Category Archives: Indigenous Struggles

Mariátegui and the ‘problem of the Indian’ — a critical appreciation by Luis Vitale

Introduced and translated by Richard Fidler
Luis Vitale, a prominent Chilean revolutionary socialist and prolific Marxist historian, died in Santiago on June 27, 2010. Born in Argentina in 1927, he had moved to Chile at an early age and from the mid-1950s was an active militant in the labour movement and far-left parties, both in that country and in exile, until this century. Continue reading

British Columbia: Corporate Vandals Assault Rivers, Oceans, Forests

by Roger Annis
The assault on the environment accompanying expanding fossil fuel extraction is nothing new for the corporate elite in British Columbia. The lamentable state of the forest ranges, fish stocks and water quality in the province are a warning of the sharp threat to the entire biosphere by profit-hungry resource corporations that hangs over the entire province. Continue reading

Do Indigenous Concepts Help or Hinder in Fighting the World’s Climate Crisis?

A LeftViews Debate between Pablo Stefanoni and Hugo Blanco
Translated and introduced by Richard Fidler

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April, has fueled a growing debate in Latin America over the validity and usefulness of traditional Indigenous value systems and forms of organization in resolving the pressing social problems of the region, not least the challenges posed by the climate crisis. We publish here two differing assessments. Continue reading

The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons

By Ian Angus. Will shared resources always be misused and overused? Is community ownership of land, forests and fisheries a guaranteed road to ecological disaster? Is privatization the only way to protect the environment and end Third World poverty? Most economists and development planners will answer “yes” — and for proof they will point to the most influential article ever written on those important questions. Continue reading

The Ontario Mining Act, Political Prisoners and the Right to Say “NO”

Support is growing for Robert Lovelace of the Ardoch Algonquins, jailed for opposing uranium mining on their land in eastern Ontario, and for the six members of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, jailed for opposing platinum and uranium exploration on their traditional lands in northwestern Ontario.

  • On April 9, more than 400 people turned out for a Toronto rally in support of Lovelace and the KI 6. The event was sponsored by 22 organizations, including 12 indigenous groups, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students.
  • Four days later, 200 attended a fund-raising event organized by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid that raised $2,000 for Lovelace and other Ardoch Algonquin victims. A highpoint of the evening was the reading of a statement of support for Lovelace and the KI 6 from a grassroots organization in Palestine.
  • On April 14-15, the Executive of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs held a 24-hour fast in Vancouver to show their outrage at the arrest of members of the KI band council.
  • The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs cancelled a meeting with the Manitoba Cabinet as a protest against the actions taken by Ontario against KI.

The article below, written by Joan Kuyek of Mining Watch Canada, provides important background on these cases and the attitude of the Ontario government towards mining profiteers, community integrity, and indigenous rights. It is reprinted in Socialist Voice with permission from The Bullet, a Socialist Project newsletter.

KI is urging supporters of these political prisoners to contribute the Ardoch defense fund. Cheques payable to “Chris Reid In Trust for Ardoch Algonquin First Nation” should be mailed to: Christopher M. Reid, Barrister & Solicitor, 154 Monarch Park Ave.,Toronto, ON M4J 4R6 Canada.

The Ontario Mining Act, Political Prisoners and the Right to Say “NO”

By Joan Kuyek

In February 2008, the leadership of the Ardoch Algonquins were sentenced for contempt because of their unwavering opposition to uranium exploration on their traditional territory in eastern Ontario. Bob Lovelace, a university professor from Queen’s University and an Ardoch spokesperson, was sentenced to six months detention and fined $25,000 (with further costs against himself and other community members pending). Chief Paula Sherman was fined $15,000. Leaders of the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation also face contempt charges.

On March 17th, the Chief and five members of the Council from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) in far northern Ontario were sentenced to six months in jail for their peaceful opposition to drilling for platinum on their traditional lands. Charges against former KI spokesperson John Cutfeet will be heard on May 5. The Aboriginal leaders say it is their responsibility to protect their lands from drilling.

Non-native property owners in southern Ontario have also been charged with contempt. They are protecting their own lands from mineral staking, as well as supporting the indigenous struggle. On March 18th, the Superior Court in Kingston dismissed charges against three of them, including Frank Morrison, but the next day, six other “settlers” were charged with contempt just for being in the vicinity of the mine site. Their charges have not yet been heard.

Why is there a growing outcry?

There is a growing outcry across Ontario, demanding an end to mining’s privileged access to land, and the right of affected peoples and communities to be able to say “no” to mineral exploration and mining development. A loose collaboration of groups from the Aboriginal, environmental, social justice, anti-poverty, development and human rights communities have come together to demand that the Ontario Mining Act be changed. There are weekly rallies and protests across the province.

At least 11 other First Nations in northern Ontario have called for a halt to staking and drilling on their traditional territories;

Twelve municipalities and 2 counties in southern Ontario have supported requests for a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining in the Ottawa River Watershed.

The Ottawa City Council passed a resolution on February 27, 2008 petitioning the Province of Ontario and Premier Dalton McGuinty to initiate an immediate moratorium on uranium mineral prospecting, exploration and mining in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa River watershed until such a time that all environmental and health issues related to uranium mining and native land claims are resolved. The City also asked Ontario to undertake an immediate comprehensive public review of the Mining Act.

No less a voice than the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) called for reform of the Mining Act in his December 2007 report.

The ECO stated, “[t]he existing regulatory structure treats public land as freely open to mineral exploration. The consideration of other interests, such as protection of ecological values, is reactionary, and the question of whether mineral development may be inappropriate is not answered upfront. Instead it is assumed that mineral development is appropriate almost everywhere and that it is the “best” use of Crown land in almost all circumstances.”

What is Free Entry?

The free entry system is a method of granting mineral rights and giving the mining industry free access to lands in its search of minerals. It is the system of mineral tenure in place throughout Canada with the exception of Alberta. Ontario’s Mining Act allows exploration activities, including felling trees, blasting and drilling, trenching and the construction of temporary roads and shelters, without any public consultation or environmental assessment. When and if an economically viable mineral deposit is found, there is no effective bar to the development of a mine.

Free entry is an old European concept based on the right to minerals regardless of who owns the surface rights. The Mining Act of Ontario was passed in 1873 and was developed at a time when picks and shovels were used for mining. Technology has changed dramatically over the years, but the system has not. It gives individuals and mining companies the exclusive right to Crown-owned mineral substances from the surface of a mineral claim downwards.

There are three primary rights associated with the system of free entry:

  • The right of entry and access on the majority of land
  • The right to locate and have a claim recorded without consulting land users;
  • The right to acquire a mining lease with no discretion on the part of the Crown.

The Mining Act free entry system fails to recognize First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis and as treaty partners and violates First Nation constitutional rights to consultation and accommodation prior to government decisions being made that might affect their interests.

What are some of the demands?

The collaboration of groups that have come together to end Free Entry and secure justice for the political prisoners are demanding that the provincial government:

  • Stop allowing the staking of claims and mining leases, and/or exploration that violates constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights, including the right to consultation and accommodation;
  • Comprehensively reform the Mining Act (including the free entry system) in consultation with Aboriginal peoples and with other affected stakeholders to reconcile differing land values prior to exploration and prospecting, ensure the protection of the natural environment , incorporate the right of affected peoples to say “no” to mineral exploration and development, and recognize Aboriginal and treaty rights. Replace it with a permit system.
  • Undertake an independent and effective environmental assessment of each stage of mineral activity. Include an assessment of the cumulative impacts of proposed exploration and mining projects. Incorporate public participation and provide funding to intervenors to make this effective.
  • Enter into good faith negotiations with the KI and Algonquin peoples to ensure their rights are fully respected and that the land in dispute is withdrawn from staking.
  • Grant an amnesty for any persons charged with contempt in these case, and release Lovelace, and the KI6 from jail.

What are the underlying economic issues?

When the mineral industry talks about “sustainable mining,” they neglect to tell us that

  • most mines last less than 15 years,
  • mining is in fact a waste management industry, leaving behind as much as 30 tonnes of waste rock and toxic tailings for every ounce of gold it extracts, which will have to be monitored and managed forever
  • the local community may get some jobs and contracts from the mine, the government may get something in taxes, but the profits will overwhelmingly flow to major shareholders of the company
  • Local communities bear the brunt of the environmental and health costs during and after the mine, and are often ill equipped to protect their interests.

Although it may create short-term capital infusion for desperate communities, mining does not provide a sustainable base for the development of local economies. The government investments that are required to open new mines and keep mines operating, would be better spent on remediation and closure, on sustainable, closed-loop and import-substitution economic development for remote communities, on research and support for metals recycling, and on caring for the health concerns of affected residents.

Where mining does take place, it must be made to better serve the development needs for an entire region, through effective land use planning and decent resource rents.

At present, the greatest government investment in communities where mining is declining is in keeping the mining sector going through subsidies; through finding a new ore body; and/or through re-mining tailings and waste rock etc. Once a region commits to one mine, it is committing to mining as long as ore can be found. The mining industry advocates for planning policies that “sterilize” areas of significant mineral potential from development other than mining. In the long run, as the environment becomes more polluted, everyone comes out worse.

The junior mining industry which does most of the exploration, is, in fact, only mining investors, and provides more jobs and economic stimulation on Bay Street than it does in the north. Most rich deposits have already been depleted; the cost of developing new mines is spiralling out of control; and credit is very hard to find. The only companies able to build new mines now are large multi-nationals that have been able to benefit from high commodity prices, and have cash to burn. Increasingly, they are using their wealth in mergers and acquisitions.

This is not a pretty picture, and is likely to get worse.


Related reading

Ontario Jails First Nation Leaders; KI Pledges to Continue the Struggle

On March 18, six members of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation were sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court, for opposing mining company operations on their traditional lands in Northwestern Ontario. The imprisoned leaders include the majority of members of the KI Band Council.

This follows similar contempt of court sentences against activists from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, near Kingston Ontario, for blocking uranium mining operations on their land.

The following statement was issued on March 20 by the KI Council.


Kitchenuhmaykoosib, Ontario – We are saddened today that our leaders have been jailed for contempt and they’re there for what they strongly believe – to protect Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Homelands!

As a result of our community assembly on March 18, 2008, the present Chief and Council notably, Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, Head Councillor Cecilia Begg, Councillors Samuel McKay and Darryl Sainnawap are still our leaders and are deemed equivalent as leaders in exile as expressed by the people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib. One band member, Bruce Sakakeep is also in jail for contempt as well.

The remaining Council members Susan Nanokeesic, Kenny Martin and Angus McKay are still politically active at the community level with the assistance of a working group consisting of 18 community members.

With consultation between the exiled Council members and the Council in Kitchenuhmaykoosib, we take strong stand on the following:

1. No Parliamentarian, be it federal or provincial member, is allowed in the Homelands of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug;

2. No more free entry to Kitchenuhamaykoosib lands by Platinex or any other mining entity including First Nation mining companies;

3. Ongoing blockade will be more protected and secured in order to protect our KI Homelands;

4. Assembly of First Nations must abandon the partnership agreements with the mining industry in Canada;

5. All First Nation political territorial organizations in Ontario do not speak directly for or on behalf of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, but their support on the issue is welcome;

6. Ontario must respond to our proposal made with our brothers and sisters of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, to establish a joint panel on mining on First Nations lands.

There is suspicion and fear on our part as a result of the court’s disposition on our leaders. There is no more sense of safety and well being for all Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug to rely on the Canadian government’s legal and statutory obligations on our people, especially the government of Ontario. The court document and its disposition gives us anxiety and terror for we are all distressed enough with our present social and economic situation.

The court ruling is a deliberate attack on the blood, bone and spirit of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug. It referenced many cases and ancient views of “rule of law” that we don’t agree with it. The mention of “Magna Carta” is no exception. Ontario uses it to make a false disposition on our people. The remnants of Magna Carta did indeed killed off many Indigenous peoples in both South and North Americas. The principle of that no one is above the law is hypocritical as displayed by the government of Ontario!

The Ontario emissary, Mr. Michael Bryant came to our community and offered no formal agenda and plan for negotiations. There was no real substance for negotiations despite what he said in a press release dated March 17, 2008. Unfortunately, this is the day that our leaders were imprisoned. The Ontario emissary Mr. Bryant is indeed speaking fork-tongued, repeated once again as Treaty Commissioners did back in 1929. He is not formally talking to anyone at KI as he professes to be!

KI Council along with our brothers and sisters at Ardoch Algonquin First Nation who are facing similar situation jointly submitted a proposal to Ontario outlining moratorium on exploration and mining in the disputed areas; a joint panel to consist three-party membership to investigate exploration and mining issues; and to negotiate interim measures agreement. Mr. Bryant did not take our proposal seriously and he will not even mention any of the contents described.

We are very thankful for those that supported us from the beginning and we still need your support more than ever. With your ongoing support, KI will prevail.


For additional information see the websites of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations.

KI is urging supporters of these political prisoners to contribute the Ardoch defense fund. Cheques payable to “Chris Reid In Trust for Ardoch Algonquin First Nation” should be mailed to:

Christopher M. Reid, Barrister & Solicitor,
154 Monarch Park Ave.,
Toronto, ON M4J 4R6
Canada

Venezuelan Socialists Discuss Program and Principles

by Socialist Voice editors

The founding congress of the newly organized United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is now under way. A translation of the PSUV’s Draft Program and Declaration of Principles has been posted on the website of the Australian-based journal Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called for the creation of a political instrument to unify the country’s revolutionary forces in December, 2006. The founding congress, convened on January 12, 2008, involves some 1,676 congress delegates elected from almost 15,000 socialist battalions — local units of the PSUV. Over the next two months, they will discuss and debate the draft program, principles and statutes of the new party.

Between congress sessions, delegates will return to their local regions and battalions to ensure the widest possible discussion of these documents among the ranks of the new party.

The draft program and principles are important documents, not just for the Venezuelan left, but for progressive and revolutionary forces worldwide. We encourage Socialist Voice readers to study them carefully.

Also available now on the Links website:

  • Pakistan Collapsing, Musharraf Must Go
    By Farooq Tariq, General Secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan

    Pakistan is on the fast track to collapse under the Pervez Musharraf dictatorship. The state is in profound crisis. The infrastructure, industrial and social, is in total chaos as an economic crisis deepens.
  • Indianismo and Marxism: The Mismatch of Two Revolutionary Rationales
    by Álvaro García Linera, Vice-President of Bolivia
    Translated, with an Introduction, by Richard Fidler

    This important article traces the contradictory evolution of the two most influential revolutionary currents in Bolivia’s 20th century history and argues that Marxism, as originally interpreted by its Bolivian adherents, failed to address the outstanding concerns of the Indigenous majority. García Linera suggests, however, that the evolution of indianismo in recent decades opens perspectives for a renewal of Marxist thought and potentially the reconciliation of the two currents in a higher synthesis.


About Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal

From the Links website:

Links is a journal for the post Cold War left; a journal that rejects the Stalinist distortion of the socialist project; a journal that takes into account ecological questions; a journal that is taking steps to unify and bring together the forces for socialism in the world today; a journal that aspires to unite Marxists from different political traditions because it discusses openly and constructively.”

“Inspired by the unfolding socialist revolution in Venezuela, led by Hugo Chavez, Links is also a journal for `Socialism in the 21st Century’ and the discussions and debates that are flowing from that powerful example of socialist renewal.”

The editorial advisory board of Links includes Peter Boyle, Lisa Macdonald, John Percy and Terry Townsend (Australia), John Riddell (Canada), Dita Sari (Indonesia), Farooq Tariq (Pakistan), Sonny Melencio (Philippines), Murray Smith (Scotland), and Malik Miah (United States).

Links recently changed from a printed journal to a web-based project that seeks to promote the international exchange of information, experience of struggle, theoretical analysis and views of political strategy and tactics within the international left.

Free subscription: To be notified by email when new articles are published, go to the Links website and click “Subscribe to Links” in the main menu.

Roots and Revolutionary Dynamics of Indigenous Struggles in Canada

A Movement for Land and Self-Determination

By Mike Krebs

Mike Krebs is an indigenous activist in Vancouver and a contributing editor to Socialist Voice. This article is based on a talk given at the Vancouver Socialist Educational Conference in March 2007.

The indigenous question is one of the most political issues in Canada today – perhaps the most important. There are indigenous struggles going on in many different levels across Canada. There are struggles over land and resources such as that happening up north with the Tahltan nation, who are opposing the mining developments happening on their territory against their wishes. There is the similar situation with the Six Nations, who are opposing the theft of the Haldimand Tract in southwestern Ontario and the development that is going on there.

There are also indigenous people fighting poverty in indigenous communities both on and off reserve. The mainstream media carry many articles exposing what people do or should already know about, which is the horrible conditions that indigenous people are forced to live under in the Canadian colonial society.

Another major issue that indigenous people are dealing with and fighting, is the way that the lives of indigenous women are devalued in the colonial society, and how this  leads to such widespread instances of indigenous women disappearing and being killed. This has been an issue in Vancouver with women going missing from the Downtown Eastside and up north along the Highway of Tears, the highway that runs between Prince Rupert and Prince George. This also happens in cities all across the Prairies, especially in Saskatoon. It is an urgent question.

The indigenous struggle for self-determination is a revolutionary struggle. Yet it receives little recognition from leftist activists, currents, parties, and organizations in Canada.

Many groups talk about indigenous struggles or cover them in their publications, but generally reframe these struggles in a way that does not address their revolutionary content. One example of this is the tendency of some left groups to frame the indigenous struggle in Canada as one of an oppressed minority, without taking up the question of land and the question of indigenous people as nations. This approach unscientifically separates the discrimination that indigenous people face from its material base.

The reality is that indigenous people are repeatedly finding themselves on opposing ends from leftists when it comes to leftist theory and practice.

Living standards of indigenous people in Canada

As a starting place for looking at indigenous struggles in Canada, it is important to outline the current conditions that indigenous people are forced to live under. One of the ways to do this is look at some basic statistics. Here are a few that are taken from a report published by the Canadian Population Health Collective in 2004 called “Improving the Health of Canadians.” This is of course only one way to understand the kind of conditions indigenous people live under, but it gives a general idea:

  • More than one-third of indigenous people live in homes that do not meet the most basic government standards of acceptability.
  • Average life expectancy for indigenous people is ten years less than the Canadian average.
  • Indigenous children die at three times the rate of non-indigenous children, and are more likely to be born with severe birth defects and conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • The suicide rate of indigenous people is six times higher than the Canada-wide average.
  • Tuberculosis rates are 16 times higher in indigenous communities than the rest of the population, and HIV and AIDS infection is growing fastest among indigenous people.

We could go on and add to this the high rates of unemployment; the higher rates of being subjected to violence, whether it’s domestic or at the hands of police; the higher rates of incarceration, victimization by sexual assault, child apprehension and the lower level of access to formal education.

None of these statistics should be a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the conditions of indigenous people in Canada. These statistics are produced, repeated and exposed over and over again. Indigenous people don’t need to read these numbers to understand our situation, because this is just a basic description of day-to-day life, and this is only touching the surface.

But what’s really important to understand is why indigenous people face these conditions. Without the “why” of things, these statistics are meaningless towards understanding what they are portraying.

The true history of the development of Canada is significant, because the conditions that indigenous people live under today are the result of hundreds of years of the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands and resources. They are the result of a genocidal campaign against indigenous people at the hands of Canadian colonialism, and hundreds of years of suppression of the development of indigenous nations.

This process of colonization involved many stages, across Canada and the Americas, and it manifested itself in different ways. Here we are only looking at the general picture.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763

The early colonization of North America involved destroying the traditional societies and economies. This was carried out in the pursuit of the hegemony of merchant, and eventually industrial capitalism.

During the early stages of British and French colonialism, the British produced Royal Proclamation of 1763. This was basically a recognition by the British of the right of indigenous people to their land. This document is brought up a lot by indigenous people, because it is seen as the colonial government admitting and acknowledging that it cannot and should not take indigenous lands and territories without some sort of consent or arrangement. In terms of Canadian law and the perspective of indigenous people, there has been nothing since then that has revoked the Proclamation of 1763.

But why did the British, at this point, recognize indigenous rights to their lands and resources, and then go ahead and completely ignore them?

There are three major contexts that have to be understood in looking at the Proclamation of 1763. One is the balance of forces that existed at the time between the British and French settler societies and the indigenous population. This is prior to industrialization, and is at a time when indigenous people still made up the vast majority of the population in what became Canada. So the settler society was qualitatively and quantitatively in a much weaker position than it would soon become.

Second, this document was issued during an indigenous insurgency led by Chief Pontiac against the colonial policies of the British, during which several British forts were besieged and others completely destroyed. The British needed to respond to this insurgency, and in issuing the Royal Proclamation hoped to placate the indigenous people involved in this uprising.

Finally, this document was meant to protect the interests of British colonialism against those of French colonialism. This document came out of the French defeat by the British at this time, when the main interest of the British over Canada was the extraction of primary resources, such as furs.

The intention of the document was to prevent further settlement by French settlers on indigenous land. For the British, indigenous territory was little more than a vast hunting ground, that needed to be kept free of settlement. The majority of people who were gathering these resources for Companies like the Hudson’s Bay Company were indigenous.

What this all means is that the British had an interest in enshrining at least some rights for indigenous people, as the protection of these rights served the interests of British merchants.

This early merchant capitalism started to slowly have an effect and transform indigenous societies. Traditionally indigenous people were hunting, and in some cases farming, for the purposes of local consumption, or engaging in small-scale trade with other indigenous peoples for tradeable goods.  But the influence of the fur trade economy through the Hudson’s Bay Company, the French and the British, changed these hunting practices to primitive accumulation of these same goods in exchange for products from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and eventually straight for cash.

This created some instances where the development of capitalism, though it was inherently exploitative process, was being carried out with some degree of cooperation between the settlers and at least some indigenous people. This is how the development of the Metis Nation should be understood, as a society comprised of indigenous and settler culture, growing out of this process around the trade of fur and other natural resources.

Understanding the development of the Metis nation is important because it shows that the impending genocide against indigenous people wasn’t a necessary part of the development of production in Canada. In this period there was some degree of cooperation, at least from indigenous people, with the settler society, a willingness to co-exist.

But over time, the dominant trend was towards a complete dispossession of indigenous people from their lands and resources.

From ‘co-existence’ to conquest

As industrial capitalism developed, the importance of the fur trade and other forms of primary accumulation dropped. What became more important was the need to implement private property relations as the foundation for the further penetration of a market economy. This directly clashed with indigenous land rights, because it involved speeding up the transformation of these lands into private homesteads held by non-indigenous people.

This rapid settlement met with a lot of resistance from indigenous people in Canada. There were the Metis and Northwest Rebellions, and numerous battles across what would become Canada, including large-scale resistance by the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) and by indigenous people along the northwest coast.

These were battles over the land, and also over different conceptions of economic property relations, different conceptions of what the land meant. Indigenous people did have some concepts of ownership. Territories used primarily by a particular indigenous society were belongings of a people, clan, or family. But this is completely different from the European conception of private property that was being imposed in this process.

This process also clashed with the concept that was held by many indigenous people of the ability to co-exist with the people who were coming from Europe and settling there. One of the more well-known examples is the Two-Row Wampum that is still upheld by the Haudenosaunee people. This was an agreement made with an understanding that people were coming from Europe and settling on indigenous lands, but that this land could be shared. Indigenous people and the European societies might live totally separately, and might develop in different directions, but would nonetheless be able to share the territory in a more or less peaceful manner.

But colonialism, in its drive to seize indigenous peoples’ lands and resources and to implement private property, left no room for this coexistence whatsoever. By the end of the 19th century, the colonizers had a more advanced army with an entire empire behind it. This was backed up with the divide and conquer tactics that were played out over several generations against different indigenous people, and in many cases the complete destruction of indigenous peoples’ traditional economic base. In this context, indigenous resistance to this process was effectively quelled.

Almost all indigenous land was expropriated, and the vast majority of indigenous people were forced onto reservations. In some cases, there was a piece of paper that the government could point to, known as a treaty, so that they could at least claim that they took the land fair and square. For most of the lands in B.C., however, they don’t even have this, and by their own admission stole this land outright.

Cultural assimilation, germ warfare, genocide

The next major stage in this colonial process going into the 20th century was the attempted forced “assimilation” of indigenous people. This was done with the promise of educating indigenous people and “civilizing” them, supposedly in order to integrate us into Canadian society. It should be obvious to anyone familiar with the true history of Canada that this is all completely nonsense.

The first means through which this “civilizing mission” was carried out was the residential school system, which was above all a means of destroying indigenous societies.

The residential school system had the effect of fostering complete self-hatred in most of those who went through it, building a collective psychology within indigenous people in the colonizer’s image. Indigenous people were forced to internalize a conception of themselves as being drunken, lazy, and stupid.

This was done by dislocating indigenous people from their communities, putting children in schools where they were punished for speaking their languages. There was also the rampant, systematic sexual abuse and rape against indigenous people, an experience that has negatively affected the interpersonal relationships of indigenous people and will continue tro do so for generations to come.

The second significant part of this attempted forced “assimilation” was government support for economic projects by indigenous people. In many indigenous communities, the government supplied training and resources for people to have their own farming projects, and in other areas, fishing projects, or economic projects of a similar nature.

These were projects that were designed to fail. What was really behind these projects was to promote the  belief among indigenous people that they would be able to “make it” in the dominant settler society. (This is very similar to the illusions that are put in the minds of other working and oppressed people, the illusion that in Canada people can become their own bosses and achieve greatness along that path.)

Originally many of these farming and commercial fishing projects by indigenous people were very successful. In the reserve my family is from, Piikani, we were given some of the worst farmland in the area, and yet we were very successful initially in adapting and getting farming going.

But this was happening at the same time as, in our particular case, we lost up to 80 percent of our population in a period of 25 years, basically to biological warfare: deaths from tuberculosis, smallpox, and other diseases. This early farming was also happening when people were being forced into the residential schools, both on and off the reserves.

So of course in this context indigenous people were not able to compete as new players in the growing market economy, and with few exceptions, these indigenous-run farms collapsed.

Indigenous resurgence and “Red Power”

These processes dominated the experience of indigenous people up to around the mid-twentieth-century, when there was an upsurge of indigenous resistance. (This is not to say that indigenous resistance to Canadian colonialism ever subsided: it wasn’t until 1924 that the Iroquois Confederacy, the traditional government of the Haudenosaunee was forcibly broken up by the Canadian government and the band council system was imposed on those communities.)

The 1960s gave rise to the Red Power movement. This movement was heavily influenced by the upsurge of anti-colonial struggles all over the world, including in Vietnam, Algeria, and Cuba. It was also influenced by the Black Power movement that was a growing force in the USA.

This was also happening when there was a very large migration of indigenous people off reserves and into cities, and it was this population that formed the seed of the Red Power movement.

It is significant to note that many of those involved in this were among the most assimilated indigenous people: very urbanized, with relatively more formal education than previous generations. And yet, despite that, the dominant tendency of the indigenous struggle in Canada and the U.S. at the time and up to the present, has been a national one. The aims and orientation of this struggle haven’t been towards struggling for “recognition,” for acceptance, for integration, or parity within the Canadian or U.S. society. Instead, the struggle has  been against the dominant path of these colonial societies, rejecting the very legitimacy of the existence of these nation states.

This struggle has been coupled with a tremendous revival of indigenous culture over the last 2 or 3 decades. Indigenous people were able to start to learn about the real histories, about their backgrounds. Languages considered “dead” by the anthropologists are starting to return.

This stems from indigenous people having a common understanding of the roots of indigenous oppression: that the Canadian state is an entity of occupation, that it exists at the expense of indigenous people. And the problems that we face today stem directly from this occupation.

Indigenous struggles continue

We are not just talking about land as a historical question either. To this day, infringement on indigenous territory continues and is still deepening. This is happening primarily at the hands of Canadian mining and land development companies. It includes, for example, the territory of the Tahltan Nation, the Six Nations territory near Caledonia, and the logging of Cree territory near Grassy Narrows.

Indigenous people are also trying to stop the International Monetary Fund-style deals that are being forced upon us in the form of so-called “modern treaties.” These agreements are an attempt to pave the way for the eventual elimination of the reserve system, which is the last cohesive land base that indigenous people are able to live on.

For this reason, the most pointed indigenous struggles over the last couple decades, the ones that have electrified indigenous people across Canada, have been assertions of indigenous peoples’ rights over their lands. These are struggles framed by indigenous people as a struggle over the land that belongs to us as nations. These are happening regardless of the relatively small size of the indigenous population in Canada. And despite our numbers, when indigenous people assert these rights, it has a huge impact on the overall politics of Canada.

To emphasize the significance of indigenous struggles for land is to present the objective reality in Canada today. It’s not to say that indigenous people’s movements are completely separate from other struggles going on in Canada, including of course the struggles of working people. The participation of indigenous people in the workforce in Canada is actually a lot higher than the perception. Historically, and up to the present, indigenous people still make up the vast majority of the reserve army of labour. There is large participation of indigenous people in skilled and semiskilled labour jobs, including participation in the construction industry, mining, fishing, logging. There is also a significant amount of indigenous women working in clerical jobs.

In the last decade more and more indigenous people have entered post-secondary schools and middle-class professions: doctors, teachers, lawyers, different types of administrative positions. But none of this has changed the fact that as indigenous people we still frame our struggles mainly as national struggles, and we still see this as the primary battle that we face.

Indigenous people are fighting for the ability to decide what can and cannot happen with indigenous land and resources. We are fighting for real control over the institutions that affect our lives directly: education, the judicial system, community services. Or, in situations where indigenous people have their own living structures, models or institutions, we struggle for these to be respected, and that there be no more attempts to try and destroy them. We are struggling as indigenous people for the space to develop institutions that actually serve our needs.

Revolutionary dynamics of the indigenous struggle

It is essential that other working and oppressed people support these aspirations, and support the right of indigenous nations for self-determination. Their struggle has a revolutionary dynamic that inherently challenges Canadian capitalism. The indigenous question in Canada cannot be solved within the confines of Canadian capitalism. The Canadian government and corporations cannot afford even relatively small concessions, let alone the much larger concessions that would be necessary to allow the space for indigenous communities to solve the numerous problems we face, in a way that is just and in a way that is lasting.

The Canadian ruling class understands this, and this is why they pay so much attention to indigenous struggles. The assertion of indigenous rights challenges the very legitimacy of Canada as a nation-state.

In conclusion, it must be understood that the indigenous struggle in Canada is part of the larger struggle of indigenous people that is unfolding at the international scale. Indigenous people are on the move throughout Latin America, especially in Bolivia, Mexico, and Ecuador. The indigenous struggle in Canada has to be understood as part of other indigenous struggles, like that of the Palestinian people, who have been waging for decades a national liberation struggle, against the occupation of their land by the Israeli Apartheid state. These struggles and their significance must be understood, appreciated, and supported, in order to make revolutionary change, here in Canada and internationally.

Support the Indigenous Struggle in Peru; A Letter from Hugo Blanco

Support the Indigenous Struggle in Peru

Canadian Solidarity Network Builds Aid and Solidarity for Hugo Blanco’s Newspaper
In the 1960s, Hugo Blanco was the central leader of the “Land or Death!” struggle by indigenous peasants in the Cuzco region of Peru. When he was captured by the military dictatorship, a worldwide defense campaign first saved his life, then won his freedom from prison.

Hugo Blanco needs our help again today. His newspaper Lucha Indígena (Indigenous Struggle) is a vital voice for indigenous and other rural farmers in the Andes region of South Abya Yala (America). It urgently needs financial support to enable more frequent publication and to expand distribution.

The Lucha Indígena Solidarity Network has been formed to raise money and other material support for the newspaper, and to promote communication and collaboration between Lucha Indígena and First Nations Activists in the north.

The members of the initiating committee are: James Cockcroft (Montreal), Phil Stuart Cournoyer (Managua), Darrel Furlotte (Toronto), Urpi Pine (Toronto), Mike Krebs (Vancouver), Jacqueline Perez (Montreal), John Riddell (Toronto), Wayne Roberts (Toronto), and Nelson Rubio (St. Catharines)

  • Donations to support Lucha Indígena newspaper should be mailed to Darrel Furlotte, 136 Clinton St. Toronto, Ont., M6G 2Y3. (Make cheques out to Lucha Indígena Solidarity Network)
     
  • Direct bank deposits may be made to: Lucha Indígena Solidarity Network, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 641 College Street, Toronto, Ontario. Transit #08902; Institution #010; Account # 1040936. (Please email lucha.indigena@gmail.com to confirm your direct deposit.)

Donations that may seem small by the standards of the global north can make a huge difference to this important project. Please contribute as generously as you can.


A Letter from Hugo Blanco

October 12, 2007 — Continental Day of 515 years
of Indigenous and Black Struggle Against the European
Conquest of Abya Yala

Dear sisters and brothers:

Private property in the means of production has been converted into private property in the means of destruction.

No need to mention the atomic bomb!

We see global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, the poisoning of river, lake, and sea waters, contaminated air in more and more cities, and the massacres during wars of invasion, etc. As long as private property in the means of destruction goes on the accelerated depredation of nature will also go on — relentlessly.

They tell us about globalization, but we see anti-globalization walls erected in North America and Palestine, as well as the invisible walls that impede more and more of us inhabitants of poor countries from getting into the rich countries.

The reason for this situation is that the huge multinational enterprises are leading “globalization” to serve their own interests to make more money in the least time possible. To do that, they are assaulting nature and drowning the rest of humanity in misery.

We stand for another kind of globalization, one led by humanity in its own interests, and in the interests of nature.

To that end, we are now globalizing our resistance. We are globalizing hope for a new world.

Native peoples of Abya Yala (the “Americas”) as a whole feel deeply wounded by the egoistic and individualist culture and the assault on nature imposed by the multinational firms – because our culture is rooted in solidarity and love for nature.

That’s why we are in the front line of resistance and struggle against this culture that is attacking all human kind and nature in general.

The Lucha Indígena Solidarity Network exemplifies this globalization of resistance and hope. Our editors are highly aware and moved by your solidarity, both moral and economic.

That solidarity commits us to keep you informed in a regular way with progress made in the work that you are supporting.

We pledge to do that, and we will.

With deep affection,

Hugo Blanco
Cusco, Peru

(Translated by Phil Stuart Cournoyer)

Declaration of Indigenous Congress in Bolivia

The struggle is unceasing, we will continue our resistance until our time comes!

A Formal Summons to World States by Indigenous First Nations and Peoples

Declaration of the World Encounter
‘For the Historic Victory of the Indigenous Peoples of the World’

Chimoré, Cochabamba, Bolivia,
October 12, 2007

From the heart of South America, on this 12th day of October, 2007, the delegates of the indigenous first nations and peoples of the world, meeting in the World Encounter “For the Historic Victory of the Indigenous Peoples of the World,” to celebrate the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, hereby declare:

That, after 515 years of oppression and domination, here we stand; they have been unable to eliminate us. We have confronted and resisted the policies of ethnocide, genocide, colonization, destruction and plunder. The imposition of such economic systems as capitalism, characterized by interventionism, wars and socio-environmental disasters, a system that continues to threaten our ways of life as peoples.

That as a consequence of the neoliberal policy of domination of nature, the search for easy profits from the concentration of capital in a few hands and the irrational exploitation of natural resources, our Mother Earth is fatally injured, while the indigenous peoples are still being displaced from our territories. The planet is warming up. We are experiencing an unprecedented change in climate with ever-stronger and more frequent socio-environmental disasters, affecting all of us without exception.

That we are trapped in a great energy crisis, with the Age of Petroleum coming to an end, and without having found a clean alternative energy that can substitute for it in the necessary quantities to maintain that Western civilization that has made us totally dependent on hydrocarbons.

That this situation may be a threat that will leave us exposed to the danger that neoliberal and imperialist policies trigger wars for the last drops of the so-called black gold and blue gold, but may also give us the opportunity to make this new millennium a millennium of life, a millennium of balance and complementarity, without having to take advantage of energies that destroy Mother Earth.

That both the natural resources and the lands and territories we inhabit are ours for history, for birth, in law and for ever, and that the power to determine their use is fundamental to our ability to maintain our life, sciences, learning, spirituality, organization, medicines and food sovereignty.

That a new era is beginning, promoted by the original indigenous peoples, and bringing again times of change, times of Pachakuti,[1] in the times of the culmination of the Quinto Sol.[2]

That we welcome the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is essential for the survival and well-being of the more than 370 million native peoples in some 70 countries of the world. After more than 20 years of struggle, it is responsive to our historical demand for self-determination of the peoples and recognition of ourselves and our collective rights.

The adopted declaration contains a set of principles and norms that recognize and establish in the international regulatory system the fundamental rights of the Indigenous Peoples, those that must be the basis of the new relationship between the Indigenous Peoples, states, societies and cooperation throughout the world. In addition, therefore, to the other existing juridical instruments governing human rights, the declaration is the new regulatory and practical basis for guaranteeing and protecting indigenous rights in various spheres and at various levels.

We call on the member countries of the United Nations and encourage the indigenous peoples to implement and comply with this important instrument of historical significance. We censure those governments that have voted in opposition to the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and condemn their double standards.

That we pledge to support the historic effort being led by our brother Evo Morales, President of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala,[3] in the construction of a new plurinational State. We will be vigilant in the face of any threat, internal or external, to the process in Bolivia and we call on the peoples of the planet to lend their support and solidarity to this process, which ought to serve as an example so that the Peoples, Nations and States of the world continue along this path.

Accordingly, the Indigenous Peoples and Nations of the world demand that the States fulfill the following mandates:

  1. To construct a world based on the Culture of Life, in the identity, philosophy, world view and age-old spirituality of the original indigenous peoples, applying the aboriginal knowledge and skills, strengthening the processes of interchange and brotherhood among the nations and respecting self-determination.
     
  2. To make national and international decisions to save Mother Nature from the disasters that are being brought about by capitalism in its decline, as manifested in global warming and the ecological crisis; reaffirming that the original indigenous culture is the only alternative means of saving our planet earth.
     
  3. To replace the present models of development based on capitalism, commodities, the irrational exploitation of humanity and natural resources, the squandering of energy, and consumerism, with models that establish life, complementarity, reciprocity, respect for cultural diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources as the principal priorities.
     
  4. To implement national policies governing food sovereignty as a principal basis of national sovereignty, in which the community guarantees respect for its own culture as appropriate spaces and modes of production, distribution and consumption consistent with the nature of healthy pollutant-free foods for the entire population, eliminating hunger, because food is a right to life.
  5. To repudiate schemes and projects for the generation of energy such as biofuel, which destroy and deny food to the peoples. Likewise, we condemn the use of transgenic seeds because it replaces our ancient seeding process and makes us dependent on agro-industry.
  6. To recognize and re-evaluate the role of the original indigenous woman as the vanguard of the emancipatory struggles of our peoples in accordance with the principles of duality, equality and equity of relationships between men and women.
  7. To adopt the culture of peace and life as a guide for resolving the world’s problems and conflicts, renouncing the arms race, and to initiate disarmament in order to guarantee the preservation of life on this planet.
     
  8. To adopt the just legal transformations that are necessary for the construction of systems and means of communication and information based on our world view, spirituality and communal philosophy, in the wisdom of our ancestors. To guarantee recognition of the indigenous peoples’ right to communication and information.
     
  9. To guarantee respect for and the right to life, health and bilingual intercultural education, incorporating policies of benefit to the indigenous first nations and peoples.
     
  10. To declare water to be a human right, a vital element and social property of humanity and not a source of profit. Likewise, to encourage the use of alternative energies that do not threaten the life of the planet, thereby guaranteeing access to all basic services.
     
  11. To solve cases of migration between countries in a mutually responsible way, adopting policies of free circulation of persons in order to guarantee a world without borders in which there is no discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.
     
  12. To decolonize the United Nations, and move its headquarters to a territory that dignifies and expresses the just aspirations of the peoples, nations and states of the world.
     
  13. Not to criminalize the struggles of the indigenous peoples, or demonize or accuse us of terrorism when we reclaim our rights and advance our ideas on how to save life and humanity.
     
  14. To release immediately the indigenous leaders imprisoned in various parts of the world, and in the first place Leonard Peltier in the United States.

The struggle is unceasing, we will continue our resistance until our time comes. We proclaim the 12th of October the “day of commencement of our struggles to save Mother Nature”. From our families, homes, communities, peoples, whether in government or without, we ourselves are determining and directing our destinies, we ourselves are assuming the will and responsibility to live well that has been bequeathed to us by our ancestors, to expand, from the simplest and least complicated to the greatest and most complex, to construct horizontally and mutually, each and every one, the culture of patience, the culture of dialogue and fundamentally the culture of life.

By the dead, the heroes and martyrs that lend meaning to our lives through their utopias and longings, we strengthen our identity, our organizational processes and our struggles to build the unity of the peoples of the world and to restore the balance, saving life, humanity and the planet earth.

We confirm our support for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to brother Evo Morales for his ongoing and unconditional dedication to the good of humanity, the peoples, the planet and world peace.

Footnotes

[1] “Pachakuti is a Quechua word with multiple meanings. Literally meaning turning or returning (kuti) of the earth (pacha), it is translated alternatively as ‘new beginning,’ ‘reawakening,’ ‘revolution,’ or ‘renovation.’ … It has replaced Tupaj Katari as the key symbol of indigenous resistance in the Andes, as demonstrated by its use in indigenous political parties’ names in Ecuador (Movimiento Unido Pluricultural Pachakutik) and Peru (Partido Inka Pachacúteq), as well as Felipe Quispe’s Movimiento Indígena Pachakutik. Pachakuti is also the name of a prominent 15th-century Inca leader who ruled during a time of territorial expansion (personal communication, José Antonio Lucero, 4 Dec. 2002).” – Donna Lee Van Cott, “From Exclusion to Inclusion: Bolivia’s 2002 Elections”, J. Lat. Amer. Stud. 35, 751–775, p. 764n.

[2] Literally, the Fifth Sun. See http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/mysfifthsun.html.

[3] “Continent of Life”. See http://abyayala.nativeweb.org/about.html.

Translated from America Latina en Movimiento for Bolivia Rising by Richard Fidler. Footnotes added by the translator.

The Bears Are Mounting the Silver Eagle to Meet the Condor

Mohawks Attend International Congress
of Indigenous People in Venezuela

By Kahentinetha Horn

Kahentinetha Horn of Mohawk Nation News was among the indigenous activists from Canada who went to Venezuela this month to attend the 1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of AmericaAbya Yala (See the Declaration of Kumarakapay, on the Socialist Voice website.) The following article and greetings to the congress are reprinted with permission from Mohawk Nation News. A biographical note on the author follows the article.


The Indigenous people and President Hugo Chavez are bringing together 40 Indigenous nations of Venezuela from August 7 to 9, 2007.The Mohawk delegation is made up of two women, Kahentinetha, an elder, and Karenhahes, Bear Clan Mother.

This congress is setting up a broad international movement of indigenous people to reject colonial oppression. During the 20th century, the European states that generated the colonial movement began to understand that they would destroy each other if they kept up the land and resources grab and the ensuing killing of Indigenous peoples. Colonialism was declared illegal. Canada continued to define a “person” as any individual other than an Indian until 1951. Canada still does not respect our sovereignty and presumes that their colonial law is the only law north of the 49th parallel. The U.S. usurps the Indigenous lands, resources and jurisdiction south of the 49th parallel.

Canada refuses to sign the Declaration of Indigenous rights at the United Nations, even though that declaration is a profoundly colonial instrument. International law recognizes that no state can absorb another without the free and fully informed consent of the people concerned in a free vote. The Indigenous peoples and nations never agreed to become part of Canada. Canada is addicted to old destructive models of social and economic relations and medieval ruling class credos. It thinks that social order is based on command and obedience, not agreement between equals, and that there can’t be wealth without poverty. Such nonsense.

The meeting in Venezuela will take place in Mapiricure, an indigenous community in the south. On August 9th President Hugo Chavez will be presented with the Indigenous Feather known as the “Penacho” and a headdress. This will be followed by a ceremony invoking the powers of the natural world. On that day 11 land titles will be turned over to the Indigenous Communal Councils by President Chavez.

The shamen carrying out the ceremony will be joined by shamen from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaraugua, Mexico, Panama and the U.S.

Here is a draft of the words that the Mohawk delegation will be delivering to the International Congress of Indigenous People “In Defence of the Planet,” outlining a new paradigm for human existence.

+++

Nia:wen for your invitation to witness this historic event. From our women, we bring greetings to the women of your country.

From the “Rotiyaner” who are the men of our nation, we bring greetings from our men to your men.

From our elders, those who are the grandmothers and grandfathers, we bring our greetings to you who are the grandmothers and grandfathers of this nation.

From the fathers and mothers of our nation we bring greetings to you who are the mothers and fathers to your nation.

From our young people we bring greetings to your young people of this nation.

From the children of our nation we bring greetings to the children of your nation.

From those who still crawl upon the earth and those who are still on the cradle board, we bring greetings to your children who crawl on the earth and those who are on the cradle board.

From those faces of our future who are still beneath the earth, we bring the greetings to those of your people whose faces are yet beneath the earth.

Now that we have said this, we may begin.

We would like to have had a larger delegation here to day. Due to our struggle to preserve our sovereignty we are oppressed and ignored on our own homeland we call Onowarekeh, also known also as “Turtle Island.” The foreign colonial governments of Canada and the United States limit our movements on our own land. They fail to teach their people about our existence, our philosophy, our laws.

Mr. Chavez, thank you for giving our people an opportunity to establish relations between our governments under our philosophy known as the “Kaianereh’ko:wa”, the Great Law of Peace. We are not under the colonial laws. We continue to adhere to our laws and traditions. We continue to ensure a future for our people as the Kanion’ke:haka/Mohawk.

We are the eyes and ears that will witness this event. This is the beginning of a message to other nations to work towards bringing people back together to form an alliance. We wish to develop a sane and healthy way of life that assures that all people are decently cared for.

We need to renew the solemn blood covenants that have bound all Indigenous Peoples of South America and Onowarekeh, our name for Turtle Island, for thousands of years. We are one blood. When one family member is oppressed the other must aid their covenant partners. Everyone is there to uplift each other. No one goes without.

Our perception is that the material world is to be shared and distributed equally. Our ancestors knew that when a hunter went into the woods and brought back a deer, the entire community shared in that bounty. This is common to all Indigenous peoples of the world. Those who have fallen away from these simple concepts and now practice colonialism must be brought back into the human family and saved from themselves.

We present you with a copy of the Great Law, our constitution, in both Mohawk and English, our Confederacy flag, the Unity flag and several books about us that will be of interest to you.

We, the Onkwehonweh [the original people], are the guardians of Onowarekeh. Recently South America was visited by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada. They both avoided Venezuela because they can’t understand what’s happening here and it frightens them. These are emotionally disturbed people. They don’t know how to exist on a level of equality with their fellow human beings.

They do not represent us or even the people of their countries. They follow habits of thought that have been proven to be ineffective and destructive to the continuation of human life on earth. They represent foreigners who have usurped our resources and deny us any rights to our ancestral heritage.

Our words as the true representatives are binding on Turtle Island. We have always been here. We belong to the land on which we were formed. Mr. Chavez is here with the true owners of the lands of Onowarekeh and South America. What we say between us is binding.

Under natural law and international law everyone has a right to our own government, nationality and land.

As elders of our nation, we are dedicated to work in the best interests of our people. Each of us has power in our lives. We have a duty to spread the Kaianerehkowa throughout the world. The white roots from the Tree of Peace go in the four directions. Those who wish to find shelter may trace its roots to the source. My nation and Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy are in need of this alliance at this time.

Mr. Chavez holds the same political positions as the Mohawk Nation. We are here to help fan the flames so that the fire grows larger to make a place for all humans to share its warmth and benefits.

No one needs anyone’s permission to promote alliances, unification of our peoples and to spread the peace as prescribed in the Kaianereh’ko:wa. We refuse to live under a dictatorship.

An opportunity came to us to come here. We seized it. Last September some of our people went to New York City, which is on Iroquois land, to hear Mr. Chavez speak. He was inspiring. They told us that they agreed with every word he said.

Our message of peace came to us from our ancestors, Dekanawida and Jigosaseh. They told our people to bring everyone into a covenant of peace, to link arms with all the other peoples of the world. We are continuing the work of our ancestors to bring the message of peace to you today.

South America has the same colonial past as Onowarekeh, Turtle Island. We have occupied our territories since time immemorial. This land is who we are. It is our identity. Mr. Chavez is one of us. His roots go deep into the soil, the jungles, the mountains and fields of Venezuela. From the earth he gets sustenance, vitality and ability to help his people. The people feel safe. His first instinct is to protect the Indigenous people and the visitors who are here.

Venezuela is a beautiful wealthy part of the world. Your resources are now being skillfully used to enhance the best interests of the land and the people who live upon it. You are tapping into the wellspring of ancestral memories that are hidden in the minds of every person living here.

Now all other Indigenous people are seeing that it is possible to take our lives under our own control, not be dominated by foreign forces and to do good.

We feel secure with the Venezuelans. You are competent and sure of who you are. Initially the multinational corporations felt intimidated by the turn of events. They are finding they can work with the original people in the best interests of all. Everyone is benefiting. The only way to achieve harmony and prosperity among us is to bring all our talents and innate abilities together.

Mr. Chavez has found a way to bring this out in all of his people. He represents the forces of a people who are on the move. He has offered a new paradigm. He is showing Indigenous peoples and others that we can take over our own lives and run our own affairs. We can do it so that no one feels intimidated or threatened. It is becoming the natural way to do things.

Dekanawaida and Jigosaseh, the man and woman who helped develop the Great Law of Peace, understood this. They realized that the strength of the Confederation was based on no nation dominating the others. Each, no matter how large or small, had a right to exist and remain who they are.

There was no stifling of the innate abilities of the Onondagas, Senecas, Oneidas, Cayugas, Mohawks or Tuscaroras. Larger nations did not overpower the smaller ones. We were equal. Diverse peoples were brought together to work in harmony for the benefit of everyone. No one could assert themselves over others.

This is the reason why the indigenous government in Venezuela is successful. Mr. Chavez has tapped into the same knowledge that exists in all Indigenous people. The renaissance in Venezuela is going to spread all over the world.

People always feel threatened by a new paradigm. We can expect many attacks from the colonial powers. We do not use guns but they point theirs at us. They don’t know what else to do. The young, the poor and even the middle class in the colonized countries are all suffering from the same insecurity and dislocation that has been imposed on us. They will join us once they understand.

If everyone doesn’t relearn how to look after the earth and each other, there will be nothing left for anyone to eat; no clean water to drink; and no clean air to breathe. The colonial commercial exploitation of the environment has been taken to such extremes that human life itself is in peril. We can work together to clean up the mess we have created as human beings and make the earth healthy again.

The greedy grasping power hungry people who are trying to gain control over all of humanity have lost touch with reality. Just when they think that they have achieved their goal of absolute control and domination, the pyramid of delusion will collapse beneath their feet. Life itself will be gone.

Nobody wants to suffer the consequences of a collapse of this order. Venezuela has a model that is working. People are free and work together to develop everyone to their full potential in whatever area of life they have chosen.

When somebody wants to go from one place to another through forests, jungles, swamps, deserts or mountains, somebody always goes ahead and cuts the trail. The others follow the steps of those who went ahead. They all get to their destination safely. It takes a courageous visionary to see far ahead the dangers that are prowling around. Hugo Chavez is a trailblazer in the realm of the world’s progressives. He helps whole groups of people move forward together. He is setting in motion an act that others will follow.

We have a chance to see how this model is working to its fullest potential so that the good life and good health is shared by all equally. We feel gratified and honored that we are taking part in the dedication of the land to the original people. We need more people like Hugo Chavez all over the world. We hope for the continued good health of Mr. Chavez, who cares to lead in troubled times. Artificial ways will dissolve themselves because they are not real. Humanity must go back to the natural relationships. We salute you, Venezuela, for showing the world how your humanitarian goals are being achieved and are inspiring others to achieve”.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kahentinetha Horn is a longtime indigenous rights activist from the Mohawk Nation. She was involved in the 1962 Conference on Indian Poverty in Washington D.C., the blocking of the International Bridge at Akwesasne in 1968, and other indigenous rights campaigns.In the summer of 1990, she was behind the Canadian Army razor wires that surrounded the Mohawk compound in Kanehsatake. This was the historic Mohawk land rights struggle that became known as the “Oka Crisis.” After almost 20 years of service, Kahentinetha was fired by the Department of Indian Affairs for her involvement there.

More recently Kahentinetha has been involved with the Kahnawake Elders Council, and was active at the Six Nations Land reclamation near Caledonia, Ontario, publishing and distributing almost daily accounts of the developments there.

Kahentinetha Horn is an editor for Mohawk Nation News, a daily news service that she founded during the Oka crisis. Recently, Mohawk Nation News came online. It features articles on Mohawk struggles and other issues affecting indigenous people across turtle island and beyond. Check out the site at www.mohawknationnews.com.

Declaration of Kumarakapay

1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of America — Abya Yala

“Constructing Indoamerican Socialism”

(Translated by Federico Fuentes, Bolivia Rising.
See also “The Bears Are Mounting the Silver Eagle to Meet the Condor”)

Meeting in the ancestral territories of Kumarakapay; which our indigenous brothers and sisters of the Pemon People inhabit; within the framework of the 1st International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala; held in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, over the days 7, 8 and 9 of August, 2007; conscious of our existence as peoples since millenarian times and with the full conviction of continuing to act in defense of life and the planet, the people united here, from 21 different countries of our continent, from Alaska to the Patagonia, have agreed to emit the following declaration:

We are youth, women, men, grandmothers and grandfathers of the originario [first] peoples, who since time immemorial have live in Abya Yala; descendents from our aboriginal guerilla forefathers, defenders, precursors and founders of a free and sovereign homeland, of great liberators, such as Bolivar, Artigas, Morazan, Sandino etc.

Today we are living proof of ancestral struggles, meeting again as a anti-imperialist front, with delegations coming from Alaska, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Canada, Honduras, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Surinam, United States and Venezuela.

We recognize that our struggle as indigenous originario peoples has been millenary and which has had key moments in modern times, amongst those being transcendental continental encounters; the result of the diverse efforts by many peoples, communities and indigenous organizations and communities carried out over a long of dialogue and having reached the point of putting forward conclusions and strategies that have strengthen the unity of the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, expressed in diverse declarations such as those of:

The First Continental Encounter of Indian Peoples held in Quito in 1990; the Continental Campaign of 500 years of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance, which involved mobilizations across all of our continent on October 12, 1992; the Declaration of Temoaya of 1993; the 1st Indigenous Summit in Teotihuacan, Mexico, in 2000; the 2nd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, which was held in Quito in 2004; the Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Organisations, realized in Mar de Plata, Argentina, in 2005; the Continental Encounter of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2006; and the 3rd Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala realized in Guatemala, in March of this year, 2007, out of which came the Declaration of Iximche, whose anti-imperialist positions we support.

We have decided to give continuity to these efforts, in the search for unionist processes; conscious that the Abya Yala, from Alaska to the Patagonia, is a continent ancestrally indigenous, committed to the struggles against domination since the era of colonialism up until current times; where the threat and aggression by the US empire against the peoples of Abya Yala have been continuous and is taking us towards the imminent extinction of our cultures.

It is essential for the indigenous peoples of Abya Yala to constitute and give body, life and movement to a space with continental character to allow us to integrate and unite, based on our spiritual, moral, and combative wealth and resistance, with the fundamental objective of defending ourselves and defending our peoples and the entire planet from attacks, principally led by the US empire.

We see imperialism as the highest phase of capitalism, through its distinct expressions, such as consumerism; the wastage of natural resources, which is taking us towards the destruction of biodiversity; the transculturalisation of the people which implies wiping out our essence; the loss of our ancestral values and the negation of our existence as people, converting itself into the most terrible threat encroaching over the lives and existence of our planet.

Conscious that an alternative to save the planet from voracious capitalism is the construction, execution and putting into march of the socialism of the 21st century on the basis of Indoamerican socialism, based on the principals of communality, solidarity, reciprocity, social justice, equality, complementarity and harmony with nature.

We recognize that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), as a viable and just proposal to integrate the people of Latin America and the Caribbean in one single economic, political, cultural and social bloc where complementation and the respect of our identity will be the principal rectores, values that coincide with our ancestral practices.

We Declare:

The urgent necessity to initiate a collective process of construction of ancestral thought, born out of and generated by our realities, our forms of construction of knowledge and our languages.

Due to this, we have decided to constitute ourselves into the Continental Council of the Great Nation of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, whose temporary headquarters will be in Venezuela, and which will have as its primordial objectives:

To be a space for the participation, articulation and integration of the diverse indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, and act as a single body in defense against the attacks, aggressions and threats of the empire, in all its forms.

Constitute a platform of discussion of anti-imperialist policies and organizations, emerging from each one of the indigenous communities, via their own organizations or communal councils.

To be the collective voice of the indigenous peoples and communities of America in support of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), with the aim of reclaiming the originario rights of indigenous people, through the policies of the member governments of ALBA.

Push forward the construction of socialism of the 21st century through the contributions that Indoamerican socialism offers.

Plan of Continental Struggle:

Promote the creation of the University of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala, which seeks to consolidate spaces of formation that preserve our identity, culture, language and traditional medical practices, according to the necessities of each people, with multiple installations in all the continent.

We raise our voices, as anti-imperialist indigenous peoples, constituted in the Continental Council, against the governments of the empire, principally the United States; against the transnational corporations that promote the privatization of natural resources, destroyers of our biodiversity, language and culture; against the organizations, mass media, press, radio networks and television at the service of the empire; and against all those that promote savage neoliberalism in all its expressions. We demand that they:

Stop the depraved exploitation of our natural resources that exist in our space, soil and subsoil; monocultures, the utilization of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, the risks with flugosato, transgenetics, and the genetic manipulation of all living beings – contrary to the prinicipals of life; the poisoning of our peoples that is carried out via the distribution and sale of dangerous canned and bottled chemical products.

Stop the violation of the intellectual property rights; the theft and extraction of medicinal plants; the persecution and harassment of community, alternative media and indigenous communications and journalists; the acts of violation of the right to information, which forms part of our original law.

Stop the installation of imperialist military bases in our countries and immediately withdraw existing ones.

We say no to US or imperialist intervention in the revolutionary processes of the countries of Latin America, principally the Bolivarian revolution being headed by the president and commandante Hugo Chavez, and commandante Fidel Castro.

We pronounce ourselves against the genocide that is being committed against Iraq and Afghanistan and the people who make up those countries, as well as against the threat hanging over the brother country of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

We reject with our all strength any attempts at invasion or bellicose intervention against any nation of this free and sovereign world. We demand the unrestricted respect for the sovereignty of all Indo-Latin America countries. Whenever our nations are attacked by imperialism, the indigenous people will be ready to defend them from all points of view, and in diverse manners.

We support brother Evo Morales Ayma for the Nobel Peace Prize, for having achieved a space for participation in Bolivia in favour of the majority, and having avoided a social confrontation, led by the people in search of their liberation, which today they have found constitutionally.

We are against the state terrorism carried out by the empire; the criminalisation of the social movements; the repression which goes against truly legal and real freedom of expression; the impunity which surrounds the disrespectful freedom of expression that promotes hate, egoism, anger and resistance to changes in favour of the majority, the people.

We oppose in its entirety any international declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that does not respond to the revolutionary processes, and that, on the contrary aims to grab media attention, and control and fragment communities. Likewise with the multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, Inter American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that have indebted governments, and with that, the peoples.

We pronounce ourselves against the Zionist movements, which are one form of expression of this imperialism.

We back the efforts and struggles of the indigenous peoples carried out daily across the whole continent of Abya Yala, principally the current indigenous movements of Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Argentina, Guatemala, where, not only are they not inexistent as they were believed to be, rather, the indigenous peoples are present, and each day are impeding the empire from continuing to destroy lives and communities in these important territories.

We salute the anti-imperialist governments of the continent, with the presence of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, where the indigenous struggle has found backing and recognition for their demands.

Our fraternal support goes to the struggle of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico, expressed via the Popular Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the Zapatista Movement.

We back the policy of humanitarian and solidarity-based aid that is being carried out via the internationalization of the Missions of the Bolivarian Revolution, as a clear demonstration of what is Socialism of the 21st Century.

We call on all the peoples of Abya Yala to become part of this Continental Council of the Great Nation of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, as one more space of struggle against the empire, capitalism and neoliberal globalisation that wants to impose itself; which does not substitute any other effort but rather complements our historic, local and regional struggles, so that we continue walking united, as one single body, as one single voice, towards the construction of the great homeland.

We invite everyone to participate in the 2nd International Congress of Anti-imperialist Indigenous Peoples, to be held next year, 2008.

To continue writing the history of our Indoamerican indigenous peoples, death to imperialism!

Homeland, Socialism or Death!

We will win!

On the ancestral territory of Kumarakapay, Gran Sabana, Venezuela,
on the 9th day of the month of August of 2007.

The Epic Struggle of Indigenous Andean-Amazonian Culture

By Hugo Blanco 

The following is the text of a presentation that the Peruvian socialist leader Hugo Blanco will make to the Latin American Studies Association Conference in Montreal, September 5-8. Translated by Phil Cournoyer. For more about the author see “About Hugo Blanco” at the end of article.

(July 2007) Over the course of more than 10,000 years, the rich biodiversity of the Andes-Amazon region has created a culture that is closely interlocked with Pachamama (Mother Nature). This culture is marked by deep knowledge of nature and is highly agricultural. Ours is one of the seven zones of the world to have originated agriculture. It has yielded the greatest variety of domesticated species. This has given rise to a cosmic vision different from the Western outlook that views the creator as a superior immaterial spirit who created man in his image and likeness and created nature to serve him. For the indigenous cosmic vision, humanity is a daughter of and part of Mother Earth. We must live in her bosom in harmony with her. Each hill or peak, each river, each vegetable or animal species has a spirit.

Indigenous, collectivist mentality is strong enough to have endured solidly through 500 years of invasion and the dictatorship of individualism.

The Quechua and Aymara name for the campesino community is ayllu. It is bound by strong ties, many expressed in work (ayni, mink’a, faena)[1] and in all aspects of life. The community is not restricted to persons. It entails a close communal relationship with cultivated species, with medicinal species, with animals and plants that tell cultivators about seasonal variations,[2] and, more broadly, with all animal and vegetable species, with rain, and with the land.

The development of agriculture and tending of livestock, which in other latitudes led to slavery and feudalism, led in Abya Yala (the Americas) to new forms of collectivism. In the Andes zone it led to a state that extended over the territories of six present-day countries – Tawantinsuyo (called “empire” by the invaders out of the same ignorance that led them to call the llama “big sheep.”)

It’s true that the new forms of collectivism gave rise to privileged castes and wars of conquest. But in no part of the continent was production based on slave labor or the feudal system.

  • For more than 10,000 years our culture domesticated 182 plant species, including around 3,500 potato varieties.
  • Our people know 4,500 medicinal plants.
  • Tawantinsuyos planned agriculture based on a system of watersheds and micro watersheds or basins.
  • They built long aqueducts, taking care to avoid land erosion.
  • Terracing was practiced on the slopes and “waru-waru”[3] in the altiplano (highlands).[4]
  • Special technologies were used from zone to zone.

Across the entire Tawantinsuyo territory they created storage buildings (qolqa) to supply food to the population whenever some climatic shift undermined agriculture.

Although there were privileged castes, hunger and misery did not exist. Orphans, persons with disabilities, and the elderly were cared for by the community.

The invasion

The backbone of this social organization, of the agricultural infrastructure and food reserves, was crushed by the invasion.

Europe was then passing from feudalism to capitalism. The invasion was a capitalist action. They came looking for spices, believing they had reached India. They found none, but did find gold and silver.

Mining had existed as a marginal activity, but it now became the center of the economy. To exploit the mines they used a system worse than slavery. The slave owner is concerned about the health of his slave just as he’s interested in the health of his donkey. The mine owner in Peru received annually a certain quantity of indigenous people in order to “indoctrinate” them. Regardless of how many of them died, the next year he would receive the same number. Hence, youth and adults were sent into the mines and never left until they died. Because of this, young indigenous people committed suicide and mothers killed their children to free them from torment. This practice diminished following the Tupac Amaru rebellion.

Agricultural work took place through a feudal system. The Europeans took the best lands from the community and converted them into latifundios (huge estates or latifundia). Community inhabitants became serfs on their own lands. They had to work freely for the feudal lord in exchange for permission to cultivate a small plot for their own needs.

For many reasons a huge decline in agriculture took place:

  • Canals, terracing, and waru-warus were destroyed because of ignorance and lack of care.
  • Until this day no planning in terms of watersheds and micro watersheds has been carried out. Chaos took hold and persists.
  • With the importation of foreign domestic animals to the zone, the environment deteriorated. The auquenidos (camelid)[5] cut pasture grass with their teeth, but cows, horses, and sheep uproot it.

The invaders vented their superstitions on our crops. Our agricultural mentality didn’t suit their cultured ways. So the “exterminators of idolaters” went after plants like the papa, also known as Santa Padre (Holy Father). They renamed it patata, the word used in Spain. This passed into English and other languages as “potato.” They also damned kiwicha or amaranto (amaranth).The coca plant, which the famous doctor Hipólito Unanue called the “supertonic of the vegetable kingdom,” is to this day the target of superstition and excessively harmful prejudice in “refined” circles.

The invaders pillaged the food stockpiles located across the territory to cope with times of hunger brought on by climatic irregularities.

Taking their behavior as a whole, we find that European imposition of hunger and misery — their cultural contribution — was even more deadly than their massacres and the smallpox they spread among us.

Rebellions and republic

From the beginning, our people rebelled against the invaders. Numerous insurrections took place, beginning with Tupac Amaru II’s rebellion. It spread all the way to Bolivia and lasted even after his cruel torture and assassination.

Later the so-called Revolución de la Independencía took place. It did not signify any noticeable change for the indigenous population.

The generals of “independence” were awarded “haciendas” (the new name for the feudal latifundia), “Indians” and all.

The hacienda system consisted basically of the free labor of the colono (serf) for the hacienda. There were other aspects to this serfdom.

The colono had to turn over some of his animals that grazed on natural pastures to the master. He made long treks with pack mules burdened with hacienda produce. They lasted days and he had to sleep out in the open. The owner mistreated him physically and morally. He could jail him and rape the women. The serf’s children did not go to school either because they had to work, or there were no schools, or the master forbade it.

Our land struggle in the 1960s

The hacienda feudal system lasted until the second half of the last century.

The spread of capitalism to the countryside weakened it in many ways:

  • New large-scale mining absorbed labor from the haciendas.
  • New mechanized latifundia expelled the serfs and employed an agricultural proletariat.
  • New high-priced crops required more labor time, pressing the hacienda owner to demand more work from his serfs and to expel them in order to take over their plots. The serfs, on the other hand, needed more time for their own labors and resisted the theft of their plots.

We organized ourselves to struggle against the new outrages. Given the intransigence of the landlords, the struggle became a fight for possession of the land.

Our defensive action not only set us against the landlords but also against the government which defended the feudal system.

In over 100 haciendas we refused to work for the landlords. But we continued to work our own plots. This was in practice an agrarian reform. The government repressed us with arms and we defended ourselves with arms. The military government of the day crushed the armed self-defense; but it took note that it would be impossible to re-implant feudal serfdom. It opted to pass an agrarian reform law — only in this zone — legalizing campesino possession of the land. But indigenous campesinos in other zones of the country rebelled and took over haciendas. This was violently repressed, but could not be effectively contained. Hence, a subsequent reformist military government felt obliged to decree an agrarian reform at the national level.

In this way, we took advantage of capitalism’s weakening of the feudal system to take over the land. In this same epoch the Brazilian campesino movement was shattered. Capitalism triumphed there. Its victims are now struggling courageously in the “Landless Workers’ Movement.”

For this reason Peru is, with the likely exception of Cuba, the country of the continent with the greatest proportion of landowners, either of communal or private plots.

Some campesinos from the epoch of struggle for the land feel the qualitative change. “Now we are free,” they say. They consider that breaking down feudal servitude also broke them free from the yoke that had gripped them.

Following the rupture they worked for education, building schools and paying men and women teachers. Later they fought to get the state to pay them. They built health centres and fought to get the state to pay for health services.

They got the vote and elected their own mayors. They fought against mining pollution. They struggled to assume in a collective manner police and judicial functions, to replace corrupt cops and judges. They fought against corrupt authorities of any stripe — and for many other things.

They feel that breaking from feudal servitude freed them to spread wings and carry the struggle forward.

Current struggles

Most current struggles of indigenous campesinos are against the killing of Pachamama, Mother Earth; against depredations by the large companies, mainly mining, but also petroleum and gas. Previous Peruvian governments were servants of feudal lords; today they serve the great multinationals. They act against the Peruvian people and against nature.

Living conditions are another cause of struggle. There is more and more unemployment, and the standard of living is falling. In the countryside this is due to excessively low prices for farm products. This is linked to the struggle against the Free Trade Agreement with the United States that will demolish our agriculture for the benefit of large, subsidized imperial firms.

The indigenous movement, together with the rest of the Peruvian population, is fighting against corruption and to get their own representatives into local governments. People often suffer betrayals because there is no system for authentic democratic control.

Our allies

The indigenous movement is not alone. Although it is the most vigorous and persevering, it is not unique. The rest of the people are struggling together with us.

Intellectuals called indigenistas, whether indigenous or not, merit special mention. Ever since the oppression of the original peoples of our continent began there have been individuals who have struggled against it and to defend our culture.

The work of Father Bartolomé de las Casas is known.

In Peru there were notable political figures like González Prada and Mariátegui. Writers like Clorinda Matto, Ciro Alegría, José María Arguedas. Painters like José Sabogal. Musicians like Alomía Robles, Baltasar Zegarra, Roberto Ojeda, Leandro Alviña, and so on.

The meaning of our struggle We are defending our culture in its diverse aspects: our cosmic vision, social organization, our rituals and agricultural know-how, medicine, music, language, and many others.

We do not claim that our culture is superior to others. We are struggling to stop it from being considered inferior.

We want to be respected as equals.

We have been educated to harmonize equality and diversity. Peru is a mega-diverse country, both geographically and demographically. We have 82% of the world’s 103 natural life zones. Our inhabitants speak 45 different languages. The great Inca Sun God celebration was not exclusive. It had a procession of different peoples with diverse gods. The notion of “one God” did not exist. We are for the equality of the diverse; we are against homogenization (igualitarismo).

On the one hand we respect diverse individualities and particularities. On the other, we oppose individualism. Ours is a culture of solidarity.

We don’t seek a return to the past. We know we must make the best in general of advances in human culture.

That does not contradict our resolve to go back to our own roots. Our past will be vividly present in our future.

We love and care for Pachamama. We fervently yearn to return to basing our economy on our rich biodiversity, through agriculture and natural medicine, along with any modern advances that do no harm.

We don’t want our social system to be based on the deep-seated, antisocial individualism that the invaders brought here. We intend to recover and strengthen at all levels the vigorous, collectivist solidarity and fraternity of the ayllu, making use, as well, of universal knowledge that is not harmful.

We dream that the past 500 years of crushing blows are just a passing nightmare in the ten thousand years of building our culture.


About Hugo Blanco

This essay was first published in Spanish (under the title Nuestra Cultura) in the magazine Sin Permiso in its June 2007 edition. Sin Permiso (www.sinpermiso.info/) is a Spanish-language quarterly socialist magazine and a monthly e-zine edited by a multinational team that includes the author.

Hugo Blanco was leader of the Quechua peasant uprising in the Cuzco region of Peru in the early 1960s. He was captured by the military and sentenced to 25 years in El Fronton Island prison for his activities. While in prison, he wrote Land or Death: The Peasant Struggle in Peru. It was published in English by Pathfinder Press in 1972 and is must-reading for anyone who wishes to understand the liberation struggles of peasants and indigenous people in that region.

An international defence campaign that gained the support of such figures as Ernesto Che Guevara, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Bertrand Russell succeeded in winning his freedom. After a period in exile in Mexico, Chile, and Sweden, Blanco returned to Peru where he won election to the national parliament on a united left slate. He has continued to play an active role in Peru’s indigenous, campesino, and environmental movements, and writes on Peruvian, indigenous, and Latin American issues.

The article was translated Phil Cournoyer. In the 1960s Cournoyer participated in the worldwide defence campaign to win Blanco’s freedom and a decade later coordinated a cross-Canada speaking tour of the Peruvian indigenous leader.

Other articles by Hugo Blanco available in English on the internet include:


Reference Notes [1]. These terms from a collectivist language are not translatable to an individualist. Ayni means the mutual lending of work, as collective activity for the benefit of an individual. Faena is collective work for collective benefit. Mink’a is asking for a service with profuse and warm urgings.[2]. There are “signs” that tell indigenous campesinos how climate or weather conditions may change or how a given crop may fare. Abundant or poor blossoming of a forest plant, the coloration of snakes, the height of bird nests, the greater or lesser brilliance of a constellation, etc.

[3]. Waru-waru is the practice of alternating belts of elevated fields and ditches (or swales); planting is done on the elevated belts. This has the function of avoiding floods in rainy years. In dry years water held in the ditches is used for irrigation. Heat absorbed by ditch water during the day helps to counteract cold nights at frost time.

[4]. [Translator’s Note] A good description of this agricultural technology can be found at http://carbon.hampshire.edu/~hms/Articles%20for%20Maja/EnvNatAndes.doc Here is an excerpt from the essay Environment and Nature in South America: the Central Andes:

“The local agro-pastoralists constructed raised fields systems or waru-waru and sunken smaller garden patches or qochas to address these problems. Construction of raised, ridged fields, with swales or canals between the ridges, resulted in ridge-top areas above the waterlogged soils in the rainy season, eliminating rot among the tubers. Both the qocha system and the intervening canals among the raised fields trapped rainwater, which was curated through the dry season to provide a continuing water supply.

“In addition to managing moisture, these systems also ameliorated temperature extremes. Thus the raised field patterns, and furrows in the qochas, were constructed either parallel to, or perpendicular to, the path of the sun, an orientation which permitted maximum solar energy capture by the water. This water kept the fields slightly warmer at night, and often radiated enough heat to prevent frost damage while the surrounding unmodified grasslands suffered heavy freezes.”

[5]. Auquenidos (camelid) are animals found in the Andes mountains, relatives of the camels. They are also called camelidos in Spanish. In Peru there are four different auquenidos: llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos. Llamas and guanacos are beasts of burden, while alpacas and vicuñas are used for their wool.

Stop the Deportation of John Graham!

Indigenous Rights Activist Faces Imminent Transfer to U.S.

By Ian Beeching

“I fear that John will not receive a fair trial in the US any more than I did. I must remind you, it is court record that the FBI lied to extradite me back to the US.” —Leonard Peltier

The British Columbia Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Tuchone-Canadian John Graham against his extradition to the U.S. Sitting in prison, Graham now waits to see if the Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal of the BC court decision. If it refuses, within 30 days he will be sent to South Dakota to face the same kind of kangaroo court system that imprisoned his former colleague and American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Leonard Peltier in 1977 and has held him ever since.

U.S. authorities accuse Graham of murdering Anna Mae Aquash, an AIM activist who was killed shortly after an armed standoff between U.S. government authorities and AIM at the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975.

Under Canadian law, U.S. government authorities can request extradition of a Canadian citizen using flimsy or hearsay evidence before Canadian courts. A Canadian judge need simply believe that arguments presented by U.S. authorities provide a “reasonable expectation” of conviction of the accused. The same criteria were used to extradite Leonard Peltier from Canada in 1976. He was convicted of killing two FBI agents at Pine Ridge. Years after his conviction, evidence emerged that key prosecution witnesses were coerced into lying at his trial.

“In Canada,” said Graham’s lawyer, Terry LaLiberte, following the BC Supreme Court decision, “I’d drive a truck through the holes in this case.”

The Evidence

The case against John Graham is a COINTELPRO style frame-up. That was the secret FBI program during the 1960’s and 1970’s to disrupt or violently assault social protest movements. A 2005 Vancouver Sun article by Rex Weyler reported, “’Alleged witness Al Gates had been dead for nine months,’ said LaLiberte, when the U.S. ‘claimed he was available for trial.’ Witness Frank Dillon, to whom Graham is alleged to have confessed, claims he did not make the statement attributed to him.”

Only one piece of evidence could possibly have pointed the finger at Graham. This was video-recorded testimony of Arlo Looking Cloud. Later, Looking Cloud claimed he had been given drugs and alcohol by detectives in order to manipulate the statement against Graham out of him.

Looking Cloud’s current attorney, Terry Gilbert from the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York, “claims that Looking Cloud’s court-appointed lawyer incriminated his own client. ‘Looking Cloud was a homeless alcoholic for more than 20 years,’ said Gilbert, ‘vulnerable to manipulation by the detective in Denver.’”

“David Seals, with a Lakota human rights group, interviewed Looking Cloud at Pennington County jail in South Dakota, and writes that Looking Cloud told him, “’It was a set-up … I was drunk. They were giving me drugs and alcohol.’ Seals claims the video confession is ‘almost incoherent, and the police were asking a lot of leading questions.’”

Can Justice be Found in Graham’s Extradition?

The extradition of John Graham is not about finding justice for the tragic death of Anna Mae Aquash but rather punishing Graham for his involvement in AIM and covering up the FBI’s likely role in the death of Aquash. John Graham’s defenders claim that evidence points to involvement by FBI agent David Price in the killing of Aquash.

According to Aquash herself, when FBI agents arrested her after the Pine Ridge standoff and shootings, Price threatened that if she did not cooperate “you won’t live out the year.”

A year after the death of Aquash, Price used her death to threaten and extract false testimony from Myrtle Poor Bear that led to the extradition and imprisonment of Leonard Peltier. According to Poor Bear, “He [Price] showed me pictures of the body and said that if I don’t cooperate this is what may happen to me.”

The FBI’s violent undercover operations against AIM during the 1970’s resulted in the deaths of dozens of members of AIM and other Indigenous rights activists.

History Repeats Itself

Warren Allmand was Minister of Indian Affairs in the Canadian government at the time of the 1976 extradition demand against Leonard Peltier. He refused to intervene, despite considerable pressure on him from Peltier’s defenders and others concerned with civil liberties. According to Weyler, “He now feels ‘betrayed and insulted … [by the] FBI’s deliberate use of fraud.’ In 1992, fifty-five Canadian MPs filed a brief to a U.S. court affirming that Canada had been duped.”

In a letter in support of Graham, Peltier writes, “When we talk of sovereignty, we must be willing to solve our own problems and not go running to the oppressor for relief.… We have been and still are at odds with the most dangerous, well-funded, strongest military and political organization in the history of the world [the US government].”


The John Graham defence committee is asking supporters to write to the Supreme Court of Canada and demand that the extradition decision of the BC court be reviewed and overturned. You can write to:

Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin
Chief Justice of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
301 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A-0J1

To support the campaign to free John Graham contact: www.grahamdefense.org


The quotes in this article are from:

The "Indian Problem" in Peru: From Mariategui to Today

Introduction by Phil Stewart Cournoyer

This article was first published in Spanish in the magazine Sin Permiso on March 4 this year. Sin Permiso (www.sinpermiso.info/) is a Spanish-language quarterly socialist magazine and a monthly e-zine published by a multinational editorial team. The article was translated for Socialist Voice by Federico Fuentes.

Hugo Blanco was a leader of the peasant uprising in the Cuzco region of Peru in the early 1960s. His book about the struggle, Land or Death, was published in English by Pathfinder Press in 1972. This mass upsurge, which led to armed clashes with the repressive forces of the regime, eventually led to vast changes in the Peruvian countryside, including an extensive agrarian reform. Here Blanco recounts the story of how the indigenous movement brought about the destruction of the brutal, semi-feudal system of landholding and exploitation of the indigenous population known as Gamonalismo.

The Peruvian socialist leader José Carlos Mariátegui was the first to offer a Marxist appreciation of Gamonalismo and of the vital role the indigenous people had to play in the struggle for national liberation in Latin America. In his 1928 book Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality Mariátegui dedicated a chapter to this question, titled “The Problems of the Indian,” from which Blanco also takes the title of his article. Mariátegui wrote:

“The term Gamonalismo designates more than just a social and economic category: that of the latifundistas or large landowners. It signifies a whole phenomenon. Gamonalismo is represented not only by the gamonales but by a long hierarchy of officials, intermediaries, agents, parasites, et cetera. The literate Indian who enters the service of Gamonalismo turns into an exploiter of his own race. The central factor of the phenomenon is the hegemony of the semi-feudal landed estate in the policy and mechanism of the government. Therefore, it is this factor that should be acted upon if the evil is to be attacked at its roots and not merely observed in its temporary or subsidiary manifestations.” [www.ilstu.edu/class/hist127/docs/jcmindio.html]

Following the military suppression of the Cuzco upsurge, Blanco was imprisoned and tortured. Only a massive international defence campaign, which won the support of such outstanding figures as Ernesto Che Guevara, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean Paul Sartre, saved his life. He was forced into exile, spending time in Mexico and Chile. Fleeing from the Pinochet coup in Chile, Blanco then found exile in Sweden. During that second exile Canadian socialists, who had played a significant role in the international defence campaign of the sixties, organized a successful cross-Canada speaking tour for Blanco in 1976.

Upon his return to Peru Blanco was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1978 and later to the National Parliament under the banner of the United Left movement.

Hugo Blanco remains today an outstanding voice of the campesino and indigenous movements in Peru, and is a leader of the Federation of Campesinos of Cuzco. He is a member of the editorial board of Sin Permiso.

Blanco’s most recent writings have stressed the strategic importance of the rise of indigenous consciousness and militancy to the mounting anti-imperialist struggles in the hemisphere – a question that is poorly understood on the international left.

In a September 2006 article “Progress of the indigenous movement against the system,” also published in Sin Permiso, Blanco explained that “[t]he indigenous movement is in the vanguard, not in the sweeping sense that it must guide the rest of the oppressed people (each social sector will be its own guide, each of them forging its own leadership through its own struggles); it is the vanguard in the narrow sense that it is the most advanced sector in the struggle against the system and in the building of an alternative organization for society. Against neoliberal individualism, the collectivism of the ‘ayllu’” [the indigenous communal form of social and economic organization].

In other articles Blanco has also stressed the critical role of the victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia and the rise of indigenous struggles in Ecuador.


The “Indian Problem” in Peru: From Mariátegui to Today

by Hugo Blanco
March 4, 2007

I was invited last month by a heroic community to the commemoration of a massacre of campesinos [peasants] who were fighting for land, and who, at the cost of their blood, were able to pass it on to those that work it. The recreation of the massacre was very moving.

I recalled the phrase that was stuck in the mind of Mariátegui: “The problem of the Indian is the problem of land.”

That was the terrible truth. Now it no longer is so.

Before the Invasion

Before the European invasion, across the entire continent of Abya Yala (America), individual ownership of land did not exist. The people lived on it collectively.

Unlike in Europe, the development of agriculture and cattle grazing in America did not lead to the emergence of slavery; instead primitive collectivism gave way to other forms of collectivism as privileged layers and privileged people arose. Some forms of slavery may have existed for domestic work, but agricultural production was not based on slavery as it was in Greece or Rome. Rather it was based on collective organization, called by different names in the various cultures (ayllu en Quechua, calpulli en Nahuatl).

Imported Latifundio

The European invasion led to the imposition of semi-feudal servitude. The land was stolen from indigenous communities, and the new owners allowed the serfs to use small parcels of land, who had to pay for that concession by working a few days a week on the best land — on the “property” of the latifundista [large landowner], and for his benefit.

This was the central feature of servitude, but more was involved. The indigenous people also had to “pay” with cattle for feeding on the natural grass that “pertained” to the property. The landowner’s cattle was looked after by indigenous people – in return, as “payment,” they received the right to pasture a few head of cattle of their own. The campesinos were arbirarily sent to go by foot through rain and wind for days, to haul loads of products from the “hacienda to the cities and returning with urban products for the hacienda. Pongueaje and semanería were terms for the forms of domestic service that campesinos had to carry out in the house of the owner.

There were many other obligations, made up according to the imagination of the master. He was the judge, he owned the jails, he arrested whomever he pleased, he physically mistreated someone whenever he felt like it (Bartolomé Paz, a landowner, branded the backside of an indigenous person with hot iron.) Murders were committed with impunity, and so on.

In Peru, the revolution for independence broke the chains of direct political domination by Europe, but economic dependence was maintained, to the benefit of foreign interests, firstly European and then later Yankee. The latifundio (large estate) system also continued with the implicit suppression of indigenous peoples and the descendents of African slaves.

That oppressive latifundio system, and all the servility it brought with it, began to collapse with the insurgency of the La Convención movement of the 1960s. The indigenous peoples of this country who lived through those times did not struggle in vain; even today, in spite of the many forms of oppression that they still suffer, they can say, “Now we are free!”

End of the Hacienda

The high prices obtained for exportable products from the semi-tropical zone of Cuzco gave an incentive to the gamonalismo serrano [the ruthless landlord system of the mountain areas] to usurp the land from the communities in the Amazon region. Because the people from the Amazon area refused to be forced into servitude, the landlords moved in campesinos from the mountain areas, who were used to such treatment.

The system of oppression was the same as that in the mountains; but it was exercised in a more forceful manner — in this area the “law,” that provided some slight protection in the mountain areas, did not exist.

The immigrant campesinos suffered due to the climate, illnesses, and unfamiliar food. Large numbers died due to malaria. Work was hard, because they first had to clear the forest before they could start their plantations. Unlike products from the mountain areas, their crops — cocoa, coffee, coca, tea, fruit-bearing trees — could only be harvested once a year.

The greedy landowners demanded ever more workdays per month, while the campesinos who needed time to cultivate their own products in order to earn any money, sought to reduce the days spent working for the landowners.

In the mountain areas, centuries of exploitation gave the system some protection of custom, but they were challenged on the edge of the jungle areas where this form of exploitation was new. Unions, organized by the Federation of Workers of Cuzco, demanded a reduction in the obligations of campesinos to their bosses. They used lawyers to present their claims.

There was some push and shove between landowners and campesinos, some pacts were signed in which the landowners ceded a bit.

But not all the landowners accepted the agreements. The most ferocious would say: “Who came up with this crazy idea that I should discuss with my Indians how they will serve me? I am going to boot out the ringleaders and put them in jail!” And that is what they did, using their close ties with the judicial power, the political power, the police, and the media.

The multiplication of unions strengthened the campesinos. By mobilizing they were able to impede “legal” evictions and get their compañeros [comrades] out of jail. When there was no discussion on the list of demands, the campesinos initiated strikes demanding an agreement. The strikes consisted off not working for the landowners and working on their own parcel of land instead. In that way the campesinos did not suffer as a result of the strikes, as workers or employees do, but rather enjoyed it.

In 1962, after 9 months on strike, we unanimously decided in an assembly of unions from Chaupimayo that, since the owner did not want to discuss with us, we would drop our demand for negotiations. On that day, the strike ended and became an “Agrarian Reform.” We decided we would never return to working for the owners, since they had no right to the land — they had not come carrying the land on their shoulders.

The strikes extended across more than 100 haciendas which, though not as explicitly as in Chaupimayo, but rather in an implicit form, produced an agrarian reform in the valleys of La Convención and Lares, carried out by the campesinos themselves.

The landowners went around armed, threatening the campesinos. When the campesinos complained to the police, they responded: “What do you shameless Indians want? You are robbing land from the owner and he has the right to shoot you like dogs!” So the campesinos had to organize themselves into self-defense groups and they selected me to set them up. Afterwards, the government of the landowners ordered repression against us. They persecuted me. They prohibited the assemblies of the federation. And they began to carry out acts of aggression against campesinos, including the gunning down of an 11-year old child by a landowner. An assembly of four unions ordered me to lead an armed group to bring the landowner to account. Along the way we could not avoid an armed confrontation with the police, where a police officer fell. Later two more fell in another clash. The police massacred unarmed campesinos. After a few months our group was dispersed and its members captured.

Nevertheless, the armed resistance alarmed those in the military that were in the government. They thought: “If these Indians have resisted the commencement of the repression with arms, this zone will burn when we try to oblige them to return to work for the landowners, which they haven’t done for a number of months. It would be preferable to legally recognize what the Indians have done, and thereby pacify the zone”.

And that is how the law of Agrarian Reform for La Convención and Lares came into being in 1962.

It is true that this helped bring calm to the area, but it lit up the rest of the country, because the campesinos from other zones said: “Is it because we have not taken up arms that they have not given us land?”

Land occupations were initiated in the mountains, including in the department of Lima. The president of the landowners, Belaúnde, responded with massacres like that of Solterapampa, which I mentioned at the start. Those in the military remained worried that the obsolete semi-feudal haciendas would provoke an expansion of the movement. Given the experience that they had in La Convención, they decided to take power and expand to the whole country what they did in that zone. In 1968, Velasco Alvarado took power and extended the Agrarian Reform at a national level. The official lack of respect towards the indigenous community apalled the campesinos, but the latifundio, the feudal landed-estate system imported from Europe, was buried.

Now

That is how the axis of the indigenous problem moved away from being a problem of land. Oppression continued, but in other diverse aspects, which were derived from the land problem.

The indigenous struggle continued and continues combating all forms of oppression and achieving advances:

  • Education: In the era of the latifundio the indigenous population did not have a right to education, despite what the law said. In the midst of the struggle against the latifundio, schools with teachers paid collectively by the campesinos of an area who also constructed the schools, began to appear. (The landowner Romainville kidnapped a teacher and took her as a cook. The landowner Marques ordered the destruction of a school whilst students where still inside; the children fled frightened). After the victory over the latifundio came the struggle that won the right to have schools paid for by the state, and secondary education was implemented. Now there exist professionals who are children of indigenous campesinos.

  • Healthcare: In this aspect as well, the indigenous campesino sector created sanitary posts with their own resources, and later managed to get the state to maintain them.

  • The illiterate did not have the right to vote; now they do.

  • Municipalities: In the era of gamonalismo, it was unimaginable that there could be an indigenous campesino mayor. Now there are a number of municipalities governed by them, some more democratic than others.

  • There are indigenous people in parliament.

  • Public order and justice: in many places there has been a partial substitution of the judicial power and corrupt police by organized campesinos.

  • There is a permanent struggle against corrupt authorities.

Probably the most important struggle today is against contamination from mining.

Neoliberalism attacks campesino products through low prices. There is a resurgence of huge landed estates, no longer in a semi-feudal form, but rather capitalist, with paid workers. The struggle encompasses all aspects of indigenous oppression: social organization, language, medicine, music, customs, native foods, coca etc.

History, seen with the hindsight of decades, shows us that with the breakdown of the system of semi-feudal servitude denounced by Mariátegui, the floodgates were opened for the indigenous struggle across all fields.

From resistance to power! Declaration of Iximche’

Socialist Voice Introduction

Below is the final declaration of the III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala — “From resistance to power” — that took place March 26 to 30 in Iximche’, Guatemala. Abya Yala is an indigenous name for North and South America taken from the language of the Kuna people of Panama, and has been widely accepted since first introduced to an earlier continental gathering in 1992.

Iximche’ is a sacred Maya site and main city of the Kaqchikel Maya people. US President George W. Bush visited the Mayan Iximche’ temple during his Latin American tour two weeks prior to the indigenous Summit. Hence, an important aspect of Mayan preparations for the continental gathering was a special spiritual ceremony to drive off his bad spirits and cleanse the site.

Over two thousand delegates from 24 countries (and definitely more First Nations) participated in the gathering. Conference planners launched a bilingual Spanish-English website to help plan and build the conference, and to promote its decisions and campaigns.

The Summit received very little coverage on mainstream wire services and media outlets.

Nor has the press of left, anti/imperialist, socialist, and workers movements in the Americas given it much coverage. This reflects a near chronic and lamentable failure to understand the pivotal role of indigenous struggles in the current anti/imperialist upsurge throughout Latin America, above all in Bolivia.

Many indigenous leaders think the Summit registers an advance for indigenous peoples in the hemisphere because it took on frontally question of political power, as signalled in main theme “From Resistance to Power” and in the following point from the final declaration:

“To consolidate the processes now in effect to strengthen the re-foundation of the government states and the construction of pluri-national states and pluri-cultural societies via Constituent Assemblies with direct representation of the Indigenous Pueblos and Nations.”

This issue is pivotal in at least four countries — Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala, with Bolivia being the most advanced expression of indigenous power and struggle for liberation.

Of course, the political gains signalled by the third continental Summit build on the achievements of previous discussions and gatherings.

The evolution of this broad and varied discussion shows that indigenous fighters have been grappling with many of the same problems as other oppressed and exploited sectors – questions such as the debate over “from below versus from above” strategies for changing the system; or how to prevent participation in electoral processes from undermining the enduring strength of the movement which is in the streets and the communities, in grassroots mobilizations, and struggles around concrete demands.

Miguel Quispe, a key Summit organizer and representative of Peru’s indigenous nations on the recently created Continental Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Nations and Peoples of Abya Yala, told reporters from the Buenos Aires daily Página 12 that “decisions are not taken in mobilizations, but in governments (states). We must keep in mind that we have to build a different kind of power, an alternative power to confront the crisis in our countries. Linking up with unions, social movements, teachers, students, the Church, will help us to build an all-inclusive political movement.”

And Juana Quispe, a member of the Bolivian parliament for the MAS [Movement for Socialism] reinforced his point, arguing that “participation in politics and becoming authorities is a must. The people must become the government and perform well. Indigenous people are suffering but so are poor people in the cities. We must unite with them against the Yankee military, political and economic apparatus, and the transnationals” (La Cumbre indígena, Diego González and Lucía Alvarez, Página 12, April 1, 2007, SV translation)

Marc Becker, a Latin America historian and a founder of NativeWeb, writes that:

“[f]or an Indigenous summit, the declaration is perhaps notable for its lack of explicit ethnic discourse. Instead, it spoke of struggles against neoliberalism and for food sovereignty.  On one hand, this pointed to the Indigenous movement’s alignment with broader popular struggles in the Americas.  On the other, it demonstrated a maturation of Indigenous ideologies that permeate throughout the human experience. Political and economic rights were focused through a lens of Indigenous identity, with a focus on concrete and pragmatic actions. For example, in justifying the declaration’s condemnation of the construction of a wall on the United States/Mexico border, Tonatierra’s Tupac Enrique Acosta declared that nowhere in the Americas could Indigenous peoples be considered immigrants because colonial borders were imposed from the outside.” (Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples Meets in Guatemala).

Strong winds from the indigenous victory in Bolivia prevailed at the Iximche’ gathering. This was appreciated not only by delegates from South and Mesoamerica, but also from north of the Rio Bravo.  

Joe Kennedy, a delegate from the Western Shoshone Nation (United States), messaged his community that “The III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala marks a new phase in the relationship between the nations of Indigenous Peoples and the government states of the Americas. One of the most telling examples of this fact is the presence of the minister of foreign relations for the Bolivian government, Mr. David Choquehuanca who on Monday addressed the inaugural session of the Summit Abya Yala in representation of President Evo Morales of Bolivia. President Morales himself is scheduled to arrive at the Summit Abya Yala on Friday to attend the official closure of the five day gathering.” (As it turned out Morales was unable to attend the conference closing rally, as planned, but sent a written message.)

Kennedy, a Western Shoshone National Council member, established a diplomatic precedent for the hemisphere by entering the Maya Territories (Guatemala) using his Western Shoshone passport. (see http://pwgd.mayfirst.org/western-shoshone-at-continental-indigenous-summit/).

Further information about the Summit can also be found on the Tonatierra site.

Phil Cournoyer, Managua


III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala

Declaration of Iximche’
From resistance to power!

We the children of the Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of the continent, self convened and gathered at the III Continental Summit of Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala realized in Iximche’, Guatemala the days of Oxlajuj Aq’abal, thirteen powers of the Spirit of the Dawn (26th of March) to Kají Kej, four powers of the Spirit of the Deer (30th of March, 2007):

We hereby affirm the Declaration of Teotihuacan (Mexico, 2000), the Declaration of Kito (Ecuador, 2004) and ratify our millennial principles of complementarity, reciprocity and duality, as well as the struggle for our territories in order to preserve our Mother Nature and the autonomy and self-determination of our Indigenous Peoples.  We announce the continental resurgence of the Pachacutic (the return) along with the closure of Oxlajuj  Baq’tun (long count of 5,200 years) and as we approach the door of the new Baq’tun, we journey together to make of Abya Yala a “land full of life”.

We have survived centuries of colonization and now face the imposition of the policies of neo-liberalism that perpetuates the dispossession and sacking of our territories, the domination of all of social space and ways of life of the Indigenous Peoples, causing the degradation of our Mother Nature as well as poverty and migration by way of the systematic intervention in the sovereignty of our Nations by transnational companies in complicity with the government states.

In preparation to face and confront the challenges of the new times upon us, we now determine:

  • To commit to the process of alliance among our indigenous nations, and among our indigenous nations and the movements for social justice of the continent that would allow us to collectively confront the policies of neo-liberalism and all forms of oppression.

  • To make accountable the government states for the ongoing dispossession of our territories and the extinction of the indigenous peoples of the continent, due to impunity for the transnational corporations and their genocidal practices, as well as the lack of political will on the part of the United Nations in not advancing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and failure to guarantee the full respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • To ratify the ancestral and historical rights to our territories and the common resources of Mother Nature, reaffirming the inalienable character of these rights as being non-negotiable, unquantifiable, without impediment, and unrenounceable even to the cost of our lives.

  • To consolidate the processes now in effect to strengthen the re-foundation of the government states and the construction of pluri-national states and pluri-cultural societies via Constituent Assemblies with direct representation of the Indigenous Pueblos and Nations.

  • To advance in the exercise of our right of autonomy and self determination as Indigenous Peoples, in spite of the lack of legal recognition by the government states.

  • To ratify our rejection of the Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) that make vulnerable the sovereignty of our Pueblos and to remain vigilant against similar intentions to implement new commercial agreements.

  • To reaffirm our decision to defend the nutritional sovereignty and struggle against the trans-genetic invasion, convoking all peoples of the world to join this struggle in order to guarantee our future.

  • To ratify the struggle for the democratization of communication and the implementation of public policies that contemplate specific applications for indigenous peoples and the promotion of  inter-culturality.

  • To alert the indigenous peoples regarding the policies of the Inter American Development Bank, the World Bank and organizations of the like that penetrate our communities with actions of assistance and cooptation whose aim is the fragmentation of autonomous and legitimate indigenous organizations.

For the well being of the Indigenous Peoples, we now decide:

  • To demand of the international financial institutions and the government states the cancellation of policies that promote concessions for the extractive industries (mining, oil, forestry, natural gas and water) from our indigenous territories.

  • To condemn the policies of exclusion of President Bush and the government of the United States demonstrated in the act of construction of the wall along the border with Mexico while at the same time attempting to expropriate the common resources of our Mother Nature of all the peoples of Abya Yala by implementing expansionist plans and acts of war.

  • To condemn the intolerant attitude of the government states that do not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular those which have not ratified nor guaranteed the application of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.

  • To condemn the imposter and terrorist democracies implemented by the neoliberal governments, which results in the militarization of our indigenous territories and the criminalization of our legitimate indigenous struggle and the movements for social justice throughout Abya Yala.

In order to enact these words and realize our dreams, from resistance to power:

  • We constitute ourselves as the Continental Coordinator of Indigenous Pueblos and Nations of Abya Yala, creating a permanent vehicle of linkage and interchange, in order to converge our experiences and proposals, so that together we can confront the neo-liberal policies of globalization and to struggle for the definitive liberation of our indigenous Pueblos and Nations, of the mother earth, of our territories, of the waters, and entirety of our natural patrimony in order that we may all live well.

In this process we delineated the following actions:

  • To fortify the organizational processes and struggle of the Indigenous Peoples with the full participation of our women, children and young people.

  • To convene a Continental Summit of Indigenous Women of Abya Yala and a Continental Summit of the Children, Adolescents and Youth of the Indigenous Nations and Pueblos of Abya Yala.

  • To convoke a continental mobilization of Indigenous Peoples to save Mother Nature from the disasters caused by capitalism, manifested by global warming, to be realized on the 12th of October of 2007.

  • To actively engage the diplomatic mission of the Indigenous Peoples to defend and to guarantee the rights of our Indigenous Pueblos and Nations.

  • To endorse the candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize of our brother Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia.

  • To demand the decriminalization of the coca leaf. “We have dreamt our past and we remember our future”

Iximche’, Guatemala, March 30, 2007.