Cultural Survival Q
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge
Vol. 43, Issue 3 â€˘ september 2019 US $4.99/CAN $6.99
Se p t e mber 2 01 9 Vo lum e 43 , Issue 3 Board of Directors president
Duane Champagne (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) Vice President
Steven Heim Treasurer
In April, the Waorani of Pastaza, Ecuador, won a historic ruling protecting half a million acres of their territory in the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling (see p. 6). Photo by Mitch Anderson, Amazon Frontlines.
Jason Campbell (Spokane)
F e at u r e s
D e pa r t m e n t s
Evelyn Arce Erickson (Muisca) Kaimana Barcarse (Kanaka Hawai’i) Laura Graham Ajb’ee Jiménez (Maya Mam) Lesley Kabotie (Crow) John King Stephen Marks Tui Shortland (Ma–ori) Stella Tamang (Tamang)
12 Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge
1 Executive Director’s Message
FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival Headquarters 2067 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 www.cs.org Cultural Survival Quarterly
Copy Editor: Jenn Goodman Designer: NonprofitDesign.com Contributing Arts Editor: Phoebe Farris Managing Editor: Agnes Portalewska Copyright 2019 by Cultural Survival, Inc. Cultural Survival Quarterly (ISSN 0740-3291) is published quarterly by Cultural Survival, Inc. at PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. Periodical postage paid at Boston, MA 02205 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Cultural Survival, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. 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, PO Box 381569, Cambridge, MA 02238. 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 to any reader offended by the omission.
The 18th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was devoted to traditional knowledge highlighting the urgency to protect knowledge systems as they directly contribute to sustaining biological diversity, food security, conflict resolution, and combatting climate change. Our Indigenous Rights Radio Producers spoke with Indigenous leaders on the topic:
• We Must Stand Up for Our Future Generations and to Save Ourselves
2 In the News 4 Indigenous Arts: A Native Music/Multimedia Collaboration: Laura Ortman and Nanobah Becker
6 Rights in Action
LaDonna “Good Earth Woman” Brave Bull Allard
Waorani of Ecuador Win a Historic Lawsuit in Defense of the Amazon
• “NO” to the Companies Within Our Ancestral Territory
8 Women the World Must Hear
Moisés Alberto Villafaña Izquierdo
• Respect for Indigenous Rights Is Crucial in Protecting Biodiversity
• Our Existence Is Dependent on Us Being Land Caretakers Les Malezer
• Facing the Impacts of Climate Change
• Media as a Means to Transmit Indigenous Knowledge Kenneth Deer
• States Should Partner with Indigenous People Raja Devashis Roy
• Loss of Traditional Knowledge Is Due to Lack of Documentation
• The Intellectual Wealth of Indigenous Communities Is Being Misappropriated Elifuraha Laltaika
Indigenous Women Take to the Streets in Brazil
10 Climate Change
The First U.S. Climate Refugees
23 Community Media Youth Fellows
Transmitting Traditional Knowledge Through Radio
24 Keepers of the Earth Fund Grant Partner Spotlight
4th International Indigenous Peoples Corn Conference
28 Staff Spotlight
Working Towards Change: Adriana Hernández
29 Bazaar Artist From Silver to Lace: Katarina Doda
• Protecting Our Traditional Knowledge from Exploitation
Baitz Niahosa On the cover
24 Sounding the Conch Shell
ii • www. cs. org
Maya Youth Organizers In Belize, Julian Cho Society organized a camp for Maya youth to learn about traditional knowledge.
A Navajo elder proudly presents her jewelry and basket making. Traditional knowledge is transmitted between generations through stories, songs, dances, weavings, paintings, and art. Its transmission to the next generation must be protected and encouraged. Photo by grandriver.
Inter i m Execut iv e Di rector’ S messa g e
The Time to Act Is Now!
would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Suzanne Benally (Santa Clara Tewa and Navajo), who has led Cultural Survival for the past eight years and who stepped down on June 1 to attend and focus on caring for her family. The Board of Directors appointed me to serve as the interim executive director until our new executive director, Galina Angarova (Buryat), begins her role in October. This issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly is focused on traditional knowledge. In the following pages, you will read the voices of Indigenous leaders who are advocating for the protection, support, and transmission of traditional knowledge to younger generations. We live in a critical time where action needs to be taken now to save the planet and Indigenous voices must be listened to. As I write this, the Amazon rainforest is burning, the Taiga in Siberia is burning, ice caps in the Arctic are melting, and salmon are dying en masse due to elevated water temperatures. Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of climate change and hold the knowledge that can address and mitigate some of today’s greatest challenges. Transferring this information across generations is vital, and promoting Indigenous languages, which hold knowledge accumulated over thousands of years on medicine, meteorology, agriculture, and the like, is imperative. At Cultural Survival, we
strive to amplify Indigenous voices by supporting community media efforts, grassroots advocacy, and development projects that are led by Indigenous people and rooted in Indigenous knowledge. The Cultural Survival staff is diverse, spanning 8 countries and speaking 15 different languages—all from a staff of only 21 people. I am proud that we do a tremendous amount of work with a small, talented, and dedicated team. As Cultural Survival nears its 50th anniversary, I must also remind you, our readers, that Cultural Survival relies on you to do our work. Fully 65 percent of our budget comes from individual donors giving what they can and making purchases at the Cultural Survival Bazaar. Last year, 3,000 individuals decided to invest some of their own money in Cultural Survival. I say “invest,” because when you give to Cultural Survival, you are helping to build something. You are investing in the defense of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, lands, and cultures. And you are investing in Indigenous women and youth. We hope we can count on you as we embark on a new era with a new leader. In Solidarity,
Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Cultural Survival Staff Mark Camp, Interim Executive Director Avexnim Cojtí (Maya K’iche’), Community Media Program Manager Jessie Cherofsky, Bazaar Program Manager Danielle DeLuca, Advocacy & Development Manager Shaldon Ferris (Khoisan), Indigenous Radio Program Coordinator Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Nati Garcia (Maya Mam), Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Coordinator Adriana Hernández (Maya K'iche'), Executive Assistant Dev Kumar Sunuwar (Kumar/Sunuwar), Program Associate, Community Media Grants Project Danae Laura, Bazaar Program Manager Maria del Rosario “Rosy” Sul González (Kaqchikel), Indigenous Radio Program Coordinator Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez, (Mixe/Ayuuk ja’ay & Zapotec/Binnizá), Keepers of the Earth Fund Project Manager Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Teresita Orozco Mendoza, Community Media Training Coordinator Cesar Gomez Moscut (Pocomam), Community Media Program Coordinator Diana Pastor (Maya K’iche’), Central America Media Coordinator Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Angelica Rao, Human Resources Coordinator
Sócrates Vásquez García (Ayuuk), Community Media Grants Coordinator Miranda Vitello, Development Associate
INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS
Meet Our New Executive Director!
alina Angarova is a representative of the Buryat people, a Russian Indigenous Nation. She comes to Cultural Survival after serving as program officer at the Swift Foundation, and prior to that, as policy and communications advisor for Tebtebba. She has represented the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group at the UN on issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and has led Indigenous experts to review safeguards for Indigenous Peoples for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Green Climate Fund. Previously, Galina was the Russia program director at Pacific Environment, where she organized direct actions to block pipeline construction in the Altai region of Siberia, to close a toxic paper mill on Lake Baikal, and to stop a hydro-dam from flooding Evenk Peoples’ lands. Galina holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of New Mexico and served on the board of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples for seven years. She will commence her role as Cultural Survival’s executive director on October 1.
Katie Ahern, Haley Albano, Tobias Berblinger, Laddy DeLuca Lowell, Brooke Gilder, Katherine Hamilton, Kiara Hernandez, Gemma Love, Weiping Niu, Hamilton Paredes, Allen Perez, Carolyn Smith-Morris, Chris Swartz.
There are so many ways to
S tay conn e ct e d www.cs.org facebook.com/culturalsurvival twitter: @CSORG email@example.com instagram: @cultural_survival
Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 1
i n t he new s Finland: Finland District Court Rules in Favor of Sámi Right to Fish March
Sámi fishers were accused of fishing without a permit and of a fishing violation due to an act that prohibits the fishing activities of local people. On March 6, the District Court of Lapland ruled that the Sámi People have a right to fish in their home rivers, according to the constitution of Finland.
Canada: Indigenous Women and Girls Found to Be 12 Times More Likely to Be Murdered June
Canada’s rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people “amounts to genocide,” according to a report released in June 2019 by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The report consists of thousands of testimonies from survivors and loved ones.
United States: California Governor Apologizes for “Systemic Slaughter” of Native Americans June
California Governor Gavin Newsom formally apologized on behalf of the State of California for the slaughter of Native Americans, which he called a genocide. The apology took place in a ceremony with Tribal leaders at the site of the future California Indian Heritage Center.
Nepal: National Consultation to Improve Indigenous Broadcasting June
Representatives from over 175 community radio stations in Nepal met in June for a consultation event that ended with the participants adopting a 6-point declaration and action plan for supporting access to community radio for Indigenous Peoples. Changes include producing more radio programs in Indigenous languages, inclusion of meaningful participation of Indigenous 2 • www. cs. org
A historic national consultation on Indigenous broadcasting took place in Nepal in May. Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar.
people in radio staffing, and a survey to ensure inclusiveness.
United States: Shinnecock Nation Asserts Land Sovereignty June
The State of New York is targeting the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s right to use their sovereign land by legally contesting their construction of an electronic billboard on Sunrise Highway in the Hamptons. The Tribe contends that the billboard generates necessary ad revenue while serving as a monument marking their traditional lands, while the state argues that the billboard doesn’t fit in with the aesthetic of the elite vacation area.
Ethiopia: Government Supported Projects Violate Indigenous Rights June
A series of new development programs in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley has resulted in disastrous consequences for local Indigenous communities, according to a new report from the Oakland Institute. The report includes findings from field research with the Mursi, Bodi, and Kwegu Peoples, who are reeling from the impacts of the Gibe III Dam and Kuraz Sugarcane Development Project.
Kenya: Pastoralists Demand Land Rights July
Indigenous pastoralists gathered in July for a historic march to the Ministry of Land in Nairobi to demand official registration for their communal lands. In 2016, the Kenyan government enacted the Community Land Act, a law that enables local communities to legally
register and own their communal lands, though not a single community has yet succeeded in having their land rights legally recognized.
Brazil: Police Attack Kinikinawa people August
Heavily armed police attacked Kinikinawa people on their land in central western Brazil after the Kinikinawa reoccupied a part of their ancestral land, which was taken to make way for ranchers. The number of land invasions and attacks against Indigeous Peoples has sky- rocketed since President Bolsonaro took office on January 1.
Russia: The Taiga is Burning August
As of August 4, nearly 16,000 square miles are burning in Siberia, an area equivalent to the entire country of Switzerland. A state of emergency has been declared in four Russian provinces, including the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Krasnoyarsk region, and Irkutsk region, home to several Indigenous communities. Heat waves intensified by climate change have helped the fires spread.
Brazil: The Amazon Is Burning August
Fires in the Brazilian Amazon affecting the states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Para, and Mato Grosso have been raging since the beginning of August. According to NASA, the number of fires in Brazil this year is the highest on record since 2010, up 85 percent from last year due to development activities and climate change. The Amazon is home to more than 1,000,000 Indigenous people and approximately 500 Indigenous Nations.
Advocacy Updates Americas: Indigenous Peoples Coalition at Organization of American States Session June
The Organization of American States that strives to promote democracy and development among states in the Western hemisphere. 2019 was the first year that Indigenous Peoples participated in a permanent coalition of the OAS. Two years ago, in 2017, the OAS adopted an action plan that was intended to be completed in four years. The plan consisted of actions that would ensure the implementation of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples across the member states. The action plan included a monitoring mechanism to ensure the OAS would meet the goals of the plan, but there has been little discussion of it since 2017. The Indigenous Nations and Organizations Coalition are urging the OAS to follow through with this important element of the action plan.
USA: Hearing on Massachusetts Bill to Ban Native American Mascots June
The Joint Committee on Education in Massachusetts held a public forum on June 26, where supporters testified in favor of Bills H.443 S.247, which would eliminate the use of Native Americans as mascots in public schools in Massachusetts. Supporters included Native American leaders and civil rights advocates, including non-Native parents and students concerned about the racism that these mascots reinforce. Native supporters of the bill emphasized their lack of consent for the use of these mascots and expressed concern for the effect on Indigenous children. In her statement, Claudia Fox Tree (Arawak) argued that stereotypical images, along with the absence of accurate, respectful representations of Indigenous Peoples, are equally harmful.
USA: Construction Plans on Burial Site Raise Discussion in Boston April
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has proposed building a substance abuse treatment and recovery center on Long Island in Boston Harbor, which is also a site of Native American burial grounds. At the request of local Tribal organizations, the town of Quincy held a second
Cultural Survival’s advocacy program launches international campaigns in support of grassroots Indigenous movements as they put pressure on governments and corporations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of their communities.
public hearing in April to discuss the restoration of a footbridge to the island; the Tribes were not notified of the initial hearing in October 2018. Local Tribes want to protect the island as a Native burial ground and a memorial for the genocidal acts that occurred in the 17th century, and any development needs to occur with their participation. USA: Native Hawaiians Resist Telescope Construction on Sacred Mauna Kea July
Thousands of people have been gathering to protest the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea, a mountain that is sacred for Native Hawaiians, with 34 protesters arrested as of July 18. The project belongs to the TMT International Observatory; many Native Hawaiians assert that the telescope violates their land rights and denigrates the cultural significance of Mauna Kea. Additionally, the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Native Hawaiians was never obtained. Native Hawaiian activists have submitted a report to request urgent action from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Costa Rica: Pressure Mounts for Indigenous Rights April
Five months after Cultural Survival submitted a report to the UN Universal Periodic Review on Costa Rica warning about the need to protect Indigenous rights defenders, well-known Bribri leader, Sergio Rojas, was murdered on March 18, and the perpetrators have yet to be identified. In April, Cultural Survival met with the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica in New York. Ambassador Christian Guillermet-Fernández was made aware of the serious international impact of the assassination of Rojas, who had been mandated for protection by Costa Rica via Precautionary Measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. To denounce this injustice, Cultural Survival also met with the Permanent Missions of Denmark and Canada, who subsequently made recommendations for the protection of Indigenous land rights and safety in Costa Rica’s review two weeks later in Geneva.
Read more news at www.cs.org/latest.
Cultural Cultural Survival Survival Quarterly Quarterly September 2019 • 3
indi geno u s a rts Laura Ortman with her violin. Still-image from My Soul Remainer video.
Of Sound and Screen
A Native Music/Multimedia Collaboration is the Hit of 2019’s Whitney Biennial
violin performances, a work of exquisite, ethereal beauty which not only transports the audience to different environments in the natural world onscreen, but also evokes an almost other-worldly realm of feeling in sound. Long embraced within the Native arts, music, and film communities in the U.S. and Canada, this engagement at The Whitney presents a fortuitous occasion for these artists’ work to be appreciated even more expansively, on the international stage. Cristina Verán spoke with Ortman and Becker about the experience. Cristina Verán: Laura, tell us a bit about how your work got on the museum’s radar. Laura Ortman: In terms of my music, the Biennial is my
Laura Ortman and Nanobah Becker in a photo booth inside The Whitney Museum.
he Whitney Museum, among the world’s preeminent spaces for contemporary art, is especially known for its bar-setting Biennial show, which presents an eclectic and carefully curated selection of artists and works it anoints as particularly impactful, of the moment, and likely to lead larger, transformative conversations. To be selected is often a career-making opportunity, putting one in the spotlight not only for the discerning audiences of New York, but also key institutions and collectors around the globe. An unprecedented 8 out of 75 featured artists for the 2019 Biennial are Indigenous. Musician, composer, and performing artist Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) was a clear standout among this year’s group, singled out for particular praise among the most influential art critics with her video installation entitled My Soul Remainer, complimented by a live summer solstice performance—a true sensory experience. The video, directed by Nanobah Becker (Diné) and featuring renowned ballet dancer Jock Soto (Diné/Puerto Rican), longtime friends and collaborators of Ortman’s, captured one of her signature 4 • www. cs. org
first full-on solo show at The Whitney. However, it’s actually my fourth time performing there. The first experience was as part of the “Words for Water” show in March of 2017, organized by Natalie Diaz and Jennifer Foerster. That was followed in 2018 by a group show called “The New Red Order: The Savage Philosophy of Endless Acknowledgement,” and then as part of Demian Dinéyazhi’s “An Infected Sunset.”
CV: Being featured alone on stage is a sign of the museum’s special interest in you. How did that happen? LO: Last November, after I’d gotten back from New Mexico
to New York, the curators Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley contacted me to arrange a studio visit. We talked about my music and my whole process for a long while. They asked if I had some work that I’d be interested in showing them, and so I shared the video, My Soul Remainer, which Nanobah directed. Less than a week later, they invited me to not only perform live during the Biennial, but also asked to feature this video in the show, loud and proud!
CV: Nanobah, how did this ongoing creative collaboration begin, and what is your role within it? Nanobah Becker: Laura and I first met in New York back
around 2002 at the screening of a film that she’d done a live
score to—Redskin (1929, Victor Schertzinger). At the time, I was a film student and an intern at the National Museum of the American Indian. We met Jock Soto some years later, when his biographical doc Water Flowing Together (2007, Gwendolen Cates) screened at Native Cinema Showcase in Santa Fe. He’s the one who actually inspired us to collaborate—and it’s really all three of us: Laura, me, and Jock, each bringing something of our own skills and ideas to the collective. My training, for example, is as a narrative filmmaker and storyteller. LO: I’d put it like this: Nanobah has the vision, Jock has the movement, and I have the sound—uniting to make something unique; high art. CV: How did you come to see your music as linked or, rather, linkable to other kinds of art-making? LO: I’ve played the violin since I was seven years old. Later,
when I was in school getting my BFA, I got into making performance and installation art and would incorporate music into soundtracks for those projects. Eventually I began to think of my music as making art out of sound—or what I call sound-sculpting, creating environments. For me, music and music-centered performance art are both about creating atmospheres.
CV: What do you mean exactly, and how is that achieved? LO: Like customizing the recording of my music in places
with, say, natural reverb or super-duper dry acoustics; offering some kind of background noise-bleed or incidental sound occurrences; in stairwells, in fields, in natural canyons, noisy places outdoors, etc. In my live performances, I take audiences to a place, a visualization—but one that is unnamed; abstract. I have a song that’s about shifting icebergs, one about my lost shadow . . . . NB: Laura’s song, “I Lost My Shadow” includes subway sounds, for example. So, in the video we made for it, I chose to actually shoot on the train that goes over the Williamsburg Bridge, from Brooklyn into Manhattan, and asked Jock to dance on that subway as well. Next came My Soul Remainer, our second video, which we shot on a mountain in New Mexico. It was a real contrast to the urban scape of the first one, particularly in how the views of nature onscreen respond to Laura’s music.
CV: Are these two videos linked or otherwise intended to be part of a continuing series? NB: To me, Laura and Jock are portraying sort of the same
characters in both videos. There is a story that links them to one another, informed by the tone of each song, although I don’t think it really formed until we got to the editing stage. Now we want to do one more to make it a trilogy of videos that offers some sort of resolution for their characters. Jock picked the songs for the first two videos and I think he’s already chosen the third. I’ll need to listen to it over and over to then get visual ideas.
CV: What challenges did you have to work through to render your original ideas on video? NB: Well, the biggest one was that we had, like, no money!
We had to borrow the equipment and then shoot the footage
as quickly as possible. Fortunately, there were a few other talented people who believed in us and became involved as well—cinematographers like Smokey Nelson, who worked on the first film, and then Blackhorse Lowe with the second. Their own artistic eyes really offered a lot to those projects. CV: You’re both influential in“Native Creatives” circles. Given that Indigenous artists oftentimes choose to create or represent a theme, a vibe, or an aesthetic that represents some aspect of their heritage, is that true in your collaborations, or your own work? NB: My Diné culture traditionally represents a duality, as
opposed to a patriarchal system. For these videos, I thought a lot about duality throughout their production. Laura and Jock’s characters, in my mind, are sort of the yin and yang to one another; they wear the same makeup and nail polish as well. I remember my niece, when she was very young, watched the video and asked about Jock, “Is that a man or a woman?” And I said, “exactly!”
CV: You’ve both been part of and presented at key arts convenings—particularly the Sundance and ImagineNative film festivals. How have those venues contributed to your artistic development? NB: I was a Sundance Native Program participant years back.
Through that, I had met Danis Goulet, a film selector from ImagineNative. She programmed Flat, my first short film, for the festival, which I found to be such a dynamic, supportive, and progressive environment; something I’d never really experienced before. Through ImagineNative I’ve met so many other wonderful (especially Canadian) Native filmmakers, who have since become part of my network. It’s amazing to be part of this international Indigenous filmmaking community. LO: In 2011, Nanobah and I were honored to receive the Best Music Video award at ImagineNative for I Lost My Shadow. CV: Where do you each call home these days? Have you shared your videos with the community? LO: I’m based in New York, where I’ve lived for many years—
New York was my school! I haven’t shown my work back home, on the rez, yet. NB: I live in L.A., though I’m on my reservation at the moment. I’ve previously shown some of my videos here, and earlier this year, I filmed the annual Diné Pride celebration, which I’m now figuring out how to develop into a larger project. CV: When will audiences get to see a concluding chapter of the trilogy, to follow I Lost My Shadow and My Soul Remainer? LO: We’re still figuring things out. Usually we wait for the
moment when we can all gather together in one place, and then it’s go-go-go! — Cristina Verán is an international Indigenous Peoples issues specialist consultant, researcher, strategist, educator, editor, and multimedia producer. Her work focuses on the intersections of human rights, political engagement, the arts, and community development. She is a longtime UN correspondent and was a founding member of the UN Indigenous Media Network. Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 5
r i ght s i n a ct io n Omene Ima, a Waorani elder, wields a blowdart on a hunting trip.
A Way of Life More Precious Than Oil
THE WAORANI OF ECUADOR Win A HISTORIC LAWSUIT IN DEFENSE OF THE AMAZON Mitch Anderson
he Waorani people are legendary hunter-harvesters of the southcentral Ecuadorian Amazon. As of this summer, they must also be described as pioneers in the Indigenous struggle to protect and preserve the Amazon and the global climate. In response to the State’s plan to auction 500,000 acres of their ancestral forests to foreign oil companies, the Waraoni developed a multi-front campaign that culminated in taking the government to court—and winning. The judicial system sided with Waorani claims that their constitutional rights to informed consent had been violated. The decision effectively blocked the despoilment of a key biological corridor in the wider region, and kept an enormous amount of carbon out of the atmosphere. The Waorani legal victory was no bolt from the blue; it was the culmination of several years of innovative and tireless organizing and outreach. The Waorani developed a multipronged model that combined community mapping, legal efforts, and alliance-building. At its core was a creative approach to “winning the narrative” through the deployment of storytelling and other tactics that illustrated their way of life to be more precious than oil and greed. One of the ways they did this was through a territorial mapping project that combined the use of traditional knowledge and modern technology to map out 180,000 hectares (approximately 700 square miles) of their ancestral territory in a way that showed the world what would otherwise go unseen. In telling their story, they brought together and involved 16 Waorani communities along the Curaray River, as well as other Indigenous Peoples from across Ecuador. 6 • www. cs. org
“The government’s map only shows oil blocks, it looks empty. This is the government’s view of the Amazon. But our forest homeland is not an oil block. We have created our map to show that our territory is full of life,” said Oswando Nenquimo, a Waorani leader. “Our maps are an extremely important tool and catalyzed a great unity amongst our communities,” affirmed Nemonte Nenquimo, Waorani leader and lead plaintiff for the case. “The maps show what we have in our communities and our land; they are important for the future generations. But they also show the world what our forest means to us and everything we are fighting to protect.” Notably, the Waoranis’ struggle involved three generations of women at the forefront, fighting to protect their culture, territories, and sources of food and fresh water. Dozens of Waorani women participated in the court proceedings, arriving with traditional palm-woven baskets, clay pots, and food grown in Waorani gardens. When the women felt they were being disrespected by court and government officials, they broke out into spontaneous song, further capturing the imagination of the world with their spirit, conviction, and courage. “We sing the songs of our ancestors. They defended our territory for thousands of years, and today we continue this fight,” said Omanca Enquiri, Waorani elder. “This victory is a dream come true. It means that our future generations can continue to live freely in a healthy and pristine forest, with clean water and pure air. It is the legacy for my grandchildren. This belongs to them!” The recent victory is bittersweet, following decades of tragedy. When the Waorani were contacted and forcibly settled by the State and American evangelical missionaries in the 1960s, they had been living for centuries in harmony with their rainforest home. They had developed a rich culture All photos by Mitch Anderson, Amazon Frontlines.
marked by high craftsmanship and artistry, profound spirituality, and a sophisticated understanding of the natural world’s complex, interconnected systems of plant and animal life. But since first contact, the Waorani way of life has come under enormous strain. Decades of reckless oil production has left a tragic legacy in and around Waorani land for the natural environment and human health. It has also caused severe cultural disruption. When Indigenous people fight to defend and enforce their rights, they are protecting their future and ours. The fate of the global climate hinges on saving the Amazon rainforests, which, after the oceans, are the world’s most important carbon sinks. As its traditional inhabitants and historical defenders, Indigenous communities are essential to any effective climate mitigation strategy, and represent a powerful buffer against the destruction of an ecosystem that regulates our planet’s cycles of oxygen, carbon, and freshwater. Although the Waorani have won an important first battle, the struggle is ongoing. The Ecuadorian government still seeks to auction 7,000,000 acres in the country’s central rainforest to oil companies. The battles to come will involve the other nine major Indigenous nations of the Ecuador’s Amazon. Many of these joined the Waorani in solidarity outside the courtroom last month, traveling from distant villages in the country’s north and south. They marched with the Waorani in the streets; they submitted amicus briefs; and they returned to their communities to share what they had learned and to organize for the future. Scaling up this model of alliance-building and mobilization will be crucial to defeating the development agenda that threatens Ecuador and the entire Amazonian region. The Waorani victory is a powerful and hopeful demonstration of what is possible. — Mitch Anderson is the executive director of Amazon Frontlines, an NGO in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.
The Waorani send a message to the world that their land is not for sale.
Members of the Siona, Secoya, and Kofan Peoples of Ecuador’s northern Amazon show members of the Waorani Nation the impacts of an oil spill in their ancestral territory.
Waorani women sing a song of resistance at an oil well in Ecuador’s northern Amazon: “We will not let you into our lands.” Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 7
women th e wo r ld m u st hear
Our Bodies, Our Spirits, Our Territories Indigenous Women Take to the Streets in Brazil
After the women’s march in Brasilia, many women entered Congress, where leaders like Sônia Guajarara addressed the plenary. Photo by Katie Maehler/ APIB Comunicação. 8 • www. cs. org
id-August in Brasilia, Brazil, Indigenous women took to the streets to protest escalating human rights and environmental violations under the Bolsonaro government. On August 12, hundreds of Indigenous women occupied Brasilia’s Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health to demand the resignation of its head, Silvia Nobre, who was chosen by the Bolsonaro government. Nobre was appointed to her position in April, and since then, the “More Doctors” program, which provides doctors to underserved areas, has been weakened, and the management team has been terminated. Indigenous Peoples began responding to these cuts to programs that support Indigenous health when 115 Indigenous people occupied the secretariat’s office for 2 weeks in July. At that time, the Ministry of Health and the secretariat co-signed an Adjustment Agreement of Conduct committing to fulfilling the demands of the Indigenous occupiers. President Bolsonaro has proposed new healthcare policies in Provisional Measure 890. It replaces the “More Doctors” Program with “Doctors for Brazil,” which is a new program that aims to privatize health services currently offered by the United Health System, including the services offered under the National Policy on Indigenous Health Care. Provisional Measure 890 also proposes the establishment of a new social services agency, the Agency for the Development of Primary Health Care, which allows primary health care services to be privatized. Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples are concerned about the measure because it eliminates all avenues for public input and participation regarding how the agency is run and how it serves people. The supervision of the Agency does not include representation from the civilian National Health Council, but it guarantees the participation of private organizations. Bolsonaro has not ensured that Indigenous Peoples will have a voice in how the Agency will provide health services to them, nor held accountable by them. Additionally, the development of this proposal has not included any consultation with Indigenous Peoples. Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a human right protected under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169, both of which Brazil has endorsed and ratified. Brazil’s Federal Constitution of 1988 also protects Indigenous Peoples’ rights. It recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their own “social structures, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions” and their “original rights over the land” that they have traditionally occupied. Beyond Provisional Measure 890, the Bolsonaro government has continuously presented itself as a threat to Indigenous Peoples. In addition to numerous examples of hate speech, Bolsonaro has threatened to remove environmental
protections for Brazil’s forests, eliminate constitutional land rights for Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples, and has encouraged the exploitation of the Amazon which has contributed to the ongoing fires decimating the rainforest. He has expressed blatant disregard and disrespect for the fundamental human rights Indigenous Peoples have to their lands and cultures. However, the protests signify that Brazil’s Indigenous women are prepared to stand up and fight back against oppressive government action that does not recognize and respect their rights. Indigenous leader Sônia Guajajara, leader of the Articulation of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB), stated, “Submission is not culture. We are here to demystify the idea that Indigenous women do not participate in this struggle and to demonstrate that we are prepared to occupy any space.” Building on the momentum of the August 12 occupation, the next day, nearly 3,000 Indigenous women marched on Brasilia for Brazil’s first Indigenous Women’s March. The march, called “Territory: our body, our spirit,” was organized by Brazil’s National Indigenous Movement and the Articulation of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples in response to escalating violations of Indigenous rights under the Bolsonaro government, especially in regards to healthcare and protection of the environment. Guajajara said, “It’s very important to be here in Brasilia to show the world that Indigenous women are resisting attacks on our rights and the rollbacks of this government. We are staging our first women’s march counting on the presence, visibility, strength, and spirituality of Indigenous women. We are all warriors on the frontlines of this struggle against today’s political situation, which is so adverse to our Peoples. We also aim to raise awareness among the international community to build support for Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples. This is a global movement, a planetary movement.” In addition to the 110 ethnic groups represented from Brazil, the march also included Indigenous women from other parts of the Amazon, including Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo and Kofan leader Alexandra Narvaez from Ecuador. Nenquimo said, “As women, we share the same vision. We want to continue organizing and uniting so that our cultures, our ancestral knowledge, and our right to life will be respected. We are fighting in the face of the enormous threats to our lands and lives. Around the world, the governments are trying to kill us. They want to exploit our lands with no regard for us as human beings. Yet, we are the guardians and owners of our territories, which we have cared for and protected for thousands of years. We want to protect our land for the future generations. We want our forest to be free from contamination, free from destruction.” Leila Salazar-López, executive director of Amazon Watch, said, “As Bolsonaro and the Brazilian government attempt to dismantle fundamental Indigenous rights and open Indigenous territories to devastation, he faces resounding resistance from a movement led by women who best understand the importance of defending rights and territories for the health of Mother Earth and future generations. This week’s women’s mobilization is a critical step forward in mounting effective opposition to the attacks of the Bolsonaro regime. The international community has a moral duty to stand in resistance with these Indigenous women Earth Defenders who are defending their rights, lives, and the Amazon rainforest for our collective benefit.”
On August 14, the Indigenous Women’s March ended by joining with the Margaridas March, a mobilization of 100,000 of Brazil’s female rural workers. From the final statement of the Indigenous Women’s March: “As women, leaders and warriors, bearers and protectors of life, we will stand and struggle against the issues and violations that afflict our bodies, our spirits, our territories. By spreading our seeds, our rituals, our language, we seek to guarantee our existence. We are totally opposed to the narratives, proposals, and actions of the current government, which has made its intention to exterminate Indigenous Peoples explicit. This government has made the genocidal exploitation of our territories by capital its aim. This manner of governing is akin to pulling a tree from the ground and exposing its roots until everything dries out. We are grounded in the earth, because that is where we seek our ancestors, and the earth provides our nutrition and life. That is why for us, territory is not a good that can be sold, traded, or exploited. Our territory is our life, our body, and our spirit.” Célia Xacriabá of Articulation of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples issued this statement about the march: “For the first time in history, the Indigenous women’s march convenes more than 100 different Peoples in Brasilia with more than 2,000 women present. This is a movement that is not only symbolically important, but also historically and politically significant. When they try to take away our rights, it’s not enough to only defend our territories. We also need to occupy spaces beyond our villages, such as institutional spaces and political representation. We call on the international community to support us, to amplify our voices and our struggle against today’s legislative genocide, where our own government is authorizing the slaughter and ethnocide of Indigenous Peoples. This is also an opportunity to join our voices to denounce this government’s ecocide, where the killing of mother nature is our collective concern.”
The historic First Indigenous Women’s March brought together close to 3,000 women from over 100 Indigenous Nations from all over Brazil. Photo by Midia India.
Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 9
cl i mat e ch a n g e The First U.S. Climate Refugees
Louisiana Tribe Fights for Sovereignty over Resettlement as Island Disappears An all too common sight on the Isle de Jean Charles, LA.
f you had taken a stroll along the bayous of South Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana in 1955, the stunning 22,400 acres of Isle de Jean Charles surely would have caught your eye. This same walk today, through the post-Andrew, Katrina, Gustav, and Ike coastline, will comprise a significantly smaller portion of your view, as the island has been reduced to just 320 acres. What has not changed since 1955, however, is the enduring spirit of life that the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe has infused within the island since the early 19th century. For generations, the Tribe has lived in harmony with the abundant wildlife and rich biodiversity that characterize the island’s beauty. They are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem, just as the fish that swim through surrounding waters and the birds that glide along its gentle breeze. Tragically, decades of environmental degradation deem that Isle de Jean Charles is no longer a safely habitable landmass. The destruction wreaked upon the Tribe by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Isaac in 2012, and the multitude of devastating hurricanes in between, has played no small part in deeply hindering the community’s social, economic, and spiritual livelihood. In 2009, following the wreckage of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Chief Albert Naquin lamented to The Washington Post, “It’s only a matter of time before the island’s gone—one more good hurricane, and we’ll be wiped out.” Deputy Chief Wenceslaus Billiot Jr. told Smithsonian Magazine in 2018 that after “every hurricane, someone leaves because their house gets blown away.” The Tribe reports that 98 percent of the island’s landmass has disappeared due to sea level rise, subsistence, and erosion, and what remains has suffered under the effects of levee, oil, and gas development. For years, they have witnessed a steady
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disintegration of their community as members leave the island to resettle in areas where they are not under immediate threat from coastal flooding and have greater access to the job market. The loss of land not only has forced migration, but also has fractured Tribal sovereignty, cultural traditions, and daily life amongst the community. The community on Isle de Jean Charles falls under what some are calling the first refugees of climate change in the United States. The European Parliamentary Research Service defines climate change refugees as “migrants who move due to natural disasters and climate change.” This title evolved from the broader definition of “environmental migration” recognized by the International Organization for Migration. Climate change refugees, however, remain outside the established terminology of both United States and international law. María Cristina García, a refugee and immigrant history expert at Cornell University, explains that “the term ‘refugee’ is defined very precisely in international law… In U.S. law, for example, refugees are defined as individuals persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group, or political opinion.” Due to this rigid nomenclature, García points out that “nowhere does climate figure into it. It leaves this entire group of people without international protection or recognition.” Climate change refugees thus do not possess the status often needed to call upon the protection of international and domestic law. The Global Report on Internal Displacement reveals that in 2017, 18 million people across 135 countries and territories were internally displaced by weather-related disasters, while the number of environmental migrants is projected to increase to 200 million by 2050. In the United States, the Natural Resources Committee warns that 13 million Americans face the prospect of becoming climate change refugees by 2100. If sufficient action is not taken to remedy rising sea level, All photos by Karen Apricot.
implement beneficial, non-harmful infrastructure, and foster collaborative relationships between climate change refugees and governmental agencies, the Tribe, along with other communities in the United States and across the globe, face the imminent danger of displacement and cultural decline. The history of the Isle de Jean Charles Tribe dates back to the early 1800s with the matrimony of Jean Marie Naquin, a Frenchman, and Pauline Verdin, a Native American woman. Condemned by his family for pursuing this interracial marriage, Naquin and Verdin settled on Isle de Jean Charles in order to start a life together. While the number of families populating the island grew over the course of the 19th century, it was not formally recognized until 1910 when the state proclaimed it “Isle á Jean Charles” (in Louisiana French). Over the past two centuries, the Isle de Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe has nourished the development of their community infrastructure and education. A church was erected on the island in the 1940s that included a designated schoolroom for the island’s children. Until 1953, however, when a road was constructed to connect the island to the mainland, the Tribe’s youth lacked access to education beyond the elementary level. This road, the only route on and off the island that does not require the usage of a boat, has been battered by years of flooding and erosion. It was refurbished by the parish for the last time in 2011, although water damage has since resumed its siege against the renovations. The road often remains unnavigable on days when storms and other natural phenomenon catalyze intense flooding, leaving many residents worried that they will not be able to access hospitals and other critical amenities. Since 2002, the Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project has made strides in facilitating the community members’ process of relocation to a safer region. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Tribe $48 million in grant funds from the National Disaster Resilience Competition. This grant enabled the Tribe to develop a detailed resettlement proposal and a working relationship with the state of Louisiana in order to execute a successful relocation process and guarantee that the Isle de Jean Charles will remain preserved under the stewardship of the community. The grant was a major victory for the community and climate change refugees alike, as it repre- sented tangible evidence that the government was beginning to recognize long-term threats that climate change refugees face, as well as their efforts to combat the resulting detri- mental effects. Yet, following the award of the grant and efforts to institute the Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, the Tribe believes that the state is not respecting their rights and role within their partnership, nor adopting protocol that adheres to the proposal’s detailed instructions. In a press release from January 15, 2019, the Tribe publicly denounced the state’s abuse of power, stating that “state planners have steadily erased our role as leaders of the resettlement process, excluded our Tribal leadership from decision-making,” and “disregarded Tribal protocols during community engagement activities.” The state’s violation of the Tribe’s role as primary arbitrator in the Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement project threatens the Tribe’s sovereignty, right to self-determination, and successful integration into a new region.
The Tribe also faces the prospect of losing domain over Isle de Jean Charles once resettlement is implemented. Pat Forbes, the executive director of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, responded to the notion of continuous Tribal autonomy over the island by saying that “it would be unheard of to allow the property to be anything but green space . . . public green space.” However, when the grant was awarded in 2016, Tribal stewardship over the island was a crucial component of the proposal. The Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha- Choctaw Tribe have not stopped fighting for the protection and prosperity of their community. They intend to nurture their new settlement with museums, gardens, and a Tribal community center that will unite members in shared cultural events and celebrations. Resettlement, if conducted properly and in a manner that respects the Tribe’s desires as stated in the grant proposal, also offers a chance at reunification: there is hope that the hundreds of Tribal members who have already left the island will reconnect on the Tribe’s new land and experience a rebirth of cultural tradition and communal solidarity.
Climate change is real for the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe. Ninety-eight percent of the landmass has disappeared.
Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 11
A small scale fisherman of Khoi descent holds a fresh catch, Saldanha Bay, West Coast, South Africa. Fisherfolk have been on the frontlines of climate change, and traditional knowledge has helped many communities mitigate its impacts. Photo by Shaldon Ferris.
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing
Traditional Knowledge Traditional knowledge is rooted in Indigenous lifeways and relationships with the environment and is valuable not only to Indigenous Peoples, but to all societies. It must be protected and supported and emphasis must be placed in transmitting Indigenous knowledge to future generations. It is no coincidence that 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is found on Indigenous territories. Indigenous languages, skills, and techniques provide valuable information to the global community and serve as a useful model for solutions to contemporary issues. UNESCO, in the framework of joint work with the Internal Council of Science, has proposed to define traditional knowledge as “a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, resource use practices, ritual, spirituality and worldviews.” Often transmitted orally from generation to generation, traditional knowledge is collectively owned and 12 12• •www. w ww.cs. cs.org org
includes stories, songs, folklore and proverbs; cultural values, beliefs, and rituals; community laws; local languages; agricultural, horticultural, hunting and fishing practices, forestry and environmental management. This year’s theme at the 18th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), which took place April 22–May 3 in New York City, was “Traditional Knowledge: Generation, Transmission and Protection.” Discussions at the Forum highlighted the urgency to protect, promote, and revitalize Indigenous languages as they are rapidly disappearing, and the need for States to protect Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge systems as they directly contribute to sustaining biological diversity, food security, conflict resolution, and cultural diversity, and are key in fighting the impacts of climate change. The following are excerpts of interviews conducted by Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Rights Radio producers with delegates on the topic, condensed and edited for clarity. Listen to our radio programs with Indigenous leaders at cs.org/rights.
We Must Stand Up for Our Future Generations and to Save Ourselves LaDonna “Good Earth Woman” Brave Bull Allard (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)
am from Cannon Ball, North Dakota, and I live right above the Cannonball River, which connects to the Missouri River. We live at the mouth of the river in a place that has been inundated by the Army Corps of Engineers when they flooded our land. We have had to move from our bottom lands onto the hills. We understand what survival is. In 2014, we were notified that the Army Corps of Engineers was going to build a pipeline right on our land to the Missouri River. We are still trying to recuperate from them moving us from our homes up into the high areas. We lost our gardens, our forests, our trees. We went into an economic decline because they closed all of our businesses, our stores. We are trying to survive from that as we are still a hunter-gatherer people. We still gather all our medicines, all our plants. We know how to live on the prairie. We know how to live in a climate where it’s nine months in snow and cold. When the government comes in and does things to the environment, it is devastating not only for our people, but for all the wildlife. We decided it would be a good idea to fight; we had no other choice but to stand. And so we started with our young people who taught us how to do social media, who taught us what we needed to stand up. They came into our communities and showed us how to do direct action with non-violent resistance, how to de-escalate situations. We did a lot of training and a lot of education before 2016 when the camps were built. The camps existed for almost 10 months before the state, the police, and the military came in and removed the people by force. In between that time, people who stood up in song, dance, and prayer were being attacked by live rounds, tear gas, percussion grenades...they had machines that took out our phones. We were surrounded by a whole military entity. We watched our community as they killed the buffalo, they killed the eagles, they killed all the animals in their path. My people are not asking for any special rights; we’re just asking to live. We have a right to live. After the camps closed, one of the first things we did was we went down to where the camps were located and we did massive cleaning. We go every two months to do prayer ceremony. There were native flowers and plants that hadn’t grown in the area for a long time because there were cattle in there. The land reclaimed itself. It was the first time I thought, ‘Humans have a right to live here if we live with respect for the earth.’ The places where we had the compost, squash and melons grew all over. We carried out truckloads from the camp to deliver them to the communities. With that, we thought, ‘We can do this.’ We have developed community gardens. We have delivered woodstoves to get people to stop using fossil fuels. We are telling people to grow their own food. We are taking young people to go out to gather our traditional foods, our traditional medicines. We’re also teaching young people how
to dry the food, how to prepare it. We dry meat, vegetables, our medicines. On January 15, in the community in Cannon Ball that was located right above the camp, they flipped the switch to the solar farm that has been developed and now their community will be solar. And at Sacred Stone, which continues to thrive, we developed portable solar trailers that have wind, solar, and water purification systems. We can pull them in and plug in a house. There are many people who can’t afford electricity nowadays on the reservations, so we can provide electricity. We are working on developing ecofriendly straw bale homes. We have lots of wind and it’s cold, so our traditional homes are made to stand in that kind of weather. We’re encouraging people to go back to their traditional homes because they’re healthier to live in and they work with the environment. I have been encouraging people to live with the earth. Pick up trash in your waterways. We did 140 acres of shoreline garbage cleanup along the rivers. We brought all the children in to pick up garbage, and we took two semi loads of glass out. If you just pick up garbage, it’s a simple thing to change the world. We’re going to do a huge tree planting because we lost so many trees when they flooded us, when they built the dams. To change the world, you put one foot in front of the other and you do the work. I learned a lot from this. I learned that we cannot wait for no government, no program, no tribal governments. We have to do it ourselves. I’m developing a model, Community Working with Community, inviting people to come do a cleanup, to sit down and talk with each other, to tell stories. Our stories help us with morals and values and how we should live our lives. In the wintertime we have these huge round tents and yurts, and people come in and just tell stories about life a long time ago, living on the river, talking
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard speaking with Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López. Photo by Agnes Portalewska.
Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 13
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge about life when I was young, to help the kids be a part of the community. We are hosting workshops on how to make ribbon skirts, how to dry meat, how to make drums, how to make tobacco, soap. If we continue to talk about it, it’s not going to get done. We have to just do it. As Native people, we learn better doing it, working with our hands, rather than somebody sitting there talking about it. One of the things that I learned about what happened at Standing Rock is who controls the media, controls the world. We have a whole group of young people teaching us and learning how to produce and edit their own videos and put them out there so we can actually show our lives to people that are outside. People forget that we live. We become invisible in the rest of the world. When our young people take control of the media, people can see that we are alive. We are living beings. The other thing that I learned was there is no separation of people. When all the people came to stand with us, from the tip of Argentina to the tip of Canada, I was honored and blessed to see with my own eyes prayers and ceremonies from every one of the Tribes. People bringing water to my river to clean it. The gathering of people in one place, with one mind and one heart, I’ve seen it. I know it can be a reality. I know we can do it. I’ve also seen all these religious groups, Muslim,
Hindu, Sikhs, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, stand in one prayer. To me, that was the most amazing thing, despite all the things that they did to the Water Protectors. I’ve seen amazing healing. I’ve seen young folk come with purpose and understanding about who they are. The first time they were able to sing ceremonial songs. The first time they ever said a prayer. The first time that they felt like they belonged. Because sometimes our young people, because of all the historical trauma, live very hard lives. When they were there, they felt like they had purpose. We told everybody who came in, the first thing we would say as they passed through security, ‘Welcome home.’ When I was young I used to say my grandma, ‘All I want is a home, a place.’ She would say, “What are you talking about? The minute your feet touch the earth, the roots grow right out of your feet. You are home. This land is our home. You have always been home.” We told everybody who came into camp, ‘You are home.’ To find that connection, that’s the whole key to what we’re doing, bringing that connection back to the earth, back to the water, so that people will stop abusing the earth and the water. The first act of sovereignty is to grow your own food. Care for yourself. Don’t wait for somebody to come save you, because it’s not going to happen. We must stand up and save ourselves. We have a right to live.
“NO” to the Companies Within our Ancestral Territory
that are born from the Sierra Nevada and that run through the entire resguardo and all the ancestral territory. Hydroelectric dams affect us. We are saying a resounding ‘NO’ to the companies within our ancestral territory. The ancestral territories should not be for mining or for quarries, and yet the companies do not make prior consultations and violate the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples. Climate change affects us all around the world. We see it here. The Sierra Nevada has four thermal levels; the products
Moisés Alberto Villafaña Izquierdo (Arhuaco)
belong to the Arhuaco community of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, Colombia, but there are three other ethnic groups that also live in the northern part of Colombia in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta at 5,800 meters above sea level: the Wiwas, the Koguis, and the Kankuamos. There are problems of jurisdiction, as we do not belong to any of the departments. There are three Indigenous resguardos that face the problem of mining in the Sierra Nevada. The Indigenous Peoples of the Sierra in 1973 advocated, together with the Mamos, who are the Spiritual Leaders, to be recognized as an ancestral territory, a matter that ended in a victory and established sacred sites in the four cardinal points. Our town has a total of 57,000 people, but where we work consists of 12,000 inhabitants. The Forum is a small Indigenous organization that works in the Arhuaco sector. I work and advise in the traditional recovery part on laws and policy with the special jurisdiction for the Indigenous Peoples of the Sierra Nevada, specifically the Arhuaco. The legal cases that I see the most consist of asking for protection for leaders who have been threatened; the others have to do with the illegal actions of the mining industry on our lands, which are required to obtain prior consent. Nowadays, as the urban centers have entered our territories, we are fighting to have the sacred places recognized and respected by the departmental authorities. There are 36 rivers 14 • www. cs. org
Moisés Alberto Villafaña Izquierdo speaking with Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López. Photo by Agnes Portalewska.
“The Forum is a small Indigenous organization that works in the Arhuaco sector.The legal cases that I see the most consist of asking for protection for leaders who have been threatened; the others have to do with the illegal actions of the mining industry on our lands, which are required to obtain prior consent.” — Moisés Alberto Villafaña Izquierdo we grow are divided by climatic zones. In the lower area there are sugarcane, plantain, cassava, beans, corn, avocado, cocoa, and coffee. In the middle area we also have coffee, cocoa, cane, beans, and guandu. The top is all that has to do with vegetables, potatoes, chives, and herding some small sheep. The crops are greatly affected, they rot. Today, yucca, bananas, and corn are growing where they were not before, the trees are dying, and other trees that are of the tropical climate are being born. If these changes affect the highlands, the lowlands are also affected with the decrease in the river levels. The Mamos say we have to continue planting trees that are consistent with
the environment. This is how we challenge climate change, which greatly affects our crops. We see new diseases in our trees, plants that we know as medicinal plants are dying, other plants are being born that are different, new animals appear like the blackbird and finchefoy bird, and the old ones disappear. The water levels decrease in rivers and the Sierra Nevada is thawing. Traditional knowledge is transmitted by Mamos. We have several lineages. One takes care of the blood, the red; another takes care of the white seeds; another is in charge of the yellowish fruits—this is the lineage that takes care of everything that occurs under the ground like the tubers. Each lineage is responsible for caring for their mission because they are a team that is aware of their respective missions. We have a temple where the Mamos learn for nine years. They learn ancestral knowledge to guarantee that this knowledge continues. The issue is we are a minority; nobody supports this cultural part and it is up to us to continue our efforts. Traditional knowledge is not only that piece of cultural mystique or mythology, but it collects all the cultural heritage that has to do with languages, traditions, dress, ways of thinking, behaving towards the world, how it projects the future of the world. All that context is the central knowledge linked to the sacred, to the territory, to the rivers, or to the environment, because it is part of an integral whole, of what we call “ecosophy of life.”
Respect for Indigenous Rights Is Crucial in Protecting Biodiversity Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Igorot), UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Photo by Broddi Sigurdarson
raditional knowledge has guided Indigenous people through time, and many of these knowledge systems exist into the present. These knowledge systems are vital in ensuring that Indigenous Peoples are able to maintain their own ecosystems and continue to benefit from them. Traditional knowledge is also very much rooted in our cultures and identities. Therefore, the translation and revitalization of these knowledge systems are important because this will help fight some of the crises we are facing today, whether climate change or biodiversity erosion. Eighty percent of the world’s biodiversity are found in Indigenous Peoples’ territories, and the traditional knowledge of Indigenous people in sustaining and sustainably using biodiversity has ensured that this vitality of biodiversity is in their territories. Respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples’ land and territories, as well as the need to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent before any development is brought to their territories, is crucial in protecting bio- diversity that is now in a very serious state of crisis. There should be a way of monitoring how languages are revitalized and how these are being translated. This can be measured in terms of how these languages are used in the
school systems, as well as the publication of materials, such as documents or videos of the languages. This requires government action, but it also requires action from Indigenous Peoples themselves. One year is such a short time; that’s why there is a call for an international decade of Indigenous languages, so that there will be a longer period in which to see how the program is going to be implemented. Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 15
Photo by Broddi Sigurdarson
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge
Our Existence Is Dependent on Us Being Land Caretakers Les Malezer (Gabi Gabi/Butchulla), UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Member
raditional knowledge in relation to care for the country or management of the environment is definitely important and needs to be shared. There may be some things that are associated with ceremony that Indigenous Peoples may not want to transfer, but at the same time, being respected and part of the management of the biodiversity of the natural environment is a critical part of Indigenous Peoples’ identities and responsibilities. It’s very strongly felt in Australia where I come from. As Aboriginal people, we believe we are born from the land, we come from the land, we return to the land, our spirit is in the land. The land is alive, its spirit is alive. We don’t see a distinction between those things that are living and those things that are geographical features. They all have a spiritual representation and a role. Our existence as Aboriginal people is very much dependent upon us being able to manage a caretaker role. That knowledge is very useful to the wider populations, the world, and good practice. In Australia, for example, our natural environment depends upon seasonal fires. Aboriginal 16 • www. cs. org
people have used those seasonal fires and the plants have grown accordingly so that they can’t regenerate until the fire goes through. In other instances fire is needed to remove threats to the Indigenous environment—those sorts of practices are important. Another big one is water management. For the most part, rivers represent the path of what we call the Dreamtime Serpent; waterways are treated with great respect. In Australia, which is mostly arid country and very dependent upon seasonal rainfalls, there can be long drought periods of up to 10 years or more. Most areas receive a very small rainfall every year. For that environment to survive, to stop desertification, there needs to be good practice in terms of the management and use of waters. This has been seriously affected since colonization by pastoral and agricultural industries irrigating. We are currently having a crisis in Australia caused by complete river systems drying up and fish dying in quantities of millions because traditional knowledge, Indigenous knowledge, has not been respected in relation to the handling of those waters. Waters are being treated in the model of economic development and not in relation to the health and well being of nature and Mother Earth. That knowledge is generally available, but it’s important to understand how that knowledge is imparted; it’s not just a case of being able to write it down and then pass it on. It comes with ceremonies that we do, it comes with social interactions. In our traditional way we would have gathered at certain seasons in certain places. That sort of knowledge is built into our lifestyle, not just something that we would present in a classroom or text. These things are able to be shared, and I think the people want to share this knowledge and information, because the management and caretaking of the environment has been overtaken by the State in all its forms. Indigenous Peoples still hold responsibility for management, but need the state to work in cooperation and conjunction with them to deal with waters, to deal with fires, to deal with plantings, to control animal populations. The survival of native species is needed to maintain the hierarchy and range of species that we have in Australia. All of that knowledge, it’s in the interests both Indigenous Peoples and the State to get the value from that. In general, that knowledge has been ignored and overlooked, in the name of economic development, to exploit lands and waters and environment, rather than to build and protect those areas. The Permanent Forum has been going for 18 years. During that time, delegations of Indigenous Peoples have been trying to pass on this message of how important it is that they be able to continue their cultural identity, to continue their traditional association with their territories, and maintain important practices. But of course, this has been a difficult message to get across to States and to get respect for it. As Permanent Forum members we are trying to build that relationship and trust that should exist between States and Indigenous Peoples. Particularly in this session, we’ve put a lot of effort into better communication, better mechanisms to resolve disputes and improve dialogues. We’ve seen some change on this. We see that States are more prepared to accept that Indigenous Peoples should be in partnership, but there’s still not enough being done to make that happen. A big part of that, which shouldn’t be
ignored, is that there needs to be a capacity for Indigenous Peoples. Because many of our communities are struggling for survival, facing poverty, facing poor health, poor accommodation, lack of food and subsistence, and even connection to country to continue the ceremonies that they need to do in order to continue to transmit their knowledge through the generations and across communities. The challenge at the moment is to build capacity of the communities so that they can do the things that they would normally have done and want to do: to be caretakers, to continue their lifestyles and relationship with their territories. Particularly important are those communities that live in a subsistence way in the territories, relying upon resources of timber or fish or animals. That has been part of the survival of the biodiversity in the world. We know where Indigenous Peoples live is where most of the biodiversity exists. Indigenous Peoples are now being credited with having protected and saving those territories. And in the current discussions at the international level, credit is being given from people
involved in climate change, people involved in the Convention on Biological Diversity, to the important role Indigenous Peoples have and the necessity for them to continue those roles. Having 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Peoples’ Languages has brought forth the significance of the transmission of knowledge in the languages. There’s been a lot written about Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge [in relation to language]. It’s important to keep languages alive in order to keep transmitting that knowledge, particularly from generation to generation. Also associated is how Indigenous Peoples are structured socially to deal with each other and with responsibilities. Language will provide a lot of structure for keeping communities together, harmonized, and able to distribute and carry out their responsibilities. I think we’ve seen some very good advances just in this year alone to recognize that traditional knowledge and the associated customary practices, laws, rules, and so on that Indigenous Peoples live by, are all part of that knowledge and its survival and transmission.
Facing the Impacts of Climate Change Ben Ruli (Gimi), Indigenous Peoples Fellow from Papua New Guinea, UNDP Implemented Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme
Photo courtesy of Ben Ruli
urrently I’m under the GEF Small Grants Programme, working with them and then going out to the field visiting Indigenous communities. I have a small community organization. We are diverse. We are so many of us, so we have approximately 8 million people now. We speak more than 800 languages, we are culturally and linguistically diverse. My whole country is made up of Indigenous Peoples. I got an Indigenous Peoples scholarship through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme. I am a national fellow. I’ve been looking at the relationship that people have with nature, how environment influences people’s livelihoods. In terms of conserving biodiversity we have to look at how it is from the local people’s perspective, because most of the approaches now in Papua New Guinea are seen from the outside perspective, which doesn’t capture what we local people see. What is important for our culture and for the sustenance of our livelihoods has not been con-sidered. That’s the main thing that I’ve been working on, and also trying to work with communities to help them sustain their livelihoods through some of the projects that they have within their communities. We are facing the impact of climate change. The weather has changed a lot in our community. Fruiting seasons, like red bananas and some of the foods that we have, it all comes in season, but now it’s no longer that way. There’s no proper season, so that’s one thing we are facing. And the other thing is, we have only two climates: dry and wet. The dry season is from March to July/ August, and the wet season is November or December until January or February. Now it’s no longer that way; rain is coming and going any time, and the sun is
coming up any time, so it’s like everything has changed. Most of what the communities are doing now to be resilient and to mitigate this, they are trying to look at how they can be able to continue to use what they used to use in the Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 17
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge forest before, like in terms of nuts and fruit in the forest. Also they’re trying to maintain traditional seedlings that have been used from the past until now. They’ve seen the difference between those new seedlings that were brought in by people only last for a few months. But the traditional seedlings are there in any season. That’s why they’re trying to maintain those sort of foods that can keep them going when it’s prolonged drought season, or even when it’s raining. One of the things that I see common throughout PNG is the negligence that the government has given to the communities, to the people. People have been struggling to live a better life. They don’t deserve to be treated that way or don’t deserve to be left in that sort of situation. But I think the way we’ve been living before is one of the ways that kept going for so many generations until now. With this knowledge that we
have that has been passed on for generations, in terms of food or clothing or our value system, this will keep us going and we can become a better, stronger group of people as time goes by. The main goal for me at the UN Permanent Forum is to learn as much as I can from the workshops, from the people that I meet. I want to extend or broaden the network that I have, because as an Indigenous person coming from an Indigenous community, I see that most of the concerns and issues that we are faced with are all the same, coming in different context experiences in different countries. I really want to get those connections with other Indigenous communities, learn from them, and then use the experience to do the best I can to help the communities back in my country.
Media as a Means to Transmit Indigenous Knowledge Kenneth Deer (Mohawk Nation, Canada)
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Photo by Broddi Sigurdarson
raditional knowledge has a very broad definition, and the broader it is for us, the better. Traditional knowledge includes all of the knowledge that we have as Indigenous people; our knowledge of plants and animals, our spirituality, our worldview. To me, this is all traditional knowledge, this is what has sustained us over the millennia. What we have to do here at the United Nations is try to protect that traditional knowledge for our use so it is not pirated by non-Indigenous people. Our traditional knowledge shouldn’t be destroyed by colonial powers who might not have any respect for our knowledge as being a science or health remedy. The whole object of this process is to protect our knowledge and to get the respect our knowledge deserves. Media can be one of the means to transmit this Indigenous knowledge from elders to the younger ones. We have a tremendous opportunity to record our knowledge because in the past, it was always transmitted orally and by showing people. Indigenous people are very visual people. We always keep that in mind when we transmit knowledge, that sometimes we have to do it visually, because in previous centuries we didn’t have writing. Now we have this opportunity to use modern media to do it in a different way. You can do it in print, you can do it through audio and video recordings. What we have to be careful when using the internet, that knowledge becomes public domain. We have to be very careful about what we put on the internet. If you put a sacred ceremony on the internet, then everybody has access to that sacred ceremony. They can use it, they can mimic it, so there are some things that should be restricted. If it’s sacred to you, it should only be shared with certain people. Indigenous knowledge is important and it needs to be documented. On the other hand, there is also a challenge for protection. Take Indigenous medicines: our elders have certain medicines, they know certain plants and herbs that are beneficial and that’s something that’s been handed down from
generation to generation. If they put that on the internet, then the pharmaceutical companies can take it and patent it. They’ll make millions of dollars and you’ll get nothing. You have to be very careful about how you transmit that information. One of the biggest challenges we’ve had is the loss of language. This is the year of the world’s Indigenous languages, so there’s extra emphasis on languages this year. For decades now, we have been trying to save our language because our language (the Mohawk language), the Canadian government has tried to destroy and undermine it. When I went to school I was not allowed to speak the language and it had a tremendous impact on me. This policy has done a lot of damage, and the Mohawk language is still an endangered language. For decades now, we have been teaching it in our schools. We have Mohawk immersion programs from nursery school and Kindergarten up to Grade 6. We even have adult immersion programs now for people who want to learn the language. We’re doing a lot to protect the language. If you have your language, then you can preserve your traditional knowledge. Our traditional knowledge was generated in our language, not in English or French or German
or anything else—that knowledge was transferred in our Indigenous languages. We need those Indigenous languages to preserve our traditional knowledge because some nuances cannot be translated. It’s important that we keep our languages so that we can have that true medium of knowledge that our traditions have. Our biggest concern is the loss of traditional knowledge from our elders. Every time an elder passes on, a little bit of
that knowledge is gone, like the language . . . maybe that elder has a few words that only he or she knows, that when they pass on, that’ll be gone. We have to get our elders, our knowledge keepers, to teach us all that they can, and we should be there to listen to them and make the decisions about how we’re going to pass that on. Make sure you get all the information you can out of your elders so you can pass it on to your children and your children’s children.
States Should Partner with Indigenous People Raja Devashis Roy (Chakma), Bangladesh, Former UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Member
Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar
here is traditional knowledge in many spheres and many contexts. But with regard to forests, water bodies, mountains, hills, ecosystems . . . that is one area where Indigenous Peoples have a lot of knowledge. There is also traditional knowledge in regards to many other aspects of life including governance, justice, development, even representation of people, democracy. Indigenous traditional leaders, chiefs, and other sub-chiefs, we have certain expertise that is handed down through the generations and which we use for the benefit of our communities. That is why we still exist. Where the number of Indigenous Peoples is very small, then it is almost impossible for you to get elected to local bodies. Forget parliament—you go unrepresented. These are questions for Indigenous Peoples: for democracy, for representation, for knowledge that is going to disappear and die unless and until these people’s voices are heard, unless and until Indigenous Peoples’ efforts to speak for themselves and represent themselves, is supported by the States and the UN system. In many countries in South and Southeast Asia there is a conflict between States that want to hold onto lands they call forests, and Indigenous Peoples, mostly forest-dependent communities. Indigenous Peoples, when we look at land and forests, we think intergenerationally: what is going to happen in my granddaughter’s time, great granddaughter’s time, so that my community, my family, my clan, my people can have access to that same land or forest and use it for their benefit, and also for the benefit of their lives. Our perspective is intergenerational and sustainable for three, five, seven, ten generations. States think ahead only ten years, fifteen years. They call it a forest, but they do not have knowledge, they do not know which bird eats what seeds, what fruit sits on what tree, how that tree must be maintained, what sort of stream or river can protect which tree, which bird, which animal. We know, and that is where language also comes in. Because if we know the name of a plant and the name of a bird, we also know where that plant lives and dies and is healthy or sick. Also, which bird, which animal sits on which tree, and what sort of water body—the forest ranger does not know that. Indigenous Peoples are managing their own lands and are doing it sustainably and intergenerationally. If the world wants to realize that there are certain things Indigenous
Peoples know better than those government forest and environment departments, then it is for the benefit of all. The State should ask Indigenous people to be the partners. And Indigenous people should, where they have existing efforts, be encouraged and supported by the State. The links between linguistic diversity and biological diversity are clear. Where all the peoples and communities speak a lot of languages, they also know a lot of names of local animals, birds, plants, and flowers, and they know how they survive and sustain. It is in people’s identities, languages, their ways of life, their system of democracy or governance. All of this needs to be realized for the benefit of humanity, not just Indigenous Peoples. We are seeing with other aspects of culture like dress, food, and festivals, Indigenous Peoples need support. Indigenous Peoples’ voices must be heard with sympathy and understanding. Any other efforts taken by non-Indigenous entities with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, languages, and knowledge should be with their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent only. The biggest challenge lies with Indigenous Peoples taking effective steps for themselves to first know their knowledge, because it is not written. In many cases it’s oral, so they have to find a way where, without losing the essence, the heart of the matter, and take steps to gather and know what they have. They have to work in partnership with the States, universities, research institutions, and others to find out the best ways of protecting what they have and pass it down to the next generation—not in a way that it is going to be sold in the market through patents or copyright, but for the benefit of Indigenous people, and, of course, for the rest of humanity. Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 19
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge
Loss of Traditional Knowledge Is Due to Lack of Documentation Barsha Lekhi (Tharu), Nepal, Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme’s National Fellow
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Photo courtesy of Barsha Lekhi
odernization is a big challenge. There is a lack of interest among people in following their tradition and cultural practices; youth are becoming more attracted to Western culture and following tradition is con- sidered outdated. Traditional knowledge holders face a lack of respect and appreciation for such knowledge. There are also few safeguards to protect traditional knowledge holders against misuse of their knowledge. Intellectual property is often acquired illegitimately by third parties. Traditional knowledge holders provide their precious and valuable knowledge for free and rarely receive any compensation. There should be a mechanism in place for give-and-take between the knowledge provider and knowledge gainer. Practices like manuring, ploughing back the weeds and grasses into the crop field, help maintain the fertility of the soil naturally. Growing leguminous crops like beans helps maintain the nitrogen content of the soil. These traditional practices help rejuvenate the nitrogen that is consumed in large amounts by cash crops like rice and wheat. Bamboo cultivation is a well known practice in Nepal. Biofencing is another method adopted by the Indigenous communities. The traditional practice of planting herbs like Tulsi in the homes is another small but effective practice in combating climate change. The plant is considered holy because it has immense medicinal value. The Neem tree and bargad/banyan tree are also considered holy. Considering the trees holy protects them from being felled and helps in combating local environment degradation, which ultimately combats climate change. Matru Bhumi (mother land) through the Bhumi Devi ki Jai! It’s the dharmic duty that we have a functioning, abundant, and flourishing planet. Every plant and animal has a story or cultural practice that encourages people to maintain their resources at their best. The concept of protecting jal (jungle) and jameen (water, forest, and land) is an age old practice of Indigenous communities. Water, plants, trees, and animals are highly valued and are considered holy, they are even given the status of gods and goddesses. Women are both the owners and main transmitters of traditional knowledge. However, the essential role of women in sustainable resource management processes, in the maintenance and promotion of biodiversity, and in the transmission of knowledge and culture has not been widely recognized in Nepal. Women need extra support when it comes to the protection and transmission of traditional knowledge. To prevent the loss of women’s rich traditional knowledge, it is crucial to document their skills, practices, and technologies in a detailed and systematic way. A major reason for the loss of traditional knowledge in Nepal is a lack of documentation. Capacity building programs for women in the rural areas of Nepal are necessary to enhance their confidence and transfer traditional skills. The participation of women in leadership roles in planning and decision
making within all three tiers of government and Parliament could enable the protection of women’s traditional skills and mainstream women-specific traditional knowledge in development processes. Recognizing and rewarding individuals or women’s groups for contributing to the sustainable management of the environment and biodiversity conservation through traditional knowledge would be another way to support women and traditional knowledge, as would encouraging and supporting women-run enterprises. Programs on traditional knowledge and skills transfer to the younger generation would also help prevent the loss of traditional knowledge. Awareness and education for women, especially those residing in remote areas of Nepal, will enable them to understand their rights and access information. There is no stand alone legislation and policy in place in Nepal that protects traditional knowledge directly, but there are acts and policies that relate to its protection. The National Intellectual Property Policy introduced by the government in 2017 provides a framework and strategies for the protection, use, and development of traditional knowledge. The policy aims to make an inventory and develop a traditional knowledge digital library for the protection, conservation, development, and use of traditional and Indigenous knowledge. It aims to utilize existing traditional knowledge, biodiversity, and intellectual property as a tool for national development. It also highlights the need for a legal framework for geographical indications, plant variety protection, biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expression. And it encourages the establishment of institutions like the Intellectual Property Society, Collective Management Organizations, and Lawyers Society to ensure the protection of people’s intellectual property for the development and protection of copyright, plant variety, biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expression. This interview was conducted by Alejandra Pero, GEF Small Grants Programme
The Intellectual Wealth of Indigenous Communities Is Being Misappropriated Elifuraha Laltaika, Tanzania, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Member
here’s no universally agreed upon definition of traditional knowledge, but in the context of the discussions at the Forum, it includes knowledge that is held by traditional communities and passed down from one generation to the other through oral tradition and apprenticeship. It excludes knowledge that someone gains as the result of formal education. In Africa, many communities are still living traditionally. They practice traditional livelihoods, including pastoralism and hunting and gathering, and therefore their lives revolve around their traditional knowledge of medicines, grazing routes, weather forecasting skills, and so on. UNESCO piloted a program in six countries in Africa under the auspices of Knowing Our Climate, and what it did was help communities to document their weather forecasting skills. Communities can tell, using traditional knowledge, whether there will be rain tomorrow or not. They can know whether there’ll be rain in the next six months or not. And that is what enables them to decide whether to shift into another village. Our research has shown us that pastoralists who are nomadic livestock keepers do not just migrate from one area to another. Their migration is informed by their ability to use traditional knowledge to know for sure, just as a meteorologist, whether there will be no rain so that they can move in order to serve their livestock and children and their lives more generally. The intellectual wealth of Indigenous communities, the ability to know which plant treats what and how much to
Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar
administer for a patient, is being misappropriated. We are reminding state parties under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization to [hold] discussions relating to the protection of traditional knowledge. Currently the regime is rooted in the Western legal system, and therefore it falls short of protecting traditional knowledge. What we are doing as expert members—and this is based on the recommendations we get from delegates from all over the world—is that the World Intellectual Property Organization, in particular the intergovernmental council, should continue the discussions on how to protect traditional knowledge, and for us to track the discussions. We get data that genetic resources are being misappropriated at an alarming rate, and that is why we need things to be finalized as soon as possible.
“The intellectual wealth of Indigenous communities . . . is being misappropriated. We are reminding state parties under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization to [hold] discussions relating to the protection of traditional knowledge.” — Elifuraha Laltaika
This year has been declared the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages. Experts are telling us that two Indigenous languages are disappearing every week. Now, once we get the attention of countries and governments and scientists and social scientists and journalists, it’s one step ahead. Second is getting resources and educating communities, sensitizing governments, because some governments probably think it is just okay to witness these traditional Indigenous languages dying. Apart from just a year of international languages, we may have the UN declaring a decade of international Indigenous languages. If that is done, I hope so many things will happen, including attention and raising awareness. Young parents, if you are blessed with kids, teach them your ancestral language. Teach them your Indigenous language because language is a transmitter of wisdom, of traditional knowledge, of heritage, of pride, of belonging, and so on. The declaration of the International Year of Languages, followed by the decade of languages, is a package that is full of good things, including reminding parents and policymakers that we have the duty to protect our traditional languages. We did not want to hold a theme on traditional knowledge in isolation from language because we know language is the transmission system. Therefore, the failure to pass traditional knowledge from one generation to the other, first and foremost, is the language. But there are others, of course, including living far from the ancestral villages. If you are in the city you are working, and if you don’t visit your parents in the village, of course you will have challenges getting that knowledge transmitted to you as a younger generation. But of all factors, language is number one because it’s the main carrier. Traditional knowledge is transmitted orally, using oral tradition. It’s not written anywhere. It’s very poorly documented. Therefore, language is really the game changer. Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 21
Protecting, Promoting, and Revitalizing Traditional Knowledge
Protecting Our Traditional Knowledge from Exploitation Baitz Niahosa (Tsou), Taiwan
Photo by Dev Kumar Sunuwar
’m from the mountain villages in Taiwan. We only have 4,000 Tsou people left. Not even a thousand people still speak the Tsou language. We are working very hard for traditional knowledge protection and we try to get our youth and our children to know about our traditional knowledge. We try to revive our knowledge from other peoples, and we would like to protect our traditional knowledge from exploitation by academic researchers and other groups. We are advocating for a law to get researchers and other interested groups for our traditional knowledge and languages to sign a contract with us before they put anything out. Any of the
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traditional knowledge they write about or record has to have our prior and informed consent before they put it out. We have classes to transmit knowledge to younger generations. I set up classes in our nation and I have a singing group where we sing our songs in our traditional way and in our languages. The kids love to sing, they learn language from singing. We use elder people too as mentors for these kids. They have the responsibility to do that, and they like the work. The education system in our country does not include elders, because they think elders do not know how to teach. Our tradition is oral, we don’t have schools; we don’t have a system. We just teach our kids. The method is there. Because we’ve been prohibited to speak our language for hundreds and hundreds of years, we are only now reviving our language. We are in the healing process to heal all these traumas. I got punished every time I spoke my language. When you speak your language, you still sometimes have a block in your mind, you still have fear sometimes. Maintaining our tradition, ceremony is the biggest concern we have now because our elders are passing on to the other world. We are trying to gather these elders to interview them about as much as they can remember. We gather lots of elders because when they get together, they remember lots of things. They keep talking and we get people to write it down because now we are establishing a writing system for ourselves. The elders are excited to pass on their life knowledge, their handicrafts, and their vision of the world that was from their parents or grandparents. If we don’t get things from our ancestors, this culture will not continue, our identity will be lost, and our main thoughts will be different. We are trying to get our identity and our Tribal-centered thought back. Our ancestors are our roots. It’s like a tree; if you don’t have roots, you can’t have a fruit, you can’t have anything that grows. Language is the main thing for our Indigenous existence. If there is no language, we will not be here. Our language has our culture in it. The songs have all sorts of knowledge of life. As soon as you speak the language, your distance is very close, you become one family. All over the world we are facing the same problems: language loss and the invasion of our traditional knowledge. We should wake up and ask questions: Why do we give them these things? Why don’t we keep our things? I think we have to keep our knowledge in our place, keep our people in our nation, keep our everything among us. Otherwise, our culture will become theirs in a book or a museum.
Transmitting Traditional Knowledge Through Radio Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Project supports young Indigenous leaders between the ages of 16–26 who are committed to learning about technology, program development, journalism, community radio, media, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights advocacy.
Kankuamo Youth Commission (Kankuamo) from Atanquez, Sierra Nevada, Santa Marta, Colombia Earlier this year, the fellows participated in the temporary closure of the Shanbenshi River, known as Badillo, which has been co-opted as a tourist attraction, to reestablish harmony and environmental recovery and to carry out traditional and cultural practices. To date, they have completed the capacity building trainings and are now developing a series of podcasts on Indigenous ancestral knowledge, sustainable development, food security, oral stories, and territorial defense encompassing the spiritual ecology of the Kankuamo people.
Ronald José Fernández Epieyuu (Wayuu) from Utay Stereo, Guajira, Colombia Transmitting the oral knowledge of traditional practices, festivals, medicine, and spirituality of the Wayuu peoples in both Wayuunaiki and Spanish through recordings capturing the essence of ancestral knowledge has been a deep intergenerational strengthening process in regenerating the wisdom of the Wayuu people. Fernández has been completing the last few radio spots for the program “Nuchonyu Juya” (Children of the Rain), and with the support of a communications team, he has carried out field research and interviews in different communities throughout the resguardo, gaining wisdom from elders, caretakers of the land, and Indigenous authorities. Fernández says that visiting these communities and travelling long distances on foot has motivated him to continue the responsibility of defending the resistance of his ancestors and protecting their territory through community media.
Martha Ortiz Gómez (Maya Mam) from Radio Nan Pix, San Ildelfonso Ixtahuacan, Guatemala “Cómo nosotros como jóvenes podemos llevar nuestra gente para desapretemos?” How can we, as youth, assist in the awakening of our people? is the central question Ortiz has been addressing in her project, which focused on Indigenous youth migration, particularly the experience of young women.
In Huehuetenango, there is a high volume of migration to other countries, especially among youth who do not complete basic education. Ortiz organized a series of forums to discuss the realities youth are facing in Ixtahuacan and to prompt other avenues of opportunity such as journalism and radio production; the local community radio station Nan Pix is an optimal space for women to express and contribute to community development. Ortiz’s project emphasized the importance of young Indigenous women’s participation in community radio as a space where they can receive education on communication and enhance their confidence.
Fellows from the Kankuamo Youth Commission. Photo courtesy of Julian Cho Society.
Liza Francis Henríquez and Jeyson Adonis Miranda (Miskitu) from Radio Yapti Tasba, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua Miskitu youth, Lisa Francis Henríquez and Jeyson Adonis Miranda, continue to develop content for their radio program “La defensa histórica y presente de la Madre Tierra” (“Historical and current defense of Mother Earth”), for the Indigenous population of Puerto Cabezas. They have been conducting interviews with Miskitu youth from Awastara, Pahara, and Daukra of the Tawira territory, acknowledging the demands and needs they are facing in their communities. The programs are broadcast on Radio Yapti Tasba Bila Baikra. Francis and Adonis have also been active in community events, recently participating in a large assembly for the presidential elections of the Youth Yatama committee where they interviewed young Indigenous delegates from different regions of Nicaragua.
Manuel David Loja Pugo, Jessica Tatiana Sarango Rumipulla, and Cristofer Arévalo Rumipulla (Kichwa) from Radio Kimsakocha, Cuenca, Ecuador Together with her team, Sarango is continuing her work in producing radio spots on land defense, cultural celebrations, historical acknowledgment, and territorial protection of the Kichwa and Kañari Peoples in the region of Cuenca, including recording testimonies of Water Protectors where they have been uncovering new teachings and recognizing the importance of having one’s own communication to strengthen ancestral knowledge. Sarango says she is now more proud to be Kichwa and is inspired to share the ancestral knowledge of her people among other youth so that it is not forgotten: “We, as youth, can be an example for future generations. We need to participate in this project to continue the recovery of our culture, customs, and traditions of our country. For us, water is fundamental for our lives. It unites us.” Cultural Survival Quarterly September 2019 • 23
Sounding the Conch Shell A conch shell historically has been used to call Maya people together to assembly.
Maya Youth Organizers
he conch shell is a tool that has been used by the Maya for generations to invite people to attend a community meeting where they may express their concerns or opinions towards any public decision. We have symbolically adapted this practice for the Sounding of the Conch Shell Youth Camp, conceived by young Maya organizers from the Julian Cho Society. The Julian Cho Society is a nongovernmental organization devoted to Indigenous rights through research, education, and advocacy in southern Belize, and also is a Keepers of the Earth Fund grant partner. We, the Maya youth organizers, namely, Elodio Rash, Seferina Miss, Florenio Xuc, Donna Makin, Rosita Kan, and Roberto Kus, were seeking to build a space for the Maya youth. Fifteen youth out of the JCS Scholarship Program were selected—nine young women and six young men, ages 14–17. The transition of Maya knowledge from one generation to the next is of grave concern to the Maya youth, as they are beginning to realize they are losing their culture, heritage, identity, and eventually, their knowledge. The camp was created to be a space for the youth to regain their traditional knowledge, and also one where they could build their leadership capacities. The ultimate goal of the camp is to motivate youth who will contribute to the construction of peaceful, united, hard working, and self-governing Maya communities —all while being cognizant of the crucial role women play in traditional Maya governance. The initial gathering was facilitated in partnership with Community Service Learning from the University of Manitoba and the grassroots movement Aboriginal Youth Opportunities of Manitoba, Canada, and the University of Liverpool Geography Department. Maya spirituality is of great significance to our culture and is seen as a way to communicate to our ancestors, our spirits. Therefore, it was only fitting that we started off the gathering by asking our ancestors for guidance, protection, and wisdom as we attempt to dream about the future for both our generation and others to come. To set the tone of the camp and open the minds of the Maya youth, keynote presentations were given
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Embracing Maya culture, envisioning our future, and executing our dreams
Image taken by a Maya youth during the photovoice project showing a sign promoting gender equality in San Benito Diana Poite village. Pastor
by Indigenous leaders inclusive of Maya Alcaldes (both male and female), Indigenous rights activists, Maya spiritual leaders, and other associates. Additionally, youth speakers from the Aboriginal Youth Movement of Cree and Anishinaabekwe nations shared their personal stories of youth organizing and involvement. This triggered the 15 youth to realize the importance of amplifying and centering Indigenous voices, as well as building and supporting one another as part of a youth movement. The week-long camp included field visits to Maya heritage sites and was divided into three key segments: a photovoice project; an arts-based dreaming session; and the conception and development of an action plan that would later be implemented by the Maya youth attendees. For the photovoice project, the participants were given cameras to capture images across Maya communities throughout Toledo District. The primary aim was to encourage the youth to take photographs of sites, places, and things that resonated with them; in particular, the joys, pains, and dreams they have and experience as both Maya people and as youth. Participants were separated into teams to travel along differing routes and visit numerous Maya communities as a means of assisting them in capturing the stories they would like to share with their peers. The arts-based “Dreaming of Our Future” exercise was conducted to provide a medium through which Indigenous youth could share their dreams and aspirations. Participants were posed with the question: “Where do you see your community in the next 5 to 10 years?” They were then handed a All photos courtesy of Julian Cho Society.
Julian Cho Society planning team, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities members, Manitoba students, and campers.
blank canvas to draw, color, and cast their dreams upon. The dreams shared by the youth throughout the exercise are dreams Maya people have continuously envisioned through our historical struggles to the present day. From the dreaming exercise the youth identified six themes: Maya youth leadership; land; education; gender equality; identity; culture and traditional knowledge; and health. Using these themes as inspiration, the youth developed action points to either enhance their joys or remedy their pains, as well as execute the dreams and activities they intend to carry out in 2020. The youth were then grouped to initiate conversation on how they could begin to address the concerns pinpointed in the Dreaming exercise. From the six themes identified, they further narrowed down to three that they felt needed the utmost attention: identity, culture, and traditional knowledge; Maya youth leadership; and gender equality. One group felt that the way to build the youth leadership skills of the present Maya youth was for them to collectively learn from their elders. They expressed the need for exemplary leadership in their communities and further stressed the need for the youth to be taught the skills that will make them morally grounded, committed, and full of integrity. They stated that they would like to have another gathering focusing solely on what it takes to be an impeccable traditional leader. Another group’s action point focused on gender equality and sensitizing the youth on the importance of women in traditional Maya governance. They wish to empower young women to become actively involved in the affairs of their communities and also inform young men on the importance of giving respect to women leaders. A third group reasoned that they could identify elders in their respective communities who they could invite to give them teachings on various traditional practices, ensuring the passing of knowledge from one generation to another. These workshops will be spanned across the year 2020 and will have the youth learning traditional practices and knowledge they may have not had the chance to learn growing up, honoring our ancestors in the process and ensuring that traditional knowledge survives for generations to come. The closing of the camp was one we especially wanted to resonate with the Toledo Alcaldes Association executives, Maya Leaders Alliance, Julian Cho Society, and Maya elders, who were invited as special guests on the final day. The Toledo Alcaldes Association is the highest arbiter and custodian for Maya customary law. The action plan was presented to demonstrate that the youth have genuine concerns for their communities and are motivated to contribute to the development of peaceful, more united, and resilient Maya communities. The camp culminated by assembling Maya elders, women, and spiritual healers to listen to the voices of Maya youth. The gathering closed with a traditional Maya ceremony at Nim Li Punit (Maya Temple) to give thanks to the creator and ancestors for their guidance, wisdom, and protection throughout the initial gathering and to ask for their wisdom as we continue our journey.
A Maya spiritual leader burns incense, asking for guidance and protection from the Creator during the opening ceremony of the Sounding of the Conch Shell Youth Camp.
Progressive work has already begun on calibrating the ideas generated by the 15 youth who attended the camp; holding events developed from the action plan as early as December 2019 and throughout the rest of 2020 are on the Maya youth agenda. Issues related to gender equality, primarily shedding light on women in governance, masculinity, women’s rights, and gender stereotyping, have all been made a priority. Maya youth are scheduled to be present at every Alcaldes Assembly and on the Alcaldes Steering Committee, as well as for youth to collaborate with the Toledo Alcaldes Association. Youth will also be informed, included, and even contribute to organizing of upcoming projects and workshops related to traditional knowledge and practices. The Maya youth have spoken. They need to be a part of decision making, even if it is just to be informed about new developments within their communities. They have made their mandate. Maya youth organizers are now pursuing the action plans they developed, willing to collaborate with other Indigenous groups to create their own version of Sounding of the Conch Shell, and endeavoring to hold an annual camp. The Maya youth organizers are also continuing to actively seek guidance from their mentors at the Julian Cho Society. As the Maya always say, it is by “Komonil,” or togetherness, that we conquer every challenge we have—especially colonialism and capitalism. Maya youth at the temple of Lubaantun.
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KOEF G r an t Pa rt n e r Sp ot l i g h t
United in Tradition as Peoples of the Corn “For life, there must be corn and Mother Earth, but Mother Earth must be healthy.” — Carmen Lozano (Kichwa), Ecuador Avexnim Cojti, Cesar Gomez, Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López (CS STAFF)
he 4th International Indigenous Peoples Corn Conference, “For Our Ancestral Rights, We Protect and Guarantee Our Food Sovereignty and That of Our Future Generations,” took place March 7-8 in the community of Vicente Guerrero, Tlaxcala, Mexico. Over 75 participants from different Indigenous communities from the Americas shared their experiences, challenges, and solutions about living with and cultivating corn. Proyecto de Desarrollo Rural Integral Vicente Guerrero served as host of the conference, while sponsors included the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples for Food Sovereignty in Mexico. Cultural Survival served as a co-sponsor, along with the Alliance of North American Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Alliance Milpa, and the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples on Food Sovereignty, Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change. Corn has been considered a sacred plant and important food to many Indigenous Peoples for more than 3,000 years, from the north to the southlands of Abya Yala. Communities with diverse climates continue to utilize corn as a main staple of their diet and an important part of Indigenous philosophical and spiritual practices and identities. “We are like a corn husked and watered on all sides; we are all a variety of corn,” said conference participant Carmen Lozano (Kichwa). Elder Duane ‘Chili’ Yazzie (Diné) commented, “We come from four worlds. This is the fourth world, and we are four peoples. The blacks take care of the water, the blue ones the air, the white ones the fire, and we, the dark ones, take care of the earth. Corn is a More than 75 participants from different Indigenous communities in the Americas strategized for biodiversity protection and sustainability of cultivating maize. Photo by Avex Cojti.
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must to live. The first woman was given corn, a symbol of fertility. As the first people, we feel the pain of Mother Earth.” Corn is not planted as an isolated crop. Rather, it is planted with other sister plants such as beans and squash to thrive. This agricultural practice, known as “the milpa” in Indigenous cultures, is also referred to as the three sisters. Lozano, a Kichwa woman and representative of Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, explains that the planting of corn is also a collective process. “Our grandparents learned to work as a community, and the milpa reflects this collective work when it shares its nutrients with beans and squash and they protect each other from weeds.” Maize represents traditional knowledge, identities, songs, and the protection of Mother Earth, and needs to be protected against many threats that have intensified in the last decades. Corn is part of Indigenous creation stories, passage rituals to adolescence, the mingas (community gatherings), and deities in the spirit world. Oral tradition has been fundamental for the transmission of knowledge about corn from generation to generation. “In the house after dinner, the father begins to tell how the corn is planted, so the information is transmitted to the children,” explains Aquian Guamán of the Karos Nation of Peru. In the same way, Maya elders and adults retell their creation story about why human beings were created from corn after three failed attempts to create human beings to younger generations. This strong bond with corn and other plants, animals, and waters, make Indigenous Peoples stewards of all forms of life in their territories. Corn and Indigenous communities have had a special and mutually dependent relationship, evolving together since the domestication of a grass called Teocintle to corn 3,000 years ago. However, Indigenous territories are under threat by megaprojects and government policies benefiting corporations. Many governments have neglected their responsibility to pro-
tect natural resources with unsustainable or illegal agriculture, fishing, logging, and mining practices, to name a few. Climate change is also affecting food systems, making crops more vulnerable and leading to the abandonment of the countryside. Genetically modified corn and the laws that promote its cultivation are one of the main threats undermining Indigenous knowledge about corn. The multinational corporation Monsanto, producer of genetically modified seeds, has bought government support to pass laws that would allow them to sell their products in many countries around the world, further threatening corn diversity. The dispossession of land and water from communities to supply extractive megaprojects puts communities at risk of violence, persecution, and further poverty. The expropriation of Indigenous lands and displacement of people from their original territories where they can plant and live from the land is being experienced in Guatemala, where the government, under the auspices of development, is giving concessions to international corporations for mining, hydroelectric, and highway activities without Free, Prior and Informed Consent of local communities. According to María Josefa Macs, representative of the Committee for Campesino Unity, the Maya Q’eqchi’ community from Cumbre Sacuxha Tatic were victims of a police-led displacement against 25 families in November 2017. The displacement was forced by burning of their homes and destructing their crops. Sebastian Roque (P’urépecha) from Michoacán, Mexico, relates these national and global problems with the loss of connection with Mother Earth, the Cosmos, and time. “The evil spirit should not exist, but we have it in mind; the good spirit is absent, that is why there are many problems and diseases,” he says. It is coming to a time where Indigenous knowledge and practices must be recovered to reestablish balance on Earth, to minimize and re-establish natural resources. Various Indigenous strategies are being carried out at local and international levels to regain food sovereignty, traditional knowledge and practices, and the protection of seeds and other natural resources. In many countries, there is a movement to recover traditional and collective lands, such as the Indigenous resguardos (reservations) in Colombia, common lands in Guatemala, ejidos and community lands in Mexico, and land claims and non-ceded territories in Canada where Indigenous Peoples want to map, manage, and protect their resources. At the local level, communities are asserting and maintaining their traditional knowledge, eating healthy products, and keeping the forms of production for food sustainability and for higher independence from industrial agriculture involving the family and community in the process. Indigenous Peoples are also recovering lost knowledge and applying new productive strategies to fertilize land and use natural pest control. Seed bank initiatives are popping up in different communities in the north and the south to protect seeds and are also part of networks with other communities and organizations, such as the Native Seed Bank Network in the United States. In 2006, a movement of Indigenous Peoples in Tesuque Pueblo, New Mexico, declared their territory free from genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms through a community walk to Washington, D.C. Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the Declaration for
Farmers and other Rural Workers, which is another international tool in addition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to support the right to food sovereignty, protection of traditional knowledge, conservation of biodiversity, and strategies against climate change. There are also international gatherings on corn where Indigenous communities from the Americas share their experiences, challenges, and solutions about living with and cultivating corn, and corn fairs where Indigenous communities travel to exchange heritage seeds, both of which present opportunities for the revitalization of traditional knowledge. In parallel to the 4th Conference held in March, the 22nd Fair of Corn and Other Native Seeds took place at the same location. Gatherings such as this one are essential to unify efforts from different Indigenous agricultural communities to protect natural resources and ancestral agricultural practices. During the Conference, several presenters highlighted how important the participation of young people is in continuing with the traditional practicing agriculture. As youth are following secondary and higher education, there is the risk of disconnecting from the land. Adults motivate youth to harmonize the priorities of education and careers with practicing traditional knowledge. In many communities, youth are actively participating in their communities, using their institutional education while reconnecting to tradi- tional knowledge in agriculture and other fields in search of solutions to today’s problems. As Jesús, a Maya youth from Campeche stated, “young people are not choosing to leave their communities, they are being forced out for various reasons. Young people are the future, but they need the elders to teach them how to do it.” Indigenous communities and leaders from the North and South of the continent, speaking different languages and living different ways of life, are uniting and sharing their experiences in the protection of Indigenous corn and other natural resources. As one of the participants of the conference stated, “the most revolutionary thing to do is to plant your own corn and consume locally produced food.” Daily work in the field is the most arduous; to conserve the corn you have to sow it, care for it, and harvest it. Indigenous and campesino communities carry out this work every day, despite low prices of corn and the loss of harvests due to climate change. To ensure the continued viability of this sacred crop, organizations and individuals from the grassroots to international levels must continue to advocate for international policies to protect not only the maize, but also local production of food, Indigenous rights, water, and lands, and to learn from the existing good practices in food sustainability.
The diversity of corn is immense, however, only about 12 varieties are grown on a mass scale, with many being genetically modified. Photo by Avex Cojti.
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s t af f s p o tlig h t
Working Towards Change
Adriana Hernández, Executive Assistant
Adriana Hernández. Right: Adriana Hernández (left) with community media workshop participant in El Estor, Izabal, in May.
driana Hernández (Maya K’ich’e), joined Cultural Survival in April as an executive assistant. She was born in the western highlands of Guatemala in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, or Xelaju. “I come from a family of eight. Life with a big family has always been very joyful. One of the greatest memories I have is when my mother, at 45 years of age, was trying to learn how to read and write for the very first time. We both were starting the learning process. I loved going to school. I was curious about nature, plants, and geography, and going to school satisfied my curiosity. Later on, my parents encouraged me to continue studying in high school at a religious institution only for women. I am thankful for this experience, as this is where I started to understand the problems that women face in a conservative society,” she recalls. While earning her bachelor’s degree in international relations from Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala, Hernández participated in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, continuing her studies in political science at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. She later worked as a faculty assistant at Rafael Landívar University, during which time she volunteered in an educational program for at-risk youth and seniors at Instituto Guatemalteco de Educación Radiofónica. “During my time at the university, I became aware that many problems in Guatemala were structural, and that working for our communities was going to be difficult, but not impossible,” she says.
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Hernández sees violence as one of the biggest problems affecting Indigenous communities today, especially women. “Violence in Guatemala has roots in a patriarchal system, racism, and exclusion. All these roots together produce abuse and aggression, affecting human dignity and creating conflicts at personal, family, and community levels. The broken social and political fabric is causing our cultural values to be forgotten, creating less harmony and lack of collective sense. Based on my experience, I consider education and access to information vital for our Indigenous communities so we can organize ideas, make new plans, and turn these ideas into actions. We, as Indigenous women, are constantly victims of ‘normalized behaviors’ that have made violence part of Guatemala. If we are aware of the legal resources we can count on, we can protect ourselves. Through leadership workshops like the ones that Cultural Survival promotes, Indigenous women can share a sense of sisterhood and be part of a big family. Cultural Survival’s work in terms of advocacy is vital for our Indigenous communities. It is important to strengthen and support the initiatives of local communities,” she says. Hernández credits her parents for inspiring her the most: “I know the living conditions and the opportunities they had were different and less comfortable than what I had. Nevertheless, they never forgot their goals and aspirations. They instilled in me the belief that education was crucial, that through education we can change oppression and patriarchal systems. It was difficult to change the conservative model in my family, but my parents are eager to continue learning and change some ideas that will benefit us as a family and as a community. I’m very proud that they were able to find their own resources and continue to educate themselves. Some of my fondest moments now are sharing ideas on philosophy and politics with my dad.” Reflecting on her time so far at Cultural Survival, Hernández says, “I have felt motivated and inspired. It’s incredible to have co-workers who are motivated with one vision. When you are passionate about your job it becomes contagious. I love being in an environment where I feel appreciated as a person, as a woman, and where my achievements, my work, my language, my culture, and my roots are valued.” All photos courtesy of Adriana Hernández.
Katarina Doda displaying her art at the Newburyport Bazaar in July.
B azaa r a rt i st:
Photo by Jamie Malcolm-Brown.
From Silver to Lace
y art is filigree art jewelry made of silver. This is a traditional family craft from my country of North Macedonia,” says silversmith Katarina Doda. One of the oldest techniques for jewelry making in the world, filigree is a delicate jewelry metalwork, usually of gold and silver, made with tiny beads and twisted threads soldered together. Doda explains, “The whole process is done by hand, using silver as the main material. Sometimes I use semi-precious stones such as amethyst, opal, red and white coral, or natural pearls. I start with melting silver using a special furnace, drawing a wire, and creating my own designs into jewelry. After I prepare material by drawing the silver wire, I start to realize my ideas and my designs. Finally there is cleaning the jewelry using different kinds of acids, polishing creams, and paints to make the finished piece.” Doda’s family has passed this art down from generation to generation; growing up she was surrounded by it. “This is our family traditional craft and I am just continuing the family trade,” she says. “All my life I was in contact with filigree jewelry.” Her parents established a second business manufacturing the tools needed to create filigree and gold jewelry, as well as furnaces for melting gold and silver. Doda came up through the family business presenting her family’s products at fairs and exhibitions, but, she says, “My biggest wish was to make the jewelry. I started with machine-made jewelry but was never satisfied, so I decided to extend my family craft to keep with tradition. I had many ideas and many jewelry designs. Although I knew how to make filigree jewelry, in 2010 I started going to school to master the knowledge and gain new skills. After six months at school, I established my workshop, Filigree Workshop KD Jewelry.” She continues, “I use many traditional motifs and designs of my country. In recent years, machine-made jewelry has flooded the market, putting our craft at risk. Filigree has become marginalized but has not lost its value or beauty. The reason I continue is to maintain our heritage and culture so it is not lost. We are recognized for our craft all around the world. The filigree butterfly brooch is one of the most representative pieces of jewelry from our region. This is our family’s traditional art, which is very difficult to make and requires a lot of patience and time. My love for filigree jewelry encourages me to continue our family tradition and it also gives me an opportunity to express myself as a designer.”
Doda emphasizes that each piece she creates is infused with emotion throughout the whole process. “Positive emotion gives you the power to create the best pieces, and those pieces are recognized by the consumer. That is my challenge, to create unique pieces of filigree jewelry that give the consumer a feeling of happiness, fulfillment, and increased confidence,” she says, noting that Indigenous artists face many challenges in Macedonia. “The declining economic situation in my country impacts purchasing power. People recognize the value and beauty of filigree jewelry, but unfortunately they cannot afford to buy it.” She says that the government sometimes supports artists through grants, and that local craft chambers organize bazaars and art sales. “I’m part of the board of directors of the Skopje Craft Chamber and I organize several bazaars in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, to help artists with access to markets,” she adds. Doda has been showcasing her work for the past three years at the Cultural Survival Bazaars. “The Bazaars are a lot of help for me. They give me the opportunity to present my work in different locations in the U.S. It is an opportunity to see new places, learn about new cultures, and meet people from different parts of the world— this is the biggest inspiration for my work to create new models and new designs. Also, I can say that they financially support my work to continue my craft. Without them, it would be very difficult for me to continue. I would like to thank the organizers and specially thank all the volunteers who make the Bazaars happen.”
Meet Katarina Doda and see her work at our upcoming Cultural Survival Bazaars: December 6–8: The Prudential Center, Boston, MA December 14–15: Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Cambridge, MA To learn more, visit: bazaar.cs.org
Cultural Survivalcourtesy Quarterly September 2019 •Doda. 29 Photos of Katarina
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