San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Northern Tribes Visit for Indigenous Day

PART political dialogue, part culturalcelebration – National Indigenous Day,celebrated Tuesday, brought togetherindigenous groups from not only variousregions of Costa Rica, but different countriesas well.Starting Saturday, various performancesand workshops held at and near theNational Museum put traditional dancesfrom the Cabécar people and weavingtechniques from the Boruca tribe, bothfrom the country’s Southern Zone, on displayin downtown San José.Visitors from tribes in the United Statesand Canada met with Costa Rican leadersSunday to discuss mutual concerns anddraft an open letter to President AbelPacheco regarding indigenous rights.“AS Indigenous Peoples, we desire tohave a share in the natural wealth of thestate, and the right to enjoy fundamentalhuman rights,” the letter said, calling onPacheco to visit indigenous communitiesand address the survival of indigenous languages,cultures and natural resources.Minor Vargas, social coordinator forthe Foundation for the Cultural and SocialDevelopment of Costa Rican IndigenousEthnicities (FUNDEICO), told The TicoTimes a group of indigenous leaders metat Casa Presidencial on Tuesday withMarlon Medina, legal advisor on indigenouspopulations for the Casa PresidencialTechnical Council, and discussed plansincluding a series of seminars on indigenousconcerns.The first will be held this month, withanother to follow in July, Vargas said.“We’re happy with this year’s NationalIndigenous Fair,” Vargas added. “It was agreat success.”VARGAS said lack of access to healthcare and roads are among the most seriousproblems facing indigenous groups today,many of whose members live in extremepoverty.Costa Rica is home to eight differentindigenous cultures (Bribrí, Cabécar,Guaymi, Térraba, Boruca, Malecu,Huetares and Chorotegas) in 24 territories,as well as six living indigenous languages.Events held over the weekend includedtraditional dances in the Plaza de la Culturain downtown San José and a concert by BrokenWalls, a Mohawk group from Canada.FUNDEICO, through its four-year-oldalliance with the Association of First NorthAmerican Nations, coordinated the visit ofBroken Walls and other North Americangroups such as representatives of the CreeNation, of Quebec, Canada.KENNY Blacksmith, former deputygrand chief of the Cree Nation, said onegoal of his is to offer support for the often overlookedindigenous groups here. Thiswas his third National Indigenous Day celebratedhere.“We challenge the government ofCosta Rica to recognize, respect and honorthe traditions of the indigenous people ofthis country,” Blacksmith said.The Cree nation has particular sympathyfor the plight of the Boruca people,whose lands in southern Costa Rica arethreatened by a hydroelectric project underconsideration by the Costa RicanElectricity Institute (ICE) – Quebec’slargest hydroelectric project, three or fourtimes the size of the proposed Boruca dam,is on Cree lands, so “we have 35 years ofexperience with this,” Blacksmith said.“We’re just hoping that the (CostaRican) government will have a betterunderstanding of the unresolved issues thatneed to be addressed,” he added.THE North American representativeswill be here through April 23, visitingcommunities throughout the country.On Wednesday, they made a visit to theTalamanca area on the Caribbean slope andperformed at the Agricultural and FishingTechnical High School in the town ofBribrí, according to Vargas.“We want to leave an impression on theindigenous people (of Costa Rica) that we’renot just here for a few days. We’ll come backagain and again,” Blacksmith said.TUESDAY’S events in San Joséincluded demonstrations of weaving methodsby Margarita and Marina Lázaro, bothfrom the Brunca community of the Borucaindigenous group. They said they leftBrunca at 3 a.m. on Tuesday for the seven-hourjourney to San José.Approximately 90% of their communitymakes a living by selling traditionalBoruca handcrafts, they said.Vargas pointed to the sale of such productsas a major benefit of NationalIndigenous Day.“It’s an important source of income,”he said, adding that people who travel toSan José for the event usually sell 100% ofthe products they display.ALSO on Tuesday, the PublicEducation Ministry celebrated the 10thanniversary of its Indigenous EducationDepartment.“In 1995, the ministry created thisdepartment as the agency charged withsupervising… the process of indigenouseducation for the national indigenous communities,”said a ministry statement,adding that the department has initiatedchanges such as the teaching of indigenousculture and language at both the primaryand secondary level, and assesses all teacherswho work in the country’s 224 indigenousschools.

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