Source: Yves Materne, ed., The Indian Awakening in Latin America (New York: Friendship Press, 1980, 113-127).
THE FIRST INDIAN PARLIAMENT OF SOUTH AMERICA
For the first time in contemporary Latin American history, 32
representatives of 11 "indigenous nations" (Maguiritare,
Quechua, Aymara, Guarai(, Chulupi, Toba, Kolla, Mapuche, PaiTavvytera, Parixi and Mataca) from 5 "national states"
(Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela) met in San
Bernardino, Paraguay, from October 8 to 14, 1974, to debate
their specific problems. The official languages of the meeting were
Guarani, Chulupi, Spanish and Portuguese.
No "white" representative was admitted to the deliberations, but
the meeting was held under the auspices of the Native Association
of Paraguay and with the collaboration of the Center for
Anthropological Studies of the Catholic University of Paraguay,
the Interamerican Foundation for the Struggle Against Racism, the
National Indian Fraternity of Canada and the World Council of
The conclusions of the Parliament are followed by the text of
discussions by Indian leaders, which took place during this
"native meeting of the tropical forest."
1. AMERICAN INDIAN PARLIAMENT OF THE SOUTHERN CONE
We, the members of the American Indian Parliament of the
Southern Cone assembled in San Bernardino, Paraguay, October 814, 1974, having analyzed the situation in which our various Indian
peoples of the Americas find themselves, have reached the following
conclusions about the subjects that we
consider vital for improving our present condition and pointing us
toward a future as free peoples.
We believe and declare before the world that as an Indian people we
have a personal identity with an ethnic awareness of our own; we are
heirs and stewards of the cultural values of our millenary American
peoples independently of our status as citizens of one country or
A. The Lands
Assembled at San Bernardino, Paraguay, with participants from
Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay, the American
Indian Parliament of the Southern Cone resolved:
1. The American Indian has owned the land for a thousand years; the
land belongs to the Indian. The Indian and the earth are one. With or
without property titles, the Indian is the owner of the land.
2. Since the arrival of the conquistadors, the Indian has been
systematically destroyed by genocide and ethnocide, the plundering of
his land and the despising of his moral and cultural values.
3. The American nations have suffered a loss by redistributing the
lands divided up into small parcels. Governments should return the
lands to the Indian tribes or communities, granting them property titles.
4. The problem of landholding among the people of the Americas is
rooted in the crude feudalism exercised by outsiders who have no
interest in the local communities.
5. There needs to be a total solution for the agrarian problem in the
Americas in which we Indians have a real opportunity to develop
ourselves and stop suffering so many injustices.
6. The delivery of lands to the Indian should be done in the name of the
community and in the form of communal property. As organizations
become established, the lands that are in the name of third parties, as
well as factories, shops and industries, should be transferred to the
7. Governments, through their appropriate agencies, should make laws
to the practical effect of assuring to the communities
their ownership of the land, both in the places where we have
traditionally lived and in new places where we move in search of
8. A law should be passed to provide for local autonomy, so that
communities can operate under their own rules.
9. Governments should recognize Indian communities as legal entities
that can claim rights and assume obligations. And in their constitutions,
laws and regulations they should deal with the problem of the
restitution of the lands to the collectivized communities that qualify to
claim the rights recognized for communities and tribes.
10. Governments should support the cooperatives that are organized
and run to make profitable use of the lands and other natural
resources. They should also help them with credits, technical advice,
and means for transporting their goods to the consumer markets. And,
working through organizations or official or private agencies, they
should provide the means for establishment of schools of cooperativism.
11. On the long and arduous road that we must follow, we Indians
should seek alliances with other Indian organizations of the Americas
and unite with each other in our struggle for the recovery of our rights.
12. The problem of land tenure has involved many forms of social,
cultural, political and economic oppression in all the American nations.
This subjugation must be stopped by our Indian nations' organizing
adequately to defend our legitimate and inalienable rights.
When the colonists landed in the Americas, they found fertile lands,
forests rich in timber and animals with valuable skins, immensely rich
mines of gold, silver and other precious minerals. We farmed and
labored in our communities and defended our people, fearing no one.
Today we work for others on our own lands-for landlords, missionaries
and public agencies. We work in the forests and mines, and the fruit of
our labors is taken by our employers.
We Indians are only employed, and if our boss or employer wakes up
one day in a bad humor, we are fired. He has no interest in seeing the
Indian learn and make more progress. We are tired of suffering so
much injustice; today they treat us badly because we ourselves are
afraid and it appears that the Indian has no right to be human.
We are not animals or weak children who must live and work under
the tutelage of landowners or missionaries or public officials who lend
us tools and take them away from us when they feel like it. We
demand the same job security and freedom to which every human
being is entitled in the twentieth century.
Millions of our brothers and sisters irrigated the soil of the Americas
with their sweat and blood, working like beasts of burden in our forests
and our fields so that others might carry away our wealth to other
And it is that blood shed by our ancestors which today drives and
compels us to take a stand and demand before the world that this
unjust situation be corrected.
We ask this question of the churches with their different creeds, the
governments of the various countries, and the international agencies
for the protection of human and labor rights: If human work is the
continuation of God's creative work, if work is what makes nations
great, if work is one of people's most basic freedoms, indeed, if work
is one's very life, how do you respond to the declaration that we have
just made, outlining the situation in which we Indians have been
enormously exploited for more than four centuries?
The American Indian Parliament of the Southern Cone, therefore, is
1. That discrimination against the Indian must cease in the assignment
of tasks upon the division of labor, and that wages must be paid in cash--no longer in redeemable vouchers.
2. That the most disagreeable tasks and the most physically demanding
ones must not be reserved exclusively for the Indian.
3. That the income from work done by Indians on government
reservations and religious missions should belong to all our brothers
and sisters and not be used for the administrative expenses of the
paternal agencies. The reservations and missions that are organized as businesses should be
administered by us Indians, or at least with our direct participation.
4. That, according to the desire of the Indian peoples, economic
measures should be adopted with the aim of avoiding situations that
force us Indians to give up our communities; to this end, opportunities
for work should be created for the communities.
5. In the lands where we Indians live, we demand that the
governments provide the necessary means so that it is the communities
themselves that exploit for our own benefit the natural wealth which is
found in our lands. If that should be totally impossible because the
resource fields are subject to special legislation, then our communities
should receive a part of what is extracted.
C. A Truly Indian Education
The Indian peoples of the Americas have their own culture which is a
thousand years old.
The conquistadors, the white people of today, the so-called cholos (halfbreeds) or mestizos, and even our own people who deny their origin,
tried and still try to destroy our cultural values. Nevertheless, thanks to
the traditions transmitted from generation to generation and kept truly
alive, and thanks to the speech of the eternal monuments, we affirm
before the whole world that our cultures still have a vital existence.
We the original people of the Americas respect the culture and
language of other civilizations and we demand that they respect us
with all our values, in keeping with the Charter of the United Nations
which declares: "Every people has a right to foster its own culture."
Education is the fundamental ground for the training >
Education is important for us Indians and ought to be imparted in
accordance with our own style of pedagogy. We ought to strive for an
education that will contribute to the advancement of our peoples. We
must find an education that suits us. We must have a school that will
enable us to free ourselves.
We, the leaders gathered here, conscious of our responsibility, pledge
ourselves to struggle to make our cultures respected. To that end, we
demand of governments the opportunity to take part in the planning of
Education bears the burden of transmitting and spreading a culture.
Our educational system, therefore, should be constructed within the
framework of the cultural values of the Indian peoples.
Experience has shown us that when technical personnel and
missionaries take charge of our education, they transmit only their
culture, not ours.
We hold that in the training of new teachers in the normal schools up
to now the only thing they do with us is a brain-washing. Instead of
this, we believe there should be a type of teaching that does not simply
follow European pedagogy or Western culture. Education should be
broad, technical as well as practical, and designed to energize our own
We favor and support the establishment of ethnological,
anthropological and linguistic institutes to do research in the millenarian
culture of all the Indian peoples. These should be directed by Indian
D. Use of the Indian Languages
In the Indian areas, education should be given in the mother tongue,
with teaching done also in the language most widely used in the
We demand that the governments officially recognize the native
languages. Also that they be included as preferred languages along
with the European tongues within the educational system of every
country at all levels of education.
Publications should be brought out in native languages to contribute to
the enrichment of the native cultures with input from universal science
Public officials in whose areas of labor there are Indians should learn
their languages to facilitate effective communication with them until
Indian officials can be provided.
We hold that history should be taught so as to begin with the
true history of the native cultures, thus contributing to the development
of an American self-awareness. A sense of respect growing out of a
knowledge of the heroes and martyrs of our nations' own history will
permit a greater understanding among the men and women who
inhabit these lands.
In all of the Americas we have similar problems. Wherever there are
Indians, our problems are the same. When the conquistadors came,
they found strong and healthy peoples. The Indian was robust, he
defended his race and was proud of it. The conquistadors came and
began to kill us. The health problem of the Indian peoples of the
Americas is extremely alarming. The conquistadors brought us the
worst diseases that afflict us today: hunger, tuberculosis, syphilis,
influenza, smallpox, measles and fear.
We had diseases that our medicine men knew and could cure. With
the diseases of the invaders, we find ourselves threatened by
something for which we have no cure; nor do the invaders cure us or
make available to us the necessary remedies.
Furthermore, there are campaigns with nice names-that do nothing but
sterilize our women and thus put an end to our races. Our greatest and
only wealth is our children, for they are the hope of our peoples.
The governments often conduct health campaigns that are nothing
more than political propaganda. They do not really attack our ills but
end up being just one more deception for the Indian.
In other cases there are ministries of health that sometimes build local
clinics where there are neither medicines nor nurses. What good, then,
are those expenditures for which the people themselves have to
provide the money?
So we say that we demand the opportunity to participate with our
experience in the solution of the health problems which affect us, in
order that the right plans and expenditures may be made.
We call the government's attention to the chronic state of
morbidity and extreme debility to which whole communities are
subjected because of their exposure to tuberculosis and other grave
diseases. We do this in the face of the utter insensitivity of the national
and international agencies that have sufficient means and that were
established to combat those ills.
While the world of science makes great economic and human
expenditures to perfect medicines to help people in the big cities lose
weight and calm their nerves, thousands of human beings die in our
communities for want of basic medicines.
By being stripped of our lands and subjected to inhuman forms of
labor, our people progressively grew weaker and lost the opportunity
to obtain the food necessary to be healthy and strong.
The American Indian Parliament of the Southern Cone demands,
1. Establishment of clinics in our communities, with dispensaries and
full-time medical personnel.
2. Provision of these clinics with all the medicines necessary to deal
with emergency cases and transportation facilities to move patients to
3. Holding of courses to train Indian health personnel, paid for by the
state or private agencies that offer services to our communities.
4. Respect for Indian medicine and the patients' faith in it.
5. Elimination of birth control practices in Indian communities.
6. Measures to prevent, as much as possible, the spread of infectious
diseases that are transmitted by the society of any nation. Such
measures should accord with the risk of contagion run by Indian
communities by a greater or lesser contact with that society.
7. The compilation of statistics on Indian infant mortality, the causes of
death in Indian communities, life expectancy and vegetative growth in
the Indian population.
8. Maintenance of strict immunization and preventive medicine
9. Holding of hygiene and child care courses in our communities so as
to reduce the frequency of miscarriages, puerperal fever and infant
10. Hospital admission and care for Indians in due form as for any
other inhabitant of the country, with the hospital administration held
responsible for any death resulting from lack of care.
11. Holding of campaigns on dental and eye care.
12. Holding of active health campaigns to wipe out tuberculosis,
Chagas disease, syphilis, parasitosis and other endemic diseases and, as
a preventive health measure, cleaning up the environment.
13. Respect for the Indian peoples' cultures on the part of medical
personnel who serve in our communities.
14. Introduction of the study of Indian medicines in the universities,
with direct participation by knowledgeable Indians.
The imposition of alien cultures different from our own caused our
organizations to be weakened and destroyed. With our organizations
shattered, tragedy engulfed our nations.
Aware that our values still hold all of their force, we address our Indian
brethren of the Americas and declare:
1. That we Indians ought to get ourselves organized in accordance with
our traditions, adopting forms of organization from other peoples which
can be adapted to our practices and which contribute to the greatness
of our people.
2. That, as far as possible, we should avoid the rise and/or growth of
social classes within the Indian community, since this would cause our
brothers to be divided by economic interests.
3. That we must unite to fight for the recovery of our rights from the
groups that oppress us.
4. That we must rise above the divisions caused by the conflict of
interests among the various religious orders and sects that, under the
role of our protectors or colonizers, work in our communities to make
us forget that we are Indians.
5. That we must be extremely cautious in the face of manipulation by
national political factions and parties so as not to become participants in
an alien hatred, and suffer gratuitous
persecutions that worsen our condition. The help we receive should not
be given with the condition that we accept a national political creed or a
way of life that is at variance with our customs.
6. That our communities should move in the direction of grouping
themselves in regional organizations so as better to defend their rights
and culture. These regional federations, in turn, should seek, as rapidly
as possible, to become part of national and international federations.
7. That our spokespersons should have the complete support of our
respective Indian peoples and not base their power and prestige on the
backing that they are given by the national authorities, who generally
seek to make use of false leaders to slow down the processes of Indian
We, the representatives of the Indian nations Maquiritare, Quechua,
Aymara, Guarani, Chulupi, Toba, Kolla, Mapuche, Pai-Tavvytera, Ava
Chiripa, Chamacoco, Parixi and Mataco, assembled in Paraguay, send
a greeting to the brothers and sisters dispersed throughout the
Americas who were present with us, even though they did not come to
this parliament. For those outside the Indian communities should realize
that we are united, and that henceforth it will be harder for them to
keep on exterminating our brothers and sisters, because any attack on a
community or any of its members, we will sense as a blow against all
the Indians of the Americas.
During our meeting we remembered the sufferings and persecutions
that we suffered everywhere, but also the struggles that we Indians of
the Americas are carrying out today. We have made a new
commitment to go forward. And so we invite all the Indian nations to
carry on until we attain the final victory: To be free!
II. COMPOSITION AND PROGRAM OF THE INDIAN PARLIAMENT
My name is Samuel Coronel Gutierrez. I belong to the Aymara
nation, forerunner of the solar race admired by the
world for its thousand-year-old Tiahuanacu. As delegate to this South
American Meeting I represent the native organization "Mink'a," a
center of coordination and peasant promotion in La Paz, Bolivia.
Our meeting takes place in San Bernardino, on the shores of poetic
Lake Ypacarai. For the good government of our peoples we have
founded the First South American Indian Parliament under the
presidency of the notable personage Alberto Santacruz, a Chulupi
Indian from Paraguay, who is assisted by a vicepresident, Eulogio
Fritez (Kolla, Argentina), and by a secretarygeneral, Fausto Duran
(Kolla, Argentina). Council of Amautas:* Gabino Toro (Chulupi,
Paraguay), Daniel Matenho (Parixi, Brazil), Pedro Santana Campos
(Calchaqui, Argentina), Elias Medrano (Chiriguano, Argentina),
Francisco Servin (Pai-Tavvy tera, Paraguay), Samuel Coronel
Gutierrez (Aymara, Bolivia).
This Parliament is the instrument through which we may govern
ourselves wisely as our ancestors used to do. On this occasion we have
raised the following important problems:
-the possession of cultivatable land;
-discrimination in education;
-the precarious state of health of the population; -work without social
-the organization of the natives.
In conclusion I wish to say this: gathered here, from the eagles' nests of
the Bolivian Andes and from the lowlands of the Atlantic, inheritors of
the greatness of our ancestors and faithful to the memory of our
martyrs for the Indian cause, we swear that we will affirm our Indian
personality by working toward
unity for the greatness of yellow America.
San Bernardino, October 8, 1974.
III. EXTRACTS FROM THE SPEECH OF FRANCISCO SERVIN
I am going to talk to you in Guarani. In Guarani we say: "ryke'y, ryvy
reindy"; that means: "brothers, sisters." We are all harmoniously united
since we are sons- of God....
Brothers and sisters, I am going to tell you what we need. The land has
been ours for a long time, but we do not have any property titles. That
is the reason our lands have been overrun, that is why we are not
respected. We do not wish to fight among brothers, for in Paraguay we
are all one, one blood, one language: Guarani. We want something to be
given to us in order to be respected by civilized people. That is why I
am explaining myself to the authorities: it is right that the promised
lands should be ours, for then we shall be able to work peacefully.
We were the masters of the land, but we have become real outcasts
since the "gringos"* have arrived. All of the difficulties that they make
for us are because they believe that we are stupid and ignorant. But we
are neither stupid nor ignorant. They
think that we are dumb when we leave our lands. In fact if we leave
them, it is because we love them and because, in the sight of God, we
do not wish to be aggressive. We hope they will realize one day that
we are their roots and that together we must form, as it were, one large
tree with its branches and its flowers. That is how we must live in
Paraguay. Brothers, the peasants must now realize the importance and
the value of the land. It is our father, it is our mother. We depend
completely on it to cultivate, to harvest, to feed ourselves, and after
having fed ourselves, to lift our heads high. That is why it is important to give the
land back to us. I do not ask that they give it back to us in its entirety,
but only as much as is necessary to live. In this Parliament, we have
seen that all peasants have the same problem.
The gringos say to us: "You have spades, you have machetes, you
have everything! That should be enough for you I" They are lying! We
are in the hands of God. Now, beginning with the
meeting of our Parliament, the gringos are going to begin to notice
that. We simply want a lever in order to get up, and we will take care
of the rest.
Listen closely, little brothers kueras, I feel perfectly happy. I
don't know how to explain it to you. It is as if my soul was sleeping
and as if it has just awakened during this meeting!
Our friend General Samaniego has known us since 1949: he does not
run away from us. But others would brand us with a red-hot iron, if it
were possible, to keep anyone from mixing with us. After this
Parliament, I hope that those people are going to understand. In my
heart, it seems as though we had been separated from our mother a
very long time, and that for us today, this Parliament is as a mother.
Brothers kueras, now that we have rediscovered each other, hope is
IV. SPEECH OF JUSTINO QUISPE BALBOA
(AYMARA, BOLIVIA, AGE 21)
The history of America is lost in the night. It is masked by a black
As Indians, how could our hearts forget the civilization which our
ancestors founded? For how long are we going to be an object of
study for the whites?
Today, at the time of our awakening, it is we who must be our own
historians. When I evoke this glorious past, my heart burns and I feel
like crying! I remember the Inca Yupanki who used to say: "A people
which oppresses another people cannot be free!"
This Parliament, organized by Project Marandu, has impressed me. I
say that it is an echo from the past, for as Indian men, our heart is in
some way filled by the spirit of the past. I salute the high-ranking
authorities who are here to listen to us. If other identical meetings take
place later, then the Paraguayan meeting will have been their point of
*Council of the Wise. (Trans.)
*Gringo: foreigner, white, North American. (Trans.)