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Indigenous Solidarity Reaches Across Borders

During last fall’s speaker’s tour, Jay Levy, a WFP delegate from Connecticut and the Archeology Field Specialist for the Mohegan Tribe, was instrumental in securing an invitation for Ligna Pulido to address the Culture Committee of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET). Ligna Pulido, an indigenous woman from the southern region of Colombia, and the New England Region’s Fall Speaker, spoke about the ways in which economic and military policies emanating from the United States have placed at least 34 indigenous groups at risk of extinction. Jay has, since then, worked diligently with USET to draft and pass a resolution of solidarity.

Since 2000, the United States government has poured over $7 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars into military aid in Colombia. Over the next decade, this aid helped triple the Colombian defense budget and double the size of the Colombian military—a military known for being the worst human rights violator in the hemisphere. Militarization of indigenous territories has led to grave human rights violations and massive displacement.

As Ligna pointed out in her talk, the subsequent rural-to-urban migration allowed access to two key market resources: natural resources found on the land left behind, and an easily-exploited labor force. Both of these spell profit, of which U.S. companies have claimed a share. The recently implemented U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement furthers this economic policy trend. Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and small-scale farming communities are being stripped of their land, and targeted  killings of union leaders and other key community figures are conducted with impunity.

As you can imagine, Ligna’s presentation echoed many experiences, both historical and current, of the U.S. Indigenous. The United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET) were moved to cross borders with their solidarity…something they had never done before.

On February 7, 2013, USET, an intertribal organization comprised of federally-recognized tribes on the east coast of the United States from the Micmacs in Maine to the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida,* passed a resolution to stand in peaceful solidarity with Colombia’s Indigenous. The resolution spoke out in the interest of preserving the security, traditions, culture, tribal homelands and languages of Colombia’s Indigenous. In speaking of the resolution, USET’s Cultural and Heritage Committee Chair, Robert Thrower, stated, “USET has set a precedent for not only Native rights but human rights in general.”

Jay Levy, a Native Colombian himself, shares this story: “There is a prophecy the South American Indian people and the North American Indians share: The Eagle and the Condor. It speaks of a time of peace, a time when all people will respect each other and the land. The indigenous people of North America, the people of the mind, the Eagle, will come together with the indigenous people of South America, the people of the heart, the Condor. When these two birds fly together in the same sky, this time of balance and caring will come.”

This year alone, 54 indigenous leaders were assassinated in Colombia and displacements are rampant. Yet, clearly, resolutions such as this adopted by USET signal that this time is near!


*USET is comprised of: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, North Carolina; Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Miami , Florida; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Choctaw, Mississippi; Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hollywood, Florida; Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, Charenton, Louisiana; Seneca Nation of Indians, Salamanca, New York; Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Elton, Louisiana; St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Hogansburg, New York; Penobscot Indian Nation, Indian Island, Maine; Passamaquoddy Tribe – Indian Township, Princeton, Maine; Passamaquoddy Tribe – Pleasant Point, Perry, Maine;  Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Littleton, Maine; Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Marksville, Louisiana; Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Atmore, Alabama; Narragansett Indian Tribe, Charlestown, Rhode Island;  Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Mashantucket, Connecticut; Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Aquinnah, Massachusetts; Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Livingston, Texas; Oneida Indian Nation, Verona, New York; Aroostook Band of MIcmacs, Presque Isle, Maine;  Catawba Indian Nation, Rock Hill, South Carolina; Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, Jena, Louisiana; The Mohegan Tribe, Uncasville, Connecticut; Cayuga Nation, Seneca Falls, New York; Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Mashpee ,Massachusetts; Shinnecock Indian Nation, Southampton, New York