The opportunity to share Indigenous values and histories arose when a chiefdom in Zambia, looking to improve the living conditions of its people, enlisted the help of Eeyou Istchee’s Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come.
At the invitation of Zambian Chief Munokayla Mukuni, Coon Come travelled to Livingstone, Zambia and attended the annual Bene Mukuni traditional ceremony, held near the picturesque Victoria Falls.
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There Coon Come addressed Mukuni, his people and everyone at the ceremony. “I was asked to speak about our history, our land, our way of life, our relationship with developers and with governments, and our governance agreement.”
The event was attended by numerous dignitaries, ambassadors, government ministers and several NGOs. The guests included Christine Kaseba, the First Lady of Zambia, Nkandu Luo, Zambia’s Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, and Zhou Yuxiao, the Chinese ambassador to Zambia.
Though Zambia boasts a successful tourism industry, the benefits do not extend throughout the Mukuni chiefdom located in Zambia’s Southern Province, and many of the 50,000 inhabitants live in poverty.
“It is my hope that our experience will encourage and enlighten them in pursuing their Indigenous self-determination,” stated Coon Come.
In order to address this, Mukuni and his chiefs have come up with a five-year strategic plan to tackle these concerns with the hope of creating a “sustainable chiefdom development, with the people living contented and happy lives and enjoying better living standards.”
Also on the agenda were issues concerning the conservation of natural resources, agriculture, education, health and HIV/AIDS, culture and gender empowerment.
Coon Come said the visit eye-opening and called the experience humbling.
During his four-day visit to Africa, between August 28 and September 1, the Grand Chief had the opportunity to participate in several preparatory meetings leading up to the 2014 UN’s World Conference on Indigenous Peoples next September in New York City.