Friday, April 20, 2007

Learning to See Abya Yala: Movements in Indigenous Thought and Organizing

Marc Becker provides a very helpful report on the Third Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala that occured in Guatemala in March. "Abya Yala" is the term used by the indigenous people of Panama to refer to the territory that is known to Europeans as Central America. It is now being reappropriated by this transnational movement of native peoples to refer to the continent.

Becker gives updates on some of the political movements that were represented at this summit held two weeks after U.S. President Bush made a rare tour of Latin American countries. Most importantly, the groups represented at the summit adopted a declaration whose motto is "From Resistance to Power". Among the points that were made with consensus were rejection of neoliberal trade policies, the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and a strong endorsement of diversity and human rights. It is very clear, as Allison Davis White Eyes pointed out in her podcast with me, that thousands of native peoples are organizing themselves to indigenize the world.

Part of this movement involves a shift in our geo-political categories. As I mentioned in another post, Walter Mignolo's work is very good at describing how the idea of "Latin America" arose as a way for European descendants to consolidate their power in the Americas. But this displaced the ways in which indigenous people's had come to view and understand their world. Ideas such as Abya Yala or Anahuac (the concept the ancient Nahaus or Aztecs used to describe what we now know as Meso America) were discarded in favor of maps that described discrete nation states with definite boundaries tha served the interests of the ruling European elites.

Now the native peopes of Abya Yala are working to get the world to think of many different categories in different terms, including "natural resources", 'boundaries", and "justice". How might this reconceptualization work toward global justice?

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