On February 7, the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), passed a resolution as 26 federally recognized tribes stood in peaceful solidarity and spoke out in the interest of preserving the security, traditions, culture, tribal homelands and languages of the indigenous people of Colombia. USET is an intertribal organization comprised of tribes on the east coast of the United States from the Micmacs in Maine to the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida.
There is a prophecy the South American Indian people and the North American Indians share. It is the Eagle and Condor. It speaks of a time of peace, a time when all people will respect each other and the land. The indigenous people of North America, the people of the mind, the Eagle, will come together with the indigenous people of South America, the people of heart, the Condor. When these two birds fly together in the same sky is when this time of balance and caring will come.
My name is Jay Levy, I am a Colombian Indian from South America, was adopted out as an infant, raised Jewish and now live with the Indian people in New England. Last year, I went home to Colombia as a human rights delegate to visit with indigenous leaders and communities who are caught in a war over Indian land and oil. It is a genocidal campaign financed by the U.S. and brutal tactics are carried out by the Colombian army, paramilitary, and guerrillas. Although Colombia's 1991 constitution granted autonomy to Indigenous Peoples in their reserves, that provision is not respected, and there are continuous occupations of land by the military and irregular armed groups. My people are massacred, kidnapped, raped, brutally murdered and forcibly displaced off their territory. There are 1.4 million Indians in Colombia, 102 tribes and this year alone 54 indigenous leaders were assassinated.
While in Colombia, I was protected by the Indigenous Guard. The Indigenous Guard defends their territory and way of life through unarmed resistance against armed actors. They are true warriors. They passed on their colors to me and I now have a responsibility to be a voice for those who cannot.
The people here in the U.S. suffered the same circumstances 300 years ago as the South American Indian people still suffer today. Mitoke oyasin, All my relations, we are all related. My hope is to have international support from all the tribes in the United States. USET’s Cultural and Heritage Committee Chair Robert Thrower states, “USET has set a precedent for not only Native rights but human rights in general.”
When I was on the Indian reservations in Colombia, people didn’t think there were any Indians left in the United States. They thought they were all extinguished. Yet when I informed them differently, they cried. It gave them hope for their people, their children, that they too will survive and get through this brutal conflict and the violence they live every day.
These days are hard. The hate and ignorance has divided tribes and Native people. We are being divided and we must not allow ourselves to be conquered. Our culture is being replaced and our sovereignty is being negotiated. We have lost the respect we had for one another. Native people are losing themselves. We must hold onto our ancestors. Honor our relations. We must share and listen to our Indian neighbors. We walk a difficult path. We are Indian. Let’s let our children be proud.
Jay Levy is the Archaeology Field Specialist with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Mohegan Tribe.