Why are they persecuting us?

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On this path of leadership, and as long as I can remember, I have experienced war.

By: Waira Nina Jacanamijoy Mutumbajoy

Original article appears in El Tiempo

May 28, 2019

Waira Nina Jacanamijoy Mutumbajoy, artist and leader of the Inga People of the Yurayaco community of the Tandachiridu Inganokuna Association

I have the honor of providing this space to Waira Nina Jacanamijoy Mutumbajoy, an artist and leader of the Inga people of the Yurayaco community of the Tandachiridu Inganokuna Association. Florence Thomas. #UnLiderEnMyLugar

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I was born in Yurayaco, in the municipality of San José del Fragua, in the department of Caquetá.  It is the land of my ancestor, Apolinar. I am the daughter of Roberto Ignacio Jacanamijoy and Natividad Mutumbajoy. From my childhood onwards, they transmitted to me the duty of service and love in order to lead community processes with the guidance of our traditional medicine. On this path of leadership, and as long as I can remember, I have lived through war and persecution, through the silence, despair, fear, indignation, cowardice, anger and hatred.

However, when I heard that an agreement for peace was being signed in Havana, I felt the return of song in my spirit, and had a vision of the children of Yachaikury running to the river, to the chagra (traditional garden), and to their families with a happy smile. A female elder said, “Now we can light the tulpa (cooking fire) in the night, we can go catch fish, and capture animals from the mountain for our sustenance.” But today, once again, she asks me: Why do they persecute us, the indigenous people?

Our wealth is our territories. We have everything there. But they want to build roads, explore for oil, raise livestock, and take our wood, when we have harmed no one.

All we do is care for, preserve and love what we have inherited as a gift from the Earth. In return, we receive threats, suicides, persecution and dispossession, when what we have done is care for, love, and respect the three worlds as a people culturally bonded with the Alpa Awama.

Indeed, my elder, those of us who live here in the territory think in reverse from those who govern our country. And to think in reverse for me is to do what we have always done, what all the elders have taught us—that is, to protect the life and existence of the three worlds: the world of the invisible above us, home of our spirits, the water, the air, the stars, the sun, and the moon. The Alpa Chaupipi, the world of the visible/invisible, the place that all of us inhabit, women and men, water, spirits, mountains, animals, birds, and plants of spiritual strength. And the Alpa Ukuma-Ukuta, the place under the earth containing minerals, water, and the roots of Alpa Chaupipi.

Today, we have been developing and living this mandate and commitment of our ancestors through our strategic life plan and through education, learning every day in Yachaikury about health and traditional medicine. We apply our codes of ethics as healers and apprentices along the paths of the rainforest, sharing our cultural values ​​and coordinating processes based on love. Through our ancestral agriculture, we germinate seeds that ensure life, and reforest wastelands generated by mining, livestock raising, and indiscriminate timber harvesting. Through our relationship to our territory, we protect the forest in the form of guardians known as Indiwasikamas. Through culture and art, as the maximum expression of the feeling of what we are and what we do. Through women, as weavers and managers of life.

We are concerned about our future and our existence, our social leaders, our teachers, and our future generations.

All of this life plan, with our dreams and perspectives, is seriously threatened by the resurgence of the war on and persecution of our organizational political processes. We are concerned about our future and our existence, our social leaders, our teachers, and our future generations. “Waira, we must ask President Duque not to allow our persecution and the removal of our natural wealth. Write to that man who gives orders in Colombia,” my elders instructs me. And what should I say to Duque? “Tell him to implement peace comprehensively in our territories.”

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