Applying Deloria’s Challenge: Indigenous and Mass Society’s Conceptions of Indian Self-determination

Richard M. Wheelock
April 26, 2019

Abstract: In his 1979 book Metaphysics of Modern Existence, Vine Deloria Jr. posed a significant challenge to those of us who are willing to continue the search for meaning in our lives and in the universe.  In the book’s introduction, he points out that “… the fundamental factor that keeps Indians and non-Indians from communicating is that they are speaking about two entirely different perceptions of the world.”  In this paper, the author will focus the broad challenge of intercultural communications by bringing some of the key assumptions about the “Indian Self-Determination” policy into scrutiny, as both indigenous and non-indigenous policy-makers have perceived it, given their disparate understandings of the human endeavor.  The intention is to find bridges between what some indigenous community members and outside policy-makers mean when they use the term self-determination in the hope that people of good will may find solutions to pressing problems. 

     Vine Deloria, Jr. often commented upon the great difficulties indigenous people have had over the generations in communicating their viewpoints to the mass society and to non-indigenous policy-makers who often control federal Indian policy.  He was among the many indigenous scholars, teachers and communicators who have struggled valiantly to find strategies for empowering indigenous peoples to establish an atmosphere of good faith between indigenous peoples and the nation states that owe their existence mainly to European colonization. From first contacts between Native peoples and the colonial powers who came to them in times of war and peace, both groups faced nearly insurmountable barriers in even the most basic communications.  Widely differing orientations to the planet and the universe, ideas about peoplehood and human responsibilities in the natural order, and other crucial aspects of the human experience have presented major challenges to those hoping to find pragmatic, lasting solutions to pressing problems in implementing indigenous self-determination policies.

     From the perspective of communications as a discipline, the ideals of effective interactions between individuals ought to be straight-forward.  Models of human communications generally start with the assumption that senders of messages and those receiving them are of similar worldviews, at least in successful communications.  Even the more complex models of effective communications often overlook the kinds of communications necessary between sometimes reluctant or even intransigent members of culturally different peoples, like those needed when indigenous self-determination is the focus.  The translations between cultures of individual words, phrases and even descriptions of events have always fascinated linguists, anthropologists and sociologists, but few successful approaches to improving the communications environment involved have arisen from those sources.  In fact, differing understandings of the human relationships with the planet and universe have stunned scientists and philosophers of all colors.  Economics, too, has been dominated by values that differ widely from traditions of indigenous peoples in maintaining a livelihood.  In so many cases, those trained in the academic pursuit of knowledge have found their disciplines have only deepened their own confusion and disappointment about how to approach indigenous worldviews in the negotiations involved.  Yet the emergence of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007 presents policy-makers with another opportunity to find mutually beneficial relationships, new positions, from which to communicate in our times.  After over 500 years of colonization on a global scale, new standards, more widely accepted legal protocols, have become available for those who would establish a better framework for intercultural communications and negotiation on the processes of recognizing the rights of indigenous people.  But misunderstandings and communications between indigenous peoples and the settler nations of the United States and Canada that surround them remain poor, making the now clearly stated international norms difficult to implement. 

     As a person often asked to explain the problems in the resulting political, social and cultural conflicts that arise whenever indigenous rights are discussed, this author will explore some of the challenges involved in the mindsets and basic understandings indigenous peoples and the mass society bring to the table in the discussions surrounding the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Obviously, for a writing of this brevity, only a few of the most instructive areas of distinctive thought behind the on-going debates and discussions can be included here, with the hope that themes will emerge that readers can use in their own strategies for becoming effective voices in the search for justice in the resolution’s implementation.  The focus will be on the nation-states of the United States and Canada, largely because they share some similarities in their colonial history and their history of dealing with the indigenous peoples within their boundaries.

Self-Determination for Indigenous People in the United States and Canada

     The development of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), finalized nearly 12 years ago, is now the global standard for the term “indigenous self-determination.”  As many scholars know, it was forged over decades of discussion in a process that involved many indigenous people from around the world.  In his 1993 article “A contemporary Definition of the International Norm of Self-Determination,” 1 S. James Anaya 2 set the tone for what would become the standards of the UNDRIP, following the development of human rights standards that had emerged for decades from the decolonization movement in the United Nations.  He noted that emerging standards emphasized that decolonization ought to not only extend to the nation states that had resulted from classical colonization but should be extended to indigenous peoples within nation states.  “This break from the decolonization model of state-centered homogeneity is promoted by the international community through its emboldened system of minority rights protections and the burgeoning body of international norms to protect the integrity and survival of indigenous communities.” 3 Anaya also noted the development of a key social and political concept in the formulation and any implementation of indigenous self-determination.  That concept is “pluralism,” a term that connotes tolerance between peoples and their views in the processes of governance and social development.  Cultural pluralism is a concept that is opposed to that of assimilation of all peoples into some kind of monolithic nation-state culture and identity.  Older assimilation policies in the U.S and Canada, most clearly exemplified by policies of the 1890’s to the 1930’s, had been thoroughly discredited as violations of the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples, often noted today as cultural genocide.  As Anaya wrote in the 1993 article,

…once diverse cultural groupings are acknowledged and valued, their associational patterns and community aspirations become factors that must be reflected in the governing institutional order if self-determination notions are to prevail…The norm of self-determination, therefore, promotes an ongoing condition of freedom and equality among and within peoples in relation to the institutions of government under which they live, a condition today substantially defined by precepts of democracy and cultural pluralism. 4

The eventual document of the 2007 UNDRIP was forged with the help of many indigenous people from around the world, making it a remarkable statement of mutual respect and a model for a hopeful future for achieving just relationships between nation states and indigenous peoples within their borders. 

     Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, then chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and now the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, said soon after its passage, “Effective implementation of the Declaration will be the test of commitment of States and the whole international community to protect, respect and fulfill Indigenous Peoples’ collective and individual human rights.  I call on governments, the UN System, Indigenous Peoples and civil society at large to rise to the historic task before us and make the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a living document for the common future of humanity.” 5  Unfortunately, that initial  atmosphere of hope has been difficult to sustain as UNDRIP principles are debated within nation-states today.

     It was indeed a hopeful time for indigenous peoples, but the continuing problems of misunderstanding that Vine Deloria, Jr. noted as the great challenge facing those involved in indigenous self-determination policies were apparent even in its passage.  In fact, implementation of the UNDRIP today remains far from accomplished, especially among those nation states which originally voted against the Declaration: The United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.  Interestingly, those four countries are all former English colonies, and have their own histories of “decolonization” as they became independent nations, escaping the relationships of colonization under British rule.  Yet the many patterns of colonization remained, now firmly established under new national governments.  The original indigenous peoples within the borders of those four countries often experienced intensified efforts of the settler nations to strip them of their very identity in pursuit of the resources in the homelands of native peoples.

     The history of Canadian Indian policies is quite distinct from those in the United States, but by the 1960’s, many of the ideals of self-determination for indigenous people began to develop among indigenous people of Canada as well, as they responded to federal termination policies that threatened their land and sovereignty.  Specified rights, limited self-governance at the local level, and at least some powers of economic development over specific land areas emerged as goals among the indigenous people on both sides of the border.  Economic and social conditions in tribal communities have remained deplorable in both countries as a result of what many would call hostile termination policies, designed to do away with tribal rights and bring tribal lands into mainstream economic patterns.  By the time UNDRIP was passed 12 years ago, indigenous peoples, whether in categories of “status Indians, “non-status Indians,” Metis; urban or non-urban, had struggled for generations to gain greater control over their lands, much of which had never been legally designated for their exclusive use as was the case on tribal reservations in the United States.  Treaty-making as a basis for protection of Indian lands had not been done in many provinces, especially in British Columbia, so part of the self-determination struggle today requires dealing with the legal quagmire created by a lack of that legal sequence in tribal land tenure.  Indian peoples in Canada may be located on portions of their traditional lands, but those lands are often not protected by the historic relationships that flowed from treaties as they are in many cases in the U.S.  Aboriginal title and its “extinguishment” so that colonial development could take place were a focus of colonizers.  Treaties were and are a way to reserve certain lands and powers of sovereignty to indigenous people while extinguishing the aboriginal title to larger portions of lands where the titles involved had not entered the legal framework needed for development.  Tribal nations, from the perspective of some colonizers who looked on the process as humane, might then eventually enter the national economy on their own behalf, using their lands as economic tools.  Of course, most colonizers seem to have viewed the process in more opportunistic ways, simply seeing the advantage of gaining access to much of the tribal estate in treaties that could simply be violated or renegotiated at a later date. While treaty-making with tribes was officially ended by the United States Congress in 1871, Canada has embarked on a system of “modern treaties” 6 to create a legal framework for some indigenous lands and for more clearly defined tribal self-government, especially in British Columbia. 

     For a much fuller discussion of indigenous land tenure and indigenous rights in general in Canada, one can view a quick resource that provides at least a snapshot of the history and current status of indigenous rights in Canada. 7 It is important to note that self-determination efforts for  and among Canadian indigenous people has been a rather recent, on-going process before the UNDRIP, as it has been in the U.S. since the 1970’s.  While the resulting political atmosphere differs between Canadian and U.S. indigenous affairs, the current struggles bear some significant parallels of active indigenous movements that have forced federal governments to deal with indigenous peoples’ desires for self-determination in a more forthright manner.  As international standards of the UNDRIP are considered in both countries, hopes for greater justice in the process are of special interest for those preparing communications between interested parties, of course.  In that regard, national indigenous political organizations have played the crucial role of providing channels for negotiations between indigenous communities and the governments of both countries.  Indigenous peoples of both nation-states can learn valuable lessons from each other’s experiences as these efforts continue in the implementation of the UNDRIP.

Channels of communications about Self-Determination and Indigenous People – the AFN and NCAI

     As mentioned in the introduction for this paper, progress toward the idea of self-determination in Canada and the United States is hampered by continuing misunderstanding and conflicting views on the part of the many indigenous peoples involved and the complex mass society in each of the two countries.  Without sustained communications with the national governments of the U.S and Canada, sponsored by the indigenous peoples themselves, the changes needed to empower tribal communities in managing their own affairs would not be possible.

     In Canada, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), has been instrumental in support of legislation that would help implement the UNDRIP in Canada and has been involved in supporting local and regional groups as they work through Canada’s current efforts to make use of the UNDRIP in establishing appropriate relationships.  The AFN emerged from the National Indian Brotherhood in 1982, after that organization heroically confronted federal efforts to minimize tribal sovereignty.  The AFN website describes its approach to empowering indigenous people in this way:

First Nation leaders (Chiefs) from coast to coast to coast direct the work of AFN through resolutions passed at Chiefs Assemblies held at least twice a year. The AFN National Executive is made up of the National Chief, 10 Regional Chiefs and the chairs of the Elders, Women’s and Youth councils. Regional Chiefs are elected every three years by Chiefs in their regions. Chiefs, who are elected by the citizens and members of their respective communities, elect the National Chief every three years. 8

Theirs is a huge task of advocating for and representing “…the First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country,” as the AFN Website notes. 9 The AFN has endorsed the proposed passage of Bill C-262, requiring the Canadian government to “…ensure that federal law is consistent with the UN Declaration and to work with Indigenous Peoples to develop a National Action Plan.” 10

     In the United States, the American Congress of American Indians (NCAI) shoulders parallel duties and espouses similar values.  It represents and advocates for its membership of tribal governments and individuals, though not all tribes in the United States have sought membership.  NCAI supported the writing of the UNDRIP since at least 1999, according to a resolution of the organization recognizing the 2017 10 th anniversary of the UNDRIP’s passage. 11  It continues to advocate for it, as a voice for the 573 recognized tribes and many other individuals who have membership in the organization.  As with the AFN, its advocacy and input are crucial to the possible successful implementation of the UNDRIP.  Individual indigenous people, who are citizens of both the U.S. and Canada and the tribal groups on their own behalf are also part of the advocacy mix.  In local, state and provincial governments, they are crucial players in making the UNDRIP a useful model for their interactions with the larger society of both nations. 

     It is clear from that seemingly massive number of advocates that the UNDRIP ought to be the guiding document for the development of self-determination within Canada and the U.S. But the processes of implementing the UNDRIP are as yet unfulfilled after almost 12 years since its passage.  Obviously, communications and negotiations have not gone as well as many hoped back in 2007!  Let us take a look as some of the possible areas of confusion in the communications about self-determination, attempting to view the problems of communications through the eyes of the indigenous people and of mass society. 

Some Words of Caution: The Difficulty of Profiling the Views of Protagonists

     In order to undertake the ambitious analysis of a few of the points of view of indigenous peoples and the mass society that surrounds them, this author acknowledges the dangers of over-simplification and overgeneralization inherent in the effort.  After all, such processes require individuals to somehow negotiate on behalf of entire peoples, each of which is made up of a wide spectrum of perspectives.  In effect, this kind of process requires the most difficult kind of communications: that of finding a way for entire peoples to communicate with each other.  Yet unless people are willing to undertake the problems created by such forces as national self-images, simplistic and sometimes xenophobic media misrepresentations of “the other” and abiding stereotypical popular culture perspectives embedded in political and social movements, little headway can be made in effective communications between such large populations as “peoples” and “nations.”  The now controversial topic of “identity politics” is, of course, bound up in this kind of discussion, making the constantly shifting political landscapes involved especially difficult to assess.  The usual definition of “identity politics” emphasizes conditions where “…groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group.” 12

     For many involved in the implementing the UNDRIP, the idea that their position promotes their interests “without regard to the interests” of others in the nation state challenges the idea of mutual respect they hope will surround the negotiations leading to greater opportunities for indigenous self-determination.  At least, that is rather directly addressed in Tauli-Corpuz’ statement above.  Yet the continuing debates about the appropriateness of identity politics are important to the discussion, since so many of the attitudes and political biases of negotiators have been forged in emotional political values so prevalent in todays political discourses in the U.S. and Canada.  As this author has documented in earlier publications about the American Story, for instance, the perceived character of Americans is partly based upon their own self-images as bearers of a superior civilization, a character that is continuously bombarded by commercial, social and political interests that socialize Americans in particular ways when dealing with “Native Americans” subject matter. 13 The often-justified bitterness indigenous people may feel, too, needs to be acknowledged.  The long-term effects of colonization on tribal institutions, after all, have had devastating impacts on the lives of generations of their people.

     Stereotypical representations of the nation’s Indigenous Peoples have long dominated the conceptions of many non-Indian people, including policy-makers, since little substantial information about Native peoples or their concerns has been available in schools, entertainment and other mass media, or in political campaigns.  In very recent times, a strong current of nationalist and even xenophobic politics has arisen in the U.S., in fact, seemingly presenting a widening gap of what this author has called “intentional ignorance” for indigenous people to overcome in their self-determination struggles.  The mutual respect and pluralism necessary for negotiations and on-going relations between “Americans” and the indigenous peoples of the nation, then, is difficult to establish and maintain as the winds of politics shift in our times. 

     In Canada, where the Trudeau administration has made the implementation of the UNDRIP a high-profile issue as this paper is written, similar problems in establishing mutual respect are intensified by the perceived need for expedient, efficient solutions to long-standing problems created by generations of poor, often neglectful public policy.  Canada shares with the U.S. a similar national identity based upon their common original colonial perspective. Rationalizations for taking tribal lands, the Doctrines of Discovery and Conquest, and idea of terra nullius in their inherited colonial view of land rights are the very basis of relationships with tribes in both countries, even today.  Canada’s rather high-profile announcements in pursuit of implementation of the UNDRIP sound laudable, but from a Native perspective, the actual process seems to be following a pre-established route to subordinate relationships for indigenous people that are not likely to satisfy their hopes for self-determination.  In fact, according to a presentation prepared by Russell Diabo, member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake in Canada, Editor of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin, and a First Nations Policy Analyst, recent federal announcements would seem to be more focused upon extinguishing any indigenous title to lands as quickly as possible and the creation of a new “fourth level” of tribal governments.  In that fourth level, tribal self-governing powers would be situated at a level of municipalities, far beneath the federal and provincial levels and subject to possibly hostile corporate business operations, which often develop large projects with federal and provincial cooperation.  Such an arrangement could leave tribal nations out of the loop, except in the cases of “consultation.” 14  With such economic projects as trans-provincial pipelines and transport of tar sands oil now being build or planned, the implications of simply mollifying tribal leaders who might object to incursions on their homelands with consultation alone would seem to be a cynical approach on the part of the Trudeau government to negotiating the rights of the indigenous peoples. 

     A very recent example are the problems in Canada of working through the UNDRIP’s Articles 18 and 19, which require “…free , prior and informed consent in matters which would affect their [indigenous peoples’] rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.” 15  An open letter of April 17, 2019 as this paper is written, was circulated via email, but was addressed directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to protest the consultation processes his administration is conducting with tribal nations in the proposed Trans-Mountain Expansion Project- Phase III (referred to as TMX).  Canada has federalized the project, actually purchasing the formerly corporate project from Kinder Morgan, and focused its consultations for the rights of way with individual indigenous band government officials to the near-exclusion of the overall Secwepemc peoples of the region of British Columbia affected by the project.   The letter is authorized by a “Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly,” apparently formed at a June 2-4, 2018 meeting held on the site of the proposed route of the pipeline.  The letter protests that consultation process, asserting the position that Canada’s unilateral actions in the process of framing consultation are dishonorable and violate indigenous rights established under Canadian legal decisions, the 2015 report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and international human rights standards which Canada has endorsed and other actions of the Trudeau government in its supposed implementation of the UNDRIP. 16

     This situation and the other actions of Canadian government reveal that the process of seeking “consent” of native nations for new economic projects that will impact them are half-hearted at best.  In fact, “consultation” alone, not including “consent,” has already been used to satisfy existing legal requirements for dealing with tribal interests in both the United States and Canada.  In some cases on both sides of the border, consultation has meant that tribes are merely informed of projects that will affect them, but no effort has been made to get their consent. 17 This is exactly what tribes objected to in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock in 2016-17.  As scholar and professor David E. Wilkins notes in writing about similar situations in the U.S., “When consultation has been stripped of its meaning and reduced to the process of informing and replaces the act of consent, the power of Native sovereignty and self-determination is irreparably harmed.” 18

     In a closely related policy development in the United States, President Barack Obama had announced in 2010 at one of his administration’s annual White House Tribal Nation Conferences that the U. S. would review its commitment to the UNDRIP. 19 In a later announcement of the U.S. Department of State clarifying that promise, the Obama Administration produced a lengthy recitation of its services in support of tribal nations under U.S. law and policy.20 Tellingly, though, the announcement included this statement: 

…the United States recognizes the significance of the Declaration’s provisions on free, prior and informed consent, which the United States understands to call for a process of meaningful consultation with tribal leaders, but not necessarily the agreement of those leaders, before the actions addressed in those consultations are taken. 21

The idea expressed here that the Obama Administration did not recognize the key principle of “consent” reveals again that tribal nations will remain in a difficult position to manage the impacts of economic development by outside forces.  Since the announcement appears to be the position of a specific presidential administration, it also is subject to review by subsequent administrations, meaning that tribal nations will have to hope that the Trump Administration or any future ones will commit U. S. policy to more sound principles of self-determination.  Congress has yet to weigh in on the UNDRIP, making any long-term, dependable precedent unlikely.  Some players in the policy development processes seemed to anticipate such gamesmanship.  As the Indian Law Resource Center observed in April, 2019,

We never thought the Declaration would solve our problems. We wanted the Declaration to set concrete international standards that we could then call upon our federal government to live up to. The federal government agreed to those standards and now it is up to us to demand that our country keep its word. 22

While it seems that the UNDRIP does have standing under U.S. law and policy, its on-going implementation will require much attention from the indigenous peoples to assure its specific protections can be implemented in times when major changes in federal policy at all levels are occurring.  Since the 2016 national election, after all, President Trump has walked away from many international agreements and even from treaties with nations like Russia.  In such a policy quagmire, the U.S. commitment to the UNDRIP seems tentative at best. 

     In capitalist economics, as in practically every aspect of Mass Society today, cultural values have had to be adapted or shielded to survive the changes thrust upon indigenous peoples ever since “first contact.”  That is an obvious fact, but the incredible variety of adaptations Indigenous peoples of the U. S. and Canada have made in keeping the core values of their worldviews strong are complex and impressive.  Some tribal groups with federal, state or provincial recognition have somehow held on to their traditional identities and, with savvy use of human and other recourses, they remain strong players in the economies that surround them.  Even de-tribalized Native people in both countries still cling to portions of often-threatened traditions that help them maintain an identity that cries out for the recognition of self-determination for their peoples and their ways of living. Disregard for the interests of tribes reveals the low priority given to indigenous rights, despite the lofty pronouncements of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and of President Barak Obama on meeting the needs of indigenous peoples in compliance with the international standards of UNDRIP.  Especially in large economic development projects like massive pipelines, Wilkins notes, the UNDRIP’s Article 19 “stipulates that States shall consult and co-operate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.” 23 Indigenous peoples in Canada and the U.S. will have to rely upon some crafty negotiations to realize the most useful portions of the UNDRIP’s protocols.  As political climates of the two nation-states shift toward more conservative, right-leaning policies, tribal nations will be forced to find key areas of consensus among themselves to advocate effectively in what could become a more hostile atmosphere in the coming years.

Cultural and Spiritual Concerns

     The issue of consultation and consent are only one important part of the UNDRIP’s stated aspirations in improving the relationships and communications between indigenous peoples and nation states’ interests.   Philosophical and spiritual concerns, the very heart of the survival of indigenous peoples, are still sticking points to its implementation, too, even where nation states proclaim their support for the UNDRIP.  The root of assimilation policies in both the U.S. and Canada can he traced to the justification that Indian people must be “civilized” to a level that includes discarding their spiritual beliefs.  There are quite a number of themes that have been used to rationalize this religious/spiritual attack on indigenous people.  As Deloria and many others have noted, the Biblical errand of converting the world’s peoples to Christianity is still a strong motivation among many Christians.  It is a very strong motivation, especially for the more evangelical Christian denominations.  As Anaya’s analysis cited earlier in this paper makes clear, the idea of pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect for the religious, spiritual beliefs of indigenous peoples are a key to maintaining the identity of entire peoples.  Article 12 of the UNDRIP asserts the rights of indigenous peoples to “…manifest, practice, and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs.  This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures…”  In this realm, indigenous people continue to encounter gross violations of their religious practices and enmity from those who would impose their beliefs upon them. 

     Sacred sites in the U. S. and Canada continue to be desecrated without either consultation or the consent of indigenous people who revere them.  One recent example in the U.S. is the Trump administration’s on-going sale of oil and gas leases in areas once thought too significant to tribes to despoil in the conduct of the nation’s energy policy.  Federal lands near the Chaco Canyon area of New Mexico are among the many areas to be opened to leasing under the “energy dominance” policy of the Trump Administration.  Interestingly, this is the kind of issue that reveals a strong level of support from many Americans for tribal self-determination in the face of one administration’s politics.  As the Associated Press reported on April 10 of this year, a number of the New Mexico congressional delegation are “are renewing a call for the creation of a formal buffer around a national park held sacred by Native Americans.” 24  Of course, sacred sites are a part land values in a more general sense which are a part of the misunderstanding Deloria wrote of in his observation in his book The Metaphysics of Modern Existence that “…the fundamental factor that keeps Indians and non-Indians from communicating is that they are speaking about two entirely different perceptions of the world.”

Economic Paradigms and Cultural Values: Indigenous Land Tenure

     Consideration of relationships with lands as private property or “government land” as opposed to lands as sacred homelands and as an economic base for tribes might be the clearest contrast one can draw in finding the roots of missed communications and on-going misunderstanding.  Over the years, both the U.S. and Canada have set aside lands for the supposed exclusive use of indigenous people, while recognizing only a “use and occupancy” right to those lands by tribal nations.  The depth of the indigenous relationships to lands as sacred is often trivialized, even today, as economic exploitation continues on those lands.  Relationships with traditional tribal homelands and even lands beyond the daily boundaries tribes recognize are a spiritual concern for Native peoples in ways other people often dismiss as “pagan” or worse.  Federal legal protections reserve specifically bounded areas for tribal use, but still maintain federal authority over many aspects of tribal land management as part of the Trust Responsibility, a legal term with a long history of both positive protections for those lands from alienation and negative restrictions on how tribes can make use of those lands. 

     In the laws of the nation-states of Canada and the U.S., land is held either as private property or as commonly held government managed parcels, often referred to as “Crown Lands” in Canada and federal lands in the U.S.  Of course, state and local governments in the U. S. and provincial and municipal levels of government in Canada often hold title to lands.  Corporations, too, hold lands in both nation states, often operating as “persons” under laws governing private property.  Lands are thus managed in the public interest by governments or for profit or as domiciles under private property.  An important point here is that when tribal self-determination is practiced in the use of lands, its legally defined limits are subject to federal (or Crown, in the case of Canada) oversight, without regard for the values of sacredness tribes have always recognized.  Lands of federally-recognized tribes are held in trust by the federal government as a fiduciary or “trust” duty for exclusive use of tribal members, instead, reflecting their utilitarian, economic values.  The long history of how that situation came to be, from first contacts with European colonizers, remains a mystery to most non-indigenous people.  Treaties, presidential executive orders, legislation – all have been used to maintain the unique trust responsibility federal governments have over tribal lands.  Economic values in land were, of course, the major focus of development in colonial and post-colonial America.  While legal scholars may argue over whether tribes or the federal government is the “real” owner of those lands, especially when treaty law is involved, members of the mass society are generally unaware of the legal history and impact of those land designations.

     That quick overview of the legal basis of land tenure is far too simplistic, of course, since laws in both the U.S. and Canada have been enacted to extend or limit tribal sovereign rights in specific areas of law, including jurisdiction over lands and resources.  For now, that quick sketch of land tenure will suffice for the purposes of this paper, it is enough to demonstrate the complexities, likely misunderstandings and barriers to communications that may arise in the legal framework of tribal lands.

     In the cultural realm of relationships with lands, which is of utmost importance to many indigenous people, their indigenous self-determination was abridged from the onset of colonialism in their homelands.  While today’s mass society in both Canada and the U.S. has its own sense of sacredness in the ways its members relate to lands, indigenous tribal communities retain many of their original traditional values toward their lands, even to lands that they once held before being displaced by the forces of colonialism.  Land, of course, has always been a key point of conflict between the worldviews of tribal peoples and the mass societies.

     In the remarkable book The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life, the authors explore  a variety of indigenous values from a number of tribal peoples in its chapter entitled “The Boundaries of the World: Seasons, Origins, and Other Worlds.” 25 From the many examples they carefully portray, the authors tell us “…Oral tradition tells of origins: things, places and the People.  And, also described in the oral tradition of all tribes are circumscribed geographical areas and defined boundaries earthly and supernatural, with which the tribe associates itself.  By means of oral tradition, The People have an account of their ‘genesis’, their territory, and their arrival at a particular place.” 26  Thus, the authors say, each tribe asserts that its many-generations-long, identity-creating stories tell them that its lands are “right” or “perfect” for them, and that spiritual essence of those lands is especially receptive to them.  It is important to note that the indigenous claim include all the resources, even the sky and stars in relationship with the features of those lands. 27  There are a number of other important relationships with traditional lands that are not described here, since a thorough coverage of traditional relationships to lands would take volumes.  A key principle of misunderstanding, though, lies in indigenous beliefs that there are living, sentient forces alive within these lands and that humans must tend to relationships with them through ceremony, ritual and daily awareness in order to assure mutually beneficial relationships. 

     In today’s situation where tribes have been removed to lands farther west or displaced without assignment to new lands, those bonds of mutual connectedness original homelands often remain a part of the cultural identity of the People.  It is a bond that is difficult for members of a mass society to understand, since real estate values and marketability of land as an economic asset is crucial for today’s global economy in the eyes of developers and homeowners alike.  While there is no sense denying that non-indigenous people do have a sense of the sacredness of their privately-held lands or the lands managed in their interests by their governing bodies, the ties of cultural identity for entire tribal people have to traditional lands, even those now owned by others, is a remote concept for many. 

     In terms of indigenous self-determination, much of the American and Canadian public have little understanding and in some cases, little empathy for these kinds of values.  Their understandings of sacredness in land is focused upon the “Holy Lands” in the Middle East and their own family and community experiences with lands made sacred by such struggles as the Civil War or communal reverence and thankfulness to God for their personal homelands that have sustained them.  Of course, environmentalists of mass society have also expressed a sense of sacred obligations, especially in their ideas of “stewardship,” largely from the development of land ethics arising from “deep ecology,” “ecopsychology,” “biophilia” and in some cases, “bioregionalism.”  This author has examined these movements and written about their parallel characteristics with the indigenous traditions and found that they have developed interesting and provocative credos that may merit further examination as indigenous peoples look for allies in their own public campaigns to retain or regain access to their sacred sites and homelands.  The stark contrast between traditional indigenous views of lands and those of mass society continue to lead to misunderstandings but may yet also lead to some important bridges between cultures at a time when global environmental collapse threatens all peoples.

     The discussion of the conflicting values in lands is hardly exhausted with this brief discussion of lands.  Today’s economic globalization affects indigenous people on every continent, often in existential ways.  The book Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Globalization 28 documents and explains the threats to indigenous self-determination and provides a useful critique of the responses to those threats from among indigenous peoples themselves.  Its contributing authors include some of the finest writers and best communicators about cultural viewpoints that remain viable, life-sustaining alternatives to those of mass society.  It is an excellent reference for those willing to examine the political ramifications that traditional tribal thought has in the economic challenges tribes face today.  The fact that it is published by Sierra Club Books reminds us that here, too, indigenous peoples do have allies in their struggles for self-determination.  In fact, the appendices for this book includes a 12-page list of profiles of national and international organizations who are either advocates for indigenous self-determination or include forums for indigenous peoples, reminding us all that indigenous self-determination is indeed a global concern and that non-indigenous peoples may gain some important insights from them as global climate shifts continue.  From another perspective, indigenous people have some interesting possible allies who may be helpful in public policy debates, if they can become supportive of tribal values.

Other Cultural Paradigms: Tribal and Mass Society’s identity-forming processes

     In addition to land values, the tribal peoples often maintain a markedly distinct sense of identity based upon kinship and a history based upon the original oral traditions and ceremonies.  Those facts along with ignorance about the actual cultures and values of indigenous peoples can confuse people of the mass society that surrounds them. As Cherokee anthropologist Robert K. Thomas portrayed tribalism in the 1980’s, tribalism is a far different concept than what we see employed as a derogatory concept used to denote groups involved in the rather vicious opposing political debates rampant in social media today.  Thomas’ fascinating discussion of what he called the “ideal tribe” in the 1980’s remains a useful set of concepts that can provide a bridge of understanding between policy-makers and indigenous peoples.  The author of this paper has further adapted Thomas’ model in earlier writings intended to portray the communications environment in which tribal nations operate today. 29 

     From that earlier writing, here are the values of Tribalism vs Mass Society that may help to clarify the differences in cultures that have emerged:  Kinship vs. Bureaucracy; Sacred, Oral Tradition vs. Traditions subordinated to innovation; Sacred Society vs. an often impersonal society under laws created by citizens;  Responsiveness to Nature vs. Nature controlled by humans; a closed and bounded community vs. an “open” society. 30   Each of those elements are presented by Thomas and this author in their extreme to clarify their distinction from each other, but can be useful as a basis for understanding the larger field of interactions.  Much misunderstanding can be traced to ignorance of the distinctions of these contrasting orientations.  For instance, kinship in its extended sense, in Thomas’ view, is still a guiding institution among many tribes today, especially when traditional ceremonies are underway.  As he pointed out, many of other practical uses of extended kinship among tribal members have been displaced by the completing paradigms of the bureaucratic system of the mass society that has emerged in the U.S. and Canada.  Still, those very personal relationships inherent in kinship, steeped in a sense of sacred responsibility, are often the framework for what might be considered social services among tribal members.  Bureaucracy, in contrast, is the institution made necessary by a mass society in providing goods and services to its people.  The contrasting institutional systems of kinship vs. bureaucracy sometimes fan controversy, even among tribal members, when today’s governance and social services are governed by restrictions like the need to avoid nepotism.  It is easy to see how kinship/bureaucracy and the other aspects of this tribalism vs. mass society model can be confusing in a mass society that may require individuals to live a large portion of their daily lives among strangers. 

     The difference between bureaucracy of a mass society and tribal identities based in kinship is well illustrated in a film released in 1990 that featured, among other expressions of indigenous self-determination, the Lummi tribe’s attempts to gain recognition for its fishing rights in the American Northwest.  In on segment of the documentary film entitled Winds of Change: A Matter of Promises, a “talking circle” is formed so that tribal people and people who served at that time in the bureaucracies involved in state and federal agencies focusing on fisheries could communicate in a more “evocative” setting.  At one point, a uniformed wildlife professional asks the circle of people not to judge him as a person who opposes tribal rights, but to see him in his professional, bureaucratic role as enforcer of rules and regulations of a government agency.  In that same segment of the film, 31  an indigenous woman says that she fears those kinds of professionals, “..not because you are you (indicating non-indigenous professional agency people seated in the circle), but because you are you! (referring to their standing as bureaucrats who are required by law to disregard what she sees as the tribe’s sacred and legal rights at the time).  It is a poignant illustration of the uphill battle indigenous people have fought for generations for their rights to self-determination and sovereignty.  Even gaining access to an appropriate level within bureaucracies where they might plead their cases or file their grievances has not been an easy task! 

     Communications in such a lopsided arrangement is unlikely to yield satisfactory results in the road to indigenous self-determination. The differences in how human systems operate in tribal traditions and the evolving bureaucratic traditions of mass society contribute to strained relationships, further obscuring attempts to move toward the hope-for levels of mutual respect and pluralism that indigenous people rely upon as a basis for self-determination discussions and negotiations.   For the purposes of this paper, traditional values in lands and the characteristics of tribal society should be enough to illustrate Vine Deloria, Jr.’s point about the fact that indigenous people and members of the mass society face difficulties in communications because they/we often really do have entirely different conceptions of the world!

Fear, Uncertainty, Xenophobia, intentional ignorance

     On the darker side of self-determination struggles, from the perspective of indigenous peoples, are those members of the mass society who have arrayed themselves in active opposition to any action tribes might take to exercise their sovereign rights and self-determination as peoples.  One politically active group, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), 32 for instance, continues its attempts to roil tensions between indigenous tribal groups and non-indigenous citizens that surround them.  In the case of the Township of Hobart, located within the exterior boundaries of the once-allotted reservation homeland of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin, CERA has helped provide propaganda and legal counsel in its battle to undermine and destroy the tribe and its rights that exist as a recognized tribe under U. S. law.  It has opposed the tribe’s attempts to gain trust status under federal law for lands the tribe has regained since the allotment of lands there beginning in the 1870’s.  It has lost legal cases against the tribe that challenged its standing as a federally recognized tribal nation and it has won cases that limited tribal authority to escape the Township’s attempts to make sudden eminent domain claims to lands the tribe has submitted to the federal government’s trust status procedures. 33 Those lands were purchased by the tribe in recent times in efforts to regain them, sometimes several generations after their loss as allotted lands during the Indian Allotment Policies of beginning in the 1880’s.  The actions of the Township of Hobart clearly reflect CERA’s opposition to tribal self-determination and even recognition of tribal nations in general.  At one point, then chairperson of CERA, Elaine Willman was also a board member for the township of Hobart. Any mutual respect or commitment to pluralism in public policy in the processes of managing tribal lands is threatened by such organizations who clearly do not subscribe to the ideas of pluralism or self-determination for indigenous peoples.  CERA has extended its nationwide attacks on tribal sovereignty since the 2016 National Election, as its former chair and now board member of CERA, Elaine Willman, has turned her attention from tribes in Wisconsin to those in Montana and elsewhere. 34  CERA’s actions seem to be based upon a kind of intentional ignorance, since despite all the research and in the legal cases they have brought, they seem to purposefully ignore federal law and policy and maintain an innocence of knowledge about international standards like those found in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.  Their intransigent approaches to undermining indigenous self-determination remain a great challenge for tribes who otherwise hope to win the respect, support and cooperation from local non-indigenous people for what is seen on the world stage as a just cause.  With the recent shifts in the political landscape, their machinations pose a danger of becoming a part of the xenophobia that seems to be sweeping through American and even global politics. Their public campaign of opposing tribal rights would seem to be in direct opposition to the terms of the UNDRIP, specifically in its provision in Article 8, Section 2, subsection b, which states “States Shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them” 35 and Article 15, section 2: “States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous people concerned to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.” 36

     In addition to the actions of groups like CERA, very recent changes in the political climate must remind many indigenous people in the United States of the vast reversals in American Indian policy that shook tribal communities between assimilation policies beginning in the 1870’s, the Indian Reorganization policies beginning in the 1930’s, the termination policies of the 1950’s, and the beginnings of the Self-Determination policies in the late 1960’s.  In each of those massive shifts in political and social policies in the United States, tribal people at the local level saw huge changes in their hopes for remaining self-determining, self-governing peoples within the larger nation-state of the United States.  Similar shifts in the overall political culture of the nation-state must have shocked the indigenous peoples of Canada as well.  Again, nationalism and a new kind of xenophobic populism seem to be on the rise  If one believes that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a notion of liberalism that are now under attack and that policies relying upon pluralism are often victims of nationalism, almost complete reversals of the policies of indigenous self-determination seem very possible in the coming few years.  Irrational fear is apparently on the rise among many non-indigenous people and many politicians seem only too happy to manipulate it, some with alarming skill and premeditation.  

Enforcing the Principles of Indigenous Self-Determination

     The issue of enforcing domestic laws and agreements that do parallel those values found in the UNDRIP which should bolster indigenous self-determination remains a very real problem.  After all, the document is a non-binding statement of aspirations, though it can be used as a guideline for domestic law, of course.  So far, though, Anti-sovereignty groups operate practically with impunity as they challenge the very basis of the sovereignty of tribes in many countries around the world.  In the U.S. and in Canada, groups like the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance encourage members and others to harass tribes whose very existence seems to them to be anathema to their intolerant beliefs. 37  Their actions fly in the face of the UNDRIP’s moral standards of human rights, developed over years of discussions on the global level.  In the American Southwest, the problems of enforcing even the stated policies of the UNDRIP and U.S. law and policy in protecting indigenous rights has rankled indigenous people whose lands straddle the U.S.-Mexico border.  In an April 19, 2019 article entitled “UN’s Empty Promises to World’s Indigenous Peoples,” Tupac Enrique Acosta, identified as a member of the Nahuatl Nation and firekeeper for the Nahuacalli, criticizes the entire processes of implementation of the UNDRIP.  He writes, “The United Nations, as in so many other areas, gives lip service in support of Indigenous issues while lacking the political will and enforcement power over individual member states to comply with the protection of fundamental human rights for the Original Nations of Indigenous Peoples of the world.” 38  He calls upon Pope Francis to back up his rhetoric of apology for the sins of the Catholic Church in Bolivia by denouncing the Doctrine of Discovery as the basis for current “refugee policies” by the Trump Administration and for negative indigenous policies in general.  After reciting a litany of oppressive policies in Brazil and Mexico, he writes, “We had hoped the UN’s creation of the Permanent Forum and passage of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had started to turn the battleship of oppression at long last, but we have been disappointed. Instead of extending the universal human rights enshrined in those actions to include protection for Indigenous Peoples, the UN member states have subsumed them to the interests of the nation states that wield the most power with the UN’s halls.”  He then calls on readers to “take to the streets” on April 22 nd in New York across from the UN to protest, saying “we will not be quiet, and we will not ignore the continuing impact of the racist and white-supremacist policies let loose on the Western Hemisphere by the Doctrine of Discovery. 39

          It is clear that the policy-makers in the nation-states of Canada and the United States intend to find a way to satisfy their own perceived notion of indigenous self-determination when they do recognize what they see as the term’s literal definition.  As Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee said in a videotaped forum at Harvard University 40, the UNDRIP has now received some rather contradictory support from the four countries that originally opposed in in 2007.  According to Chief Lyons, New Zealand was first to reconsider, apparently reversing its opposition.  Lyons said they thought it was “a good idea.”  Australia also seemed vague in its commitment to aboriginal rights in its endorsement for the UNDRIP.  Canada, Lyons said, “would work with it.”  The United States said they would support it when it did not conflict with its own laws and policy.  Lyons viewed the U. S. position as a nearly total dismissal of the UNDRIP, saying it left him “right back where we were when we went to Geneva in 1977.” 41  He was referring to efforts in 1977 to bring the idea of indigenous self-determination to the UN by a group of activists from the Americas that met with the UN Non-Governmental Organization’s conference on “Discrimination Against the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.”  It was there that the movement leading to the UNDRIP was begun by this generation, following the lead of Deskehah, who had tried to gain an audience with the League of Nations in 1923 in an attempt to gain international attention to the violation of Native self-determination for his people in the Grand River Reserve in Canada. 42  He had not been allowed to present his case in the League of Nations, but had established an important avenue for the delegations for indigenous people nearly 55 years later.  Lyons is obviously disappointed in the U. S. commitment to the UNDRIP.  So, there are some troubling developments that may well impact the implementation of the UNDRIP in the United States and Canada, too.

The Intergenerational Commitment to Indigenous Self-Determination in Our Times

     Former Native American Rights Fund legal expert Charles Wilkinson dedicated his 2005 book Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations, with these words: “I dedicate this book, with my lasting admiration, to the Indian tribal leaders of the historic post-World War II era, who have made their reservations into homelands.” 43  His book documents in very personal, experiential terms, the ways Native people in the U. S. courageously took on the often controversial public policy debates and confrontations as they battled against the conditions of the Termination Policies of the 1950’s while struggling to empower their peoples in the early Self-Determination era.  It is at times an emotional story, one that inspires hope that the next generations of Native peoples will at last gain the freedom and independence that is the ultimate goal of self-determination as indigenous people of the land.

     In Canada, similar intergenerational struggles ensue.  There, people like activist George Manuel, author of the 1974 book The Fourth World: An Indian Reality, 44 envisioned a future where the colonial mentality of the Canadian settler culture would be transformed into one that could fathom the understandings indigenous peoples of the land had employed for generations.  His heartfelt message to all Canadians remains a major statement of the values that remain a part of indigenous peoples today.  As his son, Arthur Manual wrote in 2017, shortly before he passed to the spirit world, “It is also important to note that colonialism has been condemned by the United Nations in all its manifestations because it is against world peace  It is against world peace because once you dispossess and make dependent a people you automatically create the yearning to be independent and free.  This will always result in the human struggle for human freedom and independence.” 45  Both George and his son Arthur’s work reveals the depth and on-going intergenerational legacy of the struggle for self-determination as viewed by indigenous peoples themselves.  It is no wonder termination and assimilation policies are now seen as inhumane and that they did not prevail over tribal identity and belief systems.  These are inspiring stories.  Still, the threats to indigenous self-determination still rise from extreme political movements in the mass society as this paper is written.  In times when so many of the world’s value systems are under great stress, it is instructive to consider the politics and dangers of fear and xenophobia in politics that surround indigenous self-determination.

Some Hopeful Developments: Indigenization of a Once-Colonial Atmosphere

     Yet the indigenous people were here first!  That ought to be a strong enough argument to gain the support of nationalists or at least forestall any radical reversals of recognition of tribal self-determination, one might think.  In the past, liberals and conservatives alike have supported the idea of Indian Self-Determination in the U.S., right?  Vine Deloria, Jr.’s. legacy and that many others of the aging generation who came of age as the U.S. policy of Indian Self-Determination emerged remain encouraging.  Despite a seemingly hostile reaction from individuals and some organizations within the mass society surrounding indigenous people, there are often positive developments that seem to strengthen tribal hopes for greater degrees of self-determination.  And, there are successful stories from indigenous communities that remind us that the struggle is also very local, in nearby venues where any individual can help sustain values and customs that keep indigenous worldviews alive and practical, even as the political and social landscape shifts.  Where tribal lands are still under indigenous control and jurisdiction, entire complexes of tribal culture still remain intact, of course, and indigenous cultures often thrive in both circumstances of isolation from mass society and in enclaves very near to modern urban centers. 

     One interesting development is the positive response of some Christian denominations to the need for sharing accurate, accountable information about the aspirations of indigenous people.  Unitarian Universalists recently placed a video on line entitled “What is the Doctrine of Discovery? The True Story of the Colonization of the United States of America” 46  It is a fourteen-minute video of a grandfather explaining to his grandson the concepts of colonization in an extremely effective way.  It is the kind of educational material that can bring tears to the eyes of an old indigenous scholar like the author of this paper, who really needs to see positive ideals expressed in such a surprising public fashion once in a while.  The hope is that others will be reminded that indigenous self-determination may be in the hands of indigenous peoples themselves, but that there are many among the mass society who see a way to lend their moral and spiritual support.  And hope is still among the most powerful weapons indigenous peoples and their friends in the uphill battles of self-determination.  Decolonization, many believe, involves intellectual and moral development and in both the former colonized people and the former colonizers.  To do that will require both groups to build a perspective among themselves that can accommodate peaceful dialogue based upon communications in an atmosphere of mutual respect.  As Onondaga Faithkeeper and Chief Oren Lyons said in 2008, “Even though you and I are in different boats, you in your boat and we our canoe, we share the same river of life. What befalls me befalls you.  And downstream, downstream in this river of life, our children will pay for our selfishness, for our greed, and for our lack of vision.” 47 As a new generation looks to the future, indigenous self-determination struggles reveal the roots of the overall challenges the peoples of the world face in finding a sustainable path for global survival.  Vine Deloria, Jr’s challenge to us all is to find ways to communicate across those “two entirely different perceptions of the world” between mass society and the traditions of indigenous peoples.  After all, we are all indigenous to the planet whose life forces are now threatened by our lack of a common vision to sustain them. 


[1] S. James Anaya, “A Contemporary Definition of the International Norm of Self-Determination” University of Colorado Law School Colorado Law, Scholarly Commons, University of Colorado School of Law, 1993. <>, accessed 11 Apr. 2019.

2 S. James Anaya served as a distinguished United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People from 2008-2014.  His writings and reports on the conditions leading to the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are extremely valuable for any study of the UNDRIP.  Anaya is of Apache and Pure’pecha descent. Please see <>, accessed 11 Apr. 2019.  

3Ibid., p. 154.

4 Ibid. p. 155-156. 

5Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, “Message on Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, on the Occasion of the Adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” New York, 13 September 2007., Accessed 10 Apr. 2019.

6 Andrew Stuhl, Bruce Uviluq, Anna Logie and Derick Rasmussen, “Modern Treaties in Canada: A Call for Engaged, Collaborative Historical Research,”, accessed 21 Apr. 2019. 

7 William B. Henderson and Catherine Bell, updated by Gretchen Albers, “Indigenous Rights in Canada,” The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Last edited 7 Sept. 2017. <>, accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

8 Assembly of First Nations, website.  <>, accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

9 Ibid.

10 “Issue Update: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” March, 2019.  Assembly of First Nations, website.  <>, accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

11 National Congress of American Indians, Resolution #MKE-17-049 “Acknowledging the 10 th Anniversary of the Passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”  <> , accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

12“Identity Politics,” Merriam Webster Dictionary(online)., accessed 10 Apr. 2019. 

13Richard M. Wheelock, Chapter 6 “The American Story: The Impact of Myth on American Indian Policy,” in Destroying Dogma: Vine Deloria, Jr. and His Influence on American Society, Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2006, pp. 105-130.

14 Russell Diabo, “Trudeau Government’s Plan to Entrench 4 th Level of ‘Indigenous Government.” Decolonization Manual Speaking Tour, BC, March, 2019.  MS Word and PDF copy with author.  

15 U.N. General Assembly, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Resolution 61/295, 13 Sept. 2007.  PDF copy. <>, p. 8.  Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

16 Letter signed by Chief Judy Wilson, Skat’sin te Secwepemc, Neskonlith. “Re: [TRA] Proposed Tans Mountain Expansion Project – Phase III Consultations,” Addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  Received by author via email, from <> on behalf of Ellena Neel.  Sent 17 Apr. 2019.  Copy with author.

17 For an insightful discussion of the implications of federal and corporate use of “consultation,” please see David E. Wilkins and Hank Adams, “Nothing Less Than Consent: Consultation and the Diminishment of Indigenous Rights ,” Indian Country Today (online).  Indian Country E-Weekly Newsletter and E-mail.  Issue 46, 4 April, 2019.  <>.  Accessed 10 Apr. 2019.

18 Ibid.

19 Four Arrows, “The US ‘Rethinks’ the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, Maybe,” Truthout (on-line).  23 Jan. 2011.  <>, accessed 13 Apr. 2019. 

20 “Announcement of US Support for the UN Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People,” U. S. Department of State, <>, 12 Jan. 2011.  Accessed 13 Apr. 2019. 

21Ibid.  (PDF copy of above, downloaded), p. 5.

22“How the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People can be used to protect against a Trump Agenda ”  Indian Law Resource Center, <>, accessed 13 Apr. 2019.

23 Ibid. 

24 “N.M. Lawmakers Seek to Protect Chaco.” The Durango Herald, 10 Apr. 2019, p. 2A. 

25Peggy V. Beck, Anna Lee Walters and Nia Francisco, “Chapter Four: The Boundaries of the World: Seasons, Origins, and Other Worlds,” The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life.  Tsaile, AZ, Navajo Community College (now Dine’ College) Press, 6 th Printing, 1990.  Pages 67-93.

26 Ibid., p. 68.

27 Ibid., p. 69.

28Jerry Mander and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Paradigm Wars: Indigenous People’s Resistance to Globalization, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2006.  

29 Richard M. Wheelock, The ‘Ideal Tribe’ and ‘Mass Society’ in Tribal Communication Research,” in Steve Pavlik, ed. A Good Cherokee, A Good Anthropologist: Papers in Honor of Robert K. Thomas.  Los Angeles: Regents of the Univ. of Calif., McNaughton & Gunn, Inc.,1998.  Pages 127-148. 

30 Ibid. pp. 130-131; 134-135.

31 Winds of Change: A Matter of Promises . Carol Cotter; Dave Iverson; Phil Lucas; N Scott Momaday; WHA-TV (Television station: Madison, Wis.); Wisconsin. Educational Communications Board.; University of Wisconsin. Board of Regents.; PBS Video.; Pacific Arts Video (Firm), 1990.

32For a recent article about the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance actions, please see Anna V. Smith, “Why Don’t Anti-Indian Groups Count as Hate Groups?”  High Country News(on line) <>, 8 Oct., 2018.  Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.  Available in print copy; High Country News, Vol 50 No. 20, November 26, 2018, p. 8-9.  It should be noted that the group has become even more active with the apparent support of White nationalists since the 2016 National Election. 

33 William C. Griesbach, Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin, “Memorandum Decision and Order,” Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin v. Village of Hobart.  Case No. 06-C-1302, 2009.

34 Anna V. Smith, Why Don’t Anti-Indian Groups Count…,” p. 8.

35 UN, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Publ. by the UN, 07-58618-March 2008 – 4,000.  Page 5.  Available on-line. <>, accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

36Ibid, p. 7.

37For a description of the actions of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, please see Ryan Lenz, “Seeing Red.”  Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report.  <>.  Accessed 11 Apr. 2019.

38 Tupac Enrique Acosta, “UN’s Empty Promises to World’s Indigenous Peoples.” Inter Press Service News Agency (on-line).  <>, accessed 20 Apr. 2019. 

39 Ibid.

40Oren Lyons, Chief and Faith-keeper, Onondaga Nation.  Panel Member, “The Future of Indigenous Self-Government and Self-Determination,” on-line videorecording.  JFK, Jr. Forum, Harvard Univ., 30 Apr. 2018.  <>, accessed 12 Apr. 2019.

41 Ibid.

42 “Deskaheh: An Iroquois Patriot’s Fight for International Recognition,” A Basic Call to Consciousness, Akwesasne Notes, Mohawk Nation, via Rooseveltown, NY, 1978.  3 rd Edition, 1986.  Pages 13-23.

43 Charles Wilkinson, Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations.  New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005, page v. 

44George Manual and Michael Posluns, The Fourth World: An Indian Reality, New York: The Free Press, Div. of Macmillian Publ. Co., Inc., 1974.

45 Arthur Manual, The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy.  Toronto: James Lorimer and Company Publishers, Ltd., 1974.  Page 74. 

46 Unitarian Universalist Association, “What is the Discovery Doctrine: The True Story of the Colonization of the United States of America.”  <>, accessed 20 Apr. 2019. 

47 This quote can be found without specifics of its delivery at AZ Quotes (on line) <>, accessed 22 Apr. 2019.  For on line videos of Oren Lyons speaking in various venues with a nearly identical quote, see University of Arizona, Native Nations Institute, Indigenous Governance Database, “Oren Lyons: Looking Toward the Seventh Generation,” < Apr. 2008.  Accessed 22 Apr. 2019. 


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