THIS year for the 17th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in April 2018, Sandra Ceballos was selected to be one of the lucky 20 indigenous students from around the world - to receive the important Tribal Link Foundation Project Access Training course for the UNPFII, and we got to know each other very well, as I was her mentor to work with her and others in drafting the group statement to be read in the illustrious hall of the United Nations headquarters in New York City, USA.
Before I go any further, I think it is of utmost importance, for you the reader, to get a brief yet valuable, peek inside the beautiful soul of Sandra Ceballos, to know where she has come from, in order to better fathom - where she is going in this life; so here is a little background info about her:
Sandra has come a very long way physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, a voyage of discovery WITHIN herself, which was the foundation that allowed her to build upon so devotedly and honorably. Rescuing her true identity in a world that tried to extinguish it in her parents and Kolla Tribal Nation ancestors.....
She was born in San Salvador de Jujuy, in the north of Argentina, a proud descendant of the Kolla Indigenous People. Her parents left the community to travel across the country seeking work, settling in the Argentine region called Patagonia in the south, before later ending up in the federal capital of the state.
Here she grew up, between the cold and lifeless steel and concrete.
The family always went back to their indigenous homeland to enjoy her maternal grandmothers company, who always had meals and other preparations done with love - before their arrival.
Seeing her grandmother Juanita and spending time with her, allowed Sandra to learn the tasks of the Kolla women, their ways of cooking in a wood burning stove, using clay pots instead of metal ones, the way of raising animals, how to bake bread in a clay oven, the way of showing love and generosity to everyone, the use of ancestral medicines - and the respect for mother Earth which that taught her; the joy of singing ancestral songs, and contentedness in life. Sandra also learned to value the hard work and effort of her maternal grandfather Pedro.
Sadly, over the years Sandra lost her parents, and for a time it was only her and her two younger brothers living in the big city. They struggled on to survive, but an increasingly stronger urge...a spiritual calling, was growing in Sandra, to remember her true indigenous identity, and not surrender or hide it - in order to 'fit-in' to a society that was never friendly towards indigenous presence and identity such as Argentina is....with its false sense of being a Éuropean society' built on the backs of native peoples. ...lest we forget, during the 1800's when the USA was conquering westwards and slaughtering its native landlords on the North American Great Plains - Argentina was doing the same - conquering southwards and slaughtering its own native landlords on the great plains of southern Argentina!
Sandras Spirit guides helped Sandra to recognise her true self, and to not only value it - but share it with the world and encourage others who had succumbed to self-contempt due to social pressures from dominant society.
Sandra studied and before long she qualified and became a Radio and TV presenter, and thus began her work in the media spotlight. She was also successful in becoming an actress in Argentinian cinema - due to her striking features and very personable traits.....from then it was no turning back for Sandra and her indigenous identity was given free reign in all she did.
She continued her legal studies as well, and while she was still working as a radio presenter, she met Dr Eulogio Frites, a Lawyer from her own Kolla people.....a gentleman and intelectual who was a pioneer in indigenous rights in Argentina and internationally.
Sandra became a qualified lawyer and Dr Eulogio opened the doors to his Organization the Commission of Indigenous Jurists in the Argentine Republic (CJIRA). ....and she began to learn closely from him....whilst still pursuing her post-graduate studies - earning a Masters Degree in International Human Rights Law, during this same time she began to get involved in international legal forums....continuing the work of the CJIRA had started in 1975 - at the start of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.
Unfortunately, 3 years ago her mentor, teacher, authority and guide died, Dr Eulogio Frites, but his shinning example continues to light her way ever forward,to do honest work for the rights of her indigenous brothers and sisters, to strengthen our collective resolve as proud indigenous peoples, to achieve what our elders fought for, wished for, and died for before us....so that we are respected in our diversity, cultures and values that we hold dear for ourselves - and our generations yet unborn.
Sandra is still working at Radio Nacional in Argentina, she has helped to create the Association of Indigenous Women Lawyers (AMAI), in addition to being the Chair of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Faculty of Law in the University of Buenos Aires!
About her experience in New York at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 17th session in April 2018, Sandra said: "The experience of participating in the Project Access Tribal Link Foundation training program, has been a great stimulus for me, feeling the love, support and encouragement of a wonderful group of human beings, indigenous brothers and sisters with extensive experience, who accompany and mutually give strength to each other, it seems to me that is was a profound moment where my personal work and life - and my collective sense of global indigenous identity became one. I am very grateful to my trainer Andrea Carmen, my dear mentors Damon, Tai, Ghazali, Victor, Roberto, and Director Pamela Kraft - for this enormous opportunity to be a part of this globally unique learning experience; hugs to all of you!"
However, BEFORE that we had late nights working together as a group in our hotel rooms drafting the statement
Here our fantastic trainer Andrea Carmen of the International Indian Treaty Council at left, with Sandra Ceballos at right
Sandra was in New York attending the 17th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN Headquarters, and she received a pre-UNPFII training course taught by respected Indigenous Rights expert Andrea Carmen of the International Indian Treaty Council/IITC, and co-mentored by Ghazali Ohorela (Alifaru), Damon Corrie (Lokono-Arawak), Tai Pellicier (Taino-Arawak), and Victor Anthony Lopez-Carmen (Yaqui & Lakota).