Sep 24, 2014 - Indigenous Rights are not Given from the Tongues of Oppressors (World Conf. on Indigenous Peoples)

Indigenous Rights are not Given from the Tongues of Oppressors: The Disempowerment Manifested within the so-called World Conference of Indigenous Peoples

Andrea Landry

First and foremost, being involved with the processes leading up to the United Nations High-Level Plenary to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (HLPM WCIP), I fully understand and respect the work that it took in order to state what is needed for advancements of Indigenous Peoples globally. Meetings with little to no sleep, long days of travel, Indigenous peoples putting their lives at stake by defying the oppressor, and time away from family and friends. And for this, I honor and respect the work that Indigenous peoples have committed to and followed through with in regards to this process, yet there is a piece fundamentally missing in this colonially directed process.

Everything in the final outcome document for the HLPM WCIP which was accepted and adopted by UN States are things that we, as Indigenous peoples, do not need colonial recognition or ratification for. We are fully allowing UN States to continuously dictate, and decide our rights, by agreeing to the highly acclaimed outcome document in partnership with these said States. Through this we are completely fulfilling the role and duty of the colonizer – to disempower Indigenous peoples, which is -ourselves.  To disempower ourselves creates one less obstacle for the oppressor in order to fully subjugate and dominate a peoples. We have taken and became the role of an oppressor simply by disempowering ourselves by agreeing to the concept that States hold the power of deciding our rights as Indigenous Peoples through this outcome document.

The only thing that States have to accept is that they, as oppressors and colonizers, have no right to give and take a people’s rights and livelihoods. We, as Indigenous peoples have to fundamentally realize how to no longer self-colonize through the process of re-empowering ourselves. By fully neglecting the input from the oppressors, Indigenous peoples can find land-based and practical solutions, as a collective.

Taking these concepts of the UN Outcome Document for the so-called High Level Plenary Meeting to be known as the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples to a more personal level, one can compare the UN States to that of a rapist, and the Indigenous Peoples as an individual.

When we, as Indigenous Peoples, request, ask, gain acceptance from, or get approval from the UN States in order to simply be Indigenous, from the very states that claimed to have power to erode our rights, it is just as comparable as me telling the man who raped me “you can dictate which rights I have” post-rape. But instead, in this case, we are telling the UN States (the violators) “you can dictate which rights we have” throughout the ongoing discourse of colonization and oppression. Another examples would be me asking the man who raped me for the mind-set I once held pre-rape. We are asking these State violators for the mind-set we also had pre-rape. We should not, and will not, ask any perpetrator of colonial injustice to “give us” a sense of being, to empower us. And we should not, and will not ask a violator for a way of being and for something that was “taken” from us. Asking for those rights is empowering the oppressor/violator and further disempowering the oppressed/violated.

Looking at the outcome document in full, it is all completely dedicated towards heads of state and government, and  ministers and representatives of member states committing to, and ensuring, that they play the fully encompassing role of protecting and dictating the rights of ALL Indigenous peoples. The savior role. Most of the articles throughout the document contains roles and duties whereas the UN states and governments are the solution holders for colonially implemented problems.

Below are a few examples from the Outcome Document:

11. We commit ourselves to ensuring equal access to high-quality education that recognizes the diversity of the culture of Indigenous peoples and to health, housing, water, sanitation and other economic and social programmes to improve well-being, including through initiatives, policies and the provision of resources. We intend to empower Indigenous peoples to deliver such programmes as far as possible.

This article claims the role that the oppressor can, and will, empower Indigenous peoples. Simply by agreeing with this article, Indigenous peoples are stating that they are disempowered beyond the means to empower themselves and must be reliant on external colonial forces to empower them.

Taking this to the personal level again, this is like the man who raped me stating “I commit to ensure equal access to quality programming for you after all I’ve done to you. Also, I want to empower you to run programs for other rape survivors.”

By agreeing to this, myself as the survivor, and Indigenous peoples as the survivors, we are stating that we will take a helping hand from the perpetrator and will be empowered by that perpetrator. The injustice lays in claiming the victim role from the saviour role.

Continuing on, we look at

17. We commit to ourselves to supporting the empowerment of Indigenous women and to formulating and implementing, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, in particular Indigenous women are their organizations, policies and programmes designed to promote capacity-building and strengthen their leadership. We support measures that will ensure their full and effective participation of Indigenous women in decision-making processes at all levels and in their participation in political, economic, social and cultural life.

Again, here we are, as Indigenous peoples, giving colonial governments the power and authority to “empower” Indigenous women and “create” strong leaders. Looking at this again from a personal level, this would be like the man who raped me stating to me “I want you to be a stronger leader and more empowered, but in order to do so, you have to work with me fully and effectively. Because only I can empower you.” The absurdity in that is transparent, yet on the UN level, a similar request and statement is seen as an advancement in the rights of Indigenous peoples.

The last article I’d like to point out is:

25. We commit ourselves to developing, in conjunction with the Indigenous peoples concerned, and where appropriate, policies, programmes and resources to support indigenous peoples’ occupations, traditional subsistence activities, economies, livelihoods, food security, and nutrition.

In this statement Indigenous peoples are requesting and relying on the oppressor to create security for insecurities created by that very oppressor through policies and programming. Again, on a personal level, this is like the man who raped me stating “I will create programmes and policies to support your way of life, for you security.” And me agreeing to it, thus agreeing to the concept that the only way security is achieved by gaining assistance from the perpetrators.

The final point in this regards showcases the role that so-called Canada plays in this process. During the discussions on September 22nd, 2014, the representative of Canada stated that they would be making separate comments in regards to the Outcome document. Highlighting paragraph 5 of their statement, it can be read as follows:

“Agreeing to paragraph 3 of the Outcome Document would commit Canada to work to integrate Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in its processes with respect to implementing legislative or administrative measures affecting Aboriginal peoples. This would run counter to Canada’s constitution, and if implemented, would risk fettering Parliamentary supremacy.”

The only difference between Canada’s motives, and other government’s motives, based on how they treat Indigenous peoples is the in your face combativeness they host when it comes to Indigenous people’s rights. The colonial government of so-called Canada is straight forward with their supremacist ways of thinking, constantly claiming the superiority and denying the rights of Indigenous peoples through a colonial system, the UN. This statement alone would be like the man who raped me stating “if I agree to your rights as a woman, Andrea, that would counter-act my own supremacy over you.”

Yet here is the ultimate conclusion to this mess,

Indigenous peoples do not have to hold States accountable for their rights as Indigenous peoples. Why? Because Indigenous rights cannot be dictated through the lips of the oppressor. Rights are found in the land, timeless, boundless, and truthful. Yet, man has made rights their slave, forcing them to play a role, or not play a role, in those they feel are more, or less, deserving. Rights are not owned by a dictator named the UN, nor by those men who rape women. Rights are fearless, free, and are engrained in our DNA. So disregard those rights dictated by men who are in relationships with economic development and regard those rights defined by self.  The rights defined by self will be the rights that will eliminate ideologies of the colonizer saving the colonized, and the oppressor empowering the oppressed.

In order to progress fundamentally, and truthfully, Indigenous peoples have to acknowledge and fully embody their rights with the denial of the UN systems being the ones in charge of dictating those rights. If we are the care-takes of the land, what give the UN the right to be the care-taker of our rights associated with the land, our bodies, and our ways of being.

Last Real Indians