We talked to Moira Millán about the serious situation brought about by the viral outbreak, but not only because it is a contagious disease suffered on a global scale, but also because the action of the powerful, whether it is the big mining companies that destroy the land or the serial deforestation that abounds in Patagonia, goes unpunished. Those who have taken advantage of the quarantine to continue operating.
Considered a weichafe (warrior), Moira denounces not only what is happening to her Mapuche people, but also the situation of dispossession, police repression, and poor treatment of indigenous women and native peoples in different parts of the country.
We would like to talk a little bit about how you, the Indigenous Women for Buen Vivir (Good Living), view this situation that has been unleashed by biological warfare and the global disciplinary plan, and what kind of responses it is unleashing in you.
We perceive it as a low-intensity war on the people, it is a war that is causing many deaths that are not directly related to the COVID19. It is a war that has strong and visible repressions. For example, in the north of the country, with the police. Like the case of the sister of the Tapiete people from the Province of Salta who complained to the police at the 42nd police station in the city of Tartagal that they came to the community drunk and started shooting like something out of an action movie. They were shooting because they were drunk and they were attacking her house, because she is a sister who has constantly denounced the repressive actions of the police and the injustices she is experiencing. These cops threatened to rape and kill her. We started mobilizing from the Indigenous Women’s Movement so that the prosecutor’s office would take up this great denouncement, but they tell us that justice is in recess and justice is fair. So we went to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which has just opened an area for indigenous peoples, run by Verónica Huilipán. We asked her to arrange a hearing or an appointment for our sister to go and testify and also to have an expert translator admitted. Argentina has ratified the international treaty for linguistic rights and does not comply with it. Our sister goes, she does not speak Spanish well, the justice workers write something different and finally justice is not achieved. We are asking for the accompaniment of an expert translator. But the different strata or areas that should be moved to protect our rights, such as NACI and the ministry, are not moving. It is only now that we have moved and threatened to take severe measures that they have begun to act.
From what you’re telling us, the quarantine has served as an excuse for some to continue to violate the rights of those who suffer the most, whether they are poor people or indigenous women?
What are we witnessing? That this quarantine has been the perfect excuse for the advance of mega extractive projects, looting, contamination, theft and sowing of death. All the international agreements that the government is making, for example, “Argentina against hunger”, finally end with the signing of a multi-million dollar agreement with Bill Gates and all those who are actually killing us. And that is not a resolution to feed the most vulnerable sectors. We have a sister within the movement who was diagnosed with chronic malnutrition three days ago. The doctor told her that her bones are affected by osteoporosis and decalcification. If she doesn’t change her diet, if she doesn’t start eating, something as elementary as this, eating, she is going to die. Those deaths are not counted, those are not reported on television. So what are we witnessing? We are seeing a very specific situation, as violence has intensified, with silence around it, and there are no means to organize ourselves on a mass scale and go out into the streets, because terror has been installed as an effective method of self-censorship. It is effective in making people afraid to go out on the streets. So we have to be creative to be able to denounce, make visible and apply pressure, but this terricide that is being carried out, not only in Argentina, but also in the world, is terribly cruel and effective. I always ask myself how it is that humanity came to this situation, to this level of domestication?
You recently warned and wrote about what was happening there in Patagonia, megamining is advancing and taking advantage of this to continue gaining ground. How do you see this situation and what responses are you considering for the stage of “new normality” that you are announcing boldly?
The situation is very serious, extremely worrying, if we do not manage to get the whole country to wake up to what is happening, the environmental costs will be irremediable. Unfortunately, the quarantine has allowed the mining companies to have an absolute green light and with all the security apparatus, a repressive apparatus, operating as hitmen for the companies. When the communities protest and denounce, the police come out to repress. We are very concerned about how they are advancing in the territories without consultation. They arrive at any hour, one sister said that in the early morning she noticed movements that caught her attention, she went on horseback and found trucks and machines that were not supposed to be there and that did not have a permit and they were not aware of this outrage. They operate like thieves in the night. This dark night of terror that they have imposed as a shroud on the world, they use it to intimidate. We are seeing a terrible institutionalized loneliness, the state is complicit in this. We cannot ask the State for justice because it is the one that permits this. Governments change, but the situation of indigenous peoples does not change, it is always the same. The genocide continues.
How do you view the issue from the other side of the mountain range, the Mapuche struggle for the prisoners? There is the case of Celestino Cordova, whose body has been placed with the rest, but we are talking about a machi who is proposing to go to the ultimate lengths if the demands are not met.
The cruelty of the Chilean state is historical. Some time ago I wrote for Chilean media, and the names vary, but it is always the same people. Some time ago we were fighting for the machi Francisca Linconao, before that for Patricio Troncoso Robles, always one of our people exposes their body, their life, to extremely risk levels and we have a number of assassinations. And this is because there is a world, there is the United Nations, nation states are complicit in the actions of the Chilean state. Unfortunately, something that has not been achieved, and which is an internal criticism of the Mapuche people, is the perception of being one single nation. This means removing the barriers that separate us, and removing the borders that are built by the Argentine and Chilean states. We should all take a stand because of what is happening to us in Wall Mapu. We are witnesses to the fact that we have gone to the Chilean embassy but when things happen here, they don’t go to the embassy over there. So, we are lacking cohesion, thinking that we are one single nation that our ancestors rode from one side of the mountain range to the other, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, all that was Wall Mapu and in all that territory we have the right to live. So in order to achieve self-determination, we have to tear down the intellectual fences that the nation state planted as its boundaries. That is a difficult task. It is being done gradually, slowly. It seems to me that they are going to continue attacking the Mapuche people, because the approach we have as a Mapuche people is an approach of an entirely political social nature, it is a systemic approach. We are proposing a new way of inhabiting the world. We are building an alternative to a civilizing matrix. Of course this system wants to install terror and fear in us, it wants eviction, uneasiness, the feeling that there is no point in fighting if there is no chance of success, and they want to convince us that the dominant culture is still there and that we are going to end up with this culture. And no. There is hope, there are opportunities, there are communities that have lived in a different way for thousands of years and now we can coordinate and create a synthesis between the different non-indigenous sectors that, like us, want a true and profound revolution to build a new humanity in order to give this planet a future. Above all, to the humanity on this planet. The Mapuche people are a target where all the bullets from all the states are fired.
You also told us about the serious case of a girl who is a relative of Facundo Jones Huala.
A machi is a person who has a rewe to do medicine, but does not assume it fully, he/she is in the process, where he/she walks, he/she has to work with another machi who has been working as a machi for many years. That machi instructs him/her, gives him/her medicine, and he/she also has to be in the territory where he/she is being trained as a machi. She has to be in her rewe. This young machi Mau Jones, came in March, along with the machi who is preparing her, to attend to patients here in Wall mapu and visit her family. At that moment the quarantine was imposed and the Argentine state practically kidnapped her. She was not allowed to return although she had legally married a Mapuche community member, had a marriage certificate, had her papers in order, and was able to testify that she had been living in Wall Mapu for some time and was not allowed to leave. Currently, here in Chubut we can move freely because there are no cases of COVID, special permits are being processed for the province and nation for the return home, she is asking the State for the right to be with her husband, in her home, in Wall Mapu, in Temuco, to be allowed to live together in quarantine and the State is not giving her permission. The state lies to us, they say she can go as far as the border and the problem is with Chile. But no, when she leaves the town of Esquel and the police ask her what the final destination is, they force her to return. We believe that what is happening is because of the stigma associated with her last name, which is Jones. Surely the Argentine state has made a list of all possible “dangerous” references. But the government has taken it upon itself to further stigmatize and persecute us. So, the State and all the governments, for there is no Macri in power, but there is Fernandez, and the machi is here. Explain to me how that happens. It is really, for us, a clear act of persecution.
Everything would indicate that the State doesn’t want to take charge of the endless series of police abuses and “trigger-happy” crimes that have been occurring. We are confronted with a new case, of forced disappearance. It is important for you to reflect on the case of Facundo Castro, but also on the crime committed by the Gendarmerie against the young Facundo Scalzo, or against Espinoza, and also against all the women who are murdered in the context of this quarantine, without the major media doing anything more than generating morbidity, because they only go so far.
Impunity feeds on indifference. There is a huge sector that has its consciousness manipulated and has decided not to wake up, does not want to wake up and does not want to commit itself to the truth. Unfortunately, this large sector contributes to this level of impunity, if the security forces and governments decide for themselves, they will allow disappearances, assassinations, and all kinds of abuses. I believe in the self-determination of the peoples, I believe that when governments and states vitiated by corruption and immorality, dehumanization and atrocities represent a clear threat to the peoples, we the peoples have the right to govern ourselves. That is why it is essential to take care of ourselves, to protect our rights, our territories and our children. Argentina is going to come out of this quarantine with a tremendous social and economic crisis and it will be decisive to see which direction it takes. And there will be a very important role for the people who come with a practice of autonomy, in spite of the repression, to fight for our security. We are going to need great parliaments for good living, great assemblies where the people who live in these parts of the world can agree on how to protect ourselves, how to live, how to get rid of the murderers who are everywhere with the permission of this government. To continue believing in this model of democracy that only serves the interests of the corporations that come to kill us seems to me to be childish, naive, and I would even say complicit. Let’s wake up and see how we can begin to generate self-government and self-determination.
Bolivian philosopher Rafael Bautista, who led the workshop on decolonization in Bolivia, said that it is the spiritual factor that will save us from this brutal colonization of the rich 1%. The spiritual element from the Aymara and Quechua vision, the ancestral, natural, original medicine, which is being attacked by the big pharmaceutical laboratories, because they do not want that medicine to be the salvation. Combining this with what the peoples of the Amazon are doing, where they say that their medicines can alleviate the suffering of their people, what reflection do you as an original community make of this spirituality?
The Movement of Indigenous Women for Good Living is holding a seminar, and one of the topics I suggested to speak about is oppressive religions versus clandestine spirituality. I want to explain that this is structural. Some time ago, we were about to set up the “chineo” campaign, and an academic woman, a specialist in “chineo”, joined us. She joined the movement and a few days later she lost all the documentation, she lost everything. She doesn’t know how, but she did. She was left with only the documents. She was desperate, she had money, but they took her papers. I told her, we have to make a ceremony for you, to protect you. You joined a targeted sector. That is why I say that the struggle is first spiritual and then political. Because we are fighting with very dark and evil forces that have a clear knowledge of the spirituality of the people, so they know that it is the only power that they cannot manipulate and that is why they need to eliminate it. Each person who approaches them, they are delimited in different ways. Our spiritual power heals. We are doing a lot of ceremony in the territories. I understand that the domain that defines the struggle, is spirituality. When I talk about territory, I’m not just talking about people or ecosystems, I’m talking about the forces of nature. Serious things have happened to us, which have shaken us. We are going to continue to defend nature, because if we do not act, we will be punished, and not by the States. This spirituality is codified in the thought of all peoples and what I cannot find is the way to contribute, build and share with non-indigenous people this thought that is ancestrally codified. When we share it with non-indigenous people, they empty it of its content. They have a tendency to interpret it from their academic perspectives, sometimes from a Christian or other religious perspective, and it is somewhat disappointing. First we would have to empty every colonized mind so that they can receive this which we want to give. It is very difficult. I feel that we as peoples can get stronger, but I don’t know how to achieve that spiritual strengthening in the Creole peoples. And I really love the Argentine people and I would like them to open the doors of perception, but I don’t know how this can be achieved.