Tree resin project helps Indigenous Matsés community to protect the Amazon

©Xapiri/Mike van Krutchen/Tui Anandi/Acaté

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.

Maasai Attacked and Arrested for Standing Up Against Land Theft

Armed anti-riot police arriving in Endulen, Ngorongoro

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

Petition to Change Offensive Name of Sacred Native American Landmark

Chief Arvol Looking Horse stands in front of Bear Lodge (Photo by Dan Cepeda)

•Sign the Petition•

 

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.”

Barreiro brothers to launch new project for Akwesasne youth

Thomas Barreiro delivering a wrestling seminar at Massena Central High School

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.

Education project brings hope to Bangladeshi schoolchildren

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.

Nicole Mann Becomes the First Native American Woman in Space

NASA astronaut, Nicole Aunapu Mann, has just become the first Native American woman to go to space following the successful launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance rocket on Wednesday.

Mann, 45, who is a member of the Wailacki Tribe of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California, will be mission commander on the NASA and SpaceX Crew-5 mission, which is heading to the International Space Station for six months. The crew of four successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Center on the 5th of October after a two-day delay due to Hurricane Ian.

This mission marks a historic moment for the nation’s Indigenous community, as Nicole Mann becomes the first Native American woman to leave the Earth. It has been 20 years since the first Native American man achieved the same milestone, when John Herrington (Chickasaw) took part in a space mission in 2002.

Mann studied mechanical engineering at the US Naval Academy and Stanford University before going on to work as a test pilot, having qualified as a Colonel in the US Marine Corps. In addition to leading the SpaceX Crew-5 mission, she will be involved in preparations for the upcoming Artemis mission, making her a potential candidate to go to the moon within the next five years.

Mann’s passion and drive not only make her an inspiration for other Indigenous women and girls, but a role model for the younger generation as a whole. She hopes that her extraordinary personal achievements will demonstrate that it is possible to overcome societal barriers and follow your dreams, irrespective of race, gender or religion: “My message to the Native youth out there is that there is no end to the possibilities. Whatever you’re passionate about, go for it and pursue that dream. It won’t always be easy, but it’s definitely worth it.”

The Amazon Guardians have come to Europe

The Onaway Trust is proud to be supporting the Amazon Guardians in their tireless fight to defend Brazil’s Indigenous peoples, their territory and the future of the planet we all rely on.

© Katie Mähler/ Survival International

Olimpio Guajajara, an Amazon Guardian from the Indigenous Guajajara tribe of Araribóia territory in Brazil, has recently visited Europe for the first time on a mission to raise awareness of the suffering and threats facing his people at the hands of money-grabbing industries.

The Amazon Guardians are a brave and dedicated group of Guajajara tribal members willing to risk their lives in order to stand up for the rights and lands of Indigenous Amazonian peoples, including the uncontacted Awá tribe, who are under constant threat from invasion by illegal loggers and cattle ranchers hoping to exploit their native lands for profit.

After visiting London to deliver speeches and make several media appearances,  Guardian leader, Olimpio, travelled throughout the continent in an effort to raise support for the group’s work and cause. The Onaway Trust had the great honour of speaking with Olimpio during his UK visit and we are proud to be working once again with long-term partner organisation Survival International in order to support the Amazon Guardians in their crucial mission.

Fighting back against these powerful and government-backed forces is highly dangerous work, with 80 Guajajara members having been killed in the last two decades alone. On the 3rd of September, Olimpio and his tribe received the shocking news that a sixth member of the Amazon Guardians, Janildo Oliveira, had been murdered for defending this precious territory, an area which is supposed to be protected by law. None of the murderers have yet been brought to justice. This tragedy further highlights the need for international support and solidarity with the Guardians’ cause and will surely add further fuel to the fire as they continue their vital and inspiring work.

Onaway believes that all Indigenous peoples deserve the right to live their traditional lifestyles free of exploitation and oppression. If you’d like to join us in our support of the Amazon Guardians or wish to find out more about their fight against genocide and environmental destruction, please follow the links throughout.

Indigenous issues highlighted by winners of global photo contest

“The awarded work invites us to step outside the news cycle and reflect on the devastating effects of colonisation and the importance of preserving indigenous knowledge.” – World Press Photo Foundation

© Amber Bracken for The New York Times

Various photographic series representing the perspectives and plight of indigenous peoples and the environment have been awarded the title of global winners of the 2022 World Press Photo Contest. 

The overall winner of the World Press Photo of the Year title has been very deservedly granted to photographer Amber Bracken for her striking and evocative image depicting red dresses hung on a row of crosses, captured at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School in Canada, to commemorate the thousands of children who tragically lost their lives in the residential school system.

After the recent discovery of up to 215 unmarked graves at this site, Amber decided to use her photography skills to honour and commemorate the children, highlighting their suffering and the unthinkable injustices they faced at these institutions.

Residential or factory schools were first established in Canada in the late 19th century with the aim of removing indigenous children from their families and communities in order to indoctrinate them to conform to the dominant Western way of life, while forcefully and often violently eradicating their native cultures and languages.

Although these horrific institutions are no longer in operation in Canada and the US, similar factory schools still exist today around the world in countries such as India and Malaysia. An estimated 2 million indigenous children are still being subjected to these abusive and racist practices, which are designed to create an obedient future workforce but are leading to thousands losing not only their cultures, but also their lives as a result.

The competition’s other three global winners consist of similarly striking images highlighting indigenous and environmental issues, from the plight of tribes in the Amazon rainforest as a result of the deforestation, logging and mining taking place at the merciless hands of Jair Bolsonaro, to the loss of ancestral knowledge and heritage in Ecuador following colonisation and forced migration, and the vital role of the indigenous Nawarddeken people of Australia in preventing wildfires and protecting the environment.

The recognition of these projects and the voice they give to global indigenous perspectives at such a crucial time in history is something to be celebrated. In the words of the global jury chair, Rena Effendi, “All four of them, in their own unique ways, address the consequences of humanity’s rush for progress, and its devastating effects on our planet.”

Find out more about the World Press Photo Contest and the stories behind this year’s winning submissions and their creators.

Lakota Waldorf School: Education for the head, heart and hands

Situated on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the Lakota Waldorf School merges traditional education with the Waldorf pedagogy and teaching of the native Lakota language, culture and values, to give local children the best start in life while nurturing a deep connection with their ancestral land and roots.

As the only Waldorf school situated on an Indian Reservation in the US, the school gives Lakota children the chance to benefit from an educational movement which integrates seamlessly with the values and teachings of their own native culture. This is a unique opportunity which most Native American families cannot afford due to high rates of unemployment and poverty among their communities.

The Onaway Trust is a long-term supporter of this visionary school and has recently made a further donation to help fund their inspiring work and further expansion.

Read the full article to find out more about this partnership and the amazing work that the Lakota Waldorf School is doing to guide the next generation of Native American children to succeed academically and in the wider world, while nurturing their connection with Mother Earth, supporting their development as creative, spiritual and compassionate individuals and, crucially, showing them how to embrace and celebrate their native roots.

The Kogi: An ancient civilisation with an urgent message for the modern world

The Kogi are some of the last few surviving descendants of the Tairona, an ancient civilisation dating back to the pre-Columbian era, who escaped colonial persecution by retreating to the remote mountains of northern Colombia. Having kept themselves isolated and uncontactable for centuries, the Kogi have finally decided to speak to the outside world in order to pass on an urgent message and help us to repair our connection with Mother Earth before it is too late.

Read our new article about the Kogi people, their vital message, and how the Onaway Trust supports them through its long-term partnership with the Tairona Heritage Trust.

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