Things That Matter

Illegal Gold Miners Killed A Tribal Leader In The Amazon And Now They’re Illegally Occupying Indigenous Lands

Dozens of gold miners have invaded a remote Indigenous reserve in the Brazilian Amazon where a local leader was stabbed to death and have taken over a village after the community fled in fear, local politicians and Indigenous leaders said. The authorities said police were on their way to investigate.

Miners killed the tribal leader and then invaded the reserve in which the tribe lived.

Credit: @HernanPorrrasM / Twitter

Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded an Indigenous village in remote northern Brazil this week and fatally stabbed at least one of the community’s leaders, officials said Saturday. The killing comes as miners and loggers are making increasingly bold and defiant incursions into protected areas, including Indigenous territories, with the explicit encouragement of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Land invasions in indigenous territories are on the rise across Brazil, where Indigenous leaders say they regularly come under threat by miners, loggers and farmers. Yet assassinations of Indigenous leaders are rare.

Leaders of the Wajapi Indigenous community made urgent pleas to the federal government on Saturday, warning that the conflict between the miners and members of their community who live in remote villages in the northern state of Amapá risked turning into a blood bath.

“They are armed with rifles and other weapons,” Jawaruwa Waiapi, a leader of the community, said in a voice message sent to one of the state’s senators, referring to the miners. “We are in danger. You need to send the army to stop them.”

Local authorities fear a “bloodbath” if the tense situation isn’t diffused quickly.

“The garimpeiros invaded the indigenous village and are there until today. They are heavily armed, they have machine guns. That is why we asking for help from the federal police,” Kureni Waiãpi, 26, a member of the tribe, told The Guardian. He added: “If nothing is done they will start to fight.”

“We have a very tense situation,” said Beth Pelaes, mayor of Pedra Branca do Amapari, who said the tribe are very traditional and allow only authorized visitors.

Many have placed the blame for the attack on Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Credit: @caio_parazzi / Twitter

A member of the opposition party, Mr. Rodrigues, said Mr. Bolsonaro’s views on Indigenous territories and the rights of native communities had put the descendants of Brazil’s original inhabitants in mortal danger.

“The president is responsible for this death,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Bolsonaro has said that Indigenous communities are in control of vast territories that should be opened up to industries to make them profitable.

Credit: @Manya_G / Twitter

Recently Bolsonaro compared Indigenous people living traditional lives on their reserves to “prehistoric men”. On Saturday he once again talked up the mineral riches in the Raposa Serra do Sol and Yanomami reserves – currently inundated with thousands of garimpeiros.

“I’m looking for the ‘first world’ to explore these areas in partnership and add value. That’s the reason for my approximation with the United States. That’s why I want a person of trust in the embassy in the USA,” Bolsonaro said on Saturday, according to the O Globo newspaper. His plans to appoint his congressman son, Eduardo, as Brazil’s US ambassador have caused an outcry in Brazil.

According to a report by The Guardian, illegal mining is causing immense damage to a forest already under siege by climate change, illegal logging, and more.

Credit: @marcgriebel / Twitter

Illegal gold mining is at epidemic proportions in the Amazon and the heavily polluting activities of garimpeiros – as miners are called – devastate forests and poison rivers with mercury.

READ: It’s Been Six Months And Brazil’s President Is On A Tear Stripping Rights Away From Every Vulnerable Community

An Indigenous Community In Venezuela Celebrates The Return Of A Highly-Scared Stone That Was Taken By A German Artist

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An Indigenous Community In Venezuela Celebrates The Return Of A Highly-Scared Stone That Was Taken By A German Artist

BerlinXplorer / Flickr | AP

Colonialism is alive and well. Look no further than the frequent examples of Europeans, Americans, and others taking property from Indigenous communities around the world in the name of science or art.

The British Museum is full of incredible artifacts and exhibits from around the world – due to its history as a colonial power that pillaged the communities it ruled. Although there is a growing call to start retuning many of the pieces, the museum has failed to take action.

Although it’s not all terrible news. At least one artists has returned a sacred object he took from an Indigenous community in Venezuela back in 1998.

An Indigenous community in Venezuela celebrates the return of a highly-scared stone that was taken from them by a German artist.

The sacred stone returned to its home in Venezuela, more than two decades after it was taken for a public art exhibition in the German capital, Berlin.

Venezuelan state TV showed a large crate containing the 30-ton stone (that’s more than 60,000 pounds) being lifted by a crane from a ship docked at a Venezuelan port – beginning its journey back to the Gran Sabana region. The stone, sacred to Venezuela’s Pemon community, originated in the famous grassland region known for its flat-topped mountains and the world’s tallest waterfall.

The stone’s removal stirred strain between Germany and Venezuela, including protests by tribal members outside the German embassy in Caracas.

It had been displayed among five large stones in Tiergarten Park in Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate and Holocaust Memorial.

Credit: Z.C. Dutka / Flickr

The so-called Kueka stone from Venezuela represented love, according to the artist’s webpage. Other hulking stones collected from around the world in the Global Stones Project symbolized awakening, hope, forgiveness and peace. 

The Pemons believe it represents the story of star-cross lovers, each turned to stone by a deity as punishment for marrying a member of another tribe.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has described the stone as “spiritual treasure.”

President Nicolás Maduro in a nightly TV broadcast welcomed it home, calling it a “spiritual and cultural treasure” at a time when Venezuela and the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. He said the stone will next be trucked to the remote corner of southern Venezuela where it originated. 

“The Kueka stone begins its its journey back to the place it had always been for thousands of years,” Maduro said.

Venezuelan officials said Germany returned it in a “friendly agreement,” as a sign of “goodwill and willingness to respect the peoples’ cultural rights.”

The Kueka stone was taken from Venezuela more than two decades ago to be part of a public exhibition in the German capital.

Credit: BerlinXplorer / Flickr

Bavarian artist Wolfgang Kraker von Schwarzenfeld removed the so-called Kueka stone from Venezuela in 1998. He claimed that the Venezuelan government had given him permission to use it for an exhibition, saying it would symbolize love.

Von Schwarzenfeld’s Global Stones Project brought together five large stones from across the globe, with the others symbolizing awakening, hope, forgiveness and peace.

“I spoke with ministers, indigenous people, managers and the man on the street, and learned about Venezuelans’ ambitions and problems,” von Schwarzenfeld said. “I filed an application and started the project. South of the Orinoco River, I found a red granite boulder to be the first stone for my project.”

The stone’s return marks a solution agreed to by all sides.

Maduro’s government championed the cause of the Pemon community, working its diplomatic relationship with Germany to get the stone back.

Culture Minister Pedro Calzadilla told state television the donation was “illegitimate” because the stone was part of “the cultural patrimony of the (Pemon) community”. Prosecutors are looking into the stone’s removal because “whoever authorized the removal of the Grandmother committed a crime”, he said.

Pemon tribespeople often demonstrated outside Germany’s embassy in Caracas with spears, feather headdresses and banners saying “The Pemon People Want Our Wise Grandmother Back.” The German envoy promised to relay their feelings to Berlin, while telling them it would be no easy task to return the stone. 

German Foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said Berlin wanted a solution “agreed by all sides – Venezuela, the indigenous groups, the artist and the city of Berlin.”

Indigenous Groups In Oaxaca Are Making Their Own Face Masks From Palms And Donating Them To Those Who Need Them Most

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Indigenous Groups In Oaxaca Are Making Their Own Face Masks From Palms And Donating Them To Those Who Need Them Most

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All around the world, masks are in short supply. And as more and more governments require their residents to wear masks whenever they go outside, a mask is a must-have accessory at this point.

In Los Angeles, you won’t be allowed inside supermarkets without one. In Mexico City, you aren’t allowed on the Metro (yes, it’s still running). In some parts of Latin America, you can be fined for simply leaving the house without wearing one.

Thankfully, communities around the world have sprung into action and have started making masks.

A group of Indigenous women in Mexico’s Oaxaca state have started weaving facial masks out of palms to protect their community.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, one group of Oaxaca women are doing good by their community and working to make masks from a local material that grows in abundance across the state – palm fronds.

The women, who normally work as artesanas, are helping impoverished Indigenous communities grapple with the threat of Covid-19. They’re weaving thousands of masks every week because of the scarcity and high-cost of surgical masks.

Images shot in Nochixtlán, a region home to a large Mixtec population, show the women separating the palm leaves into strips and weaving the masks one by one. It’s labor-intensive work but it’s paying off. The vast majority of the communities of Mixteca region, which has high rates of migration, marginalisation and poverty, are dedicated to making handicrafts from palm leaves, such as hats and mats.

“With this mask it is easier because you can wash it the same way, you can reuse it again, on the other hand the other one cannot be washed because it then becomes ugly. It is faster and cheaper, because now the masks are very expensive to buy,” said Serapia Lopez Lopez, one of the artisans.

Not only are they making them for their own community, they’ve also donated 5,000 to other Indigenous groups across Mexico.

Credit: International Indigenous Youth Council / Facebook

As Mexico has struggled to come up with much-needed medical supplies for healthcare workers and the public alike, this group of women are reaching out to help others.

Aside from taking their own time to create valuable face masks for their own community, they’re also sharing the masks with other Indigenous groups across the country. So far the group has donated more than 5,000 masks with plans to donate another 5,000.

Although Mexico hasn’t been hit as hard as much of the world by the Covid-19 pandemic, many say it’s just a matter of time.

So far, Mexico has almost 5,500 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 400 people have died. However, when compared to other countries in the region – especially the United States just to the country’s north – these numbers are low.

However, Mexico’s own health experts admit that due to low adherence to social distancing standards, the country is still on the curve up – meaning conditions will likely get worse before they begin to improve.

Meanwhile, the Zapoteca community is making masks out of traditional Indigenous designs and fabrics.

Credit: Diana Maza / Flickr

A duo in the Oaxacan city of Juchitan, have been creating cubre bocas using the traditional patterned designs of the Zapotec Indigenous community. They’re been able to combat the spread of Covid-19 while also helping support their traditional clothing brand, Gexa Boutique.

Seeing that their business sales were dropping due to the epidemic, they decided to use the fabrics and make the masks that include four protections: a cloth filter, a protective film, a satin cloth and the designed one.

To achieve the masks, the artisans were advised by nurses who guided them in the way and the sanitary measures they should have, which is why they have been acquired even by medical personnel from the Isthmus region.

So far, the couple have made more than 1,500 masks with guidance from the medical community, which is why they’ve even been bought by medical personnel from the region. Each masks costs $30 pesos (about $1.50 USD) and they’re both reusable and washable.