The Yagan’s letter to the King of Norway: “Don’t install this destructive industry in our territory”

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On Sunday, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway visited Puerto Williams on Navarino Island in Chile, the southernmost city in the world, and were greeted with a swarm of protests.
 
After having fouled much of the waters off of Chiloe, then Aysen, salmon farming companies are expediting their push further south into Patagonia, in both Chile and Argentina. The Puerto Montt-based Nova Austral, which is financed in large measure through US$350 million in bonds and loans from Norway, has now arrived at the Beagle Channel – part of the Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve – with four new salmon farming sites under development since February.
 
The CEO of Nova Austral, Nicos Nicolaides, sees the Beagle Channel salmon farms as part of a growth strategy to add economic value to the company with an eye toward attracting Chinese investors. “Until now the Chinese were only customers, but one of the main growing markets … but if they get into the farming business, it’s a very interesting message. It brings to the investors pool some new players,” he recently told Undercurrent News, a seafood trade publication.
 
Over vociferous objections from the local community, whom were not consulted in the “environmental approvals” process, if past is prelude then one of the most pristine places left on the planet is about to be exposed to rampant contamination from salmon farms in order to seemingly help boost the sales prospects for the company’s equity fund investors in the United States and Europe.
 
As such, Cristina Calderón, the 90-year-old elder of the Yagan indigenous community on the island, along with the president of the Yagans, David Alday, presented the following letter to the royal couple of Norway this week, asking them to respect their indigenous rights under the ILO Convention 169 and reverse the plans for salmon farms in their ancestral territory.
- Jimmy Langman

 
March 31, 2019
 
To the Kings of Norway
 
Dear Kings,
 
Our respects,
 
We, the Yagan Indigenous Community, the southernmost native people in the world, want to give you this letter, as for thousands of years we have cared for our environment in this southern place.
 
The island you visit today has a history for more than 7000 years, our history, keeping this place pure and safe. We are the Yagan people, heirs of this beautiful treasure of nature, given from Watawuineiwa, to his sons, us the Yagan.
 
We are the indigenous people that has sailed along these waters, these channels, fiords and archipelagos up to Cape Horn, for centuries and centuries. Every shore regards and tells about our presence in these islands, how we lived and persist in such a extreme and cold place. This is our home, that provided us everything, food, shelter, all the primary material to make our tools, unique for us and the world. They developed their our own transport, the canoe, a special vessel, essential for our culture, which allowed us to appropriate the most essential thing for our millenary culture: the SEA.
 
The canoe allowed our people to sail these channels, tracing routes through our country, routes that later, much more later, were sailed by famous characters of mankind’s history. These channels are home to abundant wildlife, with huge whales and dolphins, wonderful birds, all admired by visitors, especially foreign tourists, who enjoy and wonder in such a virgin place. The archeological sites we have, crowns this scenery of pure and admirable nature, that has motivated several designations by international organizations, such as the Biosphere Reserve declared by UNESCO, which considers this place among the 24 cleanest places in the world. That is also an obligation to us, the original people, to keep safe and preserve our ancestral territory just as it was given to us by the ancestors. We have to keep the legacy for the future Yagan generations.
 
As the native community here, still present in the ancient territory, we cannot allow activities that could harm our ancestral heritage and our worldview. We will never agree with these activities. It’s our obligation to keep our way of life and claim our rights for what we want to do for a living, how we want to develop, in harmony. Especially after the awful and difficult situations our people have passed through over the centuries. 
 

 
 
This is why we talk to you, to directly ask if you can take the decision to not install this destructive industry, the salmon farming business, in our channels, our territory.
 
The past history of this industry in Chile is not good, and they have not improved their behavior toward the environment. The company that wants to settle in our pristine seas already has a bad record, such as low levels of oxygen in the waters, or the bad management of trash and waste.
 
As part of this country, we have witnessed the disasters that this industry has caused in the places where it is has set up. Huge disasters that never were seen before, with excessive pollution of the waters, pesticides, antibiotics, absence of oxygen, and other problems that end with awful consequences, such as the death of every living being in a place. This means that salmon farming will sweep our seas and all that it has, seas that are the most important thing for our people, and a place that we have the right to preserve.
 
Salmon farming expansion to our waters is not because of the industry success, instead it is due to the absolute failure of it. For decades, this environmental catastrophe has been taking place, where complete regions are destroyed and their people put in harms way. Now, they are searching for new waters, new places to expand this disaster.
 
And for this we haven’t been consulted. No one has asked our people about this, despite the existence of international agreements that compel the Chilean government to do so, before taking any resolution in this territory. By law we should have been asked; instead we are absolutely ignored. Again, we are not respected.
 
We hope this decision will be reversed, for our survival as the southernmost culture in the world. If not, the consequences will be irreversible for us, who are still resisting the consequences of the colonization process. Then, we will be able to give you a friendlier welcome, how our people always does.
 
It’s an obligation now to work and develop in harmony with our nature, it’s an obligation to go down that path. We know your concern for indigenous people in your country, so we hope you will understand our legitimate claims.
 
Wishing in the most deep of our hearts for your contribution to our environment, we cordially say goodbye,
 
David Esteban Alday Chiguay
President
Yagan Indigenous Community “Bahía Mejillones”