INKA CHALLENGE Phase 2 and Phase 3

Phase 2: Alerted by the International Indian Treaty Council (NGO/ECOSOC), Yachay Wasi assisted in October 1998 the Florida Indian Alliance in protesting the "sensational" exhibit of the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Entitled "Empires of Mystery - The Inkas, the Andes and Lost Civilizations", this "blockbuster" exhibition featured 3 mummies from Peru and opened on October 23, 1998 "in time for Halloween" (quoted from the Florida International Museum website).

Phase 3: The April 7, 1999 NY Times article announcing the unearthing of 3 young Inca children from the Andes in Argentina prompted Yachay Wasi to enter the 3rd phase of its Inka Challenge and to send a press release on 21 April, 1999. Below are excerpts:

"Native Americans in this country, Indigenous Peoples around the world and their allies are outraged at Johan Reinhard and National Geographic Society looting Inka Sacred Burial sites, for years in Peru and now in Argentina, in the name of science. They are taking advantage of the fact that Native American religions are not protected by law in South America as they are in USA.

According to 1990 Public Law 101-601 "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act," Dr. Reinhard and his associates are liable to jail sentence and heavy fine. Furthermore, in the eyes of Native Americans in this hemisphere and the rest of the 300 million of Indigenous Peoples around the world, these scientists are as criminal as the professional grave looters they claim to preempt.

Yachay Wasi, NGO/ECOSOC & DPI, already organized a petition against National Geographic’s 1996 exhibition of the "Ice Maiden" in Washington DC and alerted Indigenous organizations and United Nations concerned agencies… …Furthermore, Yachay Wasi is objecting to the term "mummies" which is demeaning in this instance. These bodies went through a natural process of desiccation in freezing temperature, they are remains of human beings who were the equivalent of Saints in the Catholic Church. They are Holy to the descendants of the Inkas and should be respected as such. Also, Native Americans in this hemisphere are not concerned with "gods" nor "deities." They worship the Creator, the Sacred Eternal Creation and Spirits. Spirits are emanation of the Creator- Nature Beings or Living Beings demonstrating the Divine Law of the Creation (known as "the environment") which humans are expected to study from these Beings’ behavior and apply in their lives.

For the Inka, the sun (Inti) Giver of Life; the mountains (Apu) Guardians of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) are Spirits not to "placate" with human sacrifices but to "venerate" with offerings and eventually, of one’s life. Human sacrifices in ancient civilizations (Hawaii and South America) denoted the fact that Native Americans were, and to this day are, not afraid of death as they have the concept of life/ death/ eternity as the natural cycles of a Sacred Eternal Creation..." (End of excerpts)

With the experience of the Inka Challenge, Yachay Wasi decided to participate in the 7th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development at UN Hqrs April 19-30, as one of the topics was Sustainable Tourism.

Yachay Wasi’s concerns on the topic of Sustainable Tourism in the Andes encompass RESPECT of Indigenous Peoples’ culture and traditional ways, preservation of cultural sites and biodiversity, international trade balance regarding the sale of crafts…, but foremost RESPECT OF SACRED BURIAL SITES IN THE ANDES which have been profaned so blatantly just recently in Argentina and over the past years in Peru, with the media event of the "Ice Maiden" in 1996 engineered by the National Geographic Society, Wash. DC.

On April 20, the issue of display of Indigenous remains, promoted by Yachay Wasi, was mentioned by the NGO major group in relation to preservation of Indigenous culture and sacred sites in the dialogue session following the NGO statement read during the Multi-stakeholder Dialogue Segment on Tourism titled: Promoting Broad-based Sustainable Development through Tourism while safeguarding the integrity of Local Cultures and Protecting the Environment.

This issue, related to needed RESPECT of the Inka religion still living among the descendants of the great Inka civilization, has been aggravated by the sensational display of these and other Inka remains in commercial ventures such as the Florida International Museum "blockbuster" exhibit "Mysteries of Peru". This exhibit, which opened on Halloween 98, closed on Saturday, April 25, 99 and attracted a multitude of tourists. On April 23, there was a timely decision by the Human Rights Caucus of the CSD to consider the subject of Indigenous remains as one of the issues it wanted to report on. Texts of presentations follow below.

The publicity for the Inka Challenge Phases 2 and 3 have been widely increased by the assistance of Elsie Herten, Executive Director of the International Human Rights Organization KOLA in Belgium. Besides a petition on its Website, its magazine Eyapaha carried Yachay Wasi Statement written for the Jan. 10-14, 1999 World Archeological Congress 4 in Cape Town, South Africa (March/May 99) and Yachay Wasi April 21 Press Release (June/August 99).

New York, N Y April 30, 1999 Excerpts of Report of
Cui Bono? - To Whom the Benefit?

Due to the close relationship between protecting the human rights of people and safeguarding their lives, livelihood, community, resources and environment, the Human Rights Caucus to the Commission on Sustainable Development was specifically called upon by the representatives of NGO’s to address the following issues:

  1. Production and Consumption Patterns(of the Military Sector)
  2. Tourism (that Exploits the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Indigenous Peoples)
  3. Small Islands Developing States (Bermuda)
  4. Call for the "Uniting for Peace Resolution" by the General Assembly with Respect to Kosovo and Iraq
  5. Payment of Membership Dues to the United Nations

    2) Tourism (that Exploits the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Indigenous Peoples)

    The recent public displays for scientific and commercial profit by the National Geographic Society and the Florida International Museum of the human remains of Inca ancestors** violates Articles 5 and 7 of ILO Convention 169.

    The remains and funerary objects were at sacred ritual burial sites near the peaks of the mountains venerated as the Spirit of God. People in Peru, descendants of the Incas, adhere to traditional beliefs of the Incas, regard these burial sites as sacred and consider the anthropologists who trespassed to be as criminal as grave robbers.

    Indigenous people and concerned NGO’s cite U.S. Public Law 101-601, the "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act" for recourse and in calling for application worldwide of a uniform standard of protection. The spirituality of Indigenous peoples must be taken into account by the tourist industry…symbols of genocide - the remains of Indigenous peoples should not be used to attract tourists. The HR Caucus calls upon the governments of the UN to adopt the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to provide immediate protection of the rights of the Incas to safeguard their religion and sacred and cultural heritage from scientific and commercial exploitation.

    The Draft Declaration reads that "states shall take effective measures, in conjunction with the Indigenous peoples concerned, to ensure that Indigenous sacred places, including burial sites, be preserved, respected and protected." **"Desecration of Indigenous Burial Sites and Display of Indigenous Remains" by M. Samuel and R. Mucaro Borrero, April 23, 1999.

    Desecration of Indigenous Burial Sites and Display of Indigenous Remains
    presented by Marie Samuel, Yachay Wasi (DPI) and
    International Romani Union (ECOSOC)
    & Roberto Mucaro Borrero, Wittenberg Center (ECOSOC)
    CSD-7 - Human Rights Caucus - April 23, 1999

    "Indigenous Peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of human remains. States shall take effective measures, in conjunction with the indigenous peoples concerned, to ensure that indigenous sacred places, including burial sites, be preserved, respected and protected." Part III, Article 13 - Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    " the social, cultural and spiritual values and practices of these peoples (Indigenous Populations) shall be recognized and protected, and due account shall be taken of the nature of the problems which face them both as groups and as individuals;" article 5, parag. (a) " The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development. In addition, they shall participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans and programmes for national and regional development which may affect them directly." Article 7, parag. 1 I.L.O. Convention 169 - 27 June, 1989

    "Cultural artifacts have been taken without permission from Indigenous people and displayed in museums, in violation of their beliefs. One recent controversy arose with the display at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., of the preserved remains of a teenage Incan girl, who had been sacrificed on an Andean mountain top in Peru 500 years ago." Page 3 - Indigenous people: Challenges facing the International Community - February, 1998 - Press kit for the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights - DPI/1937/B-997-33085

    In 1996, one of these challenges has been coined the "Inka Challenge" by Yachay Wasi, an Indigenous cultural non-profit organization based in New York City and in Cuzco, Peru and NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.

    Alerted by a New York Times article (8 May, 1996) " Archeologists in Peru oppose loan of Inca Mummy to US", Yachay Wasi initiated a petition on May 10, 1996 against the National Geographic Society protesting its planned May 21-June 19, 1996 "Peru’s Ice Maiden unveiled" public exhibition at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    The petition was mailed on June 14, 1996 to Reg Murphy, then President of the National Geographic Society. The list of 110 signatures showed a cross-section of residents of NYC, tourists, business peoples, government scientists and NGOs. The American scientist and the two Peruvian scientists involved were informed by letters of the protest. Copies of documents were hand carried by Luis Delgado Hurtado, President of Yachay Wasi, to his home in Cuzco, Peru.

    The low key media and mailing campaign to Indigenous organizations, tribal councils, cultural institutions, religious bodies and some UN agencies was instrumental in starting the Phase 2 of the Inka Challenge in October 1998. This time, Yachay Wasi was asked by the International Indian Treaty Council, NGO/ECOSOC, to assist in the protest campaign started in September 1998 by the Florida Indian Alliance, member of the American Indian Movement, against the sensational exhibition "Empires of Mystery: the Incas, the Andes and Lost Civilizations" at the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida from October 23 through April, 25, 1999.

    The exhibit displays 5 Indigenous Inka "mummies" and 3 skulls. Quote of one page of the FIM website: "The exhibit opens on October 23 just in time for Halloween". The commercial display of Indigenous remains in the name of science or for so called cultural purposes directly results from the desecration of the burial sites of these remains. Phase 3 of the Inka Challenge began with the April 6, 1999 press conference revealing the find and subsequent removal of the frozen remains of 3 young children from the Andes mountains in Argentina.

    Desecration of burial sacred sites is not only a violation of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples but also a primary religious concern. Yachay Wasi will submit information regarding this issue, which will be sent to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in May 1999.

    On April 20, 1999 a Multi-stakeholder Dialogue Segment on Tourism took place at United Nations Headquarters titled: "Promoting Broad-based Sustainable Development through Tourism while safeguarding the integrity of Local Cultures and Protecting the Environment". The Dialogue was co-coordinated by a representative of the International Indian Treaty Council, and included an official NGO statement which highlighted the issue of desecration of Sacred Sites in its section on Ethical Principles. A quote from Press Release ENV/DEV/502 20 April 1999: "The spirituality of indigenous peoples must be taken into account by the tourist industry, a speaker said. Symbols of genocide – such as the remains of the Incas or other groups – should not be used to attract visitors."

    The Inka Challenge is not limiting to the Andean area. Roberto Mucaro Borrero was that speaker and stated that the desecration of Indigenous burial sites and the commercial display of Indigenous ancestral remains are common place throughout the Americas. Further this practice is linked historically to the genocide of Indigenous Peoples and their cultures. Therefore any symbols of the genocide of Indigenous Peoples should be outlawed. This would include monuments to early European colonizers who promoted and practiced genocide of Indigenous peoples and the Slavery of African Peoples.

    The Inka Challenge’s strongest support has come from the North American Native American community. Native American religions were outlawed in December 1890 and in 1978 Native American Spiritual Leaders and Elders decided to correct this situation.

    They mobilized their people and supportive organizations into a huge cross country march from San Francisco to Washington, DC "The Longest Walk", to petition President Carter and have their ancestral religions recognized. President Carter complied by decree dated August 1978. On this basis, Native American lawyers worked toward an official legal recognition and protection of their spiritual and cultural heritage.

    This was sanctioned by the January 23, 1990, Public Law 101-601 "Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act". Museums and institutions associated with the Federal Government are obligated to negotiate the repatriation of all Native American properties including old bones to be reburied.

    We are presenting this issue to the Human Rights Caucus of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development as the removal of human remains from Indigenous Sacred Sites and transport, display and study of these remains no matter how ancient, for whatever reason, especially as a means to promote or generate tourism, must be stopped.

    Approaching the mid-point of the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we are urging the international community to press for the adoption of the Draft Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We also urge member states to follow the example of the United states and enact transnational legislation forbidding the desecration of Indigenous Peoples burial sites and the display of Indigenous Peoples ancestral remains. Additional statement 4/25/99 given at CSD-7 Human Rights Caucus meeting of 4/28/99 with original statement dated 4/23/99.

    Statement from Eliane Lacroix-Hopson, Representative of the International Romani Union (ECOSOC) and Yachay Wasi (DPI):

    The International Romani Union, who is standing for the 11 millions of Roma (wrongly called Gypsies) around the world, co-founded on October 16, 1991 the NGO Committee for the United Nations International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This Committee is now working for the goals of the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

    Dr Ian Hancock, Executive Officer and Main Representative of the IRU, has been kept abreast of the Inka Challenge since its inception in November 1995 when articles in Newsweek and Times magazine in their issues of 6 November 95 alerted the world to the "archeological find of a lifetime" in the Andean Cordillera in Peru.

    On 25 May 1996, I wrote a letter to the NY Times in answer to John Noble Wilford’s article "Mummy tells story of sacrifice, scientists say" (22 May 96). The letter was co-signed by Luis Delgado Hurtado, President and co-founder of Yachay Wasi and Marie Samuel, its Vice-President.

    Quote: "…we can only qualify as arrogant the demeaning of the remains of a venerated human being as a ‘mummy’ of scientific interest to be exhibited to the public. John Noble Wilford writing about ‘’…the mountain God of Nevada Ampato" echoes the ignorance displayed by Dr. Reinhard. ‘Human sacrifices’, ‘gods’, ‘religion’, ‘culture’ are Western concepts foreign to ancient peoples and their descendants. Pre-columbian civilizations were based on astronomy, including the knowledge of our solar system some 2,500 years before Copernicus. There were never a '‘mountain god’ nor a ‘sun god’ in Tawantinsuyu, the Inka empire. To this day, all Native Americans worship the Creator Who Has No Name, as Moses himself learned on Mt Sinai (Exodus 3:14) The Sacred Creation - skies, mountains, waters and their inhabitants - are not ‘gods’, but spirits or energy, emanations from, or manifestations of the Creator. Furthermore, all Indigenous know that the Creator being eternal, His Creation is likewise eternal and ‘death’ has no meaning within eternity - just a step from one plane of existence to another, in the same eternal reality. In this context, 500 years ago, a young maiden offered herself to the Creator in an act of love for her people and became a holy woman in her time and is still revered as such by Inka descendants: the equivalent of a saint or a martyr in modern religions." End of quote.

    Yachay Wasi press release dated 21 April, 1999 states: "In books and articles, anthropologists, while admiring the Inka civilization, bemoan Inka sacrifice of children, difficult to understand today. This attitude is hypocritical: even if these events amounted to a few hundreds in one century, what to say of our 20th Century, the bloodiest in history? Hundreds of millions of human beings have been sacrificed in Stalin’s Soviet; Hitler’s Holocaust; two World Wars; Hiroshima/Nagasaki; Nanking and Japanese atrocities; Vietnam and the cold war genocide in South America and Cambodia; Chinese Mao’s Cultural fantasy; mine fields; ethnic cleansing; rape as act of war; children soldiers; children in prostitution and forced labour; 40 million children abused in 19 countries, 34% of girls, 29% of boys, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), without mentioning worldwide drug business. Are not these acts human sacrifices to the gods of war, human greed and depravity?"

    Roma who lost 500,000 of their relatives in the Holocaust; who for centuries have been victims of slavery and persecutions in Eastern Europe and today are ostracized and "fenced in" in the Czech Republic, are very sensitive to the outrage now inflicted to the remains of Inka Holy Beings. (From Yachay Wasi newsletter Spring/Summer 1999)