On the Columbus Quincentenary in October of 1992, there was a historic gathering of 100 Native American writers, artists and wisdomkeepers at Taos Pueblo. They did not meet to reflect on the past five centuries, but to contemplate the future. They met for four days and issued the following statement:
In memory of more than 500 distinct Native Nations and millions of our relatives who did not survive the European invasions, and with respect for those indigenous peoples who have survived, we make this statement.
We, the indigenous peoples of this red quarter of Mother Earth, have survived 500 years of genocide, ethnocide, ecocide, racism, oppression, colonization and Christianization. These excesses of western civilization resulted from contempt for Mother Earth and all our relations; contempt for women, elders, children and Native peoples; and contempt for a future beyond the present human generation. Despite this, we are here.
Since time immemorial, Native nations have lived in harmony with this land and in solidarity with all our relations. Our continued survival depends on this vital relationship. We perpetuate this harmony for our continued survival and world peace. We carry out our religious duties for the good of all. Endangering us endangers us all.
We call for the immediate halt of the abuse, neglect and destruction of life. We call for immediate strategies and compacts to halt the genocide of Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere.
We demand an end to all exploitation, desecration and commercialization of Indian spirituality and cultures, our sacred places and the remains of our ancestors. We demand an end to the violations of our right of worship, to the disrespect of our religious and cultural property and to the disregard of our very humanity. Native peoples over the next 500 years must maintain our status as distinct political and cultural communities. Indian nations expect the world community to honor and enforce treaties that recognize tribal property and sovereignty. Sovereignty is the inherent right of Indian nations to govern all actions within their own countries based upon traditional systems and laws that arise from the people themselves. Sovereignty includes the right of Native nations to freely live and develop socially, economically, culturally, spiritually and politically.
The domestic laws of the non-Native countries of this hemisphere have been used to subjugate Native peoples. Vindication of our rights must be achieved through fair and appropriate procedures, including international procedures.
Indigenous nations have the right to secure borders and fulfilled treaties for which we gave up vast territory and wealth. Native nations have the responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for the people's economic self-sufficiency, health and well-being. Tribal economies work best when based on traditional systems. A secure and adequate land base and respect for sovereignty are prerequisites for viable tribal economies.
Indigenous people have the right to educational and social systems that affirm tribal cultures and values; that promote physical, spiritual and mental well-being of people; and that teach the care and healing of Mother Earth and all her children.
We envision that in 500 years indigenous peoples will be here, protecting and living with Mother Earth in our own lands. We see a future of coming generations of Native people who are healthy in body and spirit, who speak Native languages daily and who are supported by traditional extended families.
We look forward to leadership that encourages the religious and cultural manifestations of our traditions, and the reclamation and continuing use of our traditional ceremonies, hairstyles, foods, clothes, music, personal and tribal names and medicines. Our cultural renewal will assure the perpetuation of natural species that are dying, and perhaps even some of those thought to be extinct.
We celebrate our rich, continuing tradition of artistic excellence. The works produced for tribal functions or within a religious or historical context are the sole cultural property of the Native peoples. Our strong cultural continuums accord great freedom of artistic expression, which enhances the dynamic and incorporative nature of our traditional cultures. We envision a future when our artistic gifts are recognized fully for their spiritual transforming power and beauty.
Native peoples are strengthened by relations among each other at all levels of community life. Commitment, integrity, patience, the ability to build consensus and respect are essential components to the flourishing of culture, friendship, strengthening of economies and the pursuit of a common peaceful world.
All life is dependent upon moral and ethical laws which protect earth, water, animals, plants and tribal traditions and ceremonies. Humanity has the responsibility to live in accordance with natural laws, in order to perpetuate all living beings for the good of all Creation.
We share a bond with all the world's peoples who understand their relationship and responsibility to all aspects of the Creation.
The first of these is to walk through life in respectful and loving ways, caring for all life.
We look forward to a future of global friendship and the integrity of diverse cultures.