Well none of us should be suprised. Eventhough this declaration is non-binding (like all other UN declarations) it clearly proved to be too much for Nation-States to accept (in good faith.)
Who can blame them? Can you imagine Indigenous Nations having a right to their own territory (in principle)? Can you imagine Nation-States like Canada having to ask Indigenous Nations permission (in theory) to relocate them? Or indigenous histories, languages, customs, and traditions having (the conceptual) right to exist? I know, it’s unthinkable… and so the Nation States, remaining ever true themselves as Masters of their own Universe – agreed to shelve the United Nations declaration on Indigenous Rights.
Well, no matter.
I mean, what would any of us really gain from having this? Sure it would be a benchmark, something the UN can to refer to when writing a report on the deplorable disfunctional conduct of Nation-States towards us — but beyond that?
I have long since believed that a right is not something you can be given. Nor is it something you can buy or trade, get through negotiations or state-stamped approval — and nor is a right something made real by writing it down, or something legitimized through enforcing it.
Rights, at least the most basic ones are inherent — and are only as valid as they are actively exercised. But not using one’s rights does not mean they do not exist. It just means that our rights may be readily altered or forbidden. But then that can happen anyway.
I think this notion of rights is especially important to Indigenous Nations – because for hundreds of years we have been TOLD what our rights are. Our land and ability to live has been restricted. We have been forced into Camps, institutions – our traditions have been outlawed, our languages have been forbidden, our resources and ability to meet our needs has been purposely limited. We are even now treated as wards, incapable of handling our own affairs. Our Nations are controlled by state-designed pseudo-governments. We are forced to enter into foreign courts and submit to foreign authorities to address the crimes and actions of those foreign Nation-States. We have no external resources, no International Courts will hear us. No part of the United Nations will directly help us — and no other Nation-State would dare step in and assist. The would more likely try to get a share of the prize.
As intimidating and discouraging as this may be, it’s also not a big deal. I mean, none of this is new, right? We already know all this – we live it everyday, and we cannot forget any of it because our history is in our blood.
That is why I mention the idea of inherent rights — because it is up to us and us alone to do what we need to do for ourselves and our Nations, our ancestors and our future generations.
Yes, we are inherently Sovereign Nations – but we must conduct ourselves as Sovereign Nations otherwise we can only continue to be subordinate to the Nation-States we are surrounded by.
That is not to say there is no place for negotiations or discussion with Nation-States though — but that is secondary to our Fundamental Needs and our inherent rights (which I say while thinking about how the bottom-line for a State is about money. Not survival, not freedom or peace or equality – but “how much is this gonna cost us”.)
I don’t care what anyone says, money always come second. It is not “the provider” it is one means of providing. Just think about residential schools and justice: Does money provide justice for a child being murdered in a residential school? Is money enough justice?
Of course not. It’s just “the best we’re going to get right now.”
The same goes for any settlement for any land claim. That’s a standard legal tactic used by the party that’ll lose if it goes to court. (It doesn’t matter how much money is offered – what matters is that it is being offered.)
As far as our Rights, our freedom, our ability to meet our own needs without having to compromise our integrity or sacrifice our Nationhood — there is no amount of money equal, even if there are some more than willing to settle for less.
There is only our Rights, our freedom, our ability to meet our own needs. And there is only us to make it happen.
No UN declaration, no state-sponsored program, and no well-worded treaty can do it. These things can help – make this significant transition more palatable for States, maybe even easier on us – but again, this is not about what a State wants or prefers. It is about what we Need.
Only We can meet our own needs.
ps. I must add here that I do not suggest “by any means necessary” that means we are willing to become exactly like those who put us in the position we have been and now find ourselves in. This to me is as unacceptable as allowing things to continue as they have.
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