I would like to share some thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a longtime Indigenous activist.
A dream of Indigenous Peoples from Central and South America and Mexico has been that some day we would have a foundation to use as a tool to support Indigenous Self Development. Now, Abya Yala Fund, the first foundation guided and directed by Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, Central and South America, is a reality.
I am very optimistic that, in spite of the destructive trends of governments and transnational corporations who are running the planet's political and economic mechanisms today, indigenous communities have continued to evolve in our resistance. We, men and women are creating alliances and proposing realistic models of autonomy and self-determination for the 42 million indigenous people living in what is called Latin America.
After being in this country for about 17 years, I feel that I was fortunate as an indigenous person to have the opportunity to meet many wonderful people like you. Seeing the commitment which many of you have to overcoming injustice, discrimination and exploitation gave me the strength to continue the struggle for justice. I have learned that many citizens in this country are concerned for the future of the people and all living things on Earth and are working hard to make change happen.
In 1983, together with other indigenous and non-indigenous folk, we decided to form the South and Central America Indian Information Center (SAIIC) in Oakland. Then, two years ago, after having worked with SAIIC for 13 years, I joined with a group of Indigenous leaders from the South to create the Abya Yala Fund-"Continent of Life" in the Kuna language from Panama-to respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers in South and Meso America.
In 1997, Abya Yala Fund (AYF) has supported twelve projects, which are both practical and visionary. As importantly, we continue to deepen our understanding and unfolding of the Indigenous perspectives on self development which are creating new solutions rooted in our own traditions and values.
Your support is crucial to our ability to continue our needed work-securing the ownership of the traditional lands of the Miskitus in Honduras and Nicaragua, providing essential funding for the network of women fighting for their rights in Mexico and Guatemala, and providing emergency funds for for those like the U'wa people in Colombia who are struggling to keep oil mega-projects from destroying their environment and their livelihoods.
Indigenous Peoples' principles are based on Universal values with which all people can identify-community living and sharing, respect for the diversity of other cultures and of nature, an integration of spiritual and material needs, harmony and interdependency among all things.
We of Abya Yala Fund, the Board of Directors in the South, and the Board of Advisors and staff at the North American office, are committed to foster the Indigenous principles of a holistic cosmo-vision, and continue the struggle for our rights. We look forward to working with you this year, and we hope you stay with us for many more years to come.
En Paz y Armonía con la Madre Tierra,
PS: If you happen to be in the Bay Area of San Francisco, please, stop by to visit us!
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