Helen Knott is a Dane’zaa and Cree woman from Treaty 8 territory in northeastern British Columbia. She is a mother and a steward of the land who understands the need to protect the earth for future generations. She is a KAIROS representative on this study tour.
I grew up hearing stories of oppression, racism, and struggle from the Indigenous people that I belong to. Today these voices are amplified, but they are stories that are steeped in the strength and spirituality of the Guatemalan Indigenous groups that are working to defend not only land, but a way of being.
We met with the Assembly of Peoples of Huehuetenango and CEIBA today, and again I was struck by the strength and commitment of these individuals who are part of the land.
Ruben Herrera spoke about how, as a community leader, he and many others were offered money in exchange for their voices of resistance. Ruben said that after these offers were denied he faced threats on his life, threats that have not yet subsided. In addition, Ruben faced criminalization. Warrants for his arrest were issued based on grossly false and unsubstantiated allegations. Ruben was arrested but later freed thanks to the community’s outcry for justice. And this is just one story. Many people have been threatened; people with family members who have been falsely imprisoned; people whose voices have been stifled by false accusations and blatant pseudo-criminalization.
My mind still struggles to comprehend how resource companies and governments can dismiss an entire population’s right to exist as they always have. There is such a strong presence within this conflict of western beliefs surrounding development and individual property and gain, pushing itself, like an unwanted lover, upon the bosom of the land and into every aspect of the lives of the people.
My being resonates with this land, with the people, and with their belief that the land is a part of who they are. I have seen the strength in each individual we have met, and I can see the vision they have woven and envisioned for their children and their children’s children. It is a beautiful dream; one needs to only sit with these people to know that it will be realized.