Eagle-Condor Exchange Strengthens International Indigenous Relationships 7-07

Dear Editor,

The Eagle-Condor Exchange Project has sparked a
number of new currents and a building momentum
that cuts across continents and national
boundaries. Through the aegis of Oregon State's
USAID supported Aquaculture Collaborative
Research Support Program (ACRSP), Heifer
International's Indian Nations Program, and the
Indigenous Environmental Network, American Indian
"Eagles" had the opportunity to exchange and
share information about the water world with
Shipibo and Chontal Mayans - "Condors" in Peru
and Mexico respectively.

The results of these
extraordinary visits planted the seed for future
tribal community relationships in regard to
revitalizing, restoring and relating in
traditional ways to issues central to the water
world. Overall the major outcome of these
successful exchanges illustrated a turn toward
precepts derived from Traditional Knowledge in
seeking to reassert Indigenous Sovereignty and
interconnected ways to act in relationship to
shared resources and experiences.

In Peru, Wilson Wewa (Confederated Tribes of Warm
Springs), Larry Campbell (Swinomish), David
Vanderhoop (Wampanoag), Tom Edwards (Lummi), Jeff
Thomas (Muckleshoot), William "Jimbo" Simmons
(Choctaw), and BJ McManama (Seneca) comprised the
Eagle delegation.

They were hosted by Dr. Fred
Chu of Instituto de Investigaciones de la
Amazonía Peruana (IIAP), located in Pucallpa, an
upper Ucayali River town. The Eagles were also
accompanied by Paul Smith (Oneida), who serves as
Heifer International's Director of the Indian
Nations Program.

In presentations, informal talks
and visits to two remote Amazonian riverside
villages, the Condors discussed their traditional
livelihoods that were threatened by corporate
encroachment, lack of indigenous rights and an
absent, aloof, and sometimes corrupt government
bureaucracy. Sustainable forest and fish harvest,
and crafts comprised the traditional practices,
and were the focus of discussions.

Interestingly, a visit to one remote lakeshore site
featured a large "paiche" experimental industrial
scale cage culture project. The paiche is an
ancient fish, revered over the centuries by many
indigenous communities in South America as a
source of food, adornments, tools and their
collective mythology. Eagle and Condor
impressions were mixed, given that this effort
was initiated and largely run by outside
government officials, with the villagers serving
mainly as laborers and guards over the US
$250,000 investment. Eagles however, were
favorably impressed with efforts of the
Shipibo/Condor communities to raise juvenile
paiche for stock enhancement purposes, as this
activity fits traditional fishery practices that
began thousands of years ago.

In Mexico, Eagle delegates David Vanderhoop, Tom
Edwards, William Simmons, and BJ McManama were
hosted by Dr. Wilfrido Contreras Sanchez and Mr.
Ulyses Hernandez Vidal from the Universidad
Juarez Autonoma' de Tabasco located in the
coastal plain city of Villahermosa.

The combined delegation also included Alejandro Musalem,
Heifer International's Mexico Country Director.
In contrast to Peru, the Chontal Condors
demonstrated what amounts to the beginnings of a
vibrant aquaculture network. Village-run
hatcheries, small scale tank and cage culture
contributed to local food security and modest yet
sustainable economic improvement.

At the same
time, the Eagles observed and discussed with the
Condors the ever-present threats to water quality
from industrial oil production, land tenure
issues and limited agricultural productivity. The
Eagle responses to these issues were to
consistently reaffirm cultural, spiritual and
traditional ways - while also offering technical
advice and suggestions for action based on similar
experiences within their communities.

In summary, the Eagle-Condor exchanges vastly
exceeded initial expectations. The success of
these meetings was supported through shared
traditional protocol and respect that has, in the
past with non-indigenous groups, been lacking in
advancing Indigenous sovereignty and standards.
In both countries, the Eagles were introduced to
universities founded by educators who have gone
to great lengths to preserve ancient indigenous
knowledge and pass this collective perspective on
to future generations.

In Mexico, the Chontal
from the communities of Bocca de Chilapa, Tucta,
and Simon Sirlat were able to travel with the
Eagles to Misul Ha, a Chole' community and a
visit to the ancient Mayan ruins at Palenque.
Additionally, Condors were introduced to their
Mayan counterparts in the Lacondones communities
of Metzobak and Na Ha, who have preserved and
practice a great deal of their ancient lifeways
and ceremonies.

The group was honored by a visit
to a protected sacred site and a special
invitation to participate in a Mayan ceremony
conducted by a Lacondones Elder and Spiritual
leader. These experiences were especially
valuable in building a regional network but more
importantly in regard to natural and cultural
resource restoration. In all, this is the
underlying yet central focus of these exchanges.

At present, the organizational vehicle for
strengthening the significant international
momentum that has resulted from these exchanges
is the Indigenous Aquaculture Network (IAN). The
IAN is overseen by the Indigenous Environmental
Network in a manner that keeps consistent with
the desired balance between the need for economic
development and maintaining traditional practices
and standards in relation to the water world. As
such, a network of this scope and magnitude is
unique and vital in that it provides for the
re-establishment of a sound indigenous basis for
understanding, proceeding and practicing cultural
and spiritual traditions on the pathway to a
healthy and sustainable future. Upon returning
home, Eagles have been active in holding
presentations with various Tribal members,
councils and the general public.

For fish culture practitioners and community
representatives that would like more information
about our exchanges and future projects, please
contact: Tom Goldtooth - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. /
218-751-4967 or BJ McManama -
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 828-628-2862.


BJ McManama and Michael Skladany

Oregon State ACRSP:
Heifer International: www.heifer.org
Indigenous Environmental Network: www.ienearth.org
Indigenous Aquaculture Network: www.ienearth.org/ienaqua