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Mindanao: "The main problem is the right to self-determination"

Kuyasu, a member of the Teduray tribe in the Philippines, recently stayed for several weeks at the IIRE. He participated in the International Youth Camp in Perugia this summer and later, visited Denmark and Sweden. We had numerous talks, on his life in the Central Mindanao Region, in his village. The Teduray tribe consists of about 6000 people, claiming an ancestral domain of 201,850 hectares.

Tell us about the current situation of your tribe…

Kuyasu:

“We as indigenous people, work on our ancestral land anywhere. We produce food crops (roots, vegetables, rice and corn) and we do also forest management. We consider the land as one Body which can not be sold nor divided, it is in fact Mother Earth and we are the caretakers of everything that can be found on the land.”

“Before colonialism, the tribal people had self governance, we had our own beliefs and practices, and we defended our tribal territories and preserved nature.”

Tribal peoples' attitude

“We, indigenous people are loving people, are pasensyoso (forgiving), when a foreigner visits our place, we free land and ask him to take care of this area. But at this moment, aliens have become permanent; they claim our land and determine legality. Migrants have come to live permanently on the places of the indigenous people and companies are taking land for mining and logging.”

How is daily life in your village?

Kuyasu:

“I live about three hours walking distance from where my father lives. I live at my uncle’s place and cultivate my own plot of land: wet rice and vegetables. My cousins take care of this plot when I am away. The harvest is not sold but is kept in the tribe for local consumption. This land was occupied by my grandparents and now by my uncle, me and my cousins. We have no private title on this land because the tribe believes in communal ownership.”

“About 300 families live in our village. There is a small elementary school. We have no electricity and no tap water but we have clean water from a well.”

According to you, what are the main problems in the lives of the people?

Kuyasu:

“The main problem is the right to self-determination. We want to preserve our unique culture, beliefs and practices on our tribal territories. The logging companies with their private militias are destroying our environment and our way of life for profits from logging.

Although the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) claims our tribal land, we do not want a confrontation with the Moro people.

The tribal people are in strong support of peace negotiations but on the condition that these talks will respect the tribal indigenous territories and self-governance.”

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