Rigoberta Menchu Foresees New Context of Self-Identity and Action for Indigenous Peoples

Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchu
Once all is said and done at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, the full, purposeful and active participation of indigenous communities, themselves, will determine what shape their future will take. Public policy takes the form of those who write the policy and it is the end of the world as we know it if indigenous communities make it so


Mayan Nobel Laureate and activist, Rigoberta Menchu, spoke about the prospect of unstoppable death and extinction on earth. Not just physical death but spiritual death; the death of ourselves as human beings.

I see the situation in several dimensions, not just one alone. This is why I want to stress the spiritual dimension as well as the social dimension, she said.

The disappearance of indigenous cultures, loss of distinct characteristics, loss of territories, and the division of families due to migration are all urgent challenges to the survival of indigenous communities in many countries, today.

Menchu says it is of vital importance for indigenous people to begin living in a new context of self-identity. More and more Indigenous people are living in societies where science and technology are becoming an alternative for spiritual, material and social health, all of which have been lost because we have lost the health of our societies. It is time for full, purposeful and active participation, if we are to expect the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be implemented.

The discourse is not as important as the measures we have to take,” she stressed.

Rivers are drying up. Humanity is a predator on the earth. Lack of oxygen in the universal human system is forcing us to rethink the way we are living life in this world.

But as harsh as the reality is, Menchu says she is hopeful. It all comes down to raising awareness.

The Maya people, for example, is a population that has a people with its own identity. The Maya people remain distinct because they have preserved certain things in their communities. I like to see today as a day of hope for millions of indigenous peoples. I hope it gives them hope for a full life, not just an existence survival which is being eked out. There has to be a prospect for life, she said.


Elisa Burchett
Elisa Burchett, the Baltic Review Guest Author, is a freelance writer covering UN events, a content creator, and communications specialist. She is also a co-producer of Audio Spandrel, a musical project exploring cross-cultural collaborations in electronic music, lives in New York.

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