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UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, tar sands & favourite tool

May 21, 2009

UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, tar sands & favourite tool

12. ever wondered....JPG
1. toxic, oil, carcinogens.JPG
2. Alberta's.JPG
3. Tar.JPG
4. sands.JPG
5. use 4.JPG
6. barrels.JPG
7. of water to.JPG
8. produce 1.JPG
9. barrel of.JPG
10. oil! come watch....JPG
11. last & feet walking.JPG

Greetings from the 8th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (New York City, May 18-29)...

I write from the inner (ie you need an event or staff pass to get here) cafe & main networking area. And I'm smoking. Inside. Because it's international territory. Actually, there are prominent no smoking signs all over the place. A large sign reads "The United Nations General Assembly has decided to implement a complete ban on smoking at United Nations Headquarters indoor premises." And yet, dozens of people - including UN staff - are smoking away, all day. Could there be an incredibly amusing parallel between the lack of implementation of the indoor smoking ban and the role of the UN in the world?

Along with a growing multitude of people, many of the 2000+ indigenous delegates are increasingly critical of the corporatization of the United Nations and its affiliate bodies. Although we all enjoyed the free wine and music.

It has been amazing to run into people from last year's Longest Walk 2, the Protecting Mother Earth conference, and to meet new people(s) attending the forum. The conversations range from Canadian Assembly of First Nations representatives traveling to Latin America to promote mining in indigenous communities to the ongoing State of Emergency in Porgera, Papua New Guinea, to the Mapuche flag, to journalism in Africa, and everything in between... There are dozens of parallel and alternative events occurring both on and offsite.

Today, from 10am to 11pm, there is an all-day event co-hosted by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Earth Peoples, and the Asociacion para Pueblos Amazonicos. Commodification of the Sacred: UN-truths, lies and false solutions is a mix of discussions, presentations and documentary films taking place at the Chashama Theatre, 217 42nd St (between 2nd and 3rd). Next up is Montreal-based filmmaker Shannon Walsh's new documentary about the tar sands in Alberta H2Oil at 3pm.

Instead of sitting through hours of 3-minute read statements in the impersonal setting of the official UNPFII or even attending the IEN event, I spent 3 hours with a friend and my reconfirmed favourite tool: chalk. Hopefully the nonstop arrows and messages all the way up 42nd St from the UN @ 1st Ave to the Theatre. Pfizer security wasn't overly supportive of our artivism, but the police were only curious. Yes, it took 3 hours. And, yes, much to my surprise, it is possible to get a blister from chalk...

The photos are but one small (but successfully head-turning) section in the 2.5 block canvas. The message reads: ALBERTA'S TAR SANDS USE 4 BARRELS OF WATER TO PRODUCE 1 BARREL OF OIL!

Stay tuned...

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Loved the Chalk....Chalk On!

Well Sandra, it is a shame we didn't meet personally. I spent a great deal of time down in the "Pit" smoking and meeting with other Indigenous leaders from around the world, mostly discussing self-determination and "how to resist the big deals and still survive". Members of my community with me caught some pretty funny shots of me actually smoking away directly under no smoking signs.....They are posted on members facebook files. Great PR.(not).

We greatly admired the sidewalk grafetti. Excellent work. What a creative way to attract attention. We really enjoyed the portion of the event that we could attend. Please let us know about it in advance next year!!!

It was my second year attending the Forum and I could not believe the difference in atmosphere this year. I felt like I was attending an natural resource extraction auction or fire sale.....I think there were more business and consultant NGOs there than Indigenous Peoples representatives...and it would seem that those most committed to self-determination last year were not there this year. It was like a "disney" version Indigenous Forum....stick to the cue cards and maybe you will be allowed in next year.

I intially thought, as a result of years of social conditioning before land claim negotiations, that when the tuxedos and white gloves came in we were going to of course be kicked out early for some pre-scheduled "other" event.....you know the way it was back home....but I was shocked when someone told me that they were putting on the dog for "us"....then I saw all the consultant cards being passed around and I suddenly wished that we were going to be ushered out the back door at any minute.....Yikes.....that was scary....the drumming and singing was strictly for entertainment....white-gloved waiters with trays....wine, cheese.....Where the heck was I....I have spent years avoiding all that stuff associated with a land claim or uranium deal to protect our international rights and maintain our values...and then I find myself falling through some sort of rabbit hole at the United Nations Indigenous Forum.....I found it very uncomfortable.....I guess it is my faulty socialization.....

We left.

We were very happy to have found the UN-censored events. Much more our style, to have an opportunity to share freely and informally. Thank you.....it was one of the highlights of our trip. Keep Chalking!!!!!