Written by Michelle David
The 2018 International Society of Ethnobiology Congress has come to a close. This conference not only created a space for people from across the world to meet, but also a space for discussion, dialogue, and collaboration. After four days of lengthy yet lively sessions, a Letter from Belem+30 was created to revisit the original 1988 Declaration. The letter was read aloud and presented on two large screens for all ISE attendees at the Closing Ceremony. One of the women invited to read the letter, a Quilombola leader, announced, “when I signed this letter, it marked one of the greatest moments in my life.” The letter included clauses that renounced existing rights violations against Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Peoples, and Local Communities; empowered Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Peoples, and Local Communities to protect their lands and knowledge; defended the inherent ties between and importance of respecting biological and cultural diversity; reaffirmed free, prior, and informed consent for both private and public projects; and called upon national governments to uphold these protections.
On the first day during the Opening Ceremony, Pepeyla Miller, President of the International Society of Ethnobiology, reminded all attendees to “communicate, communicate, communicate…and listen.” Listening to the letter as it was read, I was pleased to hear some of the proposed language from the two Forum dos Povos (People’s Forum) sessions I attended. I would like to believe that the Indigenous and Local Peoples who spoke up to defend and propose their own ideas felt some mix of satisfaction, empowerment, and hope as their ideas were presented to a large auditorium of eager listeners, knowing their audience would soon be the world.
Despite the creation of the Letter from Belem+30 and all the collaboration I witnessed these four days, I can’t help but come back to one message from the opening speaker at the Closing Ceremony: “Don’t forget that we have a lot to do after this event. We have a lot to work on as researchers, as people… as partners, from the communities and the social movements we work with. And it’s necessary that we learn some more to denounce, to shout it out, to feel dignified.”
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Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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