As We Die: A People on the Way to Extinction

11/27/2013

Contributed by Brandy Hawley

A Sápara nation representative will share stories of how his people, their numbers dwindling, are scrambling to document their history, their oral language, their culture, their very existence.

Ithaca College will have a historic and unprecedented opportunity on Friday, December 6, to hear from a representative of a people with no written language whose oral language is fast dying out and who themselves are on the brink of extinction.

Manari Kaji Ushigua, of the Sápara nation of the Amazon in modern-day Ecuador and Peru, will share stories of how they are struggling to collect and archive a written and audiovisual record of their lives and their culture.

The Sápara have been decimated by colonialism and the attendant introduced diseases, deforestation, slavery, forced displacement, abuse by settlers — and perhaps most devastating of all, the exploitative heavy industries of metals, rubber, oil and timber mining. Just 100 years ago there were nearly a half million Sápara; today there are between 400 and 1,000.

The Sápara heritage is rich with traditions involving the rainforest flora and fauna, information on the healing properties of traditional plants and processes, and a cosmogony in which the world of dreams takes precedence over the world of vigil. 

Their language is oral. It is spoken only by the last five remaining elders of this nation and has only recently been translated into a written form.

In 2007, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa challenged the world to pay Ecuador to abort further oil drilling in the Amazon, protecting millions of acres, inviting other countries to chip in enough money to allow Ecuador to survive without the income from oil.

Dashed Hopes

Not enough other countries contributed money to keep this from happening. So in October 2013 Correa announced that he would open an oil drilling process in the precious irreplaceable regions of the Ecuadorean rainforest — the region considered the very lungs of our planet, all the lands that the Sápara call home.

The Sápara and other imperiled indigenous peoples, along with allies, are fighting this battle in the courts. But knowing the power, riches, and history of the fossil fuel corporations, they do not hold out much hope. Meanwhile, they and supporters are focusing on creating an ethnographic collection of their traditional knowledge, stories, arts, crafts, myths, rituals, and creations. 

Manari will give us the flavor of his people's lives on the cherished lands where their ancestors lived — which, to their deep sorrow, will not shelter their future generations.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodation, please contact Brandy Hawley, bhawley@ithaca.edu, 607-274-3590, as much in advance of the event as possible.

 

 

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