Struggles around the World: 1992 - the Year of Indigenous Peoples

Article excerpt

Spain, Italy, the Vatican, The United States, European and Latin American governments, and other colonial governments are spending millions and billions of dollars (as of 1990, the U.S. Congress alone had appropriated $87 million) to commemorate what they call the 500th anniversary of the "Discovery of America," the "Encounter of Two Worlds," the "Columbus Quincentennial," or the "Conquest of America."

Outraged at this racist version of history, the offense to their dignity, the continued racism, lies, and insensitivity that these governments would perpetuate, indigenous people have held meetings and planned events throughout the Americas. The following is an outline of some of those meetings and events.

November 1986, Quito, Ecuador -- First Congress of the Indian People of Ecuador

At this meeting it was recognized that, rather than representing a conquest, Columbus' arrival in the Americas was the beginning of a colonial invasion complete with oppression, exploitation, racism, and the removal of natural resources from the land of indigenous peoples. In consideration of this, the First Congress of Indian People of Ecuador declared as follows:

1. We reject the planned celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of America promoted by the Spanish government together with the colonial governments that are dependent on the capitalist system, since the celebration of this event reaffirms the policies of neocolonialism and demonstrates the dependency of the countries of the "Third World" on interests of the powerful capitalist economies;

2. The planned celebration violates all principles of free self-determination, and is contrary to all norms of international law;

3. The planned reenactment of the invasion demonstrates a warlike and militaristic attitude, which constitutes an immoral and inhumane offense against the dignity of Indian Peoples; all together, these activities are a provocation against Indian Peoples;

4. We are demanding that the Spanish government suspend the promotion of this event, which represents a celebration of the anniversary of the genocide and ethnocide of the Indian Peoples of the Americas;

5. We are demanding that the Spanish government, instead of investing $5 billion in the activities surrounding the 500th anniversary of the invasion, provide compensation to the Indian Peoples of the Americas, as a matter of moral principle; and

6. We are calling upon all democratic governments, artists and intellectuals, workers, campesinos, students, religious, solidarity and humanrights organizations, the United Nations...and Indian organizations of the world to coordinate actions that will prevent the realization of this 500-year celebration, and to join together in a campaign of general protest in all the countries of the world by whatever means possible.

April 1989, Quito, Ecuador - Meeting of Representatives of Indigenous Organizations

At this meeting a call was made to indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America to organize a unified response by indigenous peoples to the planned 1992 commemorations. It was recognized that no "encounter" had taken place, but rather an armed invasion resulting in the genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the continent. The year 1492 was also when indigenous resistance and struggles for land and self-determination began. It was further recognized that "Manifest Destiny" still prevails in modem society and, consequently, indigenous peoples, in particular, continue to suffer from military abuses and the plundering of natural resources by the multinational corporations. Indigenous peoples continue to be persecuted: in Guatemala, soldiers are ordered to kill the old Indians in particular, because they teach the ways of the Maya, and the children because they are the seed of humanity.

A call was made to all indigenous peoples to reflect upon the real meaning of the "conquest" and to participate in the First Continental Meeting of Indigenous Peoples - 500 Years of Resistance. …