My Word

My Word

End the Struggle, Take the Offensive: Coalitions Against Kleptocracies
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December 17, 2016

Indigenous Nations can no longer continue asking officials of states’ governments to recognize their rights, to protect their lands, help their people. If evidence published in Intercontinental Cry, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and stories about the struggles and terrors of indigenous peoples written by reputable indigenous journalists around the world isn’t evidence enough—what is?

Action by indigenous nations and particularly their leaders is needed now to set new rules for ending the struggle. State’s governments must not be permitted any longer to determine the agenda alone—to set the criteria and terms of the struggle. If indigenous nations and their leaders do not move from the posture of defense to the position of offense the next decade will not be about “the struggle” but about weeping. There are states governments all over the world echoing the Trumplicans in the United States promoting an ideology of greed and power – kleptocracy.

The sharp swing away from democratic government to kleptocratic governments in the United States, Canada, Hungary, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Kenya, the Gambia, Burma, India, Russia and China marks a reversal of liberal democratic governance. This trend gained steam with the US Ronald Reagan Administration and the UK Margaret Thatcher government. Indigenous nations have been attempting to adapt to this swing, but now it is no longer a swing … it is now a full-blown reality in favor of self-aggrandizement and rejection the collective benefit. The Trumplicans are great Ayn Rand followers who advocate an ethical approach to government and life, “… benefits for the self at the expense of the many” that is utterly contrary to the ethics of most indigenous cultures in the world. Instead of the “unspoken selfishness” that characterizes the ethics of political parties and corporations, the Trumplicans openly espouse stealing for the benefit of individual wealth and power – Ayn Rand’s kleptocratic society. This is a greater danger to indigenous nations since many indigenous leaders can be lulled into believing they too can become rich and powerful if they cozy up to the Trumplicans in the US, Canada, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and perhaps 80 other governments around the world.

The move toward joining the Trumplicans has already begun as the National Congress of Americans coordinated development of a draft document “INDIAN NATIONS AND THE TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION” prepared for the Western Caucus Foundation Listening Session on Issues Important to Native Americans meeting in Washington, D.C. The document contains five recommendations intended for meetings with the Trumplican’s new Department Secretaries and a meeting with the Trump’s Transition people on 17 January in Arlington, Virginia. Instead of noticing the dangers of this administration, NCAI seems oblivious and robotic. The NCAI document proposes going along with Trump economic ideas without giving recognition to the adverse effects of implementing these ideas in Indian Country given the Trumplican ideology.  Asking for money from the Trumplican government (primarily the emphasis of the NCAI document) risks serious compromises at this point. NCAI emphasizes these primary points:

Economic Development, Tax Reform and Infrastructure

These are mainly issues left unresolved by the past three administrations (Clinton, Bush and Obama). Left unresolved by “friendly administrations” it seems rather doubtful that the Trumplicans will respond in any way that doesn’t undermine American Indians domestically and internationally. The Standing Rock experience by the Dakota Pipeline must be considered a lesson to all American Indian nations, and the National Congress of American Indians. Indigenous peoples and their governments must take back their lands, resources, and people stolen by the kleptocrats.

I don’t know what will persuade indigenous nations and their leaders to form coalitions among themselves and create aggressive and enforceable laws preventing damaging state/corporate development projects, confiscation of land, resources, air and water and the health of indigenous people. It isn’t for lack of information. Perhaps it is a lack of courage, imagination or simple commitment to collective survival. I doubt the latter, but courage and imagination are desperately needed.

The CWIS Good Governance Working Group produced a Joint Statement of Constitutional and Customary Indigenous Governments to the UNPFII in 2014 with the Qom Nation of Potae Napocna Navogoh (Argentina), Rohingya Nation (Burman [Myanmar], Nation of Biafra (Nigeria), Lenape, Mohegan Nation, Machantucket Piquot Nation, Quinault Nation and Yamasi (USA) and the Nation of San Francisco Xochicuautla (US of Mexico) to advance implementation of good governance consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These nations and the CWIS Working Group agreed that their Joint Statement submitted to the UN Permanent Forum merited serious consideration in large measure since the statement would hold each state and each indigenous nation accountable for implementing provisions of the UNDRIP. The UN ignored this carefully considered and developed statement.

Instead, the Permanent Forum chose to dismiss UN Member State’s government accountability only to shift responsibility to a lowly UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples Rights. This is a body with 5-7 members that will monitor UNDRIP implementation and “recommend” to the UN Human Rights Council—a notoriously powerless body—with only the power to “shame.” There is no enforcement of human rights laws (check how many people or governments have been held accountable for violations of the Genocide Convention (1948) the Geneva Conventions (rules of war) or the Convention Against Torture (1987)). So much so is the need for enforcement of solemnly adopted human rights laws) internationally and domestically that the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy Studies in Berlin, Germany issued a called to the UN in September 2012 to strengthen enforcement of the Genocide Convention. And, Global Research (Center for Research on Globalization) in Montreal, Can attempts to answer the question: “Why the Genocides Continue.” The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is being subverted into a “UN Accountability Declaration” instead of a Declaration that is intended to mandate state’s government accountability. No state is held accountable for UNDRIP mandates since there is no enforcement—just voluntary initiative. It appears that states’ governments may willy-nilly ignore and violate human rights laws since there is nothing but “shame” to nudge them toward honesty and accountability.

Lessons must be drawn from the fact that Indigenous peoples are being murdered, raped and enslaved in places like Nicaragua, Iraq, Burma, Russia’s Chechnya, South Sudan, Chad, Syria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, India, Peru not to mention the states in which land, people and natural life is being violated and destroyed by development of highways, pipelines, river diversions, and deforestation. Intercontinental Cry reports these events every day. A lesson from Standing Rock blocking the Dakota Pipeline is that when indigenous peoples and their nations come together in common defense to aggressively deter government and corporate destruction the “law of nations” can stand in the face of overwhelming odds. Xochicuatla to the west of Mexico City did exactly the same thing when the Mexican government and corrupt businesses pressed to build a highway through Xochicuatla territory over the last two years. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs has organized a 100 First Nations Treaty to block two pipelines the young Prime Minister Trudeau has approved. Perhaps the message is that indigenous nations must together “stand like a rock” in the face of kleptocratic governments and businesses seeking to steal from indigenous peoples. When nations are faced with eminent destruction in whole or in part that is “genocide.” The only enforcement available is to “stand like a rock” shoulder-to-shoulder with nations threatened with such violence.

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Dr. Rÿser is the Chairman of the Center for World Indigenous Studies. He served as Senior Advisor to the President George Manuel of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, Advisor and Speechwriter to Quinault President Joe DeLaCruz, a former Acting Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, and a former staff member of the American Indian Policy Review Commission. He holds a doctorate in international relations, teaches Fourth World Geopolitics through the CWIS Certificate Program ( He is the author of “Indigenous Nations and Modern States” published by Routledge in 2012.

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