Pacific Scoop

IP Heroes Honored And Remembered, Defenders Vow To Carry The Struggle Forward

Press Release – IPMSDL

On November 10, 2021, Indigenous Peoples (IP) heroes from different parts of the world were honored and remembered for their historic roles in the defense of lands and lives. The IP Heroes Day coincides with the death anniversary of martyred Ogoni …

On November 10, 2021, Indigenous Peoples (IP) heroes from different parts of the world were honored and remembered for their historic roles in the defense of lands and lives.

The IP Heroes Day coincides with the death anniversary of martyred Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. He fought against the environmental degradation of Ogoniland by the multinational petroleum industry. Saro-Wiwa died in 1995 after being executed by the Nigerian government.

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) spearheaded the celebration, with the theme “Legacy Lives On”, and emphasized the importance of living the legacies of our IP heroes to pursue a brighter future for the generations to come.

“Heroes who have passed on such as Ken Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria), Berta Caceres (Honduras), Saw O Moo (Burma), and Mother Petra Macliing (Philippines) continue to live through the legacies they have left with the Indigenous Peoples struggles. They are best honored by those who selflessly devote their time and strength for the protection of the rights, not only of Indigenous Peoples, but of all peoples exploited by the system that values private gain and profit over life,” IPMSDL said in a statement.

As part of the global celebration, the IPMSDL hosted a two-part film screening series featuring films on the IP Struggle in different regions of the world. One of the films featured “Greed, Betrayal and the Battle for Nigeria’s Oil Money | The Ken Saro-Wiwa Story” highlighted the IP struggle against big corporations who extract the lands of IPs dry of its natural resources and lead to environmental destruction, and how struggles like this have led to the martyrdom of the likes of Ken Saro-Wiwa. 

“Without our IP Heroes, humanity would have lost precious land, biodiversity and fresh water a long time ago. This fact should be at the center of our recognition and inspire us to follow their example,” says Dr. Juana Vera Delgado, speaking for the Global Forest Coalition, who also joined the celebration of IP Heroes Day.

Briane Keane paid his tributes to late West Papuan activist Victor Kasiepo, Carlos Terena of Brasil, and Estebancio Castro-Diaz of the Kuna people. Kaisepo died of illness in 2010, while Terena and Castro-Diaz succumbed to COVID-19 just this year. Keane noted their impeccable contributions to the struggle of IPs in their respective communities and around the world.

“We are here to continue the fight against the oppressive system for the future generations to come,” says Eufemia Cullamat, indigenous Lumad leader and Bayan Muna Partylist representative in the Philippines.

Former Congressman of the lone district of Ifugao, Teddy Baguilat also paid his honors to IP heroes, saying, “The sacrifices of both our fallen and living indigenous martyrs and leaders to protect and defend their ancestral land, resources and communities should always be remembered and not come to nothing. We must carry on with their fight for our rights as indigenous peoples.”

In a video statement, Len Cooper of the International League of Peoples Struggle says, “The tribute to our IP Heroes continue to inspire the on-going struggles against corporate encroachment on indigenous lands, human rights attacks, attacks in the environment and vicious attacks by the state military, fascism and imperialism.” Cooper also noted the need for peoples of the world to stand in solidarity with each other against the common ills that plague various sectors and communities around the world.

Global commemoration

In Nigeria, Martyr’s Week was commemorated to honor the legacy of their martyr’s who have sacrificed their lives for the struggle against big oil and the rights of indigenous peoples. Among those honored was Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ogoni leader and activist who along with other 8 activists were executed by hanging in 1995.

In the Philippines, various Indigenous Peoples organizations, networks, advocates and supporters gathered to remember and honor IP martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in the struggle of the Filipino IP. On November 10, at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) in Quezon City, a ritual was held and candles were lit in honor of IP heroes who sacrificed their lives for the IP struggle.

Panaghiuasa, a network of IP organizations in the Philippines gathered the support of over 65 organizations and a hundred individuals for a unity statement marking the celebration of IP Heroes Day.

Indigenous youth also led a social media rally a day before IP Heroes Day, with participants giving out their messages of remembrance for their martyred IP heroes who have given their lives to the struggle.

November 10, in West Papua, indigenous communities remembered the life of independence activist Theys Eluay who was murdered by members of the Indonesian Army. This day is also the Jumma National Mourning Day in Bangladesh, commemorating the death of Manabendra Narayan Larma, a revolutionary indigenous leader.

IP Heroes and the fight for Climate Justice

Last November 6, 2021, during the Global Day of Action Against Climate Crisis, large portrait paintings of Filipino IP Heroes were unveiled and given honors as climate heroes who have fought against environmental destruction.

“These artworks are here to remind us that there were those before us who have struggled and made sacrifices for our environment, it is our duty to carry that struggle forward” says Frances Abrigo, one of the artists who worked on the portraits.

IP leaders and supporters at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) gathered and echoed their support for the celebration of IP Heroes Day. They underscored the important contribution and role of IPs in the struggle for climate justice, “The role of Indigenous peoples and environmental defenders in mitigating the climate crisis has been widely acknowledged by the UN. But the loudest voices at COP26 are those peddling false solutions to the climate emergency.” says Bevery Longid, Global Coordinator of the IPMSDL.

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