More Cities, States, Universities Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 11:40AM
Lee Van Ham in Chiapas, Earth-sized consciousness, First Peoples, Indigenous Peoples' Day, Jubilee Economics Ministries, Mayans, consciousness

Los Angeles celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time this year (October, 2017)—the latest city to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day INSTEAD of Columbus Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day corrects the notion that America was discovered by a white man. The raising up of the European takeover of the lands Indigenous Peoples’ had tended for centuries gets U.S. history off on a wrong foot, one devoid of truth. It has contributed to the genocide of people whose worldview, ironically, valued sharing with the invading “settlers” then, and continues to be committed to interdependence today. So let’s toast all the cities, states, and universities correcting a destructive lie in the story of America.

Furthermore, celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day brings consciousness to what Indigenous Peoples are doing today—here and now—to promote OneEarth living. Columbus is about the past, a past not to be glamorized in any way. Indigenous People are about the present and the future—an incredible legacy of resistance to being dominated, PLUS a legacy full of habits and views for living in unison with our planet and all her inhabitants.

“Hearing and Seeing First Peoples in the Here and Now” is a segment in my book, From Egos to Eden: Our Heroic Journey to Keep Earth Livable. The chapter from which the following segment is excerpted was greatly influenced by a Haudenosaune friend, Patricia St. Onge.

The organization I am part of, Jubilee Economics Ministries (JEM),73 continues to lead delegations of U.S. people and Mexican nationals on trips of experiential learning to Indigenous Peoples (aka First Peoples) in southern Mexico, mostly to the state of Chiapas, but also Puebla and Oaxaca. Between 2000 and 2004, I participated in three such delegations to Chiapas, the southern- most state of Mexico and least developed, where 36% of the pop- ulation is Indigenous and over a million (27% of the state’s popu- lation) speak their Indigenous language.74 Through these repeated delegations, relationships continue to develop with Indigenous groups. One group often visited were Tzotzil people who, after dis- placement by paramilitary violence, created a new village, Nuevo Ybeljoj, high in the beautiful Chiapan Highlands.
The primary purpose of our visits is to increase interna- tional solidarity which increases respect for and protection of the Indigenous Peoples under threat of paramilitary and military actions because of their resistance. Those of us in the delegations from the U.S. and other parts of Mexico benefit enormously as we learn how Mayan peoples of that region have struggled, and con- tinue to struggle, for their culture, traditions, and identities in the face of the same MultiEarth Civilization Project which we resist, though, by comparison, too weakly.
On one visit a group of Mayan men and women elders con- vened a meeting with us. A village elder whose name I didn’t get, queried our three-person delegation: “Each morning I wake up,” he began, “and ask myself how I can live in resistance today. How do you live in resistance?” We squirmed. Not that we didn’t resist, but emotionally our resistance felt a bit lame given what they were teaching us about theirs. It was a pregnant moment brought about by repeated visits to this community by delegations led by JEM. A level of trust had grown.
Once MultiEarth’s NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) went into effect, on January 1, 1994, paramilitary violence and military presence sought to coerce their submission to government policies that gave transnational corporations access to the resources of their land. They knew the JEM delegations came in a different spirit, one of learning from them and accompanying them in their dissent; they saw us, Mexican nationals and interna- tionals, as partners who could carry their story to a larger audience. Delegations have often been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Mayan welcome received, including a willingness to share their traditions, rituals, religion, work, and ongoing struggle of resistance to corporate, MultiEarth encroachments.
They wanted us to know how their human rights are vio- lated by the military and paramilitaries. They showed us how they struggle to make alternative economic choices to the MultiEarth neoliberal economics75 promoted by the state government and transnationals. After 500+ years of resistance, they continue to see MultiEarth civilization as a long project that will come to an end because it carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. For them, MultiEarth civilization never did receive the imprimatur of the Divine or any sanction that makes MultiEarth ways eternally inevitable. Our conversation revealed what an astute understanding of neoliberal globalization and NAFTA they have—much deeper than many of us in the U.S. The Mayan elder’s question comes back to me often: “How do you live the resistance?” It is such an inclusive question. Is it not right that we all resist the MultiEarth paradigm? His question corrects the false MultiEarth notion that First Peoples are yesterday and outside of the issues of the day. These Tzotzils are here and now, living a resistance that humbles and inspires every JEM delegation. They set a high standard on what resistance to MultiEarth civilization means, and inspire dele- gations to step up stronger in daily practices of OneEarth thinking and living. Their Indigenous ways and voices convict delegates in a most gratifying way. What guides they are for the heroic journey! Maybe it’s okay that I never did learn the elder’s name. Through him I hear thousands of other voices speaking, revealing the broad and deep quest underway for OneEarth living.

 

Article originally appeared on OneEarth sustainability amid climate change (http://theoneearthproject.com/).
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