Friday, October 17, 2008

United Nations Declarations


I listened to a couple of speeches from the UN sessions that has been ongoing the last couple of weeks. I did not know that there had been, only in 2007, a Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The wise people of the UN had finally realized that even into the 21st century colonizing countries still do not treat indigenous peoples as if they are equals. Among the provisions are the right to their culture and their languages and that their children shall not be forcefully separated from families and sent to schools in the dominant culture.

I am not fully aware of all that's going on around the world but I think Canada was the first country to recognize their indigenous people and to make a state for them. Yes, the state is very far north and not in the economic mainstream and they did then dam the James River and flood hundreds of acres of forest to produce hydroelectric power to sell south of the border. Yes, the electicity I enjoy this very minute may be a product of that left handed gift made by Canada to their native peoples.

I know that Australia has formally apologized to their aborigines and have stopped the practice of forced "white" education of children. The US has stopped the practice too but never yet apologized nor ever been fair and generous to native Americans. I cannot resist noting that the Chinese are treating the Tibetans like a despised indigneous people quite forgetting the great cultural debts they own Tibet and that there was a time when the Mongol "Khan" was considered the "Buddha of power," the Chinese emperor, the "'Buddha of wisdom," and the Dalai Lama the "Buddha of Compassion." {I hope I have that right and if not that I might be corrected) For the last 60 years the Chinese have tired hard to eradicate the Tibetan culture, {they allow somewhat rebuilt monasteries more as tourist attractions than anything else and infiltrate the lama ranks with spies.}

I am certain there are other indigenous cultures in many other parts of the world, like the natives in Central and South America and certainly in many African state, where these human rights that so many of us take for granted are anything but granted. Perhaps it's a failure of imagination on my part but I cannot understand how one can look at another human being and not recognize the commonalities we all share. That many people don't look a thing like me is a wonderful, fascinating and beautiful thing; the fact that they don't think like me is equally fascinating and wonderful. Why should I want to rid the world of them or turn them into people like myself? I like myself well enough but I don't think I should be a model for all others. These seem to me rather simple minded, common sensical attitudes and I'm astonished others don't share them.

1 comment:

Anne said...

As a Canadian I certainly am flattered that you give us credit, but it might not be all that well deserved.

We've had a history of discriminating against and abusing indigenous peoples to rival your own, and Nunavut (if that is what you are referrring to as a state for indigenous people) is a relatively recent creation. It is not, strictly speaking, "for" indigenous people, it is simply a territory that is largely run by the Inuit who live there. Nunavut was formerly a part of the Northwest Territories (NWT), and the NWT is also largely run by Inuit and Dene people living there. The only thing that really distinguishes Nunavut from all other Canadian territories and provinces (territories, by the way, have less autonomy than states or provinces) is the absence of non-Inuit people living there, too damn cold for the likes of us!

The rest of the indigenous people of Canada fare about as well as they do in your country, apology or no, so we've still got a way to go!