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Flor Palmar: We should merge the ancestral education of our indigenous peoples with contemporary education

The book Indian Subjects: Hemispheric Perspectives on the History of Indigenous Education was unveiled at the Smithsonian

On October 12 at the National Museum of the American Indian, the book Indian Subjects: Hemispheric Perspectives on the History of Indigenous Education was unveiled following a panel discussion and ceremony.  The event was organized by the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the United States in commemoration of Indigenous Resistance Day, a day which was established by the Bolivarian government in 2002 to defend the history, culture and struggle for identity of indigenous peoples.  Taking part in the event were two of the book’s authors, Flor Angela Palmar, an indigenous Venezuelan educator, and U.S. anthropologist Laura R. Graham.  Brenda J. Child and Brian Klopotec, two of the book’s editors and experts on indigenous affairs, also participated.

Glory to the Brave People

One of the book’s chapters, Glory to the Brave People—which is also the name of Venezuela’s national anthem, focused in part on efforts Palmar had made to translate the national anthem from Spanish into Wayuunaiki, the Wayuu people’s language, where it is called “Yaletusu Saaschin Woumain”.  Palmar spoke about the importance of the book given that various researches shared their experience and strategies for making education more indigenous. 

“We should merge the ancestral education of our indigenous peoples with contemporary education.  For indigenous education, we cannot leave aside the customs of our peoples because they are part of who we are.  Instead of having two types of education, we should integrate them,” she said.

“The systematization [and] organization of educational experiences in Venezuela has made indigenous education more visible in the country.  For example, the unification linguistic criteria to translate Venezuela’s national anthem into Wayunaaiki is a point of pride for us,” Palmar, who is Wayuu, continued.

Laura Graham, a co-author on the chapter dedicated to Flor Palmar’s work on indigenous education in Venezuela, spoke about her experiences while researching the book.  “I was in Venezuela with Flor and in addition to being grateful for the wonderful reception she provided in the country, I can speak to the work done by diverse groups of indigenous people and specialists to carry through a very interesting project: translating Venezuela’s national anthem into Wayuunaiki,” she said.

In introducing the event, editor Brenda Child recognized Venezuela’s progress on indigenous affairs, by noting that “many Americans have been very inspired by what the Bolivarian Revolution to vindicate its indigenous peoples.”  The book’s other editor, Brian Klopotic, spoke about the work done by indigenous education specialists to make the book possible and thanked Palmar for her participation.  “We need more Latin American educators who can speak about this issue, we need more international voices,” he said.

Indigenous Peoples in the Revolution

During her remarks, Palmar highlighted that progress made on indigenous affairs by Hugo Chávez, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, is now being continued under the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro.

“First, President Chávez supported us in our efforts to change the name from ‘Dia de la Raza’ [Day of the Race, the name used for Columbus Day in many Latin American countries] to ‘Indigenous Resistance Day’ as a fair recognition of our battles.  Later, other initiatives were developed, such as the Plan for the Nation [a policy plan for the Venezuelan government], which is written for the majority of Venezuelan, including the over 46 indigenous peoples throughout the country,” she said.

She continued by speaking about her experiences in teaching and how her pedagogy has been affected by the new Constitution spurred by the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999.  “Article 9 of our Constitution is proof of this: the official language is Spanish [and] indigenous languages are also official for indigenous peoples and must be respected throughout the country given that they are part of the nation’s, and humanity’s, cultural heritage,” Palmar explained.

Palmar noted other achievements made by the Bolivarian Revolution, including passage of the 2005 Organic Law on Indigenous Peoples and Communities, as well as the 2007 creation of the Ministry of People’s Power for Indigenous Peoples.  Both of these are dedicated to promoting the central role of indigenous communities in managing their affairs.

Press – Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the US / October 12, 2014

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