Northwest Indian College Cancels Mexico Travel After Maya Indian UprisingNov 15th, 1993 | By tcj | Category: 5-3: Medicine, Tribal College News
The sudden New Year’s Day uprising of Mayan Indians in southern Mexico was followed with special interest at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington. Faculty and about six students had to cancel a long-planned trip to visit the Lacandon Indians living in the affected region.
For several years the college has built an affiliation with the Lacandon Indians who continue to live a traditional life in the Lacandon forest, which borders Guatemala in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
Beginning in 1992 the Maya Intern program gave Northwest Indian College students the opportunity to live and work with the Lacandon. The Lummi Tribe also hoped to help the Lacandon respond to the many outside pressures they faced (See Tribal College, Fall 1991).
The most recent trip was planned for February, but was canceled by mid January as unrest continued, according to college president Bob Lorence.
The dramatic emergence of Maya Indian rebels resulted in the brief occupation of the town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Largely dispersed by mid January, scattered bombing and charges of torture by the Mexican military continued as the college prepared to begin a new semester and the departure date drew near.
Press accounts reported that the guerrillas were based in the Lacandon forest. However, Lorence believes the Lacandon Indians did not participate. Information collected by Kurt Russo, head of the Lummi Tribal Treaty Protection Task Force, suggested that participants were other Mayan Indians who did not have a tribal affiliation or land base.
Lorence says that travel to the Lacandon homeland would require passage through the town of Ocosingo, where the worst fighting and greatest military presence was reported.