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Honoring Huehuecoyotl Tupak Enrique Acosta

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

On November 9, 2023, renowned Indigenous elder and teacher, Huehuecoyotl Tupak Enrique Acosta made his way home to join the ancestors. Tupak co-founded TONATIERRA, an Indigenous organization dedicated to community empowerment, the fight for self-determination and the territorial integrity of Mother Earth. TONATIERRA also serves as the home of Nahuacalli, an Embassy of Indigenous Peoples.

While it would be impossible to recount all of Tupak’s accomplishments and contributions to the struggle for self-determination of Indigenous Peoples, his involvement in international work dates back many decades. In 1990, Tupak was part of the First Continental Encounter of Indigenous Nations, Pueblos, and Organizations, which took place in Quito, Ecuador, where he witnessed the rebirth of the Continental Confederacy of the Eagle and the Condor. From then forward, as recounted by TONATIERRA, “[the organization] was thrust into a continental scope of responsibilities and commitments that Tupac upheld till his final day, working tirelessly to bridge the gap between our Indigenous relatives from the North and the South.” Tupak also served as a judge of the First Nations International Court of Justice, as a representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, Switzerland, and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

WPLC Executive Director, Natali Segovia, reflected on Tupak’s legacy, “Tupak was an elder, friend, and mentor to so many - he will be greatly missed. I had the honor and privilege to learn from Tupak as a mentor over the past fifteen years beginning as a law student and into my work throughout Abya Yala (North and South) as a human rights attorney; he became family. His guidance, wisdom, critical insights, questions, and encouragement were a constant source of inspiration. He constantly challenged me to think beyond the confines of the law as we know it and to imagine a world of possibilities. Tupak led by example, with integrity, patience, humor, kindness, and interminable determination and clarity of purpose. Though no longer here physically, he is forever woven into our hearts and the fabric of our being. To say gracias or tlazocamati seems insufficient - I will say, instead, siempre presente!”

In 2021, the Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) jointly submitted with TONATIERRA a Freedom of Information Act Request to U.S. government agencies to address the forced disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa. Tupak personally appeared at the Mexican Embassy in Arizona every 26th of the month in remembrance of the disappeared students demanding their return. Tupak and Natali also spoke on a National Lawyers Guild webinar on self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. He also worked tirelessly to shed light on the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous Peoples.

Most recently, Tupak had agreed to serve on the board of directors for the Water Protector Legal Collective. Tupak always said we “raised our hearts” at Standing Rock and remained a constant supporter of our work to defend our Indigenous relatives working around the globe in defense of the territorial integrity of Mother Earth.

At WPLC, we continue that work to protect the Earth and further the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We honor Tupak’s memory and will do everything we can to continue his legacy and to support our sister organization, TONATIERRA, in doing so.

Tupak’s Memorial Celebration will be held at Salt River on

Saturday, November 18th 1pm-6pm.

The eulogy will be delivered by Mr. Oren Lyons, Faith Keeper of the Turtle Clan, Indian Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House). The family has requested that donations in Tupak’s memory be made to TONATIERRA to support his legacy.

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