Ximena Llamín | Vision of the indigenous peoples for the respect and preservation of water
[Greeting in Mapuche dialect] GEAP, Embassy of Activists for Peace, to the authorities, good morning; to friends and to all of us who are interested not only in the future, but in the present of our Mother Earth, in which we are living in different situations that affect us, affect our lives, affect our dignity as human beings.
I come from a town that is in the south of Chile, Mapuche community. Mapuche means: “people of the earth”, that is its meaning translated into Castilian. And the first thing, which we do as a Mapuche, is say hello. Greetings are very significant in the cultures of indigenous peoples, because ... It is said: greeting is health, greeting is being well; and sometimes we go through life very fast and we forget something so simple and so elementary that is natural in the cultures of indigenous peoples, which is to say hello.
Mari mari. And you will answer me: “Mari mari”. Now we are ready and now we are well to start in this conversation that invites us to reflect on the reality lived by indigenous peoples and in particular the Mapuche people; and talk about the importance not only of the Earth, but of water, water as an element of life, a vital element to feed us, water with its meanings as well. In the culture of indigenous peoples water has a nehuen, nehuen is an energy, water has a spirit, water has life, and water ultimately allows us to exist; that's why it's so significant.
When many times environmentalists tell us that in a couple of years, at a future time, there are bad forecasts, in reality it is not so far. Many times it is spoken since our grandchildren are going to suffer the effects, and as indigenous peoples we think that they are not our grandchildren, they are our children. It is our children who will suffer the effects of the actions we have as human beings and as a society with our planet.
Part of the reflections that I share on this day also have to do with the work we do in different organizations and communities of indigenous peoples in our country (in Chile) and also in Latin America, where we have had the opportunity to participate and where we coincide in different subjects; because the problems that afflict the Mapuches are the same that afflict the communities in Colombia, in Guatemala, in central and southern Mexico and globally.
They are, mainly, because indigenous communities are often in natural spaces where there are resources, significant natural resources, and where multinationals have seen these spaces as a business opportunity; and this business opportunity has an impact that is significant, and that is not looked at in the short term or in the long term: unfortunately it is not looked at.
And therefore, when we talk about the situation that coexists with the current environmental problem, we realize that it is in the indigenous territories where the mining companies are located, it is in the indigenous territories where the forestry companies are located, and the forestry companies are not planting native trees; plantation of pines and eucalyptuses. And pine and eucalyptus have an impact on our lands; pine and eucalyptus are natural (they say) of places where there are marshes, like Australia.
And it turns out that these plantations go to places in the communities where neighbors and people, mainly Mapuche people, have to live together, where the situation is that these plantations (badly named “forests”, because they are not forests) nowadays in our country are being called the “tree of fire”.
In the summer of Chile, which is in January, February, there was a tremendous and damaging situation, which were forest fires, where this tree caught and burned towns and entire cities; that was the previous situation.
For native peoples, conversation is natural, it is natural that when we sit down at the table to eat, to have lunch, we turn off the cell phone and talk and look at each other's faces; and in current societies we are losing that, we are losing it because of modernity, and we are not realizing it.
And we are overlooking the subject of “time”, which is also something that we have been losing; and time is as significant as food; because day after day we rush in our work, in our activities and at the end of the day we end up exhausted and we do not know how much we have done and how much we have dedicated to our family and our own.
So, that is also why we should reflect on the importance of time. There is a general saying of the indigenous people, which says that it is a warning call to the white man, in a way, so to speak, you have the watches but the indigenous peoples have the time.
So that is like a call to reflection, to be a part of the different situations; because also peace and this Integration for Peace Summit invites us to reflect on the issues that affect us in our daily life; and in our everyday life we are affected by this situation of environmental impact faced by the different communities and that now societies have to take charge.
Because when they said – at the beginning of the Summit – about global warming, which is also changing the structure of time, how we are living time and how drastic summer and winter have become. Today we do not have the four stations that I once knew since childhood; today we have two stations, and two very strange stations, which have also made climate more extreme; and this will undoubtedly generate changes also in agriculture and in the way we feed ourselves.
Continuing with these reflections, we can also tell you that as indigenous peoples and as Mapuche we have a very powerful energy, which is the nehuen; the nehuen is the ability we have to get ahead, to fight against adversity; and I believe that all human beings have it, we have the nehuen, this energy that invites us to continue working and to continue fighting.
And I also believe that Dr. Soto, to thank him, because he has taken into account this energy of the indigenous peoples, and that invites us to rethink our lives a little bit and take into account that there will be no changes in the world if we do not listen to indigenous peoples. And we give this thanks to Dr. Soto, to the work he has done with the communities and in the work with Children of Mother Earth, where communities from different parts of the world have been invited to share things, the situations we face and what we think, in short, to build a better society.
Continuing with the theme of water, from the Mapuche point of view, it not only refers to the essential element for human consumption, but also as the motor of human existence; we, the indigenous people and the Mapuche people say that water is the sap that runs through the veins of Mother Earth; for our grandparents and our grandmothers, traditional authorities such as the lonco, the machi, who are authorities of traditional character and who have been guiding our destiny for many centuries, water is sacred.
Each year, when a new cycle begins (in the case of cultures in Chile, of native peoples, between June 21 and 24, which is the winter solstice), we bathe in a river to purify ourselves and start a new stage and stop, stop to reflect on how we are doing things; therefore, water is part of our life.
When we decide to cross a river, when we decide to bathe in an estuary, in a lake, in the sea, we ask for permission; and performing this analogy of asking permission, is also related to the fact that anyone who enters our home should ask us for permission. So, the invitation is that when we go to a natural space we should always ask for permission.
And they are situations that are taking place, and they are situations that are also being presented to the Chilean justice system to take them into consideration.
Within the Mapuche tradition there are menocos, which are wells and are places where the waters flow, and today they are almost non-existent; this is how fear seizes the communities and every time in Chile we see on television that the conflict is growing, the Mapuche conflict grows; and the voices of environmental experts also tell us that the Chilean desert – which is one of the driest deserts in the world – begins to move forward, begins to move towards the greenest part of our country, the greenest and most fertile zone; and that is where the environmental problem begins to affect the daily life, the life of many indigenous people who are forced by this situation to migrate to the big cities; large cities, such as the capital of Santiago de Chile, which houses more than six million inhabitants and where the spaces, the city begins to grow up, to the sides, and where spaces are increasingly reduced to be able to inhabit.