I received a very disheartening message. I want to share it with you—even though research statistics show that most people would prefer to see uplifting blog content. My feeling is there are just things I can’t ignore. I discount that, due to the immensity of a travesty, I can do nothing about it. That would be the easy way out, to push something aside.
I subscribe to Glenn Shepard’s blog Notes from the Ethnoground. Glenn is an ethnobotanist, medical anthropologist and filmmaker who lives in Brazil and has spent many years doing on-the-ground research in remote rainforest places. Yesterday his latest post ”A letter of protest: In defense of the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional populations in Amazonia” arrived via email.
The post is about a proposed change to a law currently in the Brazilian House of Representatives “to make changes to Article 231 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 defining the public interest in demarcating Indigenous Lands.” It has to do with ancestral land rights of the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia. If passed, it would take away many of their rights in favor of those who have encroached: cattle ranchers, mining operations and more.
This is not a new issue. It has been going on for decades with terrible consequences. Not only is the rainforest threatened but Terena, Guarani and other Native peoples have been murdered in defending what is theirs. We rarely hear of these things because they don’t get reported. I did some research of my own and turned up this August 8 news article from the Guardian in the UK. It reports on the killing of a Guarani man believed by Survival International to have been ordered by a landowner, as well as other murders of Native peoples numbering “452 between 2002 and 2010, sharply up on the 167 killed during the previous eight years.” The article accuses the Brazilian government of “pandering to agro-business lobby rather than reallocating areas to indigenous peoples.”
If you’ve read this far, then you likely recognize a familiar story. Although the struggle of the Indigenous people of Brazil is especially heightened, similar things are happening in Native lands the world over. It’s a form of genocide. When the right to live on their own lands, grow their own crops and perform their own religious ceremonies is taken away, it’s devastating.
Have any of you ever lost a home? Been told your religious practices are evil, antiquated or ridiculous? Has your voice not been heard? Probably many of you have had such experiences. For traditional Native people, connection to ancestral lands, community, the foods they grow and ceremonies runs deep. It’s a matter of survival and what keeps them spiritually grounded. Take away these things and a sense of identity vanishes.
What to do about such things? It’s not an easy answer. Personally, I founded Kenosis Spirit Keepers in 2007, a grassroots volunteer-run nonprofit organization, expressly because I believe so strongly in the contributions that these traditions make to the betterment of the world through continued existence.
Has it been a walk in the park to support projects we’ve committed to fund? No. We’ve had to be very creative to do so. I wish we were able to do so much more.
Does it feel to me as though my efforts and those of my board are like lonely raindrops in the wind? You better believe it—especially when I hear about such things as Glenn reported.
Yet, I can’t turn away. No matter how discouraged and tired I get…I just can’t. That’s because I truly believe the more people who feel the way I do—and stay strong in that intent—that the tides will turn. We can make a difference. Looking back in history, I see the shift has happened too many times not to believe in what’s possible. I hold that you do, too.
To learn more about Kenosis Spirit Keepers and how you can help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions, go here.