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  • V.

    Source: Yves Materne, ed., The Indian Awakening in Latin America (New York: Friendship Press, 1980, 113-127).


    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 Churches.

    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."


    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 another.

    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 community.

    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 fertile ground.

    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.

    B. Work

    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 continents.

    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 determined:

    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 > human beings. 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 Indian education.

    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 cultural values.

    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 scholars.

    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 country.

    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 and technology.

    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.

    E. Health

    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, therefore:

    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 medical centers.

    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 programs.

    9. Holding of hygiene and child care courses in our communities so as to reduce the frequency of miscarriages, puerperal fever and infant mortality.

    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.

    F. Organization

    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 liberation.


    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!


    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 security;
    -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.



    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 reborn!



    The history of America is lost in the night. It is masked by a black curtain.

    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 departure.

    *Council of the Wise. (Trans.)
    *Gringo: foreigner, white, North American. (Trans.)

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