10 Rigoberta Menchú Tum Quotes to commemorate World Indigenous Peoples Day

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed globally on August 9th every year to raise awareness and protect the rights of indigenous people all around the world. 

To commemorate this special day we want to share with you bits of wisdom from our dear laureate, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her courageous work on uplifting the rights of indigenous people in Guatemala.

Here are 10 quotes that she has shared throughout the years on different topics regarding indigenous peoples and their fight for justice. 

  • On their contributions to science and technology

The indigenous peoples never had, and still do not have, the place that they should have occupied in the progress and benefits of science and technology, although they represented an important basis for this development. 

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On being respected as human beings

We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism. 

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On freedom for all

Let there be freedom for the Indians, wherever they may be in the American Continent or elsewhere in the world, because while they are alive, a glow of hope will be alive as well as a true concept of life.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On eliminating discrimination

I resolutely believe that respect for diversity is a fundamental pillar in the eradication of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. There is no excuse for evading the responsibility of finding the most suitable path toward the elimination of any expression of discrimination against indigenous peoples.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On having a seat at the table

It is not possible to conceive a democratic Guatemala, free and independent, without the indigenous identity shaping its character into all aspects of national existence.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On the real definition of peace

We say no to the peace that keeps us on our knees, no to the peace that keeps us in chains, no to the false peace that denies the values and contributions of our peoples.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On being silenced

The media and politics have never allowed our people to speak through them. The absolute marginalization of the indigenous peoples is a fact, as is sophisticated militarization. These have been the most significant ingredients in the silent war.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On sharing their ancestral wisdom

The Mayas, our grandparents, always said; every human being occupies a small piece of time. Time itself is much longer, and because of this they always said that we must care for this earth while we are on it because it will be part of our children and the children of our grandchildren. They know that life is short, that it can end so soon, and that if one gets lost on the way, others will come to take their place.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  • On how to achieve peace

Peace cannot exist without justice. 

Justice cannot exist without fairness.

Fairness cannot exist without development.

Development cannot exist without democracy.

Democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

  •  On visibility

I am deeply glad that 1993 has been declared the International Year of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations. It is the first year we have had in five hundred years. This is thanks to the struggle of many untitled, unnamed indigenous brothers and sisters who, without understanding international law, patiently walked the corridors asking for some time. Thanks to them this international year has been declared.

— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

If you want to learn more about Rigoberta’s life, you can go to her own laureate page on our website. There you’ll find more details about her life as well as other resources (such as books & her own movie) to know more about her story.   

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