The Multinational Monitor

September 1992

Indigenous Voices

Table of Contents

Behind the Lines


America’s Killing Ground

The Front


The Scramble for African Timber

By Virginia Luling and Damien Lewis

Debating Survival

By Holley Knaus


The Cordillera Under Siege

An Interview with Victoria Tauli Corpuz

The Mocovi Economic Alternative

An Interview with Ariel Araujo

Yanomami in Peril

An Interview with Daví Kopenawa Yanomami

Fighting Extinction

An Interview with Eliane Potiguara

Carving up the Canyon

An Interview with Carletta Tilousi

Negotiating Nisga’a Rights

An Interview with Joseph Gosnell


Toxic Decision

By Holley Knaus

Names In the News



To the editor:

Since I wrote my article "Comalco’s Power Play" ( Multination al Monitor, June 1991), there have been further developments with Comalco. A trade journal has revealed that the power generation unit set up inside the head office of Comalco’s parent, CRA, has been disbanded because of the failure to bring off several projects, including buying the Manapouri power station (or building a coal-fired power station in New Zealand’s North Island). Comalco has diversified into Chile, where it is investigating a hydro scheme that would flood a national park for a smelter.

Due to a combination of severe drought in the hydro catchment and Electricorp’s profit- driven mismanagement, New Zealand has been plunging into a severe power crisis. This has occurred, with virtually no warning, in the midst of a particularly severe winter. Hot water is currently cut off for up to 17 hours per day; total blackouts are threatened. Comalco has closed one potline at its Tiwai Point smelter, for a limited period, claiming this is the first time it’s done this anywhere in the world. Commentators point out that the world aluminum price is currently down US$66 per ton, so it is a useful time to stockpile. Electricorp is also paying Comalco up to NZ$10 million of taxpayers’ money, as compensation.

As you also reviewed Roger Moody’s Plunder, we would also like it known that CAFCA (Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa) is co-publisher of this book.

In relation to Robert Reid’s article in the same issue ("Crushing Labor in New Zealand"), it is worth pointing out that Comalco was one of the very first major employers to take advantage of the Employment Contracts Act, and put its workers on deunionized contracts.

Reid’s article had one major omission. The union movement was very slow to act against the New Right revolution enacted under the 1984-90 Labour government, because the NZ Labour Party arose out of the trade unions. There was always a close working relationship between the two; unions funded the party; affiliated unions had bloc voting rights at annual party conferences. The leadership of the NZ Council of Trade Unions maintained loyalty throughout the wholesale assault on workers - just months before Labour’s 1990 electoral oblivion, it signed a deal with the government, agreeing to a 2 percent limit on wage rises.

In 1984, one of Labour’s campaign promises was to "Save Rail." My union (the national union of rail workers) campaigned for Labour and contributed tens of thousands of dollars. Long before Labour’s two terms were up, we had disaffiliated from Labour, which presided over the "downsizing" of NZ Railways staff by 70 percent (including me).

Murray Horton,

Secretary, CAFCA

Christchurch, New Zealand

Behind the Lines

Toxic Traders Indicted

THE OPERATORS OF THE INFAMOUS Khian Sea, the ship which sailed the world’s seas seeking to dispose of Philadelphia incinerator ash, were indicted on July 14 in a Wilmington, Delaware U.S. District Court for making false statements to a federal grand jury related to an investigation into the disposal of 15,000 tons of toxic ash.

In 1986, Paolino and Sons, a waste management company hired by the city of Philadelphia, contracted with John Dowd, of the Amalgamated Shipping Corporation , and William Reilly, of the Coastal Carriers Corporation , to dispose of ash from the city’s municipal garbage incinerator. The ash was carried aboard the ship Khian Sea for 27 months. In January 1988, the ship unloaded 4,000 tons of the waste, labeled as fertilizer, on the beach of Gonaives, Haiti , in violation of Haitian law prohibiting waste imports.

In May 1988, the ship sailed to the former Yugoslavia , where it docked with approximately 11,000 tons of the remaining ash in its cargo holds. In Yugoslavia, the ship’s name was changed to Felicia. It left Yugoslavia shortly thereafter and arrived in Singapore in November 1988 with its cargo holds empty.

Dowd and Reilly stated before a grand jury in 1990 that they had no knowledge of the disposal of the ash. The two contractors were subpoenaed by the Department of Justice during an investigation in response to charges that the ash was off-loaded from the ship en-route to Singapore and dumped into the Indian Ocean. Contradictory testimony by a member of the ship’s crew - that the waste had been dumped at sea at Dowd and Reilly’s instruction - led to the indictments.

According to the environmental group Greenpeace, tests by the Environmental Protection Agency have revealed hazardous levels of lead, cadmium and dioxin in the Philadelphia incinerator ash. The waste remains exposed in Gonaives, without fencing or warning signs.

"Ironically, these two environmental criminals are being charged not with dumping their toxic cargo at sea, not even with illegally labeling it as fertilizer and abandoning it on the beaches of Haiti - where it is today - but rather with lying to a grand jury," says Ann Leonard of Greenpeace in Washington, D.C.

If convicted, Reilly and Dowd each face a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Nicaragua ’s Nemesis

THE U.S. CONGRESS HAS DELAYED the release of $16 million in aid to Nicaragua, citing concerns that President Violeta Chamorro has failed to fully privatize property that was nationalized during the Sandinista administration. The postponement follows a $100 million aid freeze in May.

Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and formerly one of Chamorro’s most fervent backers, has been the primary force behind the delay. In a letter to U.S. Agency for International Development director Ronald Rosken, Helms stated that he would continue to block efforts to aid Nicaragua because the Chamorro government "refuses to respect the sanctity of private property." In his communication to Rosken, he argues, "It is well known that ... Chamorro ... has not privatized corporations and other businesses that were seized and nationalized by the Communist Sandinistas."

Ties to the Sandinistas were preserved by the president in an effort towards national reconciliation after eight years of war between the Sandinista government and the U.S.-backed contra rebels.

Nuke Leaks

NUCLEAR SAFETY ACTIVIST Stephen Comley was fined $1,000 a day in the U.S. District Court in Boston in July for refusing to admit or deny the existence of taped conversations with whistleblowers among high-level Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials and nuclear power plant workers.

Comley is an outspoken critic of the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear power plant and has been involved in documenting safety hazards there. A number of workers at the Seabrook plant told Comley that the facility was built with faulty fuses and fasteners. A report by Comley of these findings led to an October 1990 General Accounting Office investigation confirming that at least 72 of 111 U.S. nuclear power plants were built with counterfeit or substandard parts.

NRC Assistant Inspector General Leo Norton first subpoenaed Comley on March 12, 1991 to turn over approximately 40 tapes or transcripts of conversations with high- ranking NRC officials, and in particular with Roger Fortuna, deputy director of the NRC’s Office of Investigations. The petition for subpoena asserts that the inspector general needs access to the tapes because they may contain previously unreleased safety information about one or more nuclear reactors.

Comley, whose fines continue to accumulate, stands firm in his resolution to protect the identity of the whistleblowers. If he capitulates to pressure to reveal "their identities or break their trust, they will never come forward with safety problems again," he says. "That's what the NRC wants, and I will not give in to them."

- Julie Gozan

Editorial: America’s Killing Ground

U.S. WASTE BROKERS and the U.S. federal government believe they have found the solution to the nation’s garbage disposal problem: dumping industrial and household waste on Native American land.

In 1989, Colorado-based Waste Tech Incorporated , a subsidiary of Amoco, approached Dilkon, an isolated Arizona Navajo community with a 72 percent unemployment rate. Waste Tech proposed taking over 100 acres of Navajo land to build an incinerator for burning hazardous waste and a landfill for burying its toxic ash. In exchange, the company promised 175 jobs, a new hospital and a $100,000 signing bonus.

In 1991, the O& G Corporation of Torrington, Connecticut approached the Rosebud Lakota in South Dakota with a proposal to build the largest U.S. landfill on their reservation. The 5,000 acre dump would hold solid waste, incinerator ash and sewage sludge ash.

These types of offers are becoming increasingly common. Since 1990, toxic waste disposal companies have approached more than 50 U.S. indigenous groups, offering millions of dollars in exchange for the right to dump U.S. trash on Native American grounds. The waste companies seek to avoid state, county, municipal and many federal waste-facility operating standards, which do not apply to Native American reservations because of their sovereign status. The corporations also prey on the economic vulnerability of indigenous communities, touting their disposal plans as unique opportunities for "economic development" and increased employment on impoverished Native American reservation - but not mentioning the serious health threats posed by the incineration and storage of hazardous and other wastes.

Instead of working to halt the waste industry’s exploitation of Native American communities, the federal government, which has "trustee" responsibility to protect Native American lands, has promoted waste disposal on the reservations. In 1990, for example, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded a $248,000 minority business grant to a promoter who arranged for a company to bring hazardous waste to an Oklahoma Kaw reservation.

Most disturbing is the federal government’s efforts to push nuclear waste on to Native American reservations. The Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator, established by the Department of Energy (DOE) in 1987, has solicited every Native Nation in the United States to become an "interim" or permanent recipient of highly radioactive used fuel from nuclear power plants. One of the federal government’s many proposed nuclear waste projects for indigenous lands is the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste repository, which is being planned for the Western Shoshone reservation in Nevada, located about 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The DOE has allotted $32.5 billion for carving Yucca Mountain into a receptacle for 70,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste.

Native Americans are not passively accepting the onslaught against their lands and people, however. Indigenous people throughout the United States have rejected offers from waste companies and ignored overtures from the Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator. The Paiutes in northern Arizona, the Kaws in Oklahoma, the Choctaws in Mississippi and Los Coyotes in California have invalidated initial agreements made by tribal officials to accept hazardous waste or garbage. Reservation-wide organizing and education among the Rosebud Lakota led to the rejection of the O& G South Dakota landfill proposal.

The Navajo community group Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (CARE) successfully fought back and forced the cancellation of the Waste Tech toxic waste proposal that had been approved by Dilkon officials in Arizona. CARE continues to work with Native American communities throughout the United States to defend reservations against waste companies and to establish recycling centers.

Non-native U.S. citizens can begin to support indigenous people’s rights to self- determination and a clean environment by demanding that their tax dollars no longer be used to peddle nuclear and other toxic waste to Native Americans and by supporting Native American calls for grassroots economic and community development plans. More generally, government, industry and citizens must sharply limit the waste they produce in the first place, and recycle a far greater percentage of what they do create.

As the dangers of waste storage, disposal and incineration are further exposed, indigenous resistance to corporate and government waste facility schemes will continue to build. In the meantime, each incinerator, landfill or toxic storage facility that is built on a reservation poisons thousands of Native Americans and their lands.n

The Front

Sweet Revenge for Sugar Workers

CUTTING FLORIDA SUGAR CANE, a job carried out almost exclusively by Caribbean migrant workers, is singularly dangerous and difficult labor. And the U.S. sugar cane industry is reputed to be one of the country’s most exploitative employers.

Recently, however, sugar cane cutters won a significant legal victory over their employers. A Palm Beach County court ruled on June 25 that six Florida sugar cane companies have cheated thousands of workers out of their wages during the last half- decade.

Finding that the industry clearly violated its employment contracts, the court determined that no trial was necessary on the merits of the case and granted the plaintiffs summary judgment. The results of a hearing held in late July will determine the amount of damages owed by the companies, estimated by the plaintiffs’ lawyers at $51 million. About 15,000 sugar cane cutters employed during harvest seasons between 1987-88 and 1990-91 will benefit from the suit.

"The industry has fundamentally mistreated workers for many years," asserts Bruce Goldstein, an attorney with the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Farmworker Justice Fund. "The pressure will cause the companies to make some changes in the way they treat workers."

The companies named in the class action suit, Bygrave v. Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, include the United States Sugar Corporation , the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, the Atlantic Sugar Association, the Okeelanta Corporation and the Osceola Farms Corporation .

U.S. Sugar, the largest of the Florida sugar growers, is appealing the Bygrave decision. If the ruling holds up, it could cost the company as much as $20 million in back wages.

The growers had contracted to pay workers an average of $5.30 per ton of cane cut. The judge found that they had actually paid an average of $3.75 per ton using a so- called "task rate" payment system.

Task rate is often used by employers to deliberately obscure the means for determining wages, preventing workers from detecting underpayment. Sugar cane, which is grown in rows, is hand-cut by workers, many of whom cut between seven and ten rows in a day. The growers pay for each row of cane, claiming to decide each row’s value based on individual and unquantifiable characteristics. Regardless of the value of individual rows, however, past agreements made between the growers and the U.S. Department of Labor guarantee cutters an hourly wage. Bygrave alleged that there is no valid means of determining payment other than the sole factor of tonnage cut per hour and that the task rate had been used to cheat workers.

The sugar industry has been employing Jamaican and other Caribbean cutters since 1944. Through the Department of Labor’s H2-A visa program for temporary foreign workers, sugar cane growers are required to make jobs available to U.S. citizens and legal aliens before they may request Caribbean workers. The growers discourage the small number of U.S. applicants from taking the jobs. Most workers in South Florida are not interested in the positions because they are aware of the dangerous and exploitative conditions associated with cutting cane.

The growers prefer a Caribbean workforce, cane-cutter advocates claim, because they are able to deport workers should a labor dispute arise. In the 1980s, the Atlantic Sugar Association and the Okeelanta Corporation each deported over 350 striking workers.

Cane cutter advocates hope the decision will help change the industry’s labor practices. As for government action, however, Goldstein says there is not much hope. "The DOL decided a long time ago not to enforce laws on behalf of H2 workers. Because the government has refused to enforce these laws, the workers themselves have to hire attorneys to do the government’s job."

Goldstein, while not serving as council in the Bygrave case, is himself representing cutters in several lawsuits against sugar cane companies and the Department of Labor, including an antitrust case against the companies for fixing wages and other unlawful conduct.

Pressure to improve the industry’s treatment of workers may also come from other sources. The General Accounting Office is currently completing an investigation resulting from a July 1991 Congressional staff report criticizing the Labor Department's failure to prevent and punish other unlawful conduct regarding sugar cane cutters’ wages. And the Florida Department of Insurance is investigating the sugar cane growers’ health insurance program for foreign workers.

Otis Wragg of Wragg and Associates Public Relations, the firm representing the Florida Sugar Cane League, says that the sugar cane companies are "scrambling around to make orders" for mechanical harvesters that will replace the sugar cane cutters. "We are waiting to see whether the Bygrave suit will result in reduced rates of the companies’ participation in Jamaica and therefore fewer H2 workers," says Wragg. "It will put a lot of them out of work and that’s really sad."

United States Sugar Corporation plans to eliminate 1,100 cutters and replace them with eleven mechanical harvesters this fall. "The decision is in the hands of the professional labor activists who are trying to use class action lawsuits to destroy the program," claims U.S. Sugar executive vice president James Terrill.

U.S. Sugar was indicted for slavery in 1942 for its treatment of African-American workers. The company began hiring Jamaican cutters the following season. "We are very proud of the role that these jobs in Florida play in raising the income level of West Indian farm workers," claims Terrill. "We don’t want to replace them with machines."

In response to industry claims that the lawsuits will lead to job loss for migrant workers, Goldstein argues, "These lawsuits are attempting to secure minimum rights guaranteed under law for workers. Instead of complying with those laws, the growers are opting to mechanize. I think it’s absurd that the League now acts as if it’s concerned about workers’ welfare - where were they during the last 50 years?"n

- Julie Gozan

Land to the Inuit

THE INUIT PEOPLE may soon become the largest landowners in Canada , with proprietorship over an area larger than the state of New Mexico. After more than 15 years of negotiations, the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN), representing the Inuit people of the Northwest Territories, and the government of Canada concluded the Nunavut Settlement Area Agreement-in-Principle in December 1991.

The agreement partitions the tremendous expanse of land known as the Northwest Territories (NWT), an area made up of land in northwest Canada - Arctic tundra, the sub-Arctic boreal forests of the Great Slave Lake and Mackenzie Valley areas and the chain of islands known as the Arctic Archipelago - which have not been claimed by any province.

In 1974, the Canadian government announced its willingness to negotiate land claim agreements with indigenous peoples with which it had not signed treaties. The Inuit presented a land claim plan to the government in 1976.

In the proposed agreement for the demarcation of Nunavut, which means "our land" in Inuktitut, the Inuit relinquish aboriginal rights, title and interests to lands and waters outside of the settlement area in exchange for constitutionally protected rights and benefits set out in the agreement. The constitutional protections in the agreement cover land, money, wildlife and environmental management, as well as social, economic and political development.

The Inuit will gain title to approximately 136,000 square miles of land, including subsurface rights to oil, gas and minerals on 14,000 square miles of the land. The government will also pay the Inuit of Nunavut $580 million over a period of 14 years.

The agreement recognizes Inuit rights to hunt and trap wildlife on lands and waters throughout the Nunavut Settlement Area, and stipulates that the federal government will cooperate with the Inuit to establish three national parks in Nunavut. It guarantees the Inuit: equal authority with public government to manage the land, water, offshore and wildlife of the Nunavut Settlement Area, and to assess and evaluate the impacts of development on the environment; the right to negotiate with industry for economic and social benefits from non-renewable resource development; and a commitment from the territorial government to train Inuit for public sector employment within the Nunavut Settlement Area.

Confirmation of the agreement will set a significant precedent for indigenous self- determination in Canada, according to Rodrigo Contreras of the World Council for Indigenous Peoples. "Nunavut has a direct impact on future land claims because it sets the parameters for the next negotiation. The importance of this settlement is that it establishes minimum standards for indigenous rights," Contreras says. The TFN has held tenaciously to the principle that a land claim accord must not only return land appropriated from Canada’s indigenous people but also provide for autonomous governance within Nunavut.

Much of the delay in negotiations stemmed from the Canadian government’s resistance to guaranteeing the self-governance of Nunavut in a final agreement. The TFN refused to sign the Agreement-in-Principle without the inclusion of Article 4, a clause that states the federal government will support the creation of a Nunavut legislative assembly within five years of the transfer of ownership of the land.

The TFN has repeatedly stated that Nunavut’s public government would be consistent with Canadian constitutional traditions. For the federal government, the negotiations have constituted a means of persuading other Canadian indigenous groups to temper demands for forms of self-government which in some cases do not recognize the legitimacy of the Canadian parliament. The TFN also points out that the federal government stands to benefit from the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement by obtaining clarity of title to land and natural resources; expanded management of the Arctic’s environment; and national and international recognition for its willingness to negotiate with indigenous people.

The agreement will be subject to a ratification vote by all eligible Inuit above the age of 16 in November 1992. James Eetoolook, president of TFN, says that although the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement "does not deliver all that Inuit want or need," the organization supports the agreement "because we are convinced ... that it moves Inuit forward along the long path of self-determination."

Other indigenous peoples who share land within the proposed Nunavut Territory, including the Dene, Metis, Inuvialut and Northern Quebec Inuit, will be affected by the agreement. Although a section of the Agreement-in-Principle states that issues relating to overlapping interests between TFN and other aboriginal people will be addressed before a final agreement is reached, indigenous groups which are concerned about the boundaries of the settlement area, the surrender of aboriginal title and the constitutional protection of Canadian aboriginal land claim settlements have expressed opposition to the Inuit- Canadian agreement.

The major point of controversy relates to the division of the Northwest Territories. Two previous boundary agreements between the Dene and the Inuit, negotiated in 1985 and 1987, have already collapsed. Inuit negotiators and the Canadian government agreed to the most recent Nunavut land claims boundary in 1991 without the consent of the Dene Nation. The proposed boundary, which begins at the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border on the 60th parallel and proceeds through the 80th parallel to the North Pole, was approved by a 54 percent yes vote in a NWT-wide plebiscite on May 4 despite vocal Dene opposition.

While the Dene Nation states that it "does not oppose division of the Northwest Territories or the desire of the Inuit for their own government in a Nunavut Territory," it is firmly opposed to the boundary. It contends that the Dene hold rightful claim to 220 square miles at Contwoyto Lake and 10 square miles at Healy Lake that have been included in the Nunavut settlement.

The Chipewyan Dene of Northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba have launched a lawsuit against the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, citing Canada’s Comprehensive Land Claims Policy, which states, "Where more than one claimant group utilizes common areas of land and resources, and the claimants cannot agree on boundaries ... no lands will be granted to any group in the contested area until the dispute is resolved."

Whether the establishment of Nunavut stands to hinder or promote the rights of other indigenous people remains an important question in the minds of many Canadian Arctic people. Most other residents of the NWT are either indifferent or opposed to the idea of Nunavut. Consultants hired by the federal and territorial governments have estimated that the Western Arctic stands to lose 20 percent of its civil service positions, or nearly 1,000 jobs, and that start-up costs for a Nunavut government could exceed $500 million.

But only Inuit, in the three Nunavut regions of Baffin, the Keewatin and Kitikmeot, will vote on the Nunavut Settlement Area Agreement-in-Principle this November. According to Paul Okalik, a spokesperson from the TFN resource center, the TFN expects that the settlement will receive "almost unanimous approval." If 75 percent of registered Inuit beneficiaries agree to surrendering aboriginal title to land outside the boundary agreement, the land claim will be ratified, Nunavut will be realized and an Inuit homeland will replace colonial administration in the Eastern Arctic.n

- Julie Gozan

Island of Poison

CORPORATE MALFEASANCE and government neglect have led to the occurrence of a disproportionately high number of birth defects in children born on Walpole Island in Canada , indigenous residents of the island charge.

Approximately 2,000 people from the Ottawa, Pottawanamee and Ujibwe tribes live on Walpole Island, which is located at the mouth of the St. Clair River as it enters Lake St. Clair, just north of Detroit. The St. Clair River is an outlet of Lake Huron and serves as an international waterway and a source of water for commercial, industrial and domestic uses.

Residents say they have suffered from the effects of chemical spills from nearby "Chemical Valley" in Sarnia, Ontario. Dow Chemical , DuPont , Ethyl Chemical , Polysar , Novacore , Imperial Oil , Shell Oil and Esso Petroleum and Chemical all operate in Sarnia. Chemicals discharged into the St. Clair include mercury, chlorinated organics, volatile hydrocarbons, PCBs and lead.

"Since 1986, [the companies] average 100 spills a week," says Mike Williams of the Walpole Island Heritage Center. "When there’s a serious [spill], we’ve had to shut down our water treatment plant." Since 1986, the island has had to shut down the treatment plant 16 times because of extreme water contamination.

"There’s no question that the island community has a very high incidence of birth defects and there’s a very high incidence of cancer," says Joe Cummins, a professor of genetics at the University of Western Ontario.

The Province of Ontario convened a panel to investigate the spills’ impact on the health - particularly reproductive health - of people in the St. Clair area. The panel released the St. Clair River Reproductive Health Study last year. It concluded that the rate of birth defects in the St. Clair River area was no higher than the Provincial average, according to Layne Zerbeek, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Cummins, however, charges that the panel purposefully refrained from studying health effects on Walpole in order to minimize the amount of adverse health effects recorded. "The evidence is clear that the incidence of birth defects on the island is excessive, but [the panel] excluded Walpole [from the study] because that would give the study positive results, and they did not want positive results," Cummins says.

The panel looked into hospital databases to determine provincial birth defect rates, and then broke down Southwest Ontario by region. Researchers made phone calls to families of children with birth defects to obtain additional information.

Zerbeek says that the study did not look beyond regions. "They did not get into specifics like Walpole Island, tiny little areas like that," Zerbeek says. "They could have phoned to Walpole Island but that doesn’t come out in the data."

One reason residents of Walpole Island may be affected by the chemical pollution to a greater extent than residents in the surrounding area is that much of their diet consists of locally caught fish, duck, muskrat, deer and miscellaneous wild meats. According to an island study, 91 percent of the community consumes wild meat. Wild game contaminated by pollutants may pass on toxics to the residents of the island.

The marshes and wetlands at the mouth of the St. Clair River, the St. Clair flats and the complex of islands around Walpole Island are one of the most unique and valuable eco-regions in the Great Lakes and North America, according to the St. Clair River International Citizens Network, a public interest group working to reduce pollution from Chemical Valley.

The region has more than 34,000 acres of wetlands, mostly in the Flats-Walpole area, and is home to diverse wildlife, including the bald eagle, lake sturgeon, prairie fringed orchid, eastern fox snake, eastern massassauga rattlesnake and the black rat snake.

"The river water, fish habitat and sediment have been impaired due to the discharge of nutrients and toxic substances from industrial and municipal point sources, nonpoint sources and inplace pollutants," according to the 1989 Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, issued by the International Joint Commission. "The marsh acts as a big sponge and soaks in all the contaminants," says Williams.

Fish advisories for the river and Lake St. Clair have increased in recent years. Swimming advisories have been placed intermittently on beaches in Sarnia Bay and just downstream of Ontario Hydro’s Lambton Generating Station, according to Williams.

"The fish are diseased - some have large sores on them," says Ed Isaac, a Walpole resident. "This year I noticed that not only are a lot of fish diseased, but they are also deformed."

"We think it’s scandalous that these spills just go on constantly," John Jackson of the Citizens Network says. Earlier this year, Walpole residents closed down the island for a day and demonstrated in downtown Sarnia at Polysar, one of the chemical companies responsible for recent spills.

The Canadian and U.S. governments have been slow to respond to the situation and have only recently published a report on contamination of the St. Clair. No clean-up activity plan has been drawn up or implemented.

"They haven’t got to a discussion of what the clean-up plan will be - there has only been discussion of what the problem is," says Jackson.

According to Jackson, the Canadian government’s solution to the problem is to construct a pipeline from the clean water in Lake Huron, past "Chemical Valley," to Walpurg, Canada and Walpole Island.

"Even if you don’t drink the contaminated water, people are still eating contaminated food, particularly people on Walpole Island," Jackson says. "I think it’s disgusting that taxpayers pay money for a pipeline when it should be the responsibility of the company to stop spilling stuff into the river."n

- Ben Lilliston


The Scramble for African Timber

by Virginia Luling and Damien Lewis

IN AFRICA, THERE IS AN AREA AS LARGE as Western Europe that remains terra incognita on most maps. Depicted as a uniform mass of green, the rainforests of equatorial Africa cover Southern Cameroon , Gabon , Equatorial Guinea , Congo and much of Zaire . They spill north into the Central African Republic and south into Angola . There is a powerful myth that these rainforests and their inhabitants, in sharp contrast to those in other areas of the world, remain isolated and secure. As a result, the destruction of Africa’s equivalent of the Amazon continues to escape the attention of the Western world.

Africa’s forests are presently home to about 150,000 so-called "Pygmy" people: the Baka of Cameroon, the Aka of the Central African Republic and the Mbuti and Twa of Zaire, as well as hundreds of thousands of forest-dwelling Bantu farming villagers. The hunting and gathering Pygmy groups have long lived in a relationship of exchange with these farmers, trading forest products such as meat and honey, and some labor service, in return for produce.

Zaire contains half of Africa’s and 13 percent of the world’s rainforest - an acreage surpassed only by Brazil. Of Zaire’s 11,000 different plants, one third are unique to the region. The country has more mammal, bird, primate, amphibian and fish species than any other African nation.

Yet, as elsewhere in Africa, the forests of Zaire are under siege. Siforzal, a subsidiary of the Germany company Danzer , in which Zaire’s President Mobutu has a large interest, controls a vast logging concession that stretches for 250 kilometers along the banks of the Zaire river at Lokoko, an area in the Northern region which contains over two million acres of some of the most isolated rainforest in the continent. Lokoko is one of the world’s major logging concessions and the largest in Africa.

Danzer began logging in Lokoko seven years ago. The company built a road to the forest, and expands it by 120 kilometers each year. In order to ensure that washed-out roads do not hinder logging, these roads are the best-maintained in Zaire.

Danzer fells four hardwood species in Lokoko. The occurrence of these valuable woods is extremely low, only one tree to eight acres. But, because each trunk brings in $5,000 to $10,000 in Europe or the United States, the company’s logging operations are still highly profitable.

Once the trees are felled, huge "skidders," or tractors, drag each tree through the forest to loading areas the size of six football fields. From there, Danzer’s Mercedes trucks haul about 60 trees daily over the 90 kilometer journey to the banks of the Zaire river, and an awaiting fleet of 40 tug boats, each of which can pull a massive 1,500 meter raft of logs. So begins the 2,000 kilometer journey downstream to the ports on the Atlantic coast.

Under Zairean law, Danzer is required to manage the Lokoko concession on a 25- year cycle, returning to re-cut when the forest has regenerated. However, given that even the fastest growing hardwoods take 100 years to grow, the devastation caused by the initial logging is so great that there is no incentive to return. Up-river, an area the size of Lokoko has been abandoned now that all its valuable timber has been cut. "The company always says it will come back and make a second cut, but in fact it never does," says a young French worker for Siforzal.

Grab mentality

"It’s a grab mentality. Right now, there’s plenty of stuff to mine. The logging companies haven’t been confronted by the reality that they have to go back over and retake," says Jim Pearce, an ecologist who has lived for many years in Zaire. "The concessions are still moving out; a lot are not being worked but are on the books, waiting until the right moment to mine or to sell. There is nothing in the foreseeable future to prevent them from mining these forests, and then they’ll be confronted with the second cut. At that point we’ll see much greater degradation."

Sometimes there is no forest to which to return. In the wake of the company’s departure, colonists flood into the newly accessible forest areas, pouring in through the route by which the logs were extracted. Even as a concession is being logged, shanty- towns spring up among the huge tree-stumps. These house Danzer’s own employees - 200 at Lokoko - or farmers who come to grow food for the workers.

The farmers do not stay long in any one spot. Because rainforests’ nutrients are held in the living mass of vegetation, not in the soil, they yield one bumper harvest but quickly deteriorate. After two or three harvests, the farmers clear a new patch of forest for farmland.

Danzer officials are eager to point out the advantages that logging brings to the region, arguing that the company not only employs local people to work the logging operations, but builds schools and medical centers. Yet such benefits are short-lived, lasting only as long as a concession’s timber, and the wages are derisory: $6 per week for a Zairean at Lokoko. The "reforestation tax" that Danzer pays is negligible: less than one dollar per acre. Robert Grantham of the African Environment Network has calculated that for annual exports worth more than $16 million in profits, Danzer pays a mere $10,000 in taxes to Zaire.

Lokoko is but one of 10 concessions owned by Danzer in Zaire. At over 2 million acres, it is currently the company’s largest operation, but forests of even greater size await future exploitation. By 1988, Danzer held sway over a staggering 22 million acres of forest, or almost 10 percent of Zaire’s forest area.

A rash of European companies

Danzer is only one of 55 companies now logging in Zaire. Across the river to the south of Lokoko, a Belgian company is logging an area of similar size at Monbongo. The Italian company La Forestiere , the German company Stabach and Danzer all have operations to the east of Lokoko. From the Atlantic coast to the equator, few areas remain untouched. Yet these operations represent only the beginning of the scramble for timber.

Ninety percent of Zaire’s forest has been parceled out, mostly to the powerful elite - President Mobutu and his political and military allies. Although only about 25 percent has actually been worked so far, loggers and developers envision great increases in logging. Jacques Pierre, a senior French Canadian forester in Zaire, says the annual rate of logging should increase 20-fold by the year 2000. By then, Zaire’s annual production would be running at 10 million cubic meters. Pierre claims, "This is the sustainable level for Zaire."

The situation in Zaire is typical of that in the rest of Central Africa. Ninety percent of the Central African Republic’s rainforest has already been allocated to European companies, and European aid agencies are funding new roads to speed up the timber extraction.

It is not easy to isolate a single culprit in the logging of the African forests. Along with giants like Danzer, a bewildering array of large and small logging companies hold concessions. They are German, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish, often with local subsidiaries. Once cut, the logs find their way to an equally large number of timber importing firms.

Most Central African governments do not enforce timber-cutting regulations designed to protect the forest. A study team sent to Cameroon by the World Wildlife Fund reported, for example: "Companies get around [the regulations] in a variety of ways. Trees actually too small to fit the regulations are declared legal; others are declared smaller than they really are and yield a lower tax. Some are cut and found to be unmarketable because of flaws; these never get recorded in the books. Most egregious of all is the practice of declaring a second cut, and then felling trees in an entirely different area. No one fears getting caught - there are not enough foresters to do the inspection needed. In short, the logging companies do what they have to in order to increase their profit margin."

The forest dwellers’ position

In recent years, forest dwellers in many parts of the world have established links with influential environmental organizations, gaining political skills and the attention of the media in industrialized countries. Yet Africa’s forest people have only recently begun to actively oppose the logging companies and to take their case to the world at large. The influx of loggers, who bring jobs and trade, seems to have been accepted by the farming villagers, who may not fully appreciate logging’s long-term costs.

The Pygmy peoples, who have a long tradition of avoiding confrontation, have not as yet mounted any overt resistance to the assault on their land. In the past they escaped interference by retreating further into the forest, but now the forest itself is rapidly disappearing.

Logging is threatening forest peoples’ ways of life. In Zaire, an elderly Baka man says, "We do not kill so much game now as we used to. We wonder what our children will eat in the future." A Baka woman agrees, "In the past we made molongo [family treks of several months into the forest] but we no longer do it. We killed a lot of meat with spears. Today there are not many true Baka who kill a lot of meat. We kill a little, a little." And many of the Aka Pygmies of Zaire who have been drawn out of the forest to work in the logging camps have fallen prey to disease and alcoholism.

In Rwanda, the forests inhabited by the Twa are almost entirely gone. Some of the Rwanda Twa have only recently been deprived of their hunting and gathering existence by the deforestation of the country, while others have for generations lived outside the forest as an oppressed minority forced to eke out an existence by begging and squatting.

Newly forming international links with indigenous rights groups and environmental organizations are beginning to create some countervailing force to the pressure of the logging companies, however. For example, when Survival International recently protested a $15 million road-building project in Zaire that would have cut through Pygmy land, government officials retreated rapidly from the scheme.

Additionally, some Central African groups are beginning to make connections with indigenous movements elsewhere. At the 1991 UN session of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Bola Bobonda of the Twa Pygmies of Zaire spoke on behalf of his people. "I have come," he said, "to ask for your help in finding solutions so that the Batwa people can live in dignity." He said that the Twa wanted recognition as a people, the right to education and the demarcation of one or more legally recognized territories of their own, where they can live according to their traditions and by their own decisions.

At the Rio Earth Summit in June, representatives of the Association for the Promotion of Batwa, Francois Munyeshull and Charles Owiragiye, took part in the Indigenous Peoples Conference. "There is a clinic for the mountain gorillas," said Owiragiye wryly, "but none for us." The Association is the first Central Africa forest dwellers’ organization which is run by the Pygmy people themselves.

For the Western public, the idea of forest-dwelling "little people" has a strong sentimental attraction, as many books and films illustrate. Yet few outsiders are conscious of the real threat under which these people live. All evidence suggests that the 1990s will be a decade of destruction in equatorial Africa. Without international public intervention to halt the export of Africa’s tropical timber to the industrialized countries, industry will continue to exploit Central Africa, and the assault on both the forest and the forest peoples will intensify.


Cameroon’s Road to Ruin

CAMEROON’S INFAMOUS LOGGING ROAD, the "trans-Cameroon highway," may yet become a reality despite the fact that two of the world’s largest financial institutions have refused to fund it on environmental grounds. If completed, it will provide access to 14 million hectares of pristine rainforest.

The 600-kilometer highway, which would cross southeast Cameroon, was first proposed in 1987, but the international outcry provoked by public exposure of the scheme led to its collapse. The World Bank refused to fund it, and in 1990 the plan was put on hold. The government subsequently sought new funding from the African Development Bank , but it too refused to support the project.

The financial incentive for the Cameroon government to exploit its huge timber reserve remained, however. Now it appears that Cameroon’s president Paul Biya has, in the words of a writer for the Japanese daily newspaper Yomiuri, "decided to do what most of the world’s poorer nations do when they need ready cash, and approached [Japan’s] Foreign Affairs Ministry."

Korinna Horta of the Environmental Defense Fund says that the road opens up the area to logging and represents "a direct threat to the Baka pygmies of Southeast Cameroon." Pygmies in Cameroon who have already been forced into dangerous, low- wage work at logging sites are suffering from alcoholism and disease in the camps, Horta says, and some Pygmy women in lumber towns have been forced to turn to prostitution as a means of making a living.

Horta says that communication among the Pygmies in Cameroon is strong, and word about the effects of logging on the forest dwellers’ way of life has spread. Those Pygmies who have not yet felt the impact of logging are "very scared" of what the new road will bring. "They know what it means," Horta says.

The World Bank, meanwhile, is proposing a $25 million loan to Cameroon under its new Global Environment Facility "to protect areas of tropical forest including [those] in which the Baka live." But, as Horta points out, "No amount of World Bank funding can halt the devastation of the forest and its people if the road goes ahead."n

- V.L. & D. L.


Debating Survival

by Holley Knaus

A DISPUTE BETWEEN TWO INTERNATIONAL indigenous rights organizations is raising questions about the role played by outside advocates in representing the interests of indigenous communities. The conflict between London-based Survival International and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Cultural Survival has led the two organizations to articulate differences in working philosophy and in their visions of the future for indigenous communities.

The dispute revolves around Cultural Survival’s "rainforest harvest" projects, which involve selling non-timber forest products on the international market. Cultural Survival has worked with the natural cosmetic company, The Body Shop , on several high-profile projects, contracting with the Kayapo in Brazil to supply ingredients for Body Shop cosmetics. Cultural Survival also promotes "Rainforest Crunch," a snack containing nuts from the Brazilian rainforest (used in Ben & Jerry’s Rainforest Crunch ice-cream), and has worked with several other companies to sell rainforest products in U.S. markets.

Cultural Survival views the marketing strategy as a means of generating income for impoverished indigenous communities while helping these communities to protect the environment. "By developing markets for products that are harvested without destroying rain forests, we provide indigenous producers, First and Third World governments, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], international banking organizations and development agencies with a compelling economic incentive to protect the rainforest and its residents," writes Jason Clay, director of research at Cultural Survival, in a recent issue of the organization’s quarterly publication.

Survival International, however, has recently released statements expressing "grave reservations about the current ‘rainforest harvest’ concept, both in theory and practice," charging that marketing schemes promote the dangerous notion that the future of indigenous communities should be tied to their economic viability, and that the harvest projects divert attention away from more urgent issues like land demarcation. "Are we really going to let business and profits dictate conservation and human rights strategies and goals?" asks Stephen Corry, director-general of Survival International.

"It’s a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition for most of the world’s rainforests; residents must make a living," responds Marc Miller, director of communications at Cultural Survival, in a letter to Multinational Monitor addressing questions about rainforest harvesting.

Forest enterprises

Cultural Survival was formed in 1972 to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. It engages in research, public education, policy-making and advocacy and in direct financial and technical assistance to indigenous communities to support indigenous efforts to develop organizations, protect land rights and manage natural resources. Among several projects in Brazil funded by Cultural Survival in 1991 were the successful effort to force 40,000 gold miners off Yanomami lands and a project run by a Brazilian human rights organization to identify and halt illegal invasions of indigenous land using digitalized maps and satellite photos.

Cultural Survival has made the marketing concept central to its operating philosophy. Rainforest harvest projects are based on the idea that forest resources will be exploited one way or another, but that non-timber marketing projects allow for indigenous control and sustainable management. Miller writes, "Without income from sustainably harvested forest products, most forest residents would be forced to degrade their environments to meet their material needs - or abandon them to others who would."

In 1989, the organization established Cultural Survival Enterprises (CSE) to test its marketing concept by working with rainforest communities in the Amazon. CSE is a non-profit trading division that purchases fruits, nuts, oils, essences, pigments, spices and fibers for international sale, but has refused to trade in medicinal plants until indigenous peoples are guaranteed rights and royalties to these products.

CSE is involved in all aspects of marketing the goods, including identifying products; working with local groups - so far, Brazil’s indigenous communities and rubber tappers - which harvest and produce the goods; locating markets and distributing the products to North American and European companies. According to the group’s annual report, sales of forest products reached $1.2 million in 1991 and CSE plans to sell an estimated $2.5 million in forest products to 26 companies in 1992.

Survival International has objected to the way that some programs have operated. It contends that certain rainforest harvest projects "began not as ... as small-scale projects buying from local indigenous people and paying fair prices. Cultural Survival has promoted its work largely through a snack containing Brazil nuts ... . But the nuts were actually bought through normal commercial suppliers - not Indians. An added problem is that the Brazil nut industry is a big business in Brazil and is serviced by underpaid and exploited labor."

Miller counters that there were no collector-owned nut factories from which to purchase when CSE launched its rainforest harvest project in Brazil. He further points out that Cultural Survival used profits from the commercial market to finance the building of a nut-processing plant in Xapuri, Brazil, which is the first such factory owned as a collective by the forest dwellers who collect the nuts.

Miller writes, "Because of the co-op, nut gatherers in Acre State [where the factory is located] doubled their revenues last year from nut sales, from $600,000 to $1,200,000, according to local estimates. As a result of the co-op’s pricing structure, gatherers throughout Acre have learned the potential value of their nuts and demanded higher prices."

Diversion from demarcation?

But Survival International has deeper concerns about the schemes, which the organization claims tie the future of indigenous peoples to their ability to compete economically in the North. The group is opposed to accepting the idea that some sort of development of the world’s rainforests is inevitable, and that conservation of the forest will only be assured if indigenous communities are able to show that non-timber products are more "valuable" - in terms of the international market - in the long run than timber or agriculture. "We should be very wary of the idea that rainforests and forest tribes can only have a future if they are able to pay their way on our terms," says Corry.

Survival International also argues that it is risky to tie indigenous peoples’ viability to Northern markets as demand for rainforest products may fluctuate or even collapse. Corry says, "Binding the economic future of tribal peoples to the creation of ephemeral, foreign markets in non-essential luxuries such as ice-cream or shampoo with added rainforest ingredients will not solve their problems."

Cultural Survival’s Clay, writing in the organization’s publication, agrees the programs will not work if they have to be subsidized, but argues that current environmental concern in the North, particularly concern over the fate of the rainforests, provides an opportunity to expand markets for these products. "Today’s attention helps CSE capture a corner of the marketplace, so that taste and demand won’t disappear when environmental concerns fade," he writes.

Survival International is most concerned that promoting marketing schemes will serve to divert public attention - and government response - away from more fundamental issues like land demarcation. Corry says, "If this ideology goes unchallenged and becomes progressively accepted as the way forward, it undermines those tribal peoples who are trying to drum up worldwide support in their opposition to governments and companies who are stealing their land." Survival International insists that indigenous communities will only survive if their legal rights to land are fully recognized and enforced.

Miller responds in his letter to the Monitor that Cultural Survival does not believe that rainforest harvest projects conflict with efforts to demarcate land. "To us, it’s not an either/or proposition. The survival of forests and forest people are linked," he says. "To protect both, the people living in forests need land rights, local organizations and systems of sustainable resource management. Yet efforts can’t stop there."

Miller also points out that Cultural Survival is not forcing its trading concept on any communities. He writes, "Many forest peoples will never want to be part of global markets, and we don’t intend to change that. Still, forest peoples can benefit from trade that already exists."

Survival International materials stress that the organization is not opposed to marketing schemes per se but that these type of projects will not lead to long- term solutions. It claims, "Even the most appropriate [marketing] schemes ... do not lead to a solution to the desperately urgent problems tribal peoples face as their lands are invaded and their resources ransacked. ... [They] have no future unless their ownership rights over their land and resources are secured."


The Cordillera under Siege

An interview with Victoria Tauli Corpuz

Victoria Tauli Corpuz works with the Cordillera Women’s Education and Resource Center on the island of Luzon in the Philippines . The Center works to empower indigenous women in the face of militarization, development, aggression and ethnocide. Corpuz also works with the Cordillera People’s Alliance, a coalition of approximately 120 indigenous people’s organizations.

Multinational Monitor: Why was the Cordillera People’s Alliance formed?

Victoria Tauli Corpuz: The Cordillera People’s Alliance came together and formed into an alliance in 1984. Prior to that, there had been a series of struggles with the Cordillera peoples over the dam issue and mining and logging concessions in the region. These are very localized struggles, but eventually they became more integrated. As a result, an indigenous people’s movement for self-determination started developing. The many emerging organizations decided to come together so that they could have more impact on the government.

The Cordillera area is largely forest. These are areas where people have been living for ages. Communities have residential areas with rice fields, and then they have the forest, which is communally owned by the tribe. Those are their hunting grounds, those are where their sacred trees are, those are the areas where the water comes from. These forests are very much protected by the people. They know the forest is where their life comes from, where their water comes from, where the fertility of the soil comes from and where their wood and wild food comes from. So it’s a very integral part of the daily life of the people.

MM: What were some of those early struggles?

Corpuz: The Chico dam project, which was funded by the World Bank, was one. It involved the construction of dams along the Chico River, which runs within the Cordillera region. These dams would have displaced about 300 families in one particular community, and several villages would have been eroded and flattened. Of course, the people resisted; they resisted the whole project. [The builders] didn’t get to the first step. They were able to do the survey; in one area they were able to set up some foundations in the river; but the people fought against all these things. It took such a long time before anything could be done that the World Bank decided to cancel the whole project in the mid-1970s.

The project had become a big embarrassment for the World Bank . The early reports said that no people were going to be affected by the dams. That was entirely wrong; many people were living just beside the river, because that is where the rice fields and the burial grounds are. It is their ancestral land. So the people were willing to die for it. They armed themselves. They are warrior societies and engage in tribal wars with each other, but this time they united among themselves and really put up a united position against the whole project. The government sent in a lot of military men, but the people persisted in their opposition. After two to three years, they decided to cancel the whole project. Now they want to revive the project. But the opposition has already been forged.

The fight against the Chico dam was really something which strengthened the people’s will to unite themselves. They saw that with unity they were able to stop a project which had been designed and promoted by a big multilateral bank. In fact, there was one article that said that it was the first time that pre-industrial, "uncivilized," as they always say, peoples were able to stop a World Bank project.

Immediately after that, President Marcos gave a big logging concession - something like 200,000 hectares of pine forest - to one of his cronies, a corporation which makes cellophane and related products. The project was opposed by the people of Abra, one of the Cordillera provinces. The company was able to set up a mill and begin logging on some mountains, but because of the consistent opposition, the whole project stopped.

So these two particular projects were stopped by the people’s opposition. These successes spurred the development of a lot of organizations among the people. By 1984, members of these organizations decided to form themselves into a federation - the Cordillera People’s Alliance.

MM: What are the main concerns of indigenous people in the Cordillera today?

Corpuz: The main concerns are still basically the same. Our region has been always considered a resource base area by the government. It has rich natural resources, a lot of gold, a lot of minerals, intricate river systems which can be a source of hydro-power and tropical rain forests and pine forests. Ever since the colonial period, governments have been trying to exploit these natural resources.

Right now, we have problems with open-pit mining operations. The biggest and oldest mining company in the Philippines, the Benguet Corporation , has been operating in our region since 1905. Suddenly Benguet decided that it is not going to do underground tunneling anymore but will convert its operations into open-pit mining. This is devastating the whole area. Mountains are being bulldozed. So now the people in those villages which are affected are opposing the whole project. They have been setting up barricades to stop the operations of the open-pit mines. There is a stalemate now because the company decided to stop doing the open-pit mining in the areas where the people are setting up physical barricades. But I think they are really bent on pushing through with their plans.

And then CRA , the Australian affiliate of the British Rio Tinto Zinc , wants to expand its operations. The net impact is again that the people who have been doing small-scale mining in those areas will be displaced and their rice fields also will be destroyed.

The more complicated problem which is affecting the whole region is the militarization that is coming along with the mining and logging operations. Right now the region is targeted as one of the areas for comprehensive counter-insurgency operations. We have a lot of areas right now which are being subjected to aerial bombings and strafings.

We suspect that one reason that the military is doing this is so that logging will be facilitated. A lot of logging operations have been stopped because of the opposition of the people. I think that, because the Philippines has a big foreign debt, the government is doing everything it can to facilitate the entry of multinational corporations, so that their investments can help earn foreign exchange for us to pay our debt.

In fact this was confirmed when we had a dialogue with the military men who are operating in the area. One of the generals who was heading operations, General Manlongat, said "It’s true, one of our roles is to insure that the economic activities of these companies will be able to be pushed through. If we don’t militarize the area, then the companies cannot pursue their economic activities."

Those are the kinds of issues that we are confronted with right now. And it’s also one reason why we want to become part of bigger alliances internationally. They will provide us with the opportunity to project the issue internationally.

MM: Can you describe the Benguet situation and explain how the company’s operations are affecting people in the Cordillera?

Corpuz: Benguet’s open-pit mining operations have already displaced some people from their communities. Small-scale miners’ tunnels are covered and they’re not allowed to proceed with their own mining activities. Several rice fields have already been covered. What is worse is that the water sources have disappeared - several of the springs are now gone. So people will have to buy water all the way from the city at very expensive prices. The other effect is the pollution. The open-pit mining operations are causing tremendous erosion. Recently Benguet’s mill released some of its waste and caused toxic poisoning among the people. The people that live around the area started vomiting and experiencing watery eyes and headaches. Later on it was confirmed that these problems were caused when the mill spilled its wastes.

MM: Who owns the land Benguet and the other companies are mining?

Corpuz: That’s a big issue. Legally, at least underground, the land is owned by the mines. They have patented claims to the land which were facilitated by a law called the Mining Act. The act says that the mines can be owned by mining corporations and that they have rights underground - it doesn’t really say that they have rights above ground, however. But the people are already being displaced from their communities. In effect, there’s nothing that’s going to be left for them because of the open-pit mining operations.

It’s very difficult for the people to win legal battles because the law is really siding with the mining corporations. Even the government’s environmental impact study gave the companies clearance for their operations. The people cannot win when they depend on the legal framework, relying on the law or environmental assessments. So they have to resort to para-legal activities like barricading and doing mass actions, mass campaigns. These are the only things left.

MM: How has the government responded to these types of activities?

Corpuz: They deployed a military detachment to the community and arrested the leaders of the opposition. There is still a court case going on right now. That’s the response of the government. And they are also saying that as far as the government is concerned, operations of the companies are legal. But the people are continuing their efforts to resist, hoping that they will be able to at least delay the full operations of the mines.

MM: Are the organizations fighting the mining companies independent or part of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA)?

Corpuz: They are independent community organizations. These are organizations of small-scale miners, women’s organizations, community-based organizations and youth organizations. Some of them were just created because of this struggle, and others existed before the fight. All of these organizations were created by the people themselves to be able to effectively address their issues in the community.

The NPA is not in the particular place where the mines are. But in the other areas, in the mountains, of course they are there. There are also a lot of people’s organizations which were set up even before the NPA was there. Whether they come together because of a particular issue is incidental. Because the opposition to mining and logging operations was there even before the NPA was there. Much of the opposition was led by women who were not really organized. But because they were the ones who were doing the farming, they were the ones who were really taking care of the land. They felt that these threats to their role as food producers were very serious. So on their own initiative they opposed these particular projects.

MM: Could you discuss the government’s military operations further?

Corpuz: The military deployed several battalion formations into the region in October 1990. The reason was that the Cordillera is a rebel-infested area, so they put in all these military men. Presently, we have something like 20,000 military men, operating within the whole region. It used to be just company-sized operations; now they have brigade-size deployments carrying out not just ground operations but comprehensive air and ground military operations. There are Tora-tora planes and helicopter gunships hovering around the communities they would like to evacuate, and they’re dropping rocket bombs into the communities.

MM: Do you believe the rebel presence is the real reason for the military deployment?

Corpuz: Well, there really are rebels, but not that many and they are not all over the place. We think that the government is really using the rebels’ presence as a pretext to insure that their programs for "development" of the region will be able to be pushed through.

That’s what happened with Marag Valley, one of the valleys in the region which is very rich with tropical rainforests. The people have prevented logging in this area for years. They have always protested whenever the logging concessions would come in. They would burn bulldozers. Large-scale military operations in the Cordillera first started in the Marag Valley. But at the same time, I think the government would really like to pursue [the plans they have for the region] because of the need for additional income, and using the military is one way of doing it. Of course the government would like to stop the insurgency in the region. Right now we have an energy crisis in the whole country, and the government is planning to build hydroelectric dams, outside of the Chico Dam, that were previously stopped. We have the Abulog-Gened Dam which is funded by the Asian Development Bank, and various other dam projects plotted for the whole region. This is the time that the government will try to pursue all of these projects.

MM: What is the military doing to the people?

Corpuz: In several communities they are forcing them to leave their communities, using the theory of removing the water from the fish. They think the NPA is being coddled by these people, so they have to remove the communities so the NPA will become hungry.

However, these people have been living there for ages, and you cannot just kick them out, so the military is also imposing economic blockades and food blockades. Food which the people would bring into the communities is being stopped at the check points. They ask, "How many members are in your family?" Then they try to measure the amount of food that you can bring in, which will feed your family for a week. So after one week, you have to hike several kilometers again to get what is left from the military detachment.

The military operations have been going on for more than a year. They are creating a lot of problems for the people. They cannot harvest their rice fields anymore. Many of them are scared to go out because of the mortar shellings. Several of the people have been hit by stray bullets. They are also given a curfew, and so the food production has really gone down.

The people are also not allowed to perform the rituals that they have been performing for years. That’s why we think that the military operations are ethnocidal - the very activities of the people which are important for their continuance as distinct peoples are being destroyed. We have rituals before we plant rice. After we harvest rice, we have several rituals to ask blessings and also to appease the spirits of our ancestors. But with the military operations going on, we cannot do these things. Everything has been disrupted.

MM: What happens to the people who are forcibly moved?

Corpuz: The worst thing is when they ask you to evacuate. Some people have been evacuated already. They are brought into hamlets where they virtually cannot do anything; they are just relying on the relief that the relief legions bring in. Life in the hamlets is very constrained and controlled. Several times we have undertaken fact-finding missions to gather data about what’s happening to the people, and even then we are not allowed to go into the hamlets. So the hamlets are really creating hell for the people in them.

MM: Aren’t things better than they were under the Marcos dictatorship?

Corpuz: For us, it really got worse under Aquino, because this is the first time we’ve been subjected to military operations of such an extent. It’s much worse now.

I don’t know what’s happened with a government that’s supposed to be democratic. In the end, it is catering to all interests besides those of the people.


The Mocovi Economic Alternative

An interview with Ariel Araujo

Ariel Araujo works with the Mocovi Center, an organization made up of 42 groups representing the Mocovi people of the Santa Fe area of Northern Argentina . Established in 1984, the coalition advocates for indigenous self-determination.

Multinational Monitor: Why did you form the Mocovi Center?

Araujo: All determinations about the Mocovi people and our lands have been made by the state since 1904, when the Argentinians invaded our area and fought a war against us. We were massacred and became the victims of genocide. From the 1900s until 1953, we were subjected to domination. In the 1980s, we saw that it was very important to establish a formal organization to promote the Mocovi position.

Our way of working expanded and spilled over into the other indigenous groups in Argentina. We are now working with indigenous organizations from all around the world. At the international level, our organizations are becoming very well-known.

MM: Why was your land invaded?

Araujo: The Mocovi and other people in this area had long been at war, initially with the Spanish, who could never win militarily. When Argentina became independent from the Spanish crown, it took them 80 years to win the war against our people. They were finally able to [defeat us] because they had better military technology.

They fought the war so that they could occupy our land and get hold of the natural resources, in particular the forests. That became cause for trans-continental migration, which then brought people from Europe across to Latin America to settle. It was really important [to the government] to be able to offer our territories to those people coming in. After all the years of war, the whole project and aim of the government was to make those lands available to the settlers, make them into huge properties and large estates for rich people and to make them available for timber and logging companies.

MM: How much of your land was taken?

Araujo: Ninety-eight percent of all indigenous territories have been taken. A lot of our work is to try to get some of those lands back. The Santa Fe area has 13 million hectares and we owned 9 million of them. Santa Fe is now completely extended all over our ancestral territories. We have been having discussions with the governor in Santa Fe, saying that they should respect the treaties they signed with us in the last centuries and at least return 10 percent of those areas to us.

MM: Do most of the Mocovi live in the remaining 2 percent of the land or have they been integrated into Argentinian society?

Araujo: At the moment, we are about 30,000 people. On the whole, the Mocovi people have found ways to maintain a very traditional lifestyle despite the fact that 70 percent of the forest has been removed. This has left us in a position where we had to change elements of our way of life so that we could survive.

I want to see a situation where those lands are returned so we are able to revitalize those territories by replanting forests. There are a number of dimensions involved in reestablishing ecosystems and biodiversity. We know how to do it, because we have an economic and development model that remains sustainable, allowing us to take produce from the forest without destroying it. We would like to make sure that our models are funded and supported because we know that it is the only way that we can guarantee life. We are absolutely convinced that it’s not only for our betterment, but that our models provide answers for many people of the world.

MM: Could you describe the Mocovi economic model?

Araujo: The base of the economic model is the people of the community. [Each person takes part] in a democratic process to decide the way in which things will be done for the betterment of everyone. When we fish or go to the forest, we work to support ourselves in a way that is least damaging and sustains the community. For us, quality of life is not about money, it is about continuing to live in the forest, to eat fresh fish from the water and to maintain our culture.

Another part of the economic model is the exchange of products between groups of indigenous peoples without going through a marketing process. The community that fishes gives fish to the group in the mountains in exchange [for another product].

We are also doing something rather unique now - we are opening up those sorts of models to other groups who are not indigenous. Poor and marginalized people who are also not part of the big marketing system can now participate in these trading arrangements so that they can begin to understand that there is another economic model.

MM: Which groups of people are posing the primary threat to the forests and the ecosystem?

Araujo: The [people] that make the most trouble in the forests are the governments. Because it’s the governments that give the leases to the big timber companies to come in to cut timber. They’re the people who make the decisions about colonization and putting people into our territories. And they’re also the people who make the decisions about huge hydro-electric schemes. All of these things directly impact upon us as people who live in these areas.

Multinationals always [cause] a lot of damage, if governments allow it. They get away with what they can. They have their own specific interest, which is to accumulate capital.

That’s why we’re talking now to governments. We would also like to speak to multinationals, but it’s really important that governments begin to understand what the problems are and how we see them. When new shoes are very pretty but pinch your toes, you try to walk with them - but in the end you throw them away. That is what is happening with the current model of development. It does not provide the solutions for people’s needs, so they are looking for other solutions.

We really believe that as indigenous people our economic model could be part of the answer. We would like to see humanity have the opportunity to change. Within our philosophy, nature has her own intelligence, which means that she will always do what is needed for herself. If in fact man does enough harm to her, she can make sure that man disappears. But she will stay. And she will regenerate other forms of life. So most of our work that is about saving the environment is really about saving humanity.

MM: How responsive has the Argentine government been to your approach and to your specific demands for getting land back?

Araujo: The Argentine government has continued its policy of forced assimilation of indigenous peoples. In one recent case, the government burned down the houses in several communities so that it can put timber companies in the forest areas. They have used the police to burn the people out and get rid of them, purely along racial lines. This is now a policy of the Argentine government.

The Argentine government has publicly stated that indigenous people are of no priority to them. They’re in a situation where they’re looking to open their markets to bring overseas money in. No one at the top level of the Argentine government has an interest in the indigenous peoples or the marginalized and poor people of Argentina. The effort to bring in foreign money is a political action that has nothing to do with helping people.

While the United States and Europe are talking about the post-industrial epoch, the Argentinean government is talking about the need to industrialize. The developed countries, which now know that their economic model doesn’t work, are trying to export it to the South and get rid of it. That’s what is causing problems.

MM: Have the recent civilian administrations treated indigenous people differently than the dictatorship did?

Araujo: In fact, this government has a more hostile position toward indigenous people than the military. The situation is worse now than it was with the military government. During the time of the military, they would never have gone in and burned an indigenous community down. That sort of thing happened 40 years ago. But now [history] is starting to repeat itself.

MM: Why do you think they are so cruelly trying to force assimilation?

Araujo: Indigenous people are a problem for them. We’ve never fit into their model, and our territories are the ones that have all the natural resources. The government needs our territories and our lands so they can give them to timber and petroleum companies. But it’s our land. It’s where we live.


Yanomani in Peril

An interview with Davi Kopenawa Yanomami

Daví Kopenawa Yanomami was the first of the Yanomami people to recognize the threat the Yanomami faced from gold prospectors and land invaders in Brazil . Today, the Yanomami are the subject of worldwide attention, their very survival threatened by epidemics of malaria and other diseases. Multinational Monitor interviewed Daví Yanomami at the Rio Earth Summit.

Multinational Monitor: Why did you choose to attend the Rio Earth Summit?

Daví Kopenawa Yanomami: I know that the authorities and many people came here because the planet is sick and they are trying to find out how to cure it. The people who come from many places, from the other side of the big lake, all come here to learn about how we [the Yanomami and other indigenous people] live.

I want to speak giving the message from Omai. Omai is the creator of the Yanomami who also has created all the shaboris that are the shamans. The shaboris are the ones that have the knowledge, and they sent two of us to deliver their message. The message is to stop destruction, to stop taking out minerals from under the ground, to stop taking out the steel with which all the metal utensils are made, and to stop building roads [through forests].

We feel that a lot of riches have already been taken out of the indigenous lands, and a lot of these riches are getting old and useless, and it would be much better if the Brazilian government would give these riches to the poor in Brazil. Our work is to protect nature, the wind, the mountains, the forest, the animals, and this is what we want to teach you people.

MM: What has been the effect of gold mining on the Yanomami people and their land?

Daví Yanomami: In the years 1986 and 1987, the gold miners, the small-time gold diggers, known as garimpeiros, invaded our territory. In the very beginning of the invasion, in 1987, the garimpeiros killed four Yanomami.

They have now opened up air strips, to be able to settle down in the area, to bring in food, to bring in their tools and to start mining. There were between 40,000 to 50,000 invaders on our lands.

After some months of staying on our territory, they started to transmit malaria to us. That means that the garimpeiros were already sick. Mosquitos bit the garimpeiros and then bit us. That is how we got the disease.

The garimpeiros also brought in other diseases. There are complications of pneumonia, sometimes associated with malaria; tuberculosis; skin diseases that often are associated with other diseases, and, especially in children, can be fatal; there was an epidemic of yellow fever in the area; hepatitis.

MM: How many of the Yanomami have been affected by these diseases?

Daví Yanomami: Some 15 percent of the Yanomami have died in the last three years. Last year, in 1991, the National Health Foundation registered 175 deaths, of which 110 died of malaria. That is very underestimated. One can assume there were four times as many people who died last year.

MM: The diseases were all brought by the garimpeiros?

Daví Yanomami: Many of these diseases were not registered before the invasion in the Yanomami area. Malaria existed only in the outskirts of the Yanomami area. However with the arrival of the garimpeiros, it became the main reason of the deaths.

MM: What steps are being taken to confront this spread of disease?

Daví Yanomami: The Brazilian government has set up a health project run by the National Indian Foundation of Health, which is trying to eradicate malaria. However, it is very difficult to do this and they have not been able to do it yet.

We also have our own project. We are at the present time working in an area of about a thousand Indians, and we have already taken doctors and nurses to a number of areas throughout our territory, and we are now opening a new site. This project has been helping us a lot.

MM: What is your reaction to President Collor’s recent legal demarcation of your land?

Daví Yanomami: News of the demarcation was very, very good news for us. We have been fighting for 30 years for this. President Collor has set aside a special budget, for FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, to be able to do this work and they finished the demarcation recently.

MM: Is the demarcation sufficient?

Daví Yanomami: I don’t believe it’s really guaranteed. I don’t believe that the demarcation and the ratifying of the law is enough because we have a lot of enemies. There are the militaries, there is the governor and other politicians who are getting payrolls. There are also big Brazilian, American, German and Japanese mining companies that have a big interest in trying to change this law and to enter our territory.

MM: What else should be done to protect your land?

Daví Yanomami: Although FUNAI has set up Indian posts that are supposed to protect our lands, it will be very difficult to operate them because FUNAI has no money. We the Yanomami also have a rule. We have to look out, we have to watch where the garimpeiros are entering. It is a preoccupation that we have and that the Commission for the Creation of the Yanomami Park has, so that through this vigilance we can detect where the new invasions are occurring.

MM: Have you experienced any racism at the Earth Summit?

Daví Yanomami: We feel that there are many white people who don’t like the truth and that they don’t like it when we tell the truth about things. This is how discrimination starts.

MM: How does racism affect the lives of the Yanomami?

Daví Yanomami: The Portuguese [and their descendants] have done cruel things to our people, and the fact that many Yanomamis have died with the invasion of the garimpeiros is proof of it. These people want to get rid of the Indians; they pay off people to kill the Indians. They have lawyers that will defend them and get them off without having to be punished.

In Roraima there is really a big problem of discrimination against Indian populations. In the city of Roraima, the white people often refer to Indian populations as bishus, which means animals. The white people say that they know everything, that they know how to make machines, to make radios, they have technology and that the Indians are lazy, that we only eat and sleep and don’t produce and that we are animals.

These are the people who want to cut down the forest and sell the wood to Japan and other countries. They are the ones who are interested in minerals to make rings and necklaces. And they are destroying our lands.

The Brazilians want to destroy the Amazon because they’re very worried that the foreigners will come and take everything away. They want to be the first to make use of it. Our enemies say that the people who work with us [foreign non-governmental organizations] are interested in working with us because they are really interested in taking our riches.

MM: What has been your reaction to the Earth Summit?

Daví Yanomami: We have asked the shaman to get in touch with his teacher, an elder shaman, and tell him that this conference is taking place, and tell him that he should do some special shamanism so that the Americans should agree with what’s going on here. They are asking the help of the older ones, who are the elders and teachers, so they should give more force to them here, and speak so that they will be able to communicate with President Bush, and convince him to go along with the other countries to save the universe. We don’t want to hurt him. We want to ask him to respect us. And we want to ask him to sign the [biodiversity] treaty together with the other nations and to return our rights to life.

President Collor should also agree with preserving the planet. If he doesn’t, then we are going to get together all of the shamans of Brazil and we are going to do a very strong shamanism.

President Bush thinks that he is the owner of the world but the shamans are the ones who have the knowledge. He is not the first world. We are the first world.


Fighting Extinction

An interview with Eliane Potiguara

Eliane Potiguara is coordinator of GRUMIN, the Indigenous Women’s Education Group in Brazil . GRUMIN works with indigenous women to promote their economic, political and social self-determination. Among its many activities, GRUMIN publishes the GRUMIN newspaper and organizes courses on both indigenous history and handicrafts such as basketmaking and painting.

Multinational Monitor: What problems are presently confronting the Potiguara Nation?

Eliane Potiguara: The Potiguara Nation is a group of 5,000 people. Half of our land, about 22,000 hectares, is owned or is being held by AGICAM , a sugar cane processing company. These land owners invaded the Indian land with government support to plant sugar cane. Today, the land where their plantations are and surrounding the sugar cane factory is totally destroyed. The destruction has caused the rivers to be polluted. The fish are contaminated and dying. The shrimp are also dying due to the infusion of a chemical into the rivers called vihoto, which is produced when the sugar cane is processed into alcohol. Bites from mosquitos exposed to the chemical are very bad for children’s skin.

We have talked to the Brazilian government and stopped the invasion of our land. Shortly we shall be given some reparations, perhaps money, for the damage that’s been done to our land. But I don’t know if this return is going to be sufficient to rebuild the land, to replenish it to its former state.

MM: What is the process by which the government agreed to reparations?

Potiguara: Research was done in which all the people whose land had been invaded were surveyed. The court listened to the victims who proved that the community was indeed suffering from the land invasion. But we are afraid, because the Northeast of Brazil is a conservative area. There is a strong group of landowners who are very united and who have enough power to act against any action which opposes their interests.

MM: How does the destruction of Potiguara land affect your people?

Potiguara: We are suffering directly from the impact of environmental degradation. It damages the physical condition of the indigenous peoples as well as the psychological sanity of the people. There is a high rate of alcoholism in the community. There is a high rate of infant mortality and maternal and infant malnutrition. Many women have breast or uterine cancer. Our community has been totally abandoned. There is no health care, no education and no employment. We are a people in the process of extinction.

All of this is the [result] of environmental degradation. Yet the government is not allowing us to conserve the environment. [Officials] are not talking with indigenous peoples who have a sustainable form of development in their areas.

MM: Why is there a high rate of alcoholism among the indigenous population?

Potiguara: The refinery that invaded our area brought the alcohol. They paid our laborers with a Brazilian alcoholic drink. Our indigenous leaders made others realize that we should not [accept] alcohol as payment. And a lot of Indians stopped drinking.

But there are other reasons why the Indians drink. We are often taken over by the process [of invasion and forced assimilation]. That is why our group works with the empowerment of the individual and the growth of consciousness. There are cases of suicide in our tribe. There is lack of perspective and lack of hope for the future.

All of this is motivated by misery and poverty. Before this process of destruction, we had food in our homes. Now our food is contaminated and we can’t eat. Our culture has been molested. We have witnessed our homes being destroyed due to invasion. There is lack of equilibrium in our homes and our families are in chaos. We are really making an appeal for help - we are crying for help.

MM: What programs are you implementing for community empowerment?

Potiguara: We have educational programs to maintain our cultural heritage and to train indigenous teachers. We are working on the project of [obtaining] a milkgoat for each family. We are facing the problem of malnutrition and other health issues for infants, children and women. We are working on the empowerment of women in the family, and finding ways to support women who lack prospects for the future. We are working to [support] indigenous spirituality, because we believe that women have a very sacred relationship with the land and with God. This relationship is going to help us to be strong, to fight for our rights and to put our projects into effect.

MM: What should be the role of the Brazilian government in the establishment of indigenous rights?

Potiguara: What we want at a concrete level is a work group to reforest our lands that were deforested by government. We want our rivers back, our fish back, our environment back.

Above all, we want our land to be demarcated, and the demarcation to be respected. Many Brazilian politicians do not recognize our need to have our land. Congress has been lobbied to disregard our right to the demarcation. We need a campaign to call the attention of the politicians to our plight.

We want a health and education program within our community that we control - not the priests, the anthropologists, the historians or the government. We should be in control of the money and the program.

The governments have paid some attention to us only in the past few years. The meetings we’ve had to discuss development so far are useless. Why are they meeting with us now? To solve our problems or to solve their own problems? We want the government to sit and talk with us. They should ask us what kind of work we want done within our communities.

During the last 500 years, we have been tortured culturally and spiritually. We want to say what we believe. We want our indigenous organization. We want the preservation of our culture, our language, our spirituality, and to retrieve our dignity which was lost during this whole process.


Carving up the Canyon

An interview with Carletta Tilousi

Carletta Tilousi works with the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, which addresses issues relating to the environment and racism. She is actively involved in a fight to prevent uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which she charges would endanger the health of her people, the Havasupai.

Multinational Monitor: What is the Havasupai people’s relationship to the Grand Canyon?

Carletta Tilousi: My people have lived in the Grand Canyon for a long time. Once in a while my people come out of the Canyon for supplies. But we are meant to stay in the Canyon. The first time the National Forest Service came into the Canyon, they found that we were living there and decided to kick us out. That is when they formed the National Park, which is how they are making their money. When you go to the National Park, you will never be told anything about Havasupai. They want to pretend we are not there.

We keep to ourselves. We do not want to announce ourselves, but now we have to because of the situation we are in.

MM: What is the primary problem facing the Havasupai people?

Tilousi: There are many industrial corporations in the country that want to mine near and in the Grand Canyon, because the world’s richest source of uranium is there. There are 90,000 uranium mine claims. Many of them are active already; many more are now becoming active. The active mines are contaminating animals and people, most of whom do not realize the mines are operating because they are fenced off.

If the companies mine uranium in the Grand Canyon, they will take it to the Nevada test site where Native Americans live and test their uranium bombs there. The people who work for them will be contaminated just as the Native Americans will be contaminated.

In our culture, we believe that people are not supposed to take things out of the ground. We also are not supposed to make bombs.

Energy Fuels Nuclear and Union Pacific are the companies that own the mines that directly affect my tribe. The first one, Canyon Mine, is near our sacred site, Red Butte. We go there to pray and do sacraments.

The other, Sage Mine, is closer. It is on the east side of the Canyon, five miles from my home. When they mine that uranium, our water is going to be contaminated. The waste from the mine will seep down to the groundwater and contaminate our drinking supply.

We have been fighting the companies’ plans through the legal system since 1984. We took our complaint as far as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Recently we took it to the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear our case. Their excuse was that we do not have enough evidence to prove that our water will be contaminated from the mining. The companies and the courts are trying to tell us that we will not be contaminated. But any kind of mining will kill people.

The mine shaft at the Canyon Mine is already built. Sage Mine so far is just a spot where they found uranium. They have marked it with an "X" in preparation for the mining to begin. They have not begun mining yet because uranium prices are not high enough. If Bush is re-elected, uranium prices will go up and those mines will start operating immediately.

The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder of the world. Millions of people visit, yet they do not know about the mining situation. The companies are saying, "You cannot tell them because we want to make money. We want to make bombs. This is our business. If we don’t mine uranium, we cannot continue to live in luxury." But I think that we should get the word out into newspapers and television and let the tourists know what is really happening.

MM: Does the land being mined belong to your people?

Tilousi: The mining is on aboriginal land that now belongs to the National Forest Service. The Forest Service kicked us off our land. They moved us all the way to the other side of the canyon. Because we kept fighting for our land, they passed a bill that states we can hunt deer, pick piñons, camp and visit Red Butte.

MM: Do any of your people work in the mines?

Tilousi: No. There are 700 people in my homeland, and as indigenous people none of us want to support any of those industrial corporations or to take any part in their operation.

MM: Do you get any royalties from the mining operations?

Tilousi: No. We are suing the National Forest Service for giving the mining company a permit to mine uranium in the canyon. The National Forest Service has a lot of money. We live in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and we do not get any of that money.

In 1984, when we began fighting the mining, the companies came and said that if we let them mine uranium, they would give us schools and money for education. They were trying to bribe us. We said no. This is our life that is at stake. This is the only place we have left.

Most members of my family are isolated from the cities. They do not know how to speak English. They cannot drive cars. They cannot suddenly change over night. We need to live there. Most of the young people are taking the stance that we are going to stay no matter what happens. The companies want to see us deteriorate, they want to see us die. But we are not going to give up no matter how hard it gets.


Negotiating Nisga’s Rights

An interview with Jospeh Gosnell

Joseph Gosnell is the executive chair of the Nisga’a tribal council, the political arm of the Nisga’a Nation. Approximately 2,500 of the 6,000 Nisga’a people live in the Nass River valley of northwestern British Columbia, Canada . The Nisga’a claim title to 9,600 square miles of the region as their homeland.

Multinational Monitor: What is the function of the Nisga’a tribal council?

Joseph Gosnell: One of the principle reasons for the formation of the tribal council was to address the question of whether we own the land. Ownership was designated to us through what is called aboriginal title.

The court case to determine whether the Indians of British Columbia have aboriginal title to the land was called Calder et al. versus the Attorney General of British Columbia. We brought the case before the Supreme Court of British Columbia and we lost. We brought it to the appellate court of British Columbia and we lost again. We then brought it before the highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada. Three judges said that aboriginal title no longer exists. The other three judges said that aboriginal title is still in existence. The Supreme Court ruling was a major victory as far as our people are concerned. That ruling alone opened up approximately 60 percent of the land mass of Canada for negotiations with the aboriginal nations.

Today, there have been settlements in Quebec and the James Bay region, as well as a major settlement in an area called Nunavut in North Central Canada. Some of the nations in the Yukon region have also signed agreements. Our tribal council has been in negotiations for 16 years. Two years ago we signed an agreement in principle between our tribe, the government of British Columbia and the government of Canada. As far as I know there have been 27 cases accepted for negotiations in the province of British Columbia alone. There’s a timeframe on negotiations; all agreements in principle must be arrived at by the end of March 1993.

MM: What is the framework of the negotiations?

Gosnell: The purpose of our current negotiations is to determine the division of land. We’ve indicated very clearly to both levels of government in Canada and to the general public that we are prepared to share the land and its resources. The extent of this is a negotiable item on the table, as are items regarding fisheries and both surface and sub- surface minerals.

MM: How do you envision managing the resources in the land you gain control of?

Gosnell: That depends on what kind of treaty we can arrive at with Canada. If we are going to be self-sufficient, we will need land that will sustain our people in perpetuity. We will change the way in which minerals are extracted from our territory. Our people should be able to rely on the land for the next 200 years and further into the future.

We are embarking on a fisheries program to revitalize our river, which is the third largest salmon producing river on the British Columbia coast. All species of salmon migrate to this river. But since the commercialization of fisheries, the number of salmon returning have been on a steady decline. Our program will benefit not only our people, but the citizens of British Columbia and those outside of Canada who come to our area and use the fishery.

There will be a program of a similar nature in the forest. The removal of the forest resources has taking place in our territory for 38 years. We are opposed to the clear cutting of the land. Reforestation began only two years ago, and we are not entirely satisfied at the rate the deforested areas are currently being replanted. A lot more work needs to be done. Only worthless brush now grows in the lower bases of our valley where the spruce trees and hemlock were removed. A year ago, in the northern part of our territory, a 5,000 hectare piece of territory was clear-cut. The [extent of the damage] is visible from space satellite shots that we use to see what is happening on our land.

We are not opposed to development in mining, forestry or fishing, but we believe that development must take place at an orderly rate. Companies cannot just come in, rape the land and leave. We recognize that people must survive, including our own people. We have indicated very clearly to the government that we are not opposed to development if we can arrive at agreements between ourselves and industry as to how the resources are removed.

MM: What has been the impact of mining on your land?

Gosnell: There was a mine in our valley on the coastal part of our territory in the late 1940s. At that time, there were no environmental requirements for the dumping of waste, and no regulations for smokestacks. This mine laid waste to a huge portion of our territory. Absolutely nothing grows there now. Forty years after the closing of the mine, the vegetation is beginning to come back, but even today the trees are stunted.

Amex, an American company, operated another mine in the same general location for the extraction of molybdenum, used for the hardening of steel. The tailings that came out of this mine were dumped into the inlet. Although regulations were created regarding the dumping of tailings five years ago, Amex gained special dispensation from the government of Canada enabling them to continue to dump mine tailings directly into the inlet. We were opposed to that dumping. The mine shut down about two years ago, claiming that mining there was not economically competitive.

MM: Have the Nisga’a received any royalties or return from the mining, fishing and logging operations?

Gosnell: There have been absolutely no royalties of any kind with regards to the removal of the non-renewable resources, the minerals. Seventy of our people do currently hold fishing licences and that enables them to take part in the commercial fishing sector along the coast of British Columbia.

When active logging began in our territory, we were provided with assurances from the company that came into the valley that our people would be the first hired and the last to be [laid off]. Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. Our people were the last to be hired and the first to be let go. Despite this fact, in the beginning, there was some benefit to us because approximately 80 people from our community were directly involved in the forest sector. That is no longer the case. The company has moved and the names have changed several times over the 38 years since logging began in the valley. Today, very few of our people are directly involved in the logging operation.

MM: What programs has the tribal council initiated to promote the self- determination of your people?

Gosnell: We have a school district, District 92 Nisga’a. All members of the school board and the board of trustees are our people, with the exception of one individual who represents the 250 non-natives in the valley.

The language that we speak, Nisga’a, is currently taught in our school as part of the compulsory curriculum. Both spoken and written Nisga’a is required to be taught from kindergarten to grade 12.

We also have a health care organization. Again, all the members of the board that control the operation are our own people, with the exception of one to allow representation for the non-native residents in the valley.

MM: Could you describe the system of laws used by the Nisga’a people?

Gosnell: We have a law called Ayuukhl which determines the [allocation] of resources, the way we live, how people get married and what happens when people pass on. Ayuukhl governs the lives of our people in all respects. We have a clan system. There are four major clans in the valley: the eagle, the wolf, the raven and the killer whale. Anyone Nisga’a born in our valley falls under one of these clans.

When somebody gets married, the members of the tribe offer that person assistance, financially and otherwise. When a person dies, the tribe also comes to assist. A person does not need to be wealthy to gain assistance; to help [others] is a requirement of our law. More recently we have begun to lend assistance to those who do not belong to our tribe. We recognize that when people run into financial difficulty, sickness or death, they too need assistance even if they are people of other than our own race.


Toxic Decision

by Holley Knaus

IN A DECISION THAT WILL FORCE the revocation of many workplace health standards and the rolling back of others to 1970 levels, a federal appeals court struck down Labor Department regulations limiting workers’ exposure to over 400 toxic substances. The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled on July 7 that the standards-setting process used by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish limits for the chemicals was so flawed that all the standards must be thrown out.

The court granted OSHA a stay which allows the standards to remain in place until August 27. The Labor Department is reviewing the ruling to decide if it will appeal the decision. OSHA officials have declined to comment on the court decision.

Downgrading the upgrade

The court ruling wipes out air-contamination regulations issued by OSHA in 1989. The regulations cover 428 toxic chemicals ranging from carbon dioxide to wood dust to perchloroethylene, a fluid used to dry-clean clothes. OSHA estimates that the regulations mandated workplace protection from air contaminants for 21 million workers. The court ruling is also likely to affect a follow-on standard proposed in June by OSHA which would expand exposure limits to about 600 additional chemicals used in the construction, maritime and agricultural industries, which had not been covered by the original regulations.

The 1989 set of standards represents OSHA’s first attempt to upgrade air toxic exposure limits since the agency was created in 1971. It was also the first time the agency pursued a regulatory approach of considering hazards on a general basis. All other OSHA health and safety standards - for example, standards on coke oven emissions, lead, asbestos and benzene - were issued on a case-by-case basis.

Labor leaders and health and safety advocates have found the case-by-case standard-setting process inadequate. Testifying before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources in October 1991, Thomas Donahue, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) called the process "frustrating and painfully slow."

Donahue said, "In its 20-year history, OSHA had promulgated just 21 major health standards [now 24] ... Permissible exposure limits for toxic air contaminants have been revised only once. It often takes years for OSHA to even acknowledge petitions or recommendations for standards. Once the agency decides to act, the standard setting process usually takes five years."

OSHA’s flaw

OSHA officials viewed the agency’s new regulatory approach as a means of addressing some of these problems in standard-setting. However, health and safety advocates complain that the across-the-board approach is also flawed. Peg Seminario, director of the AFL-CIO’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health, says OSHA "treated all chemicals the same. It gave each the same emphasis and energy regardless of toxicity, levels of exposure [and] the number of people exposed." Seminario says that the generic approach resulted in many air contaminant standards that were too lenient.

Business groups, especially the dry-cleaning and chemical industries, challenged the standards for being too stringent, however. Both the AFL-CIO and industry groups had brought lawsuits challenging the basis for about 25 standards, with the labor federation charging that the regulations were not strict enough and industry arguing that the standards were so tough as to be economically infeasible.

The AFL-CIO and industry court cases challenged only specific regulations, but the Atlanta court threw out the entire set of standards, ruling that OSHA failed to make the scientific case for each individual standard issued. The court cited OSHA’s exposure limits for perchloroethylene as an example of an arbitrarily set standard, arguing that the agency’s lack of scientific analysis of the substance’s health effects made it impossible for the court to determine if the limit of 25 parts per million was set too high as labor groups claimed, or too low as the dry-cleaning industry insisted.

Seminario says that while the AFL-CIO believed that some standards were improperly based, the labor organization did not endorse scrapping all the regulations. "In some ways the court agreed with us," Seminario says. "The court’s reasoning was not incorrect, but the outcome was extreme and unfortunate."

Seminario says the court should have upheld standards for substances that were not controversial. "The decision is disturbing," she says. "It vacated the standard for hundreds of toxic substances whether or not they were of concern." Seminario thinks that the Labor Department should appeal the decision which wipes out regulations across the board, but should still allow for challenges of particular standards. "Let the unchallenged ones stay in effect, let the challenged ones go back to OSHA," she says.

A call for reform

Seminario argues that the court decision highlights the need for legislative reform of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The AFL-CIO supports a bill currently pending in the Senate, introduced by Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, which would expand workers’ rights and strengthen enforcement of health and safety regulations. Among other provisions, the reform bill requires OSHA to upgrade air contaminant exposure standards every three years, based on recommendations by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill also establishes timeframes for responding to petitions and recommendations and makes OSHA decisions not to act on these recommendations reviewable in court.

The bill, however, does not directly address the issues raised by the court’s recent decision. Seminario says that the AFL-CIO is currently trying to decide what sort of legislative reform "makes sense" in light of the unexpected court ruling.

Names in the News

The GM Defense Fund

THE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND (EDF) has entered into an agreement with one of the world’s largest polluters, General Motors, to discuss environmental concerns. EDF announced in July 1992 that it has initiated a technical and policy dialogue with GM aimed at the "speedy development of potential new policies, incentives, strategies and technologies to address a broad range of air pollution issues." By mutual agreement, the parties will not discuss vehicle fuel efficiency.

Many in the environmental movement criticize the EDF-GM agreement. Mark Dowie, an investigative journalist who has been critical of environmental groups’ alliances with big business, says both sides have a public-relations interest in the deal, "EDF’s 200,000 members are pretty conservative. Most of them are lawyers. This kind of initiative impresses their membership and their board. And GM gets a greenwashing."

But EDF attorney Joe Goffman defends the alliance, saying, "If conversation rather than confrontation leads to net emissions reductions, then it is worth doing. The proof is in whether or not we get better controls."

Dowie is highly critical of EDF’s leading role in pushing emissions trading as a method to combat air pollution, and of EDF Executive Director Fred Krupp for negotiating with McDonald’s in 1990 to switch from styrofoam carryout containers to coated paper containers. Dowie says that while EDF took credit for McDonald’s switch from styrofoam, the driving force behind the change was the Citizens Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste, which called on citizens to mail their used packaging back to McDonald’s in the late 1980s.

Joe Camel’s Revenge

R. J. REYNOLDS , the manufacturer of Camel cigarettes and creator of the "Joe Camel" advertising campaign, has subpoenaed research data from recent studies on how children respond to the advertising. Researchers are concerned that the Massachusetts court decision to grant the subpoena to Reynolds threatens the future of scientific studies that might adversely affect corporations’ profits. They say that without a guarantee of anonymity, research subjects will be nearly impossible to find, especially for studies dealing with children.

"It’s a unique decision, and unless it’s overturned, it’s going to be a very bad precedent for scientific and medical research," says Edward Greer, the lawyer representing researcher Dr. Joseph DiFranza. "Whenever [scientists] are doing any research that potentially infringes on the profitability of any corporation, the corporation is going to look for an opportunity to get hold of their research material."

R.J. Reynolds sought access to DiFranza’s research material, notes and correspondence, along with the names of the children interviewed by the authors who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in December 1991. The studies found that children as young as three recognized "Joe Camel" and that the ads seemed to influence teenagers who smoke.

Reynolds’ action came in response to a sut filed in San Francisco Superior Court last December which charged the tobacco manufacturer with violating California’s Unfair Business Practices Act by distributing T-Shirts, mugs and other items emblazoned with the "Joe Camel" character without including the surgeon general’s warning that must accompany cigarette advertising. The San Francisco lawsuit cites the three studies reported in the December 1991 JAMA.

Peggy Carter, of R.J. Reynolds, says that Reynolds asked the researchers for the data to, "better understand the accusations coming out of them. ... Our research people found fairly significant flaws in the methodology and data."

Chefs vs. Mutant Food

LEADING U.S. chefs and food safety advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. in July 1992 to protest a joint Council on Competitiveness/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling in late May allowing genetically altered foods to be marketed without testing or labeling. The Dan Quayle-headed Competitive Council and the FDA ruled that genetically engineered foods will not be treated differently from natural or traditionally bred foods.

"We are not going to sacrifice the entire history of culinary art to revitalize the biotechnology industry," said chef Rick Moonen, of the Water Club restaurant in New York City.

Monsanto , Upjohn , Calgene and Frito-Lay are all using gene splicing technology to produce genetic foods. In genetic food, animal or even human genes are inserted into plants or other animals creating "transgenic" foods. Examples of biotechnology use include: human genes added to pigs in order to create leaner meat, and to fish to increase their size; fish genes added to tomatoes to make them more resilient; and chicken genes added to potatoes to slow spoilage.

Health professionals are concerned that newly introduced genes could affect other genes and create foods which are toxic or highly allergenic.

The FDA should pre-test genetic foods and label them "so that the consumer can decide whether we want this food for our families," said Jeremy Rifkin, leader of the Pure Food Campaign.

- Ben Lilliston



World Rainforest Movement

87 Cantonment Road

10250 Penang


Survival International

310 Edgeware Road

London W2 1DY


Cultural Survival

53A Church Street

Cambridge, MA 02138


218 Liverpool Road

London N1 1LE


International Working Group

for Indigenous Affairs

Fiolstraede 10

DK-1171 Copenhagen K


Rainforest Action Network

450 Sansome Street, Suite 700

San Francisco, CA 94111

International Rivers Network

301 Broadway

San Francisco, CA 94133

Arctic to Amazonia Alliance

P.O. Box 73

Strafford, VT 05072

World Council of

Indigenous Peoples

555 King Edward Street

Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7N5


International Indigenous


Palais Wilson, 52 Rue des Paquis

Geneva 1201


Tungavik Federation of Nunavut

130 Slater Street, #800

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6E2


Citizens Against Ruining

our Environment (CARE)

188 Highland Hill Drive

Durgango, CO 81301

Association for the

Promotion of Batwa

BP 157



Coordinating Committee of the Amazon Basin (COICA)

Jiron Almagro 614

Jesus Maria

Lima 11


Cordillera Women’s Education and Resource Center

P.O. Box 7691

GARCOM - Baguio (752)

DAPO 1300, Domestic Road

Pasay City


Cordillera Peoples Alliance

139 M. Toxas Street, Trancoville

Baguio City, 2600


Mocavi Center

Casilla de Correo 36

2728 Melincue (Santa Fe)


Commission for the Creation

of the Yanomami Park

Rua Manoel da Nobrega

111 3d andar Conj. 32

04001 Sao Paulo SP



Rua da Quitanda no. 185/503

Rio de Janeiro, Cep. 20.091


Nisga’a Tribal Council

New Aiyansh

British Columbia V0J 1A0


Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice

211 10th Street SW

Albuquerque, NM 87102

Books, Reports & Periodicals

The Endangered Rainforests and

the Fight for Survival

Penang, Malaysia:

World Rainforest Movement, 1992

Into the Amazon:

The Struggle for the Rain Forest

By Augusta Dwyer

San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990

The Fate of the Forest:

Developers, Destroyers and

Defenders of the Amazon

By Susanna Hecht and

Alexander Cockburn

New York: Harper Perennial, 1990

In the Absence of the Sacred:

The Failure of Technology and

the Survival of the Indian Nations

By Jerry Mander

San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991


By Roger Moody

London: Partizans/CAFCA, 1991

The Gulliver Files: Mines, People and Land: A Global Battleground

By Roger Moody

London: Minewatch, 1992

Sardar Sarovar: Report of the

Independent Review

Ottawa, Canada: Resources Future International, 1992

Land Rights News

A publication of the Northern

Territory Land Councils

P.O. Box 321

Alice Springs, New Territories 0871


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