- The world-wide war conducted by modern states, religions, and markets against indigenous peoples never ended; it just took new forms.
- State-centric and market-oriented international institutions presently pose a major threat to the survival of the world’s first nations.
- The World Indigenous Movement is now fighting the final battles to protect their lands, knowledge, and ways of life from annihilation.
- These Fourth World battles for cultural diversity and self-determination constitute the defining struggle for human dignity.
After the demise of European colonies subsequent to World War II, indigenous peoples and their bedrock nations struggled to regain autonomy from the modern states whose boundaries overlaid their ancient territories. Through various mechanisms and venues, these ancient political entities began to rebuild and repair what survived of their aboriginal societies. Over time, the traumas of genocide and other atrocities were documented, studied, and discussed by these autochthonous peoples in order to heal and to prepare themselves for an indigenous resurgence. That time has come.
Throughout the so-called post-colonial era, the First Nations of Canada have played a vital leadership role in organizing the World Indigenous Movement we see today. Chiefs like George Manuel from the Shuswap Nation of British Columbia were instrumental in catalyzing global consciousness and communication between indigenous peoples on all continents. As co-founders of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, the original peoples of Canada helped prepare the Fourth World to defend itself from new forms of colonialism perpetrated by institutions like the World Trade Organization and World Bank, while simultaneously challenging the state-controlled decolonizing process by agencies such as the recently-formed United Nations Human Rights Council.
In order to provide critical scholarly support to the world’s indigenous peoples as they developed the capacity to confront these institutions for redress of their grievances and resolution of the violent conflicts waged against them, in 1979 the World Council of Indigenous Peoples asked the Center for World Indigenous Studies to act as a global repository of documents, papers, and other archival materials critical to their struggles for self-determination. As CWIS Chair, Dr. Rudolph C. Rÿser recently remarked, "What the people in the Fourth World nations think, decide and do on their own behalf will decide much of the world’s international policies for generations to come."
Jay Taber — recipient of the Defender of Democracy award — is an author, columnist, and research analyst at Public Good Project.)