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Aboriginal group’s unwavering struggle against uranium mining in Western Australia

Fighting for life in the “place of death”https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2018/08/27/fighting-for-life-in-the-place-of-death/ August 27, 2018

Traditional owners won’t give up 40-year opposition to Yeelirrie uranium mine,  By Linda Pentz Gunter

In the local Aboriginal language, the name Yeelirrie means to weep or mourn. It is referred to as a “place of death.” Yeelirrie is on Tjiwarl Native Title lands in Western Australia, where it has long been faithfully protected by Aboriginal traditional owners. The Seven Sisters Dreaming songline is there. It is home to many important cultural sites. And for 40 years, due to resolute indigenous opposition, and thousands of community submissions of protest, it had been spared plans by the Canadian mining company, Cameco, to plunder it for uranium.

The earth guardians know that such a desecration would cause the extinction of multiple species of subterranean fauna. It would release death. It would destroy Yeelirrie.

Now the fate of those tiny creatures hangs in the balance, their future in the hands of three brave women, backed by environmental organizations, after the outgoing Western Australian government decided to allow the Yeelirrie uranium mine project to go forward.

That decision was made in January 2017, despite the fact that, in August 2016, the Western Australia Environmental Protection Agency (WAEPA) had recommended that the Yeelirrie project be rejected. 

The Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA), which is engaged in contesting the uranium mining permit for Yeelirrie, said the WAEPA had rejected the Yeelirrie mine plan “on the grounds that the project is inconsistent with three of the objectives of the Environmental Protection Act — the Precautionary Principle, the Principle of conservation of biological diversity, and the Principle of intergenerational equity. The EPA decision was based on the overwhelming evidence that the project would make several species of subterranean fauna extinct.”

But former Minister for Environment, Albert Jacob, threw all that aside to approve the Yeelirrie mine in the waning days of Western Australia’s Liberal government, now replaced by Labor, which came in on a mandate to end uranium mining that it now may not be able to enforce.

In February 2018, CCWA and three members of the Tjiwarl community initiated proceedings in the Western Australia Supreme Court in an attempt to invalidate the approval decision made by Jacob. The case was dismissed by the court, a decision said CCWA executive director, Piers Verstegen, that shows that “our environmental laws are deeply inadequate,” and “confines species to extinction with the stroke of a pen.”

However, while the decision was a set-back, Verstegen said, “it’s absolutely not the end of the road for Yeelirrie or the other uranium mines that are being strongly contested here in Western Australia.”

Accordingly, CCWA and the three Tjiwarl women — Shirley Wonyabong, Elizabeth Wonyabong, and Vicky Abdullah (pictured left to right above the headline) vow to fight on, and have begun proceedings in the WA Court of Appeal to review the Supreme Court decision.

“I grew up here, my ancestors were Traditional Owners of country, and I don’t want a toxic legacy here for my grandchildren,” Abdullah told Western Australia Today in an August 2017 article.

“We have no choice but to defend our country, our culture, and the environment from the threat of uranium mining — not just for us but for everyone.”

Yeelirrie is one of four uranium mines proposed for Western Australia. The other three are Vimy’s Mulga Rock project, Toro Energy’s Wiluna project, and Cameco’s and Mitsubishi’s Kintyre project. Each of them is home to precious species, but Yeelirrie got special attention from the WAEPA because the proposed mine there would cause actual extinctions of 11 species, mostly tiny underground creatures that few people ever see.

According to a new animated short film, produced by the Western Australia Nuclear-Free Alliance, all four of these proposed mines could irreparably damage wildlife, habitat and the health of the landscape and the people and animals who depend on it. The film highlights Yeelirrie, but also describes the other three proposed uranium mines and the threats they pose.

At Mulga Rock, in the Queen Victoria Desert, the site is home to the Sandhill Dunnart, the Marsupial Mole, the Mulgara and the Rainbow Bee Eater, according to the film.

Wiluna, a unique desert lake system, could see uranium mining across two salt lakes that would leave 50 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste on the shores of Lake Way, which is prone to flooding.

The Kintyre uranium deposit was excluded from the protection of the Karlamilyi National Park within which it sits so that uranium could be mined there. It is a fragile desert ecosystem where 28 threatened species would be put at risk, including the Northern Quoll, Greater Bilby, Crest Tailed Mulgara, Marsupial Mole and Rock Wallaby.

At Yeelirrie, says the CCWA, “Cameco plans to construct a 9km open mine pit and uranium processing plant. The project would destroy 2,421 hectares of native vegetation and generate 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste to be stored in open pits.”

The mine would likely operate for 22 years and use 8.7 million litres of water a day. 

Under Australian laws, ‘nuclear actions’ like the Yeelirrie proposal also require approval by the Federal Environment Minister. CCWA and Nuclear-Free Western Australia, have launched a campaign directed at Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, calling for a halt to the Yeelirrie mine, given the immense risk it poses to “unique subterranean fauna that have been found nowhere else on the planet.” They point out that the Minister has the opportunity to “protect these unique species from becoming extinct.

“Species have a right to life no matter how great or small,” they wrote. “One extinction can massively disrupt an entire ecosystem. No one should have the right to knowingly eliminate an entire species from our planet forever.”

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August 29, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium | Leave a comment

Australian Aboriginal group win injunction to halt vote on nuclear waste dumping

 

South Australian Aboriginal group wins injunction to halt nuclear ballot http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-16/aboriginal-group-wins-injunction-to-halt-nuclear-ballot/10129292, By Claire Campbell  

August 17, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Small Australian town to vote on nuclear waste dump, but Aboriginal land owners excluded from vote

Traditional owners “locked out” of nuclear waste vote,  InDaily, 3 Aug 18  Stephanie Richards   The head of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association says the majority of Adnyamathanha people have been denied a vote on a proposed radioactive waste management facility near the town of Hawker in the Flinders Rangers.

Wallerberdina Station, located approximately 30km northwest of Hawker on Adnyamathanha country, has been shortlisted by the Federal Government for a facility that will permanently hold low-level nuclear waste and temporarily hold intermediate level waste.

It is one of three sites, the other two situated close to Kimba, that were shortlisted by the Federal Government to store nuclear waste.

The selection process is entering its final stages, with a postal ballot beginning on August 20 to measure community support for the three nominated sites.

But ATLA CEO Vince Coulthard said the voting guidelines were disrespectful to traditional owners, as the majority of Adnyamathanha people do not live close enough to the proposed Wallerberdina site to be eligible to vote.

The voting range includes residents of the Flinders Ranges Council and those who live within a 50km radius of the Wallerberdina site.

According to Coulthard, there are approximately 2500 Adnyamathanha people in total but only about 300 Adnyamathanha people who live in the voting range.

Coulthard said about 50 Adnyamathanha people who lived outside the voting range had expressed interest in voting, but when ATLA asked Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan during a consultation trip to Hawker last week if those people could be granted a vote, Coulthard said Canavan told him that only those living in the prescribed voting range could participate.

“It’s a crazy situation,” Coulthard said.

“This is Adnyamathanha country and it is a very important place to the Adnyamathanha nation.

“People have strong connections to land. There’s a large amount of people, many who don’t live on the land but they go back on a regular basis to travel around the land.”

……… Coulthard said he was disappointed that Canavan had not consulted with all ATLA members during his consultation visit.

He said Adnyamathanha people had been “locked out” from the vote, despite holding native title rights over the land.

“Canavan is saying this will strengthen our culture, that this will be good for us, but what it is actually doing is punishing the environment.

“This is a place where we have gone to get bush tucker, where we have come as traditional owners for thousands of years.

They’ve shown us disrespect and this is very hurtful.”

The proposed site holds sacred meaning for Adnyamathanha people, as it is located close to the Hookina Waterhole and ancient burial sites.

…….. Last month, the Federal Government tripled the incentive package for the community that hosts the nuclear waste repository.

The Government had promised to spend more than $10 million in the district where the facility is built, but under new incentives announced by Canavan, the Government increased funding to $31 million.

……. The Government has previously indicated it wants to choose a preferred site before the end of this year. https://indaily.com.au/news/2018/08/03/traditional-owners-locked-out-of-nuclear-waste-vote/

August 4, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Navajo Nation urges wider availability of compensation for radiation exposure due to Cold War nuclear testing

Navajo Nation urges expansion of radiation exposure law https://www.nhonews.com/news/2018/jul/17/navajo-nation-urges-expansion-radiation-exposure-l/ SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) 17 July 18  — From the end of World War II to the mid-1980s, about 30 million ton of uranium ore were extracted from lands belonging to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation. Today, across the Navajo Nation, sit dozens of abandoned uranium mines and the high risk to residents of contamination exposure.

Now, the Navajo Nation is urging the U.S. Congress to expand a federal law that compensates people who were exposed to radiation resulting from nuclear bomb tests stemming from the Cold War.

Currently, the law only covers people who lived downwind from nuclear test sites in Nevada, Arizona and Utah, as well as workers in the uranium mining industry in a dozen states. But the tribe says it’s time for Navajo Nation workers after 1971 to be included.

“Many members of the federal government are not aware of the effects uranium mining has had on Navajo people,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “They don’t see the consequences of radiation exposure.”

Most claims under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act come from the Four Corners region where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet. Proposed amendments would expand the cutoff for uranium mining workers from 1971 to 1990.

Navajo officials say those workers were exposed to the same harmful conditions.

The push by the Navajo Nation comes as residents of the New Mexico village of Tularosa near the site of the world’s first atomic bomb test also want to be covered under the law. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders and Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez testified before a U.S. Senate committee last month examining potential changes to the law.

A bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico would expand eligibility for payouts under the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990.

Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa consortium, said many who lived in the area weren’t told about the dangers of the first atom bomb test, known as the Trinity Test, on generations of residents and later were diagnosed with rare forms of cancer.

Scientists working in Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, which provided enriched uranium for the weapon. The secret program also involved facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington.

The bomb was tested in a stretch of desert near towns with Hispanic and Native American populations.

July 18, 2018 Posted by | indigenous issues, USA | Leave a comment

Federal and tribal officials support proposed amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

Officials seek support for radiation exposure compensation amendments https://www.daily-times.com/story/news/local/navajo-nation/2018/06/30/officials-seek-support-radiation-exposure-compensation-amendments/740239002/Noel Lyn Smith, Farmington Daily Times  June 30, 2018  

July 2, 2018 Posted by | health, indigenous issues, politics | Leave a comment

Adivasis (indigenous people) in a remote area of India, suffer health effects from the nuclear industry?

News Click 21st June 2018 , Sanjay Gope, a 13-year-old boy from Bango village near Jadugora town in
East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, cannot move or speak because he has
been suffering from muscular dystrophy – a group of disorders that
involves a progressive loss of muscle mass and consequent loss of strength
– for the past nine years. At least one person of his family has to be
with him all the time to look after him. He cannot be left unattended.

Eighteen-year-old Parvati Gope from the same village is suffering from
lumbar scoliosis – a C-shpaed curve formation of her vertebral column.
Rakesh Gope, a 13-year-old school-going boy, is also suffering from
muscular dystrophy. Although he is active and walks with arched feet and
soles, he is unable to speak normally.

A three-year-old child Kartik Gope has been having seizures since birth and is developing muscular dystrophy
too. These examples are not enough; there are hundreds of such cases of
congenital illness and other birth defects in addition to high incidence of
infertility, miscarriages and pre-mature deliveries.

Now, a pertinent question arises here: why are such large number of health hazards being
reported from this remote and overlooked corner of the country? While India
is dreaming to become energy efficient by 2032 by generating 63 Gigawatts
of nuclear power, it is taking a major toll on human lives in a small
township of Jharkhand. Jadugora has the deposits of world’s best quality
uranium ore, magnesium diuranate. It is because of the rich deposits of the
region, India is capitalising its nuclear dreams. The whole belt of the
reactors is affecting the Adivasis (indigenous people) disproportionately
in and around the uranium mining operational area.
https://newsclick.in/uranium-mining-jharkhand-radioactive-poisoning-ravaging-lives-villages

June 25, 2018 Posted by | health, India, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

Measures to compensate Arizona “Downwinders” approved by USA Congress

U.S. House Approves Measure to Compensate Arizona ‘Downwinders’ http://knau.org/post/us-house-approves-measure-compensate-arizona-downwinders,  31 May 18   Many Southwesterners sickened by Cold War nuclear weapons testing were excluded from a 1990 federal compensation program. Now the U.S. House has approved a measure aimed at providing relief to the residents known as downwinders. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The original Radiation Exposure Compensation Act left out parts of Mohave County, the Hualapai Reservation, and southern Nevada, despite high rates of cancer and other diseases thought to be caused by nuclear fallout. The new House amendment orders the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to assess whether thousands are eligible for assistance.

“The American government made a promise with RECA, with the bill, and, by darn, we ought to follow through with it to make sure that anybody that was affected to be included in this process,” says Arizona Republican Paul Gosar who authored the measure.

Residents who’ve developed some diseases could be eligible for a $50,000 payment, and have until July 9, 2022 to file claims.

Nearly 200 atmospheric weapons were tested north of Las Vegas between 1945 and 1962. In the last three decades, more than 20,000 downwinder claims have been filed with the Justice Department, totaling more than $2 billion.

June 1, 2018 Posted by | indigenous issues, politics | Leave a comment

South Australia’s Aboriginal people fight against nuclear waste dumping – again and again

EXTRACT from:  A journey to the heart of the anti-nuclear resistance in Australia: Radioactive Exposure Tour 2018, NUCLEAR  MONITOR  Author: Ray Acheson ‒  NM859.4719, May 2018 “……The federal government of Australia wants to build a facility to store and dispose of radioactive waste in South Australia, either at Wallerberdina Station near Hawker or on farming land in Kimba.

Wallerberdina Station is located in the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia, 540 million years old. Approaching from the north on our drive down from Lake Eyre can only be described as breathtaking. The red dirt, the brown and green bush, and the ever-changing purples, blues, and reds of the mountains themselves are some of the most complex and stunning scenes one can likely see in the world.

Most people might find it shocking that the federal government would want to put a nuclear waste dump smack in the middle of this landscape. But after visiting other sites on the Rad Tour, it was only yet another disappointment ‒ and another point of resistance.

What is known is that the Wallerberdina site is of great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance to the Adnyamathanha people.  It borders the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area, which is a crucial location for biodiversity in the Flinders Ranges. Its unique ecosystem provides a refuge for many native species of flora and fauna, contains many archaeological sites as well as the first registered  Aboriginal Songline of its type in Australia, and is home to Pungka Pudanha, a natural spring and sacred woman’s site.

In case that isn’t enough, the area is a known floodplain. Our travels around the proposed site contained ample evidence of previous floods that sent massive trees rushing down the plain, smashing into each other and into various bridges and other built objects. The last big flood occurred in 2006.

The Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners were not consulted before their land was nominated for consideration by the government for the waste dump. “Through this area are registered cultural heritage sites and places of huge importance to our family, our history and our future,” wrote Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in a 2015 statement.  “We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything).”

We met Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners Vivianne and Regina McKenzie, and Tony Clark, at the proposed site. They invited us into the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area to view the floodplains and swim in the beautiful Pungka Pudanha. We’d just been camping at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National Park only a few kilometres away. It is impossible to understand the government’s rationale for wanting to build a toxic waste dump on this land so cherished by its Traditional Owners, local communities, and tourists alike.

The McKenzies have been working tirelessly to prevent the proposed dump from being established, as have other local activists. Fortunately, they have some serious recent successes to inspire them. In 2015, the federal government announced a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste from around the world to South Australia as a commercial enterprise. But Traditional Owners began protesting immediately, arguing that the so-called consultations were not accessible and that misinformation was rife.  In 2016, a Citizen’s Jury, established by then Premier Jay Weatherill and made up of 350 people, deliberated over evidence and information. In November that year, two-thirds of the Jury rejected “under any circumstances” the plan to import or store high-level waste.24 They cited lack of Aboriginal consent, unsubstantiated economic assumptions and projections, and lack of confidence in the governmental proposal’s validity.

Other battles against proposed nuclear waste dumps have been fought and won in South Australia. From 1998 to 2004, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia, successfully campaigned against a proposed national nuclear waste dump near Woomera. In an open letter in 2004, the Kungkas wrote: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

Connected communities

The attempts by the Australian government and the nuclear industry to impose a waste dump in the Flinders Ranges, just like their attempts to impose waste dumps and uranium mines elsewhere in the country, or their refusal to compensate victims and survivors of nuclear testing, are all mired with racism. They are rooted in a fundamental dismissal and devaluation of the lives and experiences of indigenous Australians, and of proximity to cities but more importantly, to power.The industry and government’s motivations for imposing nuclear violence on these people and this land are militarism and capitalism.

Profit over people. Weapons over wellbeing. Their capacity for compassion and duty of care has been constrained by chronic short-termism ‒ a total failure to protect future generations. The poison they pull out of the earth, process, sell, allow others to make bombs with, and bury back in the earth, wounds us all now and into the future.

But nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law. New actors are challenging the possession of nuclear weapons in new ways, and nucleararmed states are facing a challenge like never before.

The nuclear energy industry ‒ and thus the demand for uranium ‒ is declining. Power plants are being shuttered; corporations are facing financial troubles. Dirty and dangerous, the nuclear industry is dying.

This is in no small part due to the relentless resistance against it. This resistance was fierce throughout all of the country we visited, from Woomera up to Lake Eyre, from Roxby Downs to the Flinders Ranges. We listened to stories of those living on this land, we heard their histories, witnessed their actions, and supported their plans…..

https://antinuclear.net/2018/05/12/a-journey-to-the-heart-of-the-anti-nuclear-resistance-in-australia-radioactive-exposure-tour-2018/#more-60401

May 18, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

Holtec’s nuclear colonialism in New Mexico

Proposed nuclear storage site in southeast New Mexico accused of ‘nuclear colonialism’ Adrian C Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus  May 4, 2018  

May 7, 2018 Posted by | indigenous issues, wastes | 1 Comment

A voice from the heart – on the exploitation of indigenous people in the cause of nuclear weaponry

Why do we desperately need to listen to voices from the heart?

The corporate dominated world does not like to hear voices from the heart. Oh no, there must be no emotion. We must all stick to technical jargon, statistics, the “accepted” facts, in appropriately respectable academic language.

Of course statistics, facts, and technical language have their place in the nuclear-free movement. But as long as the anti-nuclear voices remain boring, the corporate global empires do not need to worry.

This voice came as a comment today on our sister ship   antinuclear.net

Jan – Janotine@asia.com– 6 May 18 -My grandad was half kiowa. His father married a native american lady, to expand his spread. She was his last wife. The other two died in child-birth. All, so he could have more slave kids to work his spread. May grandad ran away from home at age 12.

I am a westerner. I used to think the west was so grand! My family is from the west. Places like Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and yes parts of California.

Later, i realized, our frikin government, used the west as a sacrifice zone for open air nuclear bomb testing, biological and chemical warfare testing, uranium mining and processing, nuclear bomb testing.

I have been to every native nation in the west and, most in Alaska as a professional. No sane person thinks the anglos did the west any favors!

People ask me if natives or, even anglos are better off from the europeans coming in and taking america. The anglos used their rascist-Monroe Doctrine, as an excuse for the environmental destruction and genocides of the once pristine, western United States!

In the end, is the west better off? Hell no! They ruined turtle island, and the whole northern hemisphere with their insanity!

Shockley was the dumnest, white rascist ever! He might have helped invent transisters, but the genetics of Europeans and Americans are forever ruined, by the white evil-war-monkey obession, with the magic rocks.

There are very few radionuclide toxicologists in the world because, of the nuclear cosa nostra. Radionuclides are a billion times more genotoxic, teratogenic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, than the most dangerous manmade-mutagenic, chemicals, like agent orange.

Anything factual about radionuclides is verboten! Environmental health professionals, are pariahs in the war-monging, capitalist-paradigm. Health physics is nuclearist propaganda. Superior Northern-European culture and technology, is a sick-cosmic-joke.

The northern europeans culture, with it’s insane blood-lust and psychopathy, has made Europeans genetically inferior and, That’s a Fact Jack! That is the cruel irony

 

 

May 6, 2018 Posted by | indigenous issues, PERSONAL STORIES, USA | Leave a comment

Time for scientists to learn from the profound ecological knowledge of indigenous people

Native Knowledge: What Ecologists Are Learning from Indigenous People https://e360.yale.edu/features/native-knowledge-what-ecologists-are-learning-from-indigenous-people

From Alaska to Australia, scientists are turning to the knowledge of traditional people for a deeper understanding of the natural world. What they are learning is helping them discover more about everything from melting Arctic ice, to protecting fish stocks, to controlling wildfires.   

While he was interviewing Inuit elders in Alaska to find out more about their knowledge of beluga whales and how the mammals might respond to the changing Arctic, researcher Henry Huntington lost track of the conversation as the hunters suddenly switched from the subject of belugas to beavers.

It turned out though, that the hunters were still really talking about whales. There had been an increase in beaver populations, they explained, which had reduced spawning habitat for salmon and other fish, which meant less prey for the belugas and so fewer whales.

“It was a more holistic view of the ecosystem,” said Huntington. And an important tip for whale researchers. “It would be pretty rare for someone studying belugas to be thinking about freshwater ecology.”

Around the globe, researchers are turning to what is known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to fill out an understanding of the natural world. TEK is deep knowledge of a place that has been painstakingly discovered by those who have adapted to it over thousands of years. “People have relied on this detailed knowledge for their survival,” Huntington and a colleague wrote in an article on the subject. “They have literally staked their lives on its accuracy and repeatability.”

Tapping into this traditional wisdom is playing an outsized role in the Arctic, where change is happening rapidly.

This realm has long been studied by disciplines under headings such as ethno-biology, ethno-ornithology, and biocultural diversity. But it has gotten more attention from mainstream scientists lately because of efforts to better understand the world in the face of climate change and the accelerating loss of biodiversity.

Anthropologist Wade Davis, now at the University of British Columbia, refers to the constellation of the world’s cultures as the “ethnosphere,” or “the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions, brought into being by human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. It’s a symbol of all that we are, and all that we can be, as an astonishingly inquisitive species.”

One estimate says that while native peoples only comprise some 4 or 5 percent of the world’s population, they use almost a quarter of the world’s land surface and manage 11 percent of its forests. “In doing so, they maintain 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity in, or adjacent to, 85 percent of the world’s protected areas,” writes Gleb Raygorodetsky, a researcher with the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria and the author of The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change.

Tapping into this wisdom is playing an outsized role in sparsely settled places such as the Arctic, where change is happening rapidly – warming is occurring twice as fast as other parts of the world. Tero Mustonen, a Finnish researcher and chief of his village of Selkie, is pioneering the blending of TEK and mainstream science as the director of a project called the Snowchange Cooperative. “Remote sensing can detect changes,” he says. “But what happens as a result, what does it mean?” That’s where traditional knowledge can come into play as native people who make a living on the landscape as hunters and fishers note the dramatic changes taking place in remote locales – everything from thawing permafrost to change in reindeer migration and other types of biodiversity redistribution.

The Skolt Sami people of Finland, for example, participated in a study that was published in the journal Science last year, which adopted indicators of environmental changes based on TEK. The Sami have seen and documented a decline in salmon in the Näätämö River, for instance. Now, based on their knowledge, they are adapting – reducing the number of seine nets they use to catch fish, restoring spawning sites, and also taking more pike, which prey on young salmon, as part of their catch. The project is part of a co-management process between the Sami and the government of Finland.

It’s not only in the Arctic. Around the world there are efforts to make use of traditional wisdom to gain a better and deeper understanding of the planet – and there is sometimes a lot at stake.

Record brush fires burned across Australia in 2009, killing 173 people and injuring more than 400. The day the number of fires peaked – February 7 – is known as Black Saturday. It led to a great deal of soul searching in Australia, especially as climate warming has exacerbated fire seasons there.

Land managers in Australia have adopted many of the fire-control practices of the aborigines and have partnered with native people.

Bill Gammage is an academic historian and fellow at the Humanities Research Center of the Australian National University, and his book, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How the Aborigines Made Australia, looks at the complex and adept way that aborigines, prior to colonization in 1789, managed the landscape with “fire and no fire” – something called “fire stick farming.”

They used “cool” fires to control everything from biodiversity to water supply to the abundance of wildlife and edible plants. Gammage noted five stages of the indigenous use of fire – first was to control wildfire fuel; second, to maintain diversity; third, to balance species; fourth, to ensure abundance; and five, to locate resources conveniently and predictably. The current regime, he says, is still struggling with number one.

“Controlled fire averted uncontrolled fire,” Gammage says, “and fire or no-fire distributed plants with the precision of a flame edge. In turn, this attracted or deterred grazing animals and located them in habitats each preferred, making them abundant, convenient, and predictable. All was where fire or no-fire put it. Australia was not natural in 1788, but made.”

While the skill of aborigines with fire had been noted before the giant brushfires – early settlers remarked on the “park-like” nature of the landscape – and studied before, it’s taken on new urgency. That’s why Australian land managers have adopted many of the ideas and partnered with native people as co-managers. The fire practices of the aborigines are also being taught and used in other countries.

Scientists have looked to Australian natives for other insights into the natural world. A team of researchers collaborated with natives based on their observations of kites and falcons that fly with flaming branches from a forest fire to start other fires. It’s well known that birds will hunt mice and lizards as they flee the flames of a wildfire. But stories among indigenous people in northern Australia held that some birds actually started fires by dropping a burning branch in unburned places. Based on this TEK, researchers watched and documented this behavior.

“It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands comes small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing in front of the fire,” said Bob Gosford, an indigenous rights lawyer and ornithologist, who worked on the research, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016.

Another recent study down under found that an ancient practice of using fire to clear land to improve hunting also creates a more diverse mosaic of re-growth that increases the number of the primate prey species: monitor lizards and kangaroos.

“Westerners  have done little but isolate ourselves from nature,” said Mark Bonta, an assistant professor at Penn State Altoona who was on a co-author on the paper on fire and raptors. “Yet those who make a point of connecting with our earth in some form have enormous knowledge because they interact with a species. When you get into conservation, [that knowledge] is even more important.” Aboriginal people “don’t see themselves as superior to or separated from animals. They are walking storehouses of knowledge,” he said.

The Maya people of Mesoamerica have much to teach us about farming, experts say. Researchers have found that they preserve an astonishing amount of biodiversity in their forest gardens, in harmony with the surrounding forest. “The active gardens found around Maya forest villagers’ houses shows that it’s the most diverse domestic system in the world,” integrated into the forest ecosystem, writes Anabel Ford, who is head of the MesoAmerican Research Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “These forest gardeners are heroes, yet their skill and sophistication have too long been set aside and devalued.”

Some native people have the ability to adopt the “perspective of many creatures and objects – rocks, water, clouds,” a researcher says.

Valuing these life ways is an important part of the process. For the Skolt Sami, writes Mustonen, “seeing their language and culture valued led to an increase in self-esteem and power over their resources.”

It may not just be facts about the natural world that are important in these exchanges, but different ways of being and perceiving. In fact, there are researchers looking into the relationship between some indigenous people and the very different ways they see the world.

Felice Wyndham is an ecological anthropologist and ethnobiologist who has noted that people she has worked with can intimately sense the world beyond their body. “It’s a form of enhanced mindfulness,” she says. “It’s quite common, you see it in most hunter-gatherer groups. It’s an extremely developed skill base of cognitive agility, of being able to put yourself into a viewpoint and perspective of many creatures or objects – rocks, water, clouds.

Among the most important messages from traditional people is their equanimity and optimism. There “is no sense of doom and gloom,” says Raygorodetsky. “Despite dire circumstances, they maintain hope for the future.”

April 27, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

Indigenous, environmental, groups warn that Canada is mismanaging nuclear wastes

Toronto Star 23rd April 2018 , Canada mishandling nuclear waste plans, Indigenous, environmental groups
warn. First Nations leaders say they have not been properly consulted about
the prospect of a nuclear waste disposal site being established northwest
of Ottawa near a prominent nuclear research centre.

Environmental groupsalso say the controversy over the site near Chalk River, Ont., illustrates
the fact that the federal government lacks suitable policies to regulate
the handling of nuclear waste. Glen Hare, deputy grand chief of the
Anishinabek Nation, says his people were not consulted about the proposed
dump site, which is located less than a kilometre away from the Ottawa
River.
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/04/23/canada-mishandling-nuclear-waste-plans-indigenous-environmental-groups-warn.html

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

20 years ago Australian indigenous land owners stopped Jabiluka uranium mine

Guardian 2nd April 2018, One of Australia’s proudest land rights struggles is passing an important
anniversary: it is 20 years since the establishment of the blockade camp at
Jabiluka in Kakadu national park.

This was the moment at which push would
come to shove at one of the world’s largest high-grade uranium deposits.
The industry would push, and people power would shove right back.

The blockade set up a confrontation between two very different kinds of power:
on the one side, the campaign was grounded in the desire for
self-determination by the Mirarr traditional Aboriginal owners,
particularly the formidable senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula. They
were supported by a tiny handful of experienced paid staff and backed by an
international network of environment advocates, volunteer activists and
researchers.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/03/20-years-on-from-the-jabiluka-mine-protest-we-can-find-hope-in-its-success

April 4, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Navajo, Havasupai resist uranium mining

 By Williams-Grand Canyon News , 27 Feb 18, SUPAI, Ariz. – Vice President Jonathan Nez joined Arizona State Rep. Eric Descheenie and six other runners on a run to the village of Supai Feb. 14 to collect handwritten letters from the students of Havasupai Elementary School.

The letters are addressed to U.S. President Donald Trump in response to speculation that he plans to lift a 20-year ban on uranium mining in the greater Grand Canyon region, which was established by the Obama administration in 2012.

“We came to support the efforts of Representative Eric Descheenie and the Havasupai tribe to elevate the voice of the Havasupai youth.” Vice President Jonathan Nez said. “Their voice needs to be heard, especially on issues that impact their health and way of life.”

“Uranium has killed fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers across the Navajo Nation. It has contaminated the water supply in numerous areas poisoning plants, animals and people. For this reason, mining and transportation of uranium are banned on Diné Bikéyah, said Vice President Nez.

At an assembly held at the school Rep. Descheenie said, “We are going to make sure your words are received and read by the president of the United States so when he makes decisions that impact your lives he does so with you in mind. You have a powerful voice and it must be heard.”

Rep. Eric Descheenie and Havasupai Chairwoman Carletta Tilousi are scheduled to hand-deliver the letters to the White House Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. …….. https://www.grandcanyonnews.com/news/2018/feb/27/navajo-havasupai-resist-uranium-mining/

 

 

 

February 27, 2018 Posted by | indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Research into effects of uranium waste exposure on Native Americans

Albuquerque Journal 5th Feb 2018, Researchers hope to measure the effects of mixed metals and uranium waste
exposure on Native American populations living in close proximity to
abandoned mines, and better understand how these toxins spread through the
environment.

That’s the objective of the newly created Superfund Research
Center at the University of New Mexico, which is funded by $1.2 million a
year for five years from the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences.

There are more than 4,000 abandoned uranium mines — some 500 on
the Navajo Nation alone — and some 160,000 abandoned hard rock mines
scattered throughout the West, and some 600,000 Native Americans who live
within about six miles of those sites, said center director Johnnye Lynn
Lewis, a research professor in the UNM College of Pharmacy.
https://www.abqjournal.com/1129580/researchers-to-measure-mixed-metals-mining-contamination-on-native-americans.html

February 9, 2018 Posted by | environment, health, indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment