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  • A Call to Indigenous People

    500 Years of Indian Resistance

    Confederation of Indian Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE)

    National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC)

    South and Mesa American Indian information Center (SAIIC)

    Quito, Ecuador, April 1989

    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.

    However, the 12th of October of 1492 was also the beginning of the movement of indigenous resistance. Emancipation movements and resistance grew against the conquistadores, and later against the colonial regimes. There also arose voices of denunciation and protest in support of the indigenous struggle, such as that of Bartolome de las Casas, who worked from deep within the church.

    Today, the indigenous struggle for land and self-determination has returned to those best-known elements of resistance: Land, because it is there where our people live, where they grow food, where the Sacred Vision of the Cosmos is found. And self-determination, because it is the principle that permits us to struggle for our right to speak our own language, to practice our religion, to have our own form of government, to be ourselves-to be the creators of our own future.

    The conquest and the mentality of "Manifest Destiny" still prevail in modern society in the operations 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 still witness colonial aggression, for example in Guatemala, where a general has told his soldiers that they should especially kill the old and the children-the old because they still preserve the teachings of the Mayas, and the children because they are the seed of humanity.

    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 problem for 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.

    With the European invasion and subsequent process of colonization, our peoples became isolated and cut off from each other, breaking a level of development we had attained. Today, our peoples are developing forms of political, religious, cultural and economic interchange and interrelationships-a continental cultural identity, a civilization.

    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 to work for a worthy future for our people.

    Up until now, the various peoples and indigenous organizations of each different country have begun to realize activities and to push forward campaigns to answer the celebrations of the 500th Anniversary. Now, we feel that this is the moment to define joint strategies and activities to counteract the official campaign of the 500th Anniversary.

    Source: 500 Years of Resistance; 1992 International Directory and Resource Guide.  Oakland: South and Meso-American Indian Information Center (SAIIC), p. 11.

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