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Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples #IndigenousPeoples

In June 2016, after 17 years of negotiation, the OAS General Assembly adopted the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The historic milestone reaffirmed the commitment of the OAS Member States to recognize, promote and protect the fundamental rights of over 70 million indigenous peoples in the hemisphere.

The American Declaration includes provisions that address the particular situation of indigenous peoples in the Americas and affirms their basic right to self-determination, education, healthcare, self-government, cultural practice, lands, territories and natural resources, as well as to gender equality for indigenous women, among other fundamental rights.

In 2017, the General Assembly adopted the Plan of Action for implementation of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2017-2021), and in 2018 the Permanent Council adopted a Resolution establishing the Inter-American Week for Indigenous Peoples, which aims to promote the traditions, languages, history, and societal contributions of indigenous peoples of the Americas. Since then, the OAS has celebrated this week around August 9 each year to coincide with the observation of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Luis Almagro Lemes
OAS Secretary General

Nestor Mendez
OAS Assistant Secretary General

In that vein, the OAS is highlighting the influence of indigenous peoples in shaping our societies by profiling historically renowned figures who have excelled in their national or hemispheric contribution to Arts and Culture, Sports, Politics, Human Rights, and Science or who through their labor have made a significant contribution to their nations or their region.




Patricia Velásquez

OAS Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Florencio Mes

Place of Birth: Toledo, Belize
Date of Birth:
February 23, 1938

Florencio Mes

Florencio Mes is a Mayan harpist and traditional musician from Belize.

During most of his childhood he grew up under care of his elder brother in San Pedro Columbia, where he currently resides.

During his youth, young Florencio enjoyed the village fiestas. He recalls seeing Mr. Fernando Ash, fingers moving a traditional harp as a festive crowd danced to its reverberating sounds.

It took six years of apprenticeship for Florencio to acquire the skills of the revered harp musician. He first learnt the bass, then the guitar, thereafter the violin and finally the harp itself.

Florencio founded his first group with Martin Coc on violin, Valentino Teul on bass, the late Francisco Sam on guitar and Florencio himself on harp.

Florencio is now the undisputed musician for the village fiestas. His unique aura of constructing, playing and dancing the harp has made Florencio locally and internationally recognized. He has become an icon and master of Maya harp music, captivating a large audience at the local, national, and international level.




José Francisco Calí Tzay

Embajador (Guatemala)
Relator Especial de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas.


Celio Efraín López

Place of Birth: San Salvador, El Salvador
Date of Birth:
December 23, 1962

Celio Efraín López

Celio Efraín López was born on December 23, 1962 to a family of Moors and Christian dancers from San Antonio Abad.

Since 1981, he has dedicated himself to the study and research of the dances of Moors and Christians, and two years later he began teaching them and, to date has continued to do so.

Since then, the native people of San Antonio Abad have recognized him as the new teacher of the traditional dances of the town, which include children, young people and older adults. He is well known for the carving of indigenous masks, turbans and musical instruments, and has been recognized both nationally and internationally for his skill.

He is a teacher of the following dances: Moros y Cristianos, Torito Pinto, Cuche de Monte, Danza El Venadito, and Pastorelas.

He is dedicated to teaching the new generation the art forms of dance and mask making.




"Mama" Martha Cabrera Cabrera

Jatun Ayllu Yura Parcialudad Urinsaya Wisijsa
Nación Qhara Qhara (Potosi, Bolivia).


Fernando Daquilema

Place of Birth: Chimborazo, Ecuador
Date of Birth:
June 5, 1848

Fernando Daquilema

Fernando Daquilema was an important indigenous leader of the Puruhá people, of Ecuador.  At the young age of twenty-three, he fought for the rights of indigenous peoples and was one of the most important figures in the indigenous rebellion of Chimborazo in 1871.

During that time there were large estates where many indigenous people labored and were overexploited through subsidiary work and forced to work in the public sphere without remuneration. They were also obligated to provide tithes and first fruits. In this context, the Puruhá community of Chimborazo organized itself, and through collective decisions began the indigenous uprising of 1871, led by Fernando Daquilema. The indigenous mobilization began in the community of Cacha and spread to other areas, forming an army with thousands of women and men who confronted the government of García Moreno. The repression by the National Guard caused a violent confrontation.

Fernando Daquilema died after he was shot in Yaruquí Central Square on April 8, 1872. Thus, the struggle, tenacity and courage of Daquilema has become a historical reference for advancements for indigenous communities.


Heritage Minute: Kenojuak Ashevak

A founding member of Cape Dorset’s famed printmaking co-op, Kenojuak Ashevak introduced Inuit art to the world (1927-2013).

Heritage Minute courtesy of Historica Canada
(English | Français).


Miguel Tankamash

Place of Birth: Arapicos, cantón Morona, Ecuador
Date of Birth:
October 29, 1939

Miguel Tankamash

Miguel Tankamash hailed from Arapicos, Morona Canton, from the town of Palora in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

He was a leader of the Shuar Nationality who became a symbol of struggle, resistance and courage. Tankamash founded the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH), as well as the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE)

Miguel Tankamash played a fundamental role for the Amazon peoples to become engaged in the political, economic and social sphere of the Ecuadorian State. His struggle became an example for other nationalities and indigenous organizations.

His loyalty and firmness when called upon to defend his nationality were among his essential traits. His leadership as the first president of CONAIE allowed him to advance in the fight to recognize and to guarantee the rights of the peoples and nationalities of Ecuador.

Miguel Tankamash passed away on October 27, 2018.




Ricardo Delgado

Indigenous Pemón ethnic group from Gran Sabana, Bolívar, Venezuela.


Alonso García Quele

Place of Birth: Izalco, Sonsonate, El Salvador
Date of Birth:
January 23, 1953

Alonso García Quele

Since 1991, Alonso Garcia Quele has served as a steward and elder of the indigenous community of Izalco as a result of the Consuetudinary Law, which has been passed on within indigenous communities through the elderly brotherhood.

He was part of the Izalco Cultural Rescue Committee, where he dedicated himself to the recovery of the elderly brotherhood and the Communal City Hall, the only form of traditional government that is preserved from the indigenous community today.

In April 2001 he was appointed Steward of the Greater Brotherhood of the Eternal Father, where he has restored the Seed Ritual, namely the Blessing and the Harvest Ceremony.

In his role as Mayor of the Izalco Indigenous Community, he strives for the unity of the indigenous community, acting as a mediator in conflicts that arise.

He has compiled and transmitted the oral tradition of his people, the events of 1932 and the indigenous uprising.

In 2006 he was part of a committee of noteworthy individuals, both nationals and foreigners, in the formation of the "National Commission for the Establishment of Historical Truth of the 1932 Genocide".




Marcelo Augusto Xavier da Silva

President of Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), Brazil.


Benito Pablo Juárez García

Place of Birth: San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca state, Mexico
Date of Birth:
March 21, 1806

Benito Pablo Juárez García

Benito Pablo Juárez García was a distinguished Zapotec indigenous, Mexican politician and lawyer.

As Governor of Oaxaca, Benito Juárez underscored the customs of governments and of the region. As President of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, he defended the Constitution of 1857; subsequently he held the Presidency of Mexico from 1858 to 1872, a period in which he promoted the Reform Laws, and the foundation on which the secular State and the Federal Republic in Mexico are founded.

Also known as the Benemeritusof the Americas, for his fight against the French invasion, Benito Juárez adopted the foreign policy principles of the defence of national sovereignty: the people’s right to self-determination; the equality of states; foreign non-intervention, through his wise words: "Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace."

In historiography, he is recognized as the principal figure of 19th century Mexican liberalism.




Amalia Tello Torralba

Originally from San Martín Duraznos, Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is a member of the Civil Association Naxihi na xinxe na xihi ("Women in Defense of Women").


Ologwagdi (Armando José Díaz Rivera)

Place of Birth: Colon, Panama
Date of Birth:
June 17, 1953

Ologwagdi (Armando José Díaz Rivera)

A member of the Guna ethnic group, Ologwagdi is a visual artist, portraitist, cartoonist and illustrator, with an artistic career of 53 years and specialization in children's and youth art.

Since 1972, he has produced a large catalogue of drawings of texts, poems, stories, book and magazine cover designs, both nationally and internationally. Ologwadgi has received 14 awards in painting, crafts, posters and illustrations for children and youth books.

He was selected by the Ministry of Education to artistically interpret the necessary modifications to the National Coat of Arms of the Republic of Panama, creating the reference coat of arms to coincide with the original from 1904. On November 2019, he was appointed as an art expert in the National Commission on National Symbols.

He is a cultural activist and a promoter of Guna children's art.




Vladimir Inuma

Shipibo-Konibo indigenous community leader, Cantagallo, Peru.


Julian Armando Cho

Place of Birth: San Jose, Belize
Date of Birth:
April 6, 1962

Julian Armando Cho

Julian Armando Cho was a Belizean indigenous rights advocate. He joined the Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC), a group working for the indigenous people of the Toledo District and was a force for indigenous rights. Julian also mobilized his people into functional groups, inspiring the formation of The Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA), and the Toledo Maya Women’s Council.

On December 3rd 1995, he led a peaceful demonstration march to voice the indigenous people concerns over the granting of logging concessions on indigenous lands.

He was able to mobilize and influence communities and develop strong affiliation with the Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC) which enabled him to effectively present the indigenous agenda to Belize and initiated the production of a Maya Atlas.

On November 25th 1998, the government of Belize signed a Memorandum of Understanding to negotiate a solution to the Maya land rights struggle.

Cho’s untimely death in December, 1998 was a huge loss to the Maya people and to the environment of southern Belize. He was posthumously awarded the James A. Waight Conservation Award for his tireless efforts.




Sandra Terena

Secretary of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality in Brazil.




Alejandro Neyra Sánchez

Minister of Culture of Peru.