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July 1st 2010, Alamo, California We, Indigenous women from the regions of North America, Latin America, the Arctic, Caribbean and the Pacific, gathered June 30th to July 1st, 2010 at the INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS WOMEN’S ENVIRONMENTAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SYMPOSIUM, in Alamo, California, hosted by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the North-South Indigenous Network Against Pesticides. We recognize and thank the Indigenous Peoples of this land called California for welcoming us to their beautiful land. We are traditional healers, midwives, youth and community organizers, environmental and human rights activists, teachers and traditional and cultural leaders. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers and great grandmothers, youth and elders, members of great Nations who have always stood firm to defend our lands, our Peoples and our cultures. We work in our communities, homes, health centers, tribal and traditional governments and Indigenous organizations, on the local, national and international levels. We recognize and appreciate the important contributions that all of us, and many other Indigenous women around the world, are making to defend our lands, rights and the health of future generations, as well as the generations who have come before us. We have come together at this Symposium to share our information about the negative impacts of mining and drilling, mercury contamination, nuclear and uranium testing, processing and storage, pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), military dumping, toxic waste incineration, desecration of sacred sites and places, introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and foods and harvesting of our genetic materials. We have listened to each other’s stories, and have also seen the tragic effects within our own families, communities and Nations of the environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of toxic contamination. These imposed, deplorable conditions violate the right to health and reproductive justice of Indigenous Peoples, and affect the lives, health and development of our unborn and young children. They seriously threaten our survival as Peoples, cultures and Nations. They also violate our rights as Indigenous Peoples to subsistence, spiritual and cultural survival, self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). As Indigenous Peoples, and as the defenders of our future generations, we have vocalized our opposition to these forms of contamination of our homelands, air and waters for generations in many different regions, but far too often we are ignored. We have also shared our strategies and ideas about how to address these situations in our communities and around the world. We recognize that our fundamental, inherent and inalienable human rights as Indigenous Peoples are being violated, as are our spirits and life giving capacity as Indigenous women. Colonization has eroded the traditional, spiritual and cultural teachings...

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We, the Youth of the Haudenosaunee, on this 20th anniversary of Oka, declare our right to voice our concerns within our Nations, to be heard as equal counterparts, and to make an impact. We owe it to ourselves to continue on the path the Creator has laid before us. Just as they did at Oka, our ancestors sacrificed their lives for us – they survived the government’s assimilation tactics. They believed that we, the next seven generations, are worth fighting for. This blood runs through our veins too. The issues that surfaced 20 years ago across our Haudenosaunee territories are the same we face now and are not easily solved, but our strength will persevere. History shows us this. We find peace in the fact that we are all descendants of Sky Woman. We can remind ourselves of our intentions by taking action. We must remain humble, listen to our instincts and teach each other how to return to the traditional teachings. We must have the courage and patience to learn from our Elders before it is too late. We recognize how substantial all these connections are to hold on to, as well as to teach, live, and breathe. We remember as our Great Law of Peace says that in every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation. This means we have a responsibility to continue on what was fought for at Oka. We remember and acknowledge the integral guidance and direction from our women during this time, and the sacred relationships women have with Mother Earth, as well as to make the decisions in our communities. We do not take this lightly. We remember and acknowledge that our children are closer to the Spirit world. As such, our children not only have an essential role to play in the leadership of our communities, but to ensure there is a future to fight for.  This is how it must always be. It has been 20 years since the Oka crisis at Kanesatà:ke and we are not only here today because of this, but  because of many centuries of warriors who had the courage to speak the truth, and the conviction to act from the heart. We know the manifestation of over 500 years of colonization and genocide has brought us to where we are now, but we will continue to resist every attempt to silence and oppress us.  We declare today in unison that our rights are worth protecting and that we are committed to leading a new generation of youth to carry this on. Drafted by Sarah Konwahahawi Herne and Jessica Yee, endorsed by youth...

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OTTAWA — A new report has added 62 more names to a growing list of missing or murdered aboriginal women and girls. The report by the Native Women’s Association of Canada pegs the total at at least 582. The report says the data is limited by the way information is collected — there’s no national missing-persons database and police records don’t always indicate aboriginal status. The Sisters in Spirit initiative led the five-year project to document and report on cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. The report found that aboriginal females are more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-aboriginal women. It says many victims are targeted simply because they are aboriginal and their attackers assume they will not fight back or be missed. “The stories shared by families, communities, and friends also tell us that many missing and murdered women and girls were ‘vulnerable’ only insofar as they were aboriginal and they were women,” the report says. “The over-representation of aboriginal women in Canada as victims of violence must be understood in the context of a colonial strategy that sought to dehumanize aboriginal women.” Nearly half of all murder cases involving First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls remain unsolved. The rate is dramatically different for cases where non-aboriginal women are murdered, where 84 per cent are cleared by charges or other means. Most of the missing and murdered women are mothers and grandmothers who leave children behind. “It goes without saying that children will experience trauma after such incidents, regardless of their age,” the report says. “If these wounds are not healed and children carry this pain with them into adulthood, a cycle of intergenerational trauma may well result.” The data is drawn from the last three decades, with 153 of the cases occurring between 2000 and 2008. Most of the women in the database were murdered, while 115 are still missing. Most of the deaths and disappearances occurred in western provinces, but there are missing or murdered women recorded in all regions and territories. Most cases occurred in urban areas — 70 per cent of women and girls disappeared from an urban area and 60 per cent were murdered in another. More than half of the murdered and missing women and girls were under the age of 31. Story...

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By Laura Stone, Canwest News Service OTTAWA — Over the past year, 62 names have been added to the list of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. A total of 582 women — up from 520 last year — are now on that list; women who were mothers, daughters, and friends, with names including Amber, Beatrice, Georgina. And there are probably more. Twenty more have disappeared since the last count in March 2009, but from about 1974 until now, few knew they were gone. Over five years, the Sisters in Spirit initiative has sought to investigate who these women are and why they went missing or were killed. The project was founded in 2005 by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, through $5 million in funding from governmental agency Status of Women Canada. The work done by Sisters in Spirit began with the assumption that there were 500 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada. That number keeps growing. “It’s important to understand that this work does not end with 582. The database could continue to go on forever, really,” said Kate Rexe, director of Sisters In Spirit. Another $10 million in funding was promised towards the issue in last year’s federal budget, and secured by former status of women minister Helena Guergis. That money, however, has not yet been allocated. Details are expected to be announced at a later date by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, but opposition critics want answers now because, on Wednesday, the native association released a grim new report on the trends and circumstances surrounding missing and murdered aboriginal women. What the report found was that aboriginal women continue to be the most at-risk group for violence in Canada. While aboriginal women make up three per cent of the population, they represent 10 per cent of the reported homicides, almost half of which are unsolved. By contrast, the overall clearance rate for homicides in Canada is 84 per cent. The homicide rate for aboriginal women is almost seven times greater than non-aboriginal women. Since 1974, there have been 393 known murders of aboriginal women — over a third of them occurring in last decade. Another 115 women are missing, with 21 suspicious deaths, and 53 unknowns. Over two thirds of the cases came from the western provinces, with British Columbia having the highest number of known cases at 160. Ontario, for example, has 70 cases. Saskatchewan, with its 61 cases, has the highest clearance rate — 78 per cent have been cleared by a charge — for any province or territory with more than 15 cases. Advocates believe more study into that province’s policies...

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By Mia Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press OTTAWA — The national research project that brought the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada to the forefront quietly ended Wednesday when its five-year mandate from the federal government ran out. Organizers are still hopeful the Sisters in Spirit initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada will be reborn. However, for the time being the group’s focus has shifted to searching for other partners. “Today is the end of funding,” said Sisters in Spirit director Kate Rexe. SIS was created in 2005 with a five-year, $5-million commitment from the federal government to address violence against aboriginal women, including increasing public awareness. SIS researchers have compiled a database of more than 520 aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1970, more than half of them since 2000. Rexe hopes the next phase of the project will be able to address crime prevention and victimization of aboriginal women with particular community-level programs. She has had some good meetings with federal officials, including from the Status of Women office, but there is no funding commitment yet. “There’s been a lot of pressure alleviated,” she said. “After the budget government departments were allowed to start talking.” Ottawa did commit $10 million to the issue in the recent budget but there has been no suggestion yet where that money will be spent. Rexe said the Status of Women office, which originally funded the research project, no longer has a mandate to fund research and that has made the negotiations tricky. Liberal Status of Women critic Anita Neville said the government’s argument Status of Women doesn’t fund research anymore is ridiculous. “It’s consistent with this government’s lack of appreciation for the importance of research,” said Neville. She anticipates whatever plan the government announces with its $10 million will be heavy on crime and punishment and light on responding to needs and wants of aboriginal communities. Story...

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AFN national chief Shawn Atleo says Parliament, government, native women’s groups and Amnesty International should create multi-partisan committee to create a national action plan. By HARRIS MACLEOD Published April 12, 2010 http://www.hilltimes.com/page/view/aboriginalwomen-04-12-2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper government allotted $10-million to helping solve the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada but it hasn’t yet said exactly how the money will be used. Critics fear the money will be funnelled through the Justice Department, and say a “horizontal” approach that encompasses several government departments is what’s needed. “People don’t know where the money is going and there is some concern that it will be just funneled through Justice,” said NDP MP Jean Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichan, B.C.), her party’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit Affairs Critic. The Native Women’s Association estimates there are about 520 aboriginal women missing across the country, and some estimates are as high as 3,000. Sisters in Spirit, an organization operating under the NWA umbrella, was created in 2005 with a five year, $5-million commitment from the federal government to collect data relating to the issue and raise public awareness. The Harper government recently announced funding for SIS would end, however, and said there was enough research and there needed to be more action on the file, although the government hasn’t yet said what that action would entail. SIS is currently looking for other funding partners, and Ms. Crowder said she is baffled by the government’s decision to cut its funding. “There has been certainly research in terms of identifying the number of women that are murdered and missing but I believe that both Amnesty International and others have called for a number of other statistics that are important; they’ve talked about the consistent collection and publication of national stats on the rates of violent crime against indigenous women. That would seem an important statistic to keep because we want to know if any action that’s being taken is having any impact, and numbers are important,” she said. Ms. Crowder added that it wouldn’t make sense for the government to move the data collection responsibility to another organization because SIS already has the groundwork and infrastructure in place to do the job. Status of Women originally funded SIS, but it no longer has a mandate to fund research. Ms. Crowder said it’s important that the money still be distributed through Status of Women because if it were to be funneled through the Justice Department or spread out through a number of federal departments then it would lose its focus on missing and murdered aboriginal women. She said other departments need to be brought into the discussion,...

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