P.O. Box 1528
Zuni, NM 87327, USA
November 5, 2013
Tupac Enrique Acosta
RE: Message to Organizacion Nacional Indigena de Colombia (ONIC) y Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indigenas (CAOI), hosts of the “V Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nations of Abya Yala” and “II Continental Summit of Indigenous Women”
Dear Brother Tupac,
My greetings to you and your family from the A:shiwi Nation. I greeted you yesterday. I greet you today, perhaps using the same greeting as I did yesterday. I will greet you tomorrow to let you know that we share and breathe the same air. You are a part of me as I am a part of you, my friend.
Thank you for inviting me to the “V Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nations of Abya Yala” and “II Continental Summit of Indigenous Women” being held at the Indigenous Reserve of Maria Piendamo, Cauca Colombia, South America. Unfortunately I cannot make the trip as you know I have been fighting to regain my civil and political rights, and it has exhausted me financially. But if I may, I would like to rely on your kindness and ask you to take this letter and present it on my behalf as well as the brave women and men from my community who want to realize the true leadership of our Indigenous Nation(s). My people - people of the greater Southwest region of the United States and Mesoamerica - have deep roots that connect us to the cultural landscape, and it is imperative that we, as Children of Earth, stand in solidarity to protect our cultural landscape for the sake of our children and those other living things that depend on it; those things that are crucial to maintaining the ecological balance of the world.
I am an elected official. I had the second highest votes in a duly called election; however, I am not allowed to serve in office because I will not bow to a Catholic oath. In spite of the fact that my traditional Indigenous leaders have given me the oath and that I have fought through the legal processes and won, I am still denied my right to work for my people.
I am a member of the A:shiwi (Zuni) Nation, born and raised in the Zuni Village located in New Mexico, USA. My clans are Tobacco and child of the Raven. As a life-long artist - a visual artist, traditional storyteller, and cultural linguist - I intend to keep contributing my cultural and professional expertise to the creation of new stories and performances that provides a way to maintain and strengthen our traditions through our native language in a culturally meaningful and revitalizing manner.
The reason I brought up TONATIERRA is that I want to propose sharing the Outcomes of the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery International Conference. The conference elevated our understanding of each other and thereby created a sense of unity. It was important to build from the efforts of individuals and organizations in addressing the ongoing impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples in the spirit of self-determination. As a grassroots leader, I caution though, that we cannot use the term “self-determination” or “Sovereignty” as a broad brush to paint our communities. What I mean is that we have to continue to educate and instill the understanding of the terms in order to create a resource pool of thoughtful leaders, so that implementation of “sovereignty,” for example, protects the rights of our peoples, as intended, and not to use it as a shield against the people to protect self-serving leaders and/or perpetuating the colonizer mentality. We cannot have leaders squandering our natural resources and/or compromising our rights. I say this because the behaviors brought on by the teachings through the Doctrine of Discovery is still practiced in the thinking of our contemporary Indigenous leaders, and this mentality literally interfered with my right to lead my people as an elected official. Many of our leaders are not in harms-way, yet they cannot begin to make a power shift away from a European Faith Based power system. They are afraid to do so.
So I leave you with these few thoughts because already I saw that high level work groups are anticipated. I am encouraged by it. We will prevail by working together in some way, whether it is to combat prejudice and stereotypes, protection of our water, air, soil, plants and animals, and protecting sacred sites, to name a few.
On behalf of my extended family (a working group of three clans - the eagle, tobacco, and badger) whom are cultural bearers and stand for the traditional grassroots leaders and are looking beyond our community into worldly Indigenous issues, gave me permission to send this message. I wish you all a successful meeting in Colombia and safe travel.
Edward Wemytewa, Councilman