Native Peoples Speak Up for Their Lands

Indigenous peoples are rallying for their lands and their rights this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where a major U.N. convention on biodiversity is taking place. Representatives of native peoples are demanding the right to reject development projects on their ancestral lands, saying that multinational companies should not be able to plunder these areas for profit. Indigenous groups are also speaking out against governments that force natives off their homelands in order to create national parks and nature preserves, and criticizing pharmaceutical companies that try to patent generations-old medicinal and agricultural practices. An estimated half million indigenous people have been displaced in Africa, and plenty more in Asia, South America, and Europe, say activists. “We are linked to our land,” said Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of the Mbuti pygmies of Congo. “We must not be ordered to leave for money or material compensation.”