The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation joins hands with Indigenous Peoples all over the world to celebrate the World Indigenous Peoples Day. As we commemorate this day, let us be reminded of the fact that there is much to celebrate about, but there is also much left to be done.
We faced many challenges last year. The world has become a more dangerous place for Indigenous Peoples. Our ancestral lands are still under attack, with giant multi-national and State companies creeping in, egged on by international and local neoliberal economic policies. Hundreds of thousands have been forcibly displaced due to these projects, forcing our people to part with lands passed on by our ancestors, breaking apart our peoples and slowly destroying our ways of life.
Guns and bullets by State security forces and corporate agents meet our resistance to projects that adversely affect us, with the death toll of indigenous rights activists and advocates rising every year. Governments continue to disregard our basic civil and political, and economic, social and cultural rights, and deny us basic social services like education, health and adequate shelter. Yet international bodies, governments and multi-national companies continue to exploit us, squeezing out each and every drop of blood and sweat and toil they can from our peoples.
In addition, government and corporate agents continue to bribe, co-opt or coerce indigenous leaders and activists in order to get their way with our lands. Giant multi-national companies and State agencies install fake leaders, create sham organizations and hold mock consultations to acquire free, prior and informed consent that they would not get otherwise from Indigenous Peoples groups determined to resist corporate encroachment of indigenous lands. This results in disagreements and divisions within our communities, thus benefiting business interests. They seek to sow disunity among our ranks, even as we seek to unite.
In the days to come, we expect more violations of our rights as Indigenous Peoples. We expect more underhanded maneuvers to divest us of our ancestral lands. We expect more corporate projects to encroach on our soil, as they try to gain more profits from our lands, sweat and blood. We expect repressive governments to unleash more and more of their dogs, snarling their way into our homes and communities and ultimately depriving us of our lives and freedoms.
Yet our situation is not hopeless. Millions of Indigenous Peoples are getting organized, while tens of millions more advocates are linking with us and supporting our cause. We have fought off gigantic companies like Oceana Gold in the Philippines from ravaging our forests and mountains. We have prevented dams like those in Baram, Sarawak from drowning our lands and us. We continue to seek justice for the victims of killings and harassment of indigenous rights activists and advocates. We have joined hands with other non-indigenous peoples in the battle against unjust neoliberal economic and other government policies, rising militarism, just wages, discrimination against women and other genders, and other peoples rights issues.
Our strength comes from our unity not just among ourselves as Indigenous Peoples, but in unity with other oppressed peoples all over the world. Our resistance grows as we struggle to defend what is rightfully ours. We grow strong, and we will continue to grow stronger. We will continue to strengthen our ranks and consolidate our forces as we struggle to defend, to our last breath, our right to determine our future, retain our lands and regain our lives.
We will not be complacent because of our victories. We will not cower from fear. We will not our take our oppression in silence. Together with other exploited peoples all over the world, we will not be moved; we will not be shoved down. We will fight back!
Photos by Felix Diaz (top) and Jenna Pope (bottom)