Monday, February 28, 2011

Neutralizing Indigenous Sovereignty

As Rick Harp, editor of Media Indigena, notes, one way of neutralizing indigenous sovereignty is by undermining indigenous institutions. In the old days, that took the form of outlawing their councils, languages, economies, gatherings, and protector societies; today that takes the form of federal interventions that usurp indigenous governance all together. Laying the ideological groundwork for such bold acts of dominion, says Harp, involves sowing dissension by attacking the only institutions with the experience and ability to guard against transnational corporations and modern states intending to lay waste to indigenous territories.

Says Harp, this is already happening in Australia, and will happen in Canada, too, if Canada’s prime minister has his way.

While indigenous institutions like the Assembly of First Nations and the National Congress of American Indians play different roles than NGOs like the Indigenous Environmental Network or think tanks like the Center for World Indigenous Studies, they are all part of the indigenous peoples movement infrastructure, infrastructure that the movement requires to defend themselves. Cutting off the leadership from resources, impugning their integrity, or peddling crises to impute their viability, is all part of destroying indigenous sovereignty, and as Harp warns, the attack has begun.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Federal Faith Funding

Bruce Wilson examines the federally-funded missionaries teaching in Florida public schools. Established under the Clinton administration faith-based initiatives, evangelizing against unions, gays, and Native Americans continues to be subsidized by the federal government.

After union-busting against Chicago teachers, it would appear Obama's promotion of bigoted evangelicals like Rick Warren is part of his strategy to privatize public education. As a devotee of Ronald Reagan, Obama -- like Bush -- would have picked up on this part of the game plan to transfer even more wealth from the public treasury to the private equity holdings of the aristocracy.

Watching the attacks on public employee unions in Wisconsin, Obama must be in seventh heaven.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Philosophy of Privilege

In the 1990s, when I was embroiled in the property rights political turmoil that catalyzed the modern militia movement, the cast of characters engaged in vigilantism and the grievances they promoted were pretty much the same as they are today. Their rebellion -- fueled by racism, religious fundamentalism, and beliefs about international conspiracies -- culminated in murders, shootouts with police, bombings, and arrests.

Today, that movement still feeds off the hostilities surrounding abortion, immigration, the United Nations, and the Federal Reserve system. Politicians still pander to their bigotry, and activists still harass targets of their prejudice.

Reading accounts of the history of American Conservatism, what is clear is that the philosophy of privilege that undergirds their violent prejudice is a mainstream attribute of American culture. While individuals pick and choose the particulars that make up their personal prejudice packs, they are by and large against human rights, which makes them sympathetic with the historical position of the United States Government until very recently.

With the advent of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, relationships between indigenous peoples and metropolitan populations is undergoing a makeover that will redefine property rights, borders and governance worldwide. It is also addressing such things as privilege and religious colonialism.

As we struggle to adapt to the consequences of climate change and economic globalization, we must be mindful of the political undercurrents that, left unchallenged, have the power to undermine our achievements as well as derail our ongoing efforts. In many ways, we have yet to recover from the last murderous rampage.

Monday, February 14, 2011


The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights awaits former U.S. President George W. Bush with indictments that are supported by the International Commission of Jurists.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shining a Light

I have occasionally written here about dominion theology and religious colonization as part of the indigenous experience that forms a backdrop to many of the ills and unresolved grievances we face today. But while we struggle against the backwardness and cruelties of religious fundamentalism, we must also acknowledge the role of liberation theology in shining a light on the social justification for the indigenous peoples’ movement.

For anyone who has committed their lives to social justice, the ironies that comprise the evolution of human rights for indigenous peoples are simply part of the landscape. In Chiapas, one man who became part of the indigenous landscape was Don Samuel Ruiz Garcia, the bishop of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas from 1959-2000. Tatic Samuel (Father Samuel in the Mayan language tzotzil) passed away on January 24.

While the Zapatista uprising in 1994 was not his doing, the work of Tatic Samuel in raising political consciousness among the Lacandon Maya is part of their story. In his view, Father Samuel illuminated the obstacles and alternative paths for them to recuperate their dignity. In 2004, Samuel Ruiz said, “The question that God puts to us at the end of our existence will be: What side were we on?”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Fulfilling the Promise

United South and Eastern Tribes president Brian Patterson says the 565 federally recognized Indian tribes in the US must challenge the plenary power of Congress in order to fulfill the promise of the nation-to-nation relationship embedded in the US Constitution and Indian treaties. Backed by the National Congress of American Indians, USET plans to make sovereignty and self-determination genuine, ending the two centuries of federal trust mismanagement of Indian lands and resources that has forced the tribes to spend enormous amounts on lawyers and litigation. As the Bear Clan representative to the Oneida Indian Nation council, Patterson says, “This current game is not our game. At some point we have to pause and figure out if this is the game we want to be playing.”