(Photo: Dora Tavera Riano, of the Pijao people, Colombia/APTN)
APTN National News
OTTAWA-Indigenous representatives from besieged Colombian communities called on First Nations people in Canada to help in their struggle against extinction.
Two representatives from the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia travelled to Ottawa Thursday to detail the assaults facing their communities in Colombia which have pushed them to the edge of annihilation.
Flaminio Onogama Gutierrez, of the Embera, and Dora Tavera Riano, of the Pijao, described how some Indigenous communities have been reduced to 50 people as a result of armed conflict with the military, guerrillas and paramilitaries in the South American country
“To our Indigenous brothers in Canada, we are beyond boundaries, there are no boundaries in the brotherhood between peoples,” said Tavera Riano. “We were all one continent at one time…and we can again struggle against the loss of our people and our culture.”
Many Indigenous communities reside in traditional territories that are rich in biodiversity, minerals and oil eyed by foreign corporations, including from Canada.
Between 2002 and 2009, 74,000 people have been forced from their lands and, according to Amnesty International, the displacement is increasing.
Indigenous people in Colombia also often find themselves in the crossfire between the military, guerrillas and paramilitaries.
Of the 102 documented Indigenous nations in Colombia, 32 have populations under 500, 18 have populations of 200, while 10 have less than 100.
“We need to stop this violence, that is why we are calling for support and solidarity,” said Onogama Gutierrez. “Our children want to inherit our wisdom for years to come and they want to keep transferring our (indigenous) knowledge.”
Onogama Gutierrez said they came to Ottawa with their message because Canada had signed a free trade agreement with Colombia, which includes a side agreement that requires the Canadian and Colombian governments draft annual human rights reports on the impacts of the agreement. The first report is expected in May 2012.
Canada has also had strong historical ties to Colombia and Onogama Gutierrez said he hoped the federal government would use its relationship to advocate on behalf of Indigenous people in Colombia.
The situation of Indigenous peoples in Colombia is so dire, that the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples James Anaya has called for the UN special advisor on genocide to visit Colombia.