archivos de los protestos globales

the cost of imperialism/globalization (U'wa) & "natives & moon"

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999

Banking on earth, light, water

Berito Kuwar U'wa of the U'wa people


Copied with permission from Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures,
Spring 1999 issue: Economics as if Life Matters

Yes! PO Box 10878, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 (206/842-0216) Subscriptions $24/year.

Berito Kuwar U'wa is a leader of the U'wa people, an indigenous group in Colombia that is struggling to regain control of their traditional land.

The U'wa people have a traditional constitution that was created many years ago. We look at the way that life works and the way life is interrelated.

The petroleum companies create their own constitutions and decrees with a computer. They plant the seeds of this constitution all over the entire world, and it's not for the benefit of the world. It's for the benefit of their country and themselves. The petroleum companies believe that they can be the landlords of the world, that they can control the whole world until it ends. Until it dies.

The money that the U'wa have is the Earth. Everything that we make, that we sow, that we grow, we also consume in our community. We don't have to sell it, and we don't have to buy things. The U'wa don't need money to build a house, for example. When we want to build a house, we plant a cassava plant. Then we take the cassava and make a drink called chicha, which is like our money. We pay people with chicha to come and help build the house.

As we say, "The sun is the money." The Earth is also money - it's our gold. The water is also our gold. That's what we value. The Earth is what gives us everything that we need to live, to eat, and to drink. The light that the sun gives, the moon, our relationship with the moon - these are things that we need to value so that life can continue. We need light, because right now we are hungry. If we are hungry and we need food, where does that food come from? It comes from light; it comes from the Earth.

You should think about water. What is water worth? How do you value it? Water should be free for everyone. But now we're supposed to pay the government for water, when the water is born from our territory. Water is a benefit for everyone. All the world has property rights over water. But the government makes this law so the campesinos - farmers - have to pay. And it's very sad. It shouldn't be this way.

The government wants to have $40 billion in its bank. U'wa, all of us equally, are very poor. The bank that we have is the Earth, so we respect many things. We don't kill each other. There's nobody who has more money than anybody else. There's not this sense of inequality. If somebody doesn't have food, for example, then a person with food needs to give it to the one without. The poor help those who are even poorer. That is the U'wa.

We have always said that we don't want to enter the culture of money. Our word for it is "the number of money." That's what we call their culture. Why? There's this mountain of money that only some people have. Tomorrow we will fight over that money, brother against brother.

No, that simply doesn't work.

It would be good if the people in America understood the organizational structures of the indigenous people of the world. The indigenous people have the most ancient structures of the world, and they have a kind of intelligence that is very concrete and complete. I've seen indigenous people from many parts of the world, and we are all almost exactly equal. Our hearts give us the intelligence to know we shouldn't rule the world.

There are many laws in the world, but no one thinks to protect Mother Earth. But I think that if the petroleum companies continue to exploit the petroleum, they will take all of the strength and spirit out of Mother Earth. If they do this, if they take it all, then we're all going to die. That's why I said to one of these petroleum men, "Take all of that money you make and stuff it into the Earth, and see if it sustains life. That money won't sustain anyone."

For more information on the U'wa, or to obtain their information booklet, "Blood of our Mother", contact Project Underground, 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94703; E-mail: <>; Web:

The U'wa: the "thinking people" of Colombia

The U'wa are known as "the thinking people" or "the people that speak well," because for thousands of years they maintained peaceful relationships with surrounding tribes without the use of weapons or war.

From 1940 to 1970, the Colombian governnment took away more than 85% of U'wa traditional territory. Since 1940, contact diseases, violence, and loss of land have killed more than 18,000 U'wa. Two U'wa clans were completely exterminated. The current territory of the U'wa is barely 386 square miles, far too small to produce enough food to sustain the tribe.

In 1992, Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum was granted exploration rights to much of the traditional U'wa territory in a combined venture with Shell Oil and the Colombian government.

U'wa tradition recounts that a portion of the U'wa tribe committed suicide 400 years ago rather than surrender to the Spanish Conquistadores. The U'wa have compared current developments on their land to that time in their history, and have not ruled out another mass suicide.

- Steve Kretzman & Terry Freitas


The Guardian, Saturday March 6th 1999

US kidnapping victims dead

Three bodies found near Venezuela's border with Colombia yesterday were believed to be those of Americans kidnapped in Colombia on January 25. The authorities said they had been shot.

Ingrid Wasinawatok, aged 41, Terence Freitas, aged 24, and Lahe'ena'e Gay, aged 39, were seized at a reservation 200 miles from Bogota, where they were working with the U'wa Indians, who won a lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum in 1997 that prevented the Los Angeles-based company from exploratory drilling on traditional U'wa territory. -AP, Bogota.




As a tribute to the work that Terry Freitas, Ingrid Wasinawatok and Lahe'ena'e Gay were doing on behalf of the U'wa tribe, I encourage you to post this article far and wide on the internet.

Paul Swann
London Human Rights Forum

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Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999
Native Americans and the moon

A Native American Perspective on the Apollo Project

When NASA was preparing for the Apollo project, they had some astronauts training on a Navajo Indian reservation.

One day, a Navajo elder and his son were herding sheep and came across the space crew.

The old man, who spoke only Navajo, asked a question, which his son translated: "What are the guys in the big suits doing?"

A member of the crew said they were practicing for their trip to the moon. The old man got really excited and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the astronauts.

Recognizing a promotional opportunity for the spin-doctors, the NASA folks found a tape recorder.

After the old man recorded his message, they asked the son to translate. He refused.

So the NASA reps brought the tape to the reservation, where the rest of the tribe listened and laughed, but refused to translate the elder's message to the moon.

Finally, NASA called in an official government translator.

He reported that the moon message said: "Watch out for these guys; they've come to steal your land."

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