By Jeff Conant / Climate Connections
Over five hundred Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and throughout the world gathered at Kari-Oca II, an encampment seated at the foot of a mountain near Rio Centro, to sign a declaration demanding respect for Indigenous Peoples’ role in maintaining a stable world environment, and condemning the dominant economic approach toward ecology, development, human rights and the rights of Mother Earth.
“We see the goals of UNCSD Rio+20, the “Green Economy”, and its premise that the world can only ‘save’ nature by commodifying its life-giving and life-sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years”, the declaration states.
Hundreds of Indigenous representatives plan to march from Kari-Oca on Wednesday, June 20, to deliver the declaration to world leaders at the opening of the Rio+20 Summit.
“This document is a wind that will enter the doors of Rio+20 to open the minds of the politicians, to show them that we are not merely the Indigenous Peoples that live in their countries, we are sons and daughters of the Mother Earth”, said Marcos Terrena, an indigenous leader from Brazil, and one of the founders of Kari Oca.
“We are not ‘interested parties,’ we are essential parties”, said Terrena. “We are committed to the life of the earth and future generations. This declaration sends a message to the politicians that the economy has to change, to embrace social, cultural and spiritual values, not just economic value.”
The Kari Oca II encampment, a cultural and spiritual center located in a ramshackle neighborhood not far from the site of the UN negotitations, is a historic follow-up to the Kari Oca I, which gathered at the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. The Kari-Oca conference, and the mobilization of Indigenous Peoples around the first UN Earth Summit, marked a significant step forward for an international movement for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in conservation and sustainable development.
But, according to leaders at Kari-Oca II, the agreements made twenty years ago have been largely ignored by world leaders, to the world’s peril.
“The Kari-Oca II declaration is not just a paper. It is a sacred document that encompasses our struggles worldwide. It makes clear that we will walk the path of our ancestors,” said Windel Bolinget, of the Igorot people in the Philippines.
The signing ceremony took place in the early evening outdoors amidst smoke, drums, and dancing, with hundreds of celebrants in ritual dress, and in a spirit both solemn and jubilant. The document was blessed in ceremony by spiritual elders before signing.
Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, from North America said, “Goose bumps ran up my body as I observed hundreds of brothers and sisters from around the world standing in silence acknowledging the spiritual significance of this historical moment.”
“This is far more than a political declaration,” Goldtooth said.
“We are happy tonight because our sacred word is written and agreed to by peoples from all over the world,” said Mario Santi of Ecuador.
“The importance of this declaration is in the sacred recognition that we cannot sell the rights of our Mother Earth, and we cannot accept false solutions that manipulate nature for profit,” said Berenice Sanchez, Nahua from Mexico.
The Kari-Oca II declaration can be read here.