The following is a translated statement made by the Maya Q’eqchi’ authorities from Los Copones, Ixcán on August 13, 2016, to mark the third anniversary of the State recognition of their rights as indigenous peoples. NISGUA, through ACOGUATE, has accompanied many community members from Los Copones since 2006, as they have spoken out against the construction of the Xalalá hydroelectric project.
On this day, August 13th of 2016, we celebrate the third anniversary of our public and legal recognition as Indigenous Q’eqchi’ Communities and Ancestral Authorities. We send regards to all the families of different peoples living with us in the territory of the Ixcán, and wish to express the importance of uniting together in struggle, to propose that state institutions respect our right to live in our territory, and our right to think and act in the way that we have inherited from our grandfathers and grandmothers. As indigenous peoples we should not be afraid to speak up for our rights, inasmuch as our rights are supported by current laws, such as the Constitution of Guatemala, the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, municipal code and others.
We are conscious that our struggle as Indigenous Peoples has been long and hard. Many of our brothers and sisters gave their lives to reach the Peace Accord on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many brothers and sisters have been jailed for defending their territory. Our authorities have been accused of usurping roles and violating human rights when we impart justice. Civil servants are discriminatory and racist towards us and try to deny or minimize our rights as native peoples. Health bodies at the state level disregard the knowledge and importance of the work of our traditional midwives. Despite 500 years of the oppressive system’s exploitation, racism and discrimination, our Peoples have survived, preserving the languages, agricultural knowledge, and values, legal and political systems. Today, our communities and indigenous authorities all over the country are rising up to defend our land, territory, and autonomy.
The Indigenous Q’eqchi’ Communities of Los Copones reiterate our commitment to push forward in this struggle to rebuild and rescue our cultural identity and rights to ancestral lands. We continue with the struggle to defend water, land, territory, and life, for the safety and wellbeing of our families.