Photograph Jeremy Wade Shockley/SU DRUM

By Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum

Earlier this month, the 11th annual Gathering of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas took place in the Native American wing of the Colorado State University’s Lory Student Center in Fort Collins. On Dec. 3, indigenous delegates from across North, Central and South America came together to discuss issues of sovereignty.

South American representatives from Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina spoke in their individual dialects of Spanish, some donning the traditional attire common to the Andean highlands: serapes of Alpaca wool and brightly colored fedoras adorned with peacock feathers. Mayan women came north to represent the struggles in Guatemala and the ongoing issues concerning indigenous rights.

Juana Menchu, niece of 1992 Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, came to the summit to share women’s achievement stories. Representatives from Puerto Rico and Panama each came forward to voice concerns and represent their indigenous peoples.

Representatives from South Dakota, Alaska and Southern Ute tribal member Frost voiced the North American indigenous rights struggle. Each shared their own experiences with the laws and policies that govern native peoples and lands within the borders of the United States.

An energetic cultural presentation took place during the lunch session. The Lory Student Center was filled with drumming and cultural dance by the Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca, a group of Aztec Mexica dancers dedicated to keeping their cultural dances alive and strengthening the role of tradition within their community. Carlos Castaneda, on behalf of the Danza Azteca, invited the dignitaries of the indigenous summit to join them in one last dance.

The discussions at CSU were intended to set the groundwork for a larger cultural experience, one that would take the participating dignitaries on a tour of sites relevant to Native American culture and spirituality across the state of Colorado. The networking possibilities of the conference and the power of a unified voice among indigenous nations will hopefully set a precedent for the political times.

The importance of our sovereign nations and native peoples has never been more relevant than in these political, economical and environmentally sensitive times. These issues span the Americas and can perhaps set a precedent for global community as our world powers continue to look for answers that will ensure peace, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

A full page of color photographs accompanies this article in the most recent edition of the Southern Ute Drum which can seen right HERE on page 12 of the online newspaper.

Cheers, Jeremy