By Eileen Mairena-Cunningham, indigenous Miskitu from Nicaragua and member of Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development. Any views expressed are her own.
Migration is a complex issue, but if we add to this the ethnic element and talk about the migration of indigenous peoples, the situation becomes even more complicated.
The migration of indigenous peoples in Latin America and other regions of the world has had multiple causes. In some cases it is associated with cultural practices or related to the dispossession of our ancestral territories and forced displacement; installation of mega projects that have been given without taking into account the basic right of free, prior and informed consent; effects of climate change; and environmental imbalances. In other cases it is associated with the search for work or national legislative systems that are unfair and favor the dispossession or exploitation of our ancestral lands.
Regardless of the cause that drives the migration of indigenous men, women, youth and children, the effect is the same: the territorial uprooting and therefore the loss of indigenous knowledge and culture itself. Before talking about the effects of such processes on natural landscapes and forests, we have to remember that indigenous peoples have a deep spiritual connection with our lands, territories and natural resources.
For others, the land has an economic condition. For us the land and territories are our Mother, the space of cultural reproduction and Laman Laka (Miskitu for ‘wellbeing’). It is important to take into account that the vulnerability of indigenous migrants increases if they are women or children, since they are more easily involved in situations of violence and abuse.
For this reason, migration in many cases has had adverse effects, since being separated from a physical space has meant a territorial and cultural uprooting. This uprooting leads to the cultural loss and ownership of our lands, weakening our systems of self-governance and therefore self-determination.
It is necessary to understand that this weakening of our traditional systems of governance also has negative effects on our territories – which in many countries are the areas where the greatest biological diversity is found.
A territorial space with weak indigenous governance will not be able to stop the interference of external interests in our territories. In some cases, these are states that rely on the logic of the greater good of the nation to allow the entry of companies that are not environmentally sustainable, or farmers who promote actions of changes in land use with large impacts on ecosystems.
It is therefore necessary to understand:
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