Thursday, March 20, 2014

Indigenous Territorial Government of Matumbak on Rio Espaniolina

We are introduced to:
·         Erasmo taylor
·         Roberto Francis, Territorial Judge
·         Uriel Davis, Secretary
·         Gil Coleman, Technician
·         Samuel Feliciano
·         Rosalinda Dixon
There were nine communal counselors there.
Opening song and prayer
Welcome from the elder council
Welcome to our international friends, applause to welcome you.  What is your mission?
Presentation of the communal leaders
Francisco Manuel Castro ( guy in striped shirt) – President of the Territorial Government, Territorial Chief
Kathy introduced Nicaragua Network.
Music by a Mayangna man in traditional dress sang about nature and the BOSAWAS reserve.  Moskitu music – last month I went to the poetry festival in Managua.  There are no funds to improve the lives of artists and musicians.  I have two CDs – one of just me, and another of me with others.  They are on radio and the internet.  He showed us his jacket and hat made of the bark of the rubber tree, saying that the grandparents used this type of cloth.  He sang about the Tiwi tiwi, which is a little bird that stays along the river.
BOSAWAS is an acronym for three natural resources – the Bocay River, the Saslaya Mountain, and the Waspuk River, all of which are Mayangna names of places.  The first people to populate Nicaragua were Mayangna.  Next, the Spaniards, and later the Miskitu.  Today we reclaim our rights for the defense of Mother Earth.  We claim that the Nicaragua government must listen to our petition.  We call on our friends and neighbors to come to the defense of nature.
Our elders took care of the forest and they are now at rest.  Now only the youth are making claims for Mother Earth.  We are going to try as the Muytambak Territorial Government.  I, as a singer, went into the BOSAWAS and saw where it was deforested, with no tigers, no peccaries, because of Mestizos who are invading our territories.
Presentation by Technician Gil Coleman
I am happy about the alliance we are making.  Mayangna Sauni Arungka Matumbak has 48,000 ha of area, with population of 4700 in nine communities with elected leaders.
The Vision and Mission of Matumbak:  Apolitical indigenous people in defense of the rights of the nine communities in the territory.  Mission is development of community, maintain our identity, maintain conditions of life for the population.  Objectives:  Norms in agreement with traditions, identify the situation of the colonizers.  Our structure is a General Assembly, Officers, nine Territorial Councils each with Judge/Chief/Sindico, and technicians for health, and security.  We want our land, sports, and culture.
Recent history – we had our own laws, before Nicaragua, and these were recognized by Law 445 in 2003.  We put out images of our territory to try to protect it and attend to the urgent needs of our poor and vulnerable people.  We work to protect our resources.  Sixteen km SE of Bonanza, we have 485 sq km in our title.  (Note – was means river)
Our communities are Pansuhwas, Mukuswas, Wassah, Ispayulina, Wiunaku As, Ibanwas, Mahalwas, Wihilwas, and Yapawas.  We speak Mayangna, Miskito and Spanish and are multi-cultural.  There is one more community, Kal Mata.
Massive invasions started in about 2000, although there were some starting in the 1990s.
Now there are about 1500 colonizing families with 8000 people.  15 of their colonies are in the Wala As Ang reserve and three are in the Banakwas reserve.  36,000 Mz (1 Mz is about 1.7 acres) are affected, with indiscriminate logging and the agricultural frontier.
He showed a map of Mayangna.
What do colonizers cause?  Insecurity for people, threats, conflict, environmental damage, climate change.  Cattle pollute the rivers, there is food insecurity, and a loss of ancestral heritage.  Men must go further to hunt, and women get water from contaminated rivers.  There is just one last area that has not been logged.  If it is logged, the earth will not have oxygen.
Most of our territory is in the buffer zone, we have only a small part of BOSAWAS.
Obstacles to the saneamiento are that the governments of Nicaragua and RAAN/RAAS don’t have funding or the political will.
A group of children did the Tiwi Tiwi dance for us.  They were dressed in rubber tree bark pounded into cloth and made into traditional clothes.
Plan for 2014
* Achieve saneamiento through a legal framework that will protect our people and recover forests, rivers, plants, and animals.  The goal is for 50% of the colonizers to be cleared out.  We have a budget of $45,000 USD to get a register of all of the colonizers.
* Demand and make claims for our land and get a lawyer.  This is budgeted at $180,000 USD.  We did most of our work without a lawyer, giving a negative result, so we need legal advice moving forward.  Also, we need actions, lobbying, and coordination with other indigenous territories to have a greater impact at higher levels.  We need radio, TV, and written messages – to make our demands public.
* Clearing an area to show our territories so the nine communities can clearly see their boundaries.  We need 230 border markers and paths to connect them.  A German company is helping with this.
The colonizers who are allowed to stay will pay rent to the indigenous people.
Jazelle has a recommendation – Agricultural reform titles are not valid in indigenous territory.  Harrison – Altimarano Treaty of 1905 said that the territories would be divided based on the number of children, but Mestizos marry indigenous people and have lots of children, then extend their land – be careful of this – you could limit the amount of land they keep based on the number of children (?).
This plan doesn’t have funding, so we’re looking for larger international organizations for help.  Mestizos that came a long time ago who choose to leave may not sell the land, lease it out to others, nor pass it to their heirs.
We had some money from Denmark to register colonizers, but Ortega said to stop that.  We’ve done 20% of the registration and only two of those families have titles from before the Agrarian Reform time.  When we start charging rent, we will need a lawyer.  Our people need to get together to decide who can stay and what rental terms we would offer them.  If we don’t get results at the regional and national levels, we will ask for international help.
Territorial judge – When we talk about Law 445 and the five stages, we’ve done the first four stages but the fifth has serious problems.  Our main needs now are a cartographer and a lawyer.  We need to present reports at the regional and national levels.  For the past 6 years we have gotten through the four stages – we need these last two elements.  Titles after 1987 are not valid and very few people have valid titles.
Health, culture and sports, planting and production, education:
Education – in the nine communities we have three primary and secondary schools.  All are bilingual in Mayangna and Spanish.  From the mid-1980s where children learn in Mayangna – before that, the children were punished for not speaking Spanish.  We have men and women teachers in primary schools where education is bilingual, but secondary schools are only in Spanish.  Some of us are in Universities, but this is at great cost to us.  Now our children are learning Mayangna and the adults are learning Spanish.  This helps them not be cheated in the cities and markets.  Are there textbooks?  Yes, first through fourth grade, but not 5th or 6th grades yet.  After Hurricane Felix, of 2007, we have some aid to get 5th and 6th grade texts.  Texts we do have are old and need updated.  The national government pays the salaries of our teachers.  Schools need libraries and computers and school building maintenance. 
Medicine - We survived in the past with traditional medicine.  We are trying to get help to document our traditional medicines – the knowledge is being lost.  The ambulances can’t cover this whole area, so we need to provide transportation ourselves.
I’ve only been president for six months.
Regarding the saneamiento – there are government agencies that should help us – CEDID, MARENA, INAFOR, The Attorney General of the Republic, the Ecological Battalion, The ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, SERENA, National Institute for Territorial Studies, Mayor’s offices, and RAAN.
The colonizers have guns, but we don’t.  We have no weapons to resist their violence.  We feel threatened and insecure.  Help us defend our land and protect Mother Earth.   We need to patrol our area by vehicle because it’s too large to do on foot.  Even on buses into cities, people threaten us and might kill us.  This hurts our ability to talk to the regional government.  How can you help move this process forward?
We have students in University to become lawyers, but there are no scholarships.
Can you get money from your resources?  In an environmental municipal committee in Bonanza – no Mayangna is a logger – we are conservationists.
50% (?) of the people live off of the forest.  We have reforested to benefit future generations. 
This is the place where the two Mayangna were killed by Mestizos.  We kept vigil for two months after that.  Then the police chief came and decided to build a police station here, so it is better.
We border with the Mayangna Sauni As people.
Some of the resistance to the Sandinistas planted guns in the forests and now they dig them up to use against us.
The invaders steal our cattle.
There is an abandoned gold mine, it’s complicated for us to get papers to use it, but the illegals use it.  Same with the forest.
Jazelle proposed again, for those that are allowed to stay, that they pay rent.
Is the Territorial government paid?  Yes, by the Ministry of the Treasury for the Territorial Government from the resources of our area.  Jazelle suggested that they could get more or all of that money.
Rio Tonki is now polluted by the HEMCO Company gold mining activities (We later saw this company in Bonanza).  Many years of cyanide have gone into the river.  People have lung problems and bathing in the river causes severe itching.  Even small creeks are contaminated.  There is also mercury being used by the smaller gold panners.  The community does seem to have well water that they can safely drink.
___ We took a break for lunch, eating Guarda Tinaka, also known as Tepes Quintle, which tastes like pork.  This is a very large rodent, about 20 pounds. Parlca? Parlcu? Paka?
This group is going to go to court tomorrow in Bonanza against the intruders.
___ Back in the conference room, we learn the history of Matumbak, by Arasma Taylor and one other person.
The Mayangna were the first people to populate Nicaragua.  Many of the place names like Matagalpa are Mayangna.  We have many territorial security problems.  In previous centuries our ancestors lived near the Pucalaya River and we have lost many of our rights. 
There was a King who reigned over the 100,000 ha at the Kolawaka Hill, which is now in the BOSAWAS reserve.
In later years, since 2009, we only have 48,000 ha with all of the different things that have happened on the land.  The political institutions of the government don’t support our land rights.  There are several problems.
The Kiing of Kukalaya had a land grant from the government of Belize and our ancestors survived on plants and animals of that area of large biodiversity.  In the 1930s the Spanish regime killed many of us, and our population was greatly reduced.  As original peoples, we see the political parties take away our rights.
Since 1977 the real invasion began and affected our natural resources and access to the land.  (We get our 3rd small rainstorm of the day)  Sincde then we believe 970 families are now here.
We thank the National government for Law 445 and the four stages and our title, but the last stage is what we are asking for now.  We see how they fulfilled Law 445 and 169 of ILO, but they appear not to have the political will for the saneamiento.  Just as we respect the Nicaragua laws, we expect the Nicaragua government to comply with these laws.  We follow the law, are not afraid of this conflict, but if tey do not comply, will go to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and other international organizations.
We have had processes for meeting with the community chiefs and we thank you for meeting with us.  We hope you can take our message to your people; an alliance of cooperation could fund our kind of project.
Another speaker.  I will try to wake you up.  Birth of Matumbak:  Before, we didn’t talk about a territorial government, we talked about an association.  In the time of the association, we didn’t have a basis in law to discuss our rights.  In 1994 we became an organization in which I served for eight years.  Under Armando Schmidt we assumed the role as the Indigenous Territorial Government.  Then we approved a Magna Carta (charter) to allow us to function.  In September of 2013 Francisco Miguel Castro was elected as our first President.  He has been involved in the organization struggle since 1994.  Before 1979 there was not an organization.  Before the war, there were seventy-nine communities.
When Sukawala stopped functioning, the community did not have the same rights as now.  Now we have legal title to 48,000 ha but are not yet free.  We still need the saneamiento.  We have decided that 2014 is the last year that we will fight locally.  After that, we will go to the world court for international assistance.
We look back to another Mayangna people who won in international court. 
A territory needs many professionals in a variety of professions to function properly – we need scholarships.  I was a teacher, and have been studying law at Martin Luther University in Rosita.
A woman speaker who does not speak Spanish (Louise Boling?).  I am from an organization of women called Mayaka.  Welcome.  We need help to get legal as an organization.  We have a project for educating women in sewing to help support our families.  We want to make things from this bark cloth.  We also need sewing machines (12 of them were requested).  We need offices where women can work for their advancement.   (Paulette, Susan, and Helen were interested in this project, and also powering them with solar power.)
Women aren’t included in meetings – I want women to be invited.  Men don’t hurt us, but don’t think we are important.  We need someone who knows the business side of this – to get to Managua, and who to sell to, and how  much to charge.  Question – if this is funded, who would manage the funds? The Territorial Government?  The Women’s Organization?  A: A person who works with the women’s association, a woman.
They didn’t want to talk about the abuse of children.  The women say it doesn’t happen, but the President says yes, it happens.  The president hopes that in the future that women will be welcome and can participate in government.
A woman chose to talk:  A judge here is working for three months.  The young women want to study but lack a father, and there are no funds available for girls to continue their education.  The eighty high school graduates have not been able to continue their education.  We need a University for this territory.  Some orphans can’t even finish primary education.  They presented a proposal to us for a bi-lateral accord.
We said that we can carry their concerns to Managua and the media and look for funding sources.
We dropped everything to speak to you.  We are in a grave situation and losing our land.  I am very worried about what’s going on here – we seem to be pushed aside regarding the BOSAWAS and the National Government.  We would like more visits in the future.  We would like a sister agreement with you and organizations.  Good travels.  He gave me an email address,, but no version of it that I tried worked.

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