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Cultural Survival Q








Sacred Places, Sacred Lifeways

Volume 36, Issue 1 • March 2012 US $7.50/CAN $9


M ar c h 201 2 V olum e 36 , Issue 1 Board of Directors President & board Chair

Sarah Fuller Vice Chairman

Wixárika artist, Cilau Valadez, painting with yarn at a Cultural Survival Bazaar in Cambridge, December 2011.

Vincent Nmehielle (Ikwerre) Treasurer

Jeff Wallace Clerk

Jean Jackson Karmen Ramírez Boscán (Wayúu) Westy Egmont Nicole Friederichs Laura Graham James Howe Edward John (Tl’azt’en) Cecilia Lenk Pia Maybury-Lewis Les Malezer (Gabi Gabi) P. Ranganath Nayak Stella Tamang (Tamang) Roy Young FOUNDERS David & Pia Maybury-Lewis Cultural Survival 215 Prospect Street Cambridge, MA 02139 t 617.441.5400 f 617.441.5417 P.O. Box 7490 Boulder, CO 80306 t 303.444.0306 f 303.449.9794 5ª calle 14-35, Zona 3 Apartamento 202 Edificio Las Tapias Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 09001

Photo courtesy of Dana S. Hansen

F e at u r e s

D e pa r t m e n t s

12 Saving Wirikuta: The Struggle to

1 Executive Director’s Message Looking forward to sustainability.

Protect a Sacred Place in Mexico

Rafael Cilaunime Candelario Valadez A Wixárika (Huichol) yarn painter’s quest to protect his people’s sacred sites from mining companies.

16 Bribri Women Lead the Way

in Community-based Tourism in Costa Rica

Ana Lucía Fariña Women make Indigenous tourism succeed on the Talamanca Reserve.

19 The Birds that Bring Gifts

Duaro Mayorga What monitoring birds has brought the Bribri in Costa Rica.

20 Media Revolution in the Copy Editor: Barbara Ellen Sorensen Designer: Production Manager: Agnes Portalewska

Hanna Adcock Two filmmakers ensure that Indigenous people of Quetzaltenango acquire skills to create their own documentaries.

Writers’ Guidelines

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. Cultural Survival Quarterly is printed on paper that is a combination of post-consumer recycled fiber and fiber from sustainably managed nonpublic forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. The printer exclusively uses inks, chemicals, and solvents that are biodegradable and recyclable.

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4 Indigenous Arts Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change 6 Food for Life The Quechua: Guardians of the Potato 8 Women the World Must Hear Karmen Ramírez Boscán 10 Rights in Action Demanding Free, Prior and Informed Consent across Borders: Making Rights Real in Colombia

Highlands of Guatemala

Cultural Survival Quarterly

View writers’ guidelines at our website (www. or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Cultural Survival, Writer’s Guidelines, 215 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139.

2 In the News

26 Bazaar Artist Spinning the Web of a Spider: Lenny Novak

24 Recovering Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Alaska

Jennifer Weston An Alutiiq professor develops language programs that promote the revitalization of Alutiiq language and culture.

28 2012: End of the World?

Danielle DeLuca in conversation with Julian “Wixlax Jowilax” Velasquez In Momostenango, Guatemala, the Quiche Mayan community is gearing up for their biggest party yet.

On the cover

g lo b a l r e s p o n s e c a m pa i g n I n s e r t Take action with the Indigenous people of Ethiopia to stop unlawful land grabbing.

Yarn painting of Wirikuta by Wixárika artist, Cilau Valadez.

Executiv e Director’S message

Looking Forward to Sustainability “Yá'át'ééh” Greetings!


n June 2012, the Rio+ 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will assemble in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. As a 20-year follow-up to the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the conference seeks to accomplish two main objectives: to create green economies by promoting sustainable business developments that alleviate poverty in all communities, and to establish an applicable structure, or framework, for sustainable development. Indigenous Peoples are a major part of this conference and offer critical voices to the earth’s sustainability. Our participation in the dialogue contributes profound understanding about place-based wisdom, and of the sacred interconnectedness of people, their cultures, and environments. We bring traditional knowledge about science to the dialogue that has long understood the special relationship to the earth and our responsibilities to maintain it. We understand climate change, have been able to adapt to it for centuries, and have voiced urgent concern about the impact on climate resulting from development, resource mining, and globalization. Indigenous Peoples seek to be heard and their rights to land and culture addressed as part of the outcomes of these major conferences. In this upcoming process, it is imperative that governments, scientists, and all who have an investment in this dialogue and decision-making honor the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Everyone must be involved implementating all manner of human rights from authority over our Indigenous lands to language acquisition to the cultural, social, and economic well being of Indigenous Peoples. Cultural Survival’s partnerships and advocacy with Indigenous communities has been consistently focused in these areas and more. In this issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly, the deep relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their land and environment is highlighted through traditional and contemporary daily activities that create lifeways or highly integrated daily practices connected to land, culture, and spirit. This relationship and the ensuing expanse of Indigenous knowledge are evident in Peru, where Quechua farmers are cataloguing nearly 1,500 varieties

of their native food source: the potato. In Guatemala self-representation through the art of filmmaking is a strategy for Mayan communities to renarrate their own experiences and histories, and in the process, record their cultural knowledge and wisdom. In Costa Rica, on the Talamanca Indigenous Reserve, the Bribri have developed Indigenous-guided ecotourism that sustains cultural education and economic self-determination; and, in Mexico, Wixárika art continues to be a form of spiritual and cultural practice at the same time contributing to the livelihoods of Indigenous artisans. While all of this attests to cultural continuity of Indigenous communities around the world, there are still enormously complex issues that need to be addressed. A worldwide, unsustainable development paradigm has severely impacted Indigenous Peoples’ food systems, economic livelihoods, social, cultural, and spiritual ways of life that are intricately related to healthy and diverse ecosystems. The rapid pace of climate change and its impact on ecosystems poses perhaps the greatest threat to Indigenous Peoples to maintain their cultures. Our work is to assure that the voices of Indigenous Peoples are heard and that their right to their lands, languages, and cultures is at the center of this discussion. The true measure of the Rio+20’s success will be when Indigenous Peoples around the world live in a world where their cultures, spiritual traditions, and rights, are respected and honored. We will rejoice when our rights of self-determination such as free, prior and informed consent are fully implemented and experienced. Only when human rights are taken seriously and acted upon deliberately will there be a collective feeling of genuine accomplishment that we all benefit from. The challenges that Indigenous Peoples face are not insular; they affect every person on the planet. The outcomes of sustainable communities can be myriad, progressive, and truly breathtaking to behold. It will take many villages to create this life-giving future; it will take the commitment of all people.

Donors like you make our work around the world possible. Thanks so much for being part of Cultural Survival. Staff Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa), Executive Director Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director Danielle DeLuca, Program Associate Kristen Dorsey (Chickasaw), Endangered Language Consultant David Michael Favreau, Bazaar Program Manager Sofia Flynn, Accounting & Office Manager Cesar Gomez (Pocomam), Content Production and Training Coordinator for the Community Radio Project Jamie Malcolm-Brown, Communications & Information Technology Manager Paula Palmer, Global Response Program Director Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager Rosendo Pablo (Mam), Program Associate for the Community Radio Project Alberto ‘Tino’ Recinos (Mam), Citizen Participation Coordinator for the Community Radio Project. Miranda Vitello, Development Assistant Jennifer Weston (Hunkpapa Lakota), Endangered Languages Program Manager Ancelmo Xunic (Kachikel), Guatemala Community Radio Program Manager

Program Advisors Ava Berinstein jessie little doe (Wampanoag) Theodore Macdonald, Jr.

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS Don Butler, Matthew Chuckran, Ana Lucía Fariña, Daniel Horgan, Erica Jaffe Redner, Curtis Kline, Danielle Kost, Katie Moseby, Elizabeth Rani Segran, Isidoro Rodriguez,  Hope Ross, Maggie Tallmadge, Serena Zhao 

There are so many ways to

Stay connected Suzanne Benally, Executive Director (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa) Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 1

i n t he new s Soliga Secure Rights to Tiger Reserve November 2011

In a landmark victory, a tribe in India has secured their rights to use their ancestral land—though it is inside a tiger reserve. In 1974, members of the Soliga tribe were evicted from the Biligirirangan Hills, Karnataka state, by a local government. Now, the Soliga’s right to collect, use, and sell forest produce from within the Rangaswami Temple Sanctuary reserve has been formally confirmed. Using their traditional knowledge, the Soligas are now working on a proposal to manage the tiger reserve jointly with the Karnataka state authorities.

Livestock Insurance Payments November 2011

As livestock deaths mount, due to drought, a small group of herders in Kenya’s Marsabit District have received benefits from a program that tracks forage conditions via satellite. An innovative insurance program for poor livestock keepers is making its first payouts, providing compensation for some 650 insured herders in northern Kenya’s vast Marsabit District who have lost up to a third of their animals. Indexbased livestock insurance payouts are triggered when satellite images show that herders will be losing more than 15 percent of their herd.

Policy on Indigenous Peoples November 2011

From its headquarters in Paris, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently launched work developing a policy on Indigenous Peoples. At the launching event, a special rapporteur welcomed UNESCO’s efforts to develop a policy on engaging with Indigenous Peoples. The special rapporteur emphasized that the future policy should guide UNESCO’s programming so that it does not just avoid harm to Indigenous peoples, but rather actively promotes Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

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Rio das Mortes with Wedezé Mountain in the eastern state of Mato Grosso, where Brazil’s Indian agency approved the return of land to the Xavante.

UNESCO Recognition November 2011

UNESCO recognized the culture of the Jaguar Shamans of Yuruparí, from the Pira Paraná region of the Colombian Amazon, as an intangible heritage of humanity.    This is the first time that UNESCO has recognized an entire cultural complex, rather than an individual song, a ritual, or a tradition, as heritage. The cultural practices of the Pira are now seen as an example for the world.

Brazil Approves Return of Land to Xavante People December 2011

Brazil’s Indian Agency (Fundação Nacional do Índio) approved delimitation of the 146,000 hectare Wedezé Indigenous Reserve in the state of Mato Grosso. Occupied by the Xavante people since the mid-1800s, the area was illegally sold to private interests in the 1950s and the Indigenous residents were resettled elsewhere in the 1970s.

After being approved by the Indian Agency, the reserve is subject to a 90day period of contestation before final consideration by the Justice Department. Cultural Survival’s founder David Maybury-Lewis did his ethnographic research in this area in the 1950s.

Ogoni Establish Environmental Protection Agency December 2011

A measure to make sure that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Royal Dutch/Shell and others face compelling action holding them accountable for environmental crimes in Ogoni has been established. The Ogoni Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA), headed by John Lar-Wisa, will coordinate efforts to protect the inherent rights and means of livelihood of the Ogoni people, ensure healthy and safer environment. The organization will also collaborate with similar institutions, the Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority (OCIA) and nongovernmental organizations worldwide.

Global Response

Campaign Updates RUSSIA: PIPELINE THREATENS SACRED HIGHLANDS Investors back down in 2012 The Indigenous Telengit people of Russia are celebrating news that Gazprom’s financial plan for 2012 does not include construction of a pipeline across the sacred Ukok Plateau. In 2011, the Russian company had started surveying a pipeline route to carry natural gas from Siberia to China through the heart of the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site. “We’re hoping we can take a deep breath for a brief moment, but will continue to be vigilant,” said Jennifer Castner of the Altai Project. From the Cultural Survival website, supporters can now send emails to UNESCO, urging them to pressure Russia to institute permanent protections for the Ukok Plateau.

CAMBODIA: HELP US SAVE PREY LANG (“OUR FOREST”) New legislation to protect Prey Lang misses the target; police intervene at protests A proposed piece of legislation in Cambodia would protect part of the Prey Lang forest, signaling that there is at least some political will to protect it. However, the bill fails to acknowledge the local communities as co-managers, and it would still allow land concessions for agroindustrial development and mining in buffer zones surrounding the core forest. Continued protests by the Indigenous Kuy people are bringing more national and international attention to Prey Lang, but police have blocked demonstrations and arrested movement leaders.

BANGLADESH: BAN COAL MINE, SAVE FORESTS AND FARMS Protests in London and Bangladesh against GCM’s Phulbari Mine In December, international human rights organizations, including Cultural Survival, spoke out against GCM’s proposed Phulbari coal mine at the company’s annual meeting in London, while antimining protests raged outside. Activists decried the potentially devastating environmental impacts of the enormous open-pit mine, as well as the human rights violations that would affect as many as 50,000 Indigenous people. While GCM’s executives claimed widespread public support for the mine, demonstrations against the mine continued in Bangladesh, despite harsh police actions against the demonstrators. On December 29, for example, police attacked protesters with tear gas and batons, injuring more than 35 people. KENYA: STOP POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST SAMBURU Samburu fight against becoming “conservation refugees” International conservation organizations are trying to create a new national park in Kenya at the expense of Samburu pastoralists who were evicted from the property. The African Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy purchased the land from former president Daniel arap Moi, and in November 2011 they donated it to the Kenya Wildlife Service to create Laikipia National Park. Although a court upheld the transfer of title for the park, it restricted any further park development activity while the evicted Samburu

families seek justice by suing all the parties (Moi, African Wildlife Foundation, and Kenya Wildlife Service). The Samburu community’s lawyer, Korir Sing’Oei, told The Guardian newspaper, “The transfer [of the land to create the park] is totally unlawful.” During the forced eviction, the Samburu families’ homes were burned, and their livestock were lost or confiscated. They are suing for compensation and for adverse possession of the disputed land. PAPUA NEW GUINEA: PROTECT MARINE LIFE AND DEFEND INDIGENOUS RIGHTS Court says Chinese mine can dump toxic waste into the Bismarck Sea In a vote of 2 to 1, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled that the Chinese owners of the Ramu nickel mine may dump toxic waste from their mine and refinery directly into the Bismarck Sea at Basamuk. The 1,082 plaintiffs in the case represented thousands of Rai Coast Indigenous families whose lives and livelihoods depend on the health of the marine ecosystem. Plaintiff Terry Kunning said, “This ruling makes a very sad Christmas story for us. We fought to save some of the last remaining pristine waters in Papua New Guinea and this is what they give us.” Scientists, who warned that the toxic mine waste could cause catastrophic impacts on the marine food chain, are now working to create an independent monitoring system to detect harmful toxins.

Learn more and take action on Global Response campaigns at take-action. Sign up for our e-newsletter and read more news at

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 3

i ndi geno u s a r t s

Conversations with the Earth

Voices on Climate Change

Charley Swaney, from Arctic Village, Alaska and other Gwich’in hunters are concerned about new patterns of caribou migration and declining herd numbers. They constantly monitor the landscape and animals and their movements. “We may not have much, but what we have is out there.”

Phoebe Farris, Ph.D.


onversations with the Earth (CWE), a multimedia exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. that ran from July 2011 through January 2, 2012, incorporated photography and film, music, interactive displays, and multiple languages offering Native perspectives on science and global climate change. Viewpoints from 15 Indigenous communities in 13 countries on topics dealing with the environmental impacts of pollution, forced migrations, negative consequences on local livelihoods, and viable solutions to the challenges of climate change were highlighted. The exhibits were designed to invite viewers to arrive at their own solutions and interpretations. Elaborately detailed through wall text, audio tapes, and lectures by artists and curators, the exhibits showcased communities and sponsoring organizations involved with the project. An ongoing, interactive website that allows people to increase their understanding of these issues is still accessible. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of Indigenous groups around the world, so it was pertinent that viewers knew which communities, tribes, and peoples were involved. The communities highlighted in the NMAI venue included the Kichwa from Mojandita Village, Ecuador, the Manus from Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, the Gamo from the Gamo Highlands of Ethiopia, the Zanskari from Ladakh, India, the Yaqui and Comcaac from Sonora, Mexico, the Kuna from Ustupa Island, Kuna Yala, Panama, the Quechua and Aymara from several locations in the Peruvian Andes, the

Gwich’in who live in northeastern Alaska and the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, Maasai herdsmen from east Africa, several Guarani groups located in Cerco Grande, Brazil, the Morro de Mina Reserve in Brazil, the Quara Quara Island in Brazil, and Near Antonina, Brazil. Similarities in land terrain and agricultural needs precipitated the collaboration between the Gamo of Ethiopia and the Quechua of Peru, two Indigenous populations living in highland regions on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The goal of both groups was to work toward saving their staple crops from the damaging effects of climate change such as hotter temperatures and disrupted rain cycles. Communities with different cultures and crops are still working together and sharing knowledge on maintaining Indigenous agriculture and agrobiodiversity. During September 2009, Shagre Shano Shale, a Doko village elder, traveled with Ethiopian scientists to Peru to observe how several Quechua communities were preserving varieties of potatoes. The Quechua gardening experiments were relevant to the Ethiopians’ efforts to preserve their staple food called enset in the national language, Amharic, and outsa in the Gamo language. According to people in the Gamo Highlands, famine and severe drought have been nonexistent in low-lying regions because of this drought resistant native plant. A Photographic Perspective

From an aesthetic standpoint, the photographs of Nicolas Villaume gave a visual reference to the wall text and audio tapes of the numerous Indigenous Peoples from the Arctic

All Phot os by Nicola s Vill a ume for Conv er s a tions with th e Ea r th

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to Brazil. Strong portraits of farmers, fishermen, and traditional healers showed faces of pride, determination, and resilience against backgrounds that ranged from the sublime in beauty to parched earth. Josefina Lema (Kichwa) of Mojandita Ecuador, attired in a bright, embroidered blouse and belt, white cape, red wrist band, gold-beaded necklace, and dark green skirt stood behind a bare pine tree. The tree’s appearance accentuated a failed pine plantation attempt at mitigating climate change. With a stern countenance she was quoted, “At first everything sounded so beautiful.” An extreme, cropped close-up of Shagre Shano Shale (Gamo) revealed deep, chocolate-colored skin and piercing dark brown eyes; Shale’s sharp-featured face was lined with creases that accompany age and wisdom. Dressed in a woven white top with thin green and burgundy stripes, Shale’s cropped face emerged from an amorphous gray background. His gaze at the photographer and viewers was direct and challenging. The distinguished elder quoted an Ethiopian proverb, “The ox never gives birth and it never rains in the dry season.” Then, Shale wryly noted the current irony, “We have rains in the dry season and it’s dry in the rainy season.”

In September 2009, Doko village elder, Shagre Shano Shale (Gamo), traveled with Ethiopian scientists to the “Potato Park,” an Indigenous agricultural preservation project in Peru. Shagre wanted to see how six Quechua communities had banded together to preserve hundreds of varieties of potatoes. On his first day back in Doko village, he consulted with fellow elders, sharing how the efforts in the Andes were relevant to their own work to preserve enset, their staple food.

Irma Luz Pomo: Contemporary Quechua Artist

The venue also featured examples of contemporary Indigenous art and traditional crafts. Irma Luz Pomo Canchumani (Quechua) from Peru displayed her traditional gourd carvings and also functioned as one of the Indigenous video producers. A NMAI exhibition blog documents Canchumani’s interview which focuses on her decision to carve a gourd about climate change. In the interview with Maja Tillman, who works for InsightShare, a Conversations with the Earth (CWE) partner organization, Canchumani discusses the dreams she carved into her gourds, tools wielded to engrave the images, paper ashes used to give the gourd its black color, and the sacred coca leaves she chews to derive the energy needed to work. The scenes depicted include traditional marriage ceremonies, medicinal plants, and the agricultural calendar for sowing and harvesting according to the moon, stars, and other natural phenomena. The carved gourd also depicts people polluting the river, cutting excessive amounts of trees, and developing monoculture farming methods. Irma Luz Pomo Canchumani states, “I hope people take time to see the Visit our website to read more about Farmers without Borders and the Gamo/Quechua exchange: publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/peru/farmerswithout-borders

Thirty years ago, a grove of sago trees stood there, home to an abundant population of tree dwelling opossums. Salt water encroachment has now poisoned the trees’ roots, and low tide now reveals a barren, cemetery-like landscape. “This land was beautiful, but now no more,” said community elder Posakei Pongap, Lawes village, Manus, Papua New Guinea.

To learn about current CWE exhibit locations and to get involved with the ongoing research and activism on climate change and Indigenous communities visit:, ConversationsEarth

gourd, the videos, and the photographic exhibition on how climate change is affecting us. I wish that everyone who sees the gourd appreciates the art and follows the content.”

To read Irma Luz Pomo Canchumani’s interview, visit:

— Phoebe Farris, Ph.D. (Powhatan-Renape) is the arts editor for the CSQ. She is a professor emerita of Purdue University and the vice president for membership of the Washington D.C. branch of American Association of University Women. Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 5

f ood f or lif e In Peru, Quechua people have made terraces like these for thousands of years by carving fields from steep mountainsides.

The Quechua: Guardians of the Potato Amanda Stephenson


t four in the morning, Quechua farmers in the high altitude Andean communities of Amaru and Paru Paru, Peru are beginning the day in their fields, or chacras. Most of them are tending to a crop representative of the Quechua diet and culture: the potato. “Our most basic food is the native potato,” says Isabella, a Quechua woman and respected elder from Amaru. In nearby Paru Paru, Lino Mamani Huarka and his family grow between 120 and 140 native potato varieties. This is only a small portion of the varieties that exist within Peru; more than 2,800 types are known to have originated in the country. The existence of these varieties can be attributed to the high value the Quechua people place on their cultural traditions and biological diversity. There are nearly as many uses for potatoes as there are varieties, from food preparation to the treatment of illness, and for use in various cultural practices. “In the countryside, we do not have many illnesses because there are different types of potato for every sickness,” says Isabella. Not only are potatoes important to the health of Quechua communities (they contain a high level of antioxidants), they are also a valuable commodity for trade. Farmers living in higher altitudes where potatoes are cultivated trade the tuber for crops growing in lower altitudes, such as quinoa and corn. In maintaining a wide variety of potatoes, the Quechua have also protected their people from widespread agricultural disaster. Due to the diversification of their most important crop, there has been no recorded agricultural disaster akin to the Irish Potato Famine of the 1880s in their society. The potato also plays an important role in multiple Quechua cultural traditions, including marriage. In many communities, if a man wants to marry a woman, the man’s

mother presents her with a potato named for its ability to “make the daughter-in-law cry.” The daughter-in-law must carefully peel the knobby tuber, which resembles a pine cone in shape. If she removes more than is necessary, she will not be allowed to marry the woman’s son. Another cultural pillar in Andean Quechua communities is the ceremony surrounding potato planting and harvesting. These rituals are a traditional way of showing respect to the earth and to the crops that sustain these communities, and almost always involve an offering to Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Isabella explains the ritual associated with her farm work, “Before we work, we give thanks to the Pachamama with coca leaves.” This ceremony, called quintu, involves multiple sets of three coca leaves, which are combined with llama fat and placed into the first hole where potatoes are to be planted. While there are hundreds of potato varieties which differ in appearance, texture, and flavor, most fall into four traditional categories. Chuño potatoes are prepared through a freezedrying method in which they are laid out in the coldest months of the year, covered with frost overnight, and exposed to direct sunlight during the day, dehydrating and turning them black. Once prepared this way, the potatoes can be stored for 10–15 years, or longer. The moraya potato is similar to chuño, but is freeze-dried in running water and then washed until the starches are gone, leaving the potato white. A third type is reserved for soups or dishes where peeled and cut potatoes are needed. Potatoes reserved for watya are boiled whole with the skin or cooked using the watya process, in which a small wood-fueled oven is made in the earth and potatoes are added as hot earth is pushed in around them for cooking. One organization working to protect potato biodiversity in Peru is the Parque de la Papa or Potato Park in Pisaq,

All ph otos c our tes y of Luis Pila res

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Cusco. The Park is an Indigenous biocultural territory comprised of six Quechua communities dedicated to protecting their land, local native potato varieties, and culture. Formed in 1998, with the help of ANDES, the Association for the Environment and Sustainable Development (Associacion Para la Naturaleza y el Desarrolo Sostenible), the area is a government-recognized park where 1,400 varieties of potato are grown. These varieties were compiled through local gathering, donations from the International Center for the Potato (CIP, Centro International de la Papa), the town of Ayacutro, and members of a native potato network. The Park is run by its members, who have made strides in biodiversity conservation. Biopiracy, or the illegal commercialization of biological materials, is one of many threats to the conservation of native potato varieties. Lino Mamani from Paru Paru works with a subgroup of the Potato Park called the Papa Arariwa, or “Guardians of the Potato.” He works on the technical side of potato conservation, using charts and a computer database to keep track of the different varieties brought to the Park. He also tracks where these varieties are planted and any special care they may need. Lino says that this process “is also a way of protecting against pirates who might come and try to take ownership of some of [the Park’s] varieties that have been maintained for years.” Climate change is another risk to potatoes, and the region has recently experienced extreme weather events including hail, snow, and frost during what are typically the summer months. These extremes have threatened both the crops and the people of this region. The Potato Park has consulted with elders of these communities to design adaptation strategies for such events, and members of the Park have begun producing seeds from potatoes; potatoes have traditionally been cultivated using the whole tuber. The seeds generated from the native tubers are then sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. “You never know what could happen in

the Park,” says Tammy Stenner, education coordinator at ANDES. “You could lose those varieties, and [seed propagation] is a way of saving those seeds in case they are needed in the future.” Members of the Potato Park have affected legislation regarding another threat to potato biodiversity in Peru: genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Members of the Park recently traveled to Lima to participate in protests against the country’s acceptance of GMOs into Peru’s markets. Park member Ricardo Paccu Chipa of Paru Paru says of GMOs, “It’s very important that the world realizes these risks.” Risks include biodiversity loss and an increased vulnerability to plant diseases. Peru agreed to a 10-year moratorium on the import of genetically modified crops in order to study their risks and benefits, another step towards conserving the biological and cultural diversity of Peru. Quechua farmers and those participating in the Potato Park are helping to ensure that native varieties continue to be cultivated for generations to come. The participation and devotion of each member of these communities has made the conservation of these varieties successful. With so many individuals dedicated to the maintenance of Peru’s bio- diversity, local native potatoes are in good hands. Lino Mamani puts it best when he says, “We are all Papa Arariwas, Guardians of the Potato.” — Amanda Stephenson is a former Cultural Survival intern. This article is based on an interview with members of the Potato Park, coordinated by ANDES staff member Tammy Stenner. For more information on the Potato Park, visit their website: ANDES website: CIP website:

Some 2,800 varieties of potato are still grown in Peru. Climate change has forced farmers to plant in higher altitudes as Quechua potatoes require cold temperatures. Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 7

women th e wo r ld m u st hear

Extracted from Colombia Erica Jaffe Redner

One Woman’s Work to Counteract the Destructive Force of Multinational Mining on the Wayúu of La Guajira

   The playing field should have changed significantly after Colombia ratified the International Labour Organization Convention 169 n the fictional world of James Cameron’s in 1991, which specifies that Indigenous Peoples Avatar, Pandora’s Indigenous Na’vi people are to “parti-cipate in the formulation, impledefend their sacred territory against mining mentation, and evaluation of plans and proencroachment amid overwhelming odds. At grams for national and regional development stake is their intimate and unique relationwhich may affect them directly.” The dynamic ship with the land, their way of life, and their should have shifted even more dramatically after ability to decide what kind of future they want Colombia endorsed the UN Declaration on the for themselves. It is a story that Cultural SurRights of Indigenous Peoples in April 2009, vival board member Karmen Ramírez Boscán which stipulates that Indigenous Peoples must and her Wayúu people understand well, behave exclusive decision-making authority over cause they grapple with these realities every day. development activities on their territory through As a young woman, Karmen never imagined free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). But she would be at the front line of this battle, adColombia has failed to live up to these standards, vocating for and educating fellow Wayúu about and the long-standing procedure whereby comtheir rights. Her childhood spanned two worlds— panies obtain permissions, licenses, and property the Indigenous Wayúu territory of La Guajira, in La Guajira from the Colombian government Colombia until age nine, and from then on, Bowithout the prior knowledge of the Wayúu gotá. Though Karmen was instilled with Wayúu people endures today. values and returned to her native land for vaca   El Cerrejón, the dominant multinational tions, her growing Spanish language facility, form mining corporation in Wayúu territory, has of dress, and educational attainment all underPoster for the annual attempted to legitimize their operations and gain scored the urban identity she was assuming. Then, following the completion of her univer- FMW march on the In- communal support through ex post “consultations” sity degree in 1998, Karmen returned to La Guajira ternational Day for the that are consultations in name only. They are to write her grandfather’s biography. The visit Elimination of Violence co-opted by such strategies as excluding traditional authorities and holding one-on-one meetopened her eyes to her roots, to relatives she against Women. ings with individuals who might be persuaded wanted to know better, and to injustices meted out to serve as company interlocutors. These actions undermine by the Colombian government to her people. In 2000, her communities' abilities to deliberate together, reach a consengrandfather and uncle were murdered by Colombian armed sus, and act in unison. forces. Karmen began documenting subsequent murders and Drawing on its vast financial resources, El Cerrejón disappearances, led her people in demonstrations against milprojects a very favorable image of itself and its work during itary and mining presence, and became an outspoken critic of the consultations that masks the negative realities of mining. the human rights abuses internationally. She stresses that she Feel-good television commercials, social responsibility develneither leads nor represents the views of all Wayúu, but acts opment project promises, and compensatory offers of money, to counter armed forces and multinational corporations that goats, and handicraft fabric are pitched to win audiences many abhor. Her work persists today despite death threats over. When necessary, these devices are augmented by from Colombia’s paramilitaries. “My dead relatives and all threats and harassment. ignored victims of this horrendous armed conflict deserve Once operations break ground, the communities experience justice,” she says resolutely. a devastating interplay of environmental, health-related, social, The Wayúu of Colombia boast over 270,000 people economic, and cultural consequences. Coal dust pollutes their spread across some 8,000 square miles and approximately air, limiting their ability to grow traditional foods, contami23 clans. They have endured historic human rights abuses nating their water and remaining vegetation, and threatening in the form of violent incursions from Colombia’s guerillas their children with respiratory damage. Property appropriations and paramilitaries. In the 1980s, a new front of human rights to the companies for extraction and coal transport obstruct abuse was forged when Colombia entered into an agreement communication and trade between communities and leave with Exxon endorsing their development and extraction of insufficient land for animal grazing. Increased militarization coal from La Guajira’s El Cerrejón Zona Norte, one of the of the land further stifles the Wayúu people’s freedom of largest open-pit mines in the world.


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Karmen participates in an October 2011 demonstration in Switzerland against Xstrata and Glencore. El Cerrejón, the dominant mining corporation in La Guajira, is jointly owned by Xstrata of Switzerland, BHP Billiton of Australia, and Anglo American of South Africa. Pacific Rubiales of Canada and MPX of Brazil are poised to enter La Guajira soon.

movement. Their burial grounds, with long-standing sentimental, spiritual, and social significance, may be displaced, sometimes along with the community itself. As the extraction continues, communities increasingly realize that they may not be able to safeguard their territory for future generations. Karmen works to empower fellow Wayúu in conjunction with Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu (Wayúu Women’s Force— FMW), a local organization that jointly combats mining encroachment, violence against Indigenous women, and crimes against Wayúu by legal and illegal armed actors. Their workshops provide a constructive atmosphere for communities to identify and document how extraction has impacted them, as well as a medium for the transmission of concrete information to communities about their human rights (particularly to FPIC). Karmen has also led fellow Wayúu in demonstrations against these rights abuses on every 25th of November since 2006 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), emphasizing the devastation mining has caused Wounmainkat (Mother Earth), “the biggest Indigenous woman.” Their desire to demonstrate, she emphasizes, is a “big success” in and of itself. Though FPIC would provide the Wayúu with the best possible leverage for engaging multinational corporations, many communities possessing solid confidence in their negotiating abilities and only a limited understanding of their rights settle for much less than that to which they are entitled. Karmen’s work with the FMW seeks to counterbalance the asymmetrical relationship between businesses and Wayúu communities by equipping her people with every tool at their disposal. But the FMW’s ability to access, offer sustained and constant education to, and unify all the communities to fight effectively for FPIC has been severely limited by financial resources, the vastness of the region, and time.

With two new state-endorsed multinational mining corporations poised to expand the extractive operations in La Guajira, the workshops are more urgent than ever. The recent emergence of national and international NGOs concerned with the challenges facing the Wayúu offers a much-needed expansion of capacity and resources. Yet their exclusive emphasis on empowering Wayúu to negotiate more effectively rather than reorienting the people’s mindsets to one of rights-based change ultimately provides them with “help,” says Karmen, when what they really need is “support.” A recent and more promising exchange between Wayúu communities and Guatemalan Mayans adept at managing the community consultation process to reinforce their right to FPIC (see p. 10 for more details) provided important comparative information and support. But Karmen believes it also highlights the current limitations of external organizations and actors in affecting change. “The reality is that the companies are the only [constant] … in the territory. After the meeting the communities [were] alone [again] … [T]he fact that the … support [from NGOs and other international actors like the Mayans] is [overwhelmingly] external and not permanent in the communities” needs to change.  Though Karmen believes it will take years to reach all the communities and unify them in a collective fight for their rights, she hopes they will one day bring their case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has already made favorable judgments on similar disputes. For now, she is sustained by the same determination that has long characterized her Epinayu clan. Her work, and its underlying message of courage, dignity, and hope, continues on. — Erica Jaffe Redner is a research assistant at Harvard University and an intern at Cultural Survival. Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 9

r i ght s i n a ct io n

Demanding Free, Prior and Informed Consent Across Borders Making Rights Real in Colombia

Aviva Chomsky


Wayúu community members gather to discuss the impacts of mining.

El Cerrejón in the Guajira Peninsula in northeast Colombia is the world’s largest open-pit coal mine.

n August 2007, two Guatemalan Mam anti-mining activists from Colotenango, Huehuetenango and San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, joined a Witness for Peace (WfP) delegation to La Guajira, in northern Colombia, to meet with Wayúu communities affected by the world’s largest open-pit coal mine, El Cerrejón. WfP is a U.S. based grassroots organization that focuses on changing U.S. foreign policy and corporate practices. The delegates talked about the community consultation process that they had been organizing in Guatemala, based on International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169. ILO 169 states that before any development projects can be carried out in Indigenous territories, the communities must give their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). In western Guatemala, the communities were organizing themselves to carry out consultations and were overwhelmingly choosing to withhold this consent and saying “no” to mining. The delegates shared the video Sipakapa No Se Vende which described how the community of Sipakapa used the community consultation process to organize to protect its land. In the summer of 2011, another group of WfP delegates to La Guajira were shocked and distressed to see an enormous regional push to expand mining operations, including the diversion of 26.5 miles of the Ranchería River, the main water source in the arid peninsula. Dozens of Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and campesino communities stand in the path of these increased operations. Colombia is a signatory to ILO 169, so the mining companies have been carrying out their own consultations. According to community activists, “The company has been carrying out what it calls ‘consultation’ but this is really just informing the communities, showing them the pretty face of mining and never telling them about its negative consequences. These kind of consultations only gather together some of the community authorities. They do not take into account the rest of the community. If the cabildos [councils] do not accept or sign the document that the mining officials have prepared, they are subject to pressure, and even threats. The mining company then takes the document to the Ministry of the Interior, and presents it as a prior consultation with the communities.” Several organizations that have worked in solidarity in both Guatemala and Colombia were angry to

ph otos c our tes y of a v iv a c h om s k y

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see the exploitation of the process of FPIC. Not being experts on the process ourselves, we spoke with our Guatemalan and Colombian allies and came up with the idea of organizing a workshop to bring two Guatemalans active in the Consejo de Pueblos de Oriente, which has been a driving force behind the community consultation process, to share their experiences with the Colombians who had thus far only seen these consultations as a company tactic. The workshop was held on November 18–20, 2011, in the Indigenous reserve of Provincial in La Guajira, with fundraising efforts organized by U.S. based organizations and thanks to a grant from the Social Justice Fund of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The Guatemalans were impressed with the Colombians’ ability to bring people together— more than 100 delegates from 41 different Wayúu communities attended, as well as youth and children. “Initially the representatives who participated did not want to discuss consultations, because the mining company is carrying out a campaign to manipulate the consultation process in order to continue its expansion,” the Guatemalans reported. “We had to explain that community consultation is something different, it is a process completely in the hands of the communities, it is a democratic and legitimate process recognized by international actors.” The Guatemalan delegates emphasized two issues in the workshops that they led:  the concept of defense of territory, and the need for communities to take ownership of the concept of FPIC and to arrange their own community consultations, rather than allowing the mining companies to “consult” them. Both of these resonated strongly with the Wayúu participants. A formal document signed by all of the attendees concluded: “During these three days, as pueblos and communities, we listened and analyzed from different positions the social, environmental, cultural, and economic impacts that the mine has had in our territories. We also recalled how we lived in our territories before the mine arrived, and we examined the rights and guarantees that we are due and the extent to which these have been violated or protected by the companies and by the state during all of these years.” A three-day series of events centered on the defense of territory emerged from the meeting. Members of the Wayúu communities reported, “This mobilization was held in the municipality of Barrancas and was a big success. After marching, we held a press conference in the municipal government offices in Barrancas with the media of La Guajira attending. We also made presentations of our traditional foods as a strategy to defend the right to food sovereignty, emphasizing the need for arable lands. We held traditional dances in each community to strengthen our culture.” The communities that participated in this workshop also pledged to build a truly democratic community consultation process and to resist the companies’ attempts to take over and distort the process. The workshop’s final declaration called upon the Colombian government to nullify the results of the manipulative “consultations” carried out thus far. Participants vowed to carry out a massive education process to lay the groundwork for true community consultations, and to refuse to participate in any more company-organized “consultations.” The final declaration stated: “We have the right to give, or

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) FPIC is the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect their lands and communities. This principle is protected by international human rights law as “all peoples have the right to self-determination” and “all peoples have the right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” It is enshrined in the ILO 169 (which only 22 countries have ratified to date) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 32) which states: 1. Indigenous Peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources. 2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. 3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact. Global Response campaigns all assert Indigenous communities’ right to FPIC and support them when they say “no” to projects like mines, dams, and oil development that would affect them. FPIC means the right to say “no,” and also the right to negotiate with corporations to achieve the outcomes that the community wants for itself and for future generations.

withhold, Free, Prior and Informed consent. This consent cannot be obtained under pressure from the companies. Representatives of these companies are contacting our Indigenous brothers and have arbitrarily entered our Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. They are dividing families, ignoring our customs, traditions, community authorities, and ways of life, and the autonomy of small-holders. They are holding meetings, signing agreements with individuals, ignoring the fact that the land belongs to all of the members of the communities, and that 100% of the members should participate. Thus we declare, based on ILO 169, ratified by Law 21 of 1991, the Colombian Constitution and national and international law, that the companies should not be promoting consultations nor going into our territories without our consent and the permission of our community assemblies which are the highest level of governance in our communities.” — Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. She has led several Witness for Peace delegations to the Colombian coal region. To learn more about the impacts of the Cerrejón coal mine on Wayúu communities in Colombia, visit: http://www.culturalsurvival. org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/colombia/ extraction-colombia-mine-takes-much-more-land-coal

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 11

Saving Wirikuta

My people’s struggle to protect a sacred place in Mexico Rafael Cilaunime “Cilau” Candelario Valadez Cilau Valadez is a Wixárika artist from the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico. The Wixárika people, like many Indigenous Peoples, are struggling for respect and autonomy. They are both uniquely ensconced in Mexico’s history, and uniquely distinct. The distinction is most evident in their artwork which is boldly colorful, symbolic, and visionary. Cultural Survival spoke to Valadez about how the Wixárika people envision the world and the challenges they face in keeping their culture and traditions intact when he participated in Cultural Survival’s Bazaars in the December of 2012.

Cilau with a recent yarn painting. Photo courtesy of Huichol Center for Cultural Survival

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ong before nations like Mexico, the United States, and Canada existed, my people, the Wixárika Nation (incorrectly known as Huichol), were the original inhabitants of this land. And long before we were here, our creators, Grandfather Fire, Grandmother Growth, Father Sun, the Rain Mothers, Elder Brother Deer, Brother Wind and other universal spiritual forces created the Wixárika universe. Our marakames (medicine men) and legends tell us that the creators made many races of people, but the Wixárika were specially appointed to be the intermediaries between the spirit realm and the human world. This sacred appointment has been passed from generation to generation for centuries, and is the guiding principle of our past, present, and future lives. The Wixárika people believe that it is our sacred obligation to be the caretakers of our creators. After our harvest ceremonies, we embark on pilgrimages to far off sacred places, the most important of which is Wirikuta, 500 kilometers away, located in Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi. The history of the Wixárika people is an oral one so the most important factor in our art is that we can keep our stories that have been passed down from generations for thousands of years. Through our artwork we are able to express a visual aspect of our stories, since our stories are told in our native language and people are not able to understand them unless we put them in visual forms. We have the yarn paintings, the beaded sculptures, and embroidery. Many of the people I work with, when they are creating artwork, they go into a meditative state. They channel the songs of the gods and then they manifest the songs of the gods through art. Our creativity and the techniques we use are special and unique to the Wixárika. My artistic influences evolved from my parents and my community. My mother, Susana Valadez, is an anthropologist from the University of California, Los Angeles. My father, Mariano Valadez, has been creating yarn paintings for over 40 years, and is considered one of the best. My parents started the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival to ensure the traditions of my people would not be lost. We run a co-op for artists, a school for children which teaches them in our native language, and we grow traditional crops like blue corn. Wixárika artwork is not only central to our culture’s economy, it is also keeping our traditional techniques and symbolism alive, and at the same time we are providing beauty to Mexico. If you go anywhere in Mexico, you will be exposed to Wixárika art. In Tepic, the capital of Nayarit, out of about 6,000 Wixárika people, 3,500 are artists. When I was seven, I did my first beaded sculpture, which was a lizard; when I was 9, I tried to do a yarn painting. I almost gave up. It was only a foot in diameter, but it took me two weeks to finish it. A typical yarn painting takes about 40 hours, a simple piece takes about 20 hours. Aside from doing my own artwork, I work with several communities in Nayarit. Some of these communities are very isolated. It is challenging for the artists because they might have a lot of art they wish to sell, but they do not have money to get to Tepic. When I go visit them, I often take their work on consignment because of their lack of access to the markets. With

Wixárika shaman Yauxali and his family gather around Our Grandfather Fire as they pray for abundance along the pilgrimage route to Wirikuta, the place where the sun was born. Photo by Juan Negrin

the help of festivals, like the Cultural Survival Bazaars, I can sell their inventory. Consumers of art often want to bargain and try to get the most for their money without appreciating how much work goes into making one of these pieces. I try to educate people about the process and amount of work that goes into making Wixárika art. Being trilingual (Wixárika, Spanish, English) helps me negotiate for artists and educate Westerners. The beaded, wooden sculptures are carved by hand, then beeswax and pine resin are applied, then the sculpture is decorated bead by bead. The yarn paintings require sanded plywood, beeswax, and pine resin, then the artist gently places the yarn with his fingernails, filling in every spot. People call needlepoint cross-stitching “sacred geometry” because of how exact everything is without using sketches. There are a lot of symbols in Wixárika culture that are connected to nature—the elements, the sun, the moon, and our earth. We see the sun and water as sources of power and life. The eagle is the messenger of the sun in the sky. When the eagle flies high in the sky, it is absorbing all the power from the Father sun. So the eagle’s feathers are used by the medicine men, for healing physically and spiritually. The blue deer which you often see in our artwork is Kahullumari, the older Brother Deer, who created our culture. Hikuri (sacred peyote cactus) is another important element. When we eat the medicine [peyote], we believe that we are eating the heart of the deer that created our culture and by doing so we are retracing the path he left for us to stay in touch with our ancestors. The medicine allows us to access differ ent dimensions, seen as mandalas, in our art. Today’s Challenges

One of the threats to the Wixárika people is the proposed mining of our land by the Canadian company, First Majestic Silver

Corporation. When the Spaniards invaded Mexico, our prophet, Nayeri, had a vision and told our people to move into the mountains. Everyone wanted to fight the invaders, but Nayeri welcomed them. When they asked him to take them to his homeland, he led them around and around in a big circle, taking them to places where alligators and mosquitos live. He got rid of a lot of them, but in the end they realized what was happening and burned him alive. But he managed to keep the conquerors away from our homelands. He’s my inspiration. We have been protecting our sacred sites, making offerings during our annual pilgrimages, for 5,000 years, at least. Now these sites lie in five different Mexican states (Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi). In 2008, President Calderón and the governors of these five states signed a pact to protect these sacred places and our pilgrimage routes. Then in 2009, the federal government sold 35 concessions to a Canadian mining company, First Majestic. In Mexico, this company operates as Minera Real Bonanza. Twenty-two of their concessions (more than 6,000 hectares) are located on one of our sacred and protected sites, Wirikuta. Only after the fact did we find out about this. Mexico endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which states that the state has to consult us Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 13

On October 27, 2011 thousands of people in Mexico City took to the streets in support of the Wixárika to protect the sacred Wirikuta. Photos courtesy of Torsten Klimmer for

before doing anything that would affect our lands and our culture, but they did not even tell us about this mine in Wirikuta. In 1988, UNESCO incorporated Wirikuta into the World Network of Natural Sacred Sites, one of only 14 places in the world. Since 2004, it has been in the process of becoming a World Heritage Site and is recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the three most biodiverse deserts on the planet. After all of these facts were not taken into consideration, we had to take action. So we started a movement to stop this mining project and protect Wirikuta. My people are not against development per se, but it is a matter of respect. In fact, last year the government granted two more concessions to Lake Shore Gold, another Canadian company, for open-pit mining right in the heart of Wirikuta where the medicine (peyote) grows. This project would be the biggest open-pit mine on the planet, and the end of our culture and teachings. My pilgrimages to Wirikuta have taught me more than my Western education has. With the knowledge of our elders, we have direct contact with nature; we have not lost it. Contact with nature is what we are 14 • ww w. cs. org

trying to preserve in Wirikuta. I spent a year at the University of California at Berkeley. I had a full scholarship to go to a private school in the United States, but none of these schools taught me what Wirikuta did in just one day. The latest painting I made is of Wirikuta itself. All of my inspiration comes from visiting this sacred site. All of my knowledge comes from Wirikuta, talking artistically as well. Through my art, people can actually see that this place is alive. It’s a sovereign place. When I reflect it through my art, people get a better understanding because it is a visual expression. You do not have to be told what it is in English, Russian, or Spanish. Art gives you the feeling and connection. Through my art, I make the human eye connect to nature, spirit, and a higher universe that is alive. For me, it is all connected because I have been funding my advocacy through the sale of my artwork. One of the things we are doing is making bridges internationally. One of our Wixárika leaders was at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues last May. At the same time, I was at Mining Justice Week in Canada. We tried to speak at First Majestic’s annual shareholders’ meeting, but they wouldn’t let us in, even though we had legal proxies. After 45 minutes we were allowed to get in, but they gave us no time to speak. We did have a meeting face-to-face with the CEO, Keith Neumeyer. They put on a happy

face and said, “We will help you, we will promote your art, build hospitals, schools...” But we know that they will pollute the land and water, and once they get all the wealth they want, they will leave without saying “goodbye.” We have exchanged experiences with the Diné who have really been badly affected by mining, so we have learned a lot about the consequences of mining projects. Sharing experiences and learning about tactics from other Indigenous communities is really key. Our strategies right now are legal action, movements, and alliances. We have filed a lawsuit against mining in San Luis Potosi state to protect Wirikuta, and we have coordinated protest marches in Vancouver, Washington state, Los Angeles, and several cities in Mexico. When all national procedures are exhausted, we might have to file a lawsuit in the regional human rights system against the mining companies. Our people live in the poorest part of Mexico, and legal battles are expensive, so we need international support. If people would like to support our efforts, you can send letters to President Calderon from the Cultural Survival website ( We also need financial support to pay lawyers so they can file a lawsuit in Canada and the United States. And we need used laptops and electronics that can help us educate our people and network with other communities. I want to educate my people about their rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Right now, I am translating it into Wixárika. One of the things we want to do in this movement is to become autonomous. We want to be independent. Our land is demarcated, but there are government institutions like the Comision Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indigenas (CDI) that are dividing our communities and doing what we as a Nation should be doing alone. The government is only looking after itself and mining companies. These institutions are supposed to support our people, but they should be run by us, not by the government. It is sad. If we want to hunt or travel to our sacred lands, we have to go to them to get permits. These bureaucrats often have no knowledge of our culture and customs. When I think of the future, I have two visions: a very positive one and a devastating one. My elders tell me that if this mine is built in Wirikuta, it will mean the end of the human race, because it will express and reflect that humans have no limits in destroying Mother Earth. To build that mine, they will have to kill every single one of us because if they kill our sacred site, it is like ripping out our hearts while we are alive. The positive vision is that we get recognized not only by the Mexican government but internationally as a culture and a people who have been able to develop and keep our own policies and

After harvest ceremonies, Wixárika embark on pilgrimages to far off sacred sites, the most important of which is Wirikuta, 500 kilometers away in Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Huichol Center for Cultural Survival.

traditions, a people who have taken care of our land. We see ourselves as the bees that are the caretakers of the queen bee, Mother Earth. When we go to Wirikuta, we pray, not only for ourselves, our crops and the rains, we also pray for balance and peace in the world. If these prayers are destroyed, it is not only devastating for us but for the whole world. We want recognition and respect and to become an autonomous Indigenous tribe. The first thing we are asking of the outside world is that if someone wants to do anything on our lands, they have to first tell and show us exactly what they are trying to do, no mask, nothing that looks beautiful, just really show us the project and what it entails, such as tearing down the trees. First Majestic gave us this beautiful presentation and said, “We will help you with this and that…” It does not work that way, we want to know exactly what their interests are. In our case, when it comes to our homeland, we do not want any development. Recently, in a few communities we got electricity, but the only thing that this accomplished was put people in debt. Many Wixárika people do not have money to pay for electricity. We just want to keep our culture the way it is. We have our land demarcated, and outside of our territory we say “Do whatever you want, just respect our limits.” The painting that appeared in a Boston Globe article was inspired by a dream I had. In my dream, I was visiting Wirikuta. I was searching for medicine (peyote). I saw a lot of Mestizos looking for the medicine as well, and they were stepping on them but could not see them, and I saw the medicine everywhere. I wanted them to see it but they could not. I started walking and saw more Wixárika people and lots of medicine. I finally found the cactus I was looking for and picked it. But in our culture it does not work like that. It’s a process. You have to do a prayer and offering. I just took it out of the ground and I realized that I had made a mistake, so I went to my purse, took out a knife, I cut my hand, and gave a blood offering. And when I did that I heard a song from Wirikuta going through my veins and it was nurturing me.

Take Action. Cultural Survival is taking a lead in exerting international pressure on Mexican officials to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Learn more about the Save Wirikuta campaign and write a letter to the president of Mexico at

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 15

Bribri Women Lead the Way in Community-based Tourism in Costa Rica

An intern with Cultural Survival’s Global Response Program, Ana Lucía Fariña

Ana Lucía Fariña


spent the summer of 2011 in her home country, Costa Rica. There she

have been a tour guide in Costa Rica and other visited an Indigenous tourism countries of Central America for many years, but I was surprised to learn about an ecotourism project that is project in the Talamanca entirely developed and managed by Indigenous Bribri Indigenous Reserve. This women. I was eager to visit the women who run the Stibrawpa project in the Bribri village of Yorkín, on the Caribbean coast of is her report. Costa Rica. So, in July, I found myself being rowed up the Yorkín River in a wooden canoe through lush primary rainforest where only the singing of birds and the splash of the paddles interrupted the awesome silence. I was entering the Talamanca Indigenous Reserve, the largest of Costa Rica’s 21 Indigenous reserves, and one of the least Migrating developed regions of the country. I was about to meet some of the most osprey (Pandion inspiring women leaders I have ever known. haliaetus). During the last 30 years, the Bribri people have been struggling to recover their culture and sacred traditions, which have been threatened by the encroachment of the Photo by Paula Palmer dominant Costa Rican culture. Bernarda Morales, president of the Stibrawpa Women’s House Association, tells me, “My generation lost our language and traditions, and has been struggling to recover them. We reached for our elders to help us return to our original way of being and living. We also needed to find new opportunities and sources of income for our community.” These were the needs that gave birth to the Stibrawpa Women’s House Association in 1996. The women who formed Stibrawpa sought ways to build their local economy and provide realistic opportunities for young and adult members of the community to remain on their land, without having to leave home to find work. It was “a desperate calling to recover our traditions and generate a suitable income for our Ana Lucía Fariña families,” recalls Prisca Morales, a board member of Stibrawpa. Prisca continues, “In the past, with Sibo Morales. our men had to leave for months to work on banana plantations, and over time we started noticing that as they aged, their health deteriorated. They [often] died young, and, we believe, from exposure to the chemicals. We wanted to create a local source of income for them to stay here with their families, and live a healthier lifestyle.”    The founders of Stibrawpa saw rural tourism as something they could do in addition to harvesting bananas, cocoa, and doing handcrafts. Bernarda Morales remarks, “We had three major ideas to focus on: the rainforest, the culture, and the economy. We wanted to see how we could improve and preserve [these three areas]. We wanted to rescue our culture and our language. At first we thought this was a dream. ‘There isn’t any work to do here,’ I thought. But I became a change agent among woman my age, encouraging them to join and participate. Then we asked, ‘How do we organize ourselves?’ So we sought the elders’ wisdom and asked them to teach us how to do our arts and crafts again and make the bows and arrows. However, that was not sustainable; there were too many expenses and very little profit.”    As the organization grew, the women received training from institutions such as the INCAE Business School, INA (National Institute for Learning) and INAMU (National Women’s Institute) on such topics as leadership, organizational skills, accounting, and tourism. Bernarda recalls, “At first, only I received the trainings, since I was the only one who could leave my 16 • ww w. cs. org

ph otos c our tes y of Ana Lucía Fa riña

Bribri girls, Maryela Hernandez and Fivi Morales.

Stibrawpa Casa de Mujeres main ranch where the ecotourism project operates.

house. Some husbands are more strict [about their wives leaving the house], but I had support from my husband.” Stibrawpa gradually grew to its current 30 members: 12 women and 18 men. Bernarda says: “We have all ages participating, from our elders, to as young as 16- or 17-year olds.” With funding from the Small Grants Program of the United Nations Development Program and the Global Environmental Facility, they built the first thatched-roof building, which was destroyed in the big flood of November 2009. They rebuilt it, along with other structures, with help from international and local donors. Stibrawpa members are required to pay an enrollment fee and to comply with certain rules, such as, “No fighting, participation in trainings, and attendance at meetings.” Each member’s salary depends on the work they do, the time they invest, and their duties and responsibilities. Stibrawpa offers tourists a unique opportunity to explore the Bribri people’s ancient culture, and learn about their sacred traditions and contemporary life. Visitors stay in two thatched-roof buildings that can accommodate 30 people.

Most tours are one-day events, starting with an hour-long canoe ride up the Yorkín River. Upon arrival, tourists are offered a traditional snack of plantain tarts served on a plantain leaf on a hand-carved, wooden plate. A Stibrawpa member welcomes them and introduces the day’s activities, which include hiking in the forest, crossing rivers on hammock bridges, practicing with the bow and arrow, and making chocolate from cacao seeds—a favorite activity. In accord with Bribri tradition, only women can participate in making the chocolate. Tourists may also explore the organic farms and learn about medicinal plants and the construction of the thatched roofs. “During high season, there are around 40 tourists per month. They are all ages and they come from the United States, England, France, Germany, Spain, and Belgium, and some local tourism from Costa Rica,” says Prisca Morales. The project is promoted by ACTUAR (The Costa Rican Association

Landscape of the rainforest at Yorkín village.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 17

Project founders and operators: (L-R) Sandra Cerrut, Bernarda Morales, Inolina Vargas, Lorenzo Picado, Julio Carrera, and Prisca Morales.

Inolina Vargas showing the chocolate making process, starting with crushing seeds.

of Rural Community Tourism) and ATEC (Talamancan Association of Ecotourism and Conservation), among other tourism associations. Bernarda explains that in the early years of the business, most of the men were skeptical. “It took us a long time, more than eight years of struggling, to earn their respect. They didn’t like us traveling alone to San José to receive trainings. It took us a long time to convince them.” But the women demonstrated their ability to organize and lead their community, and their success has earned them everyone’s respect. Bernarda’s husband, Julio, proudly walks with me through the village, pointing out all of the organizations that have benefited from Stibrawpa. With earnings from ecotourism, the association established a local health clinic, a high school, and a water aqueduct. They are now building a community center which will be their main area for rituals, community gatherings, graduations, and other events. I wondered how Stibrawpa members felt about the social and cultural impacts of tourism in Yorkín. According to Bernarda, the interaction with people from different countries has nourished their community. “[Ecotourism] is edu- cational both ways. We also learn about their cultures; it is a cultural exchange,” she explains. For the most part, Stibrawpa members think the tourism project has reinforced traditional values. “We are now more connected to our roots, and nature. We are fighting to maintain our culture and respect for our land. The project has been an inspiration for us and our families. Now the young ones are getting more involved and excited about participating, because Stibrawpa offers them a source of income. They aren’t going outside for drugs or alcohol,” says Bernarda. “The learning process has been amazing,” she continues. “We have learned how to manage organizations, to solve problems, and to respect opinions. We go home and [communicate] what we have learned to our children. We explain what our work is, and why it is important for our community. Now our youth and children are proud of our sacred traditions. They know how to write and speak the Bribri language. All our efforts are passing on to other Indigenous communities in Costa Rica, and even in Panama,” she smiles proudly. What are their goals for the future? They hope to accommodate around 50 tourists in their facilities, increase their boat fleet, and have more young people involved in the project. “In the long run, we hope to have a university here,” Bernarda says. “We are very hopeful. Remember, five years ago, there was no high school here. We want young people to stay, to work within the community and be with their families. We want our people, wherever they go, to have pride in being Bribri.” — Ana Lucía Fariña is a student in the Masters of Arts program in Environmental Leadership at Naropa University. She is completing her Applied Leadership Project with Cultural Survival’s Global Response program.

Inside the main Stibrawpa ranch.

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To find out how to visit the Stibrawpa project in Yorkín, Costa Rica, see “Community Based Ecolodges” at

The Birds That Bring Gifts Duaro Mayorga

with Paula Palmer (CS Staff)


y people, the Bribri, have always watched and waited for the birds that visit our lands each year in March and again in October. Now we know that these are migratory birds of prey— raptors—that travel thousands of miles from Canada to South America and back each year, tracing the ancient flyways of their species. As the birds fly south, the flyway narrows over the Central American isthmus, channeling millions of birds into a narrow path right above the KéköLdi Indigenous Reserve where I live. When the birds fly north, the same thing happens. Every March and October, millions of birds fill the skies above KéköLdi. Our people call these birds irö. One of our elders, Catalina Morales Sánchez, told me the origin story of these birds. She recounted,    When Sibö (God) celebrated the birth of the first Indigenous people, he invited the irö to the feast because they were the best dancers. In those times these birds had human form. They were the keepers of squash seeds, and they offered these as a gift to Sibö, who cooked the seeds and shared them with everyone at the feast. The irö also brought gourds to carry water and chicha (a fermented drink).    So in the old days, when our people were preparing the ground to plant corn, when they saw the irö passing overhead, they asked them to share a little of the seeds they carried. Sometimes the irö circle above you as if they are listening to your prayer, and they respond by dancing over your field. You raise your arms and cry, “a irö, a irö be'ina’kak amúat-na,” which means, “northern birds, northern birds, leave me a little of your food.”    Then, when your corn and beans germinate, little squash and gourd plants come up, too. They are the gift of the irö. The irö are giving other gifts to our community now. For the last ten years, we have been working with ornithologists to make official counts of the migrating raptors, and this has brought new opportunities to us. People from the ANAI Association here in Costa Rica and the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the U.S. recognized that KéköLdi had a remarkably high concentration of migrating raptors – different species of eagles, osprey, hawks, vultures, and falcons. They helped us build an observation tower. They taught volunteers from KéköLdi, including me, how to identify the different species, both the juveniles and the adults, because their coloring is different at different life stages. Since the bird books were in English, we learned the English names of all the birds and their scientific names, and we already

knew their names in Spanish and Bribri. We practiced using the binoculars and the counter, and we made a schedule for everyone participating in the count. Now, after ten years, KéköLdi is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, and hundreds of students and ornithologists come to KéköLdi to experience the migrations.   It is amazing to participate in the counts. My personal record for counting raptors is 60,000 birds in one day. Actually, on that day 25,000 birds passed in a single hour, and I was alone in the tower, counting like crazy! We click once for every 10 birds, but it was just constant clicking on that day. It’s easiest to count the birds when they use thermal “lifts” to gain altitude. Thermals develop all along the coast as the sun heats the sandy beaches during the day. The raptors get a ride up these thermals, just like an elevator. They circle up the thermal, and then we can count them when they come out the top and fly off. The record count for one day in KéköLdi is 600,000 raptors. That happened in October 2007.    In 2006, another bird study began in KéköLdi, and my brother Keswar and I both participated from the beginning because we love birds and wanted to learn more about them. This is a monitoring program for smaller birds, some of them migratory and some of them local. The coordinator is Daniel Martínez, and I am now the deputy coordinator. We catch the birds in mist nets, put bands on them, record data about them, and then release them. We place the nets in places that have different ecological characteristics, like abandoned cocoa farms, managed forests, secondary-growth forests, forest edges, streams, and rivers, so we can make comparisons. At first, when we were just learning, between two and three percent of the captured birds died through our lack of experience, but now we have a zero percent death rate. We have lots of ideas about ways to expand this monitoring project. I would like to become director of the project someday, but first I need to complete my studies. When people find out that I am only 19 years old, they tell me I’ll be way ahead of the other university students because I’ve been doing field studies with ornithologists for years already. When I think what would have happened had I not been interested in birds, I realize that I would not be writing this article, and I might not have had the opportunity to go on studying. Maybe this is another gift from the irö. Duaro Mayorga, Bribri, lives in the KéköLdi Indigenous Reserve in Talamanca, Costa Rica. Paula Palmer is director of Cultural Survival’s Global Response Program. Catalina Morales Sánchez’ story of the irö is published in Tradición Oral Indígena Costarricense, Vol. IV, Año IV, No. 1-2. Photo by Paula Palmer

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 19

Media Revolution in the

Promoting Indigenou s

Leo Ambrocio (right) and other radio volunteers learn the technical details of their new cameras and tripods.

Hanna Adcock


he recent uprisings in the Middle East, dubbed “The Arab Spring,” have not only been a political revolution, but also a media one. The uprisings have shown the world how media technology can grant voice and power to ordinary people. As cameras get smaller and cheaper, and internet access broadens, this revolution is destined to expand. At the invitation of Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Project, I flew from London to Guatemala to work with Mayan communities. Accompanying me was filmmaker and teacher, Karin Stowe. We were going to ensure that the Indigenous people of Quetzaltenango would not only be heard, but be seen, as well. Cultural Survival and Citizen Camera, a media empowerment organization based in the United Kingdom, believe that the Indigenous or ‘local’ voices should not only be heard in times of change and violence, but on a day-

to-day basis. Ordinary people should have the opportunities and skills to create high-end news and documentary films, thus making the content more accessible and engaging for local and global audiences.    Arriving in Guatemala City, one is immediately assailed by the discord and paradoxes of a city subsumed by a conflicted identity. Western and local billboards collide beneath a towering metropolis that attempts to veil areas of extreme poverty, depravation, and violence. Colorful buses punctured with bullet holes pass old colonial and modern office blocks fighting for space; Guatemala is still a country embodying great tensions. We traveled by bus, loaded down with a bag full of cameras. As we made our way from the main city towards Quetzaltenango (Xela), the landscape began to change. Lush farmlands and mountains took us above the clouds to winter-like temperatures, and then, in just moments, we plummeted back down to tropical, humid climates.

All Ph otos c our tes y of Ha nna Ad oc k

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Highlands of Guatemala

Visions through Vide o

Filming outside the municipal market in San Mateo, Quetzaltenango.

As we peered out of the bus windows, we could see the colorful dresses of the Maya women; their intricately woven fabrics changed from one location to the next. We arrived in rainy Xela, tired and jet lagged. The Mayan community within Guatemala has kept its culture intact through 500 years of colonialism, brutal repression and, most recently, 36 years of genocide that killed an estimated 200,000 Maya. Unlike the situation in the Middle East where globalization has helped, here, it is virtually destroying the Maya. With digital technologies mainly in the hands of the non-Indigenous majority, mainstream Western entertainment is now flooding Guatemala’s airwaves. Entertainment, as it is broadcast to the Indigenous people, encourages abandonment of Indigenous languages, clothing, spirituality, and identities. Cultural Survival’s work in Guatemala helps stem this tidal wave of homogeneity with a network of tiny 500-watt radio stations, and dedicated volunteers who run them. Having been trained in radio production, script writing, and audio editing, these volunteers were primed to learn another skill— video production.

By empowering the radio station volunteers with camcorders and filming skills, we hoped to enable them to have a greater online voice. Carrying five camcorders, tripods, editing software, and visual guides, we approached the radio station. In a small concrete room, we set up a projector. Word quickly spread throughout the community, and participants began flooding in. We handed out guidebooks and an outline of the week, which would include workshops and filming. The culmination of the week’s sessions would be a formal screening. Most of the participants had never used a camcorder before, so there was understandable shock at the thought of having complete films at the end of the week. We had a lot of information to get through, but by the end of the first day, the volunteers were versed in professional techniques and terms. Everyone was happily exhausted. What I love about working abroad is seeing the slight differences that cultural backgrounds can have on both our teaching and another culture’s perception of film. After a few days, the participants had been introduced to all the technical elements of filming; they knew their cameras, tripods, batteries, and Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 21

Karin Stowe teaches with the help of translator Marcela Bogdanov.

Nicolasa Pablo (center) and Rosalia Sul plan questions for an interview.

Crowds gather for final project screening as participants keep filming.

Audience watches the newly produced films.

memory cards. They knew how to pan, tilt, zoom, control sound, and edit. They were talking and acting like film- makers, and it was important to us that all the learning was professionally pitched so they might have solid grounding for future employment opportunities. The participant’s enthusiasm was contagious and our one-hour lunch breaks became extensions of the class. Questions and debates flourished. Conversations about families, cultural differences, and ideologies flowed freely. To me, this aspect of the workshop was important to the project because it generated mutual understanding and awareness. These interactions fed into class and created more confidence during debates on topics and issues that otherwise might have been difficult to articulate. We knew we were there to empower the participants to make their own decisions; we were careful not to intervene or influence too much. They were encouraged to develop all their creative decisions and to add their own signature, style, and angle to their self-chosen film subjects (which included crop growing and the environment). After their first inde22 • ww w. cs. org

pendent shoots, the participants came back with smiles and stories of things that went well, and things that didn’t. They began editing their documentaries aware that the screening deadline was only two days away. They discussed shots, argued about cutaways, and propped themselves up with coffee—global norms for the editing room and a great sign. A healthy atmosphere of competition developed between the groups and the pressure was on. We got wind that the local TV stations would be covering the screenings and the local communities and families had been invited to attend —it was going to be a massive and very exciting event. Screening day arrived and Karin and I got to the station early, but the teams were nowhere to be seen. They had spent the night editing and re-editing, perfecting their fades, dips, and captions. They eventually staggered in, blurry-eyed, but excited about the day ahead. The teaching space was transformed to a mini cinema and fragrant pine branches were laid out on the floor—a tradition in Mayan culture at important gatherings. Families and local press trickled in, music was played, national anthems were sung and speeches were

Nicolasa Pablo and baby Guillermo.

Participants pose with their certificates of workshop completion.

“I’ve watched movies and TV, and I always wanted to know how they create them. Now I feel like I can grab any camera and know more or less how to use it. I can explain to others in my community that the images we see on TV aren’t reality. They are just images that have been manipulated. Now we can share important information with our community, not just over the radio but through images as well. Our work is for our community, but the problems we face here are problems that the whole world may be facing, and we can share our films with anyone who can benefit from them.”

Rosalio Hernandez watches his film after entertaining the audience with music.

— Nelson Chivo

delivered. The final event was the screening of the films. Created in just a few days by people who had mostly never used a camera before, the films were spectacular. They were professional, informative, and creative, and most important, they depicted an Indigenous perspective on local events and culture. The audience discussed issues and watched intently, clapping and laughing; some of the participants filmed the day’s events. So enthusiastic had the participants become about filming, they could not put the cameras down. When our work was finished, we gave the community all of our cameras, guidebooks, and software. [Using Citizen Camera workshops as a base, Cultural Survival is now partnering with another organization to launch a long-term video training program for the participants.] Another filmmaker from neighboring El Salvador continues to work with radio volunteers from San Mateo to develop their knowledge. Hopefully, with programs such as this, Indigenous communities can represent themselves continually, and the prejudices of Western representation can be lessened.

— Hanna Adcock and Karin Stowe are photojournalists and filmmakers and directors of Citizen Camera (www. a media empowerment organization.

Nelson Chivo, workshop participant, answers a call at Radio Doble Via.

Cultural Survival thanks our donors for helping to make this workshop possible, along with the University of Winchester for their in-kind donation of equipment, and Hanna and Karin for committing their personal time and resources. For more information about the project and to view the films, go to: To learn more about Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Project, visit:

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 23

Recovering Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Alaska Alutiiq Studies at Kodiak College and the Alutiiq Museum

April Laktonen Counceller (Isiik) teaches her students the Alutiiq names for the many plants that grow on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Jennifer Weston


lutiiq dance traditions returned to Kodiak Island last August after an absence of more than two centuries—a casualty of Russian and American missionaries’ proselytizing influence in tribal communities, where Native dancing was forbidden or discouraged as an irrelevant and unnecessary practice. In order to reintroduce Alutiiq youth to creating new artistic performances in the traditional storytelling method, Dr. April “Isiik” Counceller (Alutiiq), manager of the Alutiiq Museum’s Qik’rtarmiut Alutiit (Alutiiq People of the Island) Language Program, organized a three-day dance workshop with professional Central Yup’ik dancer and University of Alaska professor Mary John, Ph.D., and two other professors in the University of Alaska system, Theresa John, Ph.D., and Agatha JohnShields, M.A. The workshop culminated in a performance for the community at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. These sessions brought traditional knowledge of Native dance from the neighboring Yup'ik culture to Alutiiq dance group members, who created new dances with their Elders and instructors. Dances were created with traditional building blocks, but expressing contemporary stories and experiences, such as crab fishing and survival of the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake and tsunami. The Alutiiq (also known as Sugpiaq) people, have historically resided in Southern Alaska in coastal communities ranging from the Alaska Peninsula eastward across Kodiak Island and the Kenai Peninsula to Prince William Sound. 24 • ww w. cs. org

By composing Alutiiq-language lyrics and a song together in advance at their weekly language club meetings at the local Kodiak tribal center, Counceller and fellow members laid the groundwork for the performance—excerpts of which can be seen online at However, reintroducing Alutiiq dance traditions to Kodiak Island is just one small component of Counceller’s and many other Alutiiq tribal language leaders’ efforts to provide new educational opportunities and career pathways for Alaska Native youth. “The [Alutiiq] language movement has matured to the point where we now need a consistent writing system since semi-fluent speakers are able to produce teaching materials; we want to be able to use these [materials] in five years,” says Counceller. Recent gains in language revitalization efforts include a three-year Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance Grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration awarded to the Native village of Afognak. The grant facilitated the implementation of the Kodiak Alutiiq (Qik’rtarmiut) Teacher Mentorship Project. Developed through the Qik’rtarmiut Alutiit Regional Language Advisory Committee, the project attracts participants from many walks of life to bi-monthly meetings. Young tribal citizens now have the opportunity to become second-language learners and teachers of the Alutiiq language through the Native Village of Afognak’s teacher-mentoring project. The strategy of the project builds from current, semifluent speakers’ skills and quickly guides them through to a higher level of competency. Language learners simultaneously acquire instructional skills to pass their language knowledge on to others in the community.

Clyda Christiansen of Karluk and Larsen Bay sings a traditional Alutiiq song for a music documentary project.

All P h o t o s courtesy of the al u t i i q M u s eu m

Alutiiq students of all ages interested in their ancestral language can also enroll in a newly launched Alutiiq Studies program at Kodiak College, supported in part by a five-year, Title III United States Department of Education grant that includes support for student recruitment and retention support. With the new funding, Kodiak College, a community college unit of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, now offers both certificate and associate degree programs in Alutiiq Studies, with several specialized tracks offered—all of which will include Alutiiq language as a critical component. Students will be able to transfer seamlessly to a four-year institution throughout the state university system, or enroll specifically to advance their language fluency. “We’re exactly where we need to be,” says Counceller, assessing overall reach and scope of current language revitalization efforts. The long-term involvement, financial investments, and language leadership from the Native Village of Afognak—including Liicugtukut Alutiiq, “We Want to Learn Alutiiq” at—coupled with the emerging Kodiak College Alutiiq Studies program, and the language education programs ongoing at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaelogical Repository, all have revitalized language in an impressive and dramatic manner. Counceller, a founding member of the Qik’rtarmiut Alutiit Regional Language Advisory Committee, mother of two young children, and former language apprentice in the Alutiiq Museum’s earlier master-apprentice project—is wellpositioned to help carry forward Alutiiq language to new generations of young people. In the fall of 2010, she completed a dissertation entitled “Niugneliyukut (We are Making New Words): A Community Philosophy of Language Revitalization,” through the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ Interdisciplinary Program in Language Planning and Indigenous Knowledge Systems, while also working as the Alutiiq Museum’s language manager—a role she’ll continue to fill while assuming her faculty position at Kodiak College. Having spent the past 10 years studying Alutiiq language at the museum, with elders, and via her academic research, Counceller is now helping to lead efforts to fine-tune the Alutiiq orthography—standardizing the alphabet, spelling rules, sounds and combinations. “There’s a really big need for that because of all the new language materials coming out in the community,” she explains.

Nestled in the northeast corner of Kodiak Island, the fishing community of Kodiak, Alaska, is across the Gulf of Alaska from the Alaskan panhandle, and northeast of the long string of Aleutian islands.

While working in the education and language departments at the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak since 2002, Counceller has spearheaded Alutiiq language documentation, education, and revitalization, including working with first-language elders to found the Alutiiq New Words Council, or Nuta’at Niugnelistet (New Word Makers), which has received National Science Foundation funding support since 2007 for the Alutiiq Living Words Project. The project “updates” the language with new terminology. Elders and second-language learners convene regularly to create Alutiiq vocabulary for words like “email” (cukasqaq kaliqaq, “fast paper”) and “ATM” (akirsurwik). The Nuta’at Niugnelistet will continue to meet regularly to transport their language fully into the 21st century and online. Their efforts, including an interactive Alutiiq place names map, selected recordings, and document downloads of the latest new words, are all available through their Alutiiq Language web portal. Counceller is indeed a well-spring of knowledge, and she is only too happy to be a resource for those seeking career and higher education opportunities related to linguistics, anthropology, heritage revitalization, and museum studies. She has a library of academic articles and sources related to Indigenous and community research methods, language revitalization and planning, and Arctic cultures. She is also wisely aware of myriad challenges that Indigenous language communities face as they strive to flourish in an era of globalization and online communication. However, the challenges are not insurmountable. Counceller’s multigenerational team of Alutiiq language activists seem to have found the key to local success: “The most important thing in all of this is that we continue to work together so our efforts are compatible,” says Counceller, also known as Isiik, or Owl in Alutiiq. To meet Isiik and her language masters, Nick Alokli and Florence Pestrikoff, and others at the Alutiiq Museum, visit Cultural Survival’s language education website: and click on the “Language Map.”

Cultural Survival Quarterly

March 2012 • 25

B azaar Artist: Lenn y No vak

Spinning the web of a spider Agnes Portalewska (CS Staff)


ome to a Cultural Survival Bazaar and you will immediately spot Lenny Novak’s booth. The neutral tones of his antler and hide sculptures are in sharp contrast to the colorful booths that surround his. For the past 20 years, Lenny has been constructing, deconstructing and reinventing what has become a pan-Indian form: the dream catcher. Like many Native people on the East coast, Lenny’s Algonquin and Abenaki heritage was kept from him. He recalls growing up in Exeter, New Hampshire: “My father’s father was Polish, but my mother’s mother and my father’s mother had Native blood on both sides of the family. [This fact] was not spoken [about] because of the times. They [my mother’s family] did not openly identify as Native to avoid discrimination. It was better to be black in America than Indian after Custer. When I was old enough to be conscious of my heritage, all the elders in my family were gone.” “In school, because I was big,” he says “they thought I was dumb. They put me in a slow group because I was more interested in what was going on outside with the birds and the trees. Real classroom education did not interest me unless the teacher was fun. It was not stupidity, it was the fact they were not reaching me.” A few teachers did inspire him by asking the right questions and one put Lenny on his current path. His woodshop teacher believed that if you did not have something, you simply made it yourself. “He showed me I had the ability to do what I wanted to do,” says Lenny. “I would see things that interested me and I would figure out how to recreate

them and make them my own, it’s a part of who I am.” Lenny recalls a magnificent annual powwow in Haddam, Connecticut that he attended. Artist Dale Carsen had grapevine and fishing line dream catchers. “I bought one and when I got home I decided to try to make one. I started with a web because I did it the way I thought it was [supposed to be done]. It was the way I envisioned it, but it came out different than the original. That was 20 years ago and since then, it has evolved and [I have] refined it from a much bigger web to what it is today—really tight.” “Once I realized antler was my medium, I started to do what I do now. It has been a process of exploration. My works comes to be when I see a really neat antler and I like the way it is configured and can do a web in between it. It was an accident to be honest.” “My web went from hoops to this intricate web and I hope to have taken the form to a higher plane; I hope it is more of an art form. The process is equally as important. I still try to keep with tradition by drilling holes in four directions, and fill in from there. When I do cross sections, I do North, South, East and West first. Now, I also do five point star forms and it has become more of a sculpture. Some say there is a perfect balance of positive and negative space. It has taken 25 years for me to get to where I am right now artistically.” He laughs, “Up until five or six years ago I never considered myself a real artist. I just thought I had too much time on my hands. It has been an amazing journey. It’s a constant work in progress.” Lenny’s art work can be seen in the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, in the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, New Hampshire, and at Cultural Survival Bazaars.

Legend of the dream catcher An elderly woman was doing beadwork and as she worked she watched a spider making a web. A warrior came in to speak with her, saw the spider, and wanted to kill it. The woman stopped him. Later, the spider came to the woman and thanked her for saving his life and told her the story about the web, and how everything is connected.    Dream catchers are thought to have originated from the Ojibawe people, but they have been through many adaptations. Some people put three or four beads on it but it is supposed to have only one because of the spider.    A dream catcher was created on a circle or teardrop. A piece of willow was used. The circle is special, because of the drum, the circles of life, the four cardinal directions, the four seasons, and the four stages of life. The feather represents the air and as long as it moves, you have air to breathe. The dream goes down over the infant. Dream catchers were originally meant for infants swaddled in cradle boards to keep bad visions from them, and to develop their cognitive skills and depth perception.

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Fallow Deer Antler – 4 Lonewolf Star Webs – 4 Turquoise Spiders – Turkey Wing Feather – Maple Burl Base

Whitetail Deer Antler – 2 Signature Lonewolf Webs – 2 Turquoise Spiders – Peacock Wing Feather – Mulberry Burl Base

Prong Horn Antelope Horn – 2 Signature Lonewolf Webs – 2 Turquoise Spiders – Cock Pheasant Tail Feather – Walnut Burl Base

Mule Deer Antler – 4 Lonewolf Star Webs – 4 Turquoise Spiders – Peacock Wing Feather – California Buckeye Burl Base

Cultural Survival Bazaars are cultural festivals that give Indigenous artists, their representatives, and fair trade companies from around the world the chance to sell their work directly to the American public. The Winter 2011 Bazaar series raised over $158,000 for Indigenous artisans and their communities. To learn more visit:

All P h o t o s court e sy of t e rri t alas

CulturalCultural SurvivalSurvival Quarterly March 2012 27 • 27 Quarterly March•2012

A sign posted at the altar site reads, “Sacred place, please keep clean.”

A Mayan cross overlooks the highland town of Momostenango.

Don Celso sells candles, incense, and other items used during Mayan ceremonies.

2012: End of the World? Danielle DeLuca (CS Staff) in conversation with Julian “Wixlax Jowilax” Velasquez


n Momostenango, a small town in the highland region of Guatemala, the Quiche Mayan community did not enter the 2012 year dreading doomsday predictions. Instead, they’re gearing up for their biggest party yet. Momostenago has a total of 10 sacred altars. On important days of the Mayan calendar, these prayer spaces are packed with Indigenous Mayans coming to make their offerings, pray, and celebrate special occasions, such as the initiation of the planting season, a marriage, a birth, or the opening of a new business. At each sacred site we visited on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, smoke was still rising from piles of smoldering ashes, surrounded by blackened clay pots, traditionally used to encircle the burning of different “offerings,” like essential oils, herbs, incense, corn, sugar, and colored candles. The popularity of the altars is evidenced by stores that have popped up at each site, selling the items used in prayer. Don Celso, the owner of one such store, said he receives visitors throughout seven days of the 20-day Mayan month; each prayer site has its own special use. On the hill in front of his store, people come between the days of Kawoq and Kame, to pray for fertility, for rain, or to communicate with ancestors. According to Julian Velazquez, a Mayan spiritual guide and the director of community radio station Stereo Maya in Momostenango, the community is planning to celebrate the change of the 2012 cycle a lo grande: “big time.” An association of spiritual guides to which Velasquez belongs is getting together at the end of this month to begin planning activities for the nine-day celebration of Oxlajuj B’aqtun, as the December 21, 2012 calendar date is known to Mayans. Oxlajuj B’aqtun translates to 13 cycles

of the cycle called B’aqtun, the longest cycle, consisting of 144,000 days, a benchmark of roughly 5,129 years which also coincides with the completion of a 26,000 year celestial cycle. Velasquez was adamant: “I want to send a message to everyone in North America, and in the rest of the world: You don’t have to be afraid, because 2012 isn’t going to end the world. [There will be] a new era of peace. The Hollywood movies are full of lies. Maybe the filmmakers weren’t listening when they asked about 2012, or maybe they got it from a bad source. But they are taking advantage of our culture, and profiting from it.” Velasquez is wary of how different groups are using 2012 for their gain. Guatemala’s new president, General Otto Perez Molina, evoked the new era of Oxlajuj B’aqtun in his inauguration speech as an indicator of how he will bring change to the troubled country. Yet, Molina took office on January 14th, the Mayan day of Tijax, which is considered a day of suffering. “I appreciate that the General referenced the Maya in his speech, and recognized that we are in a period of change, but I don’t agree with the President’s appropriation of 2012. We would have liked to hear him say that the government will allow all of the Mayans to celebrate in the way that they wish—free to broadcast the ceremonies across community radio stations without persecution, and that the celebration will unfold from our own history, language, culture, and through our own customs.”

Listen to an interview with Julian Velasquez on President Molina’s use of 2012: 2012-does-mayan-calendar-predict-end-world.

All Ph otos by da niell e D eluca

28 • ww w. cs. org

D o n o r Sp o t l igh t: M a r y AnnE S a u l

Why I Wholeheartedly Support Cultural Survival If there were only one organization to which I could give my time and resources, my choice would be Cultural Survival. Its mission of working with Indigenous Peoples to fight for their rights and to make their own choices is absolutely crucial right now.

In the years since, Cultural Survival has enriched my teaching in unbelievable ways. My students have discussed different takes on women’s rights with Massai women, the best ways to honor the environment with Navajo and Penobscot teens, and debated how “fierce” the Yanomami people of the Amazon really were. And Cultural Survival brought this all to my students’ front door through publications like the Cultural Survival Quarterly, which activates and mobilizes students and others worldwide in support of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am constantly inspired by the many ways that different cultures tackle life’s challenges. I find ideas for better decision making, paths for healing, and works of beauty I could never have imagined are available to me and others through the work of Cultural Survival.

Join Mary Anne and be part of the Action! Here are some ways you can get involved: • Renew your membership and continue to receive your own copy of the Cultural Survival Quarterly • Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter to get the latest from Indigenous communities around the world • Be part of our Global Response Program and take action to support the rights of Indigenous Peoples by writing letters and sending emails. • Stay connected by following us on Twitter (@CSORG) and liking us on Facebook (

You can learn so much – and you can make a difference! 617-441-5400 x17

Photo by Robert Pushkar

I first learned about Cultural Survival over 35 years ago when I took my high school social studies classes into the Peabody Museum of Anthropology at Harvard in Cambridge, MA and found Pia Maybury-Lewis, one of the founders of Cultural Survival, eager to talk with us about the challenges Indigenous Peoples faced. I was hooked and joined the effort.

Global Response

Campaign Alert Ethiopia Government soldiers are removing thousands of Anuak people, like this woman, from their farms and villages in southwestern Ethiopia. The government is forcing the Indigenous minorities into statebuilt villages and leasing their farmlands, forests, and grazing lands to foreign agro-businesses. Please see the Global Response action insert and join our campaign to stop this abuse of Indigenous Peoples and their lands. Photo by felix horne

Global Response

CampaignEthiopia Alert

Tak eA cti on No w

march 2012

“[The] government brought the Anuak people here to die. They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back.” — Anuak elder forcibly moved to a state village (from the Human Rights Watch report, Waiting Here for Death.)

The Ethiopian government leased the homelands of these Anuak women to an Indian company, Karuturi Global Ltd, and moved them to a village where there is no land for farming. Photo courtesy of Anuak Justice Council


Stop Land Grabbing and Restore Indigenous Peoples’ Lands Ethiopia receives more foreign aid than any other African nation—upwards of $3 billion a year. Western governments see Ethiopia as a strategic bulwark in the “global fight against terrorism” and point to its progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, an international program to end poverty and hunger. But Ethiopia’s policies are deliberately making some of its citizens poorer and hungrier. The government is forcing the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest off their ancestral lands and leasing these lands to foreign companies. Bulldozers are destroying the forests, farms, and grazing lands that have sustained Anuak, Mezenger, Nuer, Opo, and Komo peoples for centuries. While the foreign companies are planting food crops and agrofuels like oil palm, mainly for export, soldiers are forcing thousands of Indigenous people into state-created villages, simultaneously robbing them of their livelihoods and their cultural identity. Their protests are being met with intimidation, extra-judicial killings, rape, incarceration, and torture. Journalists and human rights advocates in Ethiopia who speak out against these abuses are silenced or exiled. Ethiopia’s deliberate policies of forced relocation, discrimination, repression, and environmental devastation are enabled, at least indirectly, by foreign aid.

It’s time for donor nations—especially the United States and the United Kingdom— to use their influence to halt these abuses. Let’s urge them to do this now!

Global Response

There’s no school for these “villagized” Anuak children. Photo by Felix Horne

Stop Land Grabbing For over 400 years, Indigenous Anuak families have lived along the wide rivers of Ethiopia’s Gambella region, cultivating maize and sorghum in the rich alluvial soil. On higher ground, they practice shifting cultivation, and in the forests they gather fruits, nuts, roots, and medicines. These diverse resources have spared them from hunger even in times of drought. But now Ethiopian soldiers are moving nearly all of Gambella’s Indigenous people—45,000 households—off their lands and farms and into statecreated villages where the people fear starvation. Nearly half of Gambella’s land is leased or available for lease to investors who are creating vast plantations of agrofuel and food crops, mostly for export. Bulldozers are even draining and filling in the wetlands of Gambella National Park and destroying its forests. One Indian corporation, Karuturi Global, Ltd., has leased a colossal 400 square miles in Gambella and expects to triple that amount. Ethiopian leases are so cheap (Karuturi paid $1.25/hectare for 99 years) that companies from China and Saudi Arabia and many more from India are jumping on the bandwagon. No wonder the phenomenon is known as “land grabbing.” Who can stop it or even slow it down long enough to assess the environmental costs and the social and economic impacts on the Indigenous populations? Not the elected president of Ethiopia, who is largely a figurehead. Last year, the president and the Environmental Protection Authority ordered cancellation of a lease to 12,000 acres of forest, where the Indigenous Mazenger people live by hunting, gathering, and beekeeping. An Indian company, Verdanta Harvests, is now destroying the Mazengers’ sacred forest, one of Ethiopia’s last, to plant tea and spices for export. “For us, land is not only economical, it is historical, political, spiritual, and very emotional,” a displaced Anuak farmer told Oakland Institute researchers, who published a study of land grabbing in Ethiopia. His only emotion now is despair. “What is the future for our kids?” he cried. “They will be slaves.” Ethiopia promises the Anuak jobs and health and educa- tion services in their new villages, but neither the Oakland Institute nor Human Rights Watch nor foreign journalists have been able to find evidence of these. Who can stop it? The best hope lies with the donor nations that hold the purse strings. They can ensure that no donor funds or other forms of assistance facilitate land-grabbing and villagization schemes that violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights. We are the ones who must convince them to do it. Anuak farmers near Akuna had to leave their maize harvest behind when they were forcibly relocated. Photo by Felix Horne

CampaignEthiopia Alert You Can Help! The Anuak Justice Council asks world citizens to send polite letters to the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. In your letters, please: • Express concern that the Ethiopian government is violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples and causing them extreme suffering through its forced “villagization” program and agricultural land leases. • Urge them to ensure that no donor funds and other forms of assistance facilitate land-leasing and villagization schemes that violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights and cause them harm. • Ask them to use their influence as donor nations to demand that Ethiopia enforce its own constitution and international laws that recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights to ancestral lands, consultation, and compensation. Ask them to publicly call on Ethiopia to revoke repressive laws that stifle civic participation, press freedom, and dissent. Please send polite letters, faxes, or emails to: Mr. Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary US Department of State Bureau of African Affairs, Room 6234 2201 C Street, NW Washington DC, 20520, USA Fax: +202 647 0810 Attn. Laura Hruby, Ethiopia Desk Email: Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell, MP Secretary of State for International Development 1 Palace Street London SW1E 5HE United Kingdom Fax: +44 20 7023 0634 Email: Tips: Address your letters to: Dear Ambassador Carson, Dear Minister Mitchell, Postage within the U.S. is 45 cents. Postage from the U.S. to the U.K. is $1.05. A model letter is available at Personal, mailed letters have the most impact! For more information, please see: “Waiting Here for Death” – Human Rights Watch, 2012 “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: Ethiopia Country Report” – Oakland Institute, 2011

Thank you for joining this campaign. The Anuak people say, Uuna pwøc døc ki met ec! (“Thank you very much!”)

Cultural Survival

Youth Action Alert Ethiopia

Wr ite

march 2012




Anuak People of Ethiopia

“Don’t Force Us to Leave Our Homelands” For more than 400 years, the Anuak (pronounced AN-yu-ak) Indigenous people have lived along the banks of wide rivers that flow through Ethiopia’s Gambella region and join with the White Nile. In the fertile soil of the river valleys, Anuak people grow maize, sorghum, and peanuts. In the surrounding hills, they plant crops in small plots, rotating them each year to keep the soil healthy. Beyond their farmlands lie the forests, where they hunt and gather nuts, fruits, roots, and other useful plants. Life can be hard, with the constant threat of drought, but generations of Anuak people have learned how to survive by fishing and farming in their Gambella homelands.

Soldiers moved these Anuak boys and their families off their farms and leased their land to a foreign company. Photo by Felix Horne

Now they are being driven out. Ethiopian soldiers are forcing all the Anuak families to leave their lands behind and move into new villages. The government promises them jobs, schools, and health clinics, but most of the new villages have none of these. Some don’t even have water. Without land, Anuak parents can’t feed their children. And they can’t return to their homelands because the government has given their lands over to foreign companies. Right now, those companies’ bulldozers are destroying the Anuak people’s forests and farms.

Who can do something about this? You can! Learn more, and then write a letter today!

A company from India is destroying habitat of the Kob antelope and other wild animals. Photo by Frank Dickert

The Ethiopian government leased this land to a company from India. What will happen to the Lou Nuer people who live here? Photo by Felix Horne

Youth Action Alert Ethiopia Anuak People of Ethiopia

The Anuak People Anuak people live in the hot, tropical lowlands of Ethiopia’s Gambella region. They speak their own language, Dha-Anywaa, and their customs are different from other Ethiopians. Each Anuak family has its own round grass-roofed hut called a tukul in a settlement where their grandparents and cousins live, too. They form larger groups called wimach to work together and to solve any conflicts or problems that arise. They are skilled fishermen and farmers. In Ethiopia, there is a long history of discrimination against the darker-skinned Indigenous minorities like the Anuak. The government does not give them equal access to schools, colleges, and health care. When people protest against this discrimination, soldiers take them to jail. Many Anuak people have been tortured and even killed for trying to defend their lands. To find safety, thousands of Anuak people have fled to Sudan and Kenya, where many are now living in refugee camps. Around 3,000 Anuak people are living in the United States.

Land Rights and Land Grabbing The Ethiopian government has a program called “villagization,” which means moving all the Indigenous Peoples, including the Anuak, from their homelands into new villages. The government says it will provide jobs, schools, and health clinics in the new villages, but they have not done this yet. Many Anuak people are trying to go back to their homelands, but when they get there they learn that the government has leased the land to foreign companies. These companies are making huge commercial farms, planting crops like palm oil, sugar cane, rice, and tea. Most of these crops will not feed poor people in Ethiopia. Instead, they will be exported to other countries. Foreign companies are eagerly grabbing up the cheap land in Ethiopia. In fact, this practice is called “land grabbing.”

Please write a polite letter to the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Mr. Johnnie Carson. Tell him what is happening to the Anuak and other Indigenous people in Ethiopia. Ask him what the United States can do to help them keep their lands and defend their rights. ADDRESS:

Mr. Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary US Department of State Bureau of African Affairs Room 6234 2201 C Street, NW Washington D.C., 20520 LETTER-WRITING TIPS:

Start your letter with this salutation: Dear Ambassador Carson,

The Anuak people know that they have rights to their homelands, farms, and forests. The Ethiopian constitution and international laws say they cannot be forced to leave their lands, and if they leave voluntarily they must be paid. But the Ethiopian government is not obeying these laws. “Villagization” and land grabbing are violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples, causing suffering, hunger, disease, poverty, and death.

Make sure your letter is polite and respectful.

How can this be stopped? Anuak leaders think the United States government can help. The United States gives millions of dollars to Ethiopia to help end hunger and poverty there. Let’s tell the US State Department what’s happening to the Anuak people. Let’s ask what they can do to help.

Postage inside the U.S. is 45 cents.

 Foreign companies are draining and filling in Gambella’s wetlands. How will this affect bird species like this shoebill?


“Don’t Force Us to Leave Our Homelands”

Find out more about refugees. Has your community welcomed refugees from any countries? How is your community helping them? If you were a refugee, what would be the hardest thing for you?

At the end of your letter, ask Mr. Carson for a reply. Include your name, your age, and your address on your letter. You might get a letter back from Mr. Carson!

Thank you for joining this campaign. The Anuak people say, Uuna pwøc døc ki met ec! (“Thank you very much!”)

Profile for Cultural Survival

Sacred Places, Sacred Lifeways  

Volume 36 Issue 1

Sacred Places, Sacred Lifeways  

Volume 36 Issue 1

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