Lower Similkameen Indian Band Wins Right to Remove Ancestral Remains from Private Property

First Nation says its Ancestral Burial Site was desecrated in February of 2016

CBC News | September 12, 2017

A First Nation in southern B.C. has won its fight to gain access to a private property in order to complete the removal of remains from an ancestral burial site.

Members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band were granted the ministerial order to enter the property in Cawston following a meeting with government officials last week.

The First Nation says the move is unprecedented and will ensure that the reburial of the remains is expedited and sanctioned.

A press release put out by the band stated that the burial ground was desecrated on February 29, 2016.

“Under the Liberal government, LSIB was granted temporary access to collect approximately 500 exposed remains but additional collection was required,” stated the release.

Chief Keith Crow says the decision comes after more than a year and a half of waiting and is a step towards meaningful nation-to-nation relations in B.C.

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BC Archaeologists Violated Rules for Protecting Indigenous Sites, Must Re-Evaluate Site C Bridge Construction

Garth Lenz, DeSmog.ca

BC Hydro Violated Rules for Protecting Indigenous Sites, Must Re-Evaluate Site C Bridge Construction

By Emma Gilchrist | August 31, 2017

BC Hydro violated its environmental assessment certificate for the Site C dam project, according to a B.C. government report released Thursday.

The inspection report, from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, detailed how BC Hydro failed to develop acceptable mitigation measures for an aboriginal sweat lodge and suspected burial site, and cannot legally proceed with a bridge related to Site C highway relocation until it does so.

This means BC Hydro’s controversial highway re-location will need to be assessed again by the Environmental Assessment Office and an alternate route long supported by the First Nations may be considered after all.

“BC Hydro has not developed mitigation for known cultural values in the Bear Flats area, including the sweat lodge (and nearby camp) and the potential burial site…” noted the report, which points out that BC Hydro is well aware of the cultural importance of the area for local First Nations.

BC Hydro has been warned of non-compliance with regards to the 455-metre bridge BC Hydro planned as part of the highway relocation in an area of the valley called Cache Creek-Bear Flats, according to the 54-page report issued following a five-month investigation.

“As BC Hydro has been advised that the [Cultural Resources Management Plan] is not ‘to the satisfaction of’ the EAO and that it must be updated prior to conducting construction activities that may impact known cultural resources, it may be a non-compliance if BC Hydro were to proceed to conduct construction activities that may impact known cultural resources,” the report reads.

West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson welcomed the findings, saying that BC Hydro has been “out of line” with his nation and the Prophet River First Nation. They jointly filed a complaint with the EAO in early April.

“A Crown Corporation should be setting the bar on how other [resource project] proponents have to deal with First Nations,” Willson said.

“They’re supposed to be setting the benchmark on this thing. What they’re doing is lowering the benchmark.”

Willson said the two First Nations repeatedly asked BC Hydro and the former B.C. government to use a short-listed alternate route for the Site C highway relocation and Cache Creek bridge to avoid “desecrating” aboriginal grave sites and to protect the sweat lodge and traditional gathering place at the confluence of Cache Creek and the Peace River.

But BC Hydro contractors clear-cut much of the Cache Creek area in February and March, after expropriating property from third generation Peace Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon, leaving the land looking like a “moonscape,” according to Willson.

Willson said he was at a meeting in Vancouver in March with BC Hydro representatives to discuss the issue of the Site C highway relocation when the forest near the sweat lodge and grave site was mulched.

“They were cutting the right of way as we were down there trying to solve the issue,” Willson said. …

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‘Unesco-cide’: How World Heritage Status Harm’s Cities and Heritage

‘Unesco-cide’: Does World Heritage Status Do Cities More Harm than Good?

Laignee Barron | August 30, 2017

Many of the 1,052 destinations across the world that have been stamped with United Nations world heritage status struggle to strike the balance between the economic benefits of catering to visitors and preserving the culture that drew the recognition.

The heritage designation began in 1972 to identify and protect places “of outstanding universal value”. However, by raising the international profile of a location, the label also fuels a rush of visitors and opens the door to commercialisation that can dilute the site’s authenticity.

“It is an inevitable destiny: the very reasons why a property is chosen for inscription on the world heritage list are also the reasons why millions of tourists flock to those sites year after year,” wrote Francesco Bandarin, the former world heritage director at Unesco, in a 2002 manual called Managing Tourism at World Heritage Sites.

The phenomenon has even been given a name by Italian writer Marco d’Eramo, who argues that Unesco preserves buildings but allows the communities around them to be destroyed, often by tourism. He calls it “Unesco-cide”.

Laos’ Luang Prabang, for example, a world heritage town of around 50,000 people, now expects to attract more than 700,000 tourists by 2018. Researcher Chloe Maurel has written about the adverse affects of the status on the historic Casco Viejo neighbourhood in Panama City, which relegated its poorest inhabitants to the city limits following its Unesco validation – while the central district was flooded with tourists.

National Geographic has collated examples such as Xian, China, site of the famous terracotta warriors, where a poorly situated new museum may have negatively impacted the precious site. Writers Lauri Hafvenstein and Brian Handwerk also pointed to the controversial activity close to the Belize’s Barrier Reef, where developers are closing in and exploiting the region’s world heritage status to sell swamp land to customers over the internet.

For George Town and its clan jetties, the Unesco imprimatur seemingly provided a second wind. Established as the straits base for the British East India Company in 1786, the outpost attracted swells of artisans, sailors and traders in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Fishermen and porters from southern China’s Fujian province carved out an enclave above the reclaimed seafront. Each extended family – or clan – occupied their own jetty, and the makeshift settlements grew as relatives emigrated and added to the stilt homes interconnected by a wooden walkway. …

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In a Rational World, Can Tribal Knowledge Lead Us Into the Future?

In a Rational World, Can Tribal Knowledge Lead Us Into the Future?

Tribal knowledge could be the key to understanding earth and global climate change

By Duane Champagne | August 31, 2017

The goals and values of Indigenous Peoples stress that the world is full of give and take. Life is a great gift. One has a role to play in community and society. Individuals seek to find that role or life purpose and to fulfill one’s given task. Ceremonies are often about seeking personal and tribal understandings and directions. The world is full of meaning and purpose, although people are not gifted with a complete understanding of the future or present. Tribal knowledge is made up of ceremonial interpretations and human experiences. Elders collect knowledge on their long life journeys and pass information onto other generations.

Each nation, and each person, has a purpose or role to play. The way of the world, however, is not known to humans. The universe has direction and purpose, but each nation or person only comprehends and can affect a part of the whole. This view is something like the Big Bang Theory, where the universe is rushing through space in all directions, but we do not know why or what will happen in the end. We as persons and nations are along for the ride. The force and direction of the universe may be what many Indigenous Peoples called the Great Spirit. The powers and forces of the universe are beyond knowledge and power of people, and therefore people and nations should always be humble and forgiving in life.

A cultural theme within contemporary modernism is the increasing rationality of the world. Markets are favored, in part, because markets are efficient, productive, and profitable ways to distribute goods. Science brings greater understanding of the organization and activities within nature. Science dominates over religion and culture. Culture and being are subordinated to the requirements of efficiency. Religion and culture are preferably separated from government and economic decision-making.

In Western tradition, the earth is made up of raw material waiting for transformation into a product useful to humans. A major purpose is the transformation and control of the world for political and economic domination. The earth, full of wild and useless beings, needs to be transformed into objects that serve the goals and purposes of humans and nations. Making heaven on earth is a deep underlying cultural goal in Western nations. Heaven, where all human needs and wants are satisfied, is a central goal and purpose for people and of history. History marks the realization of creating heaven on earth. The achievement of utopia, or heaven on earth, will be reward of progress and rationality at the end of history. Humans at the end of history will be the center of the universe and in control of the earth’s resources. The heavy emphasis on material goals in life lead to a world bereft of enchantment or cultural interpretation.

In recent years, because of the increasing apparentness of global environmental change, people have become aware of the need to understand the earth as a complex, interrelated place where humans and nations play a negative role. However, the mere understanding that humans have been neglecting the world, and need to change their environmental habits, is not enough. Such a position remains entirely within the rationality worldview, and does not give enough attention to holistic, philosophical, and culturally-based understandings.

Rational methods created the current environmental crisis. And perhaps one could generalize to other aspects of the over rationality of the present world in terms of race, ethnic, national, and terrorist conflicts. Fighting rationality with rationality may not produce the culturally and philosophically meaningful solutions that may be required. Here is where the wisdom of the ancients and tribal knowledge about how to live and the purposes and goals of life and nations may usefully enter into any discussion of where do we go from here.


UN Calls for Halt of Site C Dam

United Nations Panel Calls for Halt of B.C.’s Site C Dam

By The Canadian Press | August 29, 2017

A United Nations panel says the construction of British Columbia’s $8.8-billion Site C dam should be halted until there is a full review of how it would affect Indigenous land.

The recommendation is contained in a report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which has completed its periodic review of how Canada complies with the world body’s treaty to end racial discrimination.

The recommendation comes three weeks after British Columbia’s NDP government requested a review of what had been a signature megaproject for former premier Christy Clark.

The government asked the B.C. Utilities Commission to determine the economic viability of the massive hydroelectric dam on the Peace River and issue a final report by Nov. 1.

Site C has become controversial after the previous provincial Liberal government’s clean-energy laws allowed some projects to bypass a review by the regulatory agency. …

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Trump Just Endorsed the Idea of Concentration Camps in the U.S.

Concentration Camps Expert Says Trump Just Endorsed The Idea Of Them In U.S.

By Sam Levine | August 26, 2017

President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio amounts to an endorsement of the idea of concentration camps, says a journalist who has reported on the global history of the deadly facilities.

Arpaio referred to his own county jail as a ”concentration camp.” For over two decades, he operated “Tent City,” where detainees were kept in brutal conditions, including temperatures soaring well above 100 degrees Farenheit. They were also forced to work on chain gangs and to wear pink undergarments as a form of humiliation. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order prohibiting the detention of people based on mere suspicions about their legal status.

In an email to HuffPost Saturday, Andrea Pitzer, the author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, defined a concentration camp as a “mass civilian detention outside the standard legal process, usually on the basis of race, ethnicity, or political activity.” While Pitzer said Tent City was a prison technically constructed to hold those convicted by law, it bore familiar elements to a concentration camp, including “brutal dehuminization.”

“Once Arpaio began neighborhood sweeps and traffic stops deliberately targeting Latinos, and then detaining them without charges, his whole enterprise tilted further toward being a concentration camp for that set of detainees,” she wrote. “And even for those who had been convicted of crimes, it was a harrowing, often deadly experience.”

Pitzer said Trump pardoning Arpaio legitimized the 85-year-old former sheriff’s operation. …

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Haida Strip Hereditary Chiefs of Titles for Enbridge Support

Haida Strip Two Hereditary Chiefs of Titles for Supporting Enbridge

By Jeff Lee | August 17, 2016

The extraordinary decision by a Haida clan to strip two of its hereditary chiefs of their titles for secretly supporting the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is being closely watched by First Nations across Canada.

The rebuke, delivered last week in an elaborate ceremony witnessed by more than 500 people, came as the Haida Nation rejected what they say is a growing trend by companies to enlist the support of hereditary chiefs as a way of claiming broad First Nations support.

“This is an absolutely huge decision and I think it is a wake-up call to the hereditary system of governance and leadership,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“I think First Nations across the province and throughout Indian country in general are paying attention to these developments.”

On Aug. 13, members of the clan stripped Carmen Goertzen and Francis Ingram of their titles, effectively removing them as representatives of two houses, the Yahgulaanaas Janaas of Daadens, and the Litjaaw Yaahl Naas. Goertzen, a well-known Haida artist, had held the position for 25 years. Ingram had only been appointed a year ago.

The Haida are made up of 22 house clans, each overseen by hereditary chiefs. An elected council represents the Haida Nation.

The men were part of a group of eight, including two other hereditary chiefs, who signed a letter to the National Energy Board in March supporting Northern Gateway’s request for a time extension to its permit for the bitumen transport pipeline. Earlier this summer, the Federal Court overturned federal approval of Northern Gateway, leaving the company with only one more “faint hope” opportunity.

Goertzen, Ingram and the others, including four men whom the Haida Nation says do not hold any hereditary position, formed a group they called Hereditary Chiefs of North Haida Gwaii LLP.

The head of the clan that Goertzen and Ingram represented said the community never knew the men had signed on to support Enbridge and that their letter made it look like the Haida at large had reversed their long-standing opposition to the project.

“I don’t think anyone in a clan can tell people who they can work for, but when you are a hereditary chief leader you have responsibilities to your clan and you have to consult with them on important issues like this,” said Darin Swanson, the head chief of the Yahgulaanaas Janaas clan. “As hereditary leaders, they didn’t do that. Everything was a big secret up till now. At the end of the day, they are crawling into bed with Enbridge. It is almost up to the point that Enbridge is accepting them as (representing) the consultation on the whole of Haida Gwaii.” …

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First Nations Criticize Canada at UN International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

First Nations Blast Canada at CERD in Geneva

Indigenous leaders tell CERD that Trudeau Liberals are still engaged in racial discrimination

Daniel Mesec | August 18, 2017

Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia and across the country are calling out the Canadian government on what they say are violations of their indigenous rights, in addition to ongoing racial discrimination against Indigenous Peoples. A delegation of leaders from the Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan and Haida Nations from Northwest British Columbia traveled to Geneva this week to make their case before the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

They are asking CERD to investigate Canada’s environmental assessment policies, which they say violate many of their aboriginal rights backed by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Currently Canada is undergoing its periodic CERD review, and a report is expected by the end of August. It will focus on much of the testimony received on Monday August 14, especially that from northern B.C. First Nations who continue to oppose major resource development projects they say will have a detrimental impact on their lives.

“The ongoing pandering to multinational corporations through exploitation of resources is very much a threat to our ways of life,” said Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Deneza Na’Moks, (John Ridsdale), in the First Nations’ official submission to the convention. “We might be the first to live with the consequence of carbon-based economies that are already causing wholesale change to natural systems and suffering of people around the world.”

Canada’s environmental assessment laws, Na’Moks said, continue to measure financial benefits rather than the social, cultural and environmental impacts to communities. Although there are indigenous rights are clearly defined through the Declaration, the CERD committee didn’t have a clear understanding of how these rights have been violated in Canada and the difference between the hereditary governance systems and the elected band councils, Na’Moks contended.

“They weren’t aware of how atrocious Canada is on endorsing their own laws and then not upholding the UNDRIP and free, prior and informed consent,” Na’Moks said. “In response, Canada gave cut-and-paste answers. They were very weak in their replies to the committee.”

The Canadian government did not testify at the CERD meeting, whose purpose was solely to deliver testimony to the U.N. officials. But contacted by ICMN afterward, Canadian officials reiterated their commitment to rebuilding relationships with First Nations and said the work is ongoing, at the same time recognizing the shortcomings of current and previous governments when it comes to indigenous rights. …

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Canada Criticized for Resource Policies at UN Racial Discrimination Hearing

Canada in Hot Seat for Resource Policies at UN Racial Discrimination Hearing

By James Wilt | August 16, 2017

Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia are calling on the UN to investigate whether ongoing industrial development of Indigenous lands and waters constitutes a violation of UN conventions this week.

Canada is up for review by the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In a submission, tribes from B.C.’s northwest said Canada’s environmental assessment laws continue to measure money instead of impact.

One of the signatories is Deneza Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en. He travelled to the UN on the heels of the recent approval and then cancellation of Petronas’ plans to build a pipeline and the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the Skeena River estuary.

The project and its approval point squarely back to failures in Canada’s environmental assessment process and a lack of recognition of Indigenous nationhood, the committee heard.

“We asked [the Committee] to use any force that they can to get Canada to uphold support and use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” Ridsdale told DeSmog Canada.

The project was approved, despite concerns from scientists about it being sited in critical juvenile salmon habitat and about the plant’s enormous greenhouse gas footprint (if built, the plant would have been the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada).

Petronas announced the cancellation of the project in late July, citing “market conditions.”

“The cancellation of one project because of poor gas prices does nothing to address the underlying legal issues that will plague any project that threatens the wild salmon,” said Kirby Muldoe, a member of the delegation of Tsimsian and Gitxsan descent.

Site C Dam Puts Canadian Government in Hot Seat

Much of the committee’s attention was paid to the issue of the controversial Site C dam under construction in northeast B.C.

The committee saw the issue of Site C as “emblematic of a deeply disturbing disrespect for the rights of Indigenous peoples,” Craig Benjamin from Amnesty International told DeSmog Canada. “The attention that the committee gave to Site C was in my mind unprecedented.”

Robyn Fuller, councillor for West Moberly First Nation, made an especially fiery presentation to the committee.

“We will no longer allow our people to be poisoned, starved, and pushed aside as if we do not matter,” she said. “We do not only fight for ourselves, we fight for our future generations to continue our way of life long after we have left this world.”

Benjamin said members of the committee spoke at “incredible lengths” on the rights violations associated with the project, including impacts on cultural heritage, failure to respect “free, prior and informed consent,” violations of Treaty 8 and barriers to accessing justice.

However, the delegation representing the Government of Canada — made up of civil servants from a variety of departments — didn’t include a single mention of Site C in their initial response.

When Government of Canada delegates were asked by the UN Committee about the omission, it was chalked up as an “oversight.”

Benjamin said that when they did provide a response, it was fundamentally wrong, contradicting what the Government of Canada’s lawyers told the courts.

“At what point does the Trudeau government have to admit that their movement on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not match up with their actions?” Candace Batycki, program director at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, told DeSmog Canada. …

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117 Environmental Defenders Have Been Killed So Far In 2017

117 Environmental Defenders Have Been Killed So Far In 2017 While Protecting Their Community’s Land Or Natural Resources

This year, in collaboration with Global Witness, the Guardian will attempt to record the deaths of all these people, whether they be wildlife rangers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or indigenous land rights activists in Brazil. At this current rate, chances are that four environmental defenders will be killed this week somewhere on the planet.

What’s driving this violence? The short answer is: industry. The most deadly industry to go up against was mining, with 33 deaths last year relating to anti-mining activities. Agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging were also key drivers of violence, Global Witness found. Many of the killings recorded occurred in remote villages deep within mountain ranges and rainforests, with indigenous communities hardest hit. …

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