Summary of the Conclusions of Working Groups

The Relationship Between Native Peoples and the State

Starting in the 1950s and 60s, native peoples took a stand on land claims which eventually led to a degree of recognition of their territorial base. This phenomenon became stronger as native families became more clearly identified with their land as they fought the onslaught of non-native settlement.

All through the state’s efforts to extend sovereignty to all corners of the country, time and again the native peoples reasserted their rights over their ancestral lands. The dynamics of native communities are very different from the dynamics of governmental processes imposed from the state.

There is a highly unequal relationship between native development and economic development of the state. Five closely intertwined issues exist in the relation between native peoples and the state:

  1. Land: The dispute for control of the land we require to grow and prosper. What is at stake is the recovery and control of our territory.
  2. Social organization: The right to organize is crucial to the consolidation of native groups.
  3. Economic growth: The various economies must be allowed to converge so that the national economy can grow for the sake of the country at large.
  4. Demands and platform: There is a need to accommodate the hopes and aspirations of all peoples inhabiting the new nations.
  5. Identity: A revaluation of identity as the basis for expressing the multicultural nature of the various peoples. A people which does not recognize its true identity cannot grow and develop. A people without identity ceases to have a reason for existing.
Identity is like a tree which must of necessity have roots if it is to bear fruit. The difference between states and native peoples is that states are foreign to us. They are foreign to our daily lives, to our language, and to our culture. What kind of a relationship can there exist between native peoples and a state which is not theirs? The political structure of the state is tottering. We stand against exclusion and demand respect for our right to exist.

One way of relating to the state is by taking up our place in it and help decide our fate for ourselves by proposing new laws and regulations to improve the balance of relations with the state. However, the hopes and aspirations of native peoples are invariably met by the limitations imposed by the system. Our demands about land claims, cultural identity, and social, economic and political systems, are ignored.

Our participation in the recent elections in Ecuador succeeded in consolidating our power at the local and community level. The concept of sustainable development does not belong to the state. The state simply copied the concept from the native peoples. Creating an Office or Ministry of Indian Affairs, as is the current fashion, is not the way to handle the relationship between native peoples and the state. This is only going to lead to confrontation among individuals and natives. Our relationship with the state has been negative from inception. This relationship has been one of tough political confrontation. In response, the government creates institutions designed to keep natives under control.

This relationship has also been one of political discussion and proposals. We are fully entitled to negotiate with any party or sector of society, and we will continue to do so whenever it is convenient. The relationship between the state and the native peoples has always been inequitable and unjust. We must therefore strive to build our own state, and are taking steps toward that goal. We must also encourage economic growth within the native movement.

Relations between native peoples and the state must involve more than enticements to accept a bureaucratic or cabinet position. They must include the implementation in practice of our demands, including native economic, justice and health systems.

Sometimes the authorities have the political will, but they face opposition from below. We must therefore improve our ties with those sectors of society who would marginalize us.

Following 15 or 20 years of organizational efforts, the state had to establish a political relationship with native peoples because it understood that its power was being challenged. Issues such as land claims, autonomy, and cultural identity, all involve a dispute for power. We are now beginning to take on new roles in the political arena, and that is extremely important. Democracy requires the presence of capable spokespersons who can present the native point of view on all national issues. It also requires the ability to effect new alliances, set aside grievances, and work toward unity. In this respect, the most important political issues of the day are: