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Past Salasaca National President Nicolas "Miguel" Chango at the United Nation--Indigenous Leader from Ecuador
By Steve Grove
June 16, 2004
In one way or another, Nicholas Chango has been preparing for leadership since the day he was born. The elders of his tribe in Ecuador, the Salasaca, predicted that Chango would be a great leader, and commemorated his birth with many ceremonies. From an early age, Chango says, they put him through an intense training program that sometimes lasted 15 hours a day.
Brought to a cornfield in the early hours of the morning, Chango was taught to listen to nature and pray to the sun.
"[The elders] helped me to understand that all the land is interconnected, " Chango remembers. Later, these elders (called yachaj) wanted Chango to learn how to represent the Salasaca in Ecuadorian society. So they sent him to high school outside of the village.
There, Chango came into contact with non-indigenous Ecuadorians and a society that has a long history of oppression of indigenous peoples. Spanish conquistadors came to Equador in 1534, taking control of the land and weakening the indigenous population with disease. Many Salasacan women were reportedly used as forced laborers. In the 21st century, conflicts between the groups have continued, as indigenous groups wrestle with the mestizo population for a voice in the country’s tenuous democracy.
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