Seminar on current political issues related to indigenous peoples and Country reports by Students of the Masters Program in Indigenous

Studies 2004, March 3- 4, 2006
Introduction Students, with the exception of Australia represent almost all the continents in the 2004 batch of the Masters Program in Indigenous Studies in the University of Tromsø. It was felt that since there was a rich diversity of students coming from different backgrounds with an interest on indigenous issues in the multi-disciplinary program sharing of information and experiences would help raise number of areas of thoughts within the preview of the academic program. All the more the discipline of political science so far is not yet a part of the multidisciplinary approach in the field of social sciences, law and humanity, this seminar was intended to bring in that dimension with current issues of the indigenous peoples in the respective countries where students initially represented. The ‘current issues’ of concerning the indigenous peoples in different countries would never the less need the perspective of political science, besides the disciplines of anthropological, historical, law and literature that already are the part of the formal program. Therefore, to narrow this gap the idea of the two days seminar facilitated by Sami Centre was organised on the 3rd-4th of March 2006 in Skibotn for students to present the current issues of the indigenous peoples in their country reports. The first day of the seminar was dealt on the lecture given by Jarle Weigård, Else Grete Broderstad and Hans-Kristian Hernes on the indigenous peoples and minority rights, the Sámi political movements and on the issue of ‘hearing, consultation or negotiation: the case of Finmark Act’ respectively. Where as the second day was presentation by some Masters Students of Indigenous Studies 04 batch about the current issues concerning the indigenous peoples in the countries they represented or either basis on their experience during the fieldwork in the summer of 2005. The theoretical approaches earned from the lectures and the practical examples from the presentations of the students made the seminar to get a living experience about indigenous peoples in different angles of the world. 1. Lecture on indigenous people and minorities’ rights from Will Kymlika’s theoretical perspective, a political philosopher, was focus of discussion by Associate Professor Jarle Weigård 2. The Sami peoples political movement and the establishment of the Sami Parliament by Else Grete Broderstad, Research Fellow in the Department of Political Sciences 3. On the topic ‘Hearing, Consultation or Negotiation? The Case of Finmark Act’ was presented by Associate Professor Hans-Kristian Hernes also from the Department of Political Sciences 4. Presentation of country reports of the current issues of the indigenous peoples from the respective countries by the Masters Students in Indigenous Studies of 2004 batch, discussion and analytical conclusion The presentation from different countries has demonstrated that indigenous peoples are facing many challenging and inter-related political problems from nation states. Of course the degree of indigenous peoples right protection by national laws greatly different from country to country. The following case studies are best models for what indigenous peoples are experiencing so far. 4.1 ‘Demand of Constitutional Rights of the Adivasis in Bangladesh’ - A case of Bangladesh: Abdul Hoque According to the presentation, the Bangladesh government considers the indigenous peoples as national minorities but not yet as “indigenous groups”. This has its own impact on the claims of the people because they would be deprived of many rights owing to such interpretations. It has so far investigated that about 11 to 13 indigenous groups live in the country. As far as the claims of the people are concerned, it has been addressed that the question of land and constitutional right for recognition are on top of the claims. Land encroachment by the mainstream society has threatened the


indigenous right of these people. Rather than solving the basic claims of the people, the government has come up with idea of cultural organizations and instituted cultural academy for the minorities. But, according to the idea of the presenter, the project failed because of lack of interest, management and competence on the part of the people. In short, it could be deduced from the presentation that if the government continues in considering these people as minorities rather than indigenous, their claim for land and other constitutional rights remains difficult to be achieved.

4.2 ‘Who decides, who dies and how should they die? Adivasis caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.’ - A Case from India: Bineet Mundu In India, it is stated that nearly 8% of its population is of the indigenous peoples called the ‘scheduled tribes’. These groups are identified along with the lowest caste groups in the country and treated as such. The indigenous peoples call themselves Adivasis – aboriginals or early settlers. So far, the state policies in relation to them have been very exploitative. They are trapped between the big industrial development projects undertaken by the state excelled by multinational companies. For instance, in the 5th and the 6th schedules areas according to the Constitution where Adivasi land cannot be bought by or sold to non-adivasis here the state is in the name of the ‘national interest’ have come up with big industries, dam projects, mining industries, displacing them and bringing outside population to their areas. Here where these developmental activities have posed a threat to the Adivasi people is where different the armed struggles like the Maoist rebels, People’s War Group (PWG) have become very active working in the interest of the ‘people’. Five different cases were presented in the report which illustrates how the Adivasi people in central India on one hand are in the pressure of joining the armed groups if not they have to face the consequences, on the other hand the Adivasis are seen as an obstacle in the ambitious states developmental projects, facing brutality and elimination from both sides. It was also added that Indian government does not recognize indigenous peoples and nor has ratified ILO Convention 169. Click here for case illustration 4.3 ‘The Gwembe Tonga of Zambia and the Kariba Dam’ - A Case from Zambia: Victoria Phiri The Tonga people are believed to be among the indigenous people in Zambia. Their livelihood depends on livestock. Here in the home lands of the Tonga people the construction of the Kariba dam constructed during 1960-1961 by the colonial government, which eventually has taken away about 67% of their arable land. During this time, the colonial government forcefully displaced the people and settled them on unproductive land. After the migration, their livelihood has been greatly affected in many ways. It was deprived them from their right of ancestral lands. From the presentation it became possible to understand that the Zambian government has not mitigated the problem of the Tonga people. The people are still landless and land claim remains basic question of the people, for which some thing needs to be done. Click here for case illustration

4.4 ‘Indigenous Nationalities of Nepal’ - A case from Nepal: Sundar Bhattarai In Nepal, it is stated that the issue of poverty is very rampant occurrence. Though the government of Nepal identified some 59 indigenous nationalities and claims to have recognized some special rights for the disadvantaged groups, such as these it remained on paper. It is also claimed that there is some participation of these people in the political, educational and civil service activities of the country. Nevertheless, there different groups of people in Nepal still are struggling for human rights, equality and the restoration of democratic administration. Click here for case illustration

4.5. Indigenous Peoples in South Africa - A case from South Africa: Pricilla The movement of Khoekhoe, San and Khoesan peoples in South Africa can be taken as a good start in indigenous people’s movement in Africa. Though the concept “indigenous peoples” is controversial in Africa, the human Rights commission under AU (African Union) has assigned a group to investigate and report on the issue in the continent. There are about 38 organizations working on indigenous peoples in South Africa. The South African case is a good and promising start in Africa. Click here for case illustration


4.6 political conditions in Sámi land and Nigeria - The case from Sapmi and Nigeria: Steve In this presentation attempt has been made to look at some similarities and differences between Norway and Nigeria on issues of indigenous peoples. Unlike the Norwegian state, which recognizes and respects the rights of indigenous people in its national territory, Nigeria considers the indigenous peoples as ethnic minorities. Though the government of Nigeria has ratified ILO 169, no specific mention was made concerning the indigenous peoples of the country. Like what has been stated above in other countries like India, indigenous peoples in Nigeria also suffer from land encroachments from the state and multinational companies, particularly related to oil. There fore, the people are confronting with the state and oil companies. Click here for case illustration 4.7 “The Great Majorities” - The case from Latin America: Waltar Anacata Avendano Click here for case illustration

4.8 Oil Company and indigenous peoples - The case from Russia: Anastasia (2005 batch) The experience from Russia demonstrates, like many other parts of the world, the challenges indigenous peoples face from land encroachment by the state and oil companies, which in turn lead to dismantlement of these peoples from their traditional lands and resources. Lack of enough and fair compensation, lack of consent, and cultural disintegration etc were and are still prominent problems that these peoples are facing in Russia.

Short summary of the presentation Based on the degree of indigenous peoples movement, the state’s inclination to hear the voices of these peoples an the one hand and based on the nature of challenges the indigenous peoples face on the other hand, it sounds fair to group the countries under this presentation into four groups. Under the first group, India, Zambia, Nigeria and Russia can be put together. In these four countries, indigenous peoples are simply recognized in the category of ‘national minorities’ or in a category of ‘less developed’ and are under serious threat from multinational companies and /or some modern – technology related “development” programs. It is possible to see the situations in these countries in a triangular approach of analysis in which the three edges of the triangle is occupied by indigenous peoples/minorities, resources on these peoples’ land and Multinational Companies. While these three variables operate on the edges of the triangle, the state plays a central role in manipulating and regulating all variable. Draw a triangle and label:


indigenous peoples/minorities

multinational companies

The second group, according to Asebe’s (one of the participants) grouping system, are Bangladesh and Nepal; where governments consider the peoples under study as minorities. The basic difference


between the first and the second grouping is on the challenges the peoples are facing. While the first are threatened for their livelihood by multinational companies, the latter’s threat is from the state and mainstream society. Norway as the first country to recognize the Sami people as indigenous peoples becomes a best model in the history of indigenous peoples’ movement. Though the level of granting rights for indigenous peoples is by far less than the one in Norway, the South African experience is a promising particularly for indigenous peoples in Africa. Thus these two may be grouped under one category. The last group is Latin America in which non-indigenous peoples have also been struggling for the rights of indigenous peoples. And now a day, indigenous peoples are on the way for empowerment. The best example is the recent presidential election in Bolivia where the president is from the indigenous peoples; - Analysis as presented by Debelo, Asebe Regassa. Note of appreciation to all the participants, the student contributors and especially the resource persons, Jarle Weigård, Else Grete Broderstad and Hans-Kristian Hernes for their valuable contributions. Per Klemetsen Hætta and Rachel Issa Djesa for facilitation the seminar on behalf of the Sami Centre, Steve for chairing the two days seminar and Debelo, Asebe Regassa for summarising the presentations and his analysis and also drafting the seminar report.


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