“We are going to demonstrate, for all those who have wept, who have been marginalized, who have been mistreated and humiliated, the Sarayaku people are going to say “Enough!””- Children of the Jaguar
Survival International estimates that there are over 150 million tribal people living in more than 60 countries across the world. They all face very similar problems. Despite international laws which recognize their rights to their territory, indigenous people are consistently excluded from discussions surrounding development on their lands and still suffer from the effects of marginalization and racism. From the Awá of Brazil, one of the last uncontacted tribes who face annihilation due to the illegal invasion of their lands, to the Innu of Canada, who continue to face direct extinguishment of their rights by the government, the violation of indigenous rights continues being a world-wide crisis.
And yet, these issues continue to be swept under the rug. Indigenous people continue to be accused of being “backward” and unwilling to join the “modern world”, whatever that might mean. In the United States and Canada, Native Americans and Inuit are still often stereotyped as people who take advantage of the system and avoid work, or as hopeless substance abusers (I challenge you to go on any online discussion about the Idle No More movement for example, and you will find a heap of abuse and stereotypes aimed at indigenous people).
In 2011 I was working for the Confederation of Indigenous People in Bolivia, and was shocked to hear people (including high-ranking government officials) referring to the Moxeños, Chimanes and Yuracaré as “backward” and “savages”, who needed development to join the rest of the country. Along with CIDOB and other indigenous organizations they were fighting a highway proposal which was threatening to tear their territory in half, literally. Like most of these cases, the people most affected by the project were never consulted. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a group of strangers declaring full jurisdiction over your own home and without your permission tearing it down to build a highway so that even more strangers can come in and do whatever they please to the land which you have held since time immemorial and considered sacred? And this is exactly what is happening today, all over the world.
Today, Friday August 9th, is the United Nations’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. To celebrate I thought I would share this great video which was recently released by Amazon Watch. Children of the Jaguar was produced by Sarayaku filmmaker Eriberto Gualinga and Amnesty International, and tells the inspirational story of how the Kichwa community won a major international court case against the Ecuadorian government. If you like it, please share: Children of the Jaguar
“Sometimes we think we may not win as we’re up against the big and the powerful. But we believe that in life, we have to fight for what’s important. That’s why we have to stay in this to the end. Here in Sarayaku, we might not have the riches that others have, but we have our culture, we have a healthy environment, we have the strength of our people. All that gives us dignity and makes us feel lucky to be who we are. We hope our story will inspire you.”- Children of the Jaguar
If you want to learn more about the issues which face indigenous people around the world, and what you can do to help, please check out these sites: