Monthly Archives: March 2016

Hacer memoria es otra forma de conseguir la justicia: Sabino Vive


Lucía Martínez Romero, esposa del Cacique Sabino. FOTO: Miguel Moya


El 9 de febrero de 2013, un mes antes de que fuera asesinado por sicarios en el Municipio de Machiques, el cacique Yukpa Sabino Romero Izarra dice ante las cámaras de Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras:

…La Sierra Perijá es esto, pues, donde nosotros estamos arrinconados hace muchos años. Desde 1980 estamos pidiendo la demarcación de territorios de los pueblos indígenas, de nosotros, los Yukpa y los Barí y los Wayuu. El problema del territorio no se ha resuelto.

Estas palabras quedaron registradas en el documental que hoy les recomendamos: Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras, dirigido por Carlos Azparúa con el Apoyo del Centro Nacional Autónomo de Cinematografía de Venezuela.






Yukpa Chief Sabino Romero Izarra. Picture: aporrea tvi

On February 9th, 2013, a month before being murdered by sicarios (hired assassins) in the Machiques County, the Yukpa chief Sabino Romero Izarra opened Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras with the following words:

The Perija Mountains are these, you know, where we have been cornered for years. Since 1980, we have been asking for the demarcation of the indigenous territories, our territory, the Yukpa, Barí and Wayuu. The problem of the land hasn’t been solved.

These words are part of the documentary that we would like to recommend today:  Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras, directed by Carlos Azparúa wih the support of the Centro Nacional Autónomo de Cinematografía.


(Documentary is In spanish only)

Featuring an important archive of news, interviews with politicians, ranchers, activists and indigenous advocates, Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras documents the tensions that have existed for more than eighty years between the landowner families and the indigenous nations in the valleys around the Yasa river and the Negro river, Zulia Province-Venezuela. In this long battle against impunity, which involves Capuchin Missionaries, the Venezuelan state, and the Narco-Paramilitarism along the Colombo-Venezuelan borderland, Chief Sabino and Elder Adolfo Maikishi’s voices remind us that in order to defend the territory one needs to know it first. This is how Sabino explains it:

Here are the Yukpa, working, not ordering anyone [around], but working themselves. This pineapple here is my own sowing, mine. Nobody here is going to be the boss of someone [else]. My children are planting because of their own will. The name of this land is not Tizina, but Kuna Tizina. The ranchers call this Kusare; and Kusare is not Kusare, but Pamocha. Brazil [Venezuela] is not Brazil, but Chirai. All these lands have their own names. My father himself told me that all these lands were named by the ancestors.

In If this is your land, what are your stories? (2004), Edward Chamberlin states that stories and oral tradition give meaning to the places we inhabit. From his point of view, only those who own this type of knowledge can claim to belong to a specific land. Criticizing Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy, Chamberlin holds that while indigenous nations preserve their origin stories, settlers built their own “stories of belonging”, such as nation-states’ constitutions (Chamberlin 25). In deed, as in the case of Chief Sabino and his wife Lucía Martínez de Romero, the Yukpa, Barí and Wayuu Elders are those who know the Perija’s cosmography, and understand the organic relationship between hills, rivers, tunnels and prairies.

In the YouTube description of Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras offered by Sociedad Homo Et Natura, we can read:

In Friday’s hearing on August 14, 2015, the hired assassin and Machiques ranchers’ bodyguard Angel Antonio Romero Bracho, alias El Manguera, was convicted to 30 years in prison in the Itinerant Court 17 of Greater Caracas, for the assassination of Yukpa Chief Romero Izarra Sabino on March 3, 2013, and for hurting his wife Lucia Martinez Romero and his young son Briceño Martinez Romero.

After the sentencin of the actual assassin, the question that remains is this: when will the intellectual assassins be judged? Not only in Chief Sabino’s case, but also in the case of Lenca activist Berta Cáceres, and all the indigenous and peasant advocates who have risked their lives to protect their territories. As early as 1584, the Muisca Chief Turmequé denounced in his famous letter to the Spanish King (the original text is in old Spanish):

They [the Spanish] have used the biggest cruelty and inhumanity that you can imagine against the miserable Indians, thus instead of protecting and preserving them in their land and planting, they [the Spanish] have divided the best crops and lands they had, and have kept them for themselves as farms and ranches (Read the original here)

Between Chief Turmeque’s concern and Chief Sabino’s concern more than four hundred years have passed. Nevertheless, expressions such as “divided land”, “defense of the territory”, “exploitation of the land”, “territories in dispute” are still part of the daily vocabulary in courts, scholarly papers, and mass media, whether in Bogota, Caracas or Ottawa. How can we transcend the unsolved problems of the colonial period, and the nation-states’ project toward a shared future with the First Nations?  Sabino vive. Las últimas fronteras reminds us that memory is another way of pursuing justice.


“The future is a realm we have inhabited for thousands of years”: Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Little BearDr. Leroy Little Bear


For the last three weeks we have been sharing videos and teachings related to water issues in Indigenous territories. The message of the Elders from Nunjwákala/Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the resistance of the Mikmak community in Elsipogtog against transnational mining, and the victory of the Sarayaku nation in the Amazon over the Ecuadorian state are all examples of when two mind-sets clash. They all show the need of an intercultural dialogue, a point of convergence between Indigenous knowledge and Western science.

Today, celebrating the equinox, we would like to invite you to think about this convergence, based on the talk by Dr. Leroy Little Bear, a Blackfoot Elder and scholar who, in January 2015, with the support of The Banff Centre, proposed some contrasts and similarities between quantum physics and Indigenous knowledge:

Watch =>

With humor and humility, Dr. Little Bear reminds us that science is all about the unknown, and not about formulas, math or the application of the known (technology). For him, the “constant flux” of quantum physics is currently dialoguing with the ancestral thought about the constant flow among all beings. In addition to matter and particles, the Blackfoot epistemology also talks about energy waves, which, in other words, could be called spirit. From this point of view, everything is alive/animated/related; therefore, it is not possible to study it in isolation as Western science sometimes does. In Dr. Little Bear’s words, quantum physics have started to realize the need for a holistic approach in which matter, motion and constant transformation are the foundation of renewal.

In tune with Elder Little Bear’s talk, Tsalagi/Ojibwe scholar Valerie Goodness has proposed Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to refer to the first nations’ techniques and ancestral knowledge. TEK offers, for example, alternative methods for irrigation, soil conservation, ecosystems and natural water reservoirs, astronomy, and use of medicinal plants. For Goodness, Western scientists are now accepting the fact that Indigenous peoples have an understanding of uncertainty and intuition that allows them to detect changes in ecosystems quicker. (READ: “Idle No More: Decolonizing Water, Food and Natural Resources With TEK”) As in the Blackfoot epistemology, Goodness recalls that in Haudenosaunee thinking all species and beings are interconnected, and it is from this “way of being in the world” (ethos) that it is possible to achieve sustainability:

All things are connected. Mother Earth, the Waters, Fish, Grasses, Medicine Plants, Food Plants, Animals, Trees, Birds, Four Winds, Grandfather Thunder, Elder Brother the Sun, Grandmother Moon, Stars, the protectors, Handsome Lake and the Creator are all connected and thanked. (Goodness, Web)

Based on these reflections, to look ahead, therefore, we must recover the past; perhaps reimagine the time beyond a straight line. The clarity of this certainty vibrates in the words of thinkers such as Little Bear and Goodness. These are voices that connect ancient cosmologies with a future of welfare for the generations to come. In the words of Hawaiian writer Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada:

Yet remembering the past does not mean that we are wallowing in it. Paying attention to our history does not mean we are ostriching our heads in the sand, refusing to believe that the modern world is all around us. We native peoples carry our histories, memories, and stories in our skin, in our bones, in our health, in our children, in the movement of our hands, in our interactions with modernity, in the way we hold ourselves on the land and sea (…) Standing on our mountain of connections, our foundation of history and stories and love, we can see both where the path behind us has come from and where the path ahead leads. This connection assures us that when we move forward, we can never be lost because we always know how to get back home. The future is a realm we have inhabited for thousands of years. (“We live in the future. Come join us.”. READ: Kekaupu Hehiale. Abril 3 de 2014).

There is, therefore, an arduous way to go if we want to establish a dialogue between mindsets. It is not a one way journey, but a number of trails which we could take simultaneously to find convergences.


Anishinabeg Wheel

Anishinabee/Ojibwe Medicine Wheel


En las últimas tres semanas hemos estado compartiendo enseñanzas y videos relacionados con el agua en territorios indígenas. El mensaje de los hermanos mayores desde Nunjwákala/Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, la resistencia de la comunidad Mikmak en Elsipogtog contra la minería transnacional, y la victoria de la nación Sarayaku en la Amazonía sobre el estado ecuatoriano, son todos ejemplos en donde dos modos de pensar chocan. Todos ellos muestran la necesidad de un diálogo intercultural, un punto de convergencia entre el conocimiento indígena y la ciencia occidental.

Hoy, celebrando el equinoccio, queremos invitarlos a pensar en este puente a partir de la charla del Dr. Leroy Little Bear, sabedor Blackfoot y académico, quien en enero de 2015, con el apoyo de The Banff Centre, propuso algunas diferencias y similitudes entre la física cuántica y el conocimiento indígena.


Con humor y humildad, el mayor Little Bear nos recuerda cómo el objetivo de la ciencia es ahondar en lo desconocido y no quedarse en fórmulas o aplicaciones de lo conocido (tecnología). Para él, la idea de “flujo constante” de la física cuántica está dialogando hoy con el pensamiento ancestral y su idea del flujo constante entre todos los seres de la existencia. Además de materia y de partículas, la epistemología Blackfoot habla también de ondas de energía, que en otras palabras podrían llamarse espíritu. Desde esta perspectiva, todo está vivo y todo se relaciona, razón por la cual no es posible estudiar de forma aislada “la naturaleza” como a veces pretende la ciencia occidental. En palabras de Dr. Little Bear, afortunadamente la física cuántica ha comenzado a darse cuenta de la necesidad de un enfoque holístico en donde la materia, el movimiento y la constante transformación sean la base de la renovación de la naturaleza.

Hay, pues, un arduo camino por recorrer si queremos establecer un diálogo entre epistemologìas por el bien de las futuras generaciones. No es un camino unívoco, sino una serie de senderos que debemos andar simultáneamente para encontrar las convergencias.

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“We believe that in life we have to fight for what’s important”: Sarayaku

Sarayaku 2

Patricia Gualinga and Sarayaku advocates



Today, we have borrowed the title of our post from Eriberto Gualinga’s reflection in the closing of his documentary Children of the Jaguar—a brave testimony of resistance by the Sarayaku nation (2002-2012) against the Ecuadorian State’s project of oil extraction in the Amazon. In the presence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, Jose Gualinga, Eriberto’s brother and Sarayaku President, explains the connection between his community and the forest:

We’ve come from our distant lands in Sarayaku, from the River of Maize. We’re descended from the Jaguar, children of Amazanga Runa, sons and daughters of the People of the Midday.

Children of the Jaguar shows the courage of indigenous filmmakers as they use video and creativity as a weapon to protect their territories. In 2002, the Ecuadorian government violated the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization when it did not consult the Sarayaku nation in its plans of oil exploration in their territory. With the support of lawyers from the Pachamama Alliance, and allies such as Amnesty International, seventeen representatives from the Sarayaku nation traveled to Costa Rica in 2012 and won a long legal battle. This victory has stood as an example for other communities facing similar struggles in the Abya-Yala.

Beyond the economical value of oil and minerals, Patricia Gualinga, representative of Sarayaku women and family, explains the sacredness and ritual meaning of protecting water and nature:

The worldview of the Sarayaku is about respect for all the other living things in the rainforest. It’s also about defending our land and about the equilibrium that we must maintain in Sarayaku. That’s what we want to share with the rest of humanity.

Today, besides oil extraction, as Nora Álvarez-Berríos and T. Mitchell Aide explain in Environmental Research Letters, there is a link between the 2008 economic crisis, and the rising price and global demand for gold (see John C. Cannon’s analysis in “Amazon Gold Rush Destroying Huge swaths of Rainforest”) Thus, between 2001 and 2012, 1680 square kilometers have been destroyed by gold mining in the Amazon.

Since the 1990’s, however, Ka’apor activists in Maranhao (Brazil), Karapó activists in southern Pará (Brazil), and Kichwa and Achuar activists in Peru and Ecuador have resisted the siege of the lungs of the planet by the “mining creatures”. (See the article “Amazon Indigenous Activists Occupy are taking direct action – And it’s working!”).

Thank you to the Sarayaku nation, and to all of the Amazonian advocates, for your bravery and humility.

We hope our waterandpeace community enjoy Children of the Jaguar as much as we did (watch =>

Until next week!


“Estamos convencidos de que en la vida hay que luchar por las cosas que importan”: Sarayaku


José Gualinga, presidente de Sarayaku en 2012

Hoy hemos tomado prestado el título de nuestro post de la reflexión de Eriberto Gualinga en el cierre de su documental Hijos del Jaguar, un testimonio de resistencia de la nación Sarayaku (2002-2012) contra la extracción de petróleo en el Amazonas por parte del estado ecuatoriano. Al principio del documental, José Gualinga, del hermano de Eriberto y presidente de Sarayaku, explica en presencia de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en Costa Rica:

Hemos venido desde lejanas tierras de Sarayaku, del río de maíz. Nosotros somos desciendentes del jaguar, hijos de Amazanga Runa, hijos del pueblo del mediodia.

Esperamos que ustedes, nuestra comunidad virtual, disfrute como nosotros Hijos del Jaguar (ver =>

Hasta la próxima semana!

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From Kanehsatake to Elsipogtog: resistance and insistence

Aboriginal People’s Television Network reporter Ossie Michelin's iconic photo of Amanda Polchies in Elsipogtog, October 2013.

Aboriginal People’s Television Network reporter Ossie Michelin’s iconic photo of Amanda Polchies in Elsipogtog, October 2013


In Imperial Canada Inc (2012), Alain Deneault and William Sacher, professors at the University of Montreal and McGill University respectively, explain how Canada has emerged as a paradise for transnational mining companies due to five main factors. First, the permissiveness of the law toward the mining industry and its role in the Toronto Stock Exchange, which speculates mainly on the extraction of “natural resources”. Second, the complicity of Canadian banks; by creating tax havens in Caribbean branches, the profits of the industry never reach Canada but are multiplied in Antillean countries where the mining business has derisory taxes. Third, many Canadians unconsciously invest in mining, on the Toronto Stock Market, through their savings, investments and pension system. Fourth, the colonial imprint of the British Empire on Canadian history, which was built upon the expropriation of indigenous lands and mining in the Northwest Territories and in the Athabasca area. And, fifth, the complicity of the media, which refuses to talk openly about it.

            Recently, the Idle No More movement has reminded us that Canadian mining not only affects other countries but the ancestral lands of Turtle Island itself. Between May and October 2013, the Mikmak nation resisted the aggressive advance of the gas shell extraction projects (fracking) in Elsipogtog (New Brunswick). Civil disobedience, the songs of women, and the beat of drums called the attention of activists and independent journalists, and made the front pages of national newspaper. In an episode reminiscent of the Oka crisis of 1990—when the residents of Kanesahtake wanted to build a golf course on a traditional Mohawk cemetery—the Mikmak confronted the Texas Southwestern Energy Co. (or SWN, based in Houston), forcing the company to stop its project of tearing up the land and polluting the aquifer and deep water fields where moose and black bear have lived forever.

            According to the statistics of MiningWatch (, 30% of Mexican territory, 40% of Colombian territory and 70% of Peruvian territory are now under mining concessions and under titles owned by companies such as Goldcorp, Barrick Gold, HudBay Minerals, Pacific Rim, Oceana Gold, Infinito Gold, Gold Marlin, Tahoe Resources. Companies that are, in turn, being sued for multiple human rights violations (Tahoe Resources in El Escobal, Guatemala, with cases of Angelica Choc and Cris Santos Perez and Lot 8 with HudBay Minerals, Guatemala, are some examples).

            To exacerbate the issue, some of these companies are now suing the nation-states of Mexico and El Salvador for huge sums of money because they have been unable to carry out their contracts. Today, the model that Canadian mining companies are exporting to the world, according to Jennifer Moore, director of MiningWatch Latin America, can be summarized in the following points: to change the policies of the host countries; to privatize their land; to create lower taxes and expand royalties for the mining sector; and to criminalize public protest.

            This week we recommend two videos on indigenous resistance and insistence: the first is the classic “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance” by Alanis Obomsawin (1993); the second is “Elsipotog: The fire over water – Fault Lines” (2015), a journalistic documentary by Aljazeera on Mikmak resistance, the Idle No More movement, indigenous sovereignty, and the inconsistencies of the extractivism: https: //

            Until next week!




 De Kanehsatake a Elsipogtog: resistencia e insistencia

            Esta semana queremos recomendarles dos videos sobre resistencia e insistencia indígena: el primero es el clásico “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance” de Alanis Obomsawin (1993); el segundo es “Elsipotog: The fire over water – Fault Lines” (2015), un documental de Aljazeera sobre la resistencia en Nuevo Brunswick, el movimiento Idle No More, la soberanía indígena y las incosistencias del proyecto minero:

            Hasta la próxima semana!



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