As Rudolph C. Ryser of the Center for World Indigenous Studies noted in his interview at IC Magazine, the US Government extends legitimacy to some indigenous nations in the form of federally-recognized tribes, but due to termination policies of the past, most American Indians no longer live on reservations. These officially displaced Indians, some enrolled tribal members and some not, harbor understandable grievances
Prior to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) proposal, put forward by Bolivian President Evo Morales at the UN in 2010, most indigenous nations were busy dealing with modern states domestically, not internationally. In the US and Canada, indigenous governing authorities spent most of the last half century rebuilding their societies in the aftermath of genocidal colonial conquest.
Due to combined efforts of church and state, these indigenous societies were devastated, and dysfunctional in many ways. Christianity and alcohol made traditional indigenous governance impossible. Dependence on church and state, psychologically and financially, created internal conflict that made indigenous nations susceptible to corruption by corporations, often working alongside church and state.
The rejection of this paradigm by the National Indian Brotherhood, forerunner of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in Canada, by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), by the American Indian Movement, and by traditional indigenous leaders led to important reforms in church and state policy toward indigenous nations. This in turn led to reforms within indigenous nations, eager to reassert jurisdiction over their traditional territories, and desperate for educational and economic development.
Policies of traditional indigenous leaders sometimes conflict with elected indigenous authorities, but both have legitimacy within their societies, so these conflicts have to be worked out within each indigenous nation. Modern states still try to impose their will on indigenous nations, but with the discrediting of church and state colonial policy, states like Canada and the US mostly collude with corporations to co-opt NGOs and to corrupt indigenous governing authorities.
In the international arena, most of the work advocating for indigenous nations status has been done by NGOs. With the WCIP, indigenous governing authorities have begun to resume their rightful place in world affairs. Free trade and climate change propelled them onto the world stage.
Since the UN is an organization of modern states, it created the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) as an advisory body. When it came to organizing the WCIP, the UN called on PFII to designate regional coordinators. In North America, the coordinators chosen were from NGOs, and the hosts at the regional preparatory meeting called themselves the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC).
Resentful of indigenous governing authorities, NAIPC tried to prevent them from participating in the regional meeting, and subsequently submitted a fraudulent report to the UN. When indigenous nations organized themselves to participate in the WCIP at UN headquarters in September 2014, NAIPC decided to boycott the event. Some NAIPC leaders went on to attack indigenous governing authorities, claiming superior status for themselves.
Some of the NGOs that make up NAIPC are funded by Wall Street foundations. Their leaders have built careers of moral theatrics, which Wall Street is happy to fund, as it undermines the ability of indigenous nations to challenge modern states. Only indigenous governing authorities can assert territorial jurisdiction, so anything that weakens them is a worthwhile investment.
NGOs are not representative of indigenous societies. They are not chosen or elected by indigenous nations to lead them. Usurping the voices of traditional leaders, these NGOs then posit themselves as more authentic than governing authorities. It is this nonsense that sometimes leads to romantic warrior cults.
Associations of indigenous governing authorities, i.e. NCAI, and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians strengthen indigenous nations in fighting modern states. Undermining them benefits Wall Street.
In his op-ed Governing and Demagoguery, Center for World Indigenous Studies chair Rudolph C. Ryser calls out Indian Country Today columnists Glenn Morris and Steven Newcomb for making false claims about the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), and for misleading readers regarding the role of the so-called North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC). Indeed, Dr. Ryser accuses Morris and Newcomb of sabotaging the March 2013 WCIP preparatory meeting in Sycuan on behalf of NAIPC — a group of NGOs — in order to hijack the meeting at the expense of indigenous governments in Canada and the US.
In The Pursuit of Justice, an April 2013 IC Magazine op-ed about the referenced hijacking at Sycuan, it is noted that the sabotage by Morris was not the first time he had subverted indigenous solidarity for personal aggrandizement. Indeed, the American Indian Movement (AIM) Grand Governing Council describes Morris as “deceitful and treacherous,” urging its supporters to expose and isolate Morris in order to help undo the harm he has done in academic and activist milieus.
As a professor and attorney who enjoys Belligerence as a Career, Morris’ delinquent behavior is an impediment to the indigenous peoples movement. His collusion with NAIPC saboteurs at Sycuan, and more recently at Indian Country Today, is evidence that AIM had it right.
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