By: E. Maestro, Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights
Unceded Coast Salish territory, Vancouver, BC. – Families, youth and children brought their drums of all different sizes to the 8000 Drums Global Ceremony, the indigenous community-led sacred drum ceremony for the earth, for the environment and for peace last March 21.
According to a 500-year-old Sacred Prophecy revealed by the Otomi Elder Sages in Mexico, when 8000 drums sound together, an intense healing of Mother Earth, of all the species and the human family will begin. The first 8000 Drums Ceremony in Vancouver was held in March 2008.
Open to all cultures and all races, and all drums, the 8000 Drums Ceremony was posted in the mainstream and social media. Despite the cold and rain, it drew a huge crowd of people who joined the First Nations communities at the Oppenheimer Park on East Powell Street.
Kat Norris, organizer of this year’s 8000 Sacred Drums, opened the Ceremony with prayer, song and drumming. Kat Norris is with the Indigenous Action Movement and is of Coast Salish ancestry from her mother and Hawaiian-Filipino and Nez Perce roots from her father.
The speakers included Derrick Whiteskycloud for the Metis, Bob Baker from the Salish Nations, Danny Charlie from the Sto:lo Salish Nations, Warren Wolfleg from the Siksika Nation, Javier Romero from the Wirikuta, Angela Marie MacDougall from the Black community, women from the February 14 Women’s Memorial March, and Aida Hernandez from Northern Mexico with her Deer Dance -- all sharing their inspiration of working for justice for their people and lands, with a speech, dance or a drum song.
Dr. Chandu Claver, Igorot physician and activist from the indigenous Philippine tribes in the northern Philippines now living in Victoria, brought greetings from the Cordillera People’s Alliance in the Philippines. “Our people numbering over a million, call the Grand Cordillera Mountain Region in the northern part of the Philippines as our homeland. We are much honoured to be invited to this gathering of First Nations and other indigenous peoples.”
The indigenous peoples in the Philippines share common issues and challenges with the First Nations in Canada. “Like yourselves,” Dr. Claver said, “the Igorot culture, economic life and links to our ancestors are all found in the land. Land to us, therefore, is life… once we lose the land, we will die as a people,” to which the crowd responded to with clapping and gentle drumming.
Foreign mining companies, including Canadian mining corporations such as Ivanhoe, Olympus Pacific, Toronto Ventures and Solfatara, according to Dr. Claver, “has caused unprecedented environmental havoc in the Cordillera such as land subsidence in populated areas, massive contamination of waterways, drought and disease, … they run roughshod over the legal requirement of free, prior and informed consent of our people prior to any development initiative, … they have utilized paramilitary forces resulting in killings, abductions and displacement.”
Like the First Nations people in Canada, the Igorots of the Philippines, Dr. Claver emphasized, are under grave threat. But together with the other indigenous forces in the world, he continued that “we should stand together to resist corporate and State attacks on indigenous peoples. We should struggle for our collective life and survival as distinct peoples.” Failure to do so can only mean one thing – “we shall fall on the wayside, one defeated people after another.”
Dr. Claver is the International Spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance and also works with the Victoria - Philippines Solidarity Group and the Mining Justice Action Committee.