A short while ago, Duane Champagne wrote about the intent of Canada and the United States to use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a tool of assimilation. Indeed, in reluctantly “endorsing” the human rights instrument, both governments explicitly restricted their belated “support” to existing relationships between their respective states and the indigenous nations they overlay.
As assimilation proceeds apace with the insane environmental agenda of fossil fuel economies that serve consumer culture, indigenous nations are — as always — expected to sacrifice their holistic ways for a promised piece of the pie. Indeed, some first nations are rushing to develop fossil fuel extraction to fund their peoples’ participation in the consumerist lifestyle that has already destroyed most of what they hold dear. Some are walking a more careful path, attempting to preserve the irreplaceable, while making the concessions they view as necessary to propel their people out of poverty.
Tensions within indigenous societies are increasing, as contests over development pit environmental and cultural activists against those who view assimilation into the dominant economic society as the only way for their people to survive. In many instances, the conflict boils down to a question of which poverty to choose–poverty of the pocketbook, or poverty of the spirit. Occasionally, the more cohesive and thoughtful tribes find a way to alleviate both.
With the predictable collapse of the dominant paradigm under the rapidly accelerating climatic conditions that inevitably accompany resource depletion, maintaining respectful relations while battling apocalyptic initiatives from the energy industry is a formidable challenge. Spiritual balance in these trying times will require uncommon grounding.
As the former Chief of the Assembly of First Nations George Manuel once remarked, “Assimilation is annihilation.”
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.access here