Earth, Exploitation and Survival: Dimensions of Indigenous Identity for Montagnard, Mapuche and Batwa People

Project location: WORLDWIDE, Vietnam, Chile, Rwanda
Project start date: October 2010 - Project end date: October 2012
Project number: 2010-61
Beneficiary: UNPO

 

Earth, Exploitation and Survival is a project that targets and seeks to redress the threats made to indigenous peoples' natural environments, languages, traditional livelihoods and community cohesion, which when combined, form the core essence of identity for indigenous people.
Indigenous peoples around the world share an integral association with their natural environments both economically and culturally. As such, any exploitation of natural resources found in their lands not only poses a threat to the natural environment but is an affront to their culture and livelihoods.
This action seeks to build upon the solid foundations and good working relationships with schools, human rights and environment club leaders and Youth Ambassadors that UNPO has established during the previous Peretti Foundation endorsed project. Through supporting the human rights and environment clubs, training of youth leaders and student ambassadors and an annual youth forum, it is hoped to increase awareness about climate change, environmental protection and the dangers of oil bunkering. It will also build the leadership qualities of the leaders of tomorrow.

This project will focus on three indigenous people: Montagnard (Vietnam), Mapuche (Chile) and Batwa (Rwanda).

Language is more than a means of communication, but an important part of one's identity. It plays an extra important role for minorities in creating a sense of belonging and a sense of distinctiveness from the rest of the population. The Mapuche people suffer from a shortage in the number of schools providing education in their language, Mapundungun, their indigenous language which is intertwined with acute poverty, land issues, preservation of culture and community cohesion. Years of miss-representation, authoritarian rule, migration and disregard to the Mapuche elder's hierarchical status has eroded much of the traditional culture and divided communities. However in response to the deteriorating situation, there is a growing urgent desire to reconstruct, revive and preserve Mapuche culture before it is lost and also reach out to non-Mapuche communities to foster greater inter-cultural understanding. UNPO has embarked upon a successful inauguration of a culture and language project with the Mapuche in Chile through a Peretti Foundation endorsed programme.
This project's over-arching aim is to empower children and youth to the right to education and enhancing the survival of the ancient Mapuche population. This will be primarily achieved through revitalizing ancestral knowledge of language and culture through an annual summer school. Methods employed will include simple and more importantly clear language, messages, images and games and include both day and evening sessions.
A second vital element will be encouraging greater cross-cultural understanding between Mapuche and non-Mapuche. In collaboration will UCT (Universidad Catolíca de Temuca) we plan to instigate a major seminar specifically for non-Mapuche students which will cover Mapuche culture, and indigenous law and philosophy (from an ancestral authority perspective). The third element will be the creation of a forum for Mapuches from Chile and Argentina to unite the two, build capacity between both communities and collaborate through shared experiences. These activities will also be made available through an online TV channel that will multiply the dissemination of the Mapuche cultural heritage to a worldwide audience.
Reconstructing community histories is a vital part of protecting group identity, creating community cohesion and learning from the past to create better futures. A large proportion of the ethnic Degar- Montagnard population from Vietnam has resettled in North Carolina following conflict and unrest. Preserving their language and knowledge accrued through difficult experiences is difficult in a diaspora. Younger generations fear that they are losing the keys to their heritage and that their identity is being diluted as a result of the lack of documentation of their common histories. They would like to have the ability to document their pasts and share new experiences with their friends, families and co-nationals within Vietnam through modern means which will strengthen their ties to a nation they hope one day to be able to visit or return to.
This action seeks to document the stories of their elders so that other communities across the world estranged from their homelands can share in the knowledge and create virtual communities and will include a visit to the region to provide a link for future generations who may return. An interactive webpage will be set up in which all the videoed histories and accounts can be shared. Short videos will be made available here and will be youth led - they will discover and document the stories themselves. Short language videos will be designed and disseminated. The project will culminate in the amalgamation of all content into a single feature length documentary that UNPO intends to have screened at the 11th Session of the United Nations Forum for Indigenous Issues in April 2012.
Finally, the Batwa, or the pygmies of Rwanda find that land confiscation and new economic systems are diluting their environmentally safe, sustainable, traditional livelihoods. In acknowledging that adaptation is crucial for survival, new generations are seeking to undertake innovative traditional techniques in bamboo nursery management and propagation, bamboo craft-making, and furniture creation. On a national level, strengthening traditional livelihoods in such a way would contribute to the Rwandan Cultural Conservation Act's "Adult Popular Education Strategic Approach (APESA)". On regional and international level, the achievement would contribute to "Dakar Framework of Action" of April 2000, "United Nations Literacy Decade 2003-2012" approach and "Millennium Development Goals".
These three indigenous groups from Asia, Africa and the Americas confront similar obstacles on a daily basis despite their geographical dispersion. Threats to their land, resources and traditional cultures have also made an assault on their community cohesion. These commonalities can be addressed through positive action that assists their adaptation, builds community and youth capacity, reconstructs histories, preserves and promotes language and protects natural resources. Inter-cultural dialogue both between different indigenous groups and with non-indigenous groups is also paramount to creating greater harmony in societies in which different cultures must coexist.

Mapuche
UNPO has embarked upon a successful inauguration of a culture and language project with the Mapuche in Chile through a Peretti Foundation endorsed programme.
This project's over-arching aim is to empower children and youth to the right to education and enhancing the survival of the ancient Mapuche population. This will be primarily achieved through revitalizing ancestral knowledge of language and culture through education of indigenous values and principles, something widely disregarded by formal education. UNPO will contribute to supporting the emerging mechanism for achieving this (schools and education programs) by providing training programs and on the ground activities during sponsored visits.
Recommendations made during the first visit included possible future projects to further advance the work implemented during the first trip. Outlined in these recommendations, the next step forward would be to implement an annual summer school for Mapuche children. UNPO will collaborate with other international organisations with the purpose of bringing children and parents together for a few days to discuss and learn about their own culture and provide philosophical training.

The program will consist of a 6 day meeting aimed at filling the void in education, specifically in the areas of language, spirituality, philosophy science and culture. Methods employed will include simple and more importantly clear language, messages, images and games and include both day and evening sessions. Information that has been learnt will be disseminated amongst the pupils through interactive and media based forums including plays and videos. The overall objectives of this program's criteria will be to advance philosophical teachings on the cultural heritage of the Mapuche based on prior teachings.

The course will provisionally cover;

• Visual perception of Mapuche
• Tales on Pueblo Mapuche's origin
• Relationship between Mapuche and the Nature
• Teaching the respect for nature and the rules of the universe (Mapuche Perspective)
• Teaching of Mapudungun language
• Mapuche education on correct behaviour
• How reach humbleness and knowledge levels

The territories considered for the summer school include: Ngulumapu (8th, 9th, 10th Metropolitan) and from Puelmapu (Patagonia). The idea is that activities and training that is developed by Mapuche School (Mapuche specific) will be amalgamated into UNPO training for the staff members. During the proposed visit, UNPO will access the on the ground development of the school, its criteria and assist in the teaching of technical topics such as; Human Rights, Constitutional Law, Indigenous Law and on the significance of the ILO Convention.
The second part of the project would include continuing interaction between Mapuche and non-Mapuche, to strengthen cross cultural understanding, trust, communication and education. In collaboration will UCT (Universidad Catolíca de Temuca) we plan to instigate a major seminar specifically for non-Mapuche students which will cover Mapuche culture, and indigenous law and philosophy (from an ancestral authority perspective). This will in turn help further dialogue within the two communities, and solidify relations built on mutual respect and understanding. It will also help spread education, understanding and learning of the Mapuche, to the wider Chilean population. This part of the project is vital for the wider education of Mapuche heritage and to foster expanding understanding of their cultural and philosophical beliefs through socialization, internationalization and recovery of the constitutive elements of the Mapuche world. By educating non-Mapuche communities, the program can help implement a wider demographic who a culturally aware of the Mapuche, their issues and have active channels of dialogue without pre conceived miss conceptions to discuss them.
The final part of the program will be centered on a prioritized forum being established for Mapuches from Chile and Argentina. Whilst it is immediately important to highlight the differences in the situation between the two communities, there is an urgent need to unite the two, build capacity between both communities and collaborate through shared experiences. It is vital for the two communities to work together and by helping create, cement and manage direct channels of communication, open and constructive dialogue can be established. The forum would also seek to integrate academic professionals within the communication channels, to provide academically sound approaches, to help understand wider issues, contribute to analysis and construction of policy and offer niche expertise that community members won't have.
Overall, the hope is that by connecting the two communities and supporting some form of unification, the forum can help provide an opportunity for open dialogue between the two countries (Argentina and Chile) on Mapuche indigenous issues and perhaps find a common policy approach.

Montagnards
As one of the oldest tribal groups in Southeast Asia, the Montagnards, numbering 1 million, inhabited the Central Highlands of Vietnam, along the border of Cambodia, Laos and China. Historically, they lived in tribes that practice traditional agriculture, hunting and fishing and are recognized as indigenous people by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Population. Over the years, the Montagnards have been struggling to survive in their homelands and many have been forced to flee. A large community has settled in North Carolina, but many young people feel estranged from their families and homeland.

This project seeks to
• provide a forum for young Montagnard people to learn about their culture and language
• to document the stories of their elders so that other communities across the world estranged from their homelands can share in the knowledge and create virtual communities
• visit the region to document the current situation of the indigenous people to provide a link for future generations who may return.

The project will set up an interactive webpage in which all the videoed histories and accounts can be shared. Short videos will be made available here and will be youth led - they will discover and document the stories themselves. Short language videos will be designed and disseminated. The project will culminate in the amalgamation of all content into a single feature length documentary that UNPO intends to have screened at the 11th Session of the United Nations Forum for Indigenous Issues in April 2012.

Batwa
Rural men and women with expertise in agriculture and micro- enterprise will be involved in carrying out vocational trainings in bamboo nursery management and propagation, bamboo craft-making, and furniture creation. The trainings will have a participatory approach and encourage the participants to take responsibility for their own development agenda. The project will encourage the participation of people from disadvantaged groups and they will be empowered to express their opinions and participate actively in decision-making processes.

Whilst the importance of vocational training for the Batwa community is key, it is imperative that traditional livelihoods do not supplant the importance of literacy and socio-economic development. As a result

UNPO has worked with our Batwa partners since the early 1990s and visited Rwanda several months after the genocide in 1994 to document the terrible impacts the killings had had on the Batwa community - a people often forgotten by the international community when discussing economics, politics and development in Rwanda.

The project has four parts:
• Selection of 10 local Batwa practitioners with inclusion of young people, women and less abled persons.
• Biannual literacy and accountancy workshops to ensure the practitioners fulfill their maximum potential
• Ongoing vocational workshops for each of the 10 practitioners led by 2 local leaders. Each practitioner will be given a set of tools to practice and hone their skills.
• After 18 months, these practitioners will attend a training of trainers workshop and will be requested to go into their communities and share their skills.


The following are the aims of this project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation:

Mapuche
1) Two summer schools (August 2010, August 2011) bringing together forty Mapuche young people into one region for 6 days of philosophy, language and culture classes.
2) Ongoing support of three Mapuche leaders to direct and coordinate the work in Temuco and in the Mapuche spiritual highlands.
3) One University seminar held in Temuco to bring together Mapuche and non-Mapuche students to discuss culture, indigenous law and philosophy to create cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. Attendance expected to be about 100 persons.
4) One cross-border dialogue session between Chilean and Argentinian Mapuches for capacity-building, experience sharing, and policy discussion and strategy.

Once again, wider beneficiaries will include the local communities whose pride and self-confidence will be augmented due to the respect that will be engendered by the project. Significantly, wider beneficiaries will include the non-Mapuche community who lack understanding and cultural sensitivity in terms of indigenous culture, rights and law. These will be the key wider beneficiaries.

Montagnards
1) Very first collation of documented and videoed histories of the Montagnard people and language, uploaded onto interactive and user-friendly webpage (currently the UNPO website receives 40,000 visits per month)
2) Two forums for young Montagnards (approximately 70) in the diaspora to learn about their histories and cultures and to document the past for their future.
3) One major screening of a feature length documentary at the 11th Session of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues, April 2012 (possibility of 500 attendees plus additional screenings an option)
4) One visit to Vietnam to consolidate interviews with current situation material.

The wider beneficiaries are significant in this project because of the online content of the material that can be produced. This will strengthen and unite the wider Montagnard diaspora but importantly will provide a capacity building tool for other indigenous groups around the world who can learn from the experiences of the Montagnard histories but also provide an example of how they too can go about documenting their histories for future dislocated generations.

Batwa
1) Three literacy and accountancy training sessions for 10 Batwa bamboo practitioners
2) 10 fully trained and equipped bamboo practitioners receiving regular support, technical training and assistance over one year.
3) One training of trainers session for all 10 practitioners to build their capacity to share their skills in their local communities.

Providing skills and tools to individuals in the Batwa communities allows knock-on effects firstly within their own families, and local communities, since it forms a direct economic development channel. Furthermore, the 10 individuals will be encouraged through a training of trainers workshop to spread their skills to ensure these knock-on effects will disseminate wider through the community.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international, nonviolent, and democratic membership organisation. Its members are indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognised or occupied territories who have joined together to protect and promote their human and cultural rights, to preserve their environments, and to find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them. UNPO works to address the consequences of marginalisation, working with its Members to promote their democratic causes, to provide information, and to articulate creative and nonviolent strategies for progress, above all however, UNPO works to ensure their voices are heard. Founded in 1991 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, UNPO is unique as an international organisation in that it is built entirely by its Members.

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