Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Colombia’s Indigenous March for Justice

Colombia’s Indigenous March for Justice

Colombia’s indigenous have a modern history of unifying in order to defend their territory, traditions, and their status as a native people. Similar to other Latin American indigenous groups, Colombia’s population has faced centuries of discrimination and repression by the country’s rulers and, in the case of Colombia, from leftist-guerrilla groups as well. Since the 1970s, armed conflict has leapt into flames throughout the country, with numerous recorded cases of forced displacement and violent confrontations affecting the indigenous

Politically, Colombia’s local communities have failed to establish a distinctive position of autonomy in the face of increasing polarization taking place in what serves as the Colombian version of the two party system, involving the left and the right. Instead, indigenous peoples have been forced into political and economic agreements that have led to their displacement, induced confrontations, and limited their freedom of movement within territory allocated to them by the government. A series of challenges during the 1970s led indigenous groups to break apart from peasant organizations, just as the state was attempting to have them merge into one of Bogotá’s front organizations, such as the People’s Revolutionary Organization (ORP). The rejection of the ORP led to the indigenous’ renewed repression by the entire government. In 1978 the Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC), an indigenous organization formed in the seventies, discovered that thirty of their members had been murdered. Polarization within the government and amongst Colombian political organizations has sapped much of the indigenous people’s spunk, leadership, and the resources they would need to fully develop socially, economically and politically. Their communities have since faced demographic stress in the form of deteriorating health, insufficient vaccinations and other kinds of preventive health care, dispossession from their land, and forced migration as a result of militarization and guerrilla activity in regions traditionally populated by native peoples.

The daily situation has only worsened with the escalation of civil war in Colombia’s countryside. Despite a history of social exclusion and government neglect, indigenous groups have recently come into their own, formulating legislation to protect their rights, and to organize mass mobilizations to voice their concerns within Colombia and to the outside world. Their most recent manifestations against the government began on October 13th, 2008, when the Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ORC) marshaled a march from the Department of Cauca to Cali. As a result of their current mobilization efforts, many are questioning what exactly can be accomplished with the ongoing march to Cali, and if real change is truly within grasp of the indigenous population.

Defending Their Roots: The Indigenous Community Attempts to Fight Back
Colombia’s indigenous have a reputation for maintaining a strong ethnic identity which has helped bolster their commitment to political causes dear to them. A milestone in the indigenous fight for equality was the adoption of the new Colombian Constitution in 1991. As a result of an agreement between the government and indigenous groups, Articles 246, 287, and 330 of that document provided the indigenous territories with “self-governing, autonomous entities, authorized to devise, implement and administer internal social, economic and political policies in accordance with indigenous customary law.”

The government’s pledge to make beneficial changes in their indigenous communities has helped these communities form numerous institutions focused on social change, and has led to their success in organizing mobilization efforts. Organizations such as the Association of Indigenous Council of Northern Cauca (ACIN), The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), along with the Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONC) are being used by indigenous groups as a vehicle to exert pressure on the government and to secure their territorial, political, and social aspirations. These organizations are committed to political integration through the coordination of projects with local officials and indigenous community leaders, in order to carry out the fight for cultural rights, the recuperation of their land, community development, and advocacy of institutional participation. Through the formation of these organizations, the indigenous community has gained important support from multiple NGOs in various fields. This backing has brought further awareness to various indigenous causes through liaison with such bodies as the League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations and through projects aimed at attempting to end oil drilling on indigenous territory. Additional support comes from such international groups as Amnesty International, which releases frequent reports condemning the civil war’s victimization of native peoples, human rights abuses, and wanton killings by the Colombian army, its security forces, and associated paramilitary groups.

The indigenous population has voiced its concerns to the government through the media and by means of street mobilization and road blockades. The most successful mobilization to date took place in September 2004. A three-day march in Santander de Quilichao drew in an astonishing 60,000 indigenous citizens. Similar to current mobilizations, the 2004 march was aimed at condemning the aggressions committed against indigenous people. Protesters rejected constitutional reforms promoted by the central government, that adversely had affected the autonomy of indigenous communities, and threatened their security and rights during protracted negotiations to achieve a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Such massive mobilizations of indigenous groups in Colombia, like the march of 2004, fuel hope and provide motivation for the 12,000 demonstrators who are currently marching for their rights throughout southwestern Colombia.

Mobilizations Continue in Order to Defend the “Plan of Life”
“We don’t have a government,” was the chant heard on Columbus Day, when indigenous communities began their march in search of moral and material support, both nationally and internationally. As the mobilization began, President Uribe was confronted by protesting university students, sugar-cane farmers, and judiciary workers. Colombian military and anti-riot police were present at the October 14th march, when thirty-five people were wounded and two others were murdered. Following the violent crackdown, the military and police randomly shot into a crowd of 12,000 people, who were blocking sections of the Pan-American Highway, in order to demand a conflict-resolution meeting with President Uribe.

Colombia’s indigenous population continues to mobilize in order to defend their “Plan of Life,” which was created in the 1980s to promote greater economic autonomy. As described by the ACIN, the Plan of Life was established by the indigenous populace with hopes of developing their communities in productive ways; through textile production and the conservation of their habitat by turning to agricultural and development projects. They also have aspirations to reinforce their autonomy by creating strategic plans for community organization, health, and education. In order to strengthen their Plan of Life, the indigenous leaders believe they must address the government’s excess which has infringed on their ability to fully develop their organizational processes and maintain social cohesion.

Before it began to mobilize, the indigenous community released a list of demands and proposals. It hoped to publicize its opposition to free trade agreements negotiated with the United States, Canada and the E.U, Plan Colombia One and Two and free standing regulations such as the Code of Mines and the Law of Forests, which would lead to new unwanted mining developments and eradication of subsistance agriculture. The Colombian indigenous community presently objects to the pursuit of military and economic policies that have resulted in the displacement of their people and created a humanitarian crisis for eighteen out of the country’s eighty-four indigenous groups. Plan Colombia, the U.S.-Colombia agreement conceived in 1998 primarily to curb drug trafficking, but which was later converted into a militarized anti-guerilla initiative, has produced a menacing atmosphere within indigenous communities. Fumigation of crops has always been a dangerous cornerstone of the plan. Fumigation, which has been shown to engender negative health effects and wreak environmental havoc, also has caused hunger due to the destruction of food crops.

The U.S-Colombia Free Trade Agreement has not been ratified by the United States Congress, but in hopes of expediting its implementation, if it overcomes legislative hurdles in the U.S., Bogotá already has imposed regulations which would eliminate indigenous people’s land rights. Approval of the FTA would require changes to Colombia’s Constitution which would revoke indigenous peoples’ communal landholding status and could result in the obligatory sale of their land parcels. Currently, the U’wa, a Colombian indigenous group in northeastern Colombia, is battling the foreign oil company Ecopetrol, which is attempting to extract oil and plan future field operations on U’wa territory. Indigenous communities would be coerced, with the help of indecently small payments, into surrendering their rights to private commercial interests. Representing the ACIN, Manuel Rozental stated: “Everyone must know that the FTA with the United States was negotiated without consulting the people it most affects, and that the potential results of this agreement will have a backwards effect on the interests of our community.”

Another reason for mobilization is to insist upon the protection of indigenous rights which were outlined in Colombia’s 1991 Constitution. That organic document defines the country as a “social state of law,” meaning that political, social, and economic rights of citizens must be protected. Even so, after the reforms were made in the Constitution, twenty Nasa Indians in Northern Cauca were massacred by government forces. No results have been seen from the agreements signed by the government, which stated that 15,000 hectares of land would be returned to indigenous communities affected by the massacre. Despite the Constitutional changes, the number of murders in indigenous communities has dramatically increased since the 1980s. According to the Natural Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), there have been 1,253 murders over the past six years alone, within Colombia’s indigenous groups.

The indigenous community also is marching to end the displacement of its people. According to the ACIN, in the past six years, 53,885 indigenous people have been pressured to leave their land so that the Colombian government and paramilitary groups can have the opportunity to pursue their own government projects on territories that are not rightfully theirs.

A Meeting with Uribe: Hope or Disappointment?
Colombian indigenous groups were hopeful that the march would earn them a meeting with President Uribe where they could discuss their concerns and long-term goals as a discrete society. Throughout the mobilization, shootings and murders have taken place, and many speculate that that the Colombian government was involved in these violent acts. On October 22nd, CNN released a video showing a man in uniform opening fire on a protestor. After the video was circulated to various news organizations, President Uribe acknowledged that police indeed had opened fire on protestors during their demonstrations. In light of these events, Uribe agreed to a face-to-face meeting with indigenous leaders. The session was originally scheduled to take place at a studio of the Telepacifico news station. However, in order to involve all of the demonstrators, indigenous leaders asked to have the meeting location changed to a town square in Cali. Unfortunately, according to Colombia Reports, Uribe arrived to the meeting hours late, angering the indigenous crowd and prompting a hostile environment. Negative chanting by protestors infuriated Uribe, causing the meeting to be cut to only forty minutes, leaving major issues unresolved, let alone addressed, and making it more difficult for future arrangements to be made.

The ongoing mobilization by the indigenous has succeeded in generating media attention, but change has yet to arrive due to the government’s failure to halt land seizure measures, a move that would be detrimental to some important business interests and would increase the Colombian government’s costs throughout the country. The failed meeting with Uribe noticeably strained the fight for the indigenous “Plan of Life.” Manuel Rozental states, “A majority that doesn’t seek our goals and an indigenous minority that sought land for the indigenous in El Cauca is the reason for tension between the two bodies. This tension has caused the agenda’s political and logistical goals to not be adequately prepared or fully developed.” Officially, patching the intense differences between the indigenous community and government is the only way indigenous leaders will have in order to carry out their proposals.

Although the indigenous community is forging ahead in an attempt to solve its differences with the government, it still faces many challenges and obstacles before its representatives are shown some respect from the Colombian majority, as well as political autonomy, and economic justice. Deborah Yashar of Cambridge University states, “Successful indigenous movements have occurred only when indigenous communities had the motive, capacity, and opportunity to organize themselves.” Colombia’s indigenous community possesses the capacity to accomplish its goals as a result of its longstanding struggle and self-determination. Their backbreaking work in the past is proof that the indigenous people of Colombia have the ability and durability to generate new political processes. However, it remains unclear whether their unrelenting efforts will be able to ensure a more democratic, secure and prosperous environment for their communities anytime in the near future.



Indigenous Employment Project Achieves Results

Indigenous Employment Project Achieves Results

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Media Statement – 27th October 2008

The Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, today congratulated 34 graduates of an Indigenous training and employment program in Melbourne.

The program was delivered by the Replay Group and was funded under the Australian Government’s Structured Training and Employment Projects (STEP).

At a graduation ceremony today Mr O’Connor said 30 graduates had gone on to find employment with another undertaking further studies.

Graduates undertook training at a Certificate III level in Aged Care Work, Home and Community Care, Child Care or Welding as well as relevant work experience.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Melbourne, Mr O’Connor praised the efforts of both the students and project co-ordinators.

“The success of the program has been demonstrated by the majority of participants successfully transitioning into employment or further studies, which is an outstanding result,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Unfortunately the unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians is around three times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.

“The Australian Government has committed to halving the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment within a decade and projects such as this one make an important contribution to that effort.

The Government is also working with Australia’s major corporations as part of the Australian Employment Covenant proposal to provide 50,000 jobs for Indigenous Australians.

“Employment is one of the foundations of social inclusion, financial independence and personal fulfilment and programs such as this will help participants to work towards their future.”

Colombia: Indigenous Protests and Murders Under Media Blackout

From Colombia, the indigenous groups in the Cauca department have made an international SOS to call attention on their plight. On their website, they explain how they have been protesting the human rights abuses they have been victim of, represented by the murder of one of their community leaders by hit men and the death threats on other regional and community leaders and spokespeople. They have requested a public audience with the Government Officials, and have been protesting since October 12, demanding the protection of their human rights and making the government live up to the promises of the signed treaties of the past. However, it is said that armed government forces,  have shot live ammunition at the protesters, leaving 2 dead and more than 60 indigenous members injured. On this blog post on the indigenous community site they show pictures of the protest and the injuries some have sustained as well as the list of those injured up to October 14th. On October 15th, the armed forces opened fire once again on the protesters, killing one and leaving 39 injured. They have also blocked the roads and ambulances can’t get in to help those who are hurt and needing assistance. (Links in Spanish unless otherwise noted)

They write:

la fuerza publica entró disparando con armas de largo alcance y ya hay 3 heridos mas de gravedad. la fuerza militar entro ya al territorio de dialogo y negociación.

Se solicita de manera urgente que organismos internacionales frenen esta violencia. tambien a los pueblos inigenas que refuercen el personal que esta siendo atacado.

The armed forces came in shooting with long range weapons and there are already 3 other persons seriously injured. The military forces have barged into the territory of dialogue and negotiation.We urgently request international organizations to stop this violence. Also for the indigenous communities to get more people to back those who have been attacked.

The indigenous community has been sending emails and posting on their website[es] updates on the situation.

The following video was posted last week by user nasacin, including cellphone and video camera images from the manifestations, clips showing shot indigenous community members, a soldier speaking about the differences between the Mob Control ESMAD and the armed forces, stating that the armed forces are to keep the peace, and the ESMAD is the one in charge of defusing violent situations. However, when asked who it is that is shooting with rifles, the soldier doesn’t answer.

Blogger Alejandro Peláez last week wrote of how foreign media is reporting on the indigenous protests, but local media hadn’t published anything at all:

Las noticias son hechos, y para escribir sobre hechos toca salir del escritorio, entrevistar personas, buscar en archivos, viajar al monte . Las masacres, por ejemplo, son hechos. Pero en este país los medios cubren este tipo de hechos con diez años de diferencia y ahí ya no son noticia, son historia. En este momento, como lo cuenta AdamIsacson (sí, un gringo sentando en Washington D.C.), hay serios disturbios en el Cauca y El Tiempo ni lo anota. Tal vez presenten una crónica completísima dentro de diez años. Chévere.

News is facts, and to write about facts you have to get out from behind your desk, interview people, search the archives, head out into the mountains. Massacres, for example, are facts. But in this country the media covers this type of events with a 10 year difference when they are no longer a news story, but history. In this moment, as Adam Isacson (yes, a gringo sitting in Washington D.C.) reports, there are serious disturbances in the Cauca, and El Tiempo doesn’t even have a note on it.  Maybe they’ll present a full chronicle of it in ten years. Great.

In Gacetilla Colombiana, a Digg style application for Colombian news, posters have been linking foreign news as an alternative for those who are under the “media blackout” on this event, in particular to a major foreign news chain’s video [en] where a citizen media recording shows what could be an armed but hooded person dressed in green with a rifle going moving through the mob squad and shooting at the indigenous protesters as the members of the mob squad move to let him pass. In the blog “Lets Change the World”, Decio Machado posts the email chain sent out by the Indigenous groups, the means through which most Colombians have found out about the crisis.  The blog also posts updates on the situation, how indigenous groups are all marching towards a main city called Cali and blocking the Panamerican Highway and other roads with 10 000 people, including cane pickers, farmers women and children.

In the national blogging  award winner Tienen Huevo blog,  they write outraged at the fact that at the same time there is an ethnocide going on in the streets of Colombia, trying to reach Cali, while a fashion and makeup expo is taking place, with people more concentrated on clothing and fashion shows than the indigenous situation.

The government has responded to the accusations of opening fire on the indigenous protesters by saying that they have orders not to shoot, so it must’ve been an inside job, someone infiltrated from the indigenous communities among the police in order to cause panic and bad feeling. Bacteria Opina blog has a caricature of the situation where two indigenous protesters comment that in spite of marching with “indigenous malice”, a phrase used to determine  the ability to make do with whatever is doled out their way, the government is accusing them of being an “indigenous milicia”. The government has issued statements saying that these indigenous protests are infiltrated by guerrillas and are terrorist activities, statements the indigenous communities refute absolutely on their blog.

These other videos online on YouTube show the indigenous community’s past struggles, this is the first of the multipart series:

Federico Ruiz posts a play-by-play ping-pong match style summary of events up until Saturday:

los indígenas decretan un paro, el gobierno lo declara ilegal, los indígenas se toman la panamericana, el gobierno manda a una fuerza especial antimotines de la policía para que desbloqueen las carreteras, más indígenas se suman a las movilizaciones, el procurador de la nación dice que va a los diálogos, el presidente dice que está muy ocupado para ir a resolver el problema, los de la policía intentan desbloquear la carretera a las malas, los indígenas dicen que no se van porque les tienen que arreglar sus problemas y cumplirles los compromisos que les habían hecho hace como 15 años y que están en ese link que es una “carta abierta al presidente”, entre tanto en las protestas matan a un indígena y hieren como a 10 según las informaciones de El Tiempo, pero que en realidad no son 10 sino 90 según lo dicen los indígenas, y los de la policía dicen que en la manifestación o en el paro hay infiltrados de la guerrilla, los indígenas dicen que no, y justo luego los indígenas descubren que si hay un infiltrado pero que justamente es policía y que tenía unos panfletos de las farc y unas armas para encochinar a los indígenas, y por si fuera poco, justo llega el defensor regional del pueblo, o sea un representante del gobierno, y dice que “la Fuerza Pública se ha excedido en el uso de las armas de fuego”.

The indigenous groups decree a strike, the government declares it is illegal, the indians take the panamerican, the government sends a a special force of riot police to unblock the highways, more indians join the marches, the nation’s procurer states they are going to dialogue about this, the president says he is too busy to go solve the problem, the police tries to unblock the road the “bad” way, the indians say they are not leaving because the government has to keep their promise to solve their issues as stated in a 15 year old treaty, that there is an open letter to the president, meanwhile in the protest an aboriginal is killed and 10 are injured according to El Tiempo [ed note. national newspaper], but really they aren’t 10 but 90 according to the indigenous organizations, the police state that in the march and strike there are people infiltrated from the guerrilla, the indigenous people say there aren’t, and just then the indians discober that there IS someone infiltrated, but that he is from the police force and had some FARC (Colombian Armed Forces) pamphlets and weapons to incriminate the natives, and if it weren’t enough, the regional defender for the people, a government representative, comes and says that the “Armed Forces have exceeded themselves in the use of fire weapons”.

EDITED to add:

The organization who sent in the recording of the hooded shooter among the mob squad team have uploaded it online with other images of the protests. The images of the shooter amongst the mob squad, shooting at protesters starts at 1:44. They also add images of President Uribe calling military leaders to ask about the murders of the protesters, to which the military replied it was a shrapnel wounds from a pipe bomb and wasn’t a bullet injury.The indigenous people are also shown with segments of a handmade grenade full of metal pieces and ball bearings they claim the armed forces are using against them.

See the video:

Damning the Yin Ta Lai

Damning the Yin Ta Lai

September 20, 2008 |

Damning the Yin Ta Lai is a short, 13-minute video that provides a rare glimpse into the heart of Karenni State in eastern Burma, and the lives and environment of the Yin Ta Lai.

Living along the Salween river, the Yin Ta Lai are facing extinction from the Weigyi dam, one of five controversial dams that are planned for the Salween. Once completed, the dam’s reservoirs would submerge the entirety of the Yin Ta Lai’s homeland.

“The Yin Ta Lai will become extinct if this dam goes ahead. While Burma’s regime gains profits from selling electricity, we will bear the costs” says Aung Ngyeh, a spokesperson of the Karenni Research Development Group (KDRG), who produced the movie. “We urge all parties to suspend plans for the Salween dams.”

“The military junta ruling Burma is planning to build five dams on the Salween River with financial backing from Thai and Chinese companies. In addition to the Yin Ta Lai, the Weigyi dam will permanently displace an estimated 30,000 people in Burma’s smallest state. The series of dams will adversely affect well over half a million people living along the river in Burma,” adds the Salween Watch Coalition.

The film includes some interviews with Karenni farmers who were displaced by flowwing from the Mobye dam in 1966.

Damning the Yin Ta Lai

Thank you for helping this blog reach the 10,000 hit plus mark

I appreciate the readers, who help this blog reach the 10,000 plus mark. I hope that you will contine to vist this site for the latest in Nuclear and Indigenous Issues.

I put in information about Sarah, so that I could know of this person’s background. We all need to be informed voters. I am nor picking on her, but attempting to let the US population have some background information. By just pointing out flaws that I see it gives us a chance to see her true qualities. The job she is running for is only a heart beat away, from what Paris Hilton calls the wrinkly, white hair guy, our possible next president. All of the voter and others need to know about her record, “Such exactly what does a Vice-President do” and other statements and decisions that she has made before be chosen as a Hillary-type opponent. Coverage on Sarah and her lipstick, will stop on election day. Was it Teddy Resovelt who said “Talk softly and carry a big lipstick” LOL?h

But thanks for helping this blog reach 10,000 viewers so quickly,

Kind, Regards, gregor

UC Berkeley ignores indigenous rights, destroys sacred site

UC Berkeley ignores indigenous rights, destroys sacred site

September 11, 2008 |

This past weekend, the University of California pushed forward its plan to ‘develop’ Memorial Oak Grove, deemed a sacred burial site to the Ohlone Indigenous Peoples.

On Friday, September 5, University police went to the grove and started cutting down the trees, which have been protected by tree-sitting protesters for more than 600 days. Five people were arrested as they peacefully pleaded with arborists not to destroy the trees.

The University responded by saying another 46 trees would be cut down over the weekend, and that they would no longer honour their agreement to ensure the sitters had enough nutrition and water.

With the remaining four sitters having only a litre of water to share as they sit in 90 degree heat, they were effectively forced to come down on Tuesday. “The treesitters agreed to come down voluntarily, and University representatives agreed that they would make a public statement that the University will create new ways for the community to be involved in land use decisions going forward,” writes Morning Star Gali of the Pit River Tribe and co-chair of Advocates to Protect Sacred Sites.

It sounds “almost” reasonable, if not for the fact that the University continues to deny the Ohlone’s rights. The simple fact is, “Memorial Oak Grove is regarded as a sacred place to Native American people and is documented as such by UC Berkeley’s own Anthropology Department. There is evidence of 2 shell mounds sites in the area, with 19 ancestral remains found within them.”

The University has been undoubtedly informed of this, which means they are consciously and openly committing a crime.

UC Police are further complicit in the denial, by refusing to “[…] honor a prior commitment they made to allow the Native Community to enter the remains of the grove and place tobacco at the stump of the Grandmother Oak once the treesitters come down.”

Describing the situation, Morning Star said on Friday, “I brought my five year old daughter and two month old son out today to bear witness to the massacre of sacred life. The cops responded by yelling to move them behind the median. I asked if they would stand by as complacent if it was their grandmother’s gravesites being desecrated. I want my children here to witness the destruction of sacred life and how important it is to protect it. I wanted them to witness the cops, arborists and UC Officials that participated and cheered as the trees came crashing down from bulldozers.

“This exhibits the ongoing Human Rights abuses committed by the University. They refuse to comply with NAGPRA by holding 13,000 of our ancestors remains hostage, they illegally reorganized NAGPRA with no tribal consultation and now they continue to desecrate sacred burial grounds.”

photo: Brenda Norell

<a href=””>UC Berkeley ignores indigenous rights, destroys sacred site</a>

First Nations Strategic Bulletin August 2008

First Nations Strategic Bulletin August 2008

August 18, 2008

After a bit of a break, the First Nations Strategic Policy Counsel has resumed its monthly publication, the First Nations Strategic Bulletin.

Issues in this month’s bulletin include: an analysis of “Canada’s War to terminate First Nations” (Harper’s apology in context), the OPP & Mohawks (w/ a transcript of the phone conversation between Shawn Brant & Julian Fantino — something you probably haven’t yet), “the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2010 Olympics,” and “Canada’s Tibetans: Barriere Lake & Other First Nations.”

You can download the bulletin by heading over to the Library and Archives Canada website. Back issues are available there as well.

Here’s a few excerpts from “Canada’s War to terminate First Nations,” by Russel Diabo:

My belief–which is based upon my policy experience and observations over the past three decades of First Nations-Canada relations–is that the federal government (with provincial and municipal support) is attempting to empty out (limit & restrict) the meaning (scope & content) of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in section 35 of Canada’s constitution until it is empty or “spent”.

Instead of being recognized and affirmed as a ‘distinct order of government’ in Canada, under the current federal policy approach First Nations will eventually become ‘ethnic municipalities’.

So it is not a “conventional war” that Canada is waging against First Nations, and it is not covert, although there is a sophisticated propaganda machine in Ottawa to generate Crown public spin against First Nation interests in any dispute. The Crown war is essentially a legal-political-fiscal conflict over the interpretation/assertion/implementation of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights over lands and resources by First Nations.

The Indian Act is still used as the primary statute of control and management over “Indians and lands reserved for Indians”, along with the coercive federal-provincial fiscal arrangements.

So when Prime Minister Harper says “[t]oday, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.” He is only referring to the historic Indian Residential School “system”.


In Canada, it seems First Nations and their organizations, are so dependent on funding from the federal and provincial governments that they seem to be compromised in their ability to protest or resist Crown legislation, policies or practices.

The result over the past few decades, is that more and more First Nations and their organizations, are lining up to compromise their peoples constitutionally protected, but as yet undefined, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights for some program and service dollars.

There are those First Nations who have signed the so-called “modern treaties“. These groups came together in 2003, as the “Land Claims Agreements Coalition” to protest the lack of implementation of their “modern treaties” from 1975 to now. These groups are:

• Grand Council of the Crees (Quebec)
• Council of Yukon First Nations
• Gwich’in Tribal Council
• Inuvialuit Regional Corporation
• Makivik Corporation
• Nisga’a Nation
• Nunatsiavut Government
• Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
• The Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated
• Tlicho Government

There are also those First Nations that have compromised their constitutionally protected rights through self-government agreements like the Sechelt and West Bank Bands in British Columbia. The Union of Ontario Indians have also announced their intention to enter into a final self-government agreement in the next year or two. The results of these self-government agreements are acceptance of Crown delegated jurisdiction and authority NOT recognition of pre-existing First Nations sovereignty.


To beat Canada’s termination-extinguishment policies, fiscal coercion and neo-colonialism, it will take First Nations people on and off-reserve networking and organizing to resist and counter the Crown’s termination efforts. My advice is to do it peacefully and base your political actions on the facts, which should be documented, and if possible seek professional advice.

Remember, Ottawa has a war machine made up of compromised National Aboriginal Organizations [like the assembly of First Nations] and leaders who can support or denounce your political actions depending on their own interests. There are also the federal politicians that can support you or turn against your cause.

The federal public service outlasts the politicians and can conduct a long lasting “ground war”, meaning:
• they can inflict punishment locally by withholding funds,
they can foment dissent between community factions, or between leaders and mem-
• they can put important capital projects from the top of the pile to the bottom of the pile, among other things.

This is often why local Chief and Councils often denounce their own people for doing political actions that anger the federal and/or provincial governments who are the funding agents for First Nations. Those First Nations who are collaborating with the federal termination agenda are well funded and organized. It is the unfunded, impoverished (and likely rural or isolated) First Nations who are the most disorganized and vulnerable. This situation is not new. It has been an
ongoing problem.

The future for First Nations is within our youth. As the adults, we should be providing guidance on how First Nations got into this situation and what are our options for getting out of it. The first step is learning that the overall federal objective is to eliminate the political and legal status of First Nations, in their ongoing war on First Nations collective rights.