June 10th, the mountains woke up with white caps on their heads, and watched with boredom, the monotonous awakening of village life. I write to you from Puelmapu (Argentina), Lof pillañ Mahiza (Mapuche Community Pillan Mahuiza), in Corcovado. Also today the earth is being pierced by an eclipse, which brings us its newen (strength), on an important day for us, since a small delegation from the Movement of Indigenous Women for Good Living arrived in Buenos Aires, where they will meet in the afternoon with some ministers to address deeply and in detail, a proposal we had presented to them on May 19th, in that meeting we had at the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), after having crossed the country by walking to Buenos Aires, a historical milestone with more impact abroad than here in Eurocentric Argentina. As Michel Foucault affirms: «history seems to erase, for firmer structures benefit, the irruption of events».
The proposal we will unfold on this interministerial working table treats the creation of territorial defenders of indigenous women, given that there is a humanitarian emergency situation, especially in the north of the country, which is decimating indigenous women and children’s lives. Starvation devastates their bodies aged by malnutrition and repeated unwanted pregnancies, since in this country child marriage is allowed, covered up as a cultural practice, among other oppressive situations. All mechanisms of gender violence are activated against our lives within the territories. Violence is routine: extractivist companies, repressive forces, and large landowners operate with total impunity while the state’s idleness enables them. We do not have access to clean drinking water, justice, education, health, food, and we are increasingly surrounded by pollution and landowner’s wire fences. Our girls are raped by misogynist and racist practices such as “chineo”, which happen daily, leaving the mothers without support.
There’s not just institutional abandonment, there is also loneliness in the communities, mostly run by male chiefs, some of whom use their tiny power to humiliate, mistreat and oppress the women of their own communities. I have heard of outrageous cases, for example the young Mocoy woman from the north of Santa Fe who gathered the courage to confront the abusive chief at the community elections, and since she gained some community support, he sent his daughters to beat her, disfiguring her face. Another case of abuse of power is that of the young Wichí woman, she denounced a chief in the Chaco province, who in exchange for giving them bags of food, demanded oral sex. The list of injustices and abuse is endless and painful. The only way to end this is by organizing ourselves and controlling our own rights. It is urgent and it is now. Never, ever has any government assumed the truth that the plurinational nature of the territories has been sustained despite genocidal attempts, and our existence has endured as a provocation to their failed attempts to whitewash the population composition of the invaded territories. Now, the systematic demographic aggression puts emphasis on us, women, not only Indigenous, women as an emerging sector of struggle and change. We are being attacked, and sometimes murdered. In this way, the misogynists intend to avoid the collapse of this colonial, racist and patriarchal system.
Yesterday I heard the unfortunate presidential quote (“Argentineans come from boats…”), reaffirming once again the Eurocentric spirit of this country, which despises the Indigenous, because it poses incomprehensible epistemological thresholds for a logic trapped in existentialist reductionism. How can they understand our world linked to deep roots in ancient territories, those who have their feet sailing in the distant waters of another continent? How can they love with the same dedication that we indigenous women do, the land they walk on? If the Argentineans come from ships, then they will have rights over the seas and we, the Indigenous nations, over the territories. Denial as a state policy has been and still is genocidal. The omission or denial of a conflict does not cause its disappearance or resolution, it only causes the conflict to deepen. Argentina will have to rethink its relationship with the invaded indigenous nations, because in order to heal, memory, truth and justice are necessary. The absurd narrative that Argentina is constituted only by those who descended from the ships cannot continue to be sustained. Because the day will come when that state which denies us, forces us to live our identity in a clandestine way, and deprives us of all rights, it will see us united as people and organized as millenary nations, recovering what has been taken from us.
Our struggle as indigenous women is for the construction of a harmonious, reciprocal model of civilization respectful of all lives, to replace this terricidal and lethal system. But this path will be walked with small steps, and in dialogue with all the people of the world who, like us, want an ancestral revolution. Today’s meeting is just one step toward our strengthening . We will not stop until we get the territorial defenders of indigenous women, whoever governs, we will be claiming this right, and hopefully you will join us in this fight so that the claim is heard and answered.
From the Puelwillimapu, Moira Millán weychafe