An Update from the UN: UN Celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative at the United Nations

Every year the UN celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day in August as well as prepares a conference on Indigenous Peoples in April 2021.

In January 2020, the NGO Mining Working Group decided to take two directions for the year:

One was towards the Democratic Republic of the CONGO (DRC) and the other the Amazon.

I decided to chair the Amazon subcommittee of the Mining Working Group.  It was an opportunity to dive right in and learn something new and work with others who knew more than I about the Amazon. One of the most important tasks was to learn which countries made up the Amazon and the issues  affecting  the Indigenous peoples.  The Amazon is made up of the following nine countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela.

One of the attractive aspects of the Amazon subcommittee was that in September 2019 the Amazon Synod was held in Rome. I had the privilege of attending some of the events in Rome as the International Justice Promoters were meeting at that same time frame in Rome. One evening we walked to the Vatican Plaza and met many of Indigenous from the Amazon and heard the story of Dorothy Stang, SNDeNamur.

The Amazon subcommittee began its work in January by dividing up the Amazon Synod document and sharing the content of the document. This was  a way for us to learn and review what happened at the Synod and what the people desired for themselves.  This document reminds me of the Vatican II document of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). It begins “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men (people) of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”

After we reviewed the document we began several in services to learn more about the Amazon countries.

We also began preparation for the Indigenous Peoples Forum that was to be held in April 2020.

We met with a delegate of the  Nuncio of the Holy See to ask them to cosponsor a UN side event. 

We also worked closely with the Executive Director of the Amazon organization called REPAM (Red Ecclesial Panamazonica). We were preparing for the arrival of indigenous from Brazil and Ecuador to join us for two weeks. It was a very exciting beginning until COVID-19 came.  All our plans had to be put on the shelf for next year.  Although, the conference was postponed until next year it gave us time to learn more about the Amazon as well as begin to see how we ought to advocate on behalf of the Amazonia peoples.

We wrote letters to the Member State Ambassador of our concern about the indigenous being affected by the Covid Pandemic as well as created a Covid document that we sent to all of the Amazonia Member States.

We also reached out to Dominicans in the Amazon to share with us their stories of what is happening.  We heard from Friar Daniel Guzman of Peru and Sr. Jeaneth of Peru.  Their eyewitness stories helped us to advocate on behalf of the indigenous of the Amazon.

Our hope this fall is to study more what is happening by way of deforestation in the Amazon.

If any of you are interested in working on a subcommittee regarding deforestation in the Amazon please let me know.  In these days, it is easier to participate in the work of the UN via the internet and email.  It would be wonderful to have some of you join us in the research and study of the Amazon. Please write to me at  It would be a pleasure to have more Dominicans engaged in this work of the UN.