Update on our Repair Partner:
Suriname Indigenous Health Fund
click the image to watch a video about Suriname Indigenous Health Fund
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to send a check for almost $6000 to our current “Repair Partner,” Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF). The Coalition has made a commitment to give 60% of all donations toward repair work with Indigenous people, with 40% going towards the continuing work of the Coalition to build relationships and educate the Anabaptist community.
SIHF will be using those repair funds for two efforts: to purchase mercury test kits for the Wayana, who are being poisoned by mercury contamination used in gold mining. And now, in response to COVID-19 to help with pandemic-related food relief efforts among the Indigenous Wayana people of Suriname, French Guinea and Brazil.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that causes serious health problems and even death. Gold mining releases mercury directly into the rivers that provide the Wayana with food and livelihood. Mercury contamination also affects the miners, animals and soils. In order to prove that this mercury contamination is occurring, the Wayana need to have evidence via hair analysis. They send hair samples to SIHF’s lab in Washington, which then analyzes the hair for mercury contamination and returns the results to the Wayana. This analysis allows the Wayana to advocate for themselves using those results. Each mercury test kit costs about $5.
For more information, please go to sihfund.org.
SIHF will remain our “Repair Partner” through the end of August 2020, so please continue to give to the Coalition, so we can give to SIHF. Or, you can make a donation directly to SIHF via the website above.
Here is the latest update from Dan Peplow, executive director of SIHF
Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF) received $6000 from the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, communication and cooperation has become a challenge. Our intention was to continue community-led testing for mercury in communities contaminated by mining. The Corona Virus Pandemic has created difficulties, however. The governments of Suriname and French Guiana have militarized the Maroni and Lawa rivers, under the pretext of controlling the virus, which has had the effect of isolating the indigenous communities from our in-country “bridge” partners The Organization of Guyana Aboriginal Nations (ONAG), and the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA). SIHF’s efforts to adapt to the new conditions of the pandemic spurred the following reaction from the French government:
We were informed on 13 July 2020 that testing hair samples will be the “exclusive responsibility of the Regional Health Agency. Collecting and testing hair samples are monitored in France. Community protocols will be implemented in order to better control collaborations between researchers and indigenous peoples. Even if you have an impeccable ethics, agreements between community leaders and foreign partners are no longer enough and more complex procedures will be put in place”.
Health Fund (SIHF) will continue to support indigenous communities working to protect their health. We support communities who want to know the impact mining is having on their bodies and use this information to advocate for themselves. We give them tools to evaluate their own risk because we believe every person has the right to evaluate their own health as a basic human right. We will send communities sample kits with instructions. They can collect samples and send them back to us by mail, we will do the testing. They can dictate or send oral instructions through an interlocutor indicating how they want us to return the results so that we protect their privacy and ownership of the data. SIHF agrees to never use their data for any purpose whatsoever without their authorization. When satisfied, the community can repeat this sampling and testing process as many times as they wish without charge.
- We will continue to offer our service and support communities that choose to address the mercury issue. All we need is an email requesting a sample kit, an address to mail the kit to, the name of the person authorized by the community to manage sample collection and receive the results.
- SIHF has reserved funds that were shared with us by the DDOD Coalition for the exclusive purpose of providing public health information to Indigenous Communities facing contamination from mining.
- With support from an “angel” anonymous donor, SIHF has acquired and will begin analyzing WorldView2 satellite data to detect and monitor mining activities and mercury contamination affecting indigenous communities in Suriname and French Guiana. During this time when we are unable to travel to French Guyana, we will use satellite imaging to support the aims of communities who want to evaluate the impact mining has on their communities themselves. They can then use this information to better advocate for themselves. We will be able to watch Apetina, Anapaike, and Tuenke, three communities we have been working with since 2004. (The above diagram shows the basic principle for detecting mercury impacts in a tropical forest.)
- Finally, it is the position of SIHF that it is time to reshape the debate: All human life is highly valuable. It is not necessary or beneficial to sacrifice the lives of the vulnerable to promote economic goals. It is not necessary to sacrifice “The Economy” to save indigenous lives. The health of the environment in the Greenstone Belt region is highly valuable and necessary to sustain life in the region and the world. Basic economic reasoning suggests that, given the extreme toxicity of mercury contamination and the large-scale degradation of the environment due to mining in general, we should be willing to withstand the relatively small economic costs required to prevent the death, disease, disability and suicide these activities are currently causing. When we talk about “The Economy,” we aren’t talking about dollars or mining company profits. We are talking about the level of real opportunity available to every person in society to pursue and improve their quality of life. This is particularly true because most of the economic costs that would be incurred to correct the mercury issue would be temporary.