Thursday, October 15, 2015

Expression of solidarity with the Duwamish Tribe in their struggle for tribal recognition

When Víctor Caal Tzuy from ACODET came to the U.S. last year on NISGUA's "Rivers for Life" tour, he met with Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Council Member and direct descendent of Chief Si'ahl. Both men shared common experiences as indigenous people, fighting for their communities and the health of their rivers in the face of displacement. While Víctor described the devastating effects the proposed Xalalá Dam would have on his community, Ken reflected on the ongoing injustices committed against the Duwamish Tribe as they struggle to obtain the rights and recognition due to them under the Point Elliot Treaty. 

On July 2, 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied Federal Tribal Recognition to the Duwamish Tribe. 

ACODET and NISGUA condemn this decision, and call on President Obama and other related authorities to immediate restore recognition to the Duwamish people. We are grateful for the warm welcome the Duwamish Tribal Council and the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center gave to ACODET and NISGUA during our 2014 tour, and we continue to stand with them in their struggle for recognition and self-determination.

Please read the full letter below and considering adding your name. Send to bridget[at] and we will ensure its delivery to the appropriate authorities and Duwamish Longhouse.

Víctor Caal Tzuy and Ken Workman meet on the 2014
"Rivers for Life" speaking tour. Photo credit: NISGUA


16 September, 2015

To Whom It May Concern:

On behalf of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), we write to express our support to the Duwamish Tribe in their ongoing struggle to obtain the rights and recognition due to them under the Point Elliott Treaty, signed by Chief Si’ahl. NISGUA is a grassroots organization that builds ties between North America and Guatemala, supporting human rights advocates, survivors of genocide, and indigenous communities defending their rights to life and territory. As such, we feel driven to condemn the July, 2, 2015 decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to deny Federal Tribal Recognition to the Duwamish Tribe.

In August of last year, we had the immense privilege to be received by tribal representatives at the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center in Seattle, along with Víctor Caal Tzuy, a Maya Q’eqchi’ leader of the Association of Communities for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET). On his U.S. tour, entitled “Rivers for Life: Cultural Resistance to the Xalalá” dam, Víctor spoke about the threats posed to his community by a proposed hydroelectric project, which the Guatemalan government has attempted to impose without prior, informed consent from local indigenous communities.

At the Duwamish Longhouse, Víctor met Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Council Member and direct descendent of Chief Si’ahl. Víctor and Ken found common ground as indigenous people with shared legacies of river stewardship and common experiences of displacement from colonization. “Ken and I have much in common–we both live on the shores of rivers, and we will defend our rivers,” reflected Víctor. Ken drew connections between past suffering of the Duwamish people and the current situation facing Q'eqchi' communities opposing the Xalalá Dam. “The potential effects on culture and environment that Victor describes are exactly what occurred here in Seattle 100 years ago."

In his conversation with Víctor Caal Tuzy, Tribal Council Member Workman described the historical injustices perpetrated against the Duwamish people, including the draining of the Black River, the channeling of the Duwamish River, the burning of Duwamish Longhouses by settlers, city ordinances banning indigenous people from living within Seattle city limits, and many others. At the time, we hoped that the Duwamish Tribe might soon win a small measure of reparation by finally achieving Federal Tribal Recognition. Instead, the Obama Administration and its representatives in the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are perpetuating the long legacy of colonial injustice faced by the Duwamish.

We call on President Obama, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Kevin Washburn, and the U.S. Congress to immediately act to restore Federal Tribal Recognition to the Duwamish.

We thank the Duwamish Tribal Council and the Duwamish Longhouse & Cultural Center for welcoming Víctor Caal Tzuy of ACODET and members of NISGUA on their territory.

In heartfelt solidarity with the Duwamish Tribe in their struggle for justice,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tahoe Resources kicks out peaceful protesters from Reno offices during the launch of the 2015 Tahoe on Trial speaking tour

Criminalizing protest and free speech across borders

NISGUA’s Tahoe on Trial speaking tour kicked off yesterday by going right to the U.S. source - Tahoe’s U.S. headquarters in Reno, Nevada. We were honored to join local indigenous leaders and activists organized with the Nevada Progressive Leadership Alliance (PLAN Nevada) in downtown Reno for a rally to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and draw connections between grassroots struggles across borders. Together with other speakers, CODIDENA representative Llan Carlos Dávila denounced the neo-colonization of community lands through the imposition of resource extraction activities without consent, ongoing militarization and racism.

Activists gather underneath Reno's archway on Indigenous
Peoples' Day to denounce the company's abuses in Guatemala.
Photo: Jose Olivares
Those who spoke drew connections between the struggles to defend land and natural resources of indigenous and First Nations people in the U.S. and Canada with those opposing transnational mining in Guatemala. 

From there, a handful of supporters brought concerns directly to Tahoe Resources’ offices about the ways the company is contributing to human rights violations around its Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala. For years, CODIDENA and other communities impacted by Tahoe’s mine have called on the company to respect the results of consultations that have taken place in municipalities around the mine, where more than 55,000 people have voted against the mine’s presence. Communities have continuously denounced the repressive and violent tactics used against peaceful protesters, including legal charges brought against more than 90 people since 2011 for vocally opposing the mine. All cases have been thrown out for lack of evidence, but still, Tahoe hasn’t listened. 

Llan Carlos Dávila (CODIDENA) talks about increased militarization
since Tahoe's arrival to southeastern Guatemala. Photo: Jose Olivares

Unfortunately, this pattern of silencing criticism and criminalizing dissent continued at the company’s Reno office. Instead of receiving the 15 or so CODIDENA supporters who went into the office, Tahoe’s Head of Investor Relations Ira Gostin immediately informed us that we were trespassing. Instead of respectfully listening to PLAN Nevada’s concerns about Tahoe’s operations in Guatemala, Gostin told PLAN they were misinformed. Instead of talking with NISGUA about allegations of violence by Tahoe’s private security in Guatemala, Gostin called the police. 

Tahoe's Head of Investor Relations, Ira Gostin, calls the police
instead of listening to community concerns. Photo: Jose Olivares
Tahoe’s corporate strategy has been to respond to criticism and opposition with criminalization. No doubt, the scale of repression in the United States is significantly different than the scale of repression in Guatemala. But the core reaction is the same. Tahoe attempts to silence dissent using fear, but communities continue to show that they cannot be bullied into standing aside. 

At the rally earlier in the day, Pãpalōtl of the Nahuatl Nation read a quote from Waziyatawin, a Dakota professor, author, and activist from the Pezihutazizi Otunwe in southwestern Minnesota. She says: “We live in a police state. The most powerful nation on Earth uses force or the threat of force to maintain control over indigenous peoples, land and resources. According to the occupiers, the only acceptable response to this is compliance. That we must accept the threat of our lands, the rape of our mother Earth and our own subjection. If we do not, we are criminalized, incarcerated or killed.” She finished with this rallying call, “Yet today, we are here, brothers and sisters, to let them know we are still here and we will resist until the end, all for our sacred waters and our Mother Earth.”

On the 2015 Tahoe on Trial tour, NISGUA and CODIDENA are bringing the voices of those most impacted by Tahoe’s Escobal mine to the United States. Click here to find out three tangible things you can do right now to support impacted communities as they denounce ongoing militarization as a result of Tahoe's mining activities. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for live tour updates, and click here to find a tour stop near you! 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Three things you can do to halt Tahoe Resources' expansion in Guatemala!

For the past five years, communities impacted by Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine in southeastern Guatemala have stood up to peacefully defend their lands and livelihoods. The Diocesan Committee in the Defense of Nature (CODIDENA) has led this movement – organizing and carrying out community referenda in which more than 55,000 people in seven municipalities voted against the silver mine. Despite this clear message, Tahoe and the Guatemalan government have pushed the project forward, using violent repression, criminalization and militarization in an attempt silence the resistance.

But the resistance didn’t go away. Today, thousands of brave women and men continue to seek out new, creative and resilient ways to express their opposition to Tahoe’s Escobal project and to halt the company’s plans to develop more mines in the region.

This October, CODIDENA and NISGUA will visit seven states across the US to call attention to Tahoe's human rights violations in Guatemala and to build solidarity across borders. Upon return, we will meet with the US Embassy in Guatemala to demand accountability for US – Canadian companies operating in Guatemala with impunity but without the consent of impacted communities.

Here are three things you can do to support communities in resistance to Tahoe Resources:

Step 1: Call and Email Your Elected Representatives

Tell the US government: Tahoe Resources contributes to human rights violations in Guatemala!

*Find contact information for your representative by visiting

Hello, my name is ____________________, and I am deeply concerned that North American mining companies are contributing to human rights violations in Guatemala. There is mounting evidence that Tahoe Resources, a company operating in Guatemala with headquarters in Nevada and Vancouver, collaborated with the Guatemalan military and a US private security company to suppress local opposition to their Escobal silver mine through the criminalization of protest and violent repression. Today, military outposts line the highway on either side of the mine, intimidating communities who have consistently and democratically voted against mining in their territory.

The abusive actions of US companies abroad is a US problem and requires US government response. I ask that you share this information and concern with Roberta Jacobson, head of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the US State Department and Todd Robinson, US Ambassador to Guatemala.

Step 2: Join our Thunderclap

Upon return from the tour, we will meet with the US Embassy to raise concerns about human rights violations around the Escobal mine. Show that you stand with CODIDENA in opposing Tahoe Resources in Guatemala by adding your voice to our Thunderclap. The day before the meeting, this messages will be posted from your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr account along with messages from hundreds of others!

Continue the conversation! During the month of October, directly ask the US Embassy some hard questions about Tahoe’s operations in Guatemala. Here are some samples: 
  • #TahoeResources boasts popular support. So why hire a US company with operations in Iraq to develop its security strategy? @usembassyguate
  • How can #TahoeResources be allowed to ignore 55,000+ votes against mining by communities neighboring the #Escobal mine? @usembassyguate

Step 3: Show Your Solidarity - a picture is worth 1000 words

Mine-impacted communities want us to know that despite repression and militarization, they are still resisting Tahoe's operations and expansion. Let them know that you stand with them by taking a picture of yourself with a sign expressing your solidarity. Use the hashtag #StillHereWithYou or #SeguimosConUstedes and #TahoeOnTrial. Tag NISGUA on Facebook or Twitter!

Erick Fernando Castillo, one of the men who was
shot outside the Escobal mine, poses in front of the
resistance camp. Photo credit: Giles Clarke