The Indian Issue in the Americas, a Fight for Survival, a Healthy Planet and Human Wellbeing. Colonialism has never died, it’s still alive. But now there is a recrudescence of its destructive effects on native peoples. How can we all try to help to stop it wherever we are?
by Katia Novella Miller
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Native Americans of the Americas and Aboriginal Peoples of the World, all of them, share the same problems and a definitive extinction threat. In fact, assuring that colonialism has ended is to be blind or uniformed. This can be easely proved by the many native protests around the Western Hemisphere. In North America, the Standing Rock Sioux uprising in North Dakota is only the most notorious, but the list is really long inside the United States and in other countries: the Inuit protest in the Canadian Arctic, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation protest in Canadian British Columbia, among many many others in the region. In Mexico protests are uncountable. In Central America, not a long time ago, a Lenca native leader and environmental activist, Berta Cáceres, was killed, and many other leaders face the same risk of being murdered. In Brazil, Indians have declared war to their last breath to the imposed conservative pro-Western and pro-corporate dictatorship of Michel Temer as natives are losing their lands, way of life and freedom at fast rates. In Peru, Amazonian isolated Indians have shown many times their despair due to the invasion and destruction of their living environment; in the Andes, also lonely individuals like the lagoon protector Máxima Acuña, a subsistence farmer and environmentalist awarded with the Goldman Environmental Prize last April in the US, are fighting against mining companies (principally from the USA and Canada). These are just few of the many protests all over the Americas, in Chile, in Argentina, in almost all countries. These protests concern hundreds of different native nations, peoples, tribes of North, Central and South America that are currently facing a last and definitive fight against colonialism and capitalism and are also registering within their communities a high number of suicides due, very likely, to the feeling of losing all hope.
All of them are fighting, struggling against the same monsters: mainly North American corporations, but also European, Chinese. Corporations thirsty for natural resources: fossils like coal, oil, gas; minerals like gold, copper, silver, zinc.
No less impacting for native people’s lives is the need of lands for the agro-industry, principally in relation to agriculture, hungry of maize, soy, coffee, tropical fruits, like in the cases of Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina just to mention a few crops and countries. Fossils, mining, commercial agriculture and livestock: these are all productive activities that require lands and destroy them.
Not by chance Native Americans are protesting, uprising all over the Americas as water, lake, lagoon, river, mountain, jungle, nature protectors. And admirably they, who were colonized, stigmatized as primitive, are sending an important message to the ‘civilized world’: if we all don’t take care of our Mother Earth, we all are going to perish. An assertion that is simply so logically true, but it seems not for everybody as many people do not realize the connection between what they eat, drink, or buy and the land. Astonishingly people seem not to be aware that everything, absolutely everything, is produced, made with nature: metals, fossils, trees, plants, water…
Colonization started 500 years ago and is still going on. Five hundred years ago Europeans started the invasion of the American continent/s (called by Native Americans Abya Yala – southern US and Latin America – or Turtle Island in North America, among other names). For the Native Peoples of the Americas – but also for New Zealand Maoris, Aboriginal Australians – it has meant genocide, expulsion from their lands, an ongoing reduction of territory, an interminable and increasingly difficulty of living as they were used to, the imposition of foreign laws and values, foreign exploitation of their natural resources, stigmatization, a previously unknown poverty, and increasing shortage of resources: unquestionably all common real problems and menaces they started to face hundreds of years ago with the arrival of the colonizers and still do. But there is a significant difference between then and now. Now almost all soils have been occupied, there are no more lands to escape or be deported to. There are no places where they can go and keep alive their original way of living. Now is death or survival.
After 500 years of colonization, the threats Native Americans face have just worsened, especially for those communities that did not want to integrate into the dominant colonial societies, have been not allowed to or have tried to avoid any contact.
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The Conquest of the Last Frontier in the Americas: the Amazon. Many scholars point out that the last frontier of conquest is the Amazon as this huge South American rainforest is one of the few areas of the Western Hemisphere still not completely explored and invaded, especially the Peruvian Amazon that until a few years ago preserved intact natural resources like oil, gas, gold and wood.
The Amazon is home of the last uncontacted Native American tribes and nations that now as never before are desperately – and probably hopelessly – fighting for survival.
The massive invasion and corporate exploitation of the Amazon rainforest started in the 1980‘s, claims IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs).
An Increasing Need of Natural Resources. Everything indicates that the consumer economy of the developed nations has fueled a proliferation of mining operations in the past decade throughout the Americas. The indigenous communities most likely to be affected by the extractive operations have been steadfast in their opposition to them. To provoke the increase of these activities have been also other circumstances like global geopolitical changes: the desire of many countries traditionally producing raw materials to leave the vicious circle that keep them in underdevelopment and poverty instead of continuing to feed the economies of developed countries, and not less significant, the current or future shortage of natural resources. Important factors that have surged the need of finding new sources of raw materials.
US Natives and the need of Unity beyond borders. Who can deny that due to their location within the United States of America, the main World superpower, many people around the globe have known about the Standing Rock uprising in North Dakota, while others, in Canada, in Latin America, remain internationally unkown? Undoubtedly whatever happens in the US attracts more international media. The many reports done by RT, Al Jazeera or Tele Sur have proved it. And this is a mediatic and propaganda power that other native communities in the Western Hemisphere – or aboriginals in Australia – do not benefit from. This is why US native nations and tribes should use this power to spread awareness about this hemispheric and world aboriginal issue.
Beating the ‘new’ post-colonial identities produced by different European cultures and languages, overcoming the differences and rivalries between the many Native American cultures – that contributed to and weakened the fight against the European invaders 500, 400 and 300 years ago in all the Americas – and unifying is probably the real challenge of this battle and very likely the only path to an authentic long-lasting revival. A cultural Indian renaissance in an hemisphere that will never be as it was before Columbus – in an hemisphere that is in an ongoing cultural and ethnic evolution – and in the world.
How you can help? There are few ways in which you can help. Make your family and friends aware of the issue: Native Americans and aboriginal peoples are still alive and fighting for their survival. Challenge Eurocentrism, the false and psychotic idea that Western cultures are superior and right, while aboriginal peoples are inferior and naive: people are just different and the result of what their social environment allows to them. Be ethical and coherent, avoid buying products from companies and countries you know oppress and repress native peoples, including your own country when it makes great economic deals with oppressive governments.
Supporting Aboriginal Peoples and Saving the Planet. The fighting of the Native Peoples of the Americas and other Aboriginal Peoples around the globe for the preservation of Nature is crucial. Their message is making us all more aware of the destruction made by Western Civilization and its insatiable consumerist culture embraced globally by almost all countries in the planet. A way of life that is leading all of us to a dead end road as everything is produced with Natural Resources and Nature is not unlimited. Simply like this. It’s just a fact of pure logic: we need a healthy environment. We need air, we need water, we need bees, we need trees. If we want to survive, we need to protect our Mother Earth.
”When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money” Sitting Bull.
”It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace and live in peace”.
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