Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Mapping Life

Published: July 15, 2011, Author: JayTaber

Systems of tenure differ vastly between colonial states and indigenous nations. In Indonesia, colonial systems of tenure perpetuated by the successor state continue to plague indigenous peoples throughout the vast Indonesian archipelago. From West Papua to East Timor, the indigenous system of land and forest tenure has over the last half century encountered fierce repression from the Indonesian state.

At a conference on forestry held recently by the Indonesian government, the Cek Bo Cek submitted a map of life to a government official, then disbanded rather than risk violence by police against them as tribal peoples attempting to communicate a different view of tenure to a totalitarian state. Mapping life — their forests, their resources, their livelihoods and ceremonies — does not come without risk. Indeed, Canadian mining companies in conjunction with the Indonesian military have proven a murderous combination for Indonesia’s indigenous peoples. Showing the voracious state and callous corporations what is most sacred and dear to them risks annihilation by desecration.

Paradoxically, communicating social transformation by pressing the inherent claims of indigenous societies is a risky gambit, but then, what power do they have beyond moral sanction and appeals to conscience? If humankind is determined to eliminate indigenous tenure in order to make luxury goods for the international market, then having the grace to demand dignity amid that destruction is perhaps all that they can accomplish. Whether we are on the side of mapping life or carting death, our memories are likely to come back to haunt us.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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