Indigenous forest guardian Paulo Paulino Guajajara was killed in November 2019 in an alleged ambush by illegal loggers in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory in Brazil’s Maranhão state.
A project funded by the Onaway Trust is helping the Indigenous Matsés people to protect the Amazon rainforest by providing them with sustainable income opportunities which prevent the need for deforestation.
The Matsés, or Mayoruna, are an Indigenous people who live along the Javari (Yavarí) river and its tributaries between Brazil and Peru. They live in remote villages deep in the Amazon rainforest which are difficult to access, making trade with the outside world practically and economically challenging.
Although most of the Matsés needs are met by their traditional practices, such as hunting, gathering, fishing, and horticulture, nowadays they rely on a small amount of money to pay for basic household items, medical care, fuel for outrigger canoe motors, and to exchange goods in the city.
Unfortunately, greedy timber extraction companies take advantage of this fact by bribing the Matsés to allow access to their sacred forest in order to log the remaining tree species which haven’t already been eradicated by industry. Not only is this work dangerous and laborious, but the Matsés are often underpaid for the precious timber that they sell.
Acaté Amazon Conservation’s copaiba tree resin project is helping the community to develop an alternative income source which means they will no longer have to resort to working with harmful extractive industries, which destroy their rainforest home and its ecology, in order to make an income.
The copaiba tree produces a golden resin which has many uses in medicine and the manufacture of products such as cosmetics. Acaté have worked alongside the Matsés to create their own drills in order to sustainably extract this resin in a way which doesn’t kill or infect the dense hardwood trees. The organisation has also helped to connect the community with local markets in order to sell this renewable product.
With Onaway’s funding, Acaté and the Matsés community were able to map out all of the copaiba trees in the south of their territory between the Chobayacu tributary and the Upper Yaquerana river and they have also been able to extend their work to Puerto Alegre on the Upper Yaquerana with training and the construction of additional drills.
This inspiring project not only provides the Indigenous community with a sustainable source of income which helps to prevent ecological and environmental destruction but, in preserving their ancestral home, it also protects against the loss of the Native peoples’ cultural traditions, wisdom and practices.
This is in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which seeks to empower the cultural traditions and economic self-sufficiency of Native communities while preserving the health of the natural environment and its biodiversity. In addition, the project serves to highlight the benefits of traditional Matsés medicine, something which Onaway has previous experience in having funded a project in which Acaté worked with the community to produce an encyclopaedia of traditional medicine.
Onaway is proud to have been able to provide support to these incredible projects and to help the Matsés people to achieve self-sufficiency and preserve their home and their culture in such challenging times. Read more about this partnership and the work of Acaté here.
The Indigenous Maasai people of Tanzania are fighting for their lands and their lives following a crackdown on protests against forced evictions and land theft. 40 more Maasai have recently been arrested by security forces while holding a peaceful meeting to discuss the government’s use of media to evict them from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is the latest in a series of eviction attempts which have been carried out since 2009 in order to supposedly protect wildlife from human interference and make way for conservation areas which provide a cover for industries to profit from the land.
Faced with being left without their homes, livelihoods and the resources they need to survive, the Maasai community have been forced to stand up against removal from their ancestral homelands and fight for the essential human rights being denied to them, such as water, healthcare and education.
Land is central to the Maasai culture and way of life, providing everything from grazing land for livestock, to food, medicinal plants, and building materials. If evicted from their homelands, not only do the Maasai forfeit all of this, but they also risk losing their livestock due to insufficient food and water accessibility in their new territory. With livestock acting as the Maasais’ main currency, as well as representing a family’s wealth and status, this loss could be devastating for the community’s wellbeing and way of life.
However, not only are the Maasais’ lives being completely uprooted in the name of conservation, but they are being subjected to horrific treatment in the process. Investigations show that security forces are using excessive force and violence on the community in their attempts to evict them, including shooting, the use of tear gas, and burning down homes. Cattle are stolen and auctioned off by authorities, putting the Maasai in the difficult position of choosing between buying back their own animals at elevated prices or else facing impoverishment without their income source.
In addition, many people have been unlawfully and arbitrarily arrested and convicted of crimes in which they have played no part. Onaway was recently concerned to learn that among those arrested by authorities in Loliondo was the leader of the beekeeping project run by SIDI. The whereabouts of those detained is unknown, leading to concerns over welfare and access to legal support to help them fight their case.
In order to continue their activities unchallenged and to hide the truth about the repression of the Maasai, the government has restricted access to newly demarcated areas. A special permit is now needed to enter the zone where the beekeeping initiative is taking place, meaning that organisers are having difficulty accessing the area and that project activities are being held up as a result. Unsurprisingly, Tanzanian officials have also gone back on their decision to allow MEPs entry to investigate human rights abuses against the Maasai.
The authorities justify these actions by painting a false picture of ‘overpopulated’ Indigenous peoples destroying the ecosystem by overexploiting natural resources and coming into conflict with wildlife. In reality, these evictions are devised in order to take back control of what may be considered by some as ‘unproductive’ land and make way for highly profitable industries such as trophy-hunting, game reserves, and tourism. In June 2022, 70,000 Maasai people were forced to move from their homes in Loliondo, Tanzania, which has now been renamed Loliondo Game Reserve and is exclusively reserved for the use of a private hunting company.
Despite the claims of those profiting from this crisis, the Maasai people live in harmony with nature and are the best possible custodians of their land, having protected its biodiversity for generations, to the benefit of the whole planet. Indigenous peoples possess innate knowledge about how to sustainably utilise natural resources without upsetting the natural balance of the ecosystem and are able to graze their cattle in harmony with the rhythms of the land.
At a time when so many are concerned about the future of the planet, this process of evicting nature’s custodians and handing the land over to exploitative and greedy industries is a highly manipulative and dangerous model which leads well-meaning individuals to support organisations which actually harm the people and the environment that they claim to protect.
Without the free, prior and informed consent of those affected, these evictions constitute nothing less than land theft. The right of Indigenous peoples to their land and resources and the vital and unmistakeable role they play in environmental conservation must urgently be recognised by those in power for the sake of the health of the planet we all rely upon.
“There can be no shortcuts to sustainable and effective conservation; it needs to be done together with those who have protected these areas of rare biodiversity for thousands of years. Indigenous peoples must be recognised not only as stakeholders, but as rights holders in conservation efforts undertaken in their lands and territories.”- United Nations
The Onaway Trust supports Native American communities in their mission to change the offensive name of a sacred landmark back to one which respectfully portrays the Indigenous history, culture and legends of the site.
‘Devils Tower’ is an unmistakeable geological feature in the landscape of Wyoming. However, for years it has been at the heart of a controversial debate which sees Native American communities petitioning the government to change its name to Bear Lodge, a name which they consider more historically accurate and culturally respectful.
The site was branded with the name ‘Devils Tower’ in 1906 due to a mistranslation of its Native American name to ‘Bad God’s Tower’. A clerical mishap which erased the apostrophe then compounded this error, leading to the name ‘Bad Gods Tower’, which was subsequently simplified to ‘Devils Tower’.
Understandably, the dozens of local tribes to whom this site is a place of worship find this name highly offensive and damaging, as it equates their sacred ceremonies with devil worship and helps to cement harmful stereotypes about these Indigenous cultures.
As a result, Native American citizens, led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, are campaigning to change the name of the park to Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark, a name which is known to have been used historically and which is closely aligned with Native legends surrounding the site.
Despite having a strong case to present to The United States Board on Geographic Names (USBGN) due to their obligation to reject names which may cause offence to racial, ethnic and religious groups, the campaigners have faced strong resistance from some Wyoming state politicians, who have used their powers to block the renaming petition from being considered.
Consequently, supporters of the campaign are forced to resort to taking their petition to the highest level for approval by the President of the United States, Secretary of the Interior, or Congress. However, in order to have the best chance of success and of finally restoring Bear Lodge’s true name, the petition needs as many members and allies of Native communities to support it as possible.
Please sign and share the petition to help fight for justice and respect for Indigenous communities.
Read more about the Bear Lodge campaign.
“Together, let us celebrate diversity, promote respect for Indigenous cultures, and ensure that our nation's landmarks reflect an accurate representation of our shared history.”
The world’s Indigenous Peoples and communities are more important players in the battle against climate change than anyone ever knew.
Opponents of Indigenous rights in Brazil have suffered a major setback after the Supreme Court rejected a proposal that threatened hundreds of Indigenous territories.
In a historic referendum, people in Ecuador have voted to block oil drilling on uncontacted tribes’ land in the Yasuní National Park.
The Onaway Trust is proud to announce its support of Good Mind Grappling, a new project offering coaching in wrestling as well as social and emotional resilience factors to at-risk and wounded Indigenous youth in Canada and the US.
The project is run by multi-time Canadian national Greco-Roman wrestling champions, Thomas and Phillip Barreiro. As Wolf-clan Mohawks from the Akwesasne community, the brothers have a deep insight into the challenges that their people face and wish to use their skills as experienced coaches in both grappling and youth development to make a positive difference.
Their holistic programme has been designed to guide young people in Indigenous communities to use sport as a positive physical outlet for overcoming intergenerational trauma by gaining productive coping strategies, invaluable transferable skills and a positive outlet for their emotions.
However, despite the significant need for projects such as this in neglected and marginalised Native communities, it will not be possible without the help and encouragement of those who share the brothers’ vision of justice and a better future for Indigenous youth. Please consider joining the Onaway Trust in our support of Good Mind Grappling and make a tangible difference to the lives of Indigenous youth, helping them to break the cycle of trauma for generations to come.
If you would like to make a donation to the Good Mind Grappling project, please get in touch.
To find out more, read the full story here.
Authorities in Brazil have launched a major operation to remove thousands of illegal goldminers from the Yanomami territory in the north of the country.
We are pleased to share a positive update from Care Across Communities about the education project funded by the Onaway Trust in December 2021. Throughout this year, essential items such as school bags and stationery have been successfully distributed to 300 marginalised and Indigenous primary school pupils in Bangladesh.
Local parents, teachers and volunteers report that this project has helped to boost the self-esteem of these children, who have never received special attention or gifts before, and that as a result they are now more motivated to attend school and to continue their studies.
The children benefiting from this programme come from marginalised Indigenous groups such as the Tripura and Garo communities, with many of their parents having left school early to earn low salaries working as slash-and-burn cultivators, day labourers, or in beauty parlours. As they are unable to afford to support their own children’s education, the poverty cycle inevitably continues and the next generation is now facing the same struggle to break free and fulfil their potential.
It is hoped that, by carrying out initiatives such as this, children living in these disadvantaged communities who may otherwise have left school to get married or start work in order to support their own families will now see the other possibilities that become available to them when they are offered a little support and encouragement.
The Onaway Trust is proud to have provided funding that was able to bring joy and empowerment to children with so much potential and enthusiasm to follow their dreams and build a better life for themselves and their families.
Click here to find out more about this project and to read all about Onaway’s partnership with Care Across Communities.