in the November 2002 issue of Hope magazine
society without structure, the Ogiek have long roved the highland Mau forests
of Kenya hunting and gathering honey, needing neither chief nor council.
Now they are fighting for their lands and their lives.
with help from Survival International, they are winning. The London-based
group supports the rights of the world's 150 million tribal people to own
their land and decide their futures.
to tribes like the Ogiek come on all fronts. They are flooded by dams,
displaced by settlers, pushed off their lands by miners, and murdered by
"civilizing" governments. Survival, in turn, advocates for such violated
peoples from all angles -- lobbying governments, researching tribal areas,
holding vigils, teaching school kids, and distributing publications in
more than 15 languages and 80 countries.
works not just for but with tribal groups whenever possible, often arranging
visits abroad so tribal representatives can put their own case to the world.
The group also educates tribes about the protections they have under international
law. Many tribes end up helping other indigenous groups reclaim their resources,
group's campaigns, which generate up to hundreds of letters a day, have
pressured some of the world's most powerful companies and governments into
pulling out of tribal lands. Among the recent victories:
The Panara were awarded nearly $600,000 in damages for cultural
and physical harm inflicted when the Brazilian government
forcibly moved them in the 1970s.
In Labrador, Canada, the Innu were given
control of education and policing in two of their settlements.
Mobil withdrew from land occupied by a tribe of uncontacted
Indians in Peru.
A judge in Sarwak, Borneo ruled that companies have no right
to log the land of the Iban and other area tribes, even if
they have obtained permits to do so.
A reserve was created to protect parts
of the Yugan Khanty's land in Western Siberia; oil and gas
drilling have been banned from the area for five years.
individual letter, each petition, each piece of press coverage
have all contributed" to these landmark decisions, says Sophie
Thomas, development assistant for Survival. Here's how you
can help, too:
Write letters to companies and governments violating tribal
rights (information on current campaigns is available at www.survival-international.org).
Help distribute materials or translate them into other languages.
Organize vigils or other events to raise
awareness about current difficulties faced by particular tribes.
Right now Survival is seeking volunteers to start an ongoing
vigil in New York City to educate people about the plight
of Botswana's Gana and Gwi Bushmen.
Purchase tribal art, Survival stationery and other goodies
through its on-line catalog.
Donate or raise money. It's a key way
to support Survival's work, since the group doesn't accept
funds from any national governments.