It’s vital that indigenous and traditional communities have the opportunity to use and strengthen their voices not only to denounce the systematic violation of their rights, but also to share the ancestral knowledge that is key to addressing the current environmental and climate crises.
For a variety of reasons, organizations that accompany indigenous struggles, as well as the media and journalists who portray them, often speak on behalf of these peoples.
While this intermediary work can help increase the visibility and impact of the frontline defense of territories, there is no better way to hear and understand their stories than from the people who live them.
The Intercultural Encounter of Indigenous Communicators represents a step forward in this sense, as it amplifies the work of six indigenous defenders who have made communication a valuable tool for protecting their territories.
The project brings together members of indigenous communications collectives from across Mexico, Central and South America to share their experiences defending land, culture and ancestral ways of life.
Their stories are of strength and self-determination.
Juana Ramírez Villegas, an indigenous woman of the Mixe or Ayuuk people in Oaxaca, Mexico, is part of a communications collective that has enabled coordination between different affected communities and elevated their demands for respect of their territory and defense of their rights to the national level. Together they’re resisting the construction of a massive port and railway infrastructure project across the Isthmus de Tehuantepec known as the Interoceanic corridor.
Elvia Bo, a Mayan woman from Southern Belize and part of the organization SATIIM, has kept remote indigenous communities in southern Belize informed of their rights. She is working to install a radio signal powerful enough to reach the many remote indigenous communities of her area through her broadcasting. Her work has been key in confronting repeated attempts by governments and large companies to implement extractive megaprojects within indigenous territory.
Laura Brito Boriyu is a member of the Wakuaipa Communication Collective, a group of youth from the Wayúu indigenous community in Colombia. Their communication and audiovisual production skills have served to denounce the impacts suffered for more than 40 years by the Wayúu people in La Guajira as a result of one of the largest open-pit coal mines in the world. Their stories are subverting the heavy investment in propaganda that the company makes while it destroys Wayúu ancestral territory.
Mitã Xipaya, a young communicator from the Xipaya people of the Medio Xingu in Altamira, Brasil, is part of the UJIMX collective. They’re denouncing the socio-environmental damages of the Belo Monte megadam, built deep in the Amazon rainforest, which has destroyed not only the natural environment but also the region’s social structure and, particularly, young peoples’ mental health. In that sense, collectives like UJIMX are using communications to motivate youth to envision a better future and work to transform Altamira.
Arewana Juruna and Kujaesage Kaiabi are indigenous communicators and filmmakers who live in the Indigenous Territory of Xingú in Mato Grosso, where 16 indigenous communities live and protect the forests of the Xingú river basin. Faced with government policies that favor deforestation, they and other indigenous communicators of the Amazon play a vital role in raising awareness about the need to protect this critical ecosystem.
This project has enabled the teams and efforts of these collectives to grow and strengthen. You can read more about each of these indigenous communicators and see the work they produced on the project’s website.
They and their people are united by the great history of resistance that indigenous peoples have and continue to show to the current global development model, which prioritizes extractive megaprojects and destructive policies over ancestral knowledge and preservation.
Truly understanding their stories and listening to them, from the voices of their protagonists, is fundamental if we as a society wish to move towards a better way of living, in harmony and balance with nature.
Preserving the only planet we know from the climate crisis, humanity’s greatest threat, requires incorporating the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of solutions.
This project was spearheaded by AIDA with the support of the Swift Foundation, Tierra Poderosa and organizations that directly support these communities, including the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA), the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), the Movimiento Xingú Vivo para Siempre, the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), the Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (UCIZONI) and the União da Juventude Indígena do Meio do Xingú (UJIMX).