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09 / 08 / 2004
The indigenous peoples denounce the fact that states refuse to grant them total recognition

The Forum’s “141 Questions” (92): “Can we be indigenous in the 21st century? Do we want to?” Noemí Gómez and Jimai Montiel, members of indigenous communities in Mexico and Venezuela, both emphasized that they will never lose their identity: “We have been indigenous since we were born and we will continue to be indigenous when we die.” Noemí Gómez, a teacher, vindicates the right to “proclaim that indigenous peoples do exist, and to demand quality bilingual and intercultural education.” Jimai Montiel, a lawyer, pointed out that, when the time comes, the indigenous movements would make themselves heard “such as they proved in Ecuador, where they overthrew the president.” Both speakers expressed their support of responsible development that takes into account biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples.

Today, International Day for Indigenous Peoples, at the Haima Stage, Noemí Gómez, educator and member of the San Marcos Móctum community in Oaxaca, México, and Jimai Montiel, lawyer and member of the Wayuu community in Venezuela denounced the fact that states do not apply policies that would mean the solid recognition of indigenous peoples: "In Mexico, the place in Latin America where the most has been done to protect indigenous rights, there is no full recognition of our identity. We want quality bilingual and intercultural education, " said Noemí Gómez. Jimai Montiel said that, "states do not apply the recommendations from the United Nations or from any other international forum."

At today’s Speakers’ Corner, which was moderated by Julian Burger, the head of the indigenous people’s program run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, both Noemí Gómez and Jimai Montiel feel that there is no doubt about the future of the indigenous condition: “We have been indigenous since we were born and we will continue to be indigenous when we die,” they stated. Jimai Montiel asked, “Does anyone think that our culture is backwards and out of line with the 21st century?” He went to mention the fact that indigenous movements know how to make themselves heard, “just has they proved in Ecuador, where they overthrew the president.”

When asked about the effects of globalization in indigenous communities, Jimai Montiel assured that specific identity is not in any danger: "We have always resisted and we will also resist globalization. And furthermore, we use it to our advantage, as our being here shows. We will resist using the same means they use to exterminate us."

Noemí Gómez and Jimai Montiel expressed their support for responsible development that takes into account biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples. Noemí Gómez spoke of “ethnocide” in reference to the various plans for exploiting resources that “throw out the biodiversity that indigenous peoples have conserved over thousands of years. Although we are poor, we are a goldmine,” she stated. She concluded by demanding the active participation of indigenous peoples in state development: “We want to share and impose our conditions, among which is the ability to say “no”.”

With respect to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples-- after three years of work only two of its over forty articles have been approved-- both speakers said they would not give in to the temptation to "let down their guard" in order to obtain results that later on will prove unsatisfactory: "We will not allow states to make us give up the recognition of our collective rights. There will never be individual rights if they do not recognize the rights of the collective first," explained Noemí Gómez.