When you’re in the news media business there are so many stories out there that you feel are important. It’s not possible to do them all but you feel the need to cover certain ones. That is the case with our series on South America. Though it may seem strange that stories about South American Indians are in the pages of the Nation, a Cree magazine, it is necessary.
The reasons are that they are even more disenfranchised than Native Americans in the US and Canada. When I went to South America I visited Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. In each country the plight of the Native people was deplorable. Almost all people in those countries are poor but Natives often have little more than the clothes on their back. They are the beggars in the streets with their hands out. Their hair is yellow at times from vitamin deficiency and malnourishment.
Those Natives that are in the jungles and rural areas are often the targets of paramilitary actions by corporations who want their land and resources. Natives are killed by these heavily armed groups. It was certainly the case in Ecuador and Bolivia. I didn’t get a chance to really talk to a lot of Natives in Peru but the Indian Affairs budget for the entire country was $2 million.
Bolivia, a country with 80 per cent Native population, sees power in the hands of the non-Native 20 per cent. There are a few token Indian positions.
These are things that we, as Crees, should be aware of and outraged about. That the persecution and lives of Native peoples, not only in North America are subject to the practices of colonialism but that its darker forces are still very much alive in South America. It is only through international awareness and pressure that these things will be ended.
You will not usually read these types of stories in mainstream press. That leaves media such as the Nation to help carry this load. If Native peoples do not band together, then, to paraphrase an American revolutionary, we shall surely hang separately.
On a lighter note, at a recent meeting of the James Bay Cree Communications Society, the community radio stations were asked if they had any old equipment that could be donated to Native peoples in South America so they could create radio stations. The radio stations not only would be community radio stations but they would be lifesavers. When paramilitary groups would be sighted a warning would be issued. When there are meetings they would be announced. With so many people in the rural areas without any form of communications this would be important.
Think of the La Grande Complex project. Crees did not learn of it until it was happening. If we had had a communications society such as JBCCS and the local radio stations and CBC North, the project may not have happened in quite the same way. This is why communications are important. If you have some old stereo equipment (record players, tape decks, CD players, speakers, etc.) that you would like to donate, see your local community radio station.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all from the Nation, JBCCS staff, The CRN staff and the staff from all the community radio stations.