Dialogue Transcription
Antonio Espinoza Huayllas & Konrad Sioui

 

 

Recorded at the Earth Summit (UNCED),
Rio, Brazil, June 1992

 
Antonio: (English translation) I would like to greet my brother in my own native tongue, which is called Aymara. My name is Antonio Espinoza Huayllas. I am an Amauta, originating from the Collosuyo region. Today it is called Bolivia. From there I come here, to Rio, to this international forum, bringing with me a greeting to the entire First Nations Peoples. Then my brother - (greeting in Aymara language). This greeting, in my language, means that today, this day, for it to be a benefit to all, I mean humanity as a whole. This is the greeting that I bring from my Aymara culture.


Konrad:
I want to first start by saying that in my language, I spoke to you in Wyandot. Itís better known as the Huron, the Huron Nation. Wyandot means ďthe ones who inhabit the islands, the IslandersĒ. Our traditional oral history says that we come from your land, the North American Indian people. Indigenous People and our tradition say that when the turtle, the giant turtle, he merged from the water, we left our land in the south and we went to inhabit our Turtle Island. My nation went to inhabit the very heart of the Turtle Island, which is in the Great Lakes. We have a culture of farmers, we have a culture of people that exchange, that commerce, that trade among first Nations, other Indigenous Peoples.


Antonio: (English translation) Very well, in the same manner, we from the Aymara culture, know, understand and receive strength from nature, energy from the great star, the sun. We receive this energy that it sent to the native being. Mother Nature gives us the laws of nature. We gather these laws, like a great organization who believes it must return to what it was before, thousands of years ago; this powerful organization, with so much culture, religion, responsibility, etc. This is what we want to now save, is it not? Together with you, who to my understanding, are also fruits of nature.


Konrad: For me it is always beautiful to hear my others, to hear the people that speak like you do. You know that shows me that we are right. That shows me that we are on the right track, as they say. That shows me that what we do is going to be beneficial for the world, you know. It shows me we are like beavers. I donít know if you know beavers, but all beavers, you know, they have a responsibility to take care of the land and we are like beavers also. We have a responsibility to take care of the environment.  This is natural to us. Itís in us. I agree with you in that, you know, itís a circle, itís a community, it is a collectivity, that has to be put forward, instead of the individual mind, you know, what we call the linear mind, the linear philosophy, the linear ideology, you know. They have tried, my grandfather, they have tried too much to impose on us this linear mind, you know, where we would have to forget about, about our brothers or sisters, even about our fathers and mothers. We would have to forget about everyone, we would have to build an aggressive mind, a violent attitude and we would have to reach that goal in direct line. We would have absolutely to reach that goal before we can succeed in life. That has destroyed us because we cannot be like that, you know. Itís impossible, itís like you would want to take a moose and you would want to force the moose to become a cow. That has absolutely no place in our capacity, in our culture, in our vision, in our role, our way of life, everything. So this is why I understand what you... that it has become a failure, a total failure. Now we have to go back, we have to stick to the community value, to the collectivity value, to our Nations.


Antonio: Antonio: (English translation) Yes, this is the truth for us, because if you think in the depth of nature, there you will find everything. There we find it all. From there is born our way of thinking, the way we feel in our soul, no - in the spirit. Those laws which they have taught us, that for us is the most sacred, I mean nature. We respect nature in all its fullness. We, the natives of the world, believe we are part of that nature, we are nature itself - in such a way that we would never hurt a river or a lake, or cut a tree without reason. We would not do it so easily, no.

But now we have discovered that there is, within the system where capitalism lives, the system of the states, the governments, that they are accomplices of this situation that they bring us, but they do not see it this way. This is why I would like to, and have, called the media so that they may help us dialogue amongst each other, because at least to my way of thinking we do not need racist positions. We need not take any violent action. We need no confrontation of any sort. If nature gave us the intelligence, with this intelligence we could measure and find the solution to the problems that have been created  - no? the ecological imbalance of the world.


Konrad: It is true. Our people are all pacific. Our people are always welcoming the stranger. Everywhere we go we see all our people welcoming the stranger, with a meal, with a place to sleep, with a shelter. This is common to all our Indian, so called Indian Nations, First Nations of America.  We are all from the same people also. I believe what our elders say to us, we have to continue to educate these people; we have to continue to teach them. We have to continue even if they are racist, even if they are tough, rough, even if they are violent, even if they are aggressive in their words, in their manners and everything. We have to continue to Indianize them. When I was young, I didnít understand too much what it meant. My grandmother was saying that to me, we have to continue to teach them, to teach them how to become more rooted to the land, so that this way they are going to protect it; they are going to create a link with the land. It will not be only ego rush attitude. It is going to become something that they now will care for the land.

You know it is true that these people arrived here as invaders. It is true that they arrived here, you know, leaving a country that they probably spoiled or that they were no more able to live on, and they found richness here, they found order, they found civilizations, they found very, very highly political developed societies, nations and peoples. They found a beautiful type of human beings that never, throughout these thousands and thousands and thousands and dozens of thousands of years, have never developed war the way it has been developed for example in Europe, in other parts of the world. So sure we were easy to wipe out, we were easy to exploit and, in fact, this has happened and this continues to happen. But the answer is, as you were saying, well my grandfather, is to continue to Indianize, to have this people to become more and more Indigenous to the land. This is the only way that we are going to save our land, by saving these people all together. This is our responsibility. It is quite a task, because we cry, because we suffer, because we see many of our people, especially our old people looking at mother earth, to be this spoiled. We see them cry, you know, but I think there will come a day, pretty soon, where our knowledge will not only be exploited, but will be put at the advantage of all human beings and they ask us, I believe.


Antonio: (English translation) Yes. Something else too. It is also a concern finding a solution. If we have been, for 500 years oppressed, enslaved, etc. this isnít the time for complaints, but instead a time to think positively. What is the best solution, letís say. Guilty, there were many. They have exterminated us. There have been 80 million.... Never in any world war have this many people been victimized. But I would like to say it like this, a truth without hatred, without grudges, without wanting to hurt anyone, such as our religion dictates, but the world must understand this situation - no?  I believe that many elders like myself analyzed and came to the understanding that Christianity, which they have imposed on us for 500 years, and thinking even further, the 2000 years of Christianity, we realize that this era will end. Christianity has not given us the solution for a better life. It hasnít panned out. We havenít found the solution in Christianity. This is why our culture is stronger than Christianity, because it is based on a respect for nature and living in community, in coexistence. This is what me must dialogue with those very same Christians, with the people of other cultures, so that we may arrive to an understanding.


Konrad: Again, this is what weíve heard from our elders also. You know my bible is the forest, my church is the forest. My bible is all leaves after the trees. This is a message that I learnt when I was very, very young. A message that always remains in my mind now. Religion is not a word that we use often because there is so much fights, so much struggles all over the world because of religion, you know. We use spirituality, the word spirituality because spirituality is the link with the Nature, with the Great Spirit. Itís a link with all human beings, we have to be spiritual. Religion, some religions, you know, they will pray for half an hour per week, sometimes not even, and that is what they consider to be religious, and that is too few. We have to be spiritual at all times. We have to purify ourselves, you know. In our own beliefs, in our own ways, as Indigenous Peoples, we have that, that we can share also with the rest of the people, of the world, you know. 

So many things that we can share and that we are willing to share these things because we know it is going to cure. We know itís going to help other human beings, our brothers and sisters from different, other nationalities and color and so on, to find a way, to find peace, to find the solution. Myself, my Nation as you said, so many millions of our people, of our sisters have died, you know, atomic bombs... arrived very early in small pox, any European diseases will create epidemics and still in some of these lands here it happens, you know. So our Nations, our people, are very fragile against all kinds of different diseases. Like the one that we were more than 200,000 and within 50 years we became only a handful of us. A couple of hundreds that were able to survive from that and this is what my Nation is all about. Many other Nations, major nations, big, big Nations, big confederations, very highly politically developed like the Erie Nation, the Tobacco Nation, the Atineawanton Nation, the Saskwahana Nation, they all disappeared today. There is only one confederation today that survived: the Iroquois confederation of all our people. So this is true, that we suffer a lot from religion, from diseases, from intrusion into our world. I believe that it should set an example for some of these Nations here in Brazil, that if they are too much in contact with non-Indigenous people, be they anthropologists, or ecologists or priests, they are going to feel like thisÖ epidemics, and they are going to die very fastly. We had to kill priests you know. We had to kill priests, us and the Iroquois. They are called the St. Martyrs in Canada.

I was just to say that the first time that I arrived into our school, in our reserve, the big nun, the first thing that she said to us was:  ďNow you have to put yourself on your knees and ask forgiveness, forgiveness, praise the Lord, ask forgiveness for what youíve done to those priests. Your Nation, you were savages, you were barbarous, you didnít know how to live and you killed those beautiful, holy priests that were coming to teach you the good news, and look what youíve done with that. Youíve killed the martyrsĒ. I looked at the nun, and I was on my knees and I started to cry because it was the first time in my life that I felt ashamed, that I felt something inside of me that I never felt before and it was very serious. So I brought it back home and as a chance, I had older brothers and sisters and they told me not to worry about that. That was a false history, it was not true history. My father said to me then, at night I said that to my father, he said: ďMy son, donít believe that.  Just pretend that they are true, just pretend for sake of making sure that you are a good student, that you learn what they teach you, but donít believe that. You know our ancestors were good people, and one day,Ē he says, ďtime is the father of truth, one day you are going to write it, the true history. You are going to allow it that the people of your generationÖ you are going to re-write all that. Youíre going to repossess what has been stolen away, what has been taken away from youĒ.


Antonio: (English translation) Well, this is the way it is. We are in the right and we speak the truth. It seems to me that the truth that we seek was sought long before the usurpers, the intruders came. They have covered our truth, but the truth comes out again, that does not end.

I wanted more than anything to say that within the truth there are four values, four philosophical principles, everything we have, our way of life, without removing spirituality. I very much agree that we should no longer speak of religion, because it is false, it is much better to speak of spirituality because we carry that inside - yes? These four values are, first reciprocity, because we are all a community, in harmony. Reciprocity has been practiced for thousands of years. Then comes solidarity, because we are like a family in it, wherever we may be, be it in a town, in an Aymara Nation, in a Quechua one, in the end we are like one family and this is why we should practice solidarity. Next, honesty must be practiced. To have no stains, not to walk like this, but straight, from this comes honesty. And finally comes responsibility. We, who were born in a native culture, originating from the world, more so when we are born in this culture, they teach us these principles. We then learn upon this. We learn the responsibility that it called ďto serve your communityĒ and not ďhelp yourself to your communityĒ, like those who have taught us evil in reality. These principles are worth more, much more, than the Ten Commandments from the Lordís Law, which they have imposed on us.  It is much stronger and this is why we believe that we will continue to move forward.


Konrad: Because itís so clear what he said, that I understood every point of it. The reciprocity as we call it, that parallel road, the co-existence, the coexistence principle. Itís a capacity for our Nations to be able to continue to practice our way of life. To continue to do what we have to do as Nations, as peoples. To play our role and for the other Nations to have the reciprocities, so that we respect also the mutual roads, the two roles that we have to follow. One should never try to assimilate. One should never try to integrate. One should never try to have the other becoming him or her. We need reciprocity. We need mutuality. We need to respect those two very roles, because they exist. Because we were here first so we have our way of life, we have our roles. We have our spirituality. Another person arrives; we donít want him to become me. We donít want him to become us. We want to say to that person, letís live in reciprocity, letís live in mutuality, as co-exist, co-existence principle.

The other principle, the solidarity, is the very circle, as the circle. We need to have solidarity. We need to have unity. We need to be able, especially today during the very important days in our struggle, we need to have unity. We need to speak with one voice and this is also a principle that we share, also as indigenous people from the North.

Now the honesty, the honesty, this is what we have to recognize as to be the most fundamental teaching that we receive as young children, as young people. There is a proverb that says, if you donít learn how to be honest on the knees of your mother, you will never be able to be honest. So it comes from your mother, directly from you mother, from within. Probably from the womb of you mother, when youíre inside your mother. That is how important it is to recognize and put that principle of honesty in place, because without that itís disorder. Without that itís tragical.

And the last one, the responsibility, we translate the responsibility as to be the self-determination capacity. We are responsible people. We know what we want for ourselves. We know the kind of decisions that our people want to take. So we are responsible and we want to fulfill our responsibility. Our responsibility has been taken away from us by force and imposed by other values. Now we want to repatriate that responsibility that is ours. Itís a sacred right and we call it the inherent right. The inherent because it comes from the Creator. It comes from the Creator; it does not come from Nations, States, Governments. It comes from the Creator, that is why we say inherent right to self determination, and this is what we call to be responsible for ourselves.

So your principles, your four principles, they sound in my ear as to be household. The very four principles that we put in place, that we put ahead and that we use and utilize and need to continue to utilize and again, it is a teaching. I learnt a lot tonight because I find that what we are exchanging together is, is really alike, you know, and this is great to know. I have a beautiful feeling inside of me.


Antonio: (English translation) Well, to give hope to those who are on the same path. Now all this thinking and all this conversation must finally unite all the communities, First Nations and Indigenous, it must unite us all with this form of thinking. This is our task, even though it will not be easy, we will achieve it. Yes, and there is aÖ I take it as an anecdote. The bad people, the people that make atomic bombs, the people that in the name of science, in the name of technology, etc., accumulate much wealth to destroy other communities, are trying to find life on other planets so save themselves for when the punishment that they deserve finally comes. But, the only thing that we want is to lengthen the life of our planet, even for them. Our desire is right, but if they do not understand this, our gods will not allow them to save themselves over there. First they must fall when it all ends. This is what we believe might happen when the moment comes, and it might be that it happens this way. But for now we hope they understand, we are asking for dialogue with these evil people. We can discuss and we can present some solutions to lengthen the life of the planet.


Konrad: This is ... I would like to answer also, and exchange with my grandfather, to tell him that his message of wisdom has been to me, this exchange has been to me something that I wasnít expecting. Something that I will benefit all my life of this conversation that we have. It is like we would be together, is like there would no be camera, it is like we would just exchange between you and I, privately. I heard you, I listened to you very, very deeply and I want to thank you very much for that experience, that wisdom that you have shared, that you wanted to share with me, because sometimes in our struggle, we would need to put in place a clause. A clause that is going to become more and more important in the years that are going to come.  It is a very consent clause, you know. We need to consent now to any form of development that is going to happen in our land. We need to consent on all the social, cultural, political, economical kind of development that has an effect, direct or indirect, on our people and Nations. We need to consent to those charters that are drafted here in the United Nations level in our absence. That has to come to an end.

My last comment, my dear elder, is to recognize what you said to me, that we need to hold on to our traditions, to hold on to our values. We need to keep them a secret, secret and sacred also. We need also to involve all our people. Our leadership is not needed for a happy few, our leadership means to reach out, to grass root. We need to involve our women as equal with us; we need, not only say that what we are doing is for youth, but involve the youth now, involve them into the decision making process. I think we can do that. I think our culture, I think our traditions are able to incorporate all our people as it has always been.

I want to finally say that I learnt a lot from you. I want to say that I will bring back in Canada, in North America, those words that you shared with me and let us keep on being a full part of the circle all together. Let us invite other indigenous people to become part of the circle, for sure, but more importantly, non-indigenous people of the world to be part of the great circle of life.

 


 


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