During this year’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Isssues, I had the honor of representing the Mining Working Group while working with our partners, REPAM. REPAM is an eclesial network within the Amazon. It hosts a human rights school where they educate indigenous leaders about human rights offenses/defenses, what the UN is doing, and what they can do for their communities…and much more.
The delegation this year was comprised of the Mudurku of Brazil and Kukama Kukamiria of Peru, along with fellow activists and members of Caritas International. During their time at PFII, they spoke on multiple panels, presenting their cases of human rights offenses on their land and rivers. They spoke of mining, extractive forces, water contamination, forced migration, and loss of culture and identity. They united with fellow indigenous brothers and sisters from the North and the South in a strong symbol of solidity.
I was granted the honor of sharing space and ceremony with them the entire first week of the forum. I translated for Veronica, a lawyer in Peru who belongs to the Kukama people. I was insecure about translating during certain moments in which, I not only needed to translate words, but I also needed to translate emotion. Yet, Veronica was always ahead of me. It’s as if she understood the pains and struggles of her fellow indigeous brothers and sisters before I even got to the words themselves. Translating for her, sharing meals with the tribal chiefs, and simply being with them all, was one of the more stunning experiences of my time at the UN this year. I was literally helping bring their voices to the United Nations.
I thought about my parents a lot during the week. I quickly realized I would have not been able to translate had it not been for my parents passing on their language to me. It was a simple moment of realization in gratitude in knowing that I carry my family and heritage with me so strongly within this job…and my every day life.
Continue to keep the Kukama people in your mind, as well as the rest of our indigenous brothers and sisters.