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Global indigenous movement challenging mining interests

Consider that when global actors invest in Canadian or Australian mines – or indeed, when Canadian mining companies seek to operate in Latin America – they do so on the premise that title to the lands and
resources is assured. Increasingly, that premise is being called into question, as Indigenous people use domestic and international law, the press and the mechanisms of environmental activism to shut down mine sites…….

Toward an Aboriginal Grand Strategy, Global Brief, DOUGLAS SANDERSON  June 21, 2013     “Classical wampum diplomacy may be dead and gone. But North America’s Indigenous people are once again power players…….today, in the year 2013, Indigenous people are resurgent: their claims to protection of their lands and interests are increasingly being heeded by the courts. Indeed, these Aboriginal interests are intersecting decisively with the economic interests of states and the profitability of major companies.

The Indigenous
political philosophy that once dominated diplomatic protocols is
returning to prominence – not only among and for Indigenous people,
but as a hard lesson for domestic and foreign investors who have
forgotten that their ancestors arrived in a complex web of
pre-existing relations that is now assuming a 21st century
The language of Indigenous international diplomacy is tied directly to
the land and the various ‘other than human beings’ – animals, plants,
trees, rocks, insects – that inhabited Turtle Island, bound together
in an all-pervasive ecology. Indigenous nations regarded themselves as
part of these landscapes, and divided themselves into family clans
based on animal totems in order to represent their place in the
geography and spirit of the land. This set of relationships between
Indigenous communities and the land and animals around them was known
as the web of relations. When Europeans arrived in Turtle Island, the
presumption of First Nations was that these newcomers would have to be
welcomed and brought into the existing order of things – that with
help, the Europeans would eventually find their own place in the web
of relations on Turtle Island……
Of course, the end came abruptly for the Europeans vis-à-vis the web
of relations. By the end of the War of 1812, Indigenous nations in
Canada were no longer needed as military allies. In the US, Indigenous
people were regarded not as allies, but as enemy landholders who stood
in the way of national expansion (manifest destiny). ……
The US and even the Canadian and British governments wiped their
hands clean of the web of relations, and installed themselves as
masters of their new world. The volte-face was complete. Indigenous
people were, in the ensuing years, confined to reservations and
boarding or residential schools. History books – certainly those books
used in elementary and high schools – edited out any trace of the old
order. Indigenous people were relegated in both popular and academic
culture to prehistoric ‘savages’ to whom nothing was owed, and whose
eventual extinction was both assured and desirable. The web of
relations was forgotten, treaties ignored, the covenant chains rusted,
and the wampum belts and beads exiled to museums to gather dust.
The legacy of this neglect is today evident in the shocking
socioeconomic statistics of Indigenous people, as compared to the
settler people…….
Despite this socioeconomic picture, Indigenous groups across the globe
have begun to reassert their rights. They are aided in these efforts
by domestic and international law. In Canada, Australia, New Zealand
and several Nordic countries, Indigenous rights are increasingly
recognized by the highest courts in the land. The courts are affirming
Indigenous rights (or title) to their traditional lands. The UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was signed by 144
nations. It recognizes the cultural, linguistic, political and
economic rights of the world’s Indigenous people. The interconnection
between Indigenous people and their lands has been recognized in
unique ways. In New Zealand, for example, the Whanganui River itself
has legal standing to sue in domestic courts under an agreement
between local Indigenous groups and the New Zealand Crown.
Implicit in these domestic and international orders are Indigenous
understandings not only of their rights against others, but of
Indigenous peoples’ continuing place in the web of relations. The
demographic dominance of the settler people has not altered Indigenous
political philosophy, and Indigenous people thus reassert their rights
in order to perform their roles as stewards of the land, and as actors
within a web of relations that the settler people too often regard
merely as a landscape from which resources (or utility, or rents) can
be extracted.    In Canada, recent months have witnessed a vast
uprising of Indigenous people marching under the banner of Idle No
Consider that when global actors invest in Canadian or Australian
mines – or indeed, when Canadian mining companies seek to operate in
Latin America – they do so on the premise that title to the lands and
resources is assured. Increasingly, that premise is being called into
question, as Indigenous people use domestic and international law, the
press and the mechanisms of environmental activism to shut down mine
Economic development on Indigenous lands is clearly possible. But the
old ways of doing business are over. It is no longer sufficient – or
even workable – for foreign or domestic investors to work solely
within the economic, political and legal frameworks of the settler
nations. Permission from local communities must be sought. Their
interests must be accommodated, and their concerns addressed –
particularly when it comes to land and its sustainability

June 22, 2013 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, indigenous issues

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