In a historic act of presence and testament of Indigenous Nationhood and Self Determination, an Indigenous Peoples Forum convened on the floor of the Arizona State House of Representatives [March 23, 2012] to address the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous Peoples from a range of perspectives that ranged from the O’otham Hemuchkam to the academic, from the legal to the educational, and from the economic to the cultural. The event was organized by the Nahuacalli, Embassy of Indigenous Peoples as an expression of Self Determination and to move with healing into the future of the Nican Tlacah Ilhuitl, Indigenous Peoples Day.
The event was hosted by the Native American Caucus of the Arizona State Legislature, and presided over by the O’otham Hemuchkam upon whose traditional territories as O’otham Nations the capitol complex now stands. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples(UNDRIP), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007 served as reference and standard of protocol for the Indigenous Peoples Forum.
Taking reference from the UNDRIP, one of the official documents of the Forum read: “As Indigenous Peoples we are Peoples, equal to all other peoples, and our histories are equally part of the weave of Human Memory globally, and as such must be taken into account on an equal basis without discrimination to provide the necessary foundation for public policies of fairness and justice, in education and the delivery of services of public health and public safety by the states.”
The event was also streamed globally live from the floor of the state capitol complex via internet and is now an official proceeding to be archived within the processes of the Arizona State legislature. A report of the Indigenous Peoples Forum on the Doctrine of Discovery, including the video record, will be submitted to the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues(UNPFII). The Doctrine of Discovery is to be the subject of a Special Theme for discussion on the agenda of the next session of the UNPFII in May 2012 in New York.
Going beyond the agenda of the UN, the Indigenous Peoples Forum also called for Collective Corrective Actions to be taken at all levels, from the local and community, to the regional and continental in order to bring to light the violations of Human Rights and Indigenous Rights which have been perpetrated and continue to damage the Spirit of Humanity under the guise of the “Doctrine of Discovery” and the underlying “Framework of Domination”.
Among the presenters who addressed the Indigenous Forum on the Doctrine of Discovery on Friday March 23 was Professor Robert Miller of Lewis and Clark University who expounded on the historical and conceptual connections between the Doctrine of Discovery and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, including the framing of US jurisdiction over the Indigenous Peoples of North America based upon the Marshall Trilogy and the Johnson v. McIntosh decision by the US Supreme Court in 1823.
Steve Newcomb, of the Indigenous Law Institute revealed the underlying Framework of Domination that prescribes the imposition by colonization of the Doctrine of Discovery and the Yoke of Subjugation that is the history of US Federal Indian Law. He also revealed the lineage of racial profiling and “white privilege” that derives from the Doctrine of Discovery that is codified in the Federal and State Constitutions and Colonial Charters which serve to this day as the Organic Acts for the justification of jurisdiction by the states of the Americas (Arizona included) over the inherent rights of self determination of the Indigenous Peoples as Nations. Under the standards of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, these regimes of conception are now unacceptable at the global level, and at the local level it is the intent of the Indigenous Peoples Forum to bring forward the necessary systemic standards as collective corrective actions under the protocols of the UNDRIP and the Prerogatives of the Peoples: Tehan Titlacah.
Shannon Rivers, Akimel O’otham who facilitated the forum gave a stark and factual account as a member of the O’otham Nations on the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on the Indigenous Peoples of the territory. He also spoke of the work that is ongoing by the O’otham Hemuchkam to restore and heal from centuries of genocide and trauma that continues to be perpetuated by policies in Arizona that derive from the Doctrine of Discovery in violation of Human Rights and Indigenous Rights as articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Attorney Julie Cavanaugh Bill and Larson Bill of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, gave an in depth report on how the battle of the Western Shoshone to defend their rights of Self Determination under the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty with the US Government has led them into the battle fields of the US Courts, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the UN Commission for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva., Switzerland. The Western Shoshone, in particular through the efforts of Carrie Dann and her sister Mary Dann for decades have been at the forefront of the international struggle for Indigenous Rights and are known around the world for their persistence and the integrity of their legal position. For the Western Shoshone the principles of jurisprudence that provide the lens of definition for the issues are the Sacred Laws of Relationship among the Four Elements of the Natural World: Land-Air-Water-Spirit: LAWS.
La Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras (Indigenous Alliance Without Borders) represented by Monica Carrasco, gave a sweeping presentation on the regional aspects of 500 years of colonization from the perspective of the Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples whose territories were divided by the imposition of the international border between the US and Mexico in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and then again in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase. The lack of Free, Prior and Informed Consent with Indigenous Peoples in the processes that led to these international agreements among the government states in the territory is a clear violation of the Human Rights, Indigenous Rights including rights of mobility and territorial rights that are now inscribed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted on September 13, 2007. These violations are exacerbated even further by the economic policies of exploitation and expropriation of the natural resources and labor of Indigenous Peoples under the NAFTA regime.
Coming from Santa Maria Ocotan in the state of Durango, Mexico Virginia Flores Flores of the O’dam Nation spoke in her native language to the assembly of Indigenous Peoples and special guests who attended the event at the State Capitol, filling the floor of the House of Representatives and spilling into the upper level balcony. She spoke in O’dam and was understood by the attending O’otham Hemuchkam who nodded their heads in appreciation for her message as she spoke. Virginia spoke of the history of the migrations and displacements that her O’dam relatives in Mexico have experiences going back for centuries, and even thousands of years. She told the story of how she came to speak at the Indigenous Peoples Forum after having participated with the Nahuacalli, Embassy of Indigenous Peoples at a similar event in Mexico City three years ago. Since that first meeting in Mexico, she came to Arizona last year and now this time she is meeting with local O’otham Peoples to realize a gathering of the O’dam of Durango Mexico with the O’Otham of Sonora and Arizona. The O’dam of Durango possess a vast territorial base along the eastern flank of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico and number over 15,000 members many of whom are fluent O’dam speakers.
Gustavo Gutierrez, elder of the Opata Nation brought forty years of perspective to the event by relating the stories of the battles fought at the Arizona State legislature during the Farm worker Movement days of Cesar Chavez, when Native American leaders joined forces with the movement to organize for public policies of social justice. Gustavo strongly denounced the “ethnic cleansing” policies that would try to define Xicano Mexicano families as “Latinos or Hispanics”, caused by the trauma inflicted over generations by the Doctrine of Discovery. He denounced these policies as a premeditated pogrom of “psychological mind warfare” whose purpose is the imposition of a regime of intellectual apartheid in Arizona by the European American elites on both sides of the border working in collusion.
One of the specific local issues brought forward to Indigenous Peoples Forum was the demand by two traditional Mexican indigenous communities of the territory, the Tlamanalco and the Izkaloteca. These two Callpolli presented a DEMAND to the Arizona Department of Education culminating a ceremonial three day run from Tucson to Phoenix earlier in the month that called for instruction on the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery in the pubic schools across the state.
It's true in a sense--we're all indigenous to somewhere--however, there are fundamental differences between populations who identify as "indigenous" and those who no longer follow a traditional way of life....