Indigenous Declaration from Sierra Nevada, Colombia

Indigenous Declaration from Sierra Nevada, Colombia

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John Ahni Schertow
July 21, 2006
 

SIMONORWA, COLOMBIA, July 21st 2006-08-20

We are still here in our Sierra Nevada despite the suffering after more than five hundred years since the arrival of the Spanish which for the white man was a great conquest which resulted in the imposition of his laws and beliefs and which for us, the indigenous peoples meant extermination, destruction, humiliation, slavery, the profanation our Sacred Sites. Our suffering does not seem to be at an end. On the contrary it has intensified as at this point in time Our Territory continues under the threat of those that ignore our age old spiritual traditions.

DECLARATION OF THE FOUR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S OF THE SIERRA NEVADA OF THE CHUNDUAS (SANTA MARTA) KAGGABA, IKU, WIWA, KAKACHUKWA.

SIMONORWA, COLOMBIA, July 21st 2006-08-20

The Mamos still exist in our communities, elders who know our own history and tradition, who tell us of the past as recent event. They ensure and make offerings in order that everything is well without any difficulities and that we look after and maintain our traditions in our Ancestral Lands delimited by the Black Line as set down in Resolution 000002 of 1973, modified by Resolution 837 of 1995 issued by the Ministry of the Interior.

The Black Line is made up of the Sacred Sites of payment that define our Ancestral Land given to us by our Mother as a legacy form the past for the present and the future. For this reason the Sierra Nevada represents a Spiritual City where our task is to look after it, to be the its and the world’s guardians. The Sierra is what we feel and know from birth, from our ancestors that have given us life, we are the beginning. The conservation of the Sierra Nevada was entrusted to us by our spiritual mothers and fathers. However, their continued presence is the responsibility of the whole world.

We have made payments in order that the government and society respect the age old traditions of the Sierra Nevada in accordance with our own thinking as inhabitants of this Kankurwa (sacred house) which is a living body, whole in its parts and which we must look after. Under no circumstances can we split it up if we want it to continue to function for good of humanity. If our traditions are lost, the chance of looking after the world and maintaining its balance, to prevent the sun from being extinguished and because of this being forced to live through what nobody wants.

Our concept of development is to be found in the compliance of the Law of Origen in the recovery of our true Táni, posessor of the science that was handed on to us by our first fathers and mothers as our constitution. We are not interested in wealth, we are interested in looking after life, our raison d’etre. When we speak of Our Territory we are not just talking about piece of land but of its sacred character which is represented by the high peaks and hills.. All of the hills of the Sierra Nevada are Mamos, they are the fathers and mothers of all that exists, there we make our payments, the tributes to our fathers and mothers in order to look after the continuity of life.

These peaks and hills represent the large cities, large temples, from the large to the small of all the peoples of the world, the mothers and fathers of all the continents of all the countries and their governments which are represented in the hills. If the governments realised their origen they would not harm the true relics of which we alone were designated to look after.

This is why our Mamos have seen the need to warn humanity of its concern for the repercussions that may happen if the Sierra Nevada is finished as the heart of the world.

We are still here in our Sierra Nevada despite the suffering after more than five hundred years since the arrival of the Spanish which for the white man was a great conquest which resulted in the imposition of his laws and beliefs and which for us, the indigenous peoples meant extermination, destruction, humiliation, slavery, the profanation our Sacred Sites. Our suffering does not seem to be at an end. On the contrary it has intensified as at this point in time Our Territory continues under the threat of those that ignore our age old spiritual traditions.

We are currently being ill treated in all senses of the word due to the multiple political and economic interests that place Our Territory and its jurisdiction at risk. We are victims of the repression exercised by illegal and legal armed actors, of the mega projects planned for Our Territory which do not concord with the agreements signed by the government and our Indigenous Organisations of the pressure exercised by the conquest of invasive religions; of the educational and health model imposed by the government, which ignore our own health and education models the non recognition of the Sacred Territory by the Colombian Government.

There is currently a plan to exploit the hydric resources of the Sierra Nevada which considers the building of seven dams. Two of these projects have already begun; the dam on the river Ranchería is under construction with the presence of machinery and the removal of soil on Sacred Sites and the other dam on the river Guatapurí (Besotes Sector is as the stage of topographical surveys. In the case of the dam on the river Ranchería the Wiwa people have no knowledge of the supposed agreements that government needs in order carry out this type of development in indigenous territories and in the case of Los Besotes the community is resisting having set up a camp consisting of forty families who are hoping for the government and its foreign partners desist from carrying out this project.

These dam projects are part of an ambitious plan to prepare the lands at the foot of the Sierra Nevada for the planting of agroindustrial monocultures. This proposal violates Our Territory and increases the degradation of the Sacred Sites preventing our people from continuing with its spiritual work and the making of payments to maintain the balance of the world.

Furthermore, we have with great concern seen that many foreign companies seek and have exploited the valuable metals and natural resources in Our Territory. Also colonists have destroyed the forests and expanded cattle ranching and agriculture through our Sacred Territories as well as destroying them with chemical fumigations. Colonists and foreigners have extracted the majority of our relics and natural resources which when exchanged for money serves to take away our land.

Also our hills are under attack are faced with a grave threat from society through the Colombian Government. Antennas have been established on some of the more important sacred hills as is the case of INARWA and it is proposed that more be built under the Free Trade Agreement (TLC) recently signed by Colombia and the USA. The building of these antennas is a threat to survival of our peoples and our cultures; for us the building of these antennas on Sacred Hills is like a knife to the heart.

To accept the development of mass transport projects such as airports and cable cars would constitute a violation of our Law of Origin and are linked to the eco and ethnic tourism of our territory which we do not agree with and will not permit in our Sacred House.

We are defenceless victims of the internal armed conflict in Colombia. The illegal and legal armed actors profane, violate and do not respect our Sacred Sites of payment, nature, water and air through the spilling of blood in our Sacred House and more so when we are talking of indigenous victims. This affects us and life itself even when these events take place amongst younger brothers (non indigenous).

We are also concerned by the government proposal to buy land with the Black Line to share it out amongst the reinserted members of the illegal armed groups even though we have been clear that we do not want these people in our ancestral lands. We will only accept those reinserted members that belong to one of our four peoples whom we will treat justly in line with our own system of justice and traditions.

In relation to our governance and traditions all the authorities must work together with the Mamos, likewise the teachers in any area who must keep in touch with the Mamos and not just the system imposed by the government which gives no guarantee to our traditions and customs and consequently our culture. As it is with foreign education and religions they have wanted to take over the Sierra Nevada from the time of the conquest; these doctrines are degenerated forms of our cosmo vision and spirituality.

All of these threats and agressions lead many indigenous to doubt how positive it can be to develop our own culture, violating Convention 169 of the ILO and the International Agreement on Economic Social and Cultural Rights promulgated by the UN, which protect us as an ancient people against the actions of external actors that may harm our special organisational and cultural ways.

For this reason the four indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Chundwa (KAGGABA, IKU, WIWA, KAKACHUKWA) are united with one voice, one way of thinking denouncing the violations of Our Territory and Our Ancient Culture asking that our fundamental collective rights be respected and complied with.

We demand that the Colombian government both national and regional, the multilateral organisms, international agencies of cooperation and other public and private entities with political and economic interests in the Sierra refrain from carrying our projects or intervening in ways that negatively affect our ethnic and territorial integrity in line with the principals outlined in this document. At the same time with urge them to recognise and accept the ancestral vision of territorial ordenance the criteria for intervening in Our Ancestral Territory under the parameters of prior, informed and free consent.

We seek the support of civil society, the indigenous governments and indigenous organisations, social organisations, human rights organisations and ecologists of the world to maintain our age old spiritual traditions and territories and in this way continue with our aim to maintain the balance in the world.

Signed by the traditional and political authorities in representation of the four peoples of the Sierra Nevada de los Chunduas.

(source)

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