Last month, the Cucapa and Kumiai Indigenous Communities of Baja California, Mexico, announced a multilateral project dedicated to making themselves autonomous, self-sufficient, traditionally-governed Peoples.
As explained in a project overview (see below), years of colonial policies on part of the Mexican government have produced “the almost complete loss of our autonomy, of our natural resources, and our culture, principally our native tongues, and the destruction of the social fabric within our communities and our forms of internal organization.”
Their situation is getting to the point now, they added, where “we will disappear as Indian Peoples and that in a not too distant future we will be talked about like we talk today about the extinct Pericues, Waycuras and Cochimies, who inhabited the peninsula, if now, at this very moment, we do nothing to prevent this.”
Rather than wait for their own death, both Peoples developed what they’ve called the “project of life…”
The project consists of at least 20 different efforts which they plan to implement over a 5 year period. The efforts include: developing a quality local healthcare system, improving sustainable agricultural practices, creating communal spaces, recovering traditional authorities, reclaiming territory and sacred sites, and laying the groundwork for an autonomous education system that respects their values and culture.
The Kumiai and Cucapa—both adherents to the Zapatista Other Campaign—have also decided to welcome “the participation and collaboration of civil society on both sides of the border.” At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any contact information available, but I’m currently tracking that down. Stay tuned.
This is a welcomed decision to say the least—and it’s one that I hope we won’t let pass us by. After all, we are equally faced with the end that threatens the Kumiai and Cucapa, and we equally hold the need to realize our own Laws and Traditions, to begin setting our own examples, and to walk away from the historical lie and become our own People.
We all know we want it… but so many of us refuse to trade our fear for choice. Instead we continue on as we have in the past, either doing nothing or exactly what the states expect us to do…
If we want to continue living then at some point we must let this go; and like the Kumiai and Cucapa, embrace what our heart demands of us.
If not for ourselves, then for those who have not yet had a chance to walk the land.
Proposed to the civil society on both sides of the border by:
THE KUMIAI INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF:
JUNTAS DE NEJÍ in the municipality of Tecate
LA HUERTA in the municipality of Ensenada
THE CUCAPÁ INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF:
EL MAYOR in the municipality of Mexicali
with the following
Through this project we seek to exercise our autonomy in deed as well as our right to self-determination.
Considering that since the decade of the seventies our territories have been considerably reduced by means of strategies and false arguments on the part of the Mexican government, producing as a result the almost complete loss of our autonomy, of our natural resources, and our culture, principally our native tongues, and the destruction of the social fabric within our communities and our forms of internal organization;
Considering that our condition becomes progressively worse since we see how day by day our communities continue to disintegrate due to a lack of quality education, basic health services that really satisfy our needs, as well as a lack of work options, all of which are necessary for attaining a better standard of living and for our spiritual well-being without being dependent on and conditioned by the scant assistance programs offered by the government and some non-governmental organizations to exercise control over indigenous peoples;
Taking all of the above into consideration, we have agreed to invite you to participate in this project as a very important complementary part, contributing in this manner to better the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions of the native indigenous peoples of Baja California.
To support our communities with productive activities that will allow us to have employment, as well as generate income that will have an impact on improving our quality of life and contribute to strengthening ties that will root families to our communities, thereby helping to preserve our territories.
This project proposes to be a POLITICAL, SOCIAL, PRODUCTIVE and CULTURAL project.
At the POLITICAL level to offer and participate in workshops in the Indian communities on:
- Exchanging experiences with other indigenous people of the world through different means of communication: videos, cassettes, CD’s, independent radios, etc.
- Treaties and international conventions such as Convention 169 of the WIO, among others.
- The Accords of San Andrés.
- Article 2 of the Mexican Constitution.
- State laws, such as the newly approved Indian Law for the state of Baja California.
- How governmental institutions, NGO’s, religious organizations and political parties operate in the Indian communities.
At the SOCIAL (EDUCATION, HEALTH AND HOUSING) level:
- We seek to obtain scholarships for the young people of our communities so they may continue their secondary and preparatory education, as some of them do so with their scarce means and are often forced to discontinue their schooling.
- Look for medical brigades so they may assist our communities.
- Create a health dispensary in each community.
- Train women in our communities so they may act as community nurses.
- Promote traditional medicine and encourage its use where modern medicine is not necessary.
- Build and improve homes in order to prevent illnesses, especially in the winter season.
- Offer workshops on recycling of trash.
At the PRODUCTIVE level:
- It is of utmost importance to rescue our water and maintain our autonomous rights over it.
- Conduct workshops on organic agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry, apiculture and also on planting nopal (edible cactus), fruit trees, processing and conservation of food products so that we may also guarantee our autonomy over foodstuffs.
- Conduct workshops to inform on transgenic crops and foods. Find markets and improve the commercialization of our products.
- Preserve our native seeds.
At the CULTURAL level:
- Promote the use and preservation of our Indian language.
- Promote our traditions: oral, culinary, songs, dances, games, ceremonies, our kinds of housing and forms of work organization and all other forms of traditional practices.
- Recover our traditional authorities.
- Create communal spaces within our communities.
WHAT WE HAVE AS RESOURCES:
Human resources —men, women, children, senior people, and especially our youths—and our greatest determination.
WHAT WE NEED IN ORDER TO CARRY OUT OUR PROJECT OF LIFE:
- As a principal element: the participation and collaboration of civil society on both sides of the border.
- The realization that in order to carry out any project, whatever it may be, it needs to be concluded in its totality.
- To give continuity to this project, especially the workshops.
THE RESULTS WE EXPECT TO OBTAIN:
- That we indigenous peoples obtain our autonomy by making it ours.
- That we grow together and have greater unity among Indian peoples.
- Promote the spirit of community service.
- Promote a sustainable development that is respectful of our Mother Earth.
- That new generations learn to value and protect our sacred sites, the environment and our natural resources.
- Prepare them to value our Indian peoples and that they learn to defend our rights.
- Make of our younger generations a future potential by providing them with the elements and knowledge to defend our territories so they may assume the responsibility of rescuing our culture and transmitting it to future generations.
PROPOSED SCHEDULE OF OUR SHORT-TERM, MEDIUM-TERM AND LONGER-TERM GOALS:
- Organic agriculture and apiculture
- Culture and Indian Rights
- Recovery and reinforcement of our native Cucapá and Kumiai languages
II. PRODUCTIVE PROJECTS
- Apiculture – obtaining bees and equipment and beginning of cultures
- Organic agriculture
- Fishing – obtaining additional outboard motors and fishing gear for the 17 members of the Cucapá fishing cooperative “Chapey Jakuajuath” for this fishing season which is about to begin
III. EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS for at least 10 students.
III. LEGAL ADVISING for the protection and recuperation of our territory and cultural patrimony.
IV. TO CONVOKE and organize the 3rd Meeting of the Indigenous National Congress in the Kumiai community of Juntas de Nejí
6 MONTHS – 2 YEARS:
- Processing and commercialization of our fish catch at both local and international markets
- Processing and commercialization of apiculture products
- Processing and commercialization of organic agricultural products
- Reclaiming of our territory and sacred sites
- Reinforcing and if possible increasing education scholarships
- Setting the groundwork for developing an autonomous education system which recovers our values and culture
2 – 5 YEARS:
Consolidation of productive projects as well as political, social and cultural activities, in particular reinforcing our languages, our traditions, our forms of life, and strengthening the ties of our younger generations to our communities.