indigenous activists

Canada PM meets chiefs amid Teresa Spence hunger strike

After a 25-day hunger strike by Attawapiskat chief Teresa Spence, First Nation leaders will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Jan. 11. Spence began fasting to protest a budget proposal that weakens native land rights and environmental safeguards. BBC reports:

On Friday, Mr. Harper released a statement which cited his January 2012 meeting with First Nations leaders and said he would meet with chiefs "in this spirit of ongoing dialogue."

Mr. Harper said the "working meeting" would focus on "the treaty relationship and aboriginal rights and economic development."

While the Attawapiskat leader has continued her fast, First Nations protesters and others have rallied around her, as well as Canadian indigenous rights movement Idle No More, in protest on a range of issues.

Read more here.

Colombian Indigenous Elders Try Alleged Guerrillas

More about the efforts of the Nasa people in Cauca, Colombia to free their territory of armed actors:

"Indigenous leaders in Colombia's conflict-scarred southwest say they will put on trial before tribal elders four alleged leftist rebels they accuse of attacks on civilians."

"Nasa Indian leader Marcos Yule tells The Associated Press the four could face such punishment as floggings or exile if convicted in this weekend's trials."

"The 115,000-strong Nasa say they are fed up with being in the crossfire of Colombia's long-running conflict. They have been trying since last week to force government troops and leftist rebels to leave their territory."

The rest of the short news item is here.

Daily Peacemaking: an Interview with the Indigenous Peacemakers of Cauca (Part II)

Activists Manuel and German, members of the Indigenous Guard formed by the Nasa

Activists Manuel and German, members of the Indigenous Guard formed by the Nasa ethnic group. Photo by Elizabeth Palmberg.

Activists from Colombia’s indigenous Nasa people continue to make headlines — but there’s far more to their peacemaking  than the occasional story that makes the U.S. news. Here’s part II of the interview I did with two Nasa Indigenous Guard members, Manuel and Herman, in Cauca, Colombia, last August. The interview took place a month after an earlier round of violence: a bus bomb, suspected to be from the FARC, that went off in the town of Toribío, killing three and wounding more than a hundred in July 2012.

Sojourners: What’s it like to be in the Indigenous Guard?

German: Being an Indigenous Guard is very risky.  Obviously there are moments of conflict in which you know what you’re facing -- then there are moments of apparent calm, but calm can switch into situations of risk very quickly.

‘We Believe in Our Communites’: an Interview with the Indigenous Peacemakers of Cauca, Colombia

Activists Manuel and German, members of the Indigenous Guard formed by the Nasa

Activists Manuel and German, members of the Indigenous Guard formed by the Nasa ethnic group. Photo by Elizabeth Palmberg.

The photos from rural Cauca, Colombia are so dramatic they’ve repeatedly made the international news: indigenous Colombian activists--bearing sticks, community spirit, and a whole lot of moxie--demanding that heavily-armed FARC guerrillas and government armed forces alike leave their territory. As the war between the FARC and the government heats up again in Cauca, civilians are — as usual — getting caught in the crossfire; the town of Toribío has been attacked 14 times this year, according to the BBC.

In response, Nasa activists last week shouted FARC guerrillas from their roadblocks back into the jungle, overran a hilltop government military outpost, and booed Colombian President Manuel Santos when he went to Toribío to hold a saber-rattling emergency cabinet meeting. (Yesterday, government forces used tear gas to drive out activists and re-occupy the post).

Last summer, in Cauca with Witness for Peace, I was able to interview two of those activists, members of the Indigenous Guard formed by the Nasa ethnic group. The Indigenous Guard , armed only with beribboned ceremonial staffs of office, has been standing up against armed groups for years--for example, marching into the jungle to successfully demand the release of Toribío’s mayor when the FARC abducted him in 2004. What empowers these activists? Here’s what I learned last year from two Indigenous Guard members, Manuel and German (as translated by Witness for Peace Associate Director Jess Hunter-Bowman)

Colombian Indigenous Peacemakers Put the "Active" in "Activist"

Indigenous Guard member in Cauca (2011 photo).

Indigenous Guard member in Cauca (2011 photo).

In an Indigenous region of Colombia's Cauca province, activists armed with ceremonial wooden staffs, moral authority, and *lot* of moxie are telling both government armed forces and guerrillas to get out of their territory. In the face of an upsurge in guerrilla-vs.-state violence, Colombian President Manuel Santos made a saber-rattling visit to the town of Toribío to hold an emergency cabinet meeting there, but indigenous activists from the Nasa ethnic group--all too aware that government troops' presence in civilian areas can paint a target on them--were not impressed with Santos' offer of more of the same.

“The military can’t protect us and the guerrillas don’t represent us,” [Indigenous Guard leader] Mensa said, as he cradled the tasseled staff that identifies the volunteer guard. “All of them need to leave this area and let us live in peace.”...

"Even before Santos had finished the emergency meeting, the community had decided to take matters into its own hands. One group confronted the FARC at the roadblocks and another walked more than two hours to a barren mountaintop army battalion that overlooks Toribío.

"After a short standoff with troops, about 200 people swarmed the base and began toppling sandbagged bunkers and filling in foxholes."...

"At the FARC roadblocks, villagers shouted the guerrillas back into the jungle and seized five homemade mortars, called tatucos..."

Read more from the Miami Herald

When I visited Colombia last summer, I interviewed two members of the Indigenous Guard for an article for Sojourners magazine, and was deeply inspired by their commitment, strategy, and guts.

8 Inspiring Movies About Social Change

1100629-gandhifilmAh the joy of watching movies in the summer! Of course, there are a number of summer blockbusters coming out that will woo crowds to the theaters, but with the sky-high prices of theater tickets these days, nobody will fault you for wanting to stay home and kick back with a rental. If you're looking for a film that will entertain and inspire you, consider adding some of these excellent films about social change to your online queue. If you have any other films to add to this list, please contribute your favorites in the comments section below. (To read more of my film reviews, check out my monthly column in Sojourners magazine.)

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