Tag Archives: Protestos de povos indígenas

Indigenous People Advance a Dramatic Goal: Reversing Colonialism (New York Times)

nytimes.com

Max Fisher


The Interpreter

Fifty years of patient advocacy, including the shocking discovery of mass graves at Kamloops, have secured once-unthinkable gains.

A makeshift memorial to honor the 215 children whose remains have been discovered near the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, earlier this month.
Credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

June 17, 2021

When an Indigenous community in Canada announced recently that it had discovered a mass burial site with the remains of 215 children, the location rang with significance.

Not just because it was on the grounds of a now-shuttered Indian Residential School, whose forcible assimilation of Indigenous children a 2015 truth and reconciliation report called “a key component of a Canadian government policy of cultural genocide.”

That school is in Kamloops, a city in British Columbia from which, 52 years ago, Indigenous leaders started a global campaign to reverse centuries of colonial eradication and reclaim their status as sovereign nations.

Their effort, waged predominantly in courts and international institutions, has accumulated steady gains ever since, coming further than many realize.

It has brought together groups from the Arctic to Australia. Those from British Columbia, in Canada’s mountainous west, have been at the forefront throughout.

Only two years ago, the provincial government there became the world’s first to adopt into law United Nations guidelines for heightened Indigenous sovereignty. On Wednesday, Canada’s Parliament passed a law, now awaiting a final rubber stamp, to extend those measures nationwide.

It was a stunning victory, decades in the making, that activists are working to repeat in New Zealand — and, perhaps one day, in more recalcitrant Australia, Latin America and even the United States.

“There’s been a lot of movement in the field. It’s happening with different layers of courts, with different legislatures,” said John Borrows, a prominent Canadian legal scholar and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash Unceded First Nation.

The decades-long push for sovereignty has come with a rise in activism, legal campaigning and historical reckonings like the discovery at Kamloops. All serve the movement’s ultimate aim, which is nothing less than overturning colonial conquests that the world has long accepted as foregone.

A classroom at All Saints Residential School in Lac la Ronge, Saskatchewan, circa 1950.
Credit: Shingwauk Residential Schools Center, via Reuters

No one is sure precisely what that will look like or how long it might take. But advances once considered impossible “are happening now,” Dr. Borrows said, “and in an accelerating way.”

The Indigenous leaders who gathered in 1969 had been galvanized by an array of global changes.

The harshest assimilation policies were rolled back in most countries, but their effects remained visible in everyday life. Extractive and infrastructure megaprojects were provoking whole communities in opposition. The civil rights era was energizing a generation.

But two of the greatest motivators were gestures of ostensible reconciliation.

In 1960, world governments near-unanimously backed a United Nations declaration calling to roll back colonialism. European nations began withdrawing overseas, often under pressure from the Cold War powers.

But the declaration excluded the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, where colonization was seen as too deep-rooted to reverse. It was taken as effectively announcing that there would be no place in the modern world for Indigenous peoples.

Then, at the end of the decade, Canada’s progressive government issued a fateful “white paper” announcing that it would dissolve colonial-era policies, including reserves, and integrate Indigenous peoples as equal citizens. It was offered as emancipation.

A statue in Toronto of Egerton Ryerson, considered an architect of Canada’s residential indigenous school system, was toppled and defaced during a protest this month.
Credit: Chris Helgren/Reuters

Other countries were pursuing similar measures, with the United States’ inauspiciously named “termination policy.”

To the government’s shock, Indigenous groups angrily rejected the proposal. Like the United Nations declaration, it implied that colonial-era conquests were to be accepted as forgone.

Indigenous leaders gathered in Kamloops to organize a response. British Columbia was a logical choice. Colonial governments had never signed treaties with its original inhabitants, unlike in other parts of Canada, giving special weight to their claim to live under illegal foreign occupation.

“It’s really Quebec and British Columbia that have been the two epicenters, going back to the ’70s,” said Jérémie Gilbert, a human rights lawyer who works with Indigenous groups. Traditions of civil resistance run deep in both.

The Kamloops group began what became a campaign to impress upon the world that they were sovereign peoples with the rights of any nation, often by working through the law.

They linked up with others around the world, holding the first meeting of The World Council of Indigenous Peoples on Vancouver Island. Its first leader, George Manuel, had passed through the Kamloops residential school as a child.

The council’s charter implicitly treated countries like Canada and Australia as foreign powers. It began lobbying the United Nations to recognize Indigenous rights.

It was nearly a decade before the United Nations so much as established a working group. Court systems were little faster. But the group’s ambitions were sweeping.

Legal principles like terra nullius — “nobody’s land” — had long served to justify colonialism. The activists sought to overturn these while, in parallel, establishing a body of Indigenous law.

“The courts are very important because it’s part of trying to develop our jurisprudence,” Dr. Borrows said.

The movement secured a series of court victories that, over decades, stitched together a legal claim to the land, not just as its owners but as sovereign nations. One, in Canada, established that the government had an obligation to settle Indigenous claims to territory. In Australia, the high court backed a man who argued that his family’s centuries-long use of their land superseded the government’s colonial-era conquest.

Activists focused especially on Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which each draw on a legal system inherited from Britain. Laws and rulings in one can become precedent in the others, making them easier to present to the broader world as a global norm.

Irene Watson, an Australian scholar of international Indigenous law and First Nations member, described this effort, in a 2016 book, as “the development of international standards” that would pressure governments to address “the intergenerational impact of colonialism, which is a phenomenon that has never ended.”

It might even establish a legal claim to nationhood. But it is the international arena that ultimately confers acceptance on any sovereign state.

By the mid-1990s, the campaign was building momentum.

The United Nations began drafting a declaration of Indigenous rights. Several countries formally apologized, often alongside promises to settle old claims.

This period of truth and reconciliation was meant to address the past and, by educating the broader public, create support for further advances.

A sweeping 1996 report, chronicling many of Canada’s darkest moments, was followed by a second investigation, focused on residential schools. Completed 19 years after the first, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission spurred yet more federal policy recommendations and activism, including last month’s discovery at Kamloops.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited a makeshift memorial near Canada’s Parliament honoring the children whose remains were found near the school in Kamloops.
Credit: Dave Chan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Judicial advances have followed a similar process: yearslong efforts that bring incremental gains. But these add up. Governments face growing legal obligations to defer to Indigenous autonomy.

The United States has lagged. Major court rulings have been fewer. The government apologized only in 2010 for “past ill-conceived policies” against Indigenous people and did not acknowledge direct responsibility. Public pressure for reconciliation has been lighter.

Still, efforts are growing. In 2016, activists physically impeded construction of a North Dakota pipeline whose environmental impact, they said, would infringe on Sioux sovereignty. They later persuaded a federal judge to pause the project.

Native Americans marching against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in 2017.
Credit: Terray Sylvester/Reuters

Latin America has often lagged as well, despite growing activism. Militaries in several countries have targeted Indigenous communities in living memory, leaving governments reluctant to self-incriminate.

In 2007, after 40 years of maneuvering, the United Nations adopted the declaration on Indigenous rights. Only the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada opposed, saying it elevated some Indigenous claims above those of other citizens. All four later reversed their positions.

“The Declaration’s right to self-determination is not a unilateral right to secede,” Dr. Claire Charters, a New Zealand Māori legal expert, wrote in a legal journal. However, its recognition of “Indigenous peoples’ collective land rights” could be “persuasive” in court systems, which often treat such documents as proof of an international legal principle.

Few have sought formal independence. But an Australian group’s 2013 declaration, brought to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, inspired several others to follow. All failed. But, by demonstrating widening legal precedent and grass roots support, they highlighted that full nationhood is not as unthinkable as it once was.

It may not have seemed like a step in that direction when, in 2019, British Columbia enshrined the U.N. declaration’s terms into provincial law.

But Dr. Borrows called its provisions “quite significant,” including one requiring that the government win affirmative consent from Indigenous communities for policies that affect them. Conservatives and legal scholars have argued it would amount to an Indigenous veto, though Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, and his liberal government dispute this.

Mr. Trudeau promised to pass a similar law nationally in 2015, but faced objections from energy and resource industries that it would allow Indigenous communities to block projects. He continued trying, and Wednesday’s passage in Parliament all but ensures that Canada will fully adopt the U.N. terms.

Mr. Gilbert said that activists’ current focus is “getting this into the national systems.” Though hardly Indigenous independence, it would bring them closer than any step in generations.

Near the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Credit: Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

As the past 50 years show, this could help pressure others to follow (New Zealand is considered a prime candidate), paving the way for the next round of gradual but quietly historical advances.

It is why, Mr. Gilbert said, “All the eyes are on Canada.”

The Catholic Church Is Responding to Indigenous Protest With Exorcisms (Truthout)

truthout.org

Charles Sepulveda, November 26, 2020

LaRazaUnida cover the Fray Junípero Serra Statue in protest at the Brand Park Memory Garden across from the San Fernando Mission in San Fernando on June 28, 2020.
Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News / SCNG


On this day, Indigenous activists in New England and beyond are observing a National Day of Mourning to mark the theft of land, cultural assault and genocide that followed after the anchoring of the Mayflower on Wampanoag land in 1620 — a genocide that is erased within conventional “Thanksgiving Day” narratives.

The acts of mourning and resistance taking place today build on the energy of Indigenous People’s Day 2020, which was also a day of uprising. On October 11, 2020, also called “Indigenous People’s Day of Rage,” participants around the country took part in actions such as de-monumenting — the toppling of statues of individuals dedicated to racial nation-building.

In response to Indigenous-led efforts that demanded land back and the toppling of statues, Catholic Church leaders in Oregon and California deemed it necessary to perform exorcisms, thereby casting Indigenous protest as demonic.

The toppled statues included President Abraham Lincoln, President Theodore Roosevelt and Father Junípero Serra, who founded California’s mission system (1769-1834) and was canonized into sainthood by the Catholic Church and Pope Francis in 2015.

What do these leaders whose statues were toppled have in common? They perpetrated and promoted devastating violence against Native peoples.

Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the largest mass execution in United States history when 38 Dakota were hanged in 1862 after being found guilty for their involvement in what is known as the “Minnesota Uprising.”

Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in 1886 in New York that would have made today’s white supremacists blush when he declared: “I don’t go as far as to think that the only good Indian is the dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are…” This was not his only foray in promoting racial genocide.

Junípero Serra is known for having committed cruel punishments against the Indians of California and enslaved them as part of Spain’s genocidal conquest.

Last month, “Land Back” and “Dakota 38” were scrawled on the base of the now-toppled Lincoln statue in Portland, Oregon. The political statements and demands for land return reveal a Native decolonial spirit based in resistance continuing through multiple generations

The “Indigenous People’s Day of Rage” came after months of protests in Portland in support of Black Lives Matter. The resistance enacted in Portland coincides with demands for both abolition (the end of racialized policing and imprisonment) and decolonization (the return of land and regeneration of life outside of colonialism). Both of these notions encompass a multifaceted imagining of life beyond white supremacy.

In San Rafael, California, Native activists gathered at the Spanish mission that had been the site of California Indian enslavement. Activists, who included members of the Coast Miwok of Marin, first poured red paint on the statue of Serra and then pulled it down with ropes, while other protesters held signs that read: “Land Back Now” and “We Stand on Unceded Land – Decolonization means #LandBack.” The statue broke at the ankles, leaving only the feet on the base.

What was even more provocative than the toppling of the statues by Native activists and their accomplices, was the response by the Catholic Church, which not only condemned the actions of the Native activists, but also spiritually chastised them. In both Portland and San Rafael, the reaction by the Church was to perform exorcisms.

The purpose of an exorcism, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is to expel demons or “the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.”

In other words, Native activism and demands for land back were deemed blasphemous and evil by two archbishops and were determined to require exorcism.

In Portland, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample led 225 members of his congregation to a city park where he prayed a rosary for peace and conducted an exorcism on October 17, six days after the “Indigenous People’s Day of Rage.” Archbishop Sample stated that there was no better time to come together to pray for peace than in the wake of social unrest and on the eve of the elections. His exorcism was a direct response to Indigenous-led efforts that demanded land back.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone held an exorcism on the same day as the one performed in Portland and after the toppling of Saint Junipero Serra’s statue in San Rafael. In his performance of the exorcism, he prayed that God would purify the mission of evil spirits as well as the hearts of those who perpetrated blasphemy. Was he responding to a “demonic possession” or was he exorcising the political motivations of those he did not agree with? Perhaps both, as he also stated that the toppling of the statue was an attack on the Catholic faith that took place on their own property. However, the mission is only Church property because of Native dispossession through conquest and missionization.

The conquest of the Americas by European nations was, as Saint Serra had deemed his own work, a “spiritual conquest.” From the doctrine of discovery to manifest destiny, the possession of Native land was rationalized as divine – from God. Those who threaten colonial possession are attacking the theological rationalization of possession, not their faith.

Demands for land back interfere with the doctrine that enabled Native land to be exorcised from them. Archbishop Cordileone’s exorcism was in the maintenance of property that had been stolen from Indigenous people long ago, and Archbishop Sample’s was in the maintenance of peace and the status quo of Native dispossession.

With a majority-Christian population in the United States and other nations in the Americas, demands for the return of land and decolonization have more to reckon with than racial injustice and white supremacy. Christians must also consider how dominant strains of Christian theology rationalized conquest and its ongoing structures of dispossession. Can a religion, made up of many sects, shift its framework to help end continued Native dispossession and its rationalization? Can we come together to overturn a racialized theological doctrine that functioned through violence and was adopted into a nation’s legal system? Can we imagine life beyond rage and the racialized spiritual possession of stolen land?

The Doctrine of Discovery was the primary international law developed in the 15th and 16th centuries through a series of papal bulls (Catholic decrees) that divided the Americas for white European conquest and authorized the enslavement of non-Christians. In 1823 the Doctrine of Discovery was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. M’Intosh. Chief Justice John Marshall declared in his ruling that Indians only held occupancy rights to land — ownership belonged to the European nation that discovered it. This case further legalized the theft of Native lands. It continues to be a foundational principal of U.S. property law and has been cited as recently as 2005 by the U.S. Supreme Court (City of Sherrill v. Oneida Nation of Indians) to diminish Native American land rights.

In 2009 the Episcopal Church passed a resolution that repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. It was the first Christian denomination to do so and has since been followed by several other denominations, including the Anglican Church of Canada (2010), the Religious Society of Friends/Quakers (2009 and 2012), the World Council of Churches (2012), the United Methodist Church (2012), the United Church of Christ (2013) and the Mennonite Church (2014).

Decolonization and land return are as possible as repudiating the legal justification of land theft. Social, cultural, governmental and economic systems are constantly changing, but the land remains — in the hands of the dispossessors. When our faith is held above what we know is true — we will prolong doing what is right.

Native peoples are not ancient peoples of the past only remembered on days such as Thanksgiving, just as our mourning is not all that we are. Native peoples are a myriad of things, including activists who demand land back — which is not a demonic request. Our land can be returned, and we can work together to heal and imagine a future beyond white supremacy and dispossession.