November 21, 2008

Morales meets Indians at NMAI

Evo Morales, Native leaders gather in friendship, solidarity

NMAI hosts Bolivian presidentEvo Morales, Bolivia’s indigenous president, attended a historic meeting with North American tribal leaders at the National Museum of the American Indian Nov. 19.

The private event, which was requested by Morales and facilitated by the Bolivian Embassy, saw more than a dozen tribal and Indian leaders join the leader to share cultural insights. Many brought him gifts from their tribes and nations, and he, in turn, offered his gratitude and a few jokes that somehow transcended any language barriers.

Of Aymara descent, Morales is widely viewed as a hero among indigenous populations worldwide. He was first elected in December 2005, and won re-election with 67 percent of the vote after a recall referendum last August. He is Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state in the 470 years since the Spanish Conquest.

In an interview with Indian Country Today after the meeting, Morales said there wasn’t much time for philosophizing with the Indian leaders, but he shared his vision of what it means to him to be an indigenous leader.

“In indigenous culture,” said Morales, “equality is so sacred. It’s a profound difference between our model life in indigenous communities and the model of life put forward by a capitalist society.

“… The indigenous culture is very important in terms of keeping people honest. That’s what I was telling people during the election, that our ancestors gave us a law: Don’t lie, don’t steal, and don’t be lazy. This worldview that we inherited from our ancestors has now been enshrined in our new constitution.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see No Time for Indians and Peace Prize for Morales?

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