The Right to Protect Traditional Lands
Guyana Police batters Indigenous Family on their Traditional Land... mining is now a problem for indigenous peoples in Guyana (see video below)
The fight of indigenous people in Guyana to protect their land continues. Some are paying with their bodies and that of their childrens'.
The recent, shameful beating of a group of indigenous persons, by a member of the Guyana police force, exhibits a shocking approach by the Guyana police to the protest by indigenous people concerning mining taking place on their traditional lands.
As the policeman beats his victims, including a child and woman and their menfolk try desperately to shield them, individuals stand around looking on. Some are toting guns and we can see where the power lies. What might happen next?
Why is it that indigenous people seem to be the only ones looking into the welfare of their lands? All indigenous peoples, not only those in Guyana have a right to say how their traditional lands should be used.
We must be thankful to these people people who defend their lands, and the ecosystems that are so vital to the well being of our planet.
The group abused by the Guyana police, should be commended for standing up for their rights .
Indigenous Laws on Nature preserve Lands that we now take for granted
With indigenous peoples, there were, and still are traditional laws that safeguard the environment. One law, still practiced today, forbids the cutting down of valuable trees that not only provide food for forest animals but for people as well.
We need to reach out to our indigenous elders in order to research and promote these kinds of law. If we are to preserve our natural places, present-day law makers must listen to such rules and practices.
The recent banning of the use of the insecticide neonicotinoids by the EU, because of the fear that it is harming the bee population, is one example of how laws can protect the environment.
Who said that indigenous peoples were lawless when colonists first arrived? Laws on Nature, that preserved the environment were practised and because of these practices the so called 'New World' was very attractive to the new comers. When Europeans reached the 'New World' resources seemed to be so plentiful, that the idea of using them indiscriminately did not matter to them. Populations of buffaloes were slaughtered on the North American plains and shiploads of gold, some at the expense of the life of Inca Atahualpa were floated away to Europe.
Buffaloes which were also slaughtered in order to destabilise native populations, are now mainly seen in controlled environments, like the state and national parks of the U.S. What happened to the shiploads of gold that reached, now economically weak Spain, we cannot verify for sure.
With regards to the effect of colonisation on indigenous peoples, we can still see the impact on their societies today (see above)
What many traditional indigenous people are saying to those bent on using the environment for the purpose of economic wealth only, is to stand back and examine what we have to lose. If we use the environment for economic gain only, then we will lose resources more valuable than money. What would this generation pass on to the next?
Now we are in a new age - an age when we have the opportunity to make a difference for the future of generations to come.
We need to re-examine our laws. Many of the old European laws were made for one purpose and one purpose only - to own and control resources for economic wealth. When European laws silently encroached into their lives centuries ago, many indigenous people were not aware. However, today those laws are still put into play, and are being enforced on the lives of indigenous people even though in the past, the people never made the informed choice, to be governed by them. Today, there are communities to which those laws are alien.
In Guyana, according to one judicial organisation, 'There is not, and never has been, any such thing as ancestral or traditional lands in Guyana'.
Being indigenous Guyanese, this statement discredits my indigenous ancestry.
I remember my mum telling me that Warrau and Carib peoples had their traditional lands further up the creek. Up to now, I respect my indigenous Carib and Warrau brothers and sisters and love to visit them on their traditional lands.
Sadly, even though certain of their customs are being lost today, each nation of indigenous people is responsible for developing techniques that preserve their traditional land; be it in savannahs, swamps or rainforests. This is because they have been living there for centuries.
Many of the food crops that are responsible for feeding the world today were developed on ancestral and traditional lands. Where would the world be without potato, corn and cassava, just to name a few. Even today, many healthy 'New World' foods are coming into mainstream society - think Acai and Quiona.
What European law did not take into consideration were the rights and laws that governed indigenous peoples before they imposed their control over native peoples and their lands. What Euro-centric law and education also did was to disinherit indigenous peoples of the centuries of hard work that they put into their lands.
European law also ignored indigenous Laws on Nature that preserved the lands. I believe that it is the right of indigenous peoples to have a say, as to how to use and preserve their ancestral lands. After all, for centuries they have been responsible for their care and preservation.
Also, it is important that we as indigenous peoples inform and educate concerning how lands and bio-resources have been preserved. As indigenous peoples, we cannot fail to inform and educate. If we fail, then we cannot put the blame only on certain sectors of our society for destroying our natural environment.
I advocate that traditional conservation and preservation practices be incorporate in our present day laws. If this is not done, then we stand the chance of losing forever, very important places and the bio-resources that they contain. Some of these are yet to be acknowledged.
The past should help us save the future, not help us to destroy it.