ONEIDA NATION HOMELANDS, N.Y. -- In a meeting requested by Bolivian Indian
leaders and facilitated by the U.S. State Department via a State University
of New York development program, Oneida Indian Nation of New York
Representative Ray Halbritter exchanged ceremonial wampum with Bolivian
delegation leader Felix Vasquez Mamani on Oct. 17. The Indian congressional
leaders from various regions of Bolivia represented the Movement Toward
Socialism political party.
The Native congressmen expressed their hopes for unity and collaboration
with North American Indian nations. Their fact-finding trip was meant to
ascertain opportunities for political relations and trade and commerce.
They expressed elation at finding spiritual and historical connections with
economically strong North American Indians.
Halbritter and Bear Clan Mother Marilyn John spoke about the culture and
history of Haudenosaunee and of the Oneida Nation in particular. They spoke
about the tradition of the great law of peace, which engendered long
exchanges. The Bolivian congressmen also spoke about their indigenous
traditions, and explained the problems and potentials of their country.
The delegates discussed their aspirations for gaining national political
power in the Bolivian national elections. They had high hopes that finally,
Indian people would have a majority voice in the government of their
largely Indian country. Those elections, held two months later on Dec. 18,
resulted in the victory of their party's candidate, Aymara Indian farmer
and organizer Evo Morales, as Bolivia's new president.
The meeting was intended to foster understanding and potential trade north
and south among American Indian peoples and organizations. "Visiting like
this is how people get to understand each other, exchange ideas,"
Halbritter said. "It's the way to work toward peace in the world."