The Vatican on March 30 announced a formal rejection of a 15th century theory known as the "Doctrine of Discovery." In a statement, the Church said it "repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent rights of indigenous peoples." The Doctrine of Discovery arose from several Vatican documents, or papal bulls. Key amongst them was the Inter Caetera, issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493. The document effectively granted Spain the right to claim and spread Christianity to newly "discovered" areas unoccupied by Christians.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Aug. 3, speaking at an Indigenous Rights Forum in Taipei held to mark Indigenous Peoples' Day, pledged new measures to protect and promote the languages, cultures and territorial rights of the island nation's Aboriginal communities. Tsai noted that the new Indigenous Peoples Basic Act seeks to bring Taiwanese law and policy into conformity with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and calls for re-assigning the country's place names to reflect Aboriginal languages. Her office has established a Transitional Justice Committee to oversee implementation of the law in collaboration with Aboriginal communities.
The Tatar people, whose homeland on the Crimean Peninsula was illegally annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, are now mobilizing across their diaspora to resist the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian heartland. The World Congress of Crimean Tatars released a statement calling the Russian invasion "banditry," and calling on Tatars everywhere to "fight against this immoral attack of Russia." The statement reads: "Our Congress recognizes its humanitarian and moral obligation to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and all other heroes and civilians who are victims of attacks and war, and so help them in all ways they are capable."
Paraguay's failure to prevent toxic contamination of an indigenous people's traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and sense of "home," the UN Human Rights Committee found in a landmark ruling Oct. 13. The Committee, made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries' adherence to the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. The decision on Paraguay marks the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous peoples, "home" should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Aug. 23 agreed to hear a complaint against the state of Chile brought by the Rapa Nui indigenous people of Easter Island, demanding recovery of their ancestral lands. The complaint accuses Chile of numerous violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, especially citing Article 4 on the right to life, Article 12 on freedom of conscience and religion, Article 21 on property rights, and Article 25 on judicial protection. More than 70% of traditional Rapa Nui lands are now classified as "state lands," from which the island's indigenous inhabitants are effectively excluded—causing "irremediable damage" to their way of life and autonomy. The complaint charges that this constitutes a violation of the 1888 Acuerdo de Voluntades (Consent Agreement), under which the Rapa Nui formally accepted Chilean sovereignty. (El Ciudadano, Chile; Pagina12, Argentina)
A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has aroused rage from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces have been occupying the Crimean Peninsula since 2014. Bill No. 5506 was introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 18, the day that the Crimean Tatars commemorate Stalin's 1944 deportation of the entire people from their homeland. The law recognizes three indigenous peoples of Ukraine—the Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks. It guarantees these peoples collective and individual enjoyment of all cultural, educational and linguistic rights, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
A bill by the Canadian Parliament recognizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 (UNDRIP) and establishing a framework for its implementation received Royal Assent on June 21. The legislation requires the government of Canada to take measures for bringing the country's laws into alignment with the UNDRIP as well as preparing an action plan for achieving its objectives.
In Episode 73 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Thomas Moore, anthropologist, advocate for indigenous cultural survival, and author of the newly released book, Madre de Dios: Refugio de Pueblos Originarios. The remote rainforest region of Madre de Dios in Peru's southern Amazon is a last refuge for isolated indigenous peoples, but is now massively threatened by mining, timber and other resource interests that operate in a semi-legal gray zone in a nexus with criminal networks. Peru has made some progress in complying with international norms on protection of isolated peoples, but these advances stand to be dramatically reversed if far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori comes to power in the pending run-off election. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.