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Indigenous News Roundup

Fiji Tribal Chiefs Refuse to Recognize New Regime
In Fiji, the military leader of the nation’s recent coup faces increasing isolation. The country’s powerful council of tribal chiefs are refusing to recognize the country's military regime and the newly installed prime minister has conceded the takeover was illegal. Commodore Frank Bainimarama used his self-appointed powers to remove Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi from his office late Wednesday. The council of tribal chiefs is throwing its support behind the nation's president. Tribal Council Chairman Ratu Ovini Bokini called Madraiwiwi's dismissal "illegal, unconstitutional and disrespectful" and reiterated support for him and President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. Iloilo is still technically the country's president, although Bainimarama said Tuesday that he had assumed presidential powers. The coup is Fiji's fourth in nearly two decades.

Kamehameha Schools Win in Hawaii
In Hawaii, the Kamehameha Schools won a victory on Tuesday when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the school’s admission policy can favor Native Hawaiians. The court overturned an earlier ruling that the policy amounted to unlawful discrimination. A white student had claimed he was excluded from the school because of his race. In an 8-7 ruling, the Court held that the admissions policy is constitutional because the discrimination is remedial, it is meant to address historical wrongs and the program has met with congressional approval. For more than 100 years, the private school has given preference to Native Hawaiian applicants.

Federal Court Sides with Native American Voters in South Dakota
In South Dakota, a federal district court ruled in favor of Native American voters earlier this week. The decision orders city officials in Martin to redraw city council district lines. This corrects violations of the Voting Rights Act that prevents Native Americans from having an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. The ACLU brought the lawsuit in 2002 on behalf of two Native American voters. The defeated redistricting plan would have given white voters control of all three city wards. Native Americans are approximately 45% of the city’s population.

Elderly Abuse March in Navajo Country Ignored
In Arizona, Navajo activist Marjorie “Grandma” Thomas led a demonstration march to the tribal administration offices to protest what they say is inaction over the abuse of elders. She pushed her own wheelchair for part of the walk in Window Rock on Monday, according to The Gallup Independent. President Joe Shirley Jr. and Vice President Frank Dayish Jr. did not meet with the group, whose staffers said they were not in. The protest was largely in support of Rena Babbit Lane, an 84 years old Navajo woman who lives on Hopi land. On November 4, three Hopi officers arrived at Lane's home dragged her from bed, pushed her around and threatened to take her to jail and make her walk home, about 100 miles away. She suffered a heart attack during the incident. The raid on Lane’s home was in anticipation of a law that would force her removal from her land. She is a fierce foe of forced relocation and lives in a remote region of Black Mesa. Lane has a longstanding conflict with Hopi and BIA officials, her lawyer said. In the past she has been severely beaten, had her hand broken and her horses, goats and sheep confiscated.

Tribal Elections on Oglala Sioux Rez Embroiled in Controversy
In South Dakota, a political standoff continues between two groups claiming to be the rightful government of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. John Yellow Bird Steele was sworn into office as President Tuesday. His opponent, Alexander White Plume, said the swearing in was illegal. White Plume has been tribal president since June and declared Steele’s victory in the November 7 tribal general election illegitimate. White Plume has pledged to continue in office until new elections can be held early next year. The tribal elections have been roiled with controversy, beginning with irregularities in the October 3 primary. Earlier this year, the tribal council impeached former president Cecilia Fire Thunder over her proposal for a private woman’s clinic that would thwart a new state abortion ban. The council then elevated Vice President Alex White Plume to the president’s post.

Indigenous World Uranium Summit
In other news, the Indigenous World Uranium Summit recently wrapped up in Arizona, hosted by the Navajo Nation from November 30 through December 2nd. It was a historic gathering for activists working to stop the spread of nuclear proliferation in all its forms. Here is Manny Pino, a board member of the Indigenous Environmental Network, reading the declaration: [audio included in show MP3].

Interview Segments:
Indigenous Oaxacan Activists Discuss State Crackdown
We speak with two members of Ojo De Agua Comunicacion who have arrest warrants issued for their activities in Oaxaca, Mexico. They have been involved in video and media training and production programs in indigenous communities in Oaxaca. They talk about the crackdown on protesters and journalists and the recent issuance of hundreds of arrest warrants in Oaxaca.

  • Sergio Julian Caballero, a native mediamaker from Oaxaca, Mexico. He has edited and post-produced works from indigenous communities in the region. He has developed Ojo de Agua Comunicacion’s website
  • Damian Lopez, a native mediamaker who was documenting protests in Oaxaca.

Nasa Filmmaker on Violence Inflicted on Indigenous Peoples in Colombia

  • Mauricio Acosta, producers and directs documentaries for Tejido de Comunicacio, the communication network of the Associacion de Cabildos Indigenas del Norte (ACIN) in the state of Cauca, Colombia. Tejido de Comunicacion promotes the autonomy of indigenous communities through media. In 2006, Acosta’s video Pa’ poder quo Nos Cen Tierra was recognized at the Festival Internacional de Cine y Video de los Pueblos Indigenas for its effectiveness in bringing attention to the violence inflicted on indigenous peoples in Colombia and the communities’ peaceful resistance.