Native Peoples Face Violence And Exploitation By Western Interests

Rather more disturbing than the blinkered opinions of a Donald Trump fanboy in the Irish press are these two reports below. The first comes from Stephanie Woodard writing at length for the investigative website, In These Times, examining the soaring levels of police-related violence suffered by Native American communities in the United States. Anyone familiar with the subject will be aware that the figures are truly staggering, surpassing the rather better publicised experiences of African- and Latino-Americans (which are shocking in their own right).

“…Mike Males, senior researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, looked at data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected from medical examiners in 47 states between 1999 and 2011. When compared to their percentage of the U.S. population, Natives were more likely to be killed by police than any other group, including African Americans. By age, Natives 20-24, 25-34 and 35–44 were three of the five groups most likely to be killed by police. (The other two groups were African Americans 20-24 and 25-34.) Males’ analysis of CDC data from 1999 to 2014 shows that Native Americans are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.

Yet these killings of Native people go almost entirely unreported by mainstream U.S. media.

Over on the current affairs website, the Walrus, the author Richard Poplak has travelled to Papua New Guinea to investigate the epidemic of sexual violence tearing through the largely rural society, violence which can be traced back to Western, particularly Canadian and Australian, industrial exploitation of the country in recent decades.

“Caught up in this violence was a woman named Marawanda Wakapu. In the 1960s, when Wakapu was still a girl living in Mongolop, Australians and New Guineans panned the Strickland River for gold. Their activities were part of the transition from rough-and-tumble small-claims digging to the grim professionalism of mega-mining. Following more than 40,000 years of near isolation from the outside world, New Guineans were, nearly a century ago, introduced to global commerce by way of the digger’s pickaxe. Locals suddenly had access to a cash economy, which ushered in alcohol, electronics, roads, and modernity—an insta-future exploded across the region. There was copper to be mined, as well as zinc, oil, and gas. But mostly there was gold. Three of the world’s richest gold mines are now located in the region: Lihir, on Lihir Island; Grasberg, next door in West Papua; and, of course, the pjv.

Wakapu grew up and grew old with the mine. Today, she appears as if whittled from a hardwood sprig, and speaks Porgeran at a runaway clip. When younger, she would forage for food in the bush or pan the waters of the Strickland for bits of gold. Then came the Canadians, and with them the pit, the benefits of which stubbornly refused to trickle down.

…She found herself living in squalor in the midst of an active gold-mining operation. Unable to subsistence farm—an activity on which most islanders depend for their livelihood—she went out onto the mine dump searching for waste gold. In March 2003, while panning in the Strickland, Wakapu was approached by a security officer who wore a uniform that identified him as a Placer Dome employee. According to testimony that Wakapu would later give to human-rights organizations, the guard guided her into the bushes, grabbed her by the throat, and ripped off her clothes. Then he raped her. A year after that first assault, she was raped again, this time in a prison cell by a drunk guard.

In 2005, rumours of countless rapes, many of which bore similarities to the events described in Wakapu’s testimony, started to emerge from the valley. At first Barrick treated them as “furphies,” Australian slang for canards. “[T]o our knowledge,” the company responded in 2011, “there have been no cases of sexual assault reported to mine management involving PJV security personnel while on duty, since Barrick acquired its interest in the mine in 2006.”

Yet reports disputing Barrick’s conclusions were being collected by NGOs in the valley, most notably Ottawa-based MiningWatch, which was in this case represented by an experienced anti-mining activist named Catherine Coumans. Human Rights Watch mounted its own investigation and eventually released a report in 2011 entitled “Gold’s Costly Dividend: Human Rights Impacts of Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Gold Mine.” The rape allegations—which ballooned from eight to a number well into the hundreds—were never tested to Canadian legal standards of admissibility: there were no rape kits, and in some cases, no eyewitness reports. But in a context such as this one, where exclusion from png’s conservative society can be worse than assault itself, lawyers working on the victims’ behalf determined that false reporting was unlikely. “We conducted interviews with women from different clans who didn’t know each other but shared similarities—and bizarre, sadistic details,” a human-rights lawyer told me. By 2014, when all the evidence had been compiled and all the testimony collated, it appeared that acts of sexual violence had been perpetrated on an industrial scale.”

Read both if you can.

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One comment

  1. Many reserves in America have their own police forces mostly made up of native recruits. Just like the way police shootings in America of blacks are treated as racist incidents even though many are killed by black and hispanic officers,the real reason for the high number of police shootings is the high amount of guns in the general population.

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