Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Paris Agreement: An “Incremental Advance” for International Recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Some members of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus at COP21 in Paris, France
Paris, France – The 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP21) officially adopted the Paris Agreement on Saturday, December 12, 2015.  The Agreement, with the legal force of a UN Treaty, was agreed to by all the 195 States (countries) present.  Once ratified by at least 55 States, it will go into legal force in 2020.  It commits all countries, for the first time ever, to cut their carbon emissions while also recognizing the special circumstances of developing countries.  The States also adopted the “Paris Decision” which is not legally binding, but commits States to immediately begin the process of reducing greenhouse emissions that cause climate change.
Some commentators are denouncing the Paris Agreement as a failure while others are hailing it as an historic triumph.  But for Indigenous Peoples, the Paris Agreement can be seen as another step forward for the recognition of their rights in international law.
The International Indigenous Peoples Forum of Climate Change (IIPFCC) and the Indigenous Peoples Caucus representing over 200 indigenous delegates attending this session from around the world, was invited to make a formal statement at the COP21 closing plenary. The IIPFCC closing statement, presented by elder Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), highlighted the three key messages advocated by Indigenous Peoples during the two-week session.  These included a call for the rights of Indigenous Peoples [to] be recognized, protected, and respected within a broad human rights framework in both the preamble and the operative sections of the Agreement; a temperature goal of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius increase over pre-industrial levels; and recognition, respect for and use of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, with their free, prior, and informed consent, in measures for adaption to climate change.   The IIPFCC statement, while expressing that Indigenous Peoples were “keenly disappointed” at the shortfalls in meeting these calls, noted that all three Indigenous Peoples messages were “addressed to some degree” in the final Agreement.
In particular, the inclusion of “the rights of Indigenous Peoples” in the preamble paragraph of the Agreement, achieved despite the consistent opposition of some States throughout the process, is a significant and unprecedented step forward.  This is the first time this phrase has appeared unqualified in a legally binding UN Treaty, environmental or otherwise.  The same phrase was included the preamble of the Paris Decision, although both say that States “should consider”, while Indigenous Peoples and human rights advocates called for the use of the stronger word  “shall”.
As noted by hereditary Chief Damon Corrie, Lokono Arawak of Barbados, “strong support by a group of States including Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Tuvalu, Indonesia, Canada and others, standing in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples throughout the negotiations, was required to achieve these inclusions in the final Agreement.
Despite disappointment that the phrase ‘rights of Indigenous Peoples’ and Human Rights in general did not also appear in the Agreement’s operative section, International Chief, attorney and member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) Wilton Littlechild, Ermineskin Cree Nation, clarified that “the preamble of a Treaty provides the context and framework for interpreting and implementing the entire document.”  The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties supports his assessment. On this basis, Chief Littlechild called the Paris Agreement an “incremental advancement for recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in international law.”
The Paris Agreement also calls on State parties (countries) to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” The 1.5 temperature goal was a core position not only of Indigenous Peoples, but the Small Island Developing States.
Article 7 of the Agreement addressing Adaptation affirms the need for a participatory, transparent, gender-sensitive approach based on science and “as appropriate, traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems”.  UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli Corpuz noted that Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, innovations and practices are recognized in both the Agreement and the Decision, and stated that moving forward “the challenge is how to operationalize this decision.”
The inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ core positions both in the Paris Agreement and Decision was the result of the monumental, coordinated and unified efforts by the Indigenous Peoples Caucus throughout COP21.  Despite the shortfalls, the inclusion of “the rights of Indigenous Peoples” in both preambles provides a basis for future advocacy to ensure that all programs addressing Climate Change are carried out with respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples as affirmed in the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including land and resource rights, free prior and informed consent, traditional knowledge and Treaty rights.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Indigenous Leaders from Around the World Meet at COP21 in Paris

Kayapo Chief Raoni Metuktire of Brazil and Kasike Roberto Mukaro Borrero,
President of the United Confederation of Taino People meet in Paris. 
Paris, France (UCTP Taino News) - About 250 indigenous leaders who engaged in a series of unprecedented consultations in the Arctic, North America, Asia, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Africa finalized their proposals to COP21 on Monday. The delegates are now actively lobbying governments to include the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the COP21 agreement. The indigenous leaders are also calling on countries to adopt a goal of keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming with the view of further lowering it to one degree Celsius. According to experts, the disastrous and possibly irreversible tipping point of climate change is 2°C. Among this historic and diverse gathering of indigenous leadership are Chief Damon Corrie of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) and Kasike Roberto Mukaro Agueibana Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People

UCTPTN 11.30.2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lokono Chief Damon Corrie Attends Climate Change Consultation in Peru

Chief Damon Corrie (Lokono Arawak) presents a Taino necklace to
Lima meeting Chairperson Benito Callixto, head of the Indigenous Forum
of Abya Yala (FIAY in Spanish). The gift made was made by Taino leader and artist
Roberto Mukaro Borrero and presented on behalf of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) 

and the United Confederation of Taino People.
Lima, Peru (UCTP Taino News) - Lokono Arawak leader Damon Corrie attended the UN Climate Conference (COP21) Regional Consultation for Latin America and the Caribbean in Lima, Peru from 12-15 October 2015. The consultation sought to consolidate regional positions on Climate Change, which would add to outcomes of similar consultations being conducted around the world. The Indigenous Peoples Global Climate Change Consultations are an initiative of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Corrie was the only indigenous representative from a Caribbean Small Island State in attendance. Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO) and the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP) Corrie expressed concerns of Indigenous Peoples of Caribbean small islands including global sea level and temperature rise, increasingly intense hurricanes and tropical storms, food sovereignty, and unusual rain and drought patterns. Chief Corrie intends to be present at and share these concerns, among others, at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC-COP21), which will take place in Paris, France 30 Nov. - 11 December 2015. 

UCTPTN 10.16.2015 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Looking through “Ventana Taína”; an oil on canvas masterpiece

Looking through “Ventana Taína”; an oil on canvas masterpiece
September 12th, 2015

Six months ago, Borikua artists, María Ramos and José Sánchez, decided to work together on a huge oil on canvas. Their idea was to collaborate on a piece that would honorably depict Taíno Culture.

Five and a half months later, I happened to see a picture they posted on social media that showed them both working on the painting. I was extremely happy to see these two wonderful artists working together. I knew that whatever they  were working on, would become a masterpiece.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor to go preview the painting and witness their signing it. Nothing prepared me for the impression this painting would have on me as I walked into the studio. “Ventana Taína” is precisely that, a window that teleports you to the times of our Taíno ancestors prior to colonization.

The painting is 60 X 84, and it makes you feel as though you are part of that scenario. Initially inspired by certain characteristics of Cueva Ventana in Borikén (Puerto Rico), -which always leaves one in awe-, “Ventana Taína” makes you feel as though you are inside the cave looking out. The image of the child hiding behind his father makes you feel as though it is you this young family has in front of them, as they stand at the entrance of the cave.

There are so many elements of our culture in this masterpiece that you can stand there for a long period of time immersed in the details. Food, spirituality, fauna, flora, art, skill, creativity, all is there, depicted in this magnificent painting.

I often speak about how us (Taíno) as a Peoples, carry many things within our cellular memory. Knowing that María Ramos and José Sánchez did not set out to paint from a draft, but rather brush right onto the canvas, I cannot help it but be convinced, that although they were the vessels that held the brushes and mixed the paint, the story being told was coming right from their own cellular memories.

As a Taíno, I feel honored to finally see something of this magnitude that reaffirms the beauty of our culture, and the inferred resilience of our peoples. Others will have the opportunity to learn about our Taíno Peoples, for we are no longer invisible. All of this made possible, as we choose to step forward to enter that cave and take a look through “Ventana Taína”.

Tai Pelli

“Ventana Taína” is currently being exhibited at the Orange County Regional History Center at 65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando Florida

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bohío Atabei women attend Summer Solstice Ceremony in Pittsburgh

Bohío Atabei women attend Summer Solstice Ceremony in Pittsburgh

Bohío Atabei Mujeres de la Yuca present a gift to Behike Sague at the Taíno Summer Solstice in Pitssburgh. Photo: Courtesy of Bernadette Myd

Women of Bohío Atabei cheer as Bibi Inarunikia Pastrano presents a gift to Behike Sague
Photo: Courtesy of Bernadette Myd

June 29th, 2015

On Saturday, June 20th, 2015, women from the Bohío Atabei Mujeres de la Yuca, joined Behike Miguel “Sobaoko Koromo” Sague, as well as members and friends of the Caney Indigenous Spiritual Circle in Pittsburgh, to celebrate the Taíno Summer Solstice Ceremony.

The weather in Pittsburgh had been somewhat challenging for the past few days, yet it did not interfere with the desire of many brothers and sisters to participate in this beautiful and important ceremony. We had the pleasure of finally meeting in person our brothers Chris Hanson, as well as Kasike Guatú Iri from Yukayeke Manicato.

As we waited, Andy Collazo, from Iukaieke Guainía played the mayohuakán, as the women from the Bohio sang and danced. One could not help but join in songs, smiles and the good energy that was being shared by all.

We moved locations, and ended up going to a beautiful park where all shades of green adorned the surroundings. The aroma of the recently showered ground, and the coolness one feels after the rain, became part of the ceremony itself.

The sisters from the Caney, Tenanche, Carmen, Davinia, as well as our other brothers and sisters were all welcoming and embraced us as their guests making us all feel at home and with family.
Having attended other ceremonies by the Caney, I have to say that this one was one of the most beautiful ones yet.  We had a very good and balanced group of men and women. While the men went to have the chord ceremony, the women gathered and shared teachings. This was very empowering to all.

As the men finally returned to circle, they were singing a Taíno song as they were approaching. Without say, we turned to look at our brothers and joined in the song. To me, this was “magical” as I noticed that as the men were getting closer, their voices and that of the women’s became one. It was a spiritual fusion, one of those things to which one can only say: “You had to be there!”

We concluded the ceremony with a poem, songs and dance. The women from Bohío Atabei presented Behike Sague with a beautiful blanket as a token of gratitude.

As the evening progressed, and we shared food and conversation, I observed from a distance, knowing that we all were where we needed to be at that precise moment. It was about connecting with our ancestors, our spiritual family, and honoring all that we are and shall continue to be through our future generations.

Tai Pelli

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Indigenous Peoples in Nepal deserve rescue efforts as well!

Who is looking for the survivors of Indigenous Peoples Villages in Nepal?

April 29th, 2015
By: Tai Pelli

Pratap Singh Nachhiring

Pratap Singh Nachhiring and a sister from the Rai Peoples

I found out about the Earthquake in Nepal, the morning I was to check-out of my hotel, after attending the first week of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. As most of the Indigenous delegates know, the cost of staying in NYC is high and most of us get to participate for only one week. (The previous week, I mentored other Indigenous Delegates through Tribal Link’s Project Access.)

Still, I found it peculiar that as I read news reports and watched videos on the situation, there was a lack of mention of Indigenous communities affected by the earthquake. Granted, I know there were landslides making reaching those places almost impossible, but we now there are helicopters, and although there was a shortage of those as well, one would think, in all fairness, that as citizens of Nepal, they too, receive the same assistance and consideration than those in the city and those foreigners who were rescued in other parts by helicopters. That has not happened for Indigenous Peoples. It wasn’t until yesterday that I first read about a concern by an Asian Organization that wrote an article about the impact on Indigenous Villages.

Since Saturday, I have been looking for my dear friend, colleague and Indigenous brother, Indigenous and Human Rights Advocate, Pratap Singh Nachhiring, and founder of the Kirat Rodu Nachhiring Sakham, Nepal, as well as his Nachhiring Peoples and the Rai Peoples, who reside up in the hills. I have found no mention on these communities at all.

Understanding that the airport in Nepal is now congested from all the planes that are bringing aid, would it be fair to say, that perhaps some of these efforts could be spread and not just centered for the Kathmandu city area? ALL LIVES MATTER!!! There are other smaller airports that could receive some planes and helicopters. I am of the opinion, that if there is a chance for survivors in these communities, an effort should be made to try to give them a chance at life as well. The impact of this earthquake and the aftershocks is overwhelming, yet, we cannot forget about the Indigenous citizens of Nepal, even if they have made a few reports on Human Rights Violations and have stood up defending their inherent rights as a Peoples! One wouldn’t want to think that this grave situation has become “convenient to eliminate the Indigenous problem”, as some in many parts of the world have decided to nick those of us who defend our inherent rights! ;-)

Tai Pelli 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Say No to Racism in Puerto Rico!

Recently, the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights citing the violation of human rights in Puerto Rico.A news article entitled "Human Rights in Puerto Rico; Are they making racism invisible?" published on March 12th at “El Post Antillano”, responded to the complaint critiquing the absence of the subject of Racism against Black communities, afro-descendants, and Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Rico.

Providing an example of current climate of racism against Indigenous Peoples in Puerto Rico,a group of radical pro-Spain Puerto Ricans, “Autonomía para Puerto Rico”, led by its president, Iván Arrache, recently launched a campaign seeking to remove references to the Indigenous Taino Peoples from school books used on the Island. The pro-Spain group also seeks to present a more "positive" image of Spanish Conquistadors in school curriculum. This group’s core political position is that Puerto Rico should be re-annexed to Spain and Puerto Ricans should again be subjects of the Spanish Crown. They claim thousands of followers on the island including former political figures and members of the Puerto Rican Board of Education.

In response to these racists positions against Indigenous Peoples and the People of Puerto Rico, a respected community member and representative of the United Confederation of Taino People, Tai Pellicier (Tai Pelli) posted a professional, well-documented response to these statements; she was subsequently slandered by members of the racist group in question; her personal Face Book page was hacked and rendered inaccessible. The President of the radical group, Ivan Arrache, has claimed responsibility for this cyber-attack taking place during Women’s History Month, March 2015.

The United Confederation of Taino People is calling on all people of good conscience to join us in expressing solidarity for our sister Tai Pellicier (Tai Pelli) and to denounce the racist attempt to remove the Taino from school text books and the intent to present the conquistador in a more "positive manner". In addition, we condemn violations against the basic human right of self-determination and all forms of racism, especially against those who proudly affirm indigenous Taino heritage, as well as institutionalized racism against Black communities and Afro-Descendants in Puerto Rico.