Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

In this article, I will examine Indigenous issues and treaties around the globe: How they fight for their collective rights and individual rights, and how indigenous efforts are aimed at making common cause, first regionally and then globally. In addition, I will access the Indigenous treaties and issues in Canada and British Columbia: How treaties have proceeded and successes can be measured.

Indigenous Activism and Negotiations: Global Movement

There are an estimated 370 million Indigenous peoples worldwide. Despite being culturally different, Indigenous populations around the world share similar struggles. In any situation, the settler population is typically often more dominant and populous. In contrast, the indigenous people have become socio-economically disadvantaged and vulnerable to discriminatory state policy and even outright armed repression. Throughout history, there have been many systemic policies attempting to assimilate both by military force and through more subtle pressures to conform to mainstream society.

Representatives of many first nations groups watch as the flag for Treaty 7 is raised in front of City Hall in Calgary on Thursday, March 23, 2017. The flag was raised to represent respect, trust and formation of bringing people together. Representatives of all different aboriginal groups came to watch the flag rising along with other citizens. (Photo by Chelsey Harms/660 News)

Beginning in the 1970s, indigenous leaders worldwide began to unite with other indigenous groups to increase their effectiveness in the fight for their rights.  As more indigenous peoples have organized across geographic and political borders, there was a significant increase in international attention to their everyday struggles despite their vastly different cultures and locations. Indigenous efforts were aimed both at making common causes, first regionally and then globally.

In Canada, for example, the Assembly of First Nation provides a voice to all of the First Nation communities in federal politics and on the international stage. It participated in drafting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On the domestic front, it worked on constitutional amendments and treaties during the 1980s, the Charlottetown Accord and the Meech Lake Accord. In addition, transnational indigenous organizations have been created all around the world. An example is the Coast Salish Gathering in the Pacific Northwest, a multinational organization representing Coast Salish people on both sides of the British Columbia – Washington State border. Despite the political border, members propose recommendations on issues in their shared homeland (e.g. resource extraction) and draft negotiations (e.g. land and fishing rights) with governments on both sides of the border collectively.

Treaty Process in Canada and British Columbia

Like Indigenous leaderships in other places, First Nations across Canada create provincially and nationally based organizations that express their desire and goal for equality with mainstream Canada while maintaining their cultural heritage. Throughout the years, the First Nation organizations facilitated negotiations and made the processes for treaties and collective rights.

Throughout the years, the First Nation organizations facilitated negotiations. They made the processes for treaties and collective rights. Beginning with the infamous “White Paper” in 1969, the forceful opposition from First Nation organizations across the country sparked a new era of Indigenous political activism in Canada. It is easy to see why the White Paper was so hated. It did little at catalyzing structural change and at accountability; there is little hope that past harms and ongoing legacy of assimilation policies are being held accountable. It contained no provisions to recognize First Nations’ rights, or to handle and deal with historical grievances such as the land claims and treaty rights, or to facilitate meaningful Indigenous participation in Canadian policymaking.

First Nation activists from united in new associations determined to protect and promote their collective rights and interests. In British Columbia, First Nations across the province came together in new ways — invited bands to a conference in Kamloops, BC, where they discussed the fight for recognition of their peoples’ title and rights. This conference in Kamloops led to organizations such as the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the formation of a negotiation process such as the British Columbia Treaty Process — which aims to resolve and develop collective responses to outstanding issues, including indigenous rights and title to the land.

In addition, the First Nation organizations proposed their policy alternatives. The Indian Association of Alberta, for example, argued in a paper entitled Citizens Plus that First Nation peoples held rights that other Canadians did not. Rallying around this concept, these activists argued that their people were allowed all the benefits of Canadian citizenship, in addition to special rights deriving from their unique relationship with the Crown.

Conclusion

Throughout the mid 20th century, for aboriginal peoples across the globe and Canada, Indigenous political organizing started as a combined effort to abolish the paternalistic policies. With increased transnational and united fronts organizing, there has been an increased support for Indigenous rights and a growing awareness of the importance of self-determination for Indigenous peoples worldwide. The growth in Aboriginal politics contributed to a surge of political organizing and movements toward recognizing Aboriginal rights.

This is an opinion article; the views expressed by me.

You May be Interested in:

The Road to Political Organizing and Activism For First Nations

Bibliography

Cairns, Alan, and Xwi7xwa Collection. Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State. UBC Press, Vancouver, 2000.

Dyck, Noel and Tonio Sadik. “Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 04 December 2020, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/aboriginal-people-political-organization-and-activism. Accessed 20 October 2021.

“First Nations in Canada. ” Government of Canada. Indigenous Peoples and Community, https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1307460755710/1536862806124#chp1. Accessed 19 October 2021.

“Global Action.” Indigenous Foundations. First Nations and Indigenous Studies UBC, 2020. Accessed 19 October 2021.

Milloy, John. “Indian Act Colonialism: A Century of Dishonour. 1869-1969.” National Centre for First Nations Governance, 2008. http://fngovernance.org/ncfng_research/milloy.pdf

Lagace, Naithan and Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair. “The White Paper, 1969”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 10 June 2020, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-white-paper-1969. Accessed 20 October 2021.

Sanders, Douglas. “The Formation of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.” April 1980, Fourth World Documentation Project, Center for World Indigenous Studies. https://www.cwis.org/document/the-formation-of-the-world-council-of-indigenous-peoples-by-douglas-sanders-april-1980-2/

Tennant, Paul, desLibris – Books, and Canadian Publishers Collection. Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 1990.

“The White Paper 1969.” Indigenous Foundations. First Nations and Indigenous Studies UBC, 2020. Accessed 19 October 2021. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_white_paper_1969/

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