March 2007

Traditional plant knowledge gives health boost: study
World Science

NEW YORK, USA: For traditional cultures not yet drawn into the whirlwind of modernity, knowledge of local plants may provide a real health boost, a study has found. Working with indigenous Amazonian Tsimane’ people in Bolivia, scientists found that mothers with good knowledge of local plants and their uses were likelier than others to have healthy children. More…

Game parks threaten Africa’s indigenous people: UN

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: Indigenous communities in Africa are “on the brink of destruction” due to the expansion of national game parks and insufficient law enforcement, a United Nations expert said on Tuesday [20 March 2007].

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, a special rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said reserves in countries such as Kenya and Botswana had disrupted hunter-gatherer and pastoralist populations, such as the Maasai. More…

Indigenous People Meet in Guatemala
Prensa Latina

IXIMCHE, GUATEMALA: Quechua, Aymara, Mapuche, and Mayan people, and representatives of other ethnic groups will participate in the 3rd Continental Summit of Indigenous People and Nationalities in Guatemala. Representatives of autochthonous communities from Canada to the Patagonia and the Amish, from northern Europe, will attend the summit. Delegations from Bolivia, Mexico, and Guatemala will be the largest to attend this continental meeting, which will be held from March 26-30, to analyze the main problems of regional communities. More…

Mixing Old & New: Diné College blends two cultures in learning
Gallup Independent

ARIZONA, USA: A herd of sheep graze peacefully outside the library of Diné College on Monday afternoon as a student casually strolls by with a laptop case in his right hand – symbolic of the school’s purpose: to provide a balance between traditional Navajo knowledge and Western education.

The institution is grounded in the philosophy and principles of S’ah Naagh Bik’eh Hzhn, the Diné traditional living system which places human life in harmony with the natural world and the universe. Many years ago, educators and leaders came to a realization that instead of incorporating Navajo knowledge into Western education, it should be the other way around. Since the groundbreaking of the school on 13 April 1971, implementing a Navajo viewpoint into curriculum has been a top goal for educators. The schools core classes also include Navajo language, culture, history, philosophy, and government. Establishing the philosophy and creating a equilibrium between what some people often refer to as “two worlds” remains a continuous challenge. More…

Sharing indigenous stories: Australian retreat fosters indigenous cinema
Sydney Morning Herald

BYRON BAY, AUSTRALIA: At the Long Black Lab indigenous film workshop in Byron Bay, a collection of artists has been working with mentors to get indigenous stories onto the big screen. More…

Scottish Crofters’ indigenous rights call
BBC News

EDINBURGH, UK: Scotland’s crofters are considering asking for recognition to give them the same status as indigenous peoples such as the Australian Aborigines. Preliminary studies for the Scottish Crofting Foundation indicate crofters want their way of life recognised as a separate culture. They are now looking into whether they should present their case to the United Nations. More…

Indian farmers learn from old ways
People & the Planet

NEW DELHI, INDIA: Looking to the west for new and better technologies in every sphere of life is the norm in many developing countries. But now thousands of farmers in India have rediscovered the wealth and potential of traditional sciences through the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS). CIKS was formed by two Indian scientists, Dr. K Vijayalakshmi and A.V. Balasubramanian from Chennai (formerly Madras), in the early 1990s to develop indigenous knowledge in the field of agriculture. More…

China seeks innovation in traditional medicine

BEIJING, CHINA: In an attempt to promote innovation in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), China has launched a long-term development plan to boost research in the field. The 15-year plan, launched this week [21 March 2007], will establish a TCM-based system of disease prevention and clinical treatment, improve modern TCM manufacturing techniques and create a set of internationally recognisable TCM standards.

Unlike previous schemes, which stressed the modernisation of TCM with scientific methods, the new plan attaches equal importance to original TCM theories. It says that both traditional knowledge and innovation are important to TCM’s development and that innovation should be based on the field’s traditional ethos and experience. But the plan also seeks to establish a system of standards and regulations for TCM that will be recognised internationally. More…

Climate action must carry social cost
The Age

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Climate response has barely scratched the surface on social inequity. While the economic disadvantage of Australia’s indigenous communities is deeply entrenched and well documented, a recent CSIRO report Climate Change and Health: Impacts on Remote Indigenous Communities in Northern Australia, predicts that the economic and health status of remote indigenous communities is likely to worsen owing to climate change. This reflects both the vulnerability of indigenous communities to environmental change and their reduced adaptive capacity.

Biodiversity Data, Conservation, and Traditional Knowledge (TK) Conservation Commons
IUCN Canada TK workshop
13-14 March 2007, Ottawa

Biodiversity Data Workshop ParticipantsOTTAWA, CANADA: Integrating traditional knowledge with western conservationWorkshop summary submitted by Aroha Te Pareake Mead, Victoria University of Wellington

How can indigenous peoples and the conservation community overcome the present barriers and share their knowledge to work together for nature conservation? That was the main question asked at a recent dialogue session with representatives from the indigenous and conservation communities, hosted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and The Conservation Commons.

Indigenous peoples throughout the world have amassed generations of observational knowledge of local environments. The global conservation community, meanwhile, is active in conservation efforts on or near traditional lands. Barriers exist, including in some case years of distrust, to sharing knowledge and experience between indigenous communities and conservation groups.

The dialogue session held on 13 and 14 March in Canada addressed the following issues:

  • The notion of traditional ecological knowledge, and the appropriate role of this knowledge in conservation efforts;
  • Building trust between the indigenous and conservation communities which share many common goals;
  • A code of ethics for conservation and scientific organizations to ensure respect for the knowledge, culture and heritage of indigenous peoples in the context of biodiversity conservation;
  • Exploring the notion of a discreet indigenous component to the Conservation Commons.

Despite many common conservation goals, much distrust remains between indigenous groups and conservation organizations. Adopting a framework code of ethics can help rebuild the level of trust needed between these communities to work together in good faith – Aroha Te Pareake Mead, IUCN Councilor and Special Advisor on Indigenous Issues.

Under the direction of Aroha Te Pareake Mead and Stephen Augustine, Curator of Ethnology and Hereditary Chief of the Mi’gmaq of eastern Canada, a total of 35 individuals participated in this workshop from Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Peru, including
representatives from indigenous groups, conservation organizations, the Government of Canada, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Canadian indigenous groups present included the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Grand Council of the Crees, the Metis National Council, and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, as well as the Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre. This event was made possible through generous contributions from Environment Canada and The Nature Conservancy.

Visit the meeting website and view presentations…

Pacific Genes and Life PatentsMead, Aroha and Ratuva, Steven (eds). Pacific Genes and Life Patents, Pacific Experiences & Analysis of the Commodification & Ownership of Life (2007)
ISBN 0-473-11237-X

Call of the Earth Llamado de la Tierra (COE) and the United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) have announced the release of the book Pacific Genes and Life Patents: Pacific Experiences & Analysis of the Commodification & Ownership of Life.

The publication, edited by Aroha Mead (COE) and Dr Steven Ratuva (University of the South Pacific, Fiji), comprises the work of 16 Pacific Indigenous authors who document the experiences and responses of Pacific Indigenous communities to genetic research and products and patents on life forms.

Download this publication in PDF…

Indigenous Medicine Ministry to revive Gurukula indigenous medicine system with financial assistance
Sri Lanka Daily News

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA: The Indigenous Medicine Ministry has launched a programme to provide financial assistance to students and teachers to conserve traditional medical systems. The indigenous medicine system was propagated through the Gurukula system where traditional physicians handed down their knowledge to their children or a trusted student. Under the program selected physicians and students will receive a monthly grant of Rs. 2000 and Rs. 1000 each for three years. More…

National Trust promotes traditional cooking in Cayman Islands
Cayman Net News

GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS: The Cayman Islands National Trust is running cooking classes for traditional Cayman cuisine in an effort to preserve some of the knowledge of traditional Caymanian dishes and cooking, which is in danger of being lost as the Islands become more developed. More…

Khmer Krom culture in Southern Vietnam Oppressed by Hanoi Regime

HUNTINGTON, USA: The Khmer Krom are an indigenous people in southern Vietnam, who are being “Vietnamized” in a way that will inevitably deprive them of their traditional land, culture, language, way of life, and their religion, according to an interview with Rebecca Sommer, NGO Society for Threatened Peoples International. More…

CERD Report criticises Canada for mining on lands important to indigenous knowledge
OneWorld US

WASHINGTON, DC, USA: In a report released this week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said it was concerned about complaints of exploitation of indigenous resources by corporations registered in Canada and took the rare step of telling Canada to change its behavior on the human rights of native populations.

CERD, which is based in Geneva, told the Canadian government to take “appropriate legislative or administrative measures to prevent the acts of transnational corporations on indigenous territories.” The CERD report comes in response to a petition filed by indigenous organizations that charged private businesses from Canada were unlawfully involved in the exploitation of their lands located in the United States. Their petition particularly focused on the situation facing the Western Shoshone, a native American tribe, which noted that many areas where mining is going on have been used by natives for spiritual ceremonies and cultural purposes for thousands of years. Certain areas are home to Shoshone creation stories and vital to indigenous traditions of acquiring knowledge. More…

How local knowledge can boost scientific studies: building bridges between formal scientific research and informal grassroots innovations

UNITED KINGDOM: There is a gap between the world’s formal and informal knowledge production systems, and in the agenda-setting arrangements of formal scientific institutions. Anil Gupta, executive vice-chairperson of the National Innovation Foundation in India, provides examples of success stories, such as the Honey Bee Network, set up in India in 1988, which brings together innovators and traditional knowledge holders from different communities and protects their their intellectual property rights. More…

Opening Doors to Native Knowledge: Climate Change
Science 16 March 2007, Vol. 315. no. 5818, pp. 1518 – 1519

USA: Scientific and local cultures seek common ground for tackling climate-change questions in the Arctic. More [subscription required]…

World Wide Web? Say that in my language please!

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Is the internet of any use to a world that doesn’t speak English? Experts say the lack of local language content and software tools is in turn rapidly pushing out the use and sharing of traditional knowledge, including medicine. More…

Reviving Hawaii’s `Aha Moku council system
Molokai Dispatch

KANUAKAKAI, HAWAII, USA: On Friday, March 9, a bill to create ‘Aha Moku councils and to create an integrated system of natural resources management has passed its first hearing in the Hawaiian State Senate. With origins on Molokai, the only non-private island with a population that is over 50% Native Hawaiian, the bill involved collaboration from kupuna (wise elders) of each island. A return to the ‘Aha Moku council system would re-empower Native Hawaiians by officially recognizing their knowledge and expertise. More…

4 May 2007 is the deadline for applications to the WIPO Voluntary Contribution Fund for Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities to attend the 12th session of the IGC (3-12 July 2007).

Biological diversity and cultural diversity or the components of life on Earth
Address by Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity to the 47th Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO
16 March 2007

OTTAWA, CANADA: Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), announced the development of an agreement currently being negotiated between the CBD and UNESCO, dealing with key areas of cooperation in fields of education and public awareness, particularly among young people. In his speech, Dr Djoghlaf made special mention of the CBD’s recognition of the relation between biological diversity and cultural diversity, with special emphasis on indigenous and local communities.

In its preamble, this “Convention on Life on Earth” recognizes “the close and traditional dependence of many indigenous and local communities emodying traditional lifestyles on biological resources and the desirability of sharing equitably benefits arising from the use of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD, 47th Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO

Download the transcript…

Report of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues (IASGII)

This report, to be presented for discussion at the upcoming 6th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (14-25 May 2007), summarizes the outcomes of the 15-18 September 2006 meeting of the IASGII. The theme of the meeting was “development with identity”, addressing (a) Indigenous lands, territories and natural resources; (b) Indigenous peoples and technology development/adoption; and (c) Indigenous culture and development. The report explores ways to support achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and contains recommendations on assisting country and regional offices to work in indigenous issues.

Read the report…

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