FROM THE EDITORS: On March 14, 2021, a group of indigenous women in Patagonia left for Buenos Aires to launch a campaign to call for the typification of “terricide” as a crime against humanity. Moira Millán, Mapuche Weychafe, who organized this action, shares with us her reasons and feelings behind the need to walk close to 1,900 miles.
The Republic of Argentina was founded on the genocide of indigenous peoples during the Inquisitorial conquest and later the so-called “Conquest of the Desert” between 1878 and 1885. It is estimated that at least 60 thousand people were killed during this military campaign and another 20 thousand displaced, interned in concentration camps, and even slaved by wealthy families. Unfortunately, the violation of human and territorial rights, as well as cruel discrimination, persists in Argentina as it was recently evidenced by the racist statements of President Alberto Fernández.
Weychafe Mapuche Mora Millán reminds us that although the established order continues to discriminate, to attack their way of life, the resistance of Native peoples is well and alive.
Walking To Heal
In February 2021, I answered the call of a Wichí woman, crying with a broken voice to tell me about her loss, another indigenous girl raped, tortured, and murdered. It was her niece, whom I met when I walked through the country to build the Indigenous Women’s Movement for Buen Vivir. Back then the girl was only 11 years old, she was lively, bilingual, and during my stay in the lands of the impenetrable Chaco, she was my guide and interpreter. That happened in 2013, I was not able to go back since, but her aunt told me she became a beautiful, intelligent, and caring young woman.
She disappeared earlier this year and was missing for four days. They made a pilgrimage through judicial institutions asking for help, but they only got indifference, apathy, and racism. The body of the young woman was found in a field not far from the road. Raped and tortured. Those who committed the crime ensured pain preceded her death with all the weight of racist hatred they could use. We cried together on the phone, I felt a fire burning in my chest with anger and pain, and in that moment where the bitter taste of injustice welled up in my throat, her story became another thick layer added to the events that shape terricide.
Also in those days of February some sinister hands ignited the forests. The hot summer, with unusual temperatures for Patagonia, brought droughts and fire. The scene marked by the flames generated a devastation of 20,000 hectares and hundreds of families lost their homes. According to data from the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) of Argentina, more than 40,000 hectares burned in 2021 throughout the country between the months of January and February, but the previous year they exceeded one million hectares. Femicides, transvesticides, transfemicides, and a silent genocide, not only against indigenous peoples but against the peoples of the world!
The terricidal system has built a perverse order in which collective amnesia, societies forced to forget, enable renewal and repetition mechanisms of torture and death. It seems that we have learned nothing, on the contrary, we try to emulate our executioners and allow ourselves to be permeated by hate speech.
That is why we decided to walk to heal, carrying our truth like a candle to provide a little light in the midst of so much darkness. Thus, on the International Day against Dams on March 14, on the banks of the Carrenleufú River, threatened by six dams of the Elena hydropower project, we began walking. In the beginning it was four women from El Lof Mapuche Pillañ Mahuiza, south of Puelmapu, Patagonia; our objective was to reach Buenos Aires and place our struggle against terricide on the social agenda. We had to travel about 1,180 miles.
Soon more joined the southern block, while a few days after our departure, others began the walk from other parts of the country. The northern block, which started with 15 Qom women, was a heterogeneous group made up of older women, young women, and girls. During their long walk they suffered abuse and discrimination, it was difficult for them to find a place to sleep, figure out what to eat and even transit became a problem since, when their exhausted legs pushed them to board public transportation, companies refused to sell them tickets just for being indigenous. Misogyny and racism determine the social behavior of the colonial republics, particularly in northern Argentina. More than 746 miles were traveled by the women of the northern block, who belong to the Qom nation.
At the end of the 1800s, Argentina concluded its colonization process by invading every last centimeter of indigenous territories. Drinug that colonizing and civilizing crusade, thousands upon thousands of families from different indigenous nations were assassinated, and the survivors reduced to concentration camps, which they called reserves. Entire towns were torn from the face of the earth by the excessive ambition of the colonists, who were capable of cutting testicles and breasts from indigenous bodies to obtain the rewards offered by oligarchic families settled in our territories, carrying out an ethnic cleansing. Plainly and simply, a genocide.
The world that my ancestors knew has become an oral history of Buen Vivir, but we cannot even imagine what it was like. What would it be like to be part of a society where reciprocity, respect, and love for all beings became a founding part of our epistemic structure? A horizontal and circular cosmogonic belief system. In times of the pandemic, where death takes our loved ones every day, fear chains us to loneliness and confinement, uncertainty crumbles all certainties, exposing the fictitious security they used to create this unjust system. We feel the urgent need to walk, to hear, see, speak, share, hug, and heal.
“The old world dies, the new takes time to appear, and in that chiaroscuro monsters emerge.” —Antonio Gramsci
This is exactly what we are experiencing. Neo-fascism, leading the ranks of the extractivist corporatocracy, hate speech penetrating from news media against everything that represents alternatives and diversity.
From March 14 to May 22, the walkers against terricide were in 26 localities, 10 provinces, organizing popular assemblies, women’s meetings, spiritual ceremonies, mural paintings and cultural workshops. We crossed diverse natural and social landscapes.
We shared testimonies of our struggles and documented accounts of injustices that seemed to have been extracted from colonial times. Girls raped in indigenous communities, families in slavery conditions, millionaires locking up indigenous communities and peasants. In small towns, our arrival aroused the alert of landowners who quickly organized themselves by sending the police and municipal officials to harass us. Threats were rife but despite it all, they did not stop us.
A dream inhabited within to allow us to continue, demand justice: that terricide be considered a crime against humanity and against nature. It is important to clarify that terricide is the systemic murder against all forms of life, including perceptible or spiritual ecosystems, very important for indigenous peoples.
All lives are valuable and are assembled together, constituting a cosmic order that has been lethally broken by the imposed civilizatory matrix. Our walk reinforced the idea that no possible solution can come from this system, integration is evil, and to achieve memory, truth, justice and freedom we will have to disintegrate the system and create a new one, an ancestral revolution is the challenge. This walk has only been the beginning.
All photos thanks to the generosity of Moira Millán.
Moira Millán, Weychafe (person in the struggle)* Mapuche of Puelwillimapu was cofounder in 1992 of the Mapuche-Tehuelche Organization October 11, in 2011 she founded the Movement Fight for Work (MLT). In 2013, she started the First March of Indigenous Women for Buen Vivir, and in 2018 she founded with many women the First Parliament of Indigenous Women, which has become a political force that amplifys the rights of indigenous peoples and, in particular, of indigenous women. In 2021, she organized the First Women's March against Terricide. She is also the first published Mapuche novelist, author of the book The Train of Oblivion, published by Editorial Planeta in 2020.
* Weychafe: Weycha=struggle, fe=the person who does it.