There are some general things that can be said about democracy. Democracy first and foremost is a process, but not all democracies are the same. Some disperse power broadly, while others concentrate power to varying degrees–the more dispersed, the more democratic.
Voting, elections, and representative democracy — a system imposed on Indigenous societies by European colonial powers — is about halfway on the spectrum between full democracy where everyone has a say, and tyranny, where they have none.
Democracy is also a discursive process, where problems and solutions are discussed openly and at length, giving everyone a chance to speak, listen, learn and otherwise contribute. The abbreviated version, where only a few have full access to knowledge and information and decide among themselves what to do, is prone to corruption, and indeed is the reason modern states worldwide are in failure.
Indigenous societies, in general, operated by consensus, not by majority rule obtained through voting and representative democracy. This enabled them to make decisions with the consent of the people. By contrast, modern states, at best, adopt policy without the consent of the people, thereby setting the stage for conflict, distrust, and incremental tyranny. Even when consent is obtained through such mechanisms as referendum, it is often overruled by anti-democratic institutions like the IMF, WTO and World Bank.
As Indigenous societies attempt to liberate themselves from colonial institutions, they will inevitably have to address the imposed processes that have divided and conquered their peoples. Making their views on democracy known will help to protect them from attack by dominant institutions like federal ministries and corporate news.
As noted by Duane Champagne at Indian Country Today, nation, defined by Indigenous peoples, is a coalition of kinship groups that have collective ceremonial and spiritual relations with the cosmic power beings. Tribal governments (traditionally) are the entities that manage their social, political and spiritual relations. From their point of view, leadership ensures balanced, respectful and reciprocal relations.
Compare and contrast that with the Western model.
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