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Yamasi Peoples (YP)

Savannah, Georgia United States of America
April 2011

Grant Description

For generations, the Yamasi People of the present-day Southeastern United States have fought against human rights violations committed by the US government through years of colonization and war. More recently, the violations continue by US-subsidized corporations that are illegally encroaching upon their ancestral lands with plans for casino development. Yamasi women note that these corporations have systematically incarcerated and in some instances murdered their brothers, cousins, sons, uncles and fathers. The women are now the leaders of the efforts to battle corporations in the area. These corporations are targeting the women with rape in attempts to intimidate them and destroy their identity. The ultimate goal of these attacks is to prevent the Yamasi from asserting their legal rights to exist.

When the US finally (and unexpectedly) endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Yamasi People saw a unique opportunity to coordinate with other indigenous groups to educate the world about violations committed by the US at the 2011 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the 19th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Yamasi People requested funds to support them to attend the convenings. Yamasi women, representing the Southeast Indigenous Peoples’ Center, traveled to the forum and networked with other indigenous women to plan coordinated efforts to raise awareness on indigenous peoples’ human rights, and indigenous women’s rights in particular. They also initiated an awareness-raising campaign to expose the issue of the use of rape as a weapon by both the US military and corporations, as well as the detrimental environmental impact of development in the area.

Impact Report

With UAF funds, representatives of the Yamasi Peoples were able to travel to New York for the UN Session and Forum. They noted that their presence did not seem to have an impact on the operations of corporations, and that corporations are working even harder now against them. However, Yamasi Peoples are now working with other women’s, environmental, and indigenous organizations they connected with in New York to organize for the Rio+20 Earth Summit convening in 2012. They plan to ask the UN to conduct a study on the relationship between violence against local indigenous people and colonial development/unsustainable development.