Cultural Survival Q
Defending Life First Indigenous voices in protecting human rights and the environment
Vol. 36, Issue 3 â&#x20AC;˘ September 2012 US $7.50/CAN $9
s ep t e mber 2 01 2 V olum e 36 , Issue 3 Board of Directors President & board Chair
Vincent Nmehielle (Ikwerre)
Jeff Wallace Clerk
Jean Jackson Karmen Ramírez Boscán (Wayúu) Westy Egmont Nicole Friederichs Laura Graham James Howe Edward John (Tl’azt’en) Cecilia Lenk Pia Maybury-Lewis Les Malezer (Gabi Gabi) P. Ranganath Nayak Stella Tamang (Tamang) Roy Young FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival 215 Prospect Street Cambridge, MA 02139 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org P.O. Box 7490 Boulder, CO 80306 t 303.444.0306 f 303.449.9794 5ª calle 14-35, Zona 3 Apartamento 202 Edificio Las Tapias Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 09001 Cultural Survival Quarterly
Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Production Manager: Agnes Portalewska Copyright 2012 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Printed on recycled paper in the U.S.A. Please note that the views in this magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Cultural Survival.
View writers’ guidelines at our website (www.cs.org) or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139. Cultural Survival recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have long been exploited by photographers and publications. This publication does not pay photographers for images and makes no money from publishing them. We also make a tremendous effort to identify every Indigenous individual in the images that appear here. From time to time, however, such identification is not possible. We apologize to the subjects of those photos and ii • www. cs. org to any reader offended by the omission.
Corn left spilled all over the floor after Guatemalan police raided the house of widow Juana Pedro Ramón, age 75, in Santa Cruz Barillas during the state of siege. Photo by Simone Dalmasso
F e at u r e s
12 [Nearly] Gone, but Not Forgotten
Kelsey Klug Immersion programs offer new hope for revitalizing endangered languages in the U.S. thanks to 20 years of the Native American Languages Act.
16 Defending Life First: The Struggle to Protect a River—and Human Rights Danielle DeLuca The Q’anjob’al Maya community of Santa Cruz Barillas, Guatemala struggles against a Spanish hydroelectric dam.
20 The Future We Don’t Want: Indigenous Peoples at Rio+20
Miriam Anne Frank Indigenous people were present, visible, and vocal at the UN Rio+20 summit. But did the world listen?
D e pa r t m e n t s 1 Executive Director’s Message 2 In the News 4 Food for Life Perspectives of an Iñupiaq Elder 6 Indigenous Arts Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond 8 Women the World Must Hear When the Pen Is Mightier than the Sword: A Shuar Poet Redefines Her Culture
24 We Put Down Our Weapons and Picked Up a Microphone
10 Rights in Action Confirming Rights: Inter-American Court Ruling Marks Key Victory for Sarayaku People in Ecuador
26 Our Voices on the Air
14 Take Action Take action with the Indigenous people of Santa Cruz Barillas, Guatemala to demand their right to free, prior and informed consent.
Alberto “Tino” Recinos as told to Amanda Turner Cultural Survival Staffer in Guatemala recalls time during the 36-year civil war.
Jennifer Weston Indigenous radio producers gather in Washington, DC to share experiences working to revitalize their endangered languages.
29 2012 End of the World Prophecy Discredited (Again) Agnes Portalewska
On the cover The community of Santa Cruz Barillas in Guatemala makes their voice heard by saying, "No" to a hydroelectric dam to be built by Spanish company Hidralia Energia. Photo by Danielle DeLuca.
28 Bazaar Artist Weaving for the Environment and Future Generations: Porfirio Gutierrez
Executiv e Director’S message
Cultural Survival’s 40th Year
Supporting Indigenous Peoples: The Struggle and Work Continues
s late summer approaches, we can all reflect on the last months of extremely hot days, dry conditions, and unusual changing weather patterns. Increasingly as we experience climate change and link the causes to our behaviors as human beings, we must accept responsibility and take action for the sake of future generations. We face an ecological crisis compounded by global economic instability that confuses our priorities and values. We need to think about the impact of climate change globally, collectively, socially, economically, politically, and especially ethically and culturally. In June, the UN World Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The intention was for world citizens to identify key principles and find consensus on “The Future We Want” based upon sustainable development practices in a green economy. Many Indigenous Peoples from all over the world participated and spoke for the well-being of mother earth and future generations. An assertion was made that “all societies must foster cultures of sustainability, and that Rio+20 should highlight the cultural, moral, and ethical dimensions, as the most fundamental dimension of sustainable development.” However, the “green economy” discourse does not represent the sustainable future Indigenous people understand as “life giving and life sustaining;” rather, it further sustains institutionalized colonialism and the commodification of natural resources, and perpetuates a concept of “green capitalism” that remains non-inclusive of many Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples continue to walk a path of resistance and strug-
gle. Our right to exercise Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is fundamental to our self-determination and future survival. While FPIC is increasingly asserted, the right to say no to unwanted development, to corporations and governments, is far from honored or guaranteed. In this issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly, John Goodwin, an Iñupiaq elder, speaks about the impact of climate change on a subsistence way of life. The story of the struggle in Barillas to stop the development of a hydroelectric dam is testimony to the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights. Shuar poet Maria Clara Sharupi uses the power of poetic language to reclaim Indigenous identity and dispel cultural stereotypes. The languages articles describe the efforts of language revitalization as a right fundamentally crucial to the resiliency and cultural survival of future children. As I reflect over the summer, I am reminded that on August 12, we celebrate our feast day at Santa Clara Pueblo with songs, prayers, ceremonial dancing, and feasting to give thanks for the crops and to honor our relationship with the land. This continuity of relationship is based on our Native ways of thinking, our Indigenous values, and our agricultural practices and systems of production that sustain life for all. This relationship with the natural world is “sustainable development.” I invite you all to celebrate life and ask you to support the beauty and promise of the sustainable lifeways and knowledge that Indigenous Peoples practice.
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Danielle DeLuca, Program Associate David Michael Favreau, Bazaar Program Manager Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Cesar Gomez (Pocomam), Content Production & Training Coordinator, Community Radio Program Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Rosendo Pablo Ramirez (Mam), Program Associate, Community Radio Program Alberto ‘Tino’ Recinos (Mam), Citizen Participation Coordinator, Community Radio Program Patrick Schaefer, Director of Development Miranda Vitello, Development Assistant Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota), Endangered Languages Program Manager Ancelmo Xunic (Kachikel), Community Radio Program Manager
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Erica Adelson, SeoYeun Choi, Laura Garbes, Meg Holladay, Daniel Horgan, Curtis Klein, Kelsey Klug, William Morrison, Isidoro Rodriguez
There are so many ways to
Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)
W h at o u r s u p p o r t e r s a r e s ay i n g :
“This is brilliant work that you are doing. To say ‘well done,’ is an understatement of the immense difference that you are making in people’s lives
and in the saving of fragile bio-diversity. We are the people you inspire to take action. You are the catalyst.” — David Frederick Dene
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 1
i n t he new s Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is famous for its 887 monumental statues, moai, created by the Rapa Nui people.
Peoples in Tanzania’s Mbulu district have finally secured a Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCRO) to safeguard their threatened grazing land. The Certificate will protect nearly 400 square kilometers from encroachment by competing land users.
Photo by Phillie Casablanca.
Australia’s Largest Land Conservation Area Ever Created July 2012
Rapa Nui Land Claim Rejected May 2012
The Chilean Supreme Court unanimously rejected arguments made by the Hito clan of the Rapa Nui people in a case about land on Easter Island. For years, the Hito clan has fought to regain control over a parcel of traditional land that is currently the site of a luxury hotel. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the claim included a statement declaring that all Native inhabitants on Easter Island have been illegally squatting since 1888.
Indigenous Peoples of El Salvador Finally Gain Recognition May 2012
After decades of struggle, Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador will finally be recognized in the country’s Constitution. Article 63 of the Constitution will be modified to acknowledge Indigenous languages and other expressions of Indigenous culture.
Paraguay Nullifies Tenure of Invaders On Indigenous Land April 2012
The ministers of the Supreme Court of Paraguay have withdrawn the tenure of settlers who were previously illegally permitted to occupy Indigenous land in Caramuru-Paraguaçu in the 1960s. 2 • www. cs. org
The decision guarantees the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe full occupation of the territory demarcated in 1938.
Uqul Tinamit Community Radio Station Raided by Guatemalan Police On May 8, 2012 at 10:30 a.m., Uqul Tinamit community radio station, a Cultural Survival Community Radio Program partner serving the Achi Maya village of San Miguel Chicaj, Baja Verapaz was raided by Guatemalan police and the Ministerio Publico. Bryan Cristofer Espinoza Ixtapa, the radio station volunteer who was on the air at the time, was detained by police. In addition, the radio station’s transmitter, computer, and sound mixer were seized. Indigenous Peoples’ right to their own media is guaranteed in Article 16 of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is also enshrined in the 1996 Peace Accords that ended the Guatemalan civil war. Despite these promises, current Guatemalan telecommunications law does not allow licenses for nonprofit community radio; only commercial and government-run radio stations are legally permitted to operate. Cultural Survival is raising funds to get the station back on the air.
Barbaig Obtain Land Title In Tanzania June 2012
After a decades-long wait, the Barbaig
A vast new land reserve has been designated in central Australia, becoming the nation’s largest-ever conservation zone. More than 100,000 square kilometers (an area approximately the size of Portugal), from red deserts to subtropical savannahs, will be protected under the name of the Southern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area. Warlpiri Rangers and traditional land owners will combine Aboriginal knowledge and contemporary science to look after the vast area, controlling invasive species and surveying native wildlife.
Inter-American Court Rules in Favor of Kichwa July 2012
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the Ecuadorian government had violated the rights of the Kichwa community of Sarayaku to communal property and cultural identity by granting permission for an energy project without consulting the community. The case, filed in 2010, stems from efforts to explore for oil in the community’s territory beginning in 1996. The court ordered the government to pay the community $1.34 million in damages.
Ogoni in Nigeria Declare Self-Government August 2012
The Ogoni in southern Nigeria declared political autonomy after dealing with 55 years of crude oil exploration on their lands. On radio station Voice of Ogoni, the Movement Survival of Ogoni People’s President stated, “By this declaration, we are determined to enforce the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, meaning self-government within Nigeria.”
Campaign Updates Russia: Pipeline Threatens Sacred Highlands Sacred Sites Protected by Local Executive Power The governor of the Altai Republic issued a decree on June 20 instructing local authorities to create legislation that will protect sacred sites in the region, including those threatened by construction of the Gazprom pipeline. The decree defines sacred sites to include natural elements as subjects of worship, as well as places of religious ceremonies, historical events, and ancestral lands. It imposes restrictions on any activities that would damage these environments or the plant and animal species that are found there. Cultural objects of the Telengit people, such as ceremonial structures, petroglyphs, burial mounds, and rock statues will also be protected. The Republic of Altai is the first Siberian region to adopt such a mandate.
Honduras: Don’t Dam the Patuca River Government Failing to Compensate Residents for Dam Construction The first phase of development on the Patuca III dam concluded in June, but the National Electric Energy Company of Honduras has so far failed to sufficiently compensate the impacted residents. Since suspending payments in April, the government has reimbursed only 100 of the 400 affected property owners 460 million lempira, out of a total debt estimated at 1.2 billion HNL. China is financing the Patuca dam project at a cost of $250 million.
Mexico: Stop Mining, Protect Sacred Sites Huichols Slam Mexican Government for “Media Masquerade” The Wixárika (Huichol) people hosted the Wirikuta Fest at the end of May with 60,000 people participating in the cause to save Wirikuta, the area surrounding the Real de Catorce mountains considered sacred by the Wixárika. In March 2012, the Mexican government announced the suspension of 38 mining concessions in San Luis Potosí. Just days before the festival, the mining company held a press conference to announce that this land would be “donated” back to the Wixárika. The announcement ended up being a stunt intended to confuse the Wixárika community. The ceded land represents only a small area of the concession, and the planned mines that will affect sacred sites have not yet been halted. The Wixárika have rejected the company’s offer to cede the land.
Cambodia: Help Us Save Prey Lang (“Our Forest”) Activist Shot Dead; Moratorium on Land Concessions Environmental activist and member of the Prey Lang Network, Chut Wutty, was shot and killed in late April by military police while conducting field research into illegal logging activity and land seizure in the Cardamom mountains. A government inquiry, conducted over the course of three days, failed to address the details of his death and has also prohibited further inquiry into the issue Wutty was investigating: the stripping and selling off of Cambodia’s
forests. Due to international attention after Wutty’s murder, the Prime Minister has ordered the temporary suspension of new land grants to all domestic and foreign companies in Cambodia as well as a review of all existing concessions. Kenya: Stop Police Brutality Against Samburu Samburu People Advance Case Against US Charity The Samburu people have been involved in continued litigation with the U.S.based African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) over forced evictions that began in 2009. During his presidency, former President Daniel Moi sold the rights to a large portion of land to the AFW. AFW maintains that it understood the land to be free of human residents and clear of any ownership dispute. Upon learning this was not the case, AWF gifted the land to KWS. Samburu people have been the victims of violent evictions, assaults, and theft of their cattle by government police. After two hearings in June, the court decided to visit the land in question. The Samburu are optimistic about the outcome of the hearings and are seeking donations to continue the case as well as to file a compensation suit for deaths, harassment, loss of livestock, and other human rights abuses that have occurred in the wake of their eviction from their ancestral lands.
Learn more and take action on Global Response campaigns at www.cs.org/ take-action. Sign up for our e-newsletter and read more news at www.cs.org/news.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 3
f ood f or lif e Per s pec tiv es of a n Iñupia q Elder
Continuity and Change Above the Arctic Circle Brandon M. Chapman, Ph.D. with John Goodwin
or the Iñupiaq people of Alaska, as with many Indigenous groups, subsistence is a crucial avenue for passing on cultural knowledge, sustaining economic livelihood, feeding the population, and constituting the local diet. Among the Iñupiaq, subsistence-based livelihood is neither a dwindling practice nor a “traditional relic” relegated to only a few members of the older generations. In fact, far from it: the practice is vividly alive among the Iñupiaq residents of the Northwest Arctic Borough, one of two tribal administrative regions in Alaska above the Arctic Circle. To wit: the Alaska Natives Commission reports an estimate of over 1,000 pounds per person of subsistence harvest for the Northwest Arctic Borough—more than double the per capita subsistence harvest for its arctic neighbors in the North Slope Borough, and over 200 pounds more than the second highest per person harvest in the state. While subsistence culture endures among the Iñupiaq of the Northwest Arctic, the dual forces of technology—most notably the advent of snow machine-based transportation, which arrived two generations ago—and more recently, climate change, have dramatically altered some of these practices. There are few Iñupiaq left who have witnessed these dramatic changes of the past half-century; John Goodwin, Iñupiaq elder, marine mammal hunter, and chairman of the Federal Ice Seal Committee, is one of them. As part of an oral life history project, he relates his 50-plus years of experience as a subsistence harvester in the northwest Arctic.
Traditionally, we were taught hunting by our grandparents and uncles because we are more apt to listen to them than our [fathers]. Dad had a real influence in teaching me how to hunt, but I went out all the time with my uncles and grandpa. My uncles would fight over me cause I was a good cook and not lazy.”
Born to Hunt and Fish
Game for All Seasons
Goodwin was born at a winter seasonal camp between the Northwest Arctic communities of Kotzebue and Noatak in December 1942 and spent most of his childhood in Kotzebue. He has a lifetime of experience hunting and fishing, having joined his grandfather on expeditions as a child: “I started with grandpa at age nine, hunting bearded seals in spring time. My main chore was to bail the boat, and I was learning hunting from grandpa. “Our culture, we as men, we as boys, were taught by our grandpas and our uncles and friends more than our fathers.
Subsistence harvesting is a way of life embedded in the seasons, which means that even in a region as extreme as the Arctic, it is a year-round occupation. Goodwin recalls, “Hunting and fishing has been my livelihood, every season I have reason to hunt something. In spring, beluga and seal; summer, salmon, trout, fish; in winter, caribou, rabbit, ptarmigan, wolf, and fox. There was lots of seal hunting in spring by dog team, ringed seal. On land, we would hunt caribou all year long. [We] had to get firewood and ice with dog teams. We would go seal hunting after freeze-up in winter.”
4 • www. cs. org
John Goodwin tagging a seal. Photo courtesy of Kathy Frost
The advent of snow machines in the 1970s brought drastic changes to the Kotzebue way of life; the new technology meant that more resources could be gathered more quickly.
Dog Power to Horsepower
The amount of time and effort placed on subsistence, along with the migrations of Iñupiaq families, were shaped in large part by the Iñupiaqs’ reliance on dog teams for transportation. “In February, March, and April [we would] fish for sheefish in Kobuk Lake for dog food and for ourselves. Got to feed dogs, we were always hunting and fishing for [the] dogs. You had to learn how to cook, feed dogs, chop wood. My family would move to spring seal hunting camp May to June, July. We went to Sisualik, Cape Blossom, Sadie Creek, Sealing Point. August is settling time after spring, we start to gather, put fish to shade.” The advent of snow machines in the 1970s brought drastic changes to the Kotzebue way of life; the new technology meant that more resources could be gathered more quickly. But as Goodwin sees it, marine mammals have not adapted to modern technology. “Before and after western activities, behaviors of marine mammals haven’t changed. Outboard [motors] didn’t bother them, kayaks come right up to them. The difference is speed: [it] will take only a couple of hours [to hunt] with snow machine. With dog teams, it takes longer.” On Thinning Ice
Beyond the transition from dog power to horsepower, kayaks to outboard motors, Goodwin has experienced the deep impacts of climate change in his region. He recalls that his forebears were witnesses as well: “Grandpa and grandma would tell stories how the ‘world is getting warmer and warmer.’ Back then, when it would get into the 20s, that was a heatwave. When I was growing up 40 below was nothing.” The thickness of the ice along Kotzebue Sound has influenced the migration patterns of subsistence species, such as bearded seals (ugruk). “Ice is not as thick as it used to be. Ugruk are always looking for good ice to lay on. This is a migration area as they go north to find ice, so if no ice here, then they keep going. Some years we have no ugruk.” Other conditions, such as snowfall, have also changed. “When I was a young kid we had lots of snow, almost as tall as Rotman’s building (a two-story grocery store on the Kotzebue Sound). We hardly have snow anymore.” The Road Ahead
Goodwin has witnessed these changes as a subsistence harvester, but he also observes them as a researcher helping to guide biological and cultural studies in the Northwest Arctic. He is currently working on a subsistence mapping project with the Northwest Arctic Borough as a specialist in traditional knowledge, helping to translate interviews with experienced subsistence hunters and fishers across the region into the Iñupiaq language. The project, which documents generalized harvesting areas and travel routes, is creating both a historical record and a modern catalogue of subsistence information to help ensure that the community’s traditions live on. — Sauniqtuq Brandon Chapman, Ph.D. is a cultural anthropologist in the Northwest Arctic Borough Planning Department in Kotzebue, AK. Igauqpak John Goodwin is an Iñupiaq Elder, marine mammal hunter, and chairman of the Federal Ice Seal Committee in Alaska.
John Goodwin Photo courtesy of Michael Cameron
Supporting Future Generations When Sharon Doll of Lincoln, Nebraska first heard in the news about the threats to Indigenous Peoples she thought, “It was tragic to lose these cultures since we have a lot to learn from their knowledge.” After searching for non-profits working with Indigenous communities, Sharon came across Cultural Survival and liked what she saw. Twenty years later Sharon is still supporting Cultural Survival! Recently, Sharon decided to take her support to the next step and included Cultural Survival in her estate plans. She says, “It is important to give back to your community.” We are so grateful to Sharon and others like her who have decided to support Cultural Survival with a gift from their estate. With their help, Cultural Survival will continue our mission to partner with Indigenous Peoples defending their lands, languages, and cultures. For information on how you can support the future work of Cultural Survival, contact Patrick Schaefer by phone 303.562.4360, email email@example.com, or visit www.cs.org/plannedgiving.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 5
i ndi geno u s a r t s
Through Our Eyes
An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond
Photo collage by Through Our Eyes co-editor Dawn Dove
Reviewed by Phoebe Farris
hrough Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond is the culmination of a yearlong project between Rhode Island’s Narragansett community and artist Holly Ewald, founder of the Urban Pond Procession. This book of environmentally-themed collage art presents Indigenous perspectives on the history of the Mashapaug Pond, the last remaining natural freshwater body in Providence, Rhode Island. Beginning with pre-European contact, the collages progress through colonial times to the industrial era to the effects of modern urban storm water runoff, up to the Urban Pond Procession’s current efforts
to encourage community stewardship of the ponds in the lower Pawtuxent watershed. The collages utilize a fusion of poetry (in English and Narragansett Algonquin), interviews, photography, and a variety of textural media to portray an era when the Narragansett community’s use of the pond was vital for their physical and psycho-spiritual survival. At one time the pond provided opportunities for young children to learn to fish, swim, and navigate canoes. Now, however, due to surface water runoff and more than a century of industrial pollution, the waters of the Mashapaug Pond no longer support the life of the community. Reflections on the changing nature of the pond and the Narragansetts’ relationship to it are expressed
This book of environmentally-themed collage art presents Indigenous perspectives on the history of the Mashapaug Pond, the last remaining natural freshwater body in Providence, Rhode Island. 6 • www. cs. org
Gratitude for Creation 11-year-old Sherente Mishitashin Harris’s bilingual prayer poem expresses gratitude for creation. A few excerpts: Kutaputush Numanutooman wuchee Thank you Creator for Wamee nuwaeenuqun wuneehteawonk All the beauty that surrounds us Kutaputush wuchee wamee kumagooaunash Thank you for all your gifts, Creator Nee naj! Be it so! (Amen)
through the memories of elders and the imagination of youth. Because the names and ages of collaborators are not included with the collages, a scan of the contributors’ biographies in the appendix will yield some pleasant surprises. A photo collage by co-editor Dawn Dove offers one of the book’s most striking images: three black and white photographs of Narragansetts dressed in traditional clothing posed in a canoe constructed of paper. In one photo, a young boy wears a headdress and an embroidered jacket; his white shirt and dark tie emphasize the transition from traditional to westernized clothing styles. The young girl in the center of the canoe wears a long dress with a shawl draped around her neck and shoulders. And in the third image, an adult woman, perhaps the mother, wears a headband with a sash across her dress. The three figures have serious countenances, but the center background of tissue paper trees and shrubbery in subtle shades creates a dreamy, peaceful atmosphere. The collage is
bordered by color photographs of brilliantly colored fall foliage and bright red fish that jump out of the pond to heights above the canoe passengers; the blue water beneath the canoe is in fact a map. A “real” modern environment, an imagined nature scene, and a Narragansett family from a past era come together in a boldly textured image that is hauntingly beautiful. Among other standouts is a textured collage by 10-yearold Laurel Spears, who constructed her piece with overlapping scraps of material including a silk-screened scene of deer on pale blue cloth with a foreground image of a wigwam. Narragansett elder and 93-year-old family matriarch, Eleanor Spears Dove, composed a text reflective of seasonal family life around the pond during the time when the Narragansetts lived in longhouses and depended on hunting, fishing, and gathering for survival. Spears and Spears Dove, great granddaughter and great grandmother, represent two of the four generations of women (along with Dawn Dove, grandmother, and Loren Spears, mother) who collaborated with other family and tribal members on many of the visual images and accompanying text featured in the book. A series of lines in one such collaborative poem offers a poignant reflection of the tribe’s revitalization, which culminated in the April 1983 recognition of the Narragansetts as a federally recognized tribe, a sovereign nation: We are clay, we can remold ourselves – our image of who we are. — Phoebe Farris, Ph.D. (Powhatan-Renape) is contributing arts editor for the CSQ. She is a professor emerita of Purdue University and the vice president for membership of the Washington D.C. branch of American Association of University Women.
Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond Edited by Dawn Dove and Holly Ewald. Exeter, RI: Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum, 2012, 50 pages, $20.00. Collage by Laurel Spears, age 10.
Books can be ordered by phone: 401.491.9063
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 7
women th e wo r ld m u st hear
When the Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword
A Shuar Poet Redefines Her Nataly Kelly
uch has been written about the Shuar, an Indigenous group from the Ecuadorian Amazon; many words have been used to describe them. Warriors, head-shrinkers, and shamans are some of the most common associations. But one word that is not typiMaría Clara Sharupi Jua cally seen in reference to the Shuar? Poet. Until now, that is—especially if María Clara Sharupi Jua has anything to say about it. As the Battlefield Changes, So Do the Battle Plans
The history of the Shuar has been told predominantly through the lens of their warrior culture. Known for their fierce independence, the Shuar are often viewed as one of the few “winners” in the continuous battle that Indigenous people must fight to maintain their cultures, languages, and traditions. Their success arguably can be attributed as much to their strategic thinking and adaptability as their superior fighting skill. In 1599, the Shuar shocked the Spanish by successfully driving them out of their territory. They are the only Indigenous group ever to achieve such a victory over their would-be colonizers, and their exceptional skill in battle enabled them to retain their independence for centuries. But in the 1940s the Shuar found themselves facing a new kind of threat: oil. Once oil was discovered in the region, missionaries and other colonists soon followed. The Shuar recognized that a different kind of fight—a nonviolent, political one—would be needed to protect their culture. They responded by establishing the Federacíon Interprovincial de Centros Shuar-Achuar, a political alliance that has been working to represent and protect the Shuar people’s interests for almost a half century. Today, as the forces of globalization expand and the world continues to become more interconnected, the Internet offers new possibilities for ethnic minority groups fighting for the survival of their cultures and the languages that hold their collective knowledge. For a language like Shuar, which is spoken by some 40,000 people, the Internet has become a vital platform for disseminating the community’s native language and the ideas uniquely expressed within it. Words as the New Weapon
María Clara Sharupi Jua is harnessing the power of words to help carve out what she hopes will be a fuller appreciation of her culture. “The Shuar culture is highly publicized but little understood. . . . Many people continue to think of us as savages,” she says. 8 • www. cs. org
Even within Ecuador, Indigenous groups often face stereotyping and discrimination. Sharupi was born in the Amazon rainforest and currently lives in the capital city of Quito, where she is pursuing a university degree while also working full time at a government office. She says that Ecuadorians often question her about why she is living in an urban environment instead of in the jungle. “The questions people ask me range from ignorant to downright rude,” she says. The thing that Sharupi finds most disrespectful is when people fail to address members of the Shuar community by their names, instead referring to them with generic titles such as “la María” or “doñita.” She explains, “I always tell them, ‘I have a name, so if you’re going to address me, you need to use it.’ ” Sharupi feels that the Shuar are often looked down upon, as though people believe they are somehow lacking in knowledge or are incapable of accomplishing the same things as others. However, she notes that there have been positive changes recently, among youth and women in particular. She explains, “I think that President Correa has given us greater recognition, particularly by making sure the Constitution and all of the laws are available in our mother tongue, which shows respect for us as human beings.” Sharupi was part of a team of individuals who helped edit the translation of the constitution in Shuar. According to Sharupi, foreigners are also guilty of disrespectful treatment toward the Shuar. “When foreigners visit our communities,” she says, “it’s as if they hope to see a culture of savages. They want to live among people who are irrational, walk around naked, and have nothing. They want to report only on what’s different—not on what we have in common. I often feel they look at us solely as the finishing touch that enables them to complete an anthropological study or a graduate thesis.” Through her poetry, Sharupi hopes to reveal a more complete and nuanced picture of the Shuar people, using an authentic voice that comes directly from her community. “Poetry is important because it’s our way of life. Poetry is song, everyday life, ritual, and where the heart and soul of the world unite. It’s a form of paying tribute to what exists beyond just what we see. It is also important for keeping the memory of our ancestors alive for our children and their children.” In Sharupi’s eyes, the Shuar language is full of beautiful concepts that reflect cultural values far beyond just the typically associated warrior attributes. Her favorite phrase is enenteimjai chichasta, which simply translated means, “speak from your heart.” But the phrase also implies the opening of one’s heart to another person, speaking to them sincerely and free of any filters. Another of Sharupi’s favorites, yuminsajme, is a form of thanking someone but in a way that conveys a much deeper sense of gratitude, closer to “thank you from my very being.” Sharupi explains: “In this expression of thanks, the person gives all of their love to the other person, not as if that person
P A R ADI S E C AME Drenching myself, like cool rain on mother earth with the scent of smoke from damp firewood that tastes like the mountain plains and the chukirahua flower’s aroma blends with the birdsong of the paují. You have no eyes and you watch like the windstorm peeling back the contents each paragraph holds nestling them within your colored pages. You have no hands but even so, you shape my senses and you strip the 21st century, which shelters the years, the days made of sweet, coarse sounds.
is simply a person to whom love is directed, but as if that person is actually an extension of one’s self.” Translation Is the Best Defense
Sharupi and her poems are steadily gaining international acclaim. She has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Collar de historias y lunas, an anthology of Latin American female Indigenous poets, and Amanece en nuestras vidas, the first book of poetry from Ecuadorian Indigenous women writers. She has conducted poetry readings at universities and book fairs, and she was invited to participate in the 2012 International Poetry Festival in Medellín, Colombia. She is also a member of the World Poetry Movement, and recently participated in the first International Colloquium of Indigenous Women Writers. Sharupi is currently working on a trilingual collection in Shuar, Spanish, and English that will include poetry, stories, and songs in celebration of the wisdom embedded in her culture. Translation can help a poet reach a wider audience, and Sharupi knows firsthand how powerful it can be. Three of her poems have been translated into English and published by the London-based Poetry Translation Centre. Making these poems available in English, and online, is an important milestone because her work is now accessible to a world of readers who would otherwise not be able to understand it. Through her poetry, Sharupi hopes to add a new chapter to the Shuar legacy; one that extends beyond the typical associations of their warrior heritage. If the pen truly is mightier than the sword, then perhaps translation can give even more power to the pen—and the people who hold it. — Nataly Kelly is the translator of María Clara Sharupi Jua’s works and a former Fulbright scholar in Ecuador. She is the co-author of the newly released book, Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World. To learn more about María Clara Sharupi Jua's poetry and to read it in Shuar, visit: goo.gl/BAES9
I want to kiss your words without brushing my lips where there are no scars and no curtains to conceal your face. The freedom of not having you makes your steadiness intense coy and playful, you chase my footsteps like a flowering tree in a boundless color. We don’t know if you’re here or not behind your eyes you hold a thousand tales always at the tip of the wind’s tidings like the roar of the jaguar or perhaps an anaconda graffiti skin, cloaked in dreams you don’t remember infinity. You don’t threaten my childhood dreams or my speckled nightmares in a faded metal box or my bare feet which refuse to wear high heels or the fake smiles that unleashed my tears without wounding my soul. I think of my beloved jungle vines swaying from tree to tree a drop of poison resting on an arrowhead possessed by magic ayahuasca dust where the maker of life is born. — María Clara Sharupi Jua Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 9
r i ght s i n a ct io n
Inter-American Court Ruling Marks Key Victory for Sarayaku People in Ecuador
n July 25, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of the Sarayaku in the case of Sarayaku v. Ecuador, affirming and upholding the right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples along with the standards for its application. The ruling marks the end of a decade-long legal battle the Sarayaku have been fighting since a foreign oil company was allowed to encroach on their traditional lands in the 1990s. By ruling for the Sarayaku, the Inter-American Court agreed that the community’s territory, life, and culture were threatened because the state had imposed an oil project without previous consultation or consent. As Mario Melo, attorney for the Kichwa
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) FPIC is the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect their lands and communities. This principle is protected by international human rights law as “all peoples have the right to selfdetermination” and “all peoples have the right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” It is enshrined in the ILO 169 (which only 22 countries have ratified to date) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 32), which states: 1. Indigenous Peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources. 2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. 3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.
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people of Sarayaku, explains, the ruling is significant for Indigenous Peoples “because it is a binding sentence for the Ecuadorian State and sets a mandatory precedent for the countries in the Organization of American States.” The Inter-American Court had previously established the standard for the need to obtain consent of Indigenous Peoples in the case of Saramaka v. Suriname, which is the first binding international decision to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to the natural resources located in their lands. The ruling said that whenever large-scale development will have a significant impact within Indigenous territory, the state has the obligation to obtain FPIC with respect for their culture and traditions. Sarayaku v. Ecuador further affirms this right. The Sarayaku People
The Sarayaku (Kichwa for “river of corn”) are an Indigenous Peoples who live in several villages along a stretch of the Bobonaza River in the province of Pastaza in the southern part of the Ecuadorean Amazon. Their population is estimated between 1,000–2,000 on the self-governed territory called Tayjasaruta, or “Autonomous Territory of the Original Kichwa Nation of Sarayaku.” The Sarayaku lead a self-reliant life. They rely on local subsistence and their main sources of income are fishing, farming, hunting, and in recent years, ecotourism. This traditional way of life has been under threat, however, since large oil reserves were found on their ancestral lands nearly two decades ago. Petroleum is of great value to the Ecuadorian state, whose economy is highly dependent on income from crude oil export. The Sarayakus’ land was allotted into an oil concession by the Ecuadorian government, and a concession was granted to Argentine oil and gas company Compania General de Combustibles (CGC) in 1996 without any process of consultation or consent from the community. Government pressure and aggressive company tactics led to multiple confrontations and rampant rights abuses. Fearing that any attempt to drill on their land would destroy their unique way of life, the Sarayaku mounted an international campaign to keep the oil companies at bay. The community strategically built a network of international allies drawing upon human rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For the Sarayaku and other Indigenous Peoples in the region, the “imposed oil activity on Sarayaku territory meant militarization of their territory, environmental destruction, violence, and loss of elements their culture and spiritual cosmologies.” In 2003, the Sarayaku community brought their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which recognized that human rights violations had occurred including detention and torture of four community leaders by the Ecuadorian military and police at a CGC facility. The Commission
Photo courtesy of Fundación Pachamama/Joke Baert
issued precautionary measures to the Ecuadorian government for the removal of a river blockade and the clearing of 3,000 pounds of explosives left by the company after failed seismic surveys. However, the Ecuadorian government categorically ignored these measures, and allies of CGC proceeded to block the Bobonaza River to pressure the community to desist in the legal actions taken and to begin direct negotiations. The following year, representatives of the Sarayaku successfully petitioned the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to issue provisional measures to the Ecuadorian government. Three years later, in late 2007, the Ministry of Mines and Oil began steps to remove the explosives—retrieving only about 10 percent of the amount in the ground. On May 8, 2009, again without consultation, the Ministry of Mines and Oil authorized a new opening of oil operations in spaces in which the Sarayaku, Shuar, and Achuar people have all opposed exploitation. In January 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights turned the Sarayuku case over to the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights for a final ruling. Sarayaku community members travelled to Costa Rica to testify about the human rights violations perpetrated on their communities, and in 2012, the Court conducted its first-ever onsite visit to an Indigenous territory. During this visit, the Judicial Secretary of State of Ecuador offered the Sarayaku a deal to repair damage and pay compensation. The Sarayaku refused the government’s offer before the Court issued its ruling.
Sarayaku community members celebrate a favorable Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling. Ecuador now has to pay the community US$1.40 million in compensation for damage done to tribal land.
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
One of the most important rights included in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the right to FPIC. Essentially, this means that mines, dams, oil wells, industrial agriculture and other policies, programs, and projects cannot be forced on Indigenous Peoples without their agreement, in advance; without coercion; and only after full disclosure of intent and consequences. While the Declaration is a major step forward in recognizing and protecting Indigenous rights, such documents represent the ongoing aspiration and declarative process for building international legal norms and pressuring states to move in certain directions. Over time, such declarations can become customary law as people assert those rights and countries gradually incorporate these rights into national law through case law or legislation. However, states and corporations have generally resisted the Indigenous “veto”—the right to simply say no to removal, unwanted development, or harmful legisSlides courtesy of Nicole Friederichs lation. It is not surprising, therefore, that many Indigenous communities still struggle to claim their rights to FPIC when formality, but instead should be a “true instrument of pardevelopment projects threaten their human rights, their ticipation . . . responding to the ultimate goal of establishing land, or their culture. a dialogue between the parties based on principles of mutual The Sarayaku ruling is an important milestone for Indigtrust and respect, and with the view to reaching consensus enous Peoples’ right to FPIC and will have a major impact between them.” The ruling further states that “consultations on the region and the world. “The court has been very clear should be conducted in good faith following appropriate and reiterative regarding the consultation process; they have cultural procedures and must aim to reach agreement.” repeatedly conveyed that consultations should be conducted Sarayaku leader Jose Gualina said, “the Sarayaku are exin good faith following appropriate tremely satisfied with this victory reached cultural procedures and must aim to thanks to the efforts of our people and the To learn more about FPIC, reach agreement,” says Mario Melo. help and solidarity of organizations devoted visit www.cs.org. The court also clarified that consulto the rights of Indigenous Peoples.” tation does not constitute a mere Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 11
[ Nearly ] Gone, but
Immersion Programs Offer New Hope for Revitalizing
Euchee (Yuchi) children carry their mother tongue forward at the Yuchi House in Sapulpa, OK. Only five elders raised as monolingual Yuchi speakers are alive today. Photo courtesy of the Yuchi Language Project.
Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning. — United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 14.
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ative Americans lost control of their children’s education over a century ago, when the United States government began forcibly enrolling Native students in residential schools. This policy was designed to assimilate Native children into an “American” mold and continued on a large scale through the 1970s. In these institutions, children were severely punished for using their own languages instead of English. These painful experiences convinced entire generations of Native people that their children would be better off learning to speak only English. Hoping to spare their children the same suffering, parents stopped passing on their languages. As a result, numerous languages indigenous to America are now in danger of losing their last native speakers. Many communities want to revitalize their languages, but they face the formidable obstacle of raising a generation to speak their heritage language as their first language. Young Native people continue to attend English-language schools and assimilate into mainstream society while losing knowledge about their tribal heritage. Scott Russell, secretary of the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation, put it this way: “We’re educating all our students to be non-Native right now.” Viewed in this light, not much has changed since the days of the residential schools. However, in the last 20 years, United States policy has undergone significant changes. In 1990, Congress passed the first iteration of the Native American Languages Act (NALA), which recognizes that “the status of the cultures and languages of Native Americans is unique and the United States has the responsibility to act together with Native Americans to ensure [their] survival.” This legislation promised a great deal to Native communities, declaring that it was now the official government policy to “preserve, protect, and promote” Native Americans’ rights to use their indigenous languages anywhere, including “as a medium of instruction” in schools. Congress updated NALA in 1992 with the inclusion of a grant program to “assist Native Americans in assuring the survival and continuing vitality of their languages.” Since no funding had previously been allocated to achieve the Act’s directives, this was an essential addendum, but it was not sufficient to finance programming for all interested tribes. Immersion schools are costly to establish, especially when the target language is not thriving and the curriculum must be developed from scratch. Inadequate government support forced many schools to devote much of their energy to private fundraising. Additional funding became available through the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006. Named after a woman who taught and documented the Tewa language, this Act created funding for “language nests,” where preschool children learn their heritage language from fluent community elders; survival schools and immersion camps, which use
Endangered Languages in the U.S. group immersion environments to develop fluency; masterapprentice programs; teacher training and curricular development; and language classes for the parents of students enrolled in language programs. This flexibility is essential, since communities must be able to develop the language-learning arrangement that will best suit their specific resources and goals. These programs are important because they actually aim to develop fluent speakers, which teaching an indigenous language for one class period per day cannot accomplish, nor can dictionaries and audio recordings. Only immersion can effectively create fluent speakers; only fluent speakers can revive an endangered language. But as valuable and beneficial as these programs are, they face myriad setbacks. In addition to the chronic lack of funding, numerous restrictions were imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Although NCLB claims to respect the right of Native communities to incorporate their own language and culture into their children’s educations, many of its mandates directly contradict those laid out in NALA. One major problem is the definition of “highly qualified” teachers: NCLB requires teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, full state licensure, and provable knowledge of their subject. This hampers immersion programs, because often the only available speakers are community elders, most of whom don’t possess teaching credentials or university degrees in their native languages. However, they are the last fluent speakers, and therefore the most qualified teachers. Both NALA and the Esther Martinez Act provide exemptions from certain requirements in order not to “hinder the employment of qualified teachers who teach in Native American languages,” but schools have trouble getting state authorities to accept this. In addition to prohibitively restrictive teacher qualifications, NCLB requires assessment testing—tied to federal funding— to be conducted entirely in English. This is difficult for immersion schools, which often begin education completely in the target language and only gradually introduce English. By the end of their schooling—and by virtue of living in an English-speaking society—students achieve full fluency in both their Native language and English (called “additive bilingualism”), though they may initially lag behind in English. However, NCLB doesn’t recognize these distinctions. President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act pledges that tribal authorities will have “greater flexibility to use funds to carry out programs that meet the needs of Indian students.” Whether it will deliver on this promise remains to be seen. Native American students are struggling in traditional public school settings: they have a dropout rate of roughly twice the national average. Estimates vary but suggest that only half of all Native students complete high school, and barely onefifth progress to any post-secondary education. Although academic assessment scores are slowly rising for all demographics, the achievement gap between Native and white students continues to widen.
According to the 2011 National Indian Education Study survey of school administrators, one-quarter of students in public schools with low Native enrollment receive Native language instruction, while one-half of students in high Native enrollment public schools do. Students in Bureau of Indian Education-run schools are ostensibly better off, as around 90 percent reportedly receive at least some oral instruction in a Native language while 70 percent receive some written instruction. However, this instruction tends to be infrequent: in 2009, barely one-quarter of students in Bureau-run schools reported that people in their schools talked to each other in Native languages every day, while the numbers for public school students were negligible. These low rates of regular Native language use are not nearly sufficient to create fluent speakers. Within this dark landscape, immersion schools present a beacon of hope. Many Native students are thriving in these settings, achieving higher test scores and graduation rates as well as demonstrating stronger connections to their culture. For example, virtually all students in ’Olelo Hawai’i (Native Hawaiian) schools now graduate from high school, and their language programs have expanded so greatly that students can go through university completely in Hawaiian. Diné (Navajo) immersion students are scoring at or above the levels of their non-immersion peers on standardized tests, even in English. At Waadookodaading, an Ojibwe language school, one hour of English instruction per day has proven to be enough for students to reach “proficient” and “above proficiency” performance levels on NCLB assessments. The school says it successfully “turned [the] model on its head” by teaching English—not Ojibwe—as the foreign language. Immersion programs offer substantial proof of positive outcomes for students. As Teresa McCarty, an Arizona State University professor and co-director of the university’s Center for Indian Education, writes, “The issue . . . is not whether schooling based on Native students’ tribal language and culture is beneficial, but rather which approaches are most effective.” Tribes must be allowed to establish language programs in an environment that can have such a positive impact. Jacob Manatowa-Bailey, director of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma’s Sauk Language Department, sums up the heart of the issue: “When tribal children are given the opportunity to learn their language, they are happier, healthier human beings. It doesn’t mean their lives are easier. It does mean that their identities are stronger and that they are better prepared to face the challenges of being an Indigenous person in the modern world.” — Kelsey Klug is an intern at Cultural Survival.
To learn more about Native Language Education, visit: goo.gl/xNRGL.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 13
w o N n o i t c A e k Ta
CampaignGuatemala Alert Barillas community members climb on to a Hydro Santa Cruz construction vehicle looking onto the ceremony dedicating a cross to Miguel, a Barillas resident who was shot and killed by Hydro Santa Cruz employees on May 1, 2012.
“The right to be consulted is a universal human right that no one can deny us, much less criminalize. The right to self-determination is a right that corresponds to us as original peoples of Mesoamérica.” —The Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetenango for the Defense of the Territory.
Photos by Danielle DeLuca
We Are All Barillas – Stop a Dam on Our Sacred River!
n May 12, 2012, a community leader in Guatemala was killed by security guards of a Spanish hydroelectric company. Riots broke out. In response, President Molina declared martial law and army tanks descended into Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango. Heavily armed military lined the streets of the Q’anjob’al Maya town, seeking and detaining community leaders who were outspoken against the dam. Since 2009, Hidralia Energia, through its subsidiary Hydro Santa Cruz, has been planning a series of dams on the Q’am B’alam River that surrounds the town of Santa Cruz Barillas. The river and its three waterfalls are considered sacred by the Q’anjob’al community, whose ancestors named the river “Yellow Tiger” after the animal that was said to drink from its waters. The proposed project would be installed in an area used by the community for ceremonial, recreational, and agricultural purposes. The project will also have significant impacts on the already fragile natural environment. A study by the International Commission on Tropical Biology and Natural Resources found the area of Barillas to be of the highest priority for conservation efforts within Guatemala. Barillas is home to many amphibian and insect species found nowhere else in the world. In the last five years, the community has twice held referenda and voted unequivocally to reject the exploitation of its natural resources by transnational companies. Nevertheless, the government approved the Cambalam I dam, flagrantly ignoring the people’s right to free, prior, and informed consent as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), to which Guatemala is a signatory. At the outset of martial law, grassroots activists successfully mobilized to launch the campaign, Todos y Todas Somos Barillas (“We Are All Barillas”). Using social media and community radio, Molina’s administration was successfully pressured to end martial law, thereby challenging the government’s position that community leaders were drug traffickers and criminals rather than activists standing up for their rights. Now, we need your help to ensure that Hydro Santa Cruz backs down from its plans to dam the sacred Q’am B’alam River.
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Guatemala’s president is defending foreign business before the rights of the Guatemalan people.
Make Your Voice Heard!
Q’anjob’al women lead the audience in prayer for the release of the nine men in custody of the state and the dozens of other leaders who have fled their homes in fear of persecution. Sign reads, “Hydro Santa Cruz generates violence. For the unity and peace of Barillas, No more impunity. We demand the withdrawal of Hydro Santa Cruz.”
Barillas community members are asking world citizens to send letters to Hidralia Energia and the Guatemalan Ministry of the Environment. In your letters, please:
Demanding Inherent Rights
hen Hidralia Energia began to develop the dam project in 2009, the Q’anjob’al Maya community of Santa Cruz Barillas protested not only because they hadn’t been consulted, as is their right, but also out of concerns that the dam would affect the volume and flow of the river. The company has failed to inform locals of the dam’s potential effects, claiming on its website that it will have zero environmental impact. Any environmental impact studies (if even conducted) were never made public, nor social impacts assessed, despite these being key to validating a project on Indigenous Peoples’ land. The Guatemalan government has even approved the Cambalam I dam project to apply for UN-certified carbon credits with the Clean Development Mechanism. Though the project is considered small by industry standards, the community fears that it will be a gateway to larger, more destructive projects in the future, such as gold mining. This fear is not unfounded. Gold and silver veins run through much of northwest Guatemala, and the transnational industry has had toxic repercussions for the environment and Indigenous Peoples across the country. Only six months into office, the Molina administration has approved 68 new mining licenses. Another 734 are pending, along with another 47 hydroelectric licenses existing or in process. Virtually none of these licenses have been granted based on the free, prior, and informed consent of the Indigenous people who have traditionally occupied these lands. Hidralia Energia has a dubious history in Spain, where the company’s owners were charged with bribery and corruption surrounding the authorization of licenses for 16 dams. After three years of investigation, they began to dispose of their Spanish assets while initiating operations in Guatemala. Hidralia’s lack of transparency and combative business approach has fueled the community’s outrage: “Since the company arrived, they have been invoking fear in the community, intimidating us, and motivating us to sell our land,” said local leader Josepha Andres. The threats culminated on the night of May 1, when the company’s security guards shot three men, killing one and seriously wounding Pablo Antonio Pablo, who had been threatened by the company after refusing to sell his land. To date, nine community leaders who were outspoken against the dam remain detained in Guatemala City’s central prison, more than 16 hours’ travel from their families (who cannot afford to visit them). Many more have fled the country to escape persecution. By declaring martial law in Barillas so soon after taking office, President Molina sent a message to the dozens of other communities in Guatemala organizing against foreign exploitation: The government’s new “iron-fist” policy is about protecting profit, not people. In partnership with community radio station Radio Snuq Jolom Konob, the Western People’s Council, and other grassroots organizations, Cultural Survival is joining the fight to hold Hidralia Energia and the Guatemalan government accountable to their obligation to respect Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. Let’s make sure that what happens in Barillas sets an example of respect for Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination and their right to say no to foreign exploitation.
• Urge Guatemalan officials to respect Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination. Remind them that since Guatemala has ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the state is required to consult with Indigenous Peoples when making decisions that may affect them. Issuing licenses for projects that affect Indigenous Peoples while no consultation has taken place is a violation of their rights. • Express deep concern that the proposed Cambalam I dam will greatly affect the Q’anjob’al Mayan people’s traditional and ceremonial uses of the Q’am B’alam River and its three waterfalls, and could put endemic amphibian species at risk. • Demand the release of nine community leaders that were detained illegally and continue to be incarcerated, and an end to the continued persecution of community leaders peacefully organizing to protect their land. Please send letters, emails, and faxes to: Hidralia Energia Avenida del Ejercito n.10 15006 A Coruña, Spain Phone: (Guatemala) + 502 23 78 13 28 (Spain) +34 981 17 40 17 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mr. Raúl Castañeda Illescas Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales 20 calle 28-58 zona 10, Edificio MARN Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala Guatemala Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (502) 24 23 0500 or (502) 24 23 0436, Ext.2311 (502) 24 23 0500, Ext 1204 Tips: • Postage from the U.S. to Spain and Guatemala is $1.05 • Visit our website to download and print these pages to hand out at events • Spread the news on Facebook and Twitter More information: More information and a model letter is available at www.cs.org Please Take Action! The Q’anjob’al people of Barillas say Yuj wal dios (“Thank you”)!
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 15
Defending Life First The Struggle to Protect a River—and Human Rights —in Santa Cruz Barillas, Guatemala Danielle DeLuca (CS Staff)
n the quiet forested valley of Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango, three men were walking home from the town’s annual fair alongside the bubbling Q’am B’alam River. The river, which means “Yellow Tiger” in the local Q’anjob’al Mayan language, has been at the center of conflict in the community since the Spanish company Hidralia Energia began prospecting the area in 2009 for the building of a dam. On that evening of May 1, 2012, an incident occurred that would prove to be the last straw in a conflict that had been raising tensions for years. Two uniformed security personnel from Hidralia Energia appeared along the road. Without provocation, they fired shots at the three men, killing one and seriously injuring another before driving off in their company pick-up truck. The victims of the attack had been outspoken opponents of the installation of the dam in Santa Cruz Barillas. Pablo Antonio Pablo, whose hand was nearly shot off, had refused to sell his riverside land to the company. He had
Above: Community members and others in solidarity with the town of Barillas march from the center of town to the site where Miguel was shot.
been receiving threats since 2010, which he had reported to a local human rights ombudsman. Miguel Andres Francisco, the fatal victim, formerly held a position as a local elected official and was considered a leader by his peers. Hundreds of people in Barillas mobilized in response to the attack. Their first action was to seek out those presumed responsible at a local hotel where Hidralia Energia employees were being housed. Finding it empty, they assumed that the energy employees were under the protection of local military and so stormed the military base, demanding an answer for the death of their leader. Astonishingly there were no further casualties that night. By sunrise on May 2, 500 military and 350 national police equipped with army tanks and anti-riot gear had invaded the town. The newly elected president, former military general Otto Perez Molina, proclaimed the municipality an estado de sitio (state of siege), in effect declaring martial law and suspending all civil liberties. Over the next several days, the military raided over 20 homes while seeking leaders for capture. Residents say that soldiers acquired a list of over 100 names of community leaders, many with photos and some with mobile numbers. It was clear that the government’s declaration of martial law was not a reaction to the death of Miguel Andres Fransisco, but to the events that
Photos by Danielle DeLuca (unless otherwise noted)
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had followed. The military had intervened to protect the interests of the company, not the people. There are conflicting narratives as to what happened on that night of May 1. Government officials blame the victims, claiming the shooting happened because the three men walking home were intoxicated. Government official Mauricio Lopez Bonilla explained that the estado de sitio was a response to the series of events that had made the situation “ungovernable,” adding, “This town has always been troublesome.” President Molina justified the militarized state by suggesting that the conflict originated with gang members “interested in promoting drug-trafficking and organized crime, which explains why they are seeking the removal of military from the region.” On May 3 he announced that “We have identified 100 people involved [in the drug trade] that have attempted to protect the interests of drug trafficking and organized crime.” Bonilla admitted that Hydro Santa Cruz, Hidralia Energia’s local subsidiary, had asked the government for increased military presence on various occasions, but indicated that the declaration of an estado de sitio had “no relation” to the dam. The company has denied any responsibility for the death of Andres Francisco Miguel, instead blaming the community leaders for “causing confusion.” The company’s public statement claims that all employed security forces were on vacation at the time of the shooting. No Right to Refuse
On June 23, 2007, the community of Barillas organized a referendum on which citizens voted unequivocally to reject transnational projects within their municipality. Despite the vote, Hidralia Energia arrived in Barillas in 2009 to explore prospects and subsequently initiated the Cambalam hydroelectric project. Community leaders in Barillas soon began organizing to protest the company’s plans. Hidralia Energia responded to the people’s discontent by levying legal complaints against community leaders and local residents who refused to sell their land. In 2009, 10 community members residing along the banks of the river were charged with incitement of violence Photos, top to bottom: and defamation and were illegally de1. Caution tape placed by tained. In turn, town officials held a meeting with community members the national police marks and resolved to halt the construction off the Q’am B’alam River of the dam. Immediately following where Miguel was killed. this resolution, Hidralia Energia sought 2. “God Bless Barillas” legal action against the town of Barimural in Parque Central llas. The local judge ruled in favor of in Santa Cruz Barillas. the company, enforcing the stance that the town has no right to refuse 3. Community members the construction of the dam. of Barillas, Indigenous In June 2011, armed security forces grassroots organizations, appeared along the banks of the river and members of surround—the same forces that would eventuing communities gather ally take the life of Andres Miguel. in the central park of The guards prohibited the local residents from accessing the falls surBarillas on April 18 in rounding the river as well as their solidarity against foreign agricultural fields. Citizens filed comexploitation. plaints with authorities to no avail. 4. “We want an army that Instead, 23 arrest warrants were isserves the people, not sued for members of the commuinternational corporations! nity. In January 2012, newly elected leaders of Barillas tried again to find a No to the Dam!” Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 17
solution by entering into negotiations with Hidralia Energia. Despite their efforts, heavy machinery arrived at the site five days later. The Earth Is Not an Asset
Huehuetenango is a department in northwest Guatemala that extends to the border of Mexico. Its forests are home to the highest numbers of native plant species anywhere in the country. Situated on the northern slope of the Cuchumatanes mountain range, it contains four watersheds, which comprise about 75 percent of the area and provide water for over 200,000 people. A UNESCO study marked the area of Barillas among the highest priority for conservation efforts within Guatemala. The Q’am B’alam River, which flows along the outskirts of Barillas, has three sequential waterfalls. Members of the community (the Q’anjob’al Maya) use the river for washing, bathing, recreation, and as a sacred ceremonial site; the runoff water is used for irrigation of agricultural crops. The dam
Community members marked the place where Andres Francisco Miguel was killed on May 1 by employees of Hydro Santa Cruz. 18 • ww w. cs. org
“Whenever the dogs bark it is because their army passes by.” Women hidden in a house watch the street in Santa Rosa, an aldea of Santa Cruz Barillas.
could have devastating effects on the waterfalls and surrounding environment. Hydro Santa Cruz insists that the dam is a small project with a planned output of only five megawatts, but for the Q’anjob’al people, the significance is much greater: the Cambalam hydroelectric project represents yet another instance of a foreign company manipulating an Indigenous community and leaving conflict and destruction in its wake. A community group in Barillas declared: “The state of Guatemala continues to give concessions and licenses to foreign companies without taking into account the views and opinions of the local population that live in the area, violating Convention 169 of the ILO and the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples… the earth is not an asset to be sold, but is Mother Earth, and sustains the existence of all of those who inhabit her.” Within Huehuetenango alone, at least 49 concessions have been granted to transnational companies for mining and hydroelectric projects. People have been horrified to witness the destruction in communities like San Miguel Ixtahuacán in neighboring San Marcos, where Guatemala’s first large-scale gold mine, the Canadian-run Marlin Mine, has ravaged the community and left disease in its wake. To a community that is already suspicious of the transnational business model, construction of a dam poses another issue: according to the Q’anjob’al elders, the Q’am B’alam River was so named for the glints of light that could be seen in the surrounding waterfalls from gold deposits in the river. “Our grandmothers and grandfathers knew that there was gold in the river,” says Barillas resident Josepha Andres. “Today there exist three villages that surround the waterfalls, now called Recreos A, B, and C. It’s not a coincidence; these villages were created by our ancestors to protect this sacred site,” she explains. The community is determined to protect the river, no matter what the costs—and the costs have been high. Twentythree community leaders were detained in the three weeks that the community was under siege; another hundred who are believed to be on President Molina’s blacklist of accused
Sign reads, “We shall all rise up, and none will remain behind the others,” and “Brothers of Barillas, united we will achieve peace and the real development of our community.”
Relatives of Miguel dig a place for a cross to honor his life alongside the Q’am B’alam River, where he was shot and killed. His wife (center) looks on with her newborn baby.
drug traffickers fled to the mountains. A group of community leaders who prefer to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety explain: “Allies of the company are handing in lists of activists and the army is coming to take them away, just as the military did during the country’s civil war. They are invading public buses, demanding ID cards in the streets.” The town of Barillas was hit hard during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. Underneath the military base is rumored to be a mass grave where the bodies of victims of military violence were thrown; similar mass graves have been found elsewhere in the country. The generation that lived through those times sees this invasion as a continuation of the violence and repression that claimed many of their family members. The return to power of President Molina, a former general, means that the repression is now being led by the same individuals who were responsible decades earlier. Raids were concentrated in the communities of Santa Rosa and Recreos A, B, and C, the towns surrounding the Q’am B’alam River. In an interview with Manuel Augusto Lopez Ambrosio, director of the military operation in Barillas, he affirmed that the siege was an opportunity to make arrests of “protagonists in previous conflicts” relating to protests against the dam.
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On May 19, nearly three weeks after Miguel’s death, President Molina finally lifted martial law in Barillas. Military forces began to withdraw, but up to 150 military personnel remain in the town “to guarantee security and avert new disturbances.” And there are other remnants of the siege: nine men from the community remain in detention in the national prison in Guatemala City. One of the detainees, Saul Méndez, had filed a complaint against Hydro Santa Cruz with a departmental ombudsman for making threats against him. Alberto Brunori, the UN high commissioner for human rights in Guatemala, confirmed that he had been informed of the human rights violations and threats of violence prior to Méndez’s arrest. Carlos Manuel Marroquin, a local lawyer, has taken on the case of the nine detainees. At a press conference in late June, he paged through a stack of papers. “In all of this information, there is not any legitimate investigation that implicates the nine accused men of crimes committed,” he said. What Marroquin has found are numerous human rights violations and disrespect for the legal process of detention. “We believe that this case is very grave for the state of Guatemala, because it demonstrates that when those arrested are Indigenous campesinos, their individual rights are not respected. The guarantees of rights are not applied to them . . . and that just cannot be allowed,” Marroquin said. One month after the siege ended, on June 18, the community held a meeting in the town’s central plaza on the Mayan day of Oxlajuj Ix, a day believed to confer high levels of energy and wisdom. The meeting was a call for unity and solidarity among the community, Indigenous Peoples across Guatemala, and grassroots organizations around the world. Some supporters traveled for days to stand with the community that afternoon. An inter-denominational prayer was offered for the well being of those currently under arrest, as well as for those who are still being persecuted for protesting the energy companies. Sixteen years after the end of armed conflict, dozens of community leaders again find themselves forced to flee their homes for asylum in the surrounding mountains, or even Mexico. In an editorial published by one of Guatemala’s major newspapers, Juan Luis Font concluded with a petition of justice for those arrested: “The constitution states that the State should be organized for the primordial purpose of defending human life. The defense of private property comes second. It’s not the other way around.” While the people of Barillas continue the struggle to assert their rights, Hermalinda Simon, president of a local organization for women and children, implores the community to have faith: “To the wives of those who are being persecuted: do not despair. We will make sure that your husbands return home as soon as possible.”
Community members and others in solidarity with the town of Barillas march from the center of town to the site where Miguel was shot.
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 19
Indigenous contingent Andean flag at the People’s Summit march
Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigena (CAOI) at the People’s Summit march
The Future we Don’t Want Indigenous peoples at Rio+20 Miriam Anne Frank
arce” and “failure” are a few choice words that Indigenous Peoples have used to describe Rio+20, known officially as the United Nations World Conference on Sustainable Development. The conference, held from June 20-22, was a follow up to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, a.k.a., the Earth Summit. With over 50,000 registered participants, the Rio de Janeiro-based event was the largest UN gathering in history. Perhaps not surprisingly, the event turned Brazilian Indigenous people into poster icons in the mainstream media. Yet, in spite of such high visibility and vocal presence, it seems the world’s heads of state were not listening. According to the description on the official conference website, Rio+20 was intended to be a forum for a series of dialogues on “how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.” The “we” in this vision statement refers to 10 “major groups” formalized by this process: business and industry, local authorities, NGOs, the scientific and technological community, farmers, women, children, laborers, trade unions, and Indigenous Peoples. The fact that Indigenous Peoples had a place at the table meant they were able to provide input into the formal document produced by the conference, which was given the (unintentionally) ironic title, “The Future We Want.” Despite its many shortcomings, “The Future We Want” contains the strongest mention by an official UN document of the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to date. As stated, “We recognize the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the global, regional and national implementation of sustainable development strategies.” While this recognition is a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen whether it will truly guide the implementation phase of Rio+20. On the whole, “The Future We Want” has been widely panned. Many major groups, Indigenous Peoples chief among them, have complained that the document doesn’t actually represent a future that anybody wants. Much of the resistance has centered around the concept of the proposed “green economy.” As per the United Nations Environment Programme, a green economy is defined as one whose growth in income and employment is driven by investments in systems to reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems. This development path is supposed to “maintain, enhance, and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital . . . especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature.” While perhaps well-intentioned in scope, the concept of nature-as-market capital is in direct conflict with the worldviews of many Indigenous Peoples who understand themselves to be inseparable from nature, as stewards and caretakers with a responsibility to protect the environment. The green economy proposed at Rio+20 also fails to address the inherent unsustainability of the practices that it outlines, ignoring the reality that natural resources are finite; if not properly cared for or respected, they will be depleted.
All photos courtesy of Maria Rosa Jijion calderon
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The gap between the rhetoric of the “green economy” and the reality on the ground is most blatant in Brazil, where new laws and policies undermine Indigenous Peoples’ rights and expose them to land grabs and mining.
Issues of Access
Ensuring the participation of opposing voices was another major issue at Rio+20. Even those who were able to gain entry to the UN compound were restricted from attending the official meetings and thus had scant access to the decision-makers. The metaphorical distance between the two groups was underscored by the conference’s physical setup: world leaders were enclosed in a protected space with their backs to the relatively small, dimly lit area where the rest of the participants congregated. If one was lucky enough to gain entry to the guarded room (as few as 15 passes per major group were issued), one could only observe. Representatives were granted few opportunities to speak, and no real dialogue was possible. The Sustainable Development Dialogues were meant to provide a forum for engagement between experts and participants on key topics, with the opportunity for those at the conference—as well as interested parties around the world— to vote online for the primary messages that would ultimately be discussed at the conference. As an example, the so-called dialogue on Forests consisted of 10 expert panelists who each made individual presentations, leaving very little time for an actual exchange. As one Indigenous representative remarked, most forest dwelling peoples, whose input would have been vital to discussions involving deforestation, do not have access to the Internet. Neither were many Indigenous people well informed about the online voting process. Irrespective of these setbacks, Indigenous Peoples came to Rio prepared to make themselves heard. While often not well-considered in the main event, they succeeded in organizing three major meetings of their own. Kari-Oca II
Twenty years after the first Indigenous Peoples’ Conference, which coincided with the 1992 Earth Summit, Kari-Oca II
The final Rio+20 document, “The Future We Want,” does not mention free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and there was little emphasis on the rights of women.
was realized. The gathering was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance; Land is Life; the Indigenous Environment Network; and the Inter-Tribal Committee of Brazil. Held at the sacred site of Kari-Oka Púku on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Kari-Oca II brought together a large contingent of Indigenous Peoples primarily from Brazil and the Americas. The agenda for this week-long meeting focused on evaluating gains and losses since the first Rio conference, including the status of implementation of such key documents as the UN Conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Kari-Oca II was also designed to be a place for the participating groups to collectively strategize and share information. Time was set aside for discussion of major environmental issues like deforestation in developing countries and the impact of extractive industries and dams, among others. The resulting declaration of Kari-Oca II condemned the UN’s current agenda: “We see the goals of Rio+20, the ‘Green Economy’ and its premise that the world can only
Xavante delegates with “Marãiwaitsede – Land of the Xavante” signs at the People’s Summit march bring attention to the presence of armed invaders occupying their territories in western Brazil. Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 21
Participants at International Indigenous Peoples Conference on Self-Determination and Sustainable Development discussed the impacts of development models on Indigenous Peoples’ rights to food, food sovereignty, and the Andean idea of buen vivir (living well), among many topics.
‘save’ nature by commodifying its life-giving capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years.” Although this gathering was held miles from the site of Rio+20, on June 21 participants marched from Kari-Oka Púku to the UN compound. Only a small contingent were allowed onto the premises to formally submit their declaration. As Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations of the United States), who participated in the march, stated, “We cannot commodify the sacred and expect a good outcome.” Mossett spoke from direct experience, having witnessed the devastating effects of oil and gas drilling on her homeland in North Dakota.
presented their declaration. Although many participants were associated with Rio+20 and active in the conference’s official preparatory processes, they remained skeptical of its outcome. As Onel Masardule (Kuna from Panama) stated: “Governments in most countries have already signed up to human rights agreements and environmental treaties and have endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are here in Rio once again to demand that States fulfill their obligations and commitments in all development policies, finance and actions and put proper arrangements in place at the national level to implement these agreements. Our rights must be secured so that our lands and territories are maintained for the benefit of our future generations and the whole of humanity.”
Indigenous Peoples International Conference
The Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Sustainable Development and Self Determination: Standing Together for Our Food Sovereignty, Traditional Cultures and Ways of Life was organized by the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Coordinating Committee for Rio+20 in the framework of the official UN conference. Held on the grounds of Rio’s Museum of the Republic from June 17-19, the conference was largely attended by representatives of Indigenous Peoples who work on environmental policy issues. For three days, participants discussed an agenda that included the impact of development models on Indigenous Peoples and food sovereignty, the right to food, the Andean idea of buen vivir (living well), and issues related to ecosystems and lifestyles. The conference declaration addressed the fundamental relationship of culture to sustainable development and the importance of strengthening diverse local economies and territorial management. One critical point, which clearly refers to Rio+20’s notion of a “green economy,” states: “We will continue to reject the dominant neo-liberal concept and practice of development based on colonization, commodification, contamination and exploitation of the natural world, and policies and projects based on this model.” During this conference’s formal side event at the UN compound on June 21, Indigenous representatives officially
From June 15–22, Indigenous representatives gathered together as Campamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp) during the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice in Defense of the Commons. The organizers of this dedicated Indigenous space included the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, the Indigenous Council of Central America, and the Guarani Continental Council of the Nation. Held in Flamengo Park in the heart of Rio, the People’s Summit was organized as a counter-conference; the anti-Rio+20. It centered around local and global struggles for anti-capitalist, -classist, -racist, -patriarchal, and -homophobic political framing. The delegates of the Free Land Camp produced the Terra Livre Declaration, which focuses on the concept of buen vivir: “We advocate and defend plural and autonomous forms of lives, inspired by the model of Living Well/Healthy Life, where Mother Earth is respected and cared for, where humans are just another species among all the other compositions of multi-diversity of the planet.” The delegates also compiled a list of proposals for action with a focus on issues at the forefront for the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, such as the need
Despite its many shortcomings, “The Future We Want” contains the strongest mention by an official UN document of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to date. 22 • ww w. cs. org
Indigenous participation at Kari-Oca II, International Indigenous Peoples Conference, and Terra Livre highlighted an alternative vision of self-determined development that integrates culture, social values, and rights-based approaches in environment and development policies.
for land demarcation to protect Indigenous territories, along with calls to improve health conditions and Indigenous education. On June 20, an especially drizzly day, the Peoples’ Summit organized a protest march against Rio+20. Led by the Campamento Terra Livre, a contingent of Indigenous Peoples gathered around a giant rainbow flag. (The icon represents to the Andean people the legacy of the Inca empire, and is a symbol of Indigenous Peoples’ resilience.) Thousands marched from Flamengo Park through the streets of downtown Rio, carrying signs and banners ranging from professional to homemade. Many participants wore creative costumes, some carried giant puppets, others walked on stilts; all came together to create a joyous and carnival-like atmosphere. True to the spirit of Brazil, a truck blaring samba music, complete with samba school students dancing alongside, added the musical component to what turned into a daylong march. Preserving the Environment for Our Relatives Still to Come
As was perhaps to be expected, the Brazilian government and media took full advantage of the many photo opportunities that colorfully dressed Amazonian peoples provided. At KariOca II, the Brazilian government extolled the creation of a fund for the promotion of Indigenous culture. However, it has also recently approved the construction of one of the most controversial projects in the country’s history—the Belo Monte dam. The dam promises to bring devastating environmental consequences to the region, which happens to be in heart of the Amazon rainforest; thousands of Indigenous Peoples will be displaced as rising river waters flood their homelands. Along with many others, Indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire, a chief of the 5,000-member Kayapó tribe, came to Rio to defend his people and protest the dam: “The white man doesn’t want to preserve the forest for the future. This worries me a lot. Why don’t they preserve green forests for our relatives who are still to come?” Metukire’s concerns are shared by Indigenous Peoples who recognize that their fate is not being considered among those in power, neither in international forums like Rio+20, nor in any other real long term capacity.
Despite its many failings, Rio+20 succeeded in providing a platform for the convergence of social movements, NGOs, and Indigenous Peoples to advocate for their rights. Participants of the many side sessions and counter groups developed concrete visions for a just, sustainable development model— one that is based on what they believe is best for the planet and its inhabitants. Indigenous Peoples at Rio+20 made it clear that the “official” vision to emerge from the conference is not the future they want; what they seek instead is a future that is self-determined, and therefore truly sustainable. — Miriam Anne Frank is an applied anthropologist who has been active in supporting Indigenous Peoples for over two decades. Presently she is working for the Sacred Land Film Project, teaches as an external lecturer at the University of Vienna, Austria, and consults for IPOs, NGOs, foundations, and museums.
To read the texts of the three declarations mentioned in the article, visit: goo.gl/Y82XZ
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Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 23
“We Put Down Our Weapons and Picked On July 7–8, 2012, members of 15 community radio stations partnering with Cultural Survival’s radio network across Guatemala gathered for a workshop in the Mujb’ab’l Yol training center in San Mateo, Quetzaltenango. The workshop focused on the difficult topic of historical memory of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict, which claimed the lives of 200,000 mostly Indigenous people. With the goal of using self-expression as a tool to alleviate trauma, participants wrote and recorded poems about the armed conflict in Spanish and their native Mayan languages. Leading the workshop was Alberto “Tino” Recinos (Mam), Cultural Survival’s citizen participation coordinator, who ran the guerilla radio station Voz Popular during the armed conflict. Recinos founded a community radio station after the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. The following excerpt has been adapted from a chapter of Recinos’ memoirs, a work in progress, as told to and translated by Amanda Turner. It describes Recinos’ introduction to radio as a tool for social change.
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Recinos walking through the Quetzaltenango (Xela) market. Photo by Tracy L. Barnett, The Esperanza Project.
Alberto “Tino” Recinos (as told to Amanda Turner)
was a guerilla in the Guatemalan Civil War for 12 years. I made uniforms. I transported weapons. I fought in the mountains. I taught incoming compañeros about our values and political motivations. Most importantly, I was a radio operator and part of the outreach for Voz Popular, the guerilla radio program. I was 12 when the Guatemalan army kidnapped and killed my father for being a community organizer. My father had lobbied our community to build a school and a medical center. He had wanted to improve our quality of life and he was killed for it. I joined the guerilla movement when I was 14 because the army had killed my father, but also because I strongly believed in what the guerillas were fighting for. Were we communists? Were we socialists? You can call it whatever you want, but we were fighting for our rights and the rights of the Guatemalan people; we were fighting against inequality and abuses of Indigenous people. I believed in our struggle and I believed that fighting was the only way to make the Guatemalan government listen to us. I fought in many battles and I saw many people die. But being a guerilla was like being in school. The commander asked me to teach fellow guerillas to read and write so that if they fell into the hands of the enemy, they could write their testimonies. I was a political instructor in the war. I explained to people why their conviction was important and that they should share their knowledge with other people so that everyone was equal. The war taught us how to be more human. The gun was for defending yourself, but the gun didn’t direct you. You had to direct yourself. The gun was just a tool to stay alive. These were beautiful things that we learned in the war. After two years, I was given the great responsibility of being a radio operator. The first time I was given a radio, I had no idea how to use it. My lieutenant spent five minutes teaching me and told me to figure out the rest in the field. Because I didn’t really know how to use the radio, we were without communication for eight days. Luckily, my superior told the commander that we were without signal because we were in difficult terrain. But I had a good radio. Man, it was a really good radio.
Once I figured out how to use it, I communicated three times a day. We had to talk into the radio and say numbers, and then look up the numbers to understand the words. There were more than three pages of keys and I memorized most of them. I gained a reputation for being able to write really well through the radio. Sometimes there were 5,000 numbers in a conversation and headquarters would send me all those numbers and I would know all of them. I had a great capacity for hearing and memorizing the numbers. If you missed one number, then you might not be able to understand the message. But I hardly ever had to ask people to repeat. I became second in command for the radios, imaginase (imagine that)! And I did the communications for some very important actions in the war. In 1986, I left the mountains. I was sent to Mexico because my family, who had been separated from me during the war, had finally been found. After reuniting with my family, I was recruited to work for Voz Popular, the guerilla radio station. Voz Popular was incredibly important to the guerilla movement and to the education of rural Guatemalans. The radio programs told the people about the movements of the army and the guerillas. They told the people which towns were targets for massacres. The programs were also educational and informed people about their rights. Voz Popular’s programs were made in a tiny studio in Mexico. My partner and I smuggled the programs and a radio with a huge antenna across the border into Guatemala so that the programs could cover the largest range. It was a very dangerous route and we could have been caught and killed at any moment. But we strongly believed in the importance of the radio programs. We were willing to risk our lives for this cause.
Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Up a Microphone”
Participants of Cultural Survival’s first workshop on historical memory, July 8, 2012 in San Mateo, Quetzaltenango. Recinos (far right) poses with his son, Justin.
Photo by Danielle DeLuca
Recinos is interviewed about his experience in the armed conflict by Idelfonoso Ambrocio (Quiche), member of community radio station Nojibal Estereo in Sololá, Guatemala.
I worked for nine years transmitting the programs of Voz Popular. Then the war ended. In the Peace Accords, the guerilla leaders made sure to protect the rights of community radio. Indigenous people have a right to community radio and to protect themselves from massacres like those that happened in the past. After the war, my compatriots and I founded Mujb’ab’l Yol (“Encounter of Expressions” in Mam). It is a coalition of community radio stations. We wanted to continue educating the people about their rights. We produce programs on women’s rights, rights of children, alcohol and drug prevention, the environment, religious freedom, and the importance of political participation. We do not allow any political parties to buy airtime; rather, any politician who wants a voice may use our airtime. The radio also serves as a space for community news. In villages where people can’t read newspapers or don’t have access to television, radio provides critical information. As it was written in the Peace Accords, people have the right to community radio. It has been and continues to be a long struggle to protect and legalize community radio. Although it is guaranteed by the Peace Accords, community radio is still not legally protected under Guatemalan law. There is a strong political movement now to legalize community radio. My compatriots and I are working incredibly hard to lobby the government to protect our radio stations with the passage of a new law. It is still dangerous to fight for the right to community radio: my life has been threatened several times because of the work that I do. But I strongly believe in this cause. The war has ended, but the fight for the rights of Indigenous people and rural Guatemalans continues. Community radio provides education, communication, news, and a sense of freedom. I will continue to fight for the rights of the community radio stations until Guatemalan law recognizes their importance in our society. I hope that you will support me in this movement. To learn more about Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Program and to get involved, visit: www.cs.org/grp
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 25
Our Voices on the Air Reaching New Audiences Through Indigenous Radio
Jennifer Weston (CS Staff)
rising hum of Mayan, Euchee, Lakota, M¯aori, Mixtec, Spanish, English, and myriad other diverse languages, followed by moments of calm during an opening prayer, signaled the start of a three-day language revitalization and radio conference on the top floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Thirty Indigenous language teachers, speakers, and learners who work or volunteer as radio producers gathered from Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States to share their experiences working to revitalize their endangered languages via radio, online, classroom, and community engagement programming. After a warm welcome from Dr. Eva Pell, Smithsonian undersecretary for science, sessions convened with a focus on expanding the use of radio and web-based platforms to maintain and revitalize Indigenous languages as rich local repositories of ceremony, spirituality, song, and biodiversity in local environments, and as complex indicators of social change within Indigenous cultures. The conference brought together
scholars in language revitalization, specialists in Indigenous media, language advocates and teachers, and Indigenous radio producers from around the world. Olga Mercedes Ajcalon said, “Before coming to this conference, I had thought that it was only Indigenous people in Guatemala who [were] struggling to maintain our culture and language. Here I am surrounded by Indigenous brothers and sisters from many places that are facing the same challenges that we do back home—and many are succeeding. It is very inspiring and I will take these lessons back to my people.” Longtime radio producer Maria Martín, a member of the conference organizing committee and director of the Gracias Vida Center for Media in Antigua, Guatemala, reminded attendees that 65 percent of the world’s population doesn’t use the Internet regularly, while radios are on daily from the most rural areas to the densest urban centers. “In the next few days, let’s think creatively and strategically about how we can help, support, and learn from each other,” she suggested. Language Loss
Researchers predict that the vast majority of the world’s estimated 6,000 to 7,000 languages may disappear by the end of
“Survival is the treasured goal for all of us.” — Our Voices on the Air Participant, 2012 26 26 • • ww www. w. cs. cs.org org
Photo by Mark Camp
Over 30 Indigenous language radio producers from Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States share their experiences at "Our Voices on the Air."
“Our language is the number one source of our soul, our pride, our being, our strength, and our identity.” — Indigenous language instructor, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2010
the 21st Century. Indigenous Peoples, who are the speakers of the majority of these languages, face an onslaught of discriminatory policies and socio-economic pressures to replace their tribal languages with more dominant tongues such as English, Hindi, Mandarin, and Spanish. Within Indigenous languages is embedded tribal wisdom encompassing cultural values, spiritual practices, and knowledge of environmental change accumulated through long-term interactions with local homelands and resources; in losing a language, the world loses part of its collective cultural diversity and a priceless record of local biodiversity. Saving and revitalizing languages means teaching them to the next generations. Radio is an ideal educational medium, as for many Indigenous communities around the world it is the most accessible form of information sharing. It is also relatively easy to create the necessary infrastructure for a community-based, volunteer-run radio station. When it comes to revitalizing Indigenous languages, Hawaiian language advocate Kaimana Barcarse asked, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not on our Indigenous lands, then where?” Later, he added, “We are here for the same reason, the life of our language and the life of our people. If we can band together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.” Cross-Cultural Exchanges
Cultural Survival’s Community Radio and Endangered Languages program joined forces with the Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering Voices initiative to facilitate endangered language revitalization by connecting international Indigenous communities that are producing and expanding radio programming in local languages. “Our Voices on the Air: Reaching New Audiences Through Indigenous Radio” involved the Smithsonian partner organizations the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and was sponsored by the Consortia for World Cultures and Understanding the American Experience. Radio producers, linguists, and advocates from many tribal and mainstream communities shared examples of specific resources, legal challenges, and other wide-ranging experiences gained from broadcasting, teaching, and organizing in their communities. Media professionals from around the world also brought their expertise to the discussion. Through workshops, presentations, screenings, and comparative discussion sessions, producers developed new material—and inspiration—to enrich their community radio programming at home. Oscar Pérez, Central American and El Salvador representative to the World Association of Community Broadcasters, summed up the stark contrast between the challenges faced by US-based tribal communities and their disenfranchised Indigenous counterparts in the global south: “We work for the existence of a legal framework that recognizes Indigenous radio because people are imprisoned and persecuted for doing community radio,” he said.
Bill Siemering, now of Developing Radio Partners, is a giant in community radio who helped frame National Public Radio’s original mission and founded NPR’s All Things Considered. In discussing the importance of “peer-sharing,” Simering said, “The thing we all share is the love of radio and the passion for this wonderful, personal, intimate medium that not only brings information to people…but [also] holds public officials accountable.” He presented brief case studies of community radio as an educational tool utilized by tribal and pastoral communities from Tanzania, Mozambique, Mongolia, and Macedonia. “Few social movements have a broader reach that affects more people than having an engaging community radio station,” he said. Similar “big picture” presentations by Peggy Berryhill (Muscogee Creek), founder of the Native Media Resource Center, and Hugo Morales, a founder and longtime executive director of Radio Bilingue, set the stage for more specific case study presentations by Gunargie O’Sullivan, member of the Canadian National Community Radio Association board of directors and host on Vancouver Co-op Radio; Kaimana Barcarse, from ‘Aha P¯unana Leo and KWXX radio in Hilo and Kona, Hawaii; Maria Rigoberta Gonzales Sal, Radio Ixchel, and Ancelmo Xunic Cabrera, both from Guatemala; Lester Revis from the Euchee Language Project’s Yuchi House and weekly show in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Martin Loft from the Kanien’kehaka Onkwawenna Raotitiohkwa Language and Cultural Center in Mohawk Territory, Quebec; Cara Joe-Dukepoo from KUYI Hopi Public Radio, Arizona; Roman Lopez Reyes and Carlos Alberto Nunez Hernandez from Colectivo Literario San Lucas Quiavini, Oaxaca; Wena Tait, station manager at Te Reo Irirangi M¯aori o Te Upoko ote Ika, New Zealand; and Brian Brashier, station manager for Chickasaw Nation Community Radio in Ada, Oklahoma. Looking Forward
Through Cultural Survival’s language and radio programs, along with our Smithsonian Institution partners, we intend to continue collaborating with local Indigenous radio producers to expand on the stories and recordings from the conference in order to develop an international radio series for broadcast to a wide community and public radio audience. The series will tell the story of the endangerment of the world’s languages, the importance of revitalizing these languages, and the crucial role that community radio programming can play in revitalizing Indigenous languages as a catalyst for social justice. Cultural Survival hopes that the conference will bring us closer to our organizational objectives of establishing international networks of Indigenous community radio stations and language revitalization programs. To learn more about the “Our Voices on the Air” conference, to join the conversation on our blog, and to listen to programs produced by participants, visit: www.cs.org/our-voices-on-the-air
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 27
Ba za a r Ar tis t: Porfirio Gutierre z
Weaving for the Environment and Future Generations Gutierrez weaving on a traditional loom.
Don’t miss the Winter 2012 season of the Cultural Survival Bazaars The 2012 Bazaar series raised over $445,749 for Indigenous artisans and their communities. Nuts, bark, insects, and indigo as natural dyes.
To learn more, visit: bazaar. culturalsurvival.org
Photos courtesy of Porfirio Gutierrez
orfirio Gutierrez comes from a long tradition of Zapotec rug weavers. Born and raised in Teotitlan Del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, Gutierrez learned the art of weaving and dyeing wool using plants, minerals, and insects under the tutelage of his father. He has since perfected this traditional skill and become a vocal advocate for his people’s culture and art. “We are one of only eight families, amongst hundreds in Teotitlan, that uses organic methods of dyeing wool. We are not only keeping traditional ways of making rugs alive but we are trying to protect the environment from harmful synthetic dyes that pollute our waterways. When dyed wool and rugs are washed in Teotitlan’s local creek, the entire ecosystem suffers,” Gutierrez commented at the Cultural Survival Bazaar in Tiverton, RI this past July. The commitment to using natural dyes and more sustainable practices inevitably leads to a history lesson in Zapotec weaving traditions. For centuries, Zapotec weavers found the sources for their dyes in plants, insects, and minerals native to Oaxaca. Using abundant resources like nuts, tree bark, cochineal insects, and indigo, Zapotecs developed a sustainable palette of colors for their woven designs. “I hope my entire village will resort to using the region’s vast supply of natural plants, minerals, and insects, just as our ancestors did originally. This is for the long-term benefit of our community,” Gutierrez says. With an eye to the future and roots firmly in the past, Gutierrez blends Zapotec-inspired patterns with his eco-conscious sensibility, producing striking rugs, tapestries, and pillows. Working side by side with his father and siblings to complete each new
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piece, a rug measuring 3x5 feet can take several weeks to produce on a traditional loom. The range of styles he achieves in his work brings new meaning to the idea of organic design: both his materials and his methods have evolved to blend effortlessly with contemporary style. “I am inspired by symbolic elements that represent earthly concepts—life, nature, and eternity,” Gutierrez explains. Gutierrez investigates and studies ancient symbols from Zapotec culture; weaving has always involved an element of storytelling. “I value the importance of reinterpreting and rediscovering traditional symbols and motifs in my work,” he says. “I recently saw a circle motif on a plate unearthed in an archaeological dig and this motif made its way into a new weaving. It tells the story of connection, respect, and longevity and represents the key to understanding my past and my commitment to the future of weaving in Teotitlan.” Gutierrez plays the roles of advocate, educator, and cultural ambassador. Currently he is based in California, but he continues to work closely with his family back home and has started Indigena Design Studio, a studio dedicated to the promotion of Zapotec weaving tradition among youth in Teotitlan. He travels around the U.S. showcasing his and his community’s work. “The Cultural Survival Bazaars provide Indigenous artists [an opportunity] not only to market their art to a receptive audience that understands the value of hand-made crafts, but it allows us to share our cultures and continue our traditions.” To learn more about Porfirio Gutierrez’s work, visit: www.porfiriodesign.com
2012 End-of-the-World Prophecy Discredited (Again) Agnes Portalewska (CS Staff)
t seems the closer we get to December 21, 2012, the more we hear the “doomsday” myth repeated. It shows up in films, television commercials, cable specials, and print ads. To Maya priests, however, December 21, 2012, or Oxlajuj Baktum, does not signal the end of the world. The date actually marks the end of a 5,129-year Long Count calendar cycle, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. “I want to send a message to everyone in North America, and the rest of the world: You don’t have to be afraid, because 2012 isn’t going to end the world. [There will be] a new era of peace. Maybe the filmmakers weren’t listening when they asked about 2012, or maybe they got it from a bad source. But they are taking advantage of our culture, and profiting from it,” says Julian Velazquez, a Maya spiritual guide in Momostenango, Guatemala. A recent discovery of a Maya mural in a chamber in Xultún, a large Maya archaeological site that flourished between 600 and 800 CE, provides additional confirmation that December 21, 2012 does not portend the end of the world. The mural, which is located near the Preclassic site of San Bartolo in the Petén Jungle of northern Guatemala, depicts the cyclical nature of time; the chamber walls are covered in calculations that are thought to have aided scribes in tracking time. The mural includes glyphs and columns of numbers in the form of bars and dots, based on astronomical observations. Scholars believe that the glyphs refer to dates thousands of years into the future—perhaps as far as 7,000 years from the time they were painted—further undermining the misconception that the Maya were predicting the end of the world on December 21, 2012. In a full excavation of the site last year, William Saturno, a Boston University archaeologist, and his team of students found what they believe to be the ancient workroom of a Maya scribe, a record-keeper of Xultún. The scribe’s calculations are barely visible hieroglyphic texts depicted on the east and north walls of the chamber that appear to represent various calendar cycles the Maya were noted for: the 260-day ceremonial calendar, the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of Venus, and the 780-day cycle of Mars. At the time the mural was created, Xultún was suffering through a period of intense drought. Throughout the region, cities were collapsing. In times of difficulty, the Maya turned to their leaders for guidance in appeasing the gods. In turn Maya leaders consulted astronomers and scribes, who used a combination of past events and complex arithmetic to predict the future. Placed in this context, the calculations in the mural appear to have been a practical response by the people of Xultún trying to make sense of what was happening. While it is impossible to know the Maya’s intentions with exact certainty, one thing is clear: on December 22, the world will still be here. As for the myth of 12/21/2012? We predict the end is near.
To learn more about Maya priests’ take on 2012, visit: www.cs.org
Cultural Survival Quarterly
September 2012 • 29
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