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  • 500 Years of Indian Resistance

    Call to Action on the First Continental Meeting of Indigenous Peoples

    This is an invitation to all Indian people throughout the Americas, to take part in the First Continental Meeting of Indigenous Peoples on the "500 Years of Indian Resistance" commemorations in 1992.  The meeting will take place in Quito, Ecuador at the end of June, 1990. The meeting is being organized by the Confederation of Indian Nations of Ecuador (CONAIE). The decision to hold this meeting was based on various discussions between Indian organizations throughout the continent which culminated with a preparatory meeting held last April in Quito between CONAIE, the National Organization of Indian People of Colombia (ONIC), SAIIC, and other national and international support organizations.

    The broad objectives of the conference are:

    1. to promote unity and active participation of Indigenous peoples and organizations in the 500 Years Campaign and to coordinate counter-commemorations; 

    2. to promote a broad, unified front of participation by other sectors of society, including those groups committed to human rights, justice, equality, and protection of the natural world, on a national and international level;

    3. to re-establish inter-cultural relations between Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

    The first three days of the five-day Quito conference will be meetings between Indian peoples. Non-Indian people are invited to participate as observers for this period. The fourth day will be an open meeting with all the non-Indian organizations to discuss alliances and strategies, and on the fifth day there will be a press conference, a visit to local Indian communities, and in the late afternoon, a cultural exchange with Indian music.

    Following is a statement which was drawn up at the preparatory meeting in Quito, April 9th, 1989:

    A Call to Indigenous People:

    There is an urgent need to organize an indigenous response to the celebration of the so-called "Discovery of America," now officially called by some governments "the Encounter of Two Worlds." Spain, the Vatican, the United States and European and Latin American governments are preparing many pompous events to celebrate the "Conquest of America."

    From our Indigenous perspective, there was no "encounter." The contact between the Europeans and Indians did not permit equal conditions and opportunities. On the contrary, it was an armed invasion motivated by the quest for resources and by the crisis of feudal European regimes.

    The most evident consequences of these violent acts were genocide, the rape of our women, torture, political/ ideological and cultural submission and death through diseases brought to the continent. Our land and our resources were plundered. Military and religious power were the instruments of domination in the conquest.

    The conquest and the mentality of "Manifest Destiny" still prevails in modern society, in the operation of the oligarchy, in the abuses of the military, in the plundering of natural resources by multinational and national companies. These activities affect a large portion of our society, and in particular Indigenous people. We are still witnessing colonial aggression.

    The conquest of the Amazon today is very clear. This land is under assault in order to exploit its mineral resources, its reserves of valuable timber and its great hydro-electric potential. The Indigenous people of the Amazon are confronting this conquest, and this is 1989. The Yanomami, the most numerous of the Indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest, are facing the loss of their lands and are being killed because they are viewed as a barrier to the exploitation of natural resources in Brazil.

    Thus October 12, 1992 presents a great opportunity not to celebrate, nor to cry about our bad luck, but rather to reflect upon 500 years of the European invasion and to formulate alternatives for a better life, in harmony with Nature and with human dignity.

    Our peoples are developing forms of political, religious, cultural and economic interchange and interrelationship - a continental cultural identity; a civilization. Nevertheless, with the European invasion and subsequent process of colonization, we became isolated and out of communication, breaking a form of development we had attained.

    So, it is necessary to re-establish these lines of communication, to present an indigenous voice, not only against the celebration of the "500th Anniversary," but to face up to the innumerable common problems that we have and work for a worthy future for our people.

    Therefore, we invite all Indigenous peoples of our continent to reflect upon the real meaning of the "conquest" and to participate in the First Continental Meeting of Indigenous Peoples - 500 Years of Resistance" to be held at the end of June, 1990.

    Source: South and Meso-American Indian Information Center (SAIIC).  Berkeley, CA.  Fall 1989/Winter 1990, p.16-18.

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