by Glenn H. Welker
“Treat this earth well:
it is not a present from your parents,
it is on loan to your children.
The people who enrich their minds are those
who keep their history on the leaves of memory.”
Any and all of these terms identify those persons who act as the caretakers of our planet. Some of them, such as the Aborigines of Australia, have sustained the uninterrupted thread of their society for more than 40,000 years. They are the lucky ones.
It is estimated that at least one language disappears from the world each week. These lost tongues are seen as trivial in a world of “survival of the fittest.” But when one considers the amount of knowledge lost with each dying language, cultures on the edge begin to seem more and more important. The Americas, as well as the rest of the world, need to rediscover the secrets of life that have been ignored for centuries. Perhaps there is still a chance, before we entirely obliterate every nation which has existed since time immemorial!
“When will we ever begin to understand the meaning of the soil underneath our feet?
From a tiny grain of sand to the largest mountain, everything is sacred.
Our living saints are the evergreen trees. We have no buildings or steeples.
The landscape and lakes are our churches and cathedrals. These are our sacred buildings.
Yesterday and tomorrow exist forever upon our mother, the earth.”
The indigenous peoples of this planet have many gifts. Among them are a knowledge of herbs, respect for the environment, and a philosophy of living in harmony. The typical twentieth-century human has little respect for these skills. With all the power and technology at our disposal, we can destroy the earth ten times over, so why don’t we have enough common sense to apply one-zillionth of that energy to preserving that which could sustain humanity forever?
“Not to be aware of the past is to be eternally a child,
but for those of us who forget the past will be condemned to repeat it.
We are more than the sum of all our knowledge,
we are the products of our imagination.
Mankind ‘IS’ the product of his ancestors.”
Many people believe that indigenous people do not aspire to be a part of 20th century society. If a civilization has been living in peace and harmony in this world for many centuries, why should it choose to change over to a modern lifestyle that has no value or purpose in its frame of reference?
Modern-day people focus on money and material possessions, but “people of the earth” have no need for these things. Their every need can be found in the world around them. Unfortunately, every minute their surroundings are disappearing as rapidly as an April snow. Hundreds of acres of virgin rain forests vanish by the second. We won’t pay the price, but our children, and their children, will pay, and dearly. We worry about the endangered species of the world, but what about the endangered peoples?
“When the last red man shall have become a myth among the white men,
when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field,
upon the highway or in the silence of pathless woods,
we and our ancestors will be there standing among them. We have lived upon this land from days beyond history’s records,
far past any living memory, deep into the time of legends.”
Even though the ’90s have been declared “The Decade of the Indigenous Peoples,” very few are benefiting from it. Even as recently as October, 21st 1996, delegations representing native peoples from around the world walked out of a United Nations conference in Geneva. Why? To protest the fact that they are not included in the approval process of the very document that affects their right to exist,
Center For World Indigenous Studies “latest version”
The Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The lives of the majority of people in Latin America are improving very little, even though the first indigenous person, Rigoberta Menchú, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. It takes more than her valiant efforts and that year being devoted to indigenous peoples to gain the recognition they deserve.
In 1994, there was a brief spark of hope when the entire world witnessed the collide of old and new worlds in Chiapas, Mexico. From this conflict deep in the Lacandon jungle, the power of the Internet was unleashed in an entirely new way. How many wars have been broadcast from the back of a donkey, using a laptop computer plugged into a Jeep’s cigarette lighter, sending communiques via satellite to be posted on the Internet as events were actually happening? (Some people tell me this may be part of the Marcus’ myth.)
Part of this “Internet War” is being reported by a group of individuals who call themselves “The Mex News Group.” I am proud to say that I have been an integral part of these “News” rebels who try to inform people on the Internet about what really is happening in Mexico, not what Wall Street and certain governments want us all to hear.
Sub-Commandante Marcos, the leader of the Chiapas rebellion sums it up nicely in this quote:
“In the world of the powerful there is no space for anyone but
themselves and their servants. In our world everyone has a place.
Only those who give up their history are consigned to oblivion.
On the vacant ground of today, there will grow a flower of tomorrow.”
When the industrialized world runs out of its natural resources, then and only then will we realize what we have lost, but by then it will be too late. It would not be difficult to reverse this trend, but as long as native peoples reside on the lands that can be harvested to the maximum, then cultural genocide is inevitable.
Indigenous people must struggle to receive dignity, justice and honor. The fight for these basic rights is taken for granted by most people. For instance, how often do average citizens have to worry about not being allowed to speak their own language? About going hungry? Or about not being allowed to move wherever they choose?
The Internet is a great equalizer for the people who are at the bottom of society’s pecking order. This is why I have created a special Web site devoted to them. When the world thinks of literature, it doesn’t think of so-called savages having the ability to create great works. Collections like those housed at my site have the power to educate and bring new perspectives.
Success for me does not come in dollar amounts. If it did, then I would have less money than those for whom I am writing.
The true value comes from hearing from someone like Geronimo’s great-great grandson who wrote thanking me for giving his forebear the honor he deserves. This is something that no amount of money can buy.
“I prefer my journeys into the natural gardens
where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds,
the rippling of mighty brooks, and the sweet fragrance of flowers.
If this be Paganism, then I am honored to be called a Pagan.”
Compiled by: Glenn Welker