My Word

My Word

Indigenous Nations and the Coming Cold War
Support our journalism. Become a Patron!
October 24, 2016

Indigenous nations became targets for states waging the “war on terror” when they pursued strategic actions aimed at achieving self-determination and restoring their lands taken by adversarial states. They were caught in the pinch between actual non-state groups waging attacks on states in the name of Islam, and states using “drones” as a tactical method for attacking them – often hitting and killing indigenous communities. That pinch is about to expand into a global cold war between the United States and her allies and Russia and her allies. President Putin’s offensive moves into Georgia, Ukraine and Syria will be met by a President Hillary Clinton administration aiming to force “Russian Regime Change”—a new cold war.

The indigenous peoples of Syria (Armenians, Kurds, Mhallami, Aramaic, Circassians, Yezidi), Iraq (Kurds, Assyrians, Circassians, Yezidi, Feylis, Shabaks, Mandaeans, Ka’kais, Bedouins, Ukraine’s Crimea (Tartars), Georgia (Abkazia and Ossetia) have been caught up in what is turning into a proxy war between Russia and the United States of America with Syria’s Assad, proto-Caliphate Daesh (ISIS) and the Iraq government increasingly playing in the background.

The Qatari, Saudi Arabian and United Arab Republics governments are allied with the US while Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Hamas are allied with the Russian Government. The militarily weak indigenous nations are caught in the middle of this hugely violent conflict between the US and Russia largely fought by the numerous players. The players shift from Russia to the US or to neutral to obtain weapons or air support and to protect their lives and societies while the proto-Caliphate Daesh (ISIL).

What are the other signs of a growing renewed Cold War? The incoming Hillary Clinton Administration brought aboard the political campaign a whole host of neo-conservative military and foreign policy people readying to move into the US Department of Defense, State Department and National Security Council. Clinton portrays Russia as the primary international villain. Russia’s President Putin has personal enmity for Clinton claiming while she was US Secretary of State funding from the US increased for NGOs opposed to the Russian President’s reelection. He took that very personally. He has made that clear with his efforts to prevent her election to the US presidency with the use of hacked emails and releasing them to Wikileaks.

Indigenous nations in Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Yemen, and in Northern Africa will likely find themselves having to salve the pinch from Russian and US demands for fealty in the Cold War. Indigenous nations suffered enormously from the First Cold War after 1945.


The Walloons of eastern Belgium have decided to veto by a vote of 46 to 16 a pending trade agreement (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada. The European Union requires unanimous consent by authorized governments (Wallonia has an indigenous government recognized by the Belgium federation) to consider and either adopt or reject trade deals. The Walloons have decided to exercise their franchise to prevent what they consider an agreement that takes the power from governments (theirs) and gives over powers involving agricultural protections and an arbitration process that allows investors the power to sue states—Wallonia does not accept such provisions. The Coming Cold War will require more Wallonias if indigenous peoples are to protect themselves against the pressures of Russian/USA polarity demands.

As I have frequently argued in the past, Indigenous nations now have only one real defense against states taking their lands, their people, their cultures, and their resources. That defense is to exercise their powers of self-government, expand those powers and establish alliances that are workable and enforceable with other indigenous nations.

The Walloons have demonstrated the power of self-government. It is a lesson even the smallest of nations must learn from. All indigenous nations have powers they have not used and they must now move to exercise self-government in whatever form they can manage given their political environment.

The cross currents of ideology and personality between the nuclear power states has destroyed many indigenous nations when they sought to choose sides. Neutrality is the strongest position to take founded on a strong community based government, good economic choices and greater education and health opportunities for the peoples of each nation. The Cold War pinch is on the horizon and indigenous nations must prepare.

* * *

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.

We're fighting for our lives

Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.

independent uncompromising indigenous
Except where otherwise noted, articles on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons License