Saturday, September 23, 2006

Incas' Predecessors in Andes Still Fight for Land Rights

Election of indigenous president in Bolivia a 'success' says bishop

Bishop Eugenio Poma belongs to the Aymara people, who have lived as heigh as 4,000 meters in the Andes in what is now Bolivia and, to a lesser extent, Peru for more than 2,000 years. They are the ancient Incas' predecessors.

Many Aymara associate themselves with the highly advanced civilization centered at Tiwanaku, and the ancient knowledge about life is being passed from generation to generation among them, he says.

Bishop Poma works for the World Council of Churches' program for Indigenous Peoples. He says it has been one of the leading NGOs supporting the work of indigenous people in many places.

"They are providing support and commitment to indigenous representatives at an international level in particular at the United Nations. There they affirm the spirituality of indigenous people and they are strengthening an ongoing process on land issues and self determination," said Poma.

Asked to list some success stories from his program he immediately cites the election of Bolivia's indigenous president in January. "It's been a long process of advocating and educating to get indigenous people to participate." He says Ecuador and Peru are working to do the same as Bolivia. "There was a woman from the Quechua people who wanted to be sworn into Peru's Parliament in the Quechua language, but it was not allowed, so there's still much to be done."

Poma identifies the main issues for indigenous peoples in South America as land rights and self determination rights.

"All of us have a strong identity. But we have to fight for everything else."

Les prédécesseurs des Incas continuent de se battre pour leur terre

L'évêque Eugenion Poma appartient au peuple des Aymaras, vivant à 4.000 mètres d'altitude, dans ce qui est l'actuelle Bolivie… il est en quelque sorte l'un des prédécesseurs des Incas. Il travaille actuellement pour le Conseil oecuménique de Églises (COE), qui a été l'une des ONG en pointe sur les questions des peuples indigènes.

L'une des plus grandes réussite de ce programme, à ses yeux, est celle de l'élection d'un indigène à la présidence de son pays : "Le résultat d'un long processus de soutien et d'éducation pour que les indigènes participent [à la vie démocratique]." Mais le chemin est encore long, les luttes pour la terre et pour l'autodétermination cruciales : "Nous avons tous une forte identité. Mais nous devons nous battre pour tout le reste."

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