Indigenous issues find forum

Members of human rights organizations gathered Tuesday at a GW conference to discuss human rights, biodiversity and the rights of indigenous people in the Americas.

Guest speakers from organizations like the Organization of American States, the World Bank and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights were part of the conference, organized by members of the anthropology and Latin American studies departments.

Discussion centered around a proposed declaration by the Organization of American States to address the concerns of indigenous people.

Dr. Osvaldo Kreimer, of the OAS, said the proposed declaration may not pass this year because people are still learning about problems indigenous people face. Kreimer said the proposal will probably pass next year.

“The purpose (of the conference) is to carry on a long tradition in which we hold meetings on indigenous issues,” said anthropology Professor Sonia Diaz-Garcia, who organized the event with students in her “Anthropology of Latin America and Amazonia” course.

Diaz-Garcia said she was happy with turnout to the conference because organizers had less than a month to prepare for the event and few resources with which to work.

But she said plans are in the works to set up a permanent monthly forum and a conference once a semester to address the issues faced by indigenous people. A follow-up forum at the end of April is already being organized, she said.

“The permanent forum will be a colloquium on indigenous people and its purpose will be to raise consciousness at an academic level, a government level and a non-government level,” Diaz-Garcia said.

“We are doing a service in order to raise awareness of indigenous people and the regulations,” Diaz-Garcia said. “We are making history in a way and students are very excited. They are making their future.”

“We need to walk toward a third millennium holding hands with peace on our minds,” she said.

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