1. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Concept Of Indigenous Rights

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Hubardo, Sep 12, 2014.

    I did ungrad studies in cultural anthropology and at that time it became clear that you can't study people without studying their relationships to nature. Over time I developed a mix of romanticism around "indigenousness" (coupled with some complicated white guilt, being a white American etc), as well as an intense anger around colonialism and the cultural belief systems that have allowed certain peoples eradicate others in the name of creating the kinds of societies we're all comfortably reading this forum post from.

    Not many people would disagree in 2014 that peoples who have lived in the Amazon forest for a thousand years deserve to continue living in that forest despite industrial civilization's demands for the raw materials there. The U.N., in theory at least, has even written up a very long and serious declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples. This concept has even evolved into concepts such as nature's rights and community rights. All these concepts are beautiful and I'm glad large nation states are being pressured to at least symbolically support the rights of people who live sustainably within their means. Amazonian cultures are one of thousands examples of such people who aren't hurting anybody (at least not on the scale we do) and who deserve to be treated with dignity and a lack of militaristic and corporate bullying.

    Then I look at the leftist decolonization movements/rhetoric/trends in the U.S. and it becomes less beautiful and a bit more scary to me. I have friends who originally studied permaculture design, ecology, environmental studies, who have since dropped out to join indigenous resistance movements. They constantly post things on social media and elsewhere that such-and-such place (say, New York) is in fact, actually called such-and-such place, and is actually such-and-such tribe's land. Be aware, they say, this is stolen land. A post I saw today by one dear friend who is doing a hip hop tour in Canada (she says: KluKluxKanada) said something like, We don't respect any laws but indigenous laws, this government is not legit - something like that.

    But I wonder how far the concept of indigenous rights goes. In theory, perhaps, I do not have the right to live as I do on this continent because my ancestors are from elsewhere and the only reason I am privileged in the ways I am are because of war crimes and things I and most compassionate, smart people in 2014 consider to be horrible historical events that do not justify much of anything. I suppose the ultimate question is about what is fair and just, and how to go from here to there.

    These are some thoughts I have about this. I want to know what other peoples' thoughts are. I expect some pretty bigoted perspectives based on assumptions about human nature being wretched and essentially evil, and life not being fair so let's not strive to make it moreso. That's fine, just try not to make those statements by insulting me or others. Maybe frame it in terms of questions.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Having also been an anthro undergrad who resisted the tempting pull to grow a prodigious college beard, where only hemp clothing, never bathe (or was that smell actually patchouli?), and do that weird thing white people do to their hair to look like they have dreads, my thought is the following: How far back do we go to find the line where "rights" become inarguable? Because until we find said line, its all arbitrary. I could keep one-uping my leftie fringe friends and argue that (assuming one follows the out of Africa theory), we're all plunderers and we must find a way to give it all back (except for Africa) to the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.

    ETA: That sounded crass. Let me express myself better:

    I just think it's too complicated, which is why it remains a topic that is hard to wrap policy around. I think I mentioned this to you in a past conversation, but I did the National Genographic study when that first started. I did the mitochondrial one. Faster and much cheaper. :) My mitochondria is New World. I have no clue what percentage of my make-up is Native American (well kept records in PR peter out rather quickly) but my mito-DNA tells me there is some small percentage and at least one was a gal. My feelings on the matter are complex because my background is complex.

    Am I Native American, "white man go home"?

    I'm I a descendant of a Spaniard Conquistador with lust for gold and a pocket full of syphilis.

    Am I an African slave wondering W T actual F is happening???
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Wreybies that it gets difficult the further back you go. Do we just set an arbitrary date, and everyone has to return to the place their ancestors lived at that time? And people whose ancestors came from different places (ie almost all of us) just... cut themselves into bits and ship different parts to their ancestral 'homes'?

    In the case of Canada's First Nations, I think the claims are not based so much on a theoretical idea that all of the country should be returned to the descendants of the original inhabitants, but more that the government should respect the deals it made. A lot of Canadian land was ceded via treaty, and the First Nations claims, as I understand them, are just asking that these treaties be respected.

    And your friend with her hip-hop tour? Is probably driving on roads that were paid for and maintained by the government she doesn't respect, enjoying the safety of the laws (and police) she doesn't acknowledge, etc. And what the hell kind of First Nations hip-hop is she touring around for? Maybe I don't understand the term? Is there some other meaning for it, like maybe she's hopping from place to place? If she's up here listening to traditionally black music, I think she needs to remember that black people didn't come from here originally, either. There's some great First Nations music she could listen to, but given her complete distaste for the Canadian government, probably she should walk or canoe to the venues, rather than driving...
     
  4. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Every group of people, even people from Africa, stole and plundered land and enslaved others from somewhere else at some point. We can't go back to the past like that, I think it's more important we focus on the problems here and now to improve the future.
     
  5. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't want to assume anything about anyone here but, I do suspect that it is a bunch of white people saying "everybody is from Africa and has plundered somebody." And it's not our whiteness-es that make the statement problematic, it's just some perspective on whose realities we're sharing with each other. If this forum were all from reservation born Native Americans the conversation wouldn't be talking about how identity is relative. It would sound completely different. So I think we should be mindful of that.

    Even then, I do agree we can't go back in time. I have wondered as selflessly as possible if this vision some of these kinds of friends of mine have is of a) all white people leaving or dying, b) all native territories being re-occupied, re-populated, and all indigenous knowledge slowly regained. Of course it's not realistic, but neither is any of the good fiction we here all love to read, and yet we continue entering those imagination spaces on a daily basis (I do at least) because reality is pretty fucked and I like believing in magic a little bit.

    With that said, I have a lot of sympathy for those who really are oppressed by who they see as occupying forces, and who have a very high level of consciousness and sensitivity about their ethnic and possibly indigenous identities. This hip hop tour friend was born in Mexico and she only became a "legal" citizen of the US after marrying a guy she didn't like a couple years ago. Before that she had to live much of her life as a kind of outlaw, as many "non-US" people have to although -- and this is where I empathize a lot -- they and their people were here first.

    That idea that since she's driving around on Canadian government paved roads she has to acknowledge the legitimacy of that government to me is silly. One has no obligation to recognize any authority as legitimate or good or respectable unless that authority has proven itself as such. To her, the Canadian government is an illegitimate authority which, like the US, violates indigenous treaties, converts sacred sites into capital to make rich people richer (jobs stupid, people need jobs!). Simultaneously, I see a lot of "fuck authority" sentiments out of both anarchist-ish leftists and libertarian right-wingers that to me almost seem juvenile, like it's fashionable to point fingers are people who try to keep the order and pretend that they're Darth Vader when they're just people with kids and crap like everyone else. But again, I don't think anyone is obligated to give up that juvenile perspective and although it seems impossible to most of us, there may be a way to live without militaristic nation states, state-sanctioned police violence, etc. Ursula K LeGuin's The Dispossessed does a pretty amazing job at showing how a stateless, classless society could be possible. It's a beautiful idea and I don't think it's wise to dismiss it as impossible or stupid outright.

    So yes, a place we could start is by powerful governments to simply start acknowledging the treaties. There is a great TED talk about this called Prisoners Of War, about the living conditions of Native Americans on reservations, and about the dismal history of US policy regarding natives. Another thing would be to take the UN's declaration seriously and to enforce it, so when an extractive industry says it has rights to the natural resources of somebody's home whether it be the Amazon or somewhere else, the world looks at the past and says "Manifest Destiny was racist and we're better than that now," and we criminalize said industry.

    PS. Amazon warriors stripping and beating illegal loggers to defend their territory (since governments continue to allow this kind of thing to continue in the name of people having soft toilet paper).
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2014
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're the one who brought the topic up. Was it just as an excuse to lecture us for daring to respond?

    I think it's silly of your friend to take advantage of the benefits of the current regime while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy. I'm still confused by the hip-hop-tour, but... that's tourism, right? She's up here for fun? If she was visiting First Nations and fighting for their treaty rights, okay, great. She may be using the tools of the oppressor, but she'd be using them for the benefit of the oppressed. But to go to a country as a tourist and not just take advantage of but also contribute to the existing power structure (because she's buying stuff, I assume), all while spouting off about that power structure? Yeah, it strikes me as much more than 'almost' juvenile. It sounds like a spoiled little kid who wants to enjoy all the benefits without admitting to the moral ambiguity of her actions.

    She's not obligated to give up the perspective, but I'm not obligated to treat her perspective with any respect.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I can assure you that this does not describe me. The better part of my life is marked by people letting me know that they knew that I wasn't one of them. People making bizarre, non-sequitur assumptions about me. Confusing me with people of other cultures. Assuming I made killer tacos and enchiladas. I know what it feels like to go to the club and have guys hit on me only because I'm latino, looking me in the crotch and anticipating some preposterous length of uncircumcised impossibility if just they buy me a drink because that's how latinos roll. :rolleyes: Even here in my native Puerto Rico. My face says native, my name says native, but I open my mouth and faces pull back when they realize I am anything but. Confusion, followed by the look I imagine is the response to subterfuge having been detected. In America I'm some Puerto Rican dude, in Puerto Rico I'm ese gringo. Stranger in a strange land no matter where I stand. There's no pretty way to say it, but I would argue that your own white guilt and existence within your white paradigm is making it hard for you to understand that there is a brown paradigm from within which the matter looks a lot different.

    I am very mindful of how my personal paradigm affects my ability to see past my personal "atmosphere". I understand that introspection is always flawed by the emic-only dynamic.

    Now this is me! And also... not me! Where is the line? The mix of invader, invaded and enslaved that equals the average modern Puerto Rican is one story unto itself. Now, that mix, which wiped a prior people from the landscape, is claiming it's own sovereignty and indigenous rights are imperiled by the incoming white invasion from the north (the U.S.). Our independentista party chastises our pro-statehood party and points to Hawai'i as a cautionary tale of a once proud culture that now exists only in museums though the people themselves are still very much there.
     
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @lewislewis

    Morally I agree with you. However, worrying about it goes directly against "living in the now." You can't undo the past, only strive to do better in the present.
     
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  9. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really appreciate your ability to articulate the complexities of having multiple identities. Important for this conversation. :)
     

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