May 30, 2007

'Last of Mohicans' to participate in SANA Convention

Indigenous Peoples' Rights: "Last of the Mohicans" Coming to SANA Convention

Russel Means addressed the convenetion of SANAs held from June 29 to July 2, 2007. This is Russel's interview on another occasion to let you know what he stood for..

By: Aziz Narejo
Posted in Sindh Politics Yahoogroup

"Red-Indianization" has not ended with the colonization of the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Millions of indigenous people around the world continue to be threatened with losing their land, basic human rights, identity, language, culture, and heritage. Globalization, large-scale population movements, discrimination, loss of political power and living under the hegemony of powerful and unscrupulous majorities have dispossessed, marginalized, intimidated and weakened many people. This sounds very familiar if one looks at the miserable condition of Sindhis who have suffered immensely as a result of the partition of the Indian sub-continent and the unprecedented migration that has continued unabated since. They have lost control over their resources, their land and the decision-making in their own province. Their language and culture have been under constant attack and conspiracies have been afoot since long to bring demographic changes turning them into a minority in their own land. Siraikis and Baloch also face similar threats in Pakistan.

I think it is important that the issue is internationalized and effectively taken up at different forums. It is necessary to establish contacts between indigenous people around the world. Keeping that in view, we have invited the greatest living American Indian leader, Russell Means to be the keynote speaker at the forthcoming SANA Convention to be held in Orlando, FL June 29 – July 2. I am glad to inform you that he has graciously accepted the invitation and would be delivering the keynote address during our annual banquet. He will speak on the 'empowerment of indigenous people, the activism of indigenous people and inherent rights of the indigenous people on the world stage'. I had been in contact with him since the last couple of years and had invited him for our Sindh Convention but he could not get Pakistani visa in time and couldn't attend our convention held in Karachi in December 2005. 

Russell Means is said to be the most famous American Indian leader since Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. He was among the Indian activists including his father "Hank Means," who occupied San Francisco's Alcatraz Island in 1964 lasting 19 months. He became first national director of the American Indian Movement in 1970 and has been active in the American Indian Movement/activities since. 

"Later that year, Means was one of the leaders of AIM's takeover of Mount Rushmore. In 1972, he participated in AIM's takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, DC, and in 1973 he led AIM's occupation of Wounded Knee, which became the group's most celebrated action" (Wikipedia). In occupying the Wounded Knee site of 1890s massacre of Indians by US cavalry, AIM was attempting to regain lands granted to the Lakota in the 1868 Laramie treaty. Both events brought worldwide attention to the injustices and privation faced by American Indians past and present. Russell Means is also a famous Hollywood actor. He started his acting career in 1992 playing the title role in the film: "The Last of the Mohicans" (1992). He has starred in several movies after that. He is an author, an artist and a music writer too. Means and his wife Pearl are currently building "Treaty Total Immersion School" on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Through "total immersion" in the Lakota way of life, children will be instilled with the pride and confidence to face any challenge.

You can read about him at:
Friends, it is our sincere effort to make the SANA conventions most meaningful for our community in North America and our people in Sindh and elsewhere. I hope this will be a significant effort in that direction. I would request all of you to please attend the SANA Convention and hear this great leader of the indigenous people.

Sulaiman range - No water, to drink, no livestock, no school, no health

Posted by: Wasim Wagha, Centre for Indigenous Peoples of Indus (CIPI), DAMAAN Development Organization in Sindh Politics Yahoogroup.

The tribals of Suleiman Mountains

No water to drink, no vegetation for livestock, no school, no health

Dear Mushtaq: Absolutely right. Extraction of Uranium is a huge threat to people's health, a health problem which would, in fact, affect the generations. It is a threat which would seep to next generations. The indigenous and tribal peoples the world over are campaigning against Uranium extraction like the aboriginals in Darwin (Australia).
But the question remains 'what can be done' against this.

Mushtaq Gaadi wrote: Dear Wasim, Thanks for sending this brief note on the problems of tribal people living in Suleiman mountains. I would just like to mention the acute public health problem related to the vast operations of the extraction and processing of uranium in the area. As this is considered the matter of national security, the government don't allow to undertake any research and documentation of this problem. Regards, Mushtaq

Wasim Wagha wrote: Dear friends, When the Baloch from Balochistan province struggle against the brutal exploitation of their natural resources, and at least their demands are well known nationally and internationally, the exploitation of other Baloch tribes, Buzdars and Qaisranis, in the Suleiman Mountains go unchecked and unchallenged. The area is being exploited and deprived of very basic facilities just as if it is a 'foreign land'. A local weekly newspaper 'Al-Manzoor' of Taunsa Sharif (District D G Khan) has published a detailed story of their sufferings (16-23 May 2007). Below are some highlights:

  1. Drinking water: In papers, fifty water supply schemes have been constructed with millions of rupees, but on the ground, not a single one exists. The people and animals drink water from the wells and ponds together.
  2. Education: There are few high, middle and primary schools but without staff/teachers – the buildings look like 'bhoot-bangley' – ghost places.
  3. Health: There are only three basic health centers but without doctors; the doctors reside in cities and run their private clinics. Women and the worst victims of non-availability of health services; they have to come all the way down from the mountain to Taunsa city.
  4. No water/No Livelihoods: Diverting the hill-torrents into drains, to save newly constructed Chashma Right Bank Canal in the plains, has further dried the area – no water, no vegetation. This is adversely affecting their major livelihood of livestock rearing.
  5. Identity: The National Database Regulatory Authority (NADRA) mark their area, on identity cards, as 'Ilaqa-e-gher', - an Urdu word which means 'foreign land'.

This is only of the tip of the iceberg. The exploitation and discrimination date back to partition times. Against their will, at the time of partition (1947), they and their tribal area were included in Punjab province (district D G Khan) as "De-Excluded Area". This decision resulted in a series of endless discrimination e.g. on National Identity Cards (NICs), instead of writing 'tribal area', their area is marked as 'Ilaqa-e-gher', - an Urdu word which means 'foreign land'. The area is rich in minerals like oil, gas, gypsum, Uranium, fuller-miti and many more, and the government is extracting these resources without any royalty to them. Wasim Wagha, Centre for Indigenous Peoples of Indus (CIPI) DAMAAN Development Organization.

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