Leaders of “Lakbay Lumad USA: The Continuing Journey of Mindanao’s Indigenous Peoples for Peace and Justice” visited Portland State in order to share their culture and raise awareness of the Philippine Government’s violence against their people and land on May 12. PSU Kaibigan, and members of nearly a dozen different organizations, gathered to show their solidarity with the Lumads, the indigenous people of Mindanao, whose way of life is facing a serious threat.
Portland is one of the last stops for Lakbay Lumad USA, who are on a speaking tour of the United States in order to garner support for the plight of their people. They began in Washington, DC, lobbying members of Congress, and describing how U.S. foreign policy and multinational corporate interest in their natural resources are connected to their repression.
Dr. Cornel Pewewardy, a professor and director of Indigenous Nations Studies Studies at Portland State, opened the event by acknowledging the significance of the land on which the event was taking place and identified its indigenous people.
In his remarks he explained the need for indigenous people all over the world to support one another. “It’s a blessing to be here and honor those who have been resilient,” Pewewardy said of the Lumads’ and their struggle.
The Philippine government has been using armed forces to remove the Lumads from the land and granting foreign ownership of their mineral resources for mining. This displacement has erupted in violence and the killing of Manobo leaders.
Bai Norma Capuyan is one of the leaders on this tour, and a survivor of the recent Kidapawan Massacre. In addition to the government’s militarization, she explained their severe shortage of food due to the drought brought on by El Nino.
According the The Inquirer, 6,000 peasants and farmers, including children, elderly, and pregnant women, held a protest and demanded their use of the calamity fund, which the government is required to provide in Kidapawan. They chanted, “bugas, bugas, dili bala, rice, rice, not bullets!” Instead of rice, the police responded by firing guns at them.
“We really want all of you to know our call: food, land, and justice,” Capuyan said. “We want to be able to go back home to our ancestral lands.”
They want the government to be held accountable for its actions, stop bringing criminal charges against protesters, and allow those who have been removed from their farms to return.
The word Mindanao means “Land of the Lakes,” and for the Lumads, land is life. It is not something one person owns, but something to be shared and protected by all. Because they don’t believe in private ownership, they view their plea for peace and justice as one for all humankind.
The Lakbay Lumad USA tour will end in New York for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues where they hope to inspire global support for their call to “Stop the Killings, Save Our Schools, and Protect Indigenous Life.”
Pewewardy said events like this are significant for the PSU community because they affirm the university’s motto by “letting knowledge serve the city.” They also teach students how important it is to know their histories.
“This legacy of resistant stories can inspire our people to continue to defend their territories and communities against ongoing colonial aggression,” Pewewardy said. “This is succinctly why these cultural events are important because they tell the stories of hundreds of years of resistance.”