The Eagle and Condor Peoples unite in fight against Chevron
By Fernando Arce
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Onkwehón:we from the North, Central and South American parts of the continent converged in Washington D.C. on Apr. 21, 2015 to demand justice for the indigenous victims of Chevron’s pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Hundreds of cousins, sisters and brothers from all over the continent took over Edward R. Murrow Park on H Street, in front of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), where they united in traditional song and dance. Inside the ICSID, a private tribunal created and funded by the World Bank Group, Chevron argued that Ecuador’s government should clean up the Amazon, which was polluted between 1964 and 1992 by the corporation (formerly Texaco).
Note: the wrong name and clan affiliation appears as a caption in this video. The speaker is Tehahenteh Miller, of the Mohawk Turtle Clan of Six Nations of the Grand River.
Meanwhile, the phenomenal force gathered on the nation’s capital shook the ground as the demonstrators demanded the corporation own up to its debt and begin cleaning the Amazon. The meeting, described as “historic,” brought together the Eagle and Condor Peoples – the original peoples of these lands – to fulfil a millenarian Inca prophecy. Their re-established alliance, based on peace and cooperation, is said to signify an age of awakening for the next seven generations.
“Thousands of years ago our people worked together and we helped each other,” said Tahayote (Darryl Chrisjohn), a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames. “A lot of elders in our territory already know elders in (that) territory who worked together (more than) 50 years ago. We met then and we met 100 years prior to that. We have working agreements, brother-to-brother relationships, and we’ll never spill each others’ blood.”
In 2011, Ecuador’s Supreme Court found Chevron guilty of dumping billions of gallons of toxic sludge in the Lago Agrio region of the Amazon, and ordered it to pay $9.5 billion dollars to clean it up. Until today, oil still seeps from the ground up, which is what inspired the grassroots ‘Chevron’s Dirty Hand’ campaign making its way around the world to demand justice for the Afectados (the affected).
To avoid paying its debt, Chevron has launched lawsuit after lawsuit after anyone attempting to help the 30,000 people from indigenous and farming communities who first launched the class-action lawsuit in 1994. This list has included lawyers, a litigation funding company and now even the state of Ecuador – all of whom the oil giant contends acted in a corrupt way to obtain the favourable judgement.
But the corporation’s refusal to pay — “until hell freezes over,” as one of Chevron’s lawyer’s notoriously quipped – is backfiring — all it’s achieved is the unity of leaders from various backgrounds and from all over the continent.
Speakers at the event included Ecuadorian Ambassador to the United States Efrain Baús, Ecuadorian assembly-woman, Ximena Peña, and Indigenous representatives from throughout the continent.
Dr. Rigoberta Menchú, a world-renowned Guatemalan Mayan activist, captivated the audience with a fiery speech. After warmly welcoming all the indigenous and other ethnic brothers and sisters, she went on to denounce the mining industry’s destructive nature and invited everyone to help protect Mother Earth from it.
“Our Mother Earth is untouchable, and any offence against her is an offence against our own lives,” she said in Spanish to the massive though peaceful crowd. “We are witnesses of the indiscriminate destruction of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle. Through many decades, Chevron contaminated the land, the rivers, the plants, and has taken many lives. That is why today is a judgement of the People against Chevron!”
Menchú is a world renowned winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, which she received in 1992 for her constant efforts to promote indigenous rights in her country of Guatemala. She’s also a main figure in indigenous politics there, and even ran for president of the country in 2007 and 2011.
Kanensaraken (Loran) Thompson, a Mohawk member from the Akwesasneh Bear clan, also gave a powerful speech which touched the sea of demonstrators at their very cores as they erupted in applause.
“The land you come from is now the garden of Eden. It is feeding you, and right now you are still free. In this country the people have to depend on corporations to feed them for the almighty dollar. So you hang on to your freedom, from the land you come from,” said the towering indigenous man. “We are one mind. We are one people. The Original People of our Lands! We have been split on years before. We have been convinced that we are different all over the different lands in this world. But we are all the natural peoples of this land, and we have to support our Mother Earth because she’s going to feed us, not the corporations.”
The demonstrators were eventually led in a huge human chain, amidst drumming and chanting, through Avenue Park, in front of the White House, and towards the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Inside, a conference on the importance of protecting the earth concluded the day of action.
First Nations leaders took the stage to make a passionate call for the continuous cooperation of the original peoples of this continent in order to take back their lands and protect them. Then gifts were exchanged to symbolize the beginning of a real Two Row agreement between the Eagle and the Condor Peoples: A promise to work together to defend the land from any and all aggressors.
Indeed, as Tahayote had said earlier: “The shaking of the hands. All the welcoming. All these words we hear. All the exchanging of flags: that’s to finalize the meet and greet. Now let’s step on a pedestal and move up one step higher. Now lets get down to business.”