Jaibaná [Embera healer] Cleansing of the Medio Atrato Territory in Antioquia
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator )
The song of the Jai [Spirits]. “The territorial cleaning will be carried out on March 30, 2007. The preparation for the ritual is begun two weeks earlier. For the jaibanás (Embera healers) it will not be enough to conduct one ritual; the damage that is being done requires that may more be carried out. For the native people, the Cerro de “Careperro” (Careperro Ridge) is the witness of the indigenous struggles; with its destruction the memory of a thousand-year long struggle will also be destroyed, and all the secrets and testimonies of the existence of the native people of the Medio Atrato.” [i.e., the area of the middle range of the Atrato River]
The native people of Murindó (in the Medio Atrato, on the Antioquia side of the river) ask sister organizations, the media and embassies for their solidarity and presence so that we can condemn the consequences that the exploitation of the Cerro de “Careperro” will have for the communities that are settled in the Uradá-Jiguamiando and Murindó native reserves.
The Municipality of Murindó is rich in biodiversity and forest that have not been worked. The indigenous communities inhabit the reserved territories of Chagerado (5 communities) and the Murindó Reserve (4 communities) with a population of approximately 1,200 inhabitants. The Reserve of Uradá-Jiguamiandó belongs to the Municipality of Carmen del Darién (El Chocó), with a population of approximately 800 inhabitants, between native people and our brothers of the black communities.
In the Cerro de “Careperro,” geologists have detected the presence of a large mineral deposit with a high percentage of copper. In the territories of the Indigenous Reserves of Uradá-Jiguamiandó and of the Murindó River, at their boundaries, there is a place that is sacred for the Embera, known as Usa Kira in the Embera language. For the western world, it appears on the maps as the “Careperro” Ridge. The communities that live near the ridge know that the only people who can enter or move around in this zone are the Jaibanás (traditional authorities) who know and have alliances with the Jais (spirits).
Our Jaibanás know that exploiting the “Careperro” Ridge would mean for the Embera world the loss of equilibrium between man and nature, which would cause displacement, division and problems among the people. The spirits would become powerless, and they would charge the community not to do anything to avoid this exploitation, sickening and causing death of children and adults.
The rivers and the soil would be contaminated, epidemics would appear, and the powers of the Jaibanás would end because they would not have the support of plants and spirits to carry out their rituals and converse with the jai. Medical and edible plants would be lost, as well as flora and a diversity of insects and birds that are not in the national or international ecological inventories, and that the pharmaceutical companies do not yet know, depriving humanity of a global inheritance that holds secrets that would allow us all, and not just a few, to live well.
These territories would be invaded by opportunists, who while they can rely on the resources to exploit in security would build a great city, bringing with it delinquency, disease, prostitution, greater poverty and misery and inevitably the extinction and disappearance of the indigenous peoples and black communities of the zone.
In the face of this situation, our wise men want to prevent disease and death by carrying out a curing of the territory in the community of Guaguas. We are opposed to the concession contract that is held between the Colombia branch of the Muriel Mining Corporation, with headquarters in the State of Colorado, United States, and the Ministry of Mines [of Colombia] for the development and exploitation of the copper, gold, molybdenum and other minerals that nourish our spirits, a contract that covers an initial area of 2000 hectares located in the boundary areas of the municipalities of Murindó in Antioquia and Carmen del Darién in El Chocó for an extendable period of 30 years,
The first thing that the Muriel Mining company would do would be to examine the zone to be exploited for three years, and this would bring as a consequence the invasion of the territories. Afterwards, they would have three years for the construction and development work. According to the plans attached to the concession contract, the villages affected would be: the territories of the Indigenous Reserve of Uradá-Jiguamiandó, where nearly a quarter of the mineral deposits are located, and the Embera Catió Indigenous Reserve and the municipality of Murindó, where the remaining three quarters are located.
The territorial cleaning will be carried out on March 30, 2007. The preparation for the ritual is begun two weeks earlier. For the jaibanás (Embera healers) it will not be enough to conduct one ritual; the damage that is being done requires that may more be carried out. For the native people, the Cerro de “Careperro” (Careperro Ridge) is the witness of the indigenous struggles; with its destruction the memory of a thousand-year long struggle will also be destroyed, and all the secrets and testimonies of the existence of the native people of the Medio Atrato.
The IPS-AIC OIA, responsible for carrying out activities to promote health and prevent disease in the indigenous communities of the department, taking into account particular cultural features, and the Indigenous Forest Project of the Pacific have joined and are sponsoring the ritual, with the goal of supporting and strengthening the ancestral mythical knowledge of the sacred place Usa-Kira, looking for equilibrium between men and nature in order to prevent death and disease among our indigenous and black brothers.
Indigenous Organization of Antioquia (Organización Indígena de Antioquia—OIA)
Ancestral Communities of the Medio Atrato of Antioquia