It can be difficult to assess progress in the movement to recover from the history and consequences of indigenous culturcide. Great symbolic and conceptual achievements are growing. In the former category is the Australian apology to its aboriginal population. In the latter is the 2007 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bolivia, a nation populated by an indigenous majority and led by Evo Morales, an Aymara native, incorporated the principles of the Declaration into national law. Ecuador, with a population roughly 30% indigenous, incorporated many sentiments of the Declaration into its new 2008 constitution – expressions of respect both for the dignity of Ecuador’s indigenous cultures and practices and for nature.
Sentiments and expressions are a foundation, but they are not reform in action. The 2008 Ecuadorean constitution does not require consultation with native peoples on the use of resources, though consultation is called for in the Declaration. The constitution does say that the priorities for use of water resources are first, human consumption; second, irrigation for food production and the maintenance of river flow to keep ecosystems alive, and finally productive activities. As Inter Press Service reports, however, the Rafael Correa government’s new water reform bill is respecting neither the required water priorities nor the concerns of the native peoples that the priorities be respected. In response, the Ecuadorean Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE) is marshaling forces for massive protest.
The legislature was set to continue debating the bill Thursday. “We are open to dialogue, but we aren’t going to modify a single thing under pressure,” said Rolando Panchana, a legislator from the Movimiento País governing coalition.
Proponents of the water reform say it will regulate private water use and guarantee access to water by all citizens.
Vaca said around 25,000 police would be deployed nationwide “to protect the peace and guarantee citizen safety,” and that the necessary measures would be taken to maintain public order around Congress and elsewhere in the country.
The police chief said that protesters from outside Quito would not be kept from entering the city and holding peaceful demonstrations, but that the police would use the necessary force in the case of disturbances.
According to Tenesaca, if the high-level committee demanded by CONAIE is not set up, the protests will spread to the rest of the country.
“This is the final battle. We aren’t going to back down,” he said.
Closer to home, Elouise Cobell, in her regular news updates on progress, or the lack of it, in the Individual Indian Money Trust Fund settlement (Cobell v. Salazar), congressional ratification of which has now been extended five months past the original target date.
The deadline for Congress to enact legislation has been extended by order of the district court to May 28, 2010 and many beneficiaries also have asked how they can contribute to a successful resolution of this case. I always have said that you need to call or write your Senators and Representatives in Congress to let them know how you feel about the settlement. We have now uploaded a form letter that you can update with your representatives’ information and send to them. This form letter can be uploaded by clicking here:
Contact information for your representatives can be located here:
We need all the help we can get and your letters and calls to Congress are being heard. Thank you, in advance….
It is unfortunate that Senator Barrasso from Wyoming (Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs) has come out against settlement of this long-running litigation which is of utmost concern to Indian Country. On April 27, 2010, Senator Barrasso sent a letter to all tribal leaders proposing to change the settlement agreement because he says that his changes would “improve the settlement.” That is not true. The Senator and his staff know that their proposed changes are material and necessarily would kill the settlement that we have worked so hard to reach. What is particularly disappointing to me is that I sat down with Senator Barrasso in his office to discuss the terms of settlement. The only major issue he raised in our meeting was the reasonableness of the agreed-upon attorneys’ fees, which I said are low because of the size of the recovery and the hard work done by our counsel. He looked me in the eye following my explanation and told me to my face that the settlement is OK with him. In fact, his attorney, who sat across from me, told him that the attorneys’ fees are fair. Frankly, the attorneys’ fees are very low – a maximum of 3% of our recovery – compared to the 25%-40% and more that attorneys typically are paid when they successfully sue bad doctors for medical malpractice. Think of the amount of time our lawyers have spent on this case (14 years) and the risk they took to achieve for you the largest settlement with the government in history. [Emphasis added]
Senator Barasso, at the hoped for end of a fourteen-year litigation, settlement of which has been agreed to by plaintiff and the many Native interests she represents, is holding it up, would you believe, in what he claims to be their better interest – even after he formerly expressed approval of the deal and is told his recommended changes will kill the settlement.
But he cares about the Indians. Really. He does. He’s on the Senate committee. Why would we doubt him?
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