Tempest in a Teapot

Tempest in a Teapot

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June 8, 2013

As I observed in my comment on Peter D’Errico’s article on Indigenous Peoples at the UN, the uproar in some circles over statements made by the National Congress of American Indians at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this week is much ado about nothing. By this, I do not mean the issues and relationships between indigenous nations and modern states don’t need to be addressed, but simply that there is no benefit in resorting to hyperbole or paranoia.

As I stated in my comment, the UN and its member states naturally do not want to cede power to indigenous nations as represented directly by their governing authorities or indirectly through organizations like the National Congress of American Indians. They would much prefer to continue paying lip service to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and limit its implementation to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues–a UN playpen for state-approved, foundation-funded indigenous lobbyists. But as D’Errico says, that is not appropriate in today’s world, and NCAI knows this. Instead, its members demand to be treated as the governing authorities they are–not as NGOs.

Perhaps the UN itself is inadequate as an institution to accommodate the needs of indigenous nations and modern states, and something new needs to be created for conflict resolution and diplomatic initiatives between nations and states. Once the UN accepts indigenous nations as governing authorities and as appropriate partners in such an endeavor, new relationships can be worked out, hopefully without all the hyperbole and paranoia that now drive the discussion.

As I noted in my post on the indigenous non-profit industrial complex in the United States, paranoia-fueled witch hunts based on conspiracism are a distraction from the business at hand. While they might be the bread and butter for some indigenous NGOs dependent on Wall Street derivatives distributed through neoliberal philanthropies like the Ford Foundation and Seventh Generation Fund, these witch hunts function as impediments to the indigenous peoples movement.

While not all the hyperbole and paranoia in the current disturbance over who should and should not participate in the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and about indigenous governing authorities status at the UN, can be traced to American indigenous NGOs and what I call professional protestors, a fair amount of it can. Indeed, the calculated attack on the National Congress of American Indians and tribal leaders at the March 1 North American Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference, and the subsequent rumor mongering among the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus that hosted the meeting, is the basis of much of the present storm.

For those unfamiliar with the players, NAIPC is a self-selected clique of indigenous NGO lobbyists at the UN, who were approved by the governments of Canada and the US and the UN to coordinate indigenous peoples participation in implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many of them are at least partially funded by the Ford Foundation via intermediaries like the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development.

The NAIPC lobbyists and coordinators were hostile toward tribal nations delegates sent to the meeting, and essentially sabotaged the gathering in order to prevent the National Congress of American Indians and tribal leaders  from participating in the World Conference. The provocateur who led the attack and later started the rumor mongering is Glenn Morris, Ward Churchill’s protege at the University of Colorado. The person who took up the attack after Morris laid the groundwork is Kent Lebsock of Owe Aku International.

The coordinators of the meeting were Arthur Manuel from Canada and Debra Harry from the United States. When NCAI and the tribal leaders denounced the NAIPC meeting and report to the UN as fraudulent, Manuel and Harry conducted a cover-up on the NAIPC list serv, as well as in their report to the Permanent Forum. Manuel and Harry’s non-profits are both funded by Seventh Generation Fund, as is Owe Aku.

While I have covered extensively the UN World Conference process and the fiasco that resulted from these state-appointed coordinators, my point is that the relationship between indigenous nations and modern states can be negotiated, but not through present mechanisms. Using NGOs as substitutes for indigenous governing authorities, or as intermediaries, is inappropriate.

Good governance and indigenous sovereignty are the only way indigenous self-determination can manifest itself. Emotional gratification at being radical purists delivers no jurisdictional results. Intelligent organizing and exercise of political power does.

When professional protestors promote conspiracy theories about indigenous leaders, they undermine the indigenous movement. Anyone can write radical rhetoric and pose as a revolutionary. Only real leaders can govern effectively in ways that benefit indigenous nations and the environments they revere.

As I pointed out in my comment at Censored News, we want to be discerning in our analysis of the indigenous non-profit industrial complex, so we can better understand its dynamics. Indigenous activists sometimes develop a view of themselves and their networks as an alternative to indigenous governments. This view, unfortunately, undermines the indigenous movement by eliminating the prospect of indigenous jurisdiction, and thus plays into the modern state philosophy of indigenous nations termination. While not all indigenous activists succumb to conspiracism, some — like Kent Lebsock of Owe Aku International — do, and by engaging in paranoia-fueled witch hunts like the one started by Glenn Morris, become an impediment to the movement.

In order to succeed, the indigenous movement requires indigenous scholars and activists working alongside indigenous governing authorities to challenge the status quo at the UN, as well as within its member states. Harmonizing their voices is sometimes challenging, but it has to be done.

Ford Foundation supports racial equality, but through its support of the UN Millenium Development Goals, acts in a manner opposed to the collective human rights of indigenous nations. As a neoliberal philanthropy, Ford gives money for these purposes to academia and governments, as well as grassroots activists via intermediaries like First Peoples Worldwide and the Seventh Generation Fund.

As noted by Tonawanda Seneca traditional chief Darwin Hill at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues last week, constitutional and customary indigenous governments must have a unique status in international negotiations, if indigenous human rights are to be respected. Along with consultative indigenous NGOs, this can provide a means of indigenous voices being heard, without the corrupting influence of Ford and other foundations. Ford’s influence doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of integrity on the part of activists and officials benefiting from its largesse; it simply means this dependency limits strategies to reforming a state-centric framework that needs to be opened up to indigenous nations and the indigenous governing authorities exercising jurisdiction in their names.

As a professional protestor promoting conspiracism, Kent Lebsock knows the smear campaign against tribal leaders — concocted by Glenn Morris — is a fabrication to undermine NCAI. I sent all the relevant information on the deceitful and treacherous Morris to Lebsock long ago, so he knows he’s playing mind games. Probably for self-promotion.

Part of this hostility and delinquent behavior goes back to the long-standing resentment internalized by radicals like Ward Churchill and Glenn Morris for being rejected as frauds by both the American Indian Movement and the National Congress of American Indians, but more recently at the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, it’s become an exercise is breathing their own exhaust, fueled by delusions of grandeur where a faction of radicals like Lebsock view themselves as guardians of the “North American Red Nations”. Ironically, these mighty warriors attacking indigenous governing authorities are funded by the very institutions they pretend to oppose.

Sadly, when these radical pious poseurs from the indigenous non-profit industrial complex attack the top American Indian leaders advancing tribal sovereignty, they hinder the indigenous peoples they profess to protect. Such is the nature of indigenous fronts for capital.

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