In an increasingly criminal world, covenants, treaties, and conventions recognizing aboriginal title mean little if laws acknowledging indigenous rights aren’t enforced. In Michoacan, Mexico, where indigenous forests have been illegally liquidated by criminal gangs, indigenous communities have had to make a stand against both the gangs and local police who back them up. In Tanzania, indigenous pastoralists are refusing to evacuate their grasslands, pitting themselves against the federal government.
Throughout the world, Fourth World nations are banding together to organize opposition to criminal networks that often include close ties with state authorities and corporations. Even while producing lofty documents like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN peacekeepers are unlikely to intervene on their behalf when UN agencies like the WTO, IMF, and World Bank are themselves behind much of the theft of indigenous properties.
Disheartening as this may seem, indigenous peoples have come a long way in their struggle to regain self-determination. Moving international and national institutions from lip service to respectful relations is a formidable challenge, one that has to be researched, communicated, and organized by indigenous institutions if sovereignty is going to mean anything in the future.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here