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continuation of Bowman Mexico Indigena project info

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  • Nancy Davies
    So is geopiracy another word for SPYING? I am reposting in English the article written by Pedro Matias, as well as the document put out by Bowman
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2009
      So is "geopiracy" another word for SPYING? I am reposting in English the article written by Pedro Matias, as well as the document put out by Bowman Expeditions. I would not have been so curious had not Ernesto Reyes also written an opinion piece, which I roughly translate. To me, that signifies that Aldo Gonzales (whom we know, and consider to be very much in favor of autonomy) et al. are pursuing the case. It's not that indigenous people can't use maps -indeed, one of the worst problems in Oaxaca is land disputes, promulgated by cacique governments for a hundred years to divide communites and also provide an excuse for military intervention. But why do these maps have family names and land parcels, with the use to which the parcels are put? 
      There are some differences between Reyes and Matías, which are not clear, so I am posting both in hopes that the Spanish experts among us can offer a clarification.
      If it is a case of spying-- what for? One would suppose that the Sierra Juarez is a base for the social movement. But that is just my speculation. For sure the project was not there for no reason. Let's see If the federal government offers a satisfactory response.

      Geopiracy in the Sierra Juarez is the title of the opinion piece in Noticias of January 22, written by Ernesto Reyes. In the piece, Reyes comments on the investigation called Mexico Indígena, news posted on OSAG January 18. Robert Jereski sent in the "explanation" by Bowman posted below.


      According to Reyes, the investigation began in two communities two years ago by the University of Kansas. Although it seemed on the surface to be harmless or maybe even beneficial to the communities, they now feel like victims of an act of geopiracy, Reyes says. UNOSJO, the union of organizations of the Sierra Juarez, issued a denunciation which explains the case of appropriation of reliable data on the part of military organizations and North American intelligence.


      The events began in August of 2006 when the investigation team of  Mexico Indígena, presented to UNOSJO their work objectives, and asked for assistance in carrying them out. One objective was to investigate the impact of PROCEDE [see Bowman article below] on the indigenous communities, without ever mentioning that this was financed by the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) of the US Army, and that reports were handed over to that office.


      The other participants in the study are American Geographical Society, University of Kansas, State University of Kansas, the University of Carleton, The Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. Also omitted by Mexico Indígena's team was the participation of an arms manufacturer, and the military intelligence outfit Radiance Technologies.


      Although UNOSJO participated initially, it afterward decided that the intentions of the investigation were not clear.  The communities Santa Cruz Yagavila and Santa Maria Zoogochi also voiced concerns about why the study was concentrated specifically in the communities of San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila.


      After inquiries to find out who was behind the project, UNOSJO found that the project is part of a greater geographical investigation called Bowman Expeditions, sponsored and financed by FMSO among others. FMSO shares information with a world data base which is an integral part of Human Terrain System (HTS), a strategy for counterinsurgency of the US Army.


      Before handing over maps of San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila, it was learned that they had already been published on the internet. The communities were never informed that reports also were given to FMSO. The site functions in English.


      Additionally a data base was built containing  names of community members, where their land parcels are located, how they use their land, and other facts that cannot by accessed by internet.


      According to spokespeople for Mexico Indígena, the uses for their maps are multiple – without specifying if those uses are commercial, military, or something other– and they can be located on Google Earth by whoever knows Zapoteco.


      Therefore, UNOSJO is launching information directed to the indigenous communities, so they won't be taken by surprise by these investigations "which are expropriating traditional indigenous  information", Reyes' article states, "which might also be used against them in the future". That is closer to what Pedro Matias wrote in his Noticias article on January 18: a strategy for counterinsurgency by the Army of the United States which is being applied to the indigenous peoples and which was designed by FMSO (una estrategia de contrainsurgencia del Ejército de los Estados Unidos que están aplicando con pueblos indígenas y que ha sido diseñada por la FMSO.)


      The head of Mexico Indígena, Peter Herlihy, has not yet offered any explanation, nor has Semarnat, which financed the investigation.


      It is very easy indeed to be paranoid in Oaxaca. I am one of those who doubt the investigation had to do with traditional knowledge or, for example, plants. The Sierra is one of the areas of Oaxaca which is already being militarized.



      Date: 2009/1/18
      Subject: ¿Estudios para contrainsurgencia del Ejército de los EUA en Sierra Juárez?



      An investigation of possible violations against indígenous pueblos is demanded


      Friday, January 16, 2009 


      The Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca  (Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez de Oaxaca, UNOSJO) demanded of the Mexican government that is investigate and take a position regarding possible violations of national sovereignty and the autonomy of indigenous towns committed by the project "México Indígena" which was financed by the Foreign Military Studies Office, FMSO), of the Army of the United States 



      It is thought that this investigation could be a strategy for counterinsurgency by the Army of the United States being applied tot he indigenous peoples and which has been designed by FMSO. 

      The representatives of UNOSJO, Aldo González Rojas and Juan Pérez Luna, rejected the idea that countries where the Human Terrain System, HTS , has been used for military purposes since 2006, are Afghanistan and Iraq

      Presently, according to their own investigations, expeditions by Bowman are being carried out in México, the Antilles, Colombia and Jordan.

      UNOSJO points out that the project of México Indígena ended after making the maps of the Zapotec communities of San Miguel Tiltepec and San Juan Yagila in November de 2008. 

      Nevertheless, contrary to the presumed transparency of the team of México Indígena, the only language which they use on their web page is English, which is incomprehensible to the participant communities. 

      Furthermore, before handing over the maps of the communities, these had been published  on the Internet; and the towns were never informed that the same reports were also handed over to the  Office of Foreign Military Studies. 

      Additionally, they mentioned that the maps published by the team of México Indígena contained data regarding names of the communal land holders, the geographical local of their parcels , the use to which the land is put formally or informally, and other facts which cannot be accessed by the Internet. 

      According to officials of the team of México Indígena, the uses to which this type of map can be put are multiple  (without specifying if the uses are commercial, military, or other). 

      They emphasized that the maps can be accessed through the program Google Earth and any person can access this information; although they only can decode the information in Zapoteco (topography). The members of the community can, or whoever has the capacity to translate it, as would the linguistic specialists of FMSO. 

      Confronting this situation, UNOSJO not only spoke against the continuing of this type of project in the Sierra Juárez but also completely separate themselves from the work which has been carried out by México Indígena. 

      At the same time, UNOSJO called on the indigenous communities of the country and the world to not let themselves be taken by surprise by this type of investigation which is expropriating traditional knowledge of the communities and the peoples without their consent, information which can be used against them in the future, although the investigators initially promised that they would do their investigation with "a good heart".


      Finally, they demanded that Peter Herlihy, make true the  transparency that they boasted of,  and inform the Mexican public of their financial sources abd all the institutions that receive the information compiled in the communities, while the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources asks them to explain why they participated in this investigation. 

      Meanwhile that the  Secretary of (interior) Government, of External Relations and the federal Congress  investigate possible violations of national sovereignty and autonomy of the indigenous peoples.



      Exigen se investiguen posibles violaciones a pueblos indígenas 


      viernes, 16 de enero de 2009 


      La Unión de Organizaciones de la Sierra Juárez de Oaxaca exigió al gobierno mexicano investigue y fije una posición ante las posibles violaciones a la soberanía nacional y a la autonomía de los pueblos indígenas cometidas por el proyecto "México Indígena" que fue financiado por la Oficina de Estudios Militares Foráneos (Foreign Military Studies Office, FMSO, por sus siglas en Inglés), de la Armada de los Estados Unidos.




      Consideran que esta investigación podría ser una estrategia de contrainsurgencia del Ejército de los Estados Unidos que están aplicando con pueblos indígenas y que ha sido diseñada por la FMSO.


      Los representantes de la UNOSJO, Aldo González Rojas y Juan Pérez Luna, destacaron que los países donde se ha utilizado desde el 2006 el Sistema del Terreno Humano (Human Terrain System, HTS por sus siglas en inglés), con fines militares son Afganistán e Irak.


      Y ahora, según sus propias investigaciones, actualmente las expediciones de Bowman se realizan en: México, Las Antillas, Colombia y Jordania.


      Recordaron que el proyecto de México Indígena terminó de realizar los mapas de las comunidades Zapotecas de San Miguel Tiltepec y San Juan Yagila en noviembre de 2008.


      Sin embargo, contrario a la transparencia de que presume el equipo de México Indígena, el único idioma que se utiliza en su página web es el inglés, mismo que no es comprendido por las comunidades participantes.


      Además, antes de que se entregaran los mapas a las comunidades, estos ya se habían publicado en el Internet; y nunca se les informó que los mismos reportes se entregarían a la Oficina de Estudios Militares Foráneos.


      Adicionalmente, mencionaron que a los mapas publicados por el equipo de México Indígena se construyó una base de datos donde se encuentran los nombres de los comuneros, asociados a la localización geográfica de su o sus parcelas, el tipo de uso que se da a la tierra formal o informalmente y otros datos a los que no se puede acceder por el Internet.


      Según lo dicho por los responsables del equipo de México Indígena, son múltiples los usos que se pueden dar a este tipo de mapas (sin especificar si los usos son comerciales, militares u otros).


      Hicieron hincapié que los mapas pueden montarse sobre el programa de Google Earth y prácticamente cualquier gente puede acceder a esta información; aunque sólo podrán decodificar la información que está plasmada en zapoteco (toponimias), los integrantes de la comunidad, o quienes tengan la capacidad de traducirlos, como serían los especialistas en lingüística de la FMSO.


      Ante esta situación, la UNOSJO no sólo se pronunció en contra de que se sigan realizando este tipo de proyectos en la Sierra Juárez sino que se deslindó completamente del trabajo que ha realizado el equipo de México Indígena.


      Al mismo tiempo, hizo un llamado a las comunidades indígenas del país y del mundo a no dejarse sorprender con este tipo de investigaciones que están expropiando los saberes tradicionales de las comunidades y pueblos, sin su consentimiento, los cuales pueden ser utilizados en su contra en el futuro, aunque los investigadores prometan inicialmente que lo quieren hacer de "buen corazón".


      Finalmente, exigieron a Peter Herlihy, haga efectiva la transparencia que presume, e informe al público mexicano de sus fuentes de financiamiento y todas las instituciones a las que entregó la información recabada en las comunidades, mientras que a la Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales le solicitaron explique  porque participó en esta investigación.


      En tanto que a la Secretaría de Gobernación, de Relaciones Exteriores y al Congreso de la Unión investigue posibles violaciones a la soberanía nacional y a la autonomía de los pueblos indígenas


      here's their website and explanation of ethics/funding:


      The American Geographical Society

      Developing Guidelines for Ethical Conduct of
      Foreign Field Research

      Since 1851, the American Geographical Society (AGS) has sponsored or led countless expeditions to foreign lands for exploration and field research in physical and human geography. An unspoken set of ethical principles continuously has governed our conduct.

      Today, global issues regarding sovereignty, human security, environmental stewardship, material wellbeing, social equity, and cultural respect (often collectively subsumed under terms such as sustainability or human flourishing) demand a new era of foreign field research, hearkening back to a past when the United States relied heavily on knowledge created by geographers and other scholars conducting field research abroad. To promote the resurgence of geographic expeditions and ennoble their purpose, we hereby formalize our foreign field research ethic.

      The AGS is committed to improving foreign policy and international relations through improved understanding of foreign lands and peoples.

      Of paramount concern is that AGS-sponsored research be accomplished by scholars conducting research for the public good with complete intellectual freedom and independence.

      The AGS also holds paramount the personal safety and professional honor of students and scholars who travel and explore under its auspices and the in-country associates with whom they travel or communicate.

      The purpose of this document is to set forth ethical guidelines that address and enable these three complementary propositions for all AGS ventures, but the guidelines stand on their own merit. It is our fervent hope that all scholarly foreign field research, no matter who sponsors or leads it, will adhere to the standards and traditions of academic integrity that our guidelines reflect.

      A. AGS expeditions will be led by qualified scholars from within the academic community. AGS lead researchers will, with rare exception, be scholars associated with degree-granting colleges or universities and subject to the standards and practices of ethical research as understood by their academic institutions and disciplinary communities.

      B. In the course of AGS-sponsored expeditions, no university, scholar, or student will be tasked to gather data or information by anyone other than the lead scholar, or his or her designate. Also to be avoided and countered is the actual or apparent tasking from outside the confines of the academic team as comprehended by the lead scholar.

      C. The lead scholar of each expedition will arrange in advance for the safety and well-being of all traveling participants in an AGS-sponsored expedition. The specific measures to be taken and policies to be followed in regard to the physical safety of participants will vary from expedition to expedition, but they will be agreed-upon in writing between the lead researcher and the AGS before any foreign travel is begun.

      D. Each lead scholar of an AGS-sponsored expedition will prepare and execute a plan to further the intellectual and professional development of each participating scholar and student.

      E. No information will be acquired through deception or misrepresentation.

      F. Expedition leaders and staff are forbidden from falsely identifying themselves or their institutions while conducting AGS sponsored research or engaged in travel associated with such research.

      G. Original sources of funding for AGS-sponsored expeditions will be made publicly transparent. The only exceptions will be private, civilian donors who wish to remain anonymous.

      H. Expedition leaders, staff, and students will not be embedded in military units while conducting AGS-sponsored research or engaged in travel associated with such research.

      I. All information gathered abroad must be unclassified. It must not have been formally designated by the United States or host government as sensitive to national security, as a hindrance to formal judicial processes, or as private data the release of which is unlawful. The information must not be a state or civil secret. On occasion, information may, after its acquisition, be identified by a national government as a state or civil secret. In such rare instances, disposition of the information will be determined by the lead scholar and AGS in accordance with applicable laws.

      J. All results of AGS-sponsored expeditions including data, information, reports, articles, and web sites, if released to anyone outside the immediate research team, must be made freely available to everyone, including United States Government agencies, host countries, other academic researchers, and the public. If requested, a brief period of academic proprietorship (one year maximum) may be approved on a case by case basis.

      K. On return, each lead scholar will submit to the AGS a comprehensive report regarding the administrative conduct of the expedition, methods, key findings, and lessons learned.

      L. All analytical results will be unclassified.

      M. Each lead scholar and many other participants will publish key findings in scholarly journals, popular media, and web sites. Authors have final authority over and responsibility for the contents and conclusions of their documents.

      N. Lead scholars and other members of AGS-sponsored expeditions must comport themselves in a manner that respects cultures in the host country while simultaneously adhering to widely held values of American culture. Their actions must not adversely affect the people or natural environments of host countries. A significant breach of this provision may result in recall of individuals or entire expeditions.

      O. Lead scholars, expeditions members, and AGS will protect the confidentiality of any human subjects that may be involved. Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval is required for any activity constituting human subjects research.

      To enforce these guidelines, the AGS will exercise unfettered, independent oversight of all projects and expeditions under its aegis. Partner institutions, especially parent institutions of expedition leaders, will be expected to exercise similar oversight regarding foreign research conducted under formal agreement with AGS. Our commitment to these guidelines will be communicated clearly and in a timely manner to all interested parties. The AGS will establish a Foreign Field Research Advisory Board consisting of established scholars in geography and other appropriate disciplines, including foreign scholars, who will be invited to review and advise on ethical matters regarding AGS-sponsored expeditions.

      We invite all professional associations and institutions involved in scholarly foreign field research to review our guidelines, adapt them to their needs, and promulgate similar guidelines of their own.

      Jerome E. Dobson
      Mary Lynne Bird
      Executive Director


      The AGS Bowman Expeditions Prototype

      México Indígena: A Clarification

      Because the Department of Defense (DoD), through the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), has been one of the primary sponsors of the American Geographical Society's Bowman Expeditions Prototype México Indígena, there has been some understandable confusion regarding the project's aims. The FMSO is a small research facility which sponsors open-source academic research. They FMSO administrators have given complete freedom to the México Indígena academic research team -- composed exclusively of university professors and students -- to develop the research focus and methods. Furthermore, México Indígena, like other developing Bowman Expeditions, does not rely on only this one military funding source, but rather a range of sources, including several in the host country.

      One of the FMSO's goals is to help increase an understanding of the world's cultural terrain, so that the U.S. government may avoid the enormously costly mistakes which it has made, in part, due to a lack of such understanding. During several periods in U.S. history, academic geographers have had important roles as advisors to government through their own local, place-based research worldwide. [bold added by nd] These histories, as well as the themes summarized here, are discussed in an article in the July 2008 issue of The Geographical Review.

      The first Bowman Expedition, México Indígena, is led by Peter Herlihy of the University of Kansas, with the support and guidance of AGS President Jerome Dobson. Dr. Herlihy has worked with indigenous peoples in Latin America for 20 years, and is among the most concerned for their human and property rights. He was, for example, instrumental in the laborious fieldwork, participatory research mapping, community organization, and training of indigenous people which allowed the Emberá and Wounaan of the Darién region of Panama to secure their Comarca homeland; he led similar work which allowed the Miskito, Tawahka, Pech and Garífuna of the Mosquitia region of Honduras to protect their land use areas in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, in the Tawahka Asangni Biosphere, and Patuca National Park in the face of rapid colonial agricultural expansion. All involved with México Indígena have benefited from Dr. Herlihy's experience in helping indigenous peoples defend their own territories by expressing their own cultural information through maps.

      The U.S. and Mexican professors, students, and indigenous participants who make up the México Indígena team are now exploring and refining the participatory research mapping (PRM) methods to embrace the power of geographic information systems (GIS) technology, for PRM-GIS. As in Panama and Honduras, a key to successfully defending indigenous territorial rights and spatial concepts is to transform each community's sketch maps into standardized maps, while painstakingly preserving the details of the indigenous people's own concepts of their geography. The resulting maps show what the community decides is important for them to locate themselves with GPS -- examples may include indigenous-language place names, water sources, conflictive boundaries, local concepts of land tenure, or community-managed natural resource areas. Always, every item in every map is repeatedly verified by the communities through multiple visits by the México Indígena team.

      Experience has proven that, when communities themselves give the world their understandings of their land, the world is better equipped to respect these alternative understandings. The PROCEDE program can be seen as an excellent illustration of an attempt to disregard these alternatives. Some Mexican indigenous communities have rejected the PROCEDE-initiated property regime, and México Indígena gives them an opportunity to express the robustness of their local customary property regimes. Other communities have accepted PROCEDE's initial survey work, but are creatively adapting the legal structure it imposes to suit their own needs. Again, México Indígena has pioneered the documenting and analysis of these adaptations in the academic world, as well as providing the tools (training and completed maps) for the indigenous communities to strengthen their practices, and to communicate them to government entities and other communities. Without the on-the-ground research which México Indígena does, it will be impossible to adequately analyze the impacts of PROCEDE.

      The México Indígena team is well aware that some people are suspicious of the fact that DoD through the FMSO is one of its sponsors. We ask only that such potential critics keep an open mind, that they learn a little about what we really do, and that they reconsider their assumption that any action which involves any part of the U.S. government must necessarily be bad. We do appreciate the hard questions which our research generates, and we are happy to discuss or debate these questions with anyone who is willing to acknowledge how deeply our respect for indigenous communities permeates everything we do.

      Research Team Members
      The AGS Bowman Expeditions Prototype
      México Indígena


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