LOGOYACHAY WASI

INKA CHALLENGE

INKA CHALLENGE: From desecration of human remains to sacred sites…

One basis of racism and religious intolerance, propagated by Western scholars, has been to denigrate the pre-Columbian religions as pagan worship of "gods" such as sun god or mountain god in Inka religion. One of its consequences has been the desecration by scientists of Inka burial sites in the Andes and display of Indigenous remains.

These ancient religions worshipped the one Creator and revered other entities as "spirits" who are not gods, but emanations from the Creator or symbols of the Creator's spiritual power.

Spirituality, which expresses itself in religion, is at the core of the fabric of human beings. Religions, especially ancient religions, are not evaluated for their true meanings and are denigrated by others who think they know best because of misconceptions carried thru centuries by clergies, universities, press, magazines, television, films etc…This is particularly the case with the religion of the Inkas.

As outlined in the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous peoples want their religions to be recognized as for instance Native American religions were recognized in 1978 and protected by law in the US since 1990 or the Maya religion which was recognized in the recent peace process in Guatemala.

Excerpt from Part III, Article 13 - UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

“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.”

News from the Andes reinforce the need for international laws to deal with this basic problem of racial discrimination: “Peruvian archeologists have discovered the first full Inca burial site at Machu Picchu…The find is significant because of the funeral objects, such as stone and clay pots and five metal objects accompanying the remains of bones of a person, probably a woman. “(Reuters 12 October 2002) - Appropriately, the news were released on Columbus Day!

The archeological and tourist worlds may rejoice, but for Indigenous Peoples, it is one more burial site and one more Inka human remain which are being desecrated.

Since then, El Comercio, Lima, Peru announces on 21 October, that two more remains of young women have been found in the same area.

In their article, they refer to "culto de las deidades andinas", the cult of Andean gods - "apus o deidades de los incas", apus or gods of the Incas. "Apus" are indeed the correct quechua title given to Spirits of various elements of nature representing the might of one creator. But they are not gods...as the descendants of Pizarro continue to imply and the pretentious bunch of world scholars follow as it justifies their continuous denigration of a civilization which may have, in many ways, surpassed their own. 

Will this finding of these young Inka women's remains be followed by a similar treatment that National Geographic gave to the Ice Maiden in 1996? Recently, their website was still encouraging its viewers to dissect the body on the Internet...

In June 1996, the display of the Ice Maiden in USA prompted Yachay Wasi to start its Inka Challenge: “Will American scientists and their American non-profit sponsors respect Indigenous Peoples’ spiritual heritage in foreign countries?”

After going thru 3 phases which included a campaign against Florida International Museum Exhibit “Empires of Mystery: The Incas, the Andes and Lost Civilizations” opening on October 23, 1998 “in time for Halloween”, the Inka Challenge has entered its phase 4 in 2001/2002 with: “Will world governments, scientists, non-profit sponsors and tourists respect Indigenous Peoples’ spiritual heritage: religion, burial sites and human remains and will the International community respect and allow them to protect their sacred sites?”

TheINKA CHALLENGE when started in 1996 by Yachay Wasi was:

“Will American scientists and their American non-profit sponsors respect Indigenous Peoples’ spiritual heritage in foreign countries?”

Prompted by NY Times article May 8, 1996 “Archeologists in Peru oppose loan of Inca Mummy to US” announcing the May 21- June 19, 1996 exhibit of a 500 years old Inca young girl’s remains at Washington DC headquarters of National Geographic Society, Yachay Wasi started its Inka Challenge Campaign with a petition against the exhibit.

Between 25 May and 5 July 1996, besides numerous press releases and letters to magazines and newspapers, letters were sent to President Clinton, Senator Moynihan, Reg Murphy, then President of National Geographic Society, archeologist José Antonio Chavez, Peru, Dr. Konrad Spindler, Austria, Dr. Sonia Guillén, Peru and several letters to archeologist Johan Reinhard who was very insulting and threatened law suits until he made an unexpected visit to the home of Yachay Wasi President Luis Delgado Hurtado in Cuzco, Peru in July 1996.

Yachay Wasi Inka Challenge resulted in a paragraph on page 3 of the UN brochure published in February 1998 as part of the UN Press Kit for the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Title: “Indigenous People: Challenges facing the international community”.

1998:INKA CHALLENGE phase 2: Campaign against Florida International Museum Exhibit “Empires of Mystery: The Incas, the Andes and Lost Civilizations” opening on October 23, 1998 “in time for Halloween” thru April 25, 1999 in St Petersburg, Florida. This campaign was done in cooperation with Sheridan Murphy, American Indian Movement of Florida. A statement was sent to the 4th World Archeological Congress taking place in January 99 in Cape Town, South Africa.

1999: INKA CHALLENGE phase 3: Unearthing of Inka children’s remains in the Andes: Johan Reinhard finds and removes 3 Inka children from the Andes. NY TIMES article April 7, 1999

The campaign against the Florida International Museum had a fitting ending in April 1999 when the issue of Desecration of Indigenous Burial Sites and Display of Indigenous Remains was presented by Yachay Wasi to the Human Rights NGO Caucus of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development 7th Session. One of the issues that year was Sustainable Tourism. On the actual date of the exhibit closing, the Human Rights NGO Caucus decided to include the issue in its report to the UN Commission.

Conclusions:

Since then, many TV programs National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Nova and these programs websites continue to display remains of Indigenous Peoples. Occasionally we send an email of protest but it really does not go anywhere…

In 1999, Marie-Danielle Samuel had a meeting with an officer of the NY Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and subsequently met briefly Mr Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance. UN conventions established so far do not cover desecration of burial sites and display of Indigenous remains.

ILO 169 and the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples do cover this, but are not binding.

Note: A letter to NY Times commenting on the misconception of Inka religion shown in a January 2, 2000 Travel article was printed on January 30, 2000 showing that the press is ready to revise old concepts.

…TO SACRED SITES: In June 2001, Yachay Wasi, which had just been granted consultative status with ECOSOC, organized its first Encounter of Indigenous Communities in the High Andes in the village of Acopia, Dept of Cuzco, Peru. This event was prepared in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which sent a representative. At the end of the 5-days meeting, a statement was faxed to UNESCO World Heritage Centre asking that Machu Picchu be recognized and respected as a Sacred Site and that Indigenous Peoples have a say in its protection so that incidents such as the chipping of the ancestral stone of Inti Watana by a beer commercial crane in September 2000 can be prevented in the future.

A direct result was the funded invitation by UNESCO World Heritage Centre for Luis Delgado Hurtado, President of Yachay Wasi, to travel from Cuzco, Peru to attend the Proposed World Heritage Indigenous Peoples Council of Experts (WHIPCOE) Winnipeg Workshop in November 2001.

This event prompted Marie-Danielle Samuel, Main Representative to the UN for Yachay Wasi, to originate in November 2001 the concept of a Panel Discussion during the historic First Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 13-24 May 2002 at UN Hqrs in NYC. A member since its inception on 16 October 1991 of the NGO Committee on the UN International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, now on its International Decade, she coordinated this Panel on behalf of the NGO Committee. What was meant to share the good news of WHIPCOE became a quest to keep it alive after the World Heritage Committee turned down its implementation in December 2001.

To widen the scope of interest, she suggested the involvement of Indigenous communities around the world by sending a Call for Submissions on Sacred sites issues. This idea was approved at the 21 March 2002 general meeting of the NGO Committee on the UN International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

A report of the NYU 15 May 2002 Panel Discussion “During the International Year of Cultural Heritage – Cultural Heritage and Sacred Sites: World Heritage from an Indigenous perspective” will be presented to the 16 members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to ensure that these issues be included in their future agendas.

Ironically, on the same evening of this panel, PBS TV Ch 13 in NYC is broadcasting National Geographic’s latest 4-year long unearthing of some 2000 Inka “mummies” near Lima, Peru. The question is: How many bodies are needed to satisfy science?

The ongoing search by scientists of ancient Indigenous remains, on the guise of preventing grave robbers and in fact becoming grave robbers themselves, must stop.

The display, for whatever reasons, of Indigenous remains must stop.

In the words of the 1998 Press Release from the American Indian Movement of Florida: “Would the Florida International Museum dig up the honorable John F. Kennedy and place his remains on display as a tourist attraction?”

In 2003, the Inka Challenge is:

“Will world governments, scientists, non-profit sponsors and tourists respect Indigenous Peoples’ spiritual heritage: religion, burial sites and human remains and will the International community respect and allow them to protect their sacred sites?”

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