Posts Tagged ‘Survival International’

Water Victory in Botswana’s Kalahari

Access to water is one of the most pressing, if not THE most pressing issues affecting millions–all other health issues are secondary if there is no water to drink. In Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, the indigenous Bushmen tribe has been denied access to ancestral lands and one of their only sources of drinking water…by the country’s government. In 2002 the Bushmen were forcibly evicted and blocked from the borehole they had dug to tap ground water. They appealed the government’s actions on the basis of indigenous land rights, and in 2006 were awarded a precedent setting victory that declared their eviction was unlawful.

The government, however, continued to block their access to their homeland, and capped their well. To add insult to injury, the government drilled a new well on the property for animal use only, and then granted safari lodge rights to an upscale travel company, Wilderness Safaris, who built a luxury lodge, even with a swimming pool, while the Bushmen barely survived on rainwater and melons.

The tribe took the government to court again in 2010, but a judge ruled against them, saying that by insisting on living on their ancestral lands, they brought the trouble on themselves. Simultaneoulsy, the government has granted rights to a three-billion-dollar diamond gem mine to dig on the land, and enacted stronger practices against the tribe to keep them from hunting for food.

Just last week, an appeals court panel of five judges finally overturned the biased judge’s previous ruling, and found that:

– the Bushmen have the right to use their old borehole, which the government had banned them from using.
– the Bushmen have the right to sink new boreholes.
– the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to ‘degrading treatment’.
– the government must pay the Bushmen’s costs in bringing the appeal.

Survival International has put international attention and pressure on the government and in many ways helped precipitate the move to justice. It is worth following their work on this issue and others as the advocate for indigenous people around the world.

Happy Indigenous People (née Columbus) Day

Reconsider Columbus Day, and consider the below, worst offenders violating people’s rights–TODAY–from Survival International.

– GDF Suez. Part-owned by the French government, energy giant GDF Suez is heavily involved in the construction of the Jirau dam, which will be the largest dam in Brazil. The company is proceeding with work on the dam despite warnings from Survival and others that uncontacted Indians live near the area affected by the dam.

– Perenco/ Repsol. Anglo-French oil company Perenco, and Spanish-Argentine oil giant Repsol-YPF are exploiting the territory of uncontacted Indians in northern Peru. Both are operating in an area where uncontacted Indians live. Perenco’s suggestions to its workers if they are attacked included, ‘Scare and repel them, or tell them to go home’.

Samling. This Malaysian logging company is destroying the forests of the hunter-gatherer Penan tribe in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Many Penan have been arrested and imprisoned for mounting blockades against the company. James Ho, Chief Operating Officer of Samling, has said, ‘The Penan have no rights to the forest.’

Wilderness Safaris. This tour operator recently opened a luxury safari lodge in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana. The lodge boasts a bar and swimming pool, whilst the Bushmen on whose land the lodge sits are banned by the government from accessing food or water. Andy Payne, Wilderness Safaris’ CEO, responded to criticism of his lodge by saying, ‘Any Bushman who wants a glass of water can have one.’

– Yaguarete Pora. Brazilian ranching company Yaguarete Pora is intent on clearing a large area of forest in the Paraguayan Chaco, even though uncontacted Ayoreo Indians are known to live there. Other members of the tribe have been claiming title to the area since 1993. Yaguarete was fined by the government for concealing the Indians’ existence, but is intent on resuming the destruction.

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘These companies really do symbolize everything Columbus signifies today – the quest for money and profit at the expense of people who simply want to be left in peace, on their own land. Surely, 518 years after Columbus’s arrival in the Americas and the decimation of the indigenous inhabitants, it’s time we treated the world’s tribal peoples with a little respect?’

Survival International

Jarawa of India

I’ve just recently been made aware of an incredibly important organization, Survival International, the “movement for tribal peoples.”

Started in 1969, the UK-based (the US home is in Berkeley) charitable group works to educate and advocate on behalf of tribal communities throughout the world, from the Amazon to India. Indigenous people have been settled away from their home lands since the earliest days of the discovery of “others”—still today, in the name of progress and development, oil and minerals, timber and cattle land all take precedence over human culture and ancestral tradition. We want to drill there—where you and yours have lived as long as memory—but don’t worry, we’ll just put you over here. Your welcome. The arrogance is dumbfounding.

Explore the website,, and you’ll discover tribes and traditions with which you never knew you shared the planet. It is amazing to see photos and hear testimonials and thoughts from tribes that are truly in crisis, trying, against all odds, to maintain their health (settlers, in addition to stealing land to which they have no rightful claim, bring disease against which communities have no immunity: in the Amazon it is common for more than half of a newly-contacted tribe to be wiped out by disease within the first year of contact) and vitality. Think of what it would be like to have 50% of Americans die within a year because another culture wanted to “discover” us and improve our lives (of course, that’s ironic in itself, considering what we’ve done to indigenous Americans). Even some humanitarian aid organizations with the best intentions wreak havoc.

Batak of the Philippines

Spend some time and learn. There is no downside to knowing more about our world, and being inspired to take action on behalf of others is a bonus.