On April 26, 2016 attended a talk in Stanford University by indigenous community leaders from Mindanao on a historic tour of the United States to raise public awareness about the struggle for their human rights and ancestral land. These 5 leaders are a part of the Lumad indigenous people in the Mindanao area of the Philippines.
Because Lumad land is rich with natural resources, multinational corporations have been taking their land to mine the area to get its valuable minerals. Government policies encourage these mining companies to exploit the land, and with the cooperation of paramilitary forces, these two groups have exploited the Lumad indigenous people and killed their leaders to intimidate the Lumad. Many Lumad find education as a powerful tool to help them defend themselves against exploitation, so many Lumad schools have been raided by company and paramilitary forces. Recently, indigenous people in several villages have been driven out by paramilitary forces and they live currently in substandard conditions in refugee camps.
The El Nino conditions that has brought rain to California has had the opposite effect in many areas of Mindanao. El Nino has brought severe drought in the region, and many indigenous people are facing near starvation. Recently several thousand unarmed farmers protested to the government to release rice to starving villagers, only to face gunfire from police units in Kidapawan.
The leaders’ slogan is “Food, land, justice!” The indigenous people of the area are farmers, so the land is vital to their community. During their trip to the United States, the Lumad leaders were astounded by the abundance of food in this country. Coming from a drought-ridden area with starving people, the Lumad leaders ask Americans to remember where their food comes from.
Here is a youtube video with photos I took of the Lumad talk
TFC Balitang America did a youtube report on the Stanford University talk from Lumad representatives who witnessed the deaths of their leaders and were part of the rice protest in Kidapawan that resulted in deaths and injuries of numerous community members. Lakbay Lumad USA is the title of the U.S. tour that not only shares the Lumad culture but also what they call are the struggles they face from big mining corporations that covet the abundant natural resources on their land.