Indigenous people around the world have lived in concert with nature for centuries, practicing responsible land management, regenerative farming practices and water conservation.
Controlled Fires<p>From the Americas to the Amazon to Australia, culturally significant controlled burns have been an integral part of proactive fire management that prevents forest fires from spreading.</p><p>In one example, Karuk tribal traditions in Northern California use frequent, low-intensity fires to help restore and maintain the region's flora and fauna, according to researchers in <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-western-states-can-learn-from-native-american-wildfire-management-strategies-120731" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. More specifically, the fires help restore grassland for elk and for making basketry. Meanwhile, smoke from summer fires provides cool temperatures for river fish.</p><p>"[Cultural burning] links back to the tribal philosophy of fire as medicine," Frank Kanawha Lake, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, firefighter and Karuk descendent, told the <a href="https://www.history.com/news/native-american-wildfires" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The History Channel</a>. "When you prescribe it, you're getting the right dose to maintain the abundance of productivity of all ecosystem services to support the ecology in your culture."</p><p>Aboriginal Australians monitor controlled fires to prevent them from damaging seedlings or soil nutrients. They also avoid burning logs or trees that house insects and animals. Furthermore, the controlled burns help to restore growth and strengthen ecosystems, <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/01/13/australia-fires-aboriginal-land-management/#:~:text=Aboriginal%20fire%20management%2C%20also%20called,and%20nutrients%20in%20the%20soil." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Yes! Magazine</a> reported.</p><p>Over in the Amazon, the Kuikuro people in the Xingu Indigenous Territory use an elaborate system of ditches, dikes and roads to create a break that controls the spread of wildfires, according to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/opinion/amazon-rainforest-fire-prevention.html#click=https://t.co/xBBOmRgcQn" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The New York Times</a>.</p>
Water Management<p>Australia has been under a severe drought for years, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sydney-water-shortage-2641353372.html" target="_self">threatening Sydney's water supply</a>. As a result, the regional governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have teamed up with Aboriginal tribes to learn Indigenous water management techniques. For example, the Ngarrindjeri Nation in South Australia helped implement innovative environmental solutions during the Millennium Drought that lasted from 2001-2009.</p><p>"When Indigenous nations become sovereign partners in environmental management, the power structures and worldviews that underlie decision-making can be productively challenged... creating new solutions to pressing environmental issues," Dr. Samantha Muller, lead author of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1745-5871.12362" target="_blank">Indigenous sovereignties: relational ontologies and environmental management</a>, said in <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191105075838.htm" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Science Daily</a>.</p><p>"Indigenous agency and governance is driving innovations in land management worldwide that provide more equitable solutions and strategic approaches to looking after the lands, waters and all living things, particularly in the face of climate change," she added.</p><p>To increase respect for water usage, Western Australia has issued <a href="https://www.watercorporation.com.au/Education/Water-in-Aboriginal-culture" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">lesson plans and instructional videos</a> about water's role in Aboriginal culture.</p>
Farming and Land Management<p><br>The efficient use of water often goes hand-in-hand with farming practices. The Konso people in East Africa have used water and land so effectively that their community is officially recognized and protected by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site. For example, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244016682292" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">one study</a> noted, "They work together to build attractive terracing landscapes and complex village compounds in addition to construction and protection of water systems. To strengthen their togetherness, they frequently use the proverb 'Living together means sharing resources.' This social cohesion is the basic underlying factor in achieving sustainability even in modern management."</p><p>Indigenous communities also use fire to clear small plots of land and strengthen their harvest. In the Amazon, communities grow cassava and then let the land lie fallow for years while farming another section. The fallow period allows the vegetation to improve and helps to prevent soil erosion. The restored land is again burned, with the ashes fertilizing the soil, <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/10/in-a-drier-amazon-small-farmer-and-researchers-work-together-to-reduce-fire-damage/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mongabay</a> reported.</p><p>The idea of Indigenous land control is reinforced by Greenpeace campaigners in <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/10/12/to-protect-nature-bring-down-the-walls-of-fortress-conservation/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Al-Jazeera</a>. The authors explain how this transfer away from the industrial world would help meet climate goals and reduce pollution. For example, "In Mexico's Cabo Pulmo, local communities secured legal protection and are reviving marine life and livelihoods," they write.</p><p>"There is a lot of potential in providing people with the means to resist industrial expansion that is contributing to species loss, climate breakdown and deepening inequalities," they add.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Malinda Maynor Lowery
Increasingly, Columbus Day is giving people pause.
More and more towns and cities across the country are electing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to – or in addition to – the day intended to honor Columbus' voyages.
Why Columbus?<p>Columbus Day is a relatively new federal holiday.</p><p>In 1892, a <a href="https://www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-american-calendar/proclamation-on-the-400th-anniversary-of-the-discovery-of-america-by-columbus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">joint congressional resolution</a> prompted President Benjamin Harrison to mark the "discovery of America by Columbus," in part because of "the devout faith of the discoverer and for the divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people."</p><p><a href="https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/manifest-destinyin%20their%20conquest" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Europeans invoked God's will</a> to impose their will on indigenous people. So it seemed logical to call on God when establishing a holiday celebrating that conquest, too.</p><p>Of course, not all Americans considered themselves blessed in 1892. That same year, a lynching forced black journalist Ida B. Wells to <a href="https://daily.jstor.org/peoples-grocery-lynching/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flee her home town of Memphis</a>. And while Ellis Island had opened in January of that year, <a href="https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/upload/statistics.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">welcoming European immigrants</a>, Congress had already banned Chinese immigration <a href="https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=47" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a decade prior</a>, subjecting Chinese people living in the U.S. to widespread persecution.</p>
Indigenous People Power<p>But some Americans started to question why Indigenous people – who'd been in the country all along – didn't have their own holiday.</p><p>In the 1980s, Colorado's American Indian Movement chapter <a href="https://www.westword.com/news/colorado-the-first-state-to-give-columbus-a-holiday-considers-abolishing-it-10844725" target="_blank">began protesting the celebration of Columbus Day</a>. In 1989, activists in South Dakota persuaded the state <a href="https://www.argusleader.com/story/davidmontgomery/2014/10/13/native-american-day/17194651/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to replace</a> Columbus Day with Native American Day. Both states have large Native populations that played active roles in the <a href="http://colorado-aim.blogspot.com/2012/10/war-on-columbus-day.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Red Power Movement</a> in the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to make American Indian people more politically visible.</p><p>Then, in 1992, at the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage, American Indians in Berkeley, California, organized the first "<a href="https://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/10/09/berkeley-became-1st-city-dump-columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Indigenous Peoples' Day</a>," a holiday the city council soon formally adopted. Berkeley has since replaced its commemoration of Columbus with a celebration of indigenous people.</p><p>The holiday can also trace its origins to the United Nations. In 1977, indigenous leaders from around the world organized a United Nations conference in Geneva to promote indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. <a href="http://ipdpowwow.org/Archives_1.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Their first recommendation</a> was "to observe October 12, the day of so-called 'discovery' of America, as an International Day of Solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas." It took another 30 years for their work to be formally recognized in the <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples</a>, which was adopted in September 2007.</p>
Unexpected Allies<p>Today, cities with significant native populations, like Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles, now celebrate either Native American Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. And states like Hawaii, Nevada, Minnesota, Alaska and Maine have also formally recognized their Native populations with similar holidays. Many Native governments, like the Cherokee and Osage in Oklahoma, either don't observe Columbus Day or have replaced it with their own holiday.</p><p>But you'll also find commemorations in less likely places. Alabama <a href="https://www.al.com/news/2017/10/alabamas_weird_holiday_you_jus.html" target="_blank">celebrates Native American Day</a> alongside Columbus Day, as does North Carolina, which, with a population of over <a href="https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/Indigenous%20Peoples%27%20Day.pdf" target="_blank">120,000 Native Americans</a>, has the largest number of Native Americans of any state east of the Mississippi River.</p><p>In 2018, the town of Carrboro, North Carolina, <a href="https://townofcarrboro.org/CivicSend/ViewMessage/message/69242" target="_blank">issued a resolution</a> to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. The resolution noted the fact that the town of 21,000 had been built on indigenous land and that it was committed to "protect, respect and fulfill the full range of inherent human rights," including those of indigenous people.</p><p>While Columbus Day affirms the story of a nation created by Europeans for Europeans, Indigenous Peoples Day emphasizes Native histories and Native people – an important addition to the country's ever-evolving understanding of what it means to be American.</p>
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By Brett Wilkins
In a little-noticed development last week that drew ire after being reported Monday, the Trump administration's EPA granted the state of Oklahoma wide-ranging environmental regulatory control on nearly all tribal lands in the state, stripping dozens of tribes of their sovereignty over critical environmental issues.
<div id="33841" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5a14c6042aa0d0712fe13d5eb759cef5"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1313101832315641858" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The Environmental Protection Agency @EPA has stripped indigenious tribes of regulatory control over environmental i… https://t.co/w1tlxBaWtl</div> — Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) (@Climate Justice Alliance (CJA))<a href="https://twitter.com/CJAOurPower/statuses/1313101832315641858">1601902847.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Wheeler's letter acknowledges <em>McGirt v. Oklahoma,</em> in which the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/07/09/holding-us-government-its-treaty-promises-once-supreme-court-rules-nearly-half" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ruled</a> in July that much of eastern Oklahoma is Native American land. The new EPA move essentially means the state of Oklahoma now has the same rights as it did before <em>McGirt</em>. Attorney General William Barr has joined Republican leaders in <a href="https://www.kosu.org/post/us-attorney-general-visits-oklahoma-discuss-effects-scotus-ruling" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">seeking ways to undermine</a> the landmark ruling.</p>
<div id="19548" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0db07e3f6b7e98220fdf3d2d226ca16d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1310611113575419906" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Cherokee Nation is now visible on Google Maps. It is the latest reservation added after a Supreme Court ruling in… https://t.co/G4yxXdRpJP</div> — AJ+ (@AJ+)<a href="https://twitter.com/ajplus/statuses/1310611113575419906">1601309014.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Two lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday addressing previous actions the U.S. government inflicted upon Native Americans.
The bill, authored by Rep. Deb Haaland from New Mexico and Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, specifically addresses the "intergenerational trauma" caused by policies that tore Native American children away from their families and sent them to boarding schools to be educated in white culture, HuffPost reported.
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By Jazmin Murphy
Whenever you talk about race relations here in so-called "America," Indigenous communities [are] always the last ones on the rung," says Wanbli Wiyan Ka'win (Eagle Feather Woman), also known as Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network who fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In defending the land so deeply beloved and cherished by her people, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Braun recounts how actively her community is excluded from environmental work and how she and her colleagues are blatantly silenced, even when working alongside allies. "We've had to really fight … to even have a seat at the table," she says.
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The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau are a tribe of less than 300 people in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest who first came into contact with people outside their community in the early 1980s, according to the Povos Indigenas No Brasil. While they still maintain many of their tribal ways, they and other tribes have recently begun using modern drones to detect and fight illegal deforestation in their territory.
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The chief executive officer and two senior executives are being forced out of the mining giant Rio Tinto several months after investors started to revolt over the company's destruction of an ancient aboriginal rock shelter, according to CNN.
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Among its many devastating impacts, the coronavirus has brought ecotourism to a halt in the Ecuadorian Amazon. But you can still visit the region from the safety of your couch, while supporting its Indigenous communities, by streaming Yasuni Man.
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By Rosamaria Loures and Sarah Sax
On an early December morning last year in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, half a dozen members of the Indigenous Guajajara people packed their bags with food, maps and drone equipment to get ready for a patrol. They said goodbye to their children, uncertain when, or whether, they would see them again. Then, they hoisted their bags over their shoulders and set out to patrol a section of the 173,000 hectares (428,000 acres) of the primary rainforest they call home.
Women warrior Rosilene Guajajara sits in her home village. Sarah Shenker / Survival<p>"Why did we take the initiative? Because we are mothers. If we don't act, there would be no forest standing," said Paula Guajajara, one of the "women warriors of the forest," in a public event last year.</p><p>Called <em>guerreiras da floresta</em> in Portuguese, this is the name these women have given themselves. They are in many ways an embodiment of what policymakers, politicians and scholars around the world say is a necessary shift toward gender equality in environmental movements. And they are contributing not just womanpower to the patrols — they are also helping to diversify the tactics and forge new partnerships.</p><p>In Brazil in particular, where protecting intact forests is one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective solutions for<a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank"> combating climate change</a>, the work they are doing is literally saving the world.</p>
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Creating a Space and Finding Their Voice<p>Actively patrolling their land for invaders is nothing new to the Guajajara; Indigenous people have more than 500 years of experience in this. Today, they use satellite technology and coordinate efforts with outside law enforcement to achieve their goals. This approach is relatively new, but its use has been on the rise in recent years.</p><p>"Across the country more of these groups are forming because of government inaction — or worse, because the government is actively trying to exploit their lands," Sarah Shenker, campaign coordinator for Survival International's <a href="https://www.survivalinternational.org/uncontactedtribes" target="_blank">Uncontacted Tribes team</a>, said in an interview. These groups are primarily men, although women are sometimes included in the patrols. But according to Shenker, as well as other experts interviewed for this article, to have "forest guardian" groups made up solely of women is unique.</p><p>The women warriors were formed six years ago, an offshoot of a program developed by Indigenous organizations and the Brazilian government and implemented by the Ministry of the Environment to enhance the territorial and cultural protection of Indigenous people, called Projeto Demonstrativo de Povos Indígenas (PDPI) in Portuguese. At the time, the predominantly male forest guardians were attempting to end illegal logging and the sale of wood from their territory — a task that was proving extremely difficult. Seeing this, the women stepped in and formed their own group consisting originally of 32 women.</p><p>"In order not to let the project end, we, the Guajajara women, entered and took over the project," Cícera Guajajara da Silva, one of the women warriors, said in an interview.</p><p>But the path to being taken seriously and treated as equals has been long.</p><p>"To seek partnership, we walked, talked, slept on the floor — all in order to seek improvement for our community," Paula Guajajara said, recalling the initial difficulty in being heard and taken seriously inside and outside of the communities. Their patience has paid off, and the women are quick to point out the support and close collaboration of the male forest guardians that has allowed them to combat the greater goal of stopping illegal logging. "Today we have the women warriors who work together with the forest guardians," Paula Guajajara said. "We've already evicted a lot of loggers. If we hadn't acted, there would be no forest standing."</p><p>Many of the married women had already been acting independently, accompanying their husbands in some activities, according to Gilderlan Rodrigues da Silva, the Maranhão coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), a Catholic Church-affiliated organization, who has worked with the women warriors. "But, from the moment they created the women's group, they gained strength and visibility," he said in an interview. "Once they were formed, there was this very strong change. Both in the context of decreasing the invasions and waking up to the collective awareness to protect the territory."</p>
Why Women Are Key to Forest Conservation<p>In Brazil, and around the world, <a href="https://catarinas.info/43-mulheres-indigenas-do-brasil-e-da-america-latina-para-se-inspirar/" target="_blank">Indigenous women</a> are increasingly at the forefront of environmental movements.</p><p>"The struggle of Indigenous women happens in different ways, day by day. If I am here today, I am the fruit of the women who came in front of me," Taynara Caragiu Guajajara, a member of the Indigenous women's collective AMIMA, said during a live online event in April. "In the context of the world we live in today, we have been conquering space inside and outside the community. We Indigenous women have not always had that voice … but today the struggle is driven by Indigenous women, we are the ones who are in charge of the struggle."</p>
Maisa Guajajara, march of indigenous women, Brasilia, 2019. Marquinho Mota / FAOR<p>Women are increasingly leading the struggle on issues like climate change, but <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">their voices are heard much less often then men's </a>— to the detriment of everyone. This is partially a byproduct of <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">gender bias</a> in <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90401548/theres-a-gender-crisis-in-media-and-its-threatening-our-democracy" target="_blank">journalism itself</a>.</p><p>In 2015, of every four people interviewed, mentioned or seen in the news worldwide, only one was a woman, according to a report by the <a href="http://whomakesthenews.org/gmmp" target="_blank">Global Media Monitoring Project</a>, which releases its findings every five years. A closer look at the data shows that even when women are interviewed, it is for personal quotes, rather than for their expertise. It's a figure that <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">seems to have barely budged</a> over the past few years, although some newsrooms are starting to actively change that.</p><p>Studies show that, in general, women receive <a href="https://niemanreports.org/articles/where-are-the-women/" target="_blank">greater exposure in newspaper</a> sections led by female editors, as well as in newspapers whose editorial boards have higher female representation. But men are <a href="https://www.poynter.org/business-work/2017/women-dominate-journalism-schools-but-newsrooms-are-still-a-different-story/" target="_blank">disproportionately represented</a> from editors through to reporters, meaning that critical issues for women often go unreported. One of these areas is precisely the connection between conservation solutions and gender equality.</p><p>Women are disproportionately affected by climate change and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/30/asia/environment-gender-violence-study-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">environmental degradation</a>. <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/global-gender-and-environment-outlook-ggeo" target="_blank">Mounting evidence </a>shows that gender gaps and inequalities, such as inequitable land tenure and women's reduced access to energy, water and sanitation facilities, negatively impact human and environmental well-being. The climate crisis will only make <a href="https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/03/womens-rights-in-review" target="_blank">gender disparities worse</a>.</p><p><a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/jass_mch6._rethinking_protection_power_movements_4.pdf" target="_blank">Gender-based violence</a> against women environmental human rights defenders in particular is <a href="http://im-defensoras.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/283951300-Informe-2012-2014-de-Agresiones-contra-Defensoras-de-DDHH-en-Mesoamerica.pdf" target="_blank">on the</a> <a href="https://defenddefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/FINAL-REPORT_pdf-3-1.pdf" target="_blank">rise</a>, and increasingly <a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/jass_mch6._rethinking_protection_power_movements_4.pdf" target="_blank">normalized</a> in both public and private spheres, making it more difficult for women to get justice. As Indigenous communities are often on the front lines of defending their territories, resources and rights from extractive projects and corporate interests, Indigenous women in particular face a two-headed beast of gender-based violence and racism.</p><p>"We fought to defend our territory against invasions and we sought this autonomy to fight for rights," Taynara Caragiu Guajajara said in an interview. "Being a woman is difficult within the macho society, but being an Indigenous or black woman becomes even more difficult, because the prejudice is so great."</p><p>Having more women involved in everything from environmental decision-making to climate politics benefits society at large. <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0438-4" target="_blank">Higher female </a>participation in policymaking increases the equality and effectiveness of climate policy interventions;<a href="https://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/271/hdr_2011_en_complete.pdf" target="_blank"> evidence</a> shows that high gender inequality is correlated with higher rates of deforestation, air pollution and other measures of environmental degradation.</p><p>Yet <a href="https://www.greengrants.org/what-we-do/womens-environmental-action/" target="_blank">less than 1% </a>of international philanthropy goes to women's environmental initiatives, and women are continuously<a href="https://genderandenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/CI-REPORT.pdf" target="_blank"> left out </a>of decisions about land and <a href="https://www.wri.org/publication/making-womens-voices-count" target="_blank">environmental resources</a>.</p><p>"The global community cannot afford to treat nature conservation and the fight for women's equality as separate issues — they must be addressed together," <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/202003/iucn-acting-director-generals-statement-international-womens-day-2020" target="_blank">said</a> Grethel Aguilar, the acting director-general of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on international women's day this year.</p>
Map of Maranhão state in northeastern Brazil.
Why the Fight for Indigenous Territorial Rights in Brazil Matters to Conservation<p>Tracking tree cover loss in Maranhão over the past two decades shows the crucial importance of Indigenous territories in protecting intact forest. Viewed from space, as the forest cover rapidly disappears, the outlines of Indigenous territories become more and more distinct.</p><p>"These Indigenous territories are islands of green in a sea of deforestation in one of the worst deforested places in Brazil," Shenker said.</p><p>The Caru Indigenous Territory, for example, has seen 4% forest loss in comparison to the state of Maranhão, which has lost almost a quarter of its tree cover since 2000, according to Global Forest Watch data. Alongside the various other benefits that come with forest preservation, the forests in the Caru Indigenous Territory are also home to some of the last uncontacted Awá people; video of of two Awá men taken in the neighboring Araribóia Indigenous Territory <a href="https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12171" target="_blank">made international headlines last year</a>.</p><p>These patches of intact, tropical forests are also the crux of "natural climate solutions" protection. These solutions essentially entail stopping deforestation, improving management of forests, and restoring ecosystems, and could provide more than one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit).</p><p>According to one of the seminal <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">papers on natural climate solutions,</a> the single most effective approach in the tropics has proven to be actively protecting intact forests. Protecting intact forests offers twice as much of the cost-effective climate mitigation potential as the second best pathway, reforestation. The Amazon as a whole plays a vital role in mitigating climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide in its forests. When cut down, burned, or degraded through logging, the forest not only ceases to fulfill this function, but can become a source of carbon emissions.</p><p>"Protecting and or conserving intact ecosystems is the number-one priority," said <a href="https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/individuals/dr-kate-dooley" target="_blank">Kate Dooley,</a> a research fellow at the Australian-German Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne, who has <a href="https://www.iatp.org/documents/missing-pathways-15degc" target="_blank">authored several papers</a> on the potential of forests as a natural climate solution. "Way-way-way down the line is planting trees. And even then, it needs to be the right kind of trees."</p><p>Of all the countries in the world with some kind of tropical rainforest, Brazil holds more mitigation potential than 71 of the 79 countries combined, <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">according to a recent paper on this topic</a>. It isn't too hyperbolic, then, to say that groups like the women warriors are protecting humanity's last best hope for a livable future.</p><p>"Plenty of research showing that forests are more intact in collectively held lands," Dooley said. "With or without secure land tenure those lands are more intact and less degraded." According <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">to a report in 2018 by the Rights and Resources Initiative</a>, almost 300 <em>billion metric tons of carbon</em> are stored in collectively managed lands across all forest biomes, and <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/10/protecting-indigenous-land-rights-makes-good-economic-sense" target="_blank">numerous</a> <a href="https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Toward-a-Global-Baseline-of-Carbon-Storage-in-Collective-Lands-November-2016-RRI-WHRC-WRI-report.pd" target="_blank">studies</a> have found that the best way to protect forests is to empower the people who live in them, granting them land rights and legal standing.</p><p>This is <a href="https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management?utm_campaign=BLOG:+LandMark+Data&utm_medium=bitly&utm_source=MonthlyRecap" target="_blank">especially true for Indigenous-held lands in places like Brazil</a>. Between 2000 and 2015, legally designated Indigenous territories in Brazil <a href="http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/indigenous-territories-barrier-to-deforestation.pdf" target="_blank">saw a tenth </a>the amount of forest loss than non-Indigenous territories. Brazil is home to approximately 900,000 Indigenous citizens from 305 peoples, most of who live in Indigenous territories. Even so, more than half of the locations claimed by Indigenous groups have not yet received formal government recognition.</p><p>"Surveillance and inspection by Indigenous peoples is extremely important, as they are the ones who know the territory and the region best," Rodrigues da Silva said. "On the other hand, unfortunately they are left alone, the Indigenous body responsible for inspection ends up not fulfilling the role and leaving only the Indigenous people."</p>
Prevailing Amid Growing Threats<p>Despite an increasingly hostile government, the women warriors say they are committed to continuing their monitoring, surveillance and educational activities, and are hoping to inspire other groups to do the same.</p><p>"Today women act 100% in defense of the territory," Paula Guajajara said. "Today we are serving as an example."</p><p>But the work is daunting.</p><p>Brazil has the rights of Indigenous people written into its constitution of 1988, and is a signatory to the International Labour Organization's (ILO) <u>Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.</u> Yet, the current administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear that Indigenous peoples won't be allowed to<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/01/bolsonaro-government-reveals-plan-to-develop-the-unproductive-amazon/" target="_blank"> comment</a> on infrastructure projects<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/03/brazil-to-build-long-resisted-amazon-transmission-line-on-indigenous-land/" target="_blank"> affecting</a> Indigenous territories in the Amazon. Bolsonaro's administration has also <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/02/bolsonaro-sends-congress-bill-to-open-indigenous-lands-to-mining-fossil-fuels/" target="_blank">proposed opening up</a> Indigenous territories to extractive activities — something the constitution specifically prohibits.</p><p>Hundreds of people have been killed during the past decade in the context of conflicts over the use of land and resources in the Amazon — many by people involved in illegal logging — according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a Catholic Church-affiliated nonprofit that follows land conflicts.</p><p>But perpetrators of violence in the Brazilian Amazon are rarely brought to justice.</p><p>Of the more than <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/15/brazils-amazon-and-its-defenders-are-under-attack-illegal-loggers" target="_blank">300 killings that the CPT</a> has registered since 2009, only 14 ultimately went to trial. Maranhão, where the Guajajara live, is among the most dangerous states for Indigenous people in Brazil: more <a href="https://www.cptnacional.org.br/" target="_blank">attacks on Indigenous groups</a> were reported here than anywhere else in 2016, according to data from the CPT.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2020/05/11/coronavirus-Latin-America-Amazon-indigenous-communities" target="_blank">coronavirus poses an additional threat</a> to Indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon and especially in Brazil, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/23/world/coronavirus-indigenous-death-apib-intl/index.html" target="_blank">where the death rate from COVID-19</a> is much higher than the national rate.</p><p>"The surveillance expeditions are stopped by the pandemic, we are not doing surveillance, to care for everyone in the village," Cícera Guajajara da Silva said. "Especially in order to protect our health, because nobody knows who the types of people [invaders] are inside the forest, they may even be infected with the virus, the invader himself can bring the virus to our territory, and that's why we stopped [the expeditions], we are now only sheltering in the village."</p><p>But despite the mounting difficulties, the women warriors are committed to continuing their work.</p><p>"We have the courage to defend our territory," Maisa Guajajara said. "I am a woman and I will fight against all the threats that are in our territory."</p>
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By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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By Alejandro Argumedo
August 9 is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples – a celebration of the uniqueness of the traditions of Quechua, Huli, Zapotec, and thousands of other cultures, but also of the universality of potatoes, bananas, beans, and the rest of the foods that nourish the world. These crops did not arise out of thin air. They were domesticated over thousands of years, and continue to be nurtured, by Indigenous people. On this day we give thanks to these cultures for the diversity of our food.
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