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United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

By Marla Mossman - UN Correspondent

10 August 2019

The 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

The traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples took center stage at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for this annual forum. For 10 days from April 22-May 5 representatives of Indigenous Peoples, gathered to attend conferences and informal interactive panels at the 18th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

Photo: Marla Mossman at the Storytelling with Visionaries Panel at the UN The Media Zone

They reflected on possible measures necessary to enhance the participation of indigenous people on issues directly affecting their local communities.

The Opening Ceremonies in the United Nations General Assembly Hall was filled to capacity with over one thousand attendees many dressed in a rainbow of colors, patterns and textiles wearing their traditional costumes. Native People from around the Globe - from the Yanomami of Brazil to the Sami People from Nordic regions of Norway and Sweden came to honor their cultural heritage.
Besides the main theme, the Permanent Forum also discussed the International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Conservation and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Rights of indigenous women and children.

The Peace Caravan Project and The Diplomatic Society cohosted the 2:00-3:00pm session titled The Storytelling with Visionaries on April 25th in the UN The Media Zone. The Media Zone space is for indigenous and mainstream media to cover the session through their own media channels and worldviews, perspectives and languages and organize their own media events.

Moderated by Marla Mossman, Peace Caravan Project Founder and Artistic Director, the Panelists included UNPFI attendees:
Akilaah Jaramogi - Director Maroon Women’s Chamber of Cooperation (MWCC)
Gaaman Gloria “Mamma G” Simms - Spiritual Leader Maroons of Jamaicaa and Suriname.
Drs. Fidalia Graand Galon - Ambassador in the Ministry Foreign Affairs, Suriname, Parmaribo.

Midway through the talk, we invited 2 guests from the audience to participate and tell their stories.
Lisa Atwater - Educator, Merkin Maroon Heritage
Phil Fixico - Founder/President of the Semiroon Historical Society

The informative discussion focused on Hope for a Better Future. Each told stories of survival and cultural preservation of the African Diaspora.  The Maroon people are the descendants of escaped slaves who settled throughout the Caribbean and Central America. These 5 courageous people came to the Forum to gain the Recognition of the Maroon’s Indigenous status and are very positive about their future.

My next interview was with Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress to speak about the Chinese Government’s brutal cultural genocide and the forced internment of over 3 million Uyghurs. Most Human Rights observers claim these ‘re-education camps’ are actually concentration camps.
Mr Isa hopes to raise awareness about these atrocities to gain support from the United Nations to put pressure on China to end these mass detentions. Recently there has been a ‘hue and cry’ from many NGO’s and the media but it’s yet to make a difference in China’s intolerance to ethnic and religious diversity.

These are trying and troubling times for Indigenous people who often live on the fringes of the world near deserts, jungles forests and mountains. Most are agrarian, farmers fighting on the front lines where the effects of climate change, inequality and lack of education are magnified.

In addition to harsh physical conditions they suffer from social pressures where identity, community and purpose are essential to the health of society.




February/March 2020

















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