Planet Earth, due to the systematic aggression of the last centuries, is in a clear and dangerous decline. The intrusion of Covid-19, directly affecting the entire planet and exclusively the human species, is one of the severe signs that the living Earth is sending us: our way of life is too destructive, leading to the death of millions of human beings and nature beings. We have to change our way of producing, consuming, and living in the only Common House, otherwise we may experience an ecological-social armageddon.
Curiously, in the opposite of this process that some see as the inauguration of a new geological era – the Anthropocene and the Necrocene – that is, the systematic destruction of lives perpetrated by the human being itself, the native peoples are emerging, bearers of a new consciousness and a vitality that has been repressed for centuries. They are biologically remaking themselves and emerging as historical subjects. Their way of relating amicably with nature and Mother Earth has become our masters and doctors. They feel so united to these realities that by defending them they are defending themselves.
The European invaders made a big mistake by calling them “Indians” as if they were inhabitants of a region in India that everyone was looking for, but in fact they called themselves by several names: Tawantinsuyo, Anauhuac, Pindorama, among others. The name Abya Yala prevailed, given by the Kuna people of northern Colombia and Panama, which meant “mature land, living land, land that flourishes”. There were peoples with their names such as Taínos, Tikunas, Zapotecs, Aztecs, Mayas, Olmecs, Toltecs, Mexicans, Aymara, Incas, Quechua Tapajos, Tupis, Guaranis, Mapuches, and hundreds of others.
The adoption of the common name Abya Yala is part of the construction of a common identity, in the diversity of their cultures and expression of the joints that unite them in an immense movement that goes from the north to the south of the American continent. In 2007 they created the Abya Yala Peoples’ Summit.
But over them weighs a vast shadow that was the extermination inflicted by the European invaders. One of the greatest genocides in history took place. About 70 million representatives of these peoples were killed by wars of extermination or by diseases brought by the whites against which they had no immunity, by forced labor and forced crossbreeding.
The most reliable data were gathered by sociologist and educator Moema Viezzer and Canadian sociologist and historian living in Brazil Marcelo Grondin. The book, with preface by Ailton Krenak, is entitled Abya Yala: genocide, resistance and survival of the original peoples of the Americas (Editora Bambual, Rio de Janeiro 2021). They collect the data on the genocide of the two Americas. We have given a short summary:
In the Caribbean in 1492 when the colonizers arrived, there were four million indigenous people. Years later there were none left. They were all killed, especially in Haiti.
In Mexico in 1500, there were 25 million indigenous people (Aztecs, Toltecs and others).
In the Andes in 1532 there were 15 million Indians, in a few years only one million remained.
In Central America in 1492 in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama there were between 5.6-13 million indigenous people, of which 90% were killed.
In Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay, on average about one million Indians died, in some countries more, in others less.
In the Lesser Antilles such as in the Bahamas, Barbados, Curaçao, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Virgin Islands, they experienced the same almost total extermination.
In Brazil when the Portuguese arrived in these lands, there were about 6 million original peoples of dozens of ethnic groups with their languages. The violent mismatch reduced them to less than a million. Today, unfortunately, due to the carelessness of the authorities, this process of death continues, victims of the coronavirus. A wise man of the Yanomami nation, the shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomamy relates in his book The Fall of Heaven what the shamans of his people are glimpsing: the race of humanity is heading toward its end.
In the United States of America there were about 18 million native peoples in 1607, and soon after only two million survived.
In Canada in 1492 there were two million native inhabitants, and in 1933 there were only 120,000.
The book tells not only of the immeasurable tragedy, but especially of the resistance and, in modern times, of the various organized summits between these native peoples, from the south and the north of the Americas. In doing so, they reinforce each other, rescue the ancestral wisdom of the shamans, the traditions, and the memories.
A legend-prophecy expresses the reunion of these peoples: the one between the Eagle, representing North America, and the Condor, representing South America. Both were generated by the Sun and the Moon. They lived happily flying together. But fate separated them. The Eagle dominated the spaces and almost led to the Condor’s extermination.
However, this same destiny willed that in the 1990s, when the great summits began to take place between the different native peoples, from the south and the north, the Condor and the Eagle met again and began to fly together. From their love was born the Central American Quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds in nature, a bird from the Mayan cosmovision that expresses the union of heart and mind, art and science, masculine and feminine. It is the beginning of a new time, of the great reconciliation of human beings with each other, as brothers and sisters, caretakers in nature, united by the same beating heart and dwelling in the same generous Pachamama, Mother Earth.
Who knows, in the midst of the tribulations of the present time in which our culture has found its insurmountable limits and feels urged to change course, this prophecy may be the anticipation of a good end for us all. We will still fly together, the Eagle of the North with the Condor of the South under the beneficent light of the Sun that will show us the best path.
Leonardo Boff wrote The Marriage between Heaven and Earth: tales of the indigenous peoples of Brazil, Mar de Ideias, Rio de Janeiro 2014.