October 17, 2014
On Saturday, 11 October 2014, UNPO attended the event ‘522 Years of Indigenous Resistance’, which celebrated the long history of indigenous resistance movements opposing oppression and exploitation. The event was co-organized by Mapuche Foundation FOLIL and UNPO, and was timed to coincide with the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. This was a watershed moment leading to 522 years of marginalization, discrimination and decimation of the indigenous people of North and South America.
The Mapuche people have a long history of indigenous resistance, facing regular attacks by Spanish forces and, more recently, oppression and discrimination by the Chilean government. The event celebrated this and other indigenous resistance movements, which have remained strong and dignified in the face of profound historical injustice. A series of Mapuche speakers addressed the topic of indigenous resistance, and recounted the situation facing the Mapuche in particular. The seriousness of the subject matter was contrasted by the defiantly buoyant atmosphere of the attending crowd. The culture on show included traditional and contemporary dances, musical and modern art performances. It was thus also a celebration of Mapuche culture, whose expression itself embodies an important form of indigenous resistance. The event itself therefore stood as a symbol that despite past and present efforts to destroy the Mapuche identity and assimilate it into Chilean society, this people and culture persists.
A UNPO representative delivered a speech outlining that need for indigenous resistance still endures in today’s world. While colonial repression is no longer so apparent, indigenous people face regular discrimination from national governments, which treat them with indifference or contempt, and are increasingly exploited by the forces of international capitalism and multinational corporations. This still is an unfortunate reality, not only for the Mapuche, but for indigenous people all over the world.
UNPO is working consistently on this issue, engaging in numerous projects and events, particularly through the Earth, Exploitation and Survival Project, kindly sponsored by the Nando Peretti Foundation. The project consists of a series of cultural and economic empowerment projects with several indigenous peoples, including the Mapuche, the Montagnard, the Haratin, the Awá and the Batwa. It targets and seeks to redress the threats made to indigenous peoples’ natural environments, languages, traditional livelihoods and community cohesion, which when combined, frequently form a core of identity for indigenous people.
UNPO was happy to attend and to celebrate the proud history of indigenous resistance, and to continue to strive for equal representation and rights in a world where many indigenous peoples are still systematically dehumanised, ridiculed and ignored.