Working Group on Indigenous Populations
Geneva 22 to 26 July 2002

The Giancarlo Barbadoro declaration

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

My name is Giancarlo Barbadoro, co-president of the Ecospirituality Foundation and representative of the Apache Survival Coalition.
I am here to talk about a reflection on the nature and value that should be given to the spirituality of indigenous Peoples following the situation of Mt. Graham, the San Carlos Apaches' sacred mountain, under threat from the construction of an astronomical observatory.
The University of Arizona, USA, and other international organisations decided to build a series of telescopes heedless of the Apache protests.
In the wake of international protests, several partners have pulled out of the enterprise, while others have announced that they are going ahead with the construction work. The Vatican do not recognise the site as being sacred.
Apart from the debate on the violation of the religious rights of the Apache People, the case of Mt. Graham has offered an unexpected chance to dedicate a moment's inevitable reflection on the nature and value that should be given to the spirituality of native Americans and indigenous Peoples in general.
How can one define a spiritual site from another point outside of it? Obviously it can only be the spirituality of who uses the site that is decisive in this evaluation and no-one can use their own belief systems to establish the quality of sacredness for others.
We cannot continue to relegate the spirituality of native Americans to the level of ethnic superstition. It is becoming more and more obvious that their spirituality is based on an intimate, universal knowledge of Nature that is far more ecumenical than anything discovered in the long history of antithesis between the mass religions.
Reflections, stimulated by the case of Mt. Graham, on the value to be given to native American spirituality must, logically, be extended to cultural matters regarding all the other native and Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous Peoples have developed a spiritual culture, outside the context of the mass religions, which has grown from experience maturing within a direct, pragmatic relationship between Man and the phenomena of Nature.
We therefore hold that the beliefs of Indigenous Peoples represent a valuable collection of spiritual experience, witness to a process of evolution of knowledge in the world, which seems to have been interrupted or dispersed by the interference of the so-called mass religions.
This observation leads to the release of the Indigenous Peoples, not just native Americans but natives all over the globe, from their cultural role of presumed historical inferiority and the re-establishment of the importance of their intuition and spiritual dignity and its usefulness for all humanity.
And that is not all. It also becomes obvious how the spirituality of Indigenous Peoples can lead to the feeling that a universal spirituality exists, which has previously never been imaginable in this form.
The spirituality of Indigenous Peoples, with a common reference to Nature, can set an example of how to live in contact with Nature itself, of the need to respect it, of the chance of effective brotherhood between Peoples and of spiritual unity within an effective natural religion shared by all the Peoples of the world.
They provide a lesson in peace and progress which humanity cannot afford to underestimate.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Giancarlo Barbadoro
Representative of the Apache Survival Coalition
Co-President of the Ecospirituality Foundation