Saturday, January 07, 2012

Save the Indians: Don't Buy Sugar, Soy From Brazil

Today my thoughts are filled with a grieving solidarity with the Guarani-Kaiowa Indians of Brazil. Global Voices Online coverage of indigenous rights is reporting they are being gunned down on the Amambai indigenous reserve, after years of seeing their ancestral lands stolen and destroyed by agri-business. Their wilderness has been replaced by cattle ranches, soybean plantations and sugar mills where the Indians are forced to cut sugarcane from sunrise to sunset for pitiful wages and in slave-like conditions. Now they are being massacred with impunity. According to the article by Yohana de Andrade, a hoard of gunmen attacked the reserve last November, executing the chief and causing students of a university to write a letter on their behalf in which they said they hold the state, the politicians and the Brazilian society responsible for the deaths because they say and do nothing to stop the Indian genocide. Apparently about 250 Guarani Kaiowa have been killed in Mato Grosso do Sul in the past eight years. “These attacks take place at the same time as Brazil consolidates its position as one of the leading exporters of agricultural goods and biofuels in the world,” Yohana de Adrade wrote, “with Mato Grosso do Sul being one of its most productive states.” She quotes the current chief who said his homeland has now become a place where “ the cane stalk is worth more than the Indian, a cow more than an indigenous community, a bean sprout more than an indigenous child.”

Of course this story makes me think of the Caribbean Indians we lost, and of the ones that remain among us, invisible to our eyes, in spirit and in the flesh. They too were masacred, their genocide was also for the sake of money and the seizure of ancestral lands. I’ve long been convinced that so much of the sadness and hopelessness that grips my city is the result of the lingering trauma of genocide. Because even if the people forget, the land remembers, the Earth herself remembers what happened and she is still grieving. There was no one around to speak for the Lokono Indians of the Bahamas all those five hundred years ago, when the invaders were mowing them down and throwing their bodies into the sea. I am trying to speak for them now in the poems that I write. Today I feel obligated to speak for the Guarani-Kaiowa Indians of Brazil, to tell you about them and their struggle to stay alive today, to encourage you to pay attention to what is happening to them. Their stories need to be heard, we should listen and hear them, and all the other Indigenous peoples of the world who continue to be under similar attack every day. Lets bring the invisible ones into our sight again. Because they are us. When they strike down the Indigenous peoples of Mother Earth in this way we are all injured. When we say nothing about it we are in collusion with the bad guys. So I say to Brazil, in the name of my Lokono ancestors, stop the genocide of the Indians.

What else can we do? We can stop buying Brazilian sugar and soy products, and we should look again at the whole corn-for-fuel thing that sounds like a good green idea until you learn that human lives and the planet itself are being sacrificed in order to produce it.

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