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Pacific Islands tribe awarded ancestral land from logging company


An indigenous tribe living on a remote Pacific Island has defeated a logging company and a former tribal leader trying to take its land, AOL has learned.

The improbable victory came after more than a decade of court battles aimed at awarding the sacred land to a Malaysian firm wanting to strip its natural beauty.

The battle first started in 1989 when Paramount Chief of the Lokuru Danny Philip agreed to rent the land to the company and collect logging royalties as trees were chopped down, said Marilyn Donga Cave. Philip is her grandfather.

The logging company entered into agreements with multiple tribes on multiple islands, she explained. But the agreement with her tribe, the Harero, was invalid because men do not own the land – women do.

"[Men] claimed they owned the tribal land, they started to manipulate, they started to scheme," said Cave.

"We have cultural practices on our island that maybe other people don't understand, we women have a lot of say, we own the land."

Cave's people live on tiny Rendovah Island, part of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.

The tribe then took Philip and his partners to court in 2000 thinking it had an easy case, but instead realized it was caught between two worlds – the modern one and the one in which they live.

"A man keeps giving our land away to logging companies," she said, explaining that greed almost destroyed an ancestral way of life.

But the court process took many years, 14 to be exact, as numerous people including Philip claimed ancestral rights to the land.

The 2001 documentary "Since the Company Came" detailed their struggle as the court proceedings wore on.

It showed how the tribe lives off the land, and how clearing the timber would devastate and forever change their way of life.

As the case wound its way through the courts, other tribes saw their forests stripped of trees, their islands left barren, but Cave still fought on.

Those ancestral claims took more than a decade to invalidate, but Cave said the right decision was made.

Cave currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, but returns to the island every year. She also plans to return for good when she retires. Her children also go at least once a year.

The proud woman also said the victory is proof that even big companies can be defeated by only one person, that standing up for what is right still means something.

"When we equip ourselves with knowledge and information and know our own identity, we can achieve anything."

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Join the discussion

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fretwerk August 18 2014 at 9:56 PM

Good For The tribe. Corporate greed is metastasizing all over the world but we all know the David and Goliath story, even if you are an atheist. Even in my neighborhood we defeated scum developers loaded with money and attitude. Pride comes before a fall, pigs.

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1 reply
Vimala Nowlis fretwerk August 19 2014 at 2:40 PM

What a poor loser sour grape you are!
Just make sure that you never use any product any "corporate" makes. Especially never use anything made out wood, barks, leaves, sap, or roots.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
EzinWy August 18 2014 at 9:54 PM

This should have been easily resolved in an hour discussion, especially since women own the land !

Flag Reply +23 rate up
3 replies
Marven Gardens August 19 2014 at 12:10 AM

Good for her. All Native peoples' land should be owned by women instead of greedy men.

Flag Reply +22 rate up
5 replies
Team Vision August 18 2014 at 11:46 PM

Good to hear they won their battle!! Ridiculous that it took so long.. damn politician's trying to take something that isn't even theirs to begin with! Reminds me of several other tribes of Indians the white man took!

Flag Reply +17 rate up
crowland503 August 18 2014 at 10:45 PM

Philip should have known better. Just like in the good old USA, the teepees are owned by the women.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
brenhatestwinkie August 18 2014 at 11:22 PM


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Mik's $ Toy August 19 2014 at 1:56 AM

Let the big companies of the world take note - it is LONG past time for people to stand up to big business and stop them from raping the lands we need to sustain us. And teach people about family planning and to only the number of children they can afford to raise.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
mlucid August 19 2014 at 12:55 AM

Like, the best indication, all time, that women need to take over the world. You want waste and wreckage? Stick with the patriarchy. You wan life and libery? Go with anima. Gahia. Mother Earth.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
cqdeed mlucid August 19 2014 at 1:29 AM

HA. The only time I have been broke in my entire life was while I was married. My ex-wife would sell anything she could get her hands on.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Mik's $ Toy cqdeed August 19 2014 at 2:00 AM

well, you just picked the wrong woman - not all women are like that

Flag +2 rate up
jiminey99 August 18 2014 at 10:25 PM

While it is nice to know that their land will not be stripped, I have to wonder if they returned any of the money they were paid for the logging rights.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
8 replies
aatomicpunk August 19 2014 at 7:59 AM

Hey in any normally happy home the woman is making decisions so this is nothing out of the normal. Guys may not want to admit it but its the womans home Men just live there and are allowed to have a den or the garage and you know what? Thats fine. Because if it wasnt for women there would be nobody Woman give us our lives and take care of us when we first come into this world. In general Women usually dont want much in return either Just to be loved and cared for.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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