and violent protest surrounding that city’s Columbus Day celebration, things are even uneasier than usual this year as a result of a false report that the scheduled Columbus Day parade had been canceled, reports here. The same story quotes an organizer of the parade, a member of the Sons of Italy, as saying he felt personally wounded, as he feels the parade celebrates his heritage.
I heard that argument a lot when I lived and worked in Denver, with its rich mix of Native, Hispanic and Italian communities, all of whom took an intense interest in the day’s activities. Given that my grandparents came to this country from Italy, some of those people figured they knew where I stood on the subject. And indeed, there’s much in my heritage to honor. But Columbus? Please. This particular Italian finds nothing there to be proud of.
Gwen Florio

Is Columbus Day Sailing Off the Calendar?

WALL STREET JOURNAL - October 10, 2009

Arrivederci, Columbus Day.

The tradition of honoring Christopher Columbus for sailing the ocean blue in 1492 is facing rougher seas than the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria.

Philadelphia's annual Columbus Day parade has been canceled. Brown University this year renamed the holiday "Fall Weekend" following a campaign by a Native American student group opposed to celebrating an explorer who helped enslave some of the people he "discovered."

And while the Italian adventurer is generally thought to have arrived in the New World on Oct. 12, 517 years ago on Monday, his holiday is getting bounced all over the calendar. Tennessee routinely celebrates it the Friday after Thanksgiving to give people an extra-long weekend.

"You can celebrate the hell out of it if you get it the day after Thanksgiving -- it gives you four days off," says former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter.

In California, Columbus Day is one of two paid holidays getting blown away by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of a budget-cut proposal. In Washington, D.C., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid canceled this year's weeklong Columbus Day recess so the senators can buckle down on health care. (They still get Monday off, though.)

Ground zero of the Columbus battle has been Colorado, home to the nation's first official Columbus holiday about a century ago. Columbus Day parades in Denver have faced acrimonious protests for much of the past decade. Marchers have been on the receiving end of dismembered dolls and fake blood strewn across the parade route. Dozens of protesters have been arrested over the years.

This year, the attacks took a new twist: A prankster sent an email to local media -- purporting to be from parade organizers -- saying the event had been canceled.

read entire story here