Friday, November 18, 2011

“End the Secrecy!” – SATIIM Demands Explanation for US Oil Company’s Return to National Protected Land

*Government ignores local communities requests for information

*Defies historic Supreme Court ruling based on country’s constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) calls all those who care about Belize’s biocultural diversity demand that the government explain what an oil company is doing on protected land.

On October 25 SATIIM learned that the American oil company, US Capital Energy had suddenly re-appeared on protected and Maya land -- without prior notice or consent of the communities.

According to reports, the oil company has been operating for over a week inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park (STNP) in Southern Belize. While the park is officially co-managed with the surrounding Q’eqchi Mayan and Garifuna villages, the government never informed SATIIM that a permit had been issued. The company is wasting no time -- a truck equipped for seismic drilling has already arrived along with a drill-ready tractor. Trees were cut for two seismic lines in Sunday Wood village, with rumors of plans to cut more in the village of Crique Sarco.

This is merely the latest ‘surprise’ in a shameful history of secrecy that began one morning in 1997. Five Indigenous communities in Southern Belize woke up to learn that the government had declared their ancestral land a national park in 1994. Ever since, these communities have struggled to defend their land at every turn.

Notably, in 2006 they won a temporary injunction against seismic testing in this protected area, where an entirely new ecosystem was recently discovered. Another ruling from the Supreme Court confirmed Maya rights to land and resources and Belize’s obligation to conform to international standards of informed consent established when it signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.

Nonetheless, the government has kept all dealings with US Capital Energy secret. SATIIM asked for information in several letters to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Forest Officer. The government has ignored each one.

When SATIIM met with Indigenous leaders Monday 7 November, all villagers expressed outrage and growing concerns that the government and the company did not inform them about the seismic activities. SATIIM demands that the government respect: 1) the rule of law; 2) environmental justice; 3) economic equality; and 4) its obligations under UNDRIP and legal rulings by Belize’s highest courts.

Most of all, SATIIM demands the government end the secrecy around US Capital Energy’s new operations in Southern Belize. SATIIM and the Indigenous communities have agreed to use any means necessary to bring the government and company in compliance with national and international law.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Amerindians usher in Heritage Month 2011

GUYANA -As Guyana celebrates its 16th annual Amerindian Heritage Month this year, time will be set aside for the reflection of the Amerindians’ origins, their achievements and challenges.

For the next 30 days, Guyanese of all ethnicities will join their Amerindian brothers and sisters to remember and pay tribute to the numerous contributions by indigenous people in the historical development of this country.

Amerindian Heritage Month 2011 was officially opened yesterday under the theme “Our culture, our heritage, our life: A fusion of Indigenous Diversity” at the Sophia National Exhibition Centre, Greater Georgetown, where hundreds turned up to join in the celebrations.

Yvonne Pearson, Chairman of the National Toshaos Council, told the gathering that Amerindians play an important part in society and since they are the “first people” it is their duty to ensure that persons live up to the country’s motto.

“It is our responsibility to merge, to blend, to bring together, to use different forms or different ways to ensure that we live up to our motto of One people, One Nation, One Destiny.”

She added that 2011 is a very important year for all Guyanese since it is the “Year for People of African Descent” and in May, the country celebrated its annual Indian Arrival Day celebrations as well.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, stated that Guyana is home to some 70,000 Indigenous people, approximately ten per cent of its total population.

The Amerindians continue to play pivotal roles in the nation’s development as their contributions in various areas such as education, economic and social development, culture, health and human rights stand out.

Special mention was made of the first Amerindian Member of Parliament, Mr. Stephen Campbell.

Minister Sukhai explained that in 1995, September was designated as Amerindian Heritage Month where the diversity of people is highlighted. She referred to the sterling contributions of her late colleague, Minister Desrey Fox, who served the country to the best of her abilities and was a role model for many Amerindians in Guyana.

President Jagdeo, who officially raised the curtain on the month of activities, said that with Guyana being a signatory to a number of international declarations, and the implementation of various pieces of legislation for the protection and promotion of Indigenous people, there have been quantum leaps in Amerindian and hinterland development.

He stated that the first Amerindian Heritage Month celebration in 1995 saw handfuls of people, but every year since the number has grown, until now, hundreds turn up in recognition of this special occasion.

It was noted that in spite of geographical location, Amerindians have better access to education through the construction of schools in their villages, granting of local and international scholarships for Amerindian students to pursue tertiary and secondary education in various disciplines and health care services via the construction of health centres in almost all the villages, and trained Community Health Workers, doctors and other medical personnel.

These include investments in Presidential Grants, National Hinterland Secure Livelihood, Land Demarcation and Titling, Hinterland Solar electrification, Road and Water Programmes, School Uniform and more.

According to the schedule of the month-long activities, Aishalton, in South Rupununi, has been designated the Heritage Village, where the focus will be on September 10.

The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has planned a programme of celebrations, including an inter-faith religious service at the Umana Yana, which took place on Wednesday.

An exhibition commenced yesterday at the Sophia National Exhibition Centre showcasing food and craft made by Amerindians. This will continue through September 5.

Prior to that is a Heritage Walk, scheduled for September 4, beginning at the Umana Yana, Kingston, Georgetown.

There will also be an exhibition and reflection on the life of Stephen Campbell, at the Umana Yana, on September 8.

The Miss Amerindian Heritage Pageant, at the National Cultural Centre, will take place on September 17 and a Sports and Family Fun Day is set for September 18.

There will be a dinner and appreciation ceremony, on September 30 at Roraima Duke Lodge, Duke Street, Kingston, and on October 1, the “Grand Heritage Finals” will be held at Mainstay, Region Two, to conclude the celebratory month.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Indigenous clans call for recognition of their rights

In Cumaca, members of indigenous clans who still live in the forests are deeply upset and concerned about unregulated quarrying that is encroaching on their ancestral lands. While to the south, members of the Warao clan are calling for recognition by the state and research and re-education about the history of our indigenous peoples, and their links to clans in the Orinoco Delta of Venezuela.

See the full story at UCTP Taino News:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Caurita Stone a Carib legacy

Trinidad -
Since 1995 when the existence of the Caurita Stone was first publicised in our local newspapers, there has been much speculation as to the origins and meanings of the etchings on its surface. Back then, the stone was known as the "Mystery Stone of Caurita".

Today, the site, in the hills of the Maracas Valley where the stone is located, is the main destination of hikers and descendants of Amerindian ancestry.

Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, chief of the Santa Rosa Carib community, and Cristo Adonis, shaman for the community, led us on a trip up to Caurita, which included members of the National Heritage Council Rawle Mitchell and Niketa Yearwood.

Adonis, well acquainted with the natural vegetation of the area, pointed out several plants that usually go unnoticed by the untrained eye. The roots and leaves of most of these plants are composed of important medicinal ingredients for various illnesses and diseases. Adonis identified many of these precious plants amid the understorey of the forest.

As the trail wound through estates of cocoa, coffee and mixed species of forest, a bubbly stream criss-crossed the way several times. Immortelle trees provided sanctuary for oropendolas, busy as always with the duty of building nests and caring for their young. A large ficus tree welcomed a bay-headed tanager onto its shady bough.

It was just below the area of a large bamboo stool that Adonis revealed how he first found the stone.

"I was in these hills searching for the stone. My little son was with me at the time. When we reached this bamboo stool, an agouti dashed up the ridge ahead. My son said, 'Where the agouti run is where the stone is.' We headed up this ridge, following the direction of the agouti, and found the stone alongside the track."

Eager now to reach the stone, our party headed up the ridge, and just as Adonis had described, there it was, sitting prominently at the side of the trail.

The height and width of the stone is roughly six feet by eight feet, and drawings have been etched into the top half of its exposed surface at the front. These drawings show faintly between the growing mosses that carpet the stone. Mitchell promptly got to work cleaning the stone, so the depictions on the surface could be seen clearly.

Members of the Santa Rosa Carib community view this stone as having special spiritual significance and regard it as part of their natural heritage. Some of the etchings identified depict a chief, other people in ceremonial wear and a deer.

The chief and the shaman present gave offerings to the four porters or gateways: El Tucuche to the north, El Cerro del Aripo to the east, San Fernando Hill to the south and a mountain in Venezuela's Paria peninsula to the west.

It is agreed among Amerindian communities in Trinidad that etchings on the stone bear spiritual significance. The site of the Caurita Stone is now regarded as an important part of the ongoing quest for knowledge and understanding of Amerindian ancestral occupation and life on this island.

Sites such as this bear testimony that our First Nation did set the path for our present way of life and so, as an integral part of our anthem, do represent an important part of our heritage for the future.

Author: Heather-dawn Herrera

Source: Trinidad Express Newspapers

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jennifer Cassar is new Carib Queen

She has what it takes: Incoming Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar at the Carib Centre, Arima yesterday.
—Photo: Curtis Chase

TRINIDAD - AUGUST 6 will signal a new chapter in the history of the Carib community.

On that day, Jennifer Cassar, 59, will walk out of the Santa Rosa RC Church in full Carib regalia, as the new Carib Queen.

The event is expected to draw supporters and members of the indigenous community bearing the traditional halekebe (crocheted poncho).

Cassar will take her place among her predecessors including Dolores MacDavid, Maria Werges, Justa Werges and Valentina Medina.

Her inauguration next month will be the first time in more than a decade that the community has elected a titular head.

For 11 years Medina served as Carib Queen until she succumbed to breast cancer in April at the age of 78.

Carib queens are elected based on their maturity and their vast knowledge of Carib history, practices, customs, way of life and oral traditions.

To say that Cassar is knowledgeable of her heritage would be a big understatement.

Since she was a child, Cassar was groomed in the indigenous customs, so much so that today she is like a walking encyclopedia on indigenous history.

"Although my mother was around, I also grew up with my grandparents and they lived a strict Carib way of life, this involved all aspects of Carib life. My grandmother was involved heavily in the Santa Rosa festival, I had to be part of the the procession with her. I made a commitment before she died that the lifestyle she had, I would emulate. I have to carry the mantle of my ancestors," said Cassar as she sat in the Carib Centre at Arima, surrounded by life-sized wooded sculptures, palm fronds and hand-woven baskets.

Cassar's appointment was based on more than her knowledge of the indigenous community. President of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez explained that Cassar's cultural activism and her public service made her an obvious choice for Carib Queen.

For more than 20 years, Cassar has been involved in Carnival related activities, and has been the main organiser for the regional Carnival committee of the National Carnival Commission.

It is hard to imagine that this wife and mother of two, who is reserved by nature, is also a coordinator for stick-fighting competitions.

She has also spent 40 years as a public servant.

For the past five years, Cassar has also been a member of the Cabinet-appointed Amerindian project committee and has participated in a seminar on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the Caribbean.

"Cassar has what it takes," said Bharath-Hernandez, to take the Carib community further.

Cassar made it clear that her role would involve more than simply being the face of the Carib community.

Her duty as Carib Queen will include supervising the Santa Rosa Festival, one of the major highlights on the local indigenous calendar.

She will take on the responsibility of cleaning and decorating the church in preparation for the festival.

Cassar will also take the lead in the procession and offer prayers and she is tasked with passing on Carib traditions to members of the community.

There are burning issues which Cassar says need to be addressed as a matter of priority.

"We want to ensure that the land that was promised to us by the last Government comes to fruition, at least during my lifetime, and to ensure that the people of Amerindian descent become actively involved in the Santa Rosa Carib Community, because there are a lot of them out there who do not want to be identified as Carib or indigenous, so we want to create projects to woo young people and also go out there on a campaign to encourage them to come to the community," said Cassar.

One of Medina's unfulfilled wishes was to see a united indigenous community.

Cassar says she is committed to making this a reality as she paid homage to her predecessor: "She was a very pious individual, very devoted to Santa Rosa, she was like a matriarch. Even though I have a lot of experience in many areas, I am a simple person, very approachable and open to any idea anyone may have on how we can take this community forward."

Author: Kimberly Castillo
Source: Trinidad Express Newspapers

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Carib queen gets ceremonial send off

Arima, Trinidad -
The late Carib queen, Valentina Assing Medina, had three wishes. They were granted. Paying tribute to Medina, her daughter Loretta Medina-Grant said, “She wanted a pink rose in her hair. She also asked to see several people including Senator (Penny) Beckles (who read her eulogy), and Councillor Metevier. She especially asked for Msgr Christian Perreira to do her service.” The celebration and thanksgiving for the life of Medina, fondly known as Mavis, took place at the Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima, on April 29. Among those present were acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Peters, and president of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Bharath.

Lopinot/Bon Air West MP Dr Lincoln Douglas and chair of the Amerindian Project Committee Vel Lewis were also present. As a lagniappe, she was sent to the Great Spirit via a traditional Amerindian ceremony at the nearby Santa Rosa cemetery. Leading the cortege, was flagsman Peter Diaz. The strains of Pedro Lezama’s saxophone were replaced by the infectious sounds of traditional parang which permeated the landmark kirk. From vantage points at the Santa Rosa park, mourners, including filmmaker and journalist Tracy Assing, watched the celebration unfold. Delicate poui blossoms formed a purple carpet closer to the boys’ school. The cortege was en route to God’s acre to bid their final rites to Medina. Another famous Arimian, calypsonian Aldwyn Roberts, fondly known as Lord Kitchener, was buried there.

Clutching palm fronds, members of the Carib clan decked in traditional vestments followed reverently. Their pretty faces were wreathed in smiles. Retired Spanish teacher at Arima Government Secondary School, Beryl Almarales, was spotted. She was joined by Jennifer Cassar, Antonia and Catherine Calderon, Maria Hernandez and Mary Noreiga. Elders, including Ramona Lopez and Metrina Medina, paid their final respects.

Even the menfolk such as Partners for the First Peoples, Roger Belix, donned waistcoats etched with bird figurines. As they wended their way, traditional Arima families like the Martinez clan watched the procession from their home—which was a blend of modernity and colonial architecture.

Amerindian ceremony send off
In the cool of the evening, Bharath and medicine man or shaman, Cristo Adonis, officiated at the smoke ceremony. They were assisted by her grandson Zachary Medina. Among those present were Arima Mayor Ghassan Youseph, and Arima MP Rodger Samuel. The aroma of forest incense wafted. Mourners coughed, and some retreated as the fire blazed. Under the boughs of a mango tree, neighbours espied the religious spectacle. Quizzed on the ceremony, Bharath said, “It is a smoke ritual. But it has different components to it. It is done in begging for a request from the Great Spirit. It is done in thanksgiving and at the death of someone. Depending on the ceremony, you will use different ingredients. In the case of death, we used tobacco, incense and some medicinal herbs.”

During the ceremony, Bharath said, “We prayed to the Great Spirit (Tamushi) to allow the guardians of the four directions to guide the soul of the departed to find rest and peace. It was simpler in the send off.” As custodians of the environment, Bharath said he prepared the incense from trees growing in the forest. “We use what is indigenous to the area. We get if from the gum trees in the forest.” Earlier on, in his tribute, Bharath had lamented that several traditions had died. “In the earlier days, they would have placed tools or what the person used in life. “If it was a medicinal man, they would have put herbs. If it was a hunter, they would have put his bow and arrow. They might have even put some food. But some of those traditions we don’t practice. The heavy traditions have died,” he said. After the religious formalities, traditional paranderos shook their chac chacs and strummed their guitars as they celebrated the life of a proud Arimian, who was “humble, dedicated, caring and loving.”

Santa Rosa Festival
Throughout her reign, she remained devoted to Santa Rosa. Accompanied by Father Perreira, Medina led the procession through Arima. The statue of Santa Rosa, was decked with rows of beautiful roses and a bouquet of red roses, perfected by whites, pinks and yellows. The celebrants sang hymns and chanted the Our Father. The Carib community and other participants clutched tropical blooms like anthuriums, ginger lilies and roses.

Carib strides
During her tenure, the government declared October 14 as the official day of recognition. In 2006, T&T was given the chairmanship of the Regional Council of Indigenous Peoples. She expressed gratitude to Works Minister Jack Warner, George Hadeed and Mayor Youseph for their assistance. Bharath said he regretted her passing without witnessing the land handover. In a previous interview, (August 11, 2002) Medina said: “If we get the land we will plant cassava, corn, too. “We want a place for agouti and deer to run. It will boost our heritage and culture. “We do not eat people—only wild meat like agouti, deer and tattoo,” she had joked.

About Valentina Medina
Valentina Medina lived at Wattley Street, Mt Pleasant, Arima. In 2002, she was one of many indigenous peoples celebrated by the United Nations on International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. She was born to Clemencia Hale Assing and Thompson Hale Assing at Rapsey Street in Caura. She was the wife of the late John Medina. She was the mother of Loretta, Camilus, Octave, Herbert and Bernadette. Medina grew up in Paria, a very pristine neck of the woods, in Arima. She lived and worked there. She was Carib queen for 11 years. She felt it was a “special experience to be queen of the Carib community.” She was elected based on her knowledge and history and traditions of the Carib community. She was the fifth Carib queen in the history of the Santa Rosa Carib Community.

Source: The Guardian
Author: Michelle Loubon

Monday, May 2, 2011

Carib Queen could not witness land hand over

Arima, Trinidad - President of the Carib Community Ricardo Bharath regrets that the late Carib queen Valentina Medina was not in a position to attend the handing-over ceremony of the land promised to the Carib community at Blanchisseuse Old Road, Arima. He also lamented that the community has not made more strides in the country because of a community leadership crisis since they were viewed as a minority group. Medina served the Santa Rosa Carib community in her capacity as queen for 11 years until her death from cancer recently. Bharath made the comment during a celebration of thanksgiving for her life at Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima, on Friday last. Among those in attendance at the church service were acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran, Arima MP Rodger Samuel, Arima Mayor Ghassan Youseph and Senator Pennelope Beckles who offered the eulogy. Msgr Christian Pereira was chief celebrant.

Bharath said: “There is some disappointment she was never able to see the actual handover of the land. We are not asking for a gift.” Interviewed on Wednesday, Bharath said: “If only she could have seen the model village, that would have contributed to the sustenance of the community. “I am saddened by her passing and disappointed she never had that opportunity.” Bharath indicated the site would offer craft, a museum with indigenous forms of agriculture and offer information on cassava (manioc) processing. “It would be a living village. Many students would be able to get a hands-on experience,” he said. Bharath added: “I feel the government needs to step up but somehow things are moving too slow. Something should be done for the last remnant of the first peoples.” Quizzed on the elevation of a new queen, Bharath said: “After the burial (last Friday) a meeting would be called and her successor named.”


Bharath said before the community came under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, they were represented by a chief. “But being placed in a Catholic Mission, they came under the control of the priest.” He lamented culture and traditions have begun to die. Meanwhile, women are emerging with leadership qualities. “Santa Rosa Festival was named for the first Carib queen.” Medina was the fifth Carib queen, from 1785, in what was known as the Santa Rosa Mission. Making reference to the community being viewed as a minority, Bharath added: “We are seen as incapable of making decisions. The change is gradual.” He called for mutual respect so they could move forward.

Source: The Guardian
Author: Michelle Loubon

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Caribs look for new queen

Arima, Trinidad - The process of selecting a new queen of the indigenous Carib community “will be a challenge” if adequate financial provisions are not allocated to the successor of the late Valentina Medina. So said president of the Carib community, Ricardo Hernandez Bharath, in an interview yesterday. Medina, 77, who had been ailing with cancer for three years, succumbed last Saturday, having served ten years as queen of the Carib community in Santa Rosa. Bharath said the queen, whose office was for life, acted as the official representative for the Carib community and made appearances at various events, fulfilled the duty of community consultant and functions as the chief public relations liaison for both visitors and students.

He said at present, the post did not come with a stipend and believed that something ought to be done to provide some relief in that regard. “If you want to give of that office a kind of respect and dignity, I believe that some sort of assistance from some government department must be afforded to that person,” Bharath said. He added that “it would be a challenge to appoint” a successor if stipends were not provided since it was necessary to assist the queen “in her day-to-day engagements, in preparation to attend functions and receive visitors” among other particulars. “We assist her with a little when we get our annual subventions,” he said.

“Apart from that, we depend on contributions from visitors, school children, the sale of art and craft and the little indigenous foods we do but it is not consistent, nor is it enough.” Asked to outline the procedure for the election of a new queen, Bharath said where the “queen did not name a successor,” the community would meet and nominate candidates who they felt were best suited to carry out her functions. “If there is just one nomination (which is unopposed) and it is accepted, that person will be made queen and where there is more than one nomination, then an election will take place and the majority will stand,” he said. Bharath said the requirements for the new queen “will need to be a bit more advanced” when compared to the past and more emphasis would need to be placed on “the qualities of the person.”

“In the past, you just had to look for someone knowledgeable of the Carib traditions, devoted to the Santa Rosa festival and committed to living a good life but today, it will require someone who can interact with the public,” he said. Medina’s funeral service will take place tomorrow from 2 pm at the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church, Woodford Street, Arima. Her body will lie in state at the Arima Town Hall from noon to 1.15 pm, after which there will be a procession through the streets of Arima. Medina will be laid to rest at the Santa Rosa Cemetery where Bharath will perform a special burial ceremony. Monsignor Christian Perreira of the Catholic Church will preside over the funeral service.

Source: The Guardian
Author: Brent Zephyrine

Monday, April 25, 2011

Arima, Trinidad (UCTP Taíno News) – Elder Valentina Medina, the Carib Queen of the Santa Rosa Carib Community of Trinidad passed away on April 23, 2011. Queen Medina succumbed to complications arising from breast cancer. She was 78 years old.

Medina was the fifth Carib Queen since the introduction of the title in 1875. She served the community in this capacity for 11 years.

Chief of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Hernandez-Bharath, who visited Medina just before her passing, stated “she had served her community well.”

Commenting to local news sources Hernandez-Bharath noted that "there will definitely be an indigenous service on the day of the funeral."

The Santa Rosa Carib Council will meet to discuss the appointment of a new Queen in one month.

UCTPTN 04.25.2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questionnaire for governments, indigenous peoples and organizations, NGOs, business enterprises and other interested parties

Please submit your response preferably via email at

Dear Sir/Madame,

CH-1211 GENEVE 10
23 March 2011

I am pleased to address you in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples pursuant to United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution15/14 of 30 September 2010.

I am currently carrying out a study on the rights of indigenous peoples in relation to natural resource extraction and development projects affecting them, in light of the high level of information I have received from indigenous peoples expressing concerns about this issue. In my previous reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council, I have examined the duty of states to consult with indigenous peoples about decisions affecting them (A/HRC/12/34) and the responsibilities of corporations whose activities affect indigenous peoples (A/HRC/15/37). I am now building upon these previous reports in order to provide an analysis of the effects of natural resource extraction and development projects on the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as an assessment of the responsibilities of States, corporations and indigenous peoples in this context.

An important component of this study will be the eventual development of a set of guidelines directed at States, corporations and indigenous peoples on the duty to consult with indigenous peoples in relation to natural resource extraction and development projects. With this document, I aim to provide guidance on the steps necessary to ensure that these types of projects are carried out in a way that is consistent with relevant human rights standards on the rights of indigenous peoples, including with respect to lands, territories and natural resources; consultation and free, prior, and informed consent; participation in and control over the design and implementation of project activities; mitigation measures; and benefit sharing.To gather information for the preparation of this study, I have developed a questionnaire for governments, indigenous peoples and organizations, NGOs, business enterprises and other interested parties.

The purpose of this questionnaire is to understand the views, concerns and recommendations of different relevant actors regarding the subject matter of this study, in accordance with the mandate given to me by the Human Rights Council to "examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples ... and to identify, exchange and promote best practices."

I kindly request that you complete the attached questionnaire. While responses can be submitted in all official languages of the United Nations, responses in English and Spanish would be preferred.

Please submit your response preferably via email at or by mail to the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; c/o OHCHR- UNOG, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais Wilson; 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Should you have any question regarding this request, do not hesitate to contact Ms. Karin Lucke at 022 917 94 31.

Please submit your response no later than 1 May 2011.

Thank you in advance for your time and kind co-operation.

James Anaya Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Download document

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

U.S. Census Shows Increase in Borikén’s Indigenous Population

Borikén/Puerto Rico (UCTP Taino News) - The 2010 U.S. Census count for Borikén (Puerto Rico) had some significant surprises. The census reveals a 48.8 percent gain over the last 2000 census in the American Indian category, which is a verifiable resurgence of indigenous affirmation among families on the island. With DNA research documenting the continuation of the pre-Colombian indigenous Taino gene-pool and the increasing visibility of active Taino community organizations and cultural manifestations – the myth of extinction is finally being dispelled.

The Director of the United Confederation of Taino People’s Borikén Liaison Office, Roger Guayakan Hernandez attributes the increase in the census count to expansion of information and communications technologies available today.

"We have always been here but recently there has been an explosion of pertinent information regarding Borikén's indigenous heritage. The difference is that now there are more ways to get the information to the people" stated Hernandez.

Hernandez noted that the Confederation, an official Census partner, used the increased focus on Taino heritage as well as new technologies like social networks in its campaign to raise awareness about the census process.

With the 2010 U.S. Census counting 19,839 individuals living in Puerto Rico officially claiming American Indian heritage, the Taino community is indeed becoming visible after two centuries of near invisibility.

Hernandez continued stating that "the whole chapter on the Caribbean's Amerindian history is being reexamined and supports the affirmation of indigenous descendant families on and even off the island”.

A 1790 Puerto Rican Census count in an area called “Las Indieras” documented fewer than 3,000 ‘Indios (Indians)’ on the western side of the island. Since then, with official census terminology changing to discount the indigenous population, a reversal has taken place revealing how Taino families see themselves in the 21st Century.

"Colonial history may have counted us out in Puerto Rico, but today the Taino People have clearly counted ourselves back in" declared Hernandez.

UCTPTN 03.28.2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Suriname: UN expert calls for further dialogue on indigenous and tribal land issues

PARAMARIBO – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called for further contact between the authorities and the indigenous and tribal peoples of Suriname, and reiterated his readiness to assist with efforts to advance their land and resource rights.

“I look forward to continued dialogue with the Government and with the indigenous and tribal peoples of Suriname, in order to provide further guidance on the practical steps necessary to move forward with securing indigenous and tribal land rights, in accordance with relevant international treaties to which Suriname is a part,” Mr. Anaya said at the end of the first visit ever to the country by a human rights independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council.

The Special Rapporteur’s mission from 13-16 March took place in the context of Suriname’s implementation of the 2007 judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of the Saramaka People v. Suriname.

“I believe that this visit was very fruitful and constituted unique and valuable opportunity for dialogue and consultation with indigenous and tribal peoples of Suriname and the Suriname Government,” Mr. Anaya said. “I congratulate all of them for their cooperation and openness in engaging with my mandate, in order to meet the many challenges existing in the country related to the domestic implementation of international human rights norms.”

During the brief visit, the Special Rapporteur met in Paramaribo with representatives of the Government, including the Vice President; the Ministers of Regional Development; Justice and Police; Foreign Affairs; Natural Resources; Land and Physical Planning; and Labour, Technology and Environment; as well as others from the Council of Ministers.

The UN independent expert also held meetings with the indigenous organization VIDS, and Maroon representatives of VGS, the 12 Okanisi clan, the Matawaí clan, the Paramakan community and the Bureau Moiwana, as well as with the UN Country Team.

The Special Rapporteur expressed his thanks to all those that assisted in preparations for the visit, especially representatives at the Ministry of Regional Development, for their invaluable help in organizing and facilitating all aspects of the visit.


S. James Anaya (USA) is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States). He was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples effective May 2008. The mandate was created in 2001 by the then Commission on Human Rights, and was renewed most recently in 2010 by the Human Rights Council for a three-year period.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Williams is the first Kalinago Lawyer in Dominica

Waitikubuli/Dominica (UCTP Taino News) – Pearl Diane Williams, is the first indigenous Kalinago Carib person from Waitikubuli (Dominica) and possibly the Eastern Caribbean to be admitted to the Bar in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Ms. Williams pursued her bachelors degree in Law at the Cave-Hill Campus at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, where she successfully completed her degree with second class honours.

Miss Williams was one of the first indigenous persons from the Eastern Caribbean to have benefited from the Sir Arthur Lewis Indigenous Scholarship program launched in 2005. After she completed her studies in Barbados, she proceeded to the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago where she successfully obtained the Legal Education Certificate, which qualified her to be admitted to the Bar in Dominica.

Miss Williams is the daughter of Margaret and Charles Williams (former Kalinago Carib Chief of Waitikubuli/Dominica). The young lawyer believes that the Indigenous Peoples in the region have not been inadequately recognized and represented but that her calling to the Bar signifies a “new beginning” for her people.

UCTPTN 02.16.2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deadline extended until January 23 to apply for the workshop: Capacity Building for Indigenous and Local Communities, of the Caribbean region.

Deadline extended until January 23 to apply for the workshop: Capacity Building for Indigenous and Local Communities, of the Caribbean region.

Se amplía el plazo hasta el 23 de Enero para postular al taller: Creación de Capacidad para las Comunidades Indígenas y Locales, región Caribe.

Eighth Round Capacity Building Workshop for Indigenous and Local Communities, the Caribbean region

The Secretary of Biodiversity in collaboration with the Network of Indigenous Women's Biodiversity (IWBN) from the Latin America and the Caribbean, thanks to the generous financial support from the Government of Spain, a regional capacity building workshop for indigenous and local community representatives on effective participation in CBD processes, with a specific focus on Article 8(j) and ABS.will be held in Georgetown, from 16-18 March 2011.

The workshop aims at building and strengthening capacity for indigenous and local community women in order to ensure their full and effective participation in CBD processes and also to grow and strengthen the number of indigenous and local community women who follow and are involved in CBD processes by enlarging networks and outreaching to new participants.

We are inviting interested indigenous and local community organizations from the countries of the Caribbean region to nominate representatives by sending to the Secretariat an expression of interest or nomination by means of an official letter of designation addressed to the attention of the Executive Secretary (fax +1 514 288 6588 or to email: with a recent curriculum vitae of the nominee by 23 January 2011, for consideration in the selection process.

Participants selected will be notified by mid-February. Successful applicants will be provided with economy air travel to and from Georgetown, and subsistence and accommodation costs during the event.

Hortencia Hidalgo
Comunicación RMIB-LAC

Convocatoria Octavo taller Creación de Capacidad para las Comunidades
Indígenas y Locales, región Caribe.

La Secretaria de Diversidad Biológica en colaboración con la Red de Mujeres Indígenas sobre Biodiversidad (RMIB) de la región Latinoamérica y el Caribe, con el apoyo financiero del Gobierno de España, realiza el Taller de creación de capacidad subregional para los representantes de las comunidades indígenas y locales sobre la participación efectiva en los procesos del CDB, con un enfoque específico en el Articulo 8 (j), Conocimientos Tradicionales y Acceso y participación en los beneficios ABS. Se celebrara en la Ciudad de Georgetown, Guyana, del 16 al 18 de
Marzo de 2011.

El taller tiene como objetivo la construcción y al fortalecimiento de la capacidad de las mujeres de las comunidades indígenas y locales, a fin de garantizar su participación plena y efectiva en el proceso del CDB y, también para aumentar y fortalecer el número de mujeres de las comunidades indígenas y locales que siguen de cerca y participan en los procesos del CDB engrandeciendo las redes y los contactos directos con nuevos participantes.

Invitamos a las organizaciones de las comunidades indígenas y locales interesadas para que designen representantes enviando a la Secretaría una muestra de interés y un nombramiento, mediante una carta oficial de designación y un currículum vitae reciente. La carta oficial debe ir dirigida al Secretario Ejecutivo por fax al +1 514 288 6588 ó por correo electrónico como archivo adjunto escaneado a: antes del 23 de Enero de 2011, para ser considerados en el proceso de selección.

Los participantes serán seleccionados en base a una representación subregional justa de los países del Caribe y los Curriculum Vitae pertinentes y la capacidad para difundir la información derivada del taller.

Los participantes seleccionados recibirán financiamiento para participar en este taller de tres días y serán notificados a mediados de Febrero. A los Participantes seleccionados se les proveerá de un pasaje de avión en clase económica ida y vuelta a la Ciudad de Georgetown, y los gastos de comida y alojamiento durante el evento.

Hortencia Hidalgo
Comunicación RMIB-LAC

Opening Statement of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus

Opening Statement of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus
at the XIII Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus of the Working Group to Prepare the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Washington D.C.
January 18 to the 20, 2011

Mr. Michel Arregui, Legal Affairs Secretary of the OAS, Ambassador Guillermo Cochez, Permanent Representative of Panama to the OAS, and Chairman of the Working Group, Dinah Shelton, rapporteur of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, distinguished representatives of States of the Organization of American States, and my Indigenous brothers and sisters.

My name is Grand Chief Edward John, Hereditary Chief of the Tl'azt'en Nation and representative of the First Nations Summit and the Assembly of First Nations. I am also the new North American Indigenous representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
On behalf of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas who are participating in the XIII Session of Negotiations for the Quest of Consensus for the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we look forward to the conclusion of the negotiation of the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While we are negotiating this draft American Declaration, violations against collective human rights of our peoples continue in many states. Examples were brought to the Indigenous caucus including from Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Argentina. In defending our territorial rights against mega projects and extractive industries our peoples are persecuted, criminalized and in some cases forcibly evicted. In this regard, we denounce the repressive military actions of Chile against the Rapa Nui people, including women and children, who are struggling to defend their lands. We strongly and urgently recommend good faith negotiations to resolve this crisis. We also deplore the violent displacement against the Toba community La Primavera in Argentina and the lack of response to this situation.

For Indigenous women, gender based violence continues to be shaped by discrimination. Also militarization, racism and social exclusion, poverty inducing economic policies contribute to the systemic violence of our collective rights.

These contradict the most basic principles of human rights and democracy which guide the OAS and its member states. We strongly urge the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights and its relevant rapporteurships to act promptly and effectively to investigate and propose solutions to these violations on an urgent basis.

As Indigenous peoples with historic relationships with states in the Americas we participate as Indigenous peoples, governments and nations in our own right, not as civil society. We call for the establishment of effective participation mechanisms for Indigenous peoples in all entities of the Inter-American system, the Summit of the Americas and in particular the summit in Cartagena in 2012.

In a similar vein, we urge the OAS to support the full and equal participation of Indigenous representation in the planning and implementation of the 2014 UN World Conference of Indigenous Peoples including the outcome document.

We respectfully remind all delegates that in this Working Group a commitment has been made to ensure that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is being used as “the baseline for negotiations and … a minimum standard” for the draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In these negotiations we urge a holistic approach as we know our survival and well being is inextricably linked to the survival and well being of Mother Earth.

We welcome the recent endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the governments of Colombia, Canada and the United States of America. We emphasize that the UN Declaration is now a consensus instrument and we call on all states to engage in its full and effective implementation and ensure no state withdraws from implementation. We also encourage all States who have not done so, to ratify the ILO Convention 169.

The Indigenous Peoples’ caucus reminds states, financial institutions and international corporations of the principle of free, prior and informed consent which must be respected in all situations concerning Indigenous peoples. We call upon states to recognize, respect and implement positions adopted by Indigenous peoples in climate change negotiations. Indigenous peoples have knowledge to contribute to slow down the destruction of Mother Earth.

We thank those governments which contribute to the Specific Fund, making possible our participation in these negotiations. We call upon States to continue contributing with funds for the development of future meetings of negotiation that will allow us to conclude the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There is a need for funding for the technical team and co-chairs, in addition to the delegates. We note that only two member states contributed to the Specific Fund, and two observer states. Other member states must show commitment by donating to the Specific Fund.

Finally, as Indigenous peoples we reiterate our commitment and call upon the member States of the OAS, as committed to in paragraph 86 of the Declaration of the Port of Spain, to work for a successful conclusion of the negotiations of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The American Declaration should be finalized before the Summit of the Americas in 2012. In order for this to succeed, we repeat that there is a critical need for all States to contribute more money to the Specific Fund. We respectfully remind states that the General Assembly has renewed the mandate of this Working Group and we need to meet as frequently as the mandate dictates.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Indigenous Peoples Meet in Washington DC to Discuss Rights Declaration

Washington, DC (UCTP Taino News) – The 13th Meeting of Negotiations in the Quest for Points of Consensus on the OAS draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples began today in Washington, DC. The Meeting of Negotiations will take place at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) from January 18 to 20, 2011.

Among the Indigenous Peoples representatives present at the negotiations are a delegation of Caribbean Indigenous Peoples including Liselote Naniki Reyes Ocasio (Borikén/ Puerto Rico), Damon Gerard Corrie (Barbados), Dr. George Aubrey Norton (Guyana), Clenis Tavárez María (Kiskeia/Dom. Rep.), Zoila Maria Ellis (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), and Eveline Moesijem Monsanto (Suriname).

Some points of discussion expected to be covered at this session include: Rights of association and assembly, Indigenous law and jurisdiction, contributions of the indigenous legal and organizational systems, treaties, and Indigenous spirituality.

UCTPTN 01.18.2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing

Date: 10 January 2011

From: Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity
To: Indigenous and local community organizations

Subject: First meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (ICNP 1), Montreal, Canada, 6-10 June 2011

Thematic area: Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing
Ref.: SCBD/ABS/VN/SG/74645

No. 2011-006


I am pleased to confirm that the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (ICNP) will be held in Montreal, Canada, on 6-10 June 2011.

The provisional agenda of the meeting is attached for your information and is available on the CBD website at: Other documents for the meeting as well as the information note for participants will be made available as soon as practicable on the website of the Convention at the same address.

In view of your interest in the issues addressed by the Intergovernmental Committee, I have the honour of inviting your organization to nominate a representative to attend the meeting. Designation of representatives, containing their name and contact details, should be submitted through an official letter addressed to the Executive Secretary by fax to +1 514 288 6588, or by email as a scanned attachment to:, no later than 8 April 2011.

Indigenous and local communities representatives wishing to receive funding from the Voluntary Trust Fund to facilitate their participation in the above-mentioned meeting, in accordance with decision 8/5, D on the Voluntary Funding Mechanism to facilitate the participation of indigenous and local communities in the work of the Convention, are invited to submit their application forms no later than 4 March 2011 to ensure that it is received three months before the meeting. Applications received after the deadline may not be considered.

In addition, please note that the Secretariat will be organising a capacity-building workshop on the Nagoya Protocol back to back with the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on 4-5 June 2011. Further information regarding this workshop will be provided to you in due course. Applicants from indigenous and local communities who wish to participate in the workshop should indicate this in their application so that this can be taken into consideration in the selection process.

The Voluntary Trust Fund application forms are available in the six official languages of the United Nations on the CBD website at the following link: The completed application forms should be sent to the Secretariat either by fax to: +1 514 288 6588, or by electronic mail as a scanned attachment to:, together with a recent Curriculum Vitae and an official letter of recommendation from the relevant organization addressed to the Executive Secretary of the CBD.

I look forward to the participation of your organization in the meeting and your continued contribution to the work of the Convention.

The full text of this notification is available on the CBD website at:

Please accept, Madam/Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Ahmed Djoghlaf
Executive Secretary
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Environment Programme
413 Saint-Jacques Street, Suite 800
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
H2Y 1N9

Tel: +1 514 288 2220
Fax: +1 514 288 6588


First meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (ICNP 1), Montreal, Canada, 6-10 June 2011


1. Opening of the meeting.

2. Organizational matters.

3. Modalities of operation of the Access and Benefit-sharing Clearing-House.

4. Measures to assist in capacity-building, capacity development and strengthening of human capacities and institutional capacities in developing countries.

5. Measures to raise awareness of the importance of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

6. Cooperative procedures and institutional mechanisms to promote compliance with the Protocol and to address cases of non-compliance.

7. Other matters.

8. Adoption of the report.

9. Closure of the meeting.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gov’t proposes US$12M Amerindian land titling, demarcation project

GUYANA - Government has submitted a draft Project Document for the Amerindian Land Titling and Demarcation activities to be funded through the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF).

Over four years—from 2011 to 2014—it envisions US$12M being spent on the process and a budget of US$3.6M has already been outlined for 2011. A description of the project says that underlying the development of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is the protection of Indigenous land rights and the opening of windows of opportunities for the Amerindians, especially those that depend on forest resources as a means of livelihood. It is expected that demarcation and titling of communities will strengthen land tenure security and expansion of the asset base of Amerindian villages and allow for long term planning for their future development. “The objective of this project is to facilitate the fast-tracking of the Land Titling and Demarcation process to allow the villages to understand the boundaries of the lands they own and how much land they can exert control over; thereby enhancing and securing the position of villages to ‘opt-in’ to the REDD+ and the LCDS and allow them to better manage and develop their lands in a sustainable manner,” the document states.

According to the document, Amerindian land rights have always been a priority for the government and to date; Amerindians collectively own 13.9% of Guyana’s land mass. It says that the titling and demarcation of Amerindian lands will positively impact on Guyana’s achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 – Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger, since the Amerindians are the poorest group of persons in Guyana. According to the Household Budget Survey (2007), 77% of Amerindians were classified as poor. It is expected that poverty would be reduced to 28% though stimulation of growth and job creation.

The document states that the land titling and demarcation process will be guided principally by the Amerindian Act, and other Acts related to land titling and on the principle of first come first serve basis. Additionally a mechanism will be developed to address ongoing disputes with the land titling and demarcation and any new disputes which may arise and a communication strategy to allow for sharing of information. Opportunities for improvements to ensure that the issuance of land titles and the demarcation process are done in a timely and efficient way will be explored and where possible supported.

Overseeing the project will be a Project Board, which is the group responsible for making by consensus, management decisions for a project when guidance is required by the Project Manager, including recommendations for UNDP/Implementing Partner approval of project plans and revisions.

“In order to ensure UNDP’s ultimate accountability, Project Board decisions should be made in accordance to standards that shall ensure management for development results, best value money, fairness, integrity, transparency and effective international competition. In case a consensus cannot be reached within the Board, final decision shall rest with the UNDP Programme Manager,” it says.

The board contains three roles: an Executive, who is an individual representing the project ownership to chair the group; Senior Supplier: individual or group representing the interests of the parties concerned which provide funding and/or technical expertise to the project. The Senior Supplier’s primary function within the Project Board is to provide guidance regarding the technical feasibility of the project; and Senior Beneficiary: individual or group of individuals representing the interests of those who will ultimately benefit from the project.

Under the Board is the project manager, who has the authority to run the project on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the project board within the constraints laid down by the Board. The Implementing partner appoints the Project Manager, who should be different from the Implementing Partner’s representative in the Project Board.

The UNDP will provide financial resources entrusted from the GRIF to the implementing partner – the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs. It will also provide Oversight and Quality Assurance, to ensure that UNDP’s fiduciary, social and environmental standards are adhered to and to develop a Capacity Development plan.

The Ministry will partner with the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission to demarcate and titled lands. The project will be audited and monitored and annual reports submitted.

Guyana has signed an agreement with Norway whereby the Scandinavian country pays US$250M over five years for this country to protect its forest. The first tranche of US$30M has already been paid into the GRIF.

Source: Stabroek News