[Translation of her presentation at the First Global Conference on PROUT in Venezuela, “Building a Solidarity Economy-based Ethics and Ecology”, 7 to July 9, 2011, Central Park – Room 1, Caracas.]
Good morning, brothers and sisters. First of all I want to thank all the members of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela for inviting me to participate in this event. I am very happy for the invitation given to me and and to my friend Chelo Nogueira of the Turtle Foundation. I will speak about indigenous peoples, and my topic is “We All Live Together.”
We Indians are free from birth and socialist by our indigenous culture.
The Orinoco River Delta looks from the air like a large root, with multiple channels. In that world, where the jungle is queen, with its humidity and greenery, the ancient presence of the Warao people makes them the heirs of the water and nature. That land on maps appears as the Federal Territory of Delta Amacuro, Venezuela.
The Warao ancestral tranquility was disrupted 52 years ago when the juggling of engineering and a vision of progress that does not take humans into account wiped out hectares of forest and closed an entire river channel, the Caño Manamo [causing salinization of the creeks and acidification of the soils]. Plants and animals died, and with them 2,600 Warao people were abandoned, haunted by a sort of curse unknown to them and their cosmogony.
We Indians lived very happily in our land and habitat until 1960 and 1961 when Caño Manamo was closed.
My mother, Lilia Palacios, told this story without anger or hopelessness. Her eyes shone as if their vision was as old as the presence of our people in the Delta. Her voice had strength and serenity from knowing that reason was on her side. For 22 years in her time, now 52 years, we have been waiting for reason to again reign as it used to reign in the jungle and delta for the Warao community. We were devastated by the closure of the Caño Manamo by the Corporación Venezolana de Guayana (a state-owned mining conglomorate), which introduced a number of changes and transformations in the ecology of the Delta. Our complaint was the subject of a documentary film. Before we lived well in our habitat, our homes on small land holdings, but after the closure of the Caño Manamo, all the Warao communities lost our small land holdings, which flooded and disappeared.
Our grandfathers and grandmothers tell us they had chickens and ducks, and they hunted deer, guinea pigs, tapir, the lowland paca, cavy rodents and mountain pigs and they never ran out. They also planted rice, corn, taro and cassava. They had beehives, and from the moriche palm they extracted sago, wine and palm worms, and they had sufficient palm trees to build their houses from the trunks and leaves. They also had many varieties of fish and shrimp. But when the Corporacion Venezolana de Guayana (CVG) closed the Orinoco River Caño Manamo, our lives changed.
CVG was responsible for the closure of the Caño Manamo, but it has not paid us anything for our land or anything. Sixteen Warao communities were affected by the closure. We still call for recognition and attention that is denied, and we are refused the right to stay in our ancestral land where our people have lived for many generations. Our dream is that they restore what they took away from us, and they support our traditional activities, such as handicrafts, especially those that are based upon the use of the moriche palm, and an indigenous museum to display our native customs. Because many communities have gradually lost their customs, traditions and language, we demand that the CVG assume its rightful responsibility and be required to restore what they removed. We have been requesting for over 52 years to be paid for our land.
We do not want government bank loans, because they always come in the form of agricultural machinery without any respect for our rights and possessions: the Warao have been waiting for over 52 years for justice, as have most of the country’s indigenous peoples been waiting for centuries for their rights that were denied. Now I, the indigenous representative Maya Shita Palacios, follow the direction and approach the government that this reality must be met.
The proposed Jaburi Museum aims to strengthen and empower all children, youth and adults in our native customs and beliefs in order that they share these teachings with others. We want to build a museum to review our history and a space to start technical training that continues to give importance to our ancestral heritage. We want our involvement as a museum to teach various jobs that ensure a global vision. We consider this proposed museum of our culture as necessary to remember and serve as a display of our native customs.
For us to achieve these goals we need the support of various state institutions as well as all those good people who want to contribute their talents and skills to the project.
[Translated by Dada Maheshvarananda]