A Real Reckoning

A Real Reckoning

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May 10, 2012

Jenni Monet at Indian Country Today recently interviewed James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, who remarked, “There needs to be a real reckoning of the history that indigenous people suffered and an understanding that the social conditions [of today] are a direct consequence of this inter-generational trauma.” And though this remark on its face seems encouraging, in that it acknowledges a reality any thinking and caring person can embrace, Anaya then goes on to characterize the relationship of Indigenous nations and modern states as one where the former are subsumed in the latter. It’s almost as though Anaya sets up his audience with an emotional appeal, then subtly attacks their intelligence.

While this colonial characterization might easily slide past careless readers, or small minds captured by the platitudes of corporate compliance, it nonetheless seamlessly undermines the Indigenous resurgence to reclaim their legitimacy as self-governing political entities.

One thing to keep in mind about the UN is that its primary loyalty is to its member states and their governments that currently frustrate the realization of self-determination by Indigenous nations. While Mr. Anaya is arguably doing the best he can within this colonial framework, his remark that Indigenous peoples rights may be sacrificed to the compelling interests of UN member states signals recalcitrant governments worldwide that all they have to do to satisfy the UN is endorse human rights for Indigenous nations on paper, then abrogate those very rights under the charades of economic austerity or national security. Given such a monstrous loophole by the very man in charge of promoting Indigenous sovereignty, transnational corporations must be popping the corks on champagne.

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