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Jull, Peter --- "First World' Indigenous Internationalism after Twenty Five Years" [1998] IndigLawB 15; (1998) 4(9) Indigenous Law Bulletin 8

'First World' Indigenous Internationalism After Twenty-Five Years

By Peter Jull

The recent search for 'frontier' resources in equatorial forest, tropical arid lands, and Arctic seas and tundras, and globalised economy[1] have been the context for indigenous internationalism, or the networking of indigenous peoples across different continents. At the Arctic Peoples Conference in Copenhagen, November 1973, reality was felt.[2] Inuit of Greenland and Canada, Scandinavia's Sami, and Dene Indians and Métis of Canada's Yukon and Northwest Territories gathered in the high chambers of the Christiansborg Palace as heat and light cutbacks left the city squinting and shivering. An Arab oil embargo against Danish prime ministerial sympathy for small Israel followed the October war. The world would soon feel the oil shock, ending post–1945 prosperity.

The Copenhagen meeting launched contemporary indigenous internationalism. A major reason Arctic and Sub–Arctic peoples were meeting was that industrial countries were pressing into their territories. Although unable to attend, Alaskan Natives (Inuit, Indians, Aleuts) began the story.[3] Arctic oil under the Beaufort Sea, safe from Middle East politics, was wanted for the American economy. Alaska and Hawaii became US states in 1959 with many matters unresolved for indigenous inhabitants.[4] Alaska's settler and development interests dominated state government but had no free rein. Natives mobilised and concerted political action to protect lands and waters.[5] They negotiated the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), 1971, with Congress in Washington. Through ANCSA they acquired title to large areas and corporate structures with territorial and quasi–governmental powers, sharing US$l billion compensation for start–up. Further protections for Alaskan lands and environment were obtained through other federal legislation.

Alaskan experience since 1971 has been dramatic, with many foreseeable and unforeseen problems, and important successes.[6] The settlement terms—payout, land transfer, indigenous structures—created a sensation around the world. The notion of 'giving the country back to the Indians' had seemed a joke, now adopted by hard–headed American capitalists and government. Corporate structures for regional and local indigenous bodies were intended by Congress to indoctrinate remote indigenes in American capitalism! Inuit had their own ideas. They decided to join with Inuit in Canada and Greenland to confront an oil industry exploiting seas where they fished and hunted sea–mammals for food.[7] If Inuit worked together to develop strong Inuit–run governments as well as marine and coastal management and protection regimes, their homeland around the Polar Basin could withstand industrial, extractive, and military activities. In 1977 they founded the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, with Inuit Russia joining as fourth member in 1989.

An indirect result of the 1973 Copenhagen meeting involving many of the same Inuit Greenlanders and Sami was the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) organised by Canada's national Indian leader, Chief George Manuel. Australian and New Zealand indigenous delegates joined those from Central and South America, North America, and Europe on a rainy autumn Mountainside by a Vancouver Island fjord.[8] Latin American delegates feared for their safety from hostile governments, so the conference was held on a Nuu–chah–nulth (Nootka) reserve guarded 24 hours by Indians with Winchesters. Recounted recent woes and outrages past were so strong, cultural performances so powerful, urgent talks in hallways and over meals so intense, hopes and fears so palpable, that the week–long event often seemed ready to explode. The spiritual leader of Iroquois nations, Oren Lyons, repeatedly took the assembly in the palm of his hand and cooled, quieted, and reconciled those present. His charisma shines in the lyrical statements and agreements of that founding assembly.

Later WCIP assemblies brought national notice and international attention to their locales, notably Northem Sweden and Canberra. A generation of engaged Sami visited Australia, later maintaining interest in Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Sami have committed themselves fully to international indigenous work. However, while Scandinavian governments promote world indigenous rights, and Sami take up ills around the world, they have not secured land, freshwater, and sea rights at home.[9]

Of the approximately 75,000 Sami, most live in Norway, which sets the Sami policy pace. Sami from adjacent Russia's Kola Peninsula have joined the Sami Council as the fourth member country. In 1980 amid a Sami rights and environmental confrontation over hydroelectric damming threatening critical reindeer pasture,[10] Norway established Sami rights and culture commissions. Their first reports in 1984 and 1985 respectively resulted in legislation creating a national elected Sami Parliament, recognised Sami language and schooling rights, and a constitutional amendment recognising the state comprising two ethnic nations, Sami and Norwegian.[11]

Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway, retired leaving a colleague to lead Norway's government into the September 1997 election. The long–running Sami rights commission had lost its way, its confused and confusing recent work fuelling the anti–Sami rights scare campaign. Sami had hoped the recent ILO 169, an international indigenous rights agreement ratified first by Norway, and earlier Sami rights commission work would soon bring land, sea, and freshwater rights. They are appalled by a sudden return of social and political animosities. Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Dodson, wrote to the new prime minister stressing the importance of progressive countries like Norway maintaining human rights standards. If such countries find excuses to deny indigenous rights, undemocratic regimes elsewhere wishing to seize indigenous territory for 'national development' will do so.

Sweden and Finland have had many false starts with Sami rights. Historical legal studies seem to strengthen the basis for Sami claims, but Scandinavian countries have difficulty accepting social and cultural pluralism in practice. Their achievements in social opportunity and living standards for all, including Sami, can seem a demand for social conformity. They have worked through social ills before, however, and three Sami Parliaments now ensure a forum for leading national debate and negotiating outcomes.

Greenland, meanwhile, is a model for indigenous self–government.[12] Denmark's phased build–up of Inuit Greenland capacities and facilities from the 1950s, including provision of fine European living standards on a rugged Arctic island, 85% ice–covered, has helped the people win a place and unlimited options in the world. Rich cultural life, robust political debates, well established parties bom of the 'home rule' negotiations of the 1970s, primary marine economy, and a re–organised and efficient state sector providing most jobs complete this unique nation of approximately 60,000 people. Greenland politicians and intellectuals have found time to work for the world's indigenous peoples while building their own country. Their panache in demonstrating the benefits of indigenous self–determination is infectious. However, they can still face difficulties in Danish society as shown in a best–selling thriller, now movie.[13]

Since 1978, Canadian constitutional reform has included indigenous peoples. The national Constitution has been amended to recognise indigenous rights and commit governments to negotiations.[14] Agreement by federal, provincial, territorial, and indigenous leaders in 1992 would see indigenous self–government constitutionally recognised as a third order alongside federal and provincial governments.[15] Although a national referendum failed to approve a general package of which indigenous content was only one part, the goal may yet be reached in future. For 30 years Canada's indigenous policy and politics have been constantly evolving through dispute and negotiation on many subjects, building consensus.

Meanwhile, regions of Northern Canada totalling half or more of the whole country are now subject to 'regional agreements', negotiated with government by indigenous peoples as native title outcomes and much else, the first signed in 1975.[16] However grudging initial government attitudes, these agreements became ‘constitutional' in scope and effect, transferring territory and self–governing powers to northern peoples. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) report of 1996 urged they be the focus of indigenous policy, that is, applying the concept across Canada and creating a third house of federal Parliament for their representatives.[17] While many Australians envision regional agreements including less and less, people who have them view them expansively.

Nunavut, the largest regional agreement, is also becoming a self–governing territory.[18] Larger than Queensland, Nunavut has unprecedented preparations to ensure smooth transition for government services, while another Inuit team implement land and sea rights.[19] Two other regions are Inuit and Cree territories recognised by the James Bay and Northem Quebec Agreement of 1975. Quebec wants another referendum on secession, while Inuit and Cree wish to remain Canadian.[20]

European ethno–nationalism at indigenous expense is not new. Should Quebec separate, the largely Anglophone remainder of Canada may punish indigenous and all minorities in new constitutional arrangements. The 1982 indigenous reforms in Canada's Constitution were pressed for fear of provincial governments using a new amending procedure to thwart indigenous rights. The early American republic led by President Jackson swept aside Indian nations in its expansion, in spite of treaties, constitutional rights, and the Marshall court decisions.

Norway's nationalism weighed heavily on Sami. A new survey notes that the previous 'Danish–Norwegian dynastic state was in reality a multicultural state with relaxed attitudes towards ethnic groups and minorities', in which 'state representatives often referred to the Sami as an "indigenous nation" with "aboriginal rights"'. Everything changed with Norway's nationalist movement after the break with Denmark in 1815. Like Finnish migrants in the north, 'Sami were also seen as a security problem.' 'Seen from the point of view of Norwegian security interests and in terms of a general expansionist policy, ethnic and cultural pluralism was intolerable, as was the fact that Sami' lived in border areas isolated from Norwegian communities.[21] As Pauline Hanson and race debates in Australia have shown, national ethno–cultural assertion is often unfriendly to minorities. Visions of progressive Australian republican nationalism were premature.

Russia and Australia are both reviewing indigenous policy. Both countries have continent–sized hinterlands like Canada and the USA—Russia's Arctic and Pacific coasts and Siberia, and the north, centre, and west of Australia—where populist politicians claim vast regions are virtual new countries with new rules, rejecting indigenous rights. Anxious North, a collection on 20th century Russian indigenous policy, territorial rights, social issues, and current needs by indigenous and nonindigenous Russian experts is familiar—native title, self–government, environment, resource extraction, encroaching settlers, and crises in health and social culture are all there.[22] So are alarming predictions about the immediate threat to groups including Inuit, Chukchi, Nenets, and Sami. Extreme free–market development in Northern Russia—or 'Rape' as America's Time magazine calls it[23]—combined with fragmentation of public authority and loss of state budgets is hastening the tragedy.

The Inuit Circumpolar Conference (see above) has flourished. Its executive have represented their regional members' interests rather than general crusading, although Inuit marine and wildlife interests are relevant to many peoples. ICC has had great impact on the way northern countries and the world view the Arctic. Where recently there was nuclear rivalry and submarines stalking under–ice, the prominence now of environment and local culture is impressive. In September 1996 the Arctic Council was born, with governments of USA, Russia, Canada, and the Nordic five (Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland), with ICC, Sami Council, and Russia's indigenous association as a second tier.[24] This mix of powerful and progressive governments with well–organised indigenous peoples should be a forum from which energy and initiative in world indigenous standards and practice flow.

Alaska started it all. There, nothing was settled for indigenous peoples by statehood, only accelerated.[25] A current court case, Venetie, is strengthening Inuit and Indian territory governance.[26] Developments across Alaska and Northern Canada may be a case study for Australia.

Since Copenhagen, 1973, many present then have become powerful leaders, in cabinets or wealthy land claims corporations. While they and others have prospered, indigenous internationalism has often been limited to annual visits to Geneva. It must become part of the daily context. Nonetheless, informal networks and countless meetings have developed a more positive world consensus on indigenous issues no less important than formal declarations. This has become clear on the visits by Australia's recent National Indigenous Working Group on Native Title (NIWG) to Europe, one of which the Prime Minister called 'a stunt'. Aboriginal leaders and staff met some of the 'old hands' from the Copenhagen and other events described above, and have had their own information and insights to offer in return.[27]

When China resumed Hong Kong in June 1997, a symbolic end of European imperialism, Canada observed the beginning. In 1497 an Italian contemporary of Columbus, John Cabot, sent by King Henry VII and Bristol merchants to find a shorter northern route to the Indies, reached Newfoundland and Labrador, claiming North America for Britain. In 1997 the Queen arrived on St John's Day, June 24, to meet Cabot's replica ship Matthew. Innu, Algonquian people of Labrador, and Mi'kmaq, Algonquians from Nova Scotia who later settled in Newfoundland, attended in silent protest. Newfoundland's premier called for a minute's silence to remember the 'disappeared' Beothuk, Newfoundland's Algonquian indigenes wiped out by settlers and their diseases.[28]

Before the ceremony, an Indian delegation from across Canada met at the site to honour the Beothuk, the people described by the English as 'Red Indians', a name then given to all the Americas' peoples. Innu leader Katie Rich said that the Innu 'don't want to go the same way [as the Beothuk]. That's why we came here. We don't want to go that way.'[29] Living conditions in Labrador Innu communities shocked European and North American TV viewers in recent years, unusual attention for that most forgotten region where Innu and neighbouring Inuit face the massive Voisey Bay mining project in their territory. The region is also a NATO low–flying jet training range, a major misery for people and their food species like caribou with aircraft screaming overhead. Federal and Newfoundland governments have been reluctant to address Labrador needs despite progress elsewhere in Northern Canada. In 1949 Newfoundland–Labrador joined Canada, but Canada's constitutional law for indigenous peoples was waived. Since then Innu and Inuit have had to fight hard to gain recognition or benefits.

Meanwhile, Australia has been helpful to Innu. Writing to Prime Minister Chrétien and Premier Tobin about the Cabot celebrations, Katie Rich quoted Paul Keating's December 1992 Redfern speech and John Howard's May 1997 Reconciliation convention speech as examples of governments belatedly recognising indigenous hardship and needs. She calls on Canada to reject terra nullius in Labrador, and to accept across Canada the Royal Commission proposals for indigenous self–government, territorial rights, and resource and environment management. (The Canadian royal commission report will create interest in Australia, too, when more sets or compact disk copies are read and digested.)

How ironic and significant that the most homespun recent Prime Minister, John Howard, is quoted in aid of indigenous reconciliation in one of the world's remote areas. The world is a single moral community. Action and reaction have impact far away. We can contribute to, and benefit from, evolving standards. Or we can hide. World opinion is exerted in many forms: distance, isolation, and media strategies cannot reverse world currents. Nor do rising sea levels refuse to lap the feet of prime ministers who wish to protect greenhouse gas producers. We are all in the world together, and all responsible, together.

Peter Jull is Adjunct Associate Professor, Centre of Democracy, University of Queensland, and a veteran of Northern Hemisphere indigenous international Organisation.

[1] 'Globalisation' was seldom used 25 years ago when all ills were blamed on 'multinational corporations'—so much that many of us in middle–age avoid any such term in embarrassment. Long–range trade, influence, and cultural collision are hardly new, however, disappearing back into prehistory, even if we are gaga over our latest technology.

[2] See Kleivan I, 1992: 'The Arctic Peoples' Conference in Copenhagen, November 22–25, 1973' ‘Études Inuit Studies, Vol. 16 (1–2), 1992, 227–236; & W Ellis, 1973: Minutes of the First International Arctic People's Conference, Christiansborg, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 22–25, 1973, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, & Institute for Eskimology, University of Copenhagen.

[3] The term ‘Natives’ is used by indigenous people themselves.

[4] For Hawaii see U Hasager & J Friedman (eds), 1994: Hawaii. Return to Nationhood, IWGIA Document No. 75, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen.

[5] For Alaska's experience of statehood and politics, including indigenous dimensions, see GA McBeath & TA Morehouse, 1994: Alaska Politics & Government, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. The same authors' landmark study for Canada's government 15 years earlier was published as The Dynamics of Alaska Native Self–Government, University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland, 1980.

[6] For a study of the workings of the Alaska claims settlement, see T Berger, 1985: Village Journey: The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission, Hill and Wang, New York. A recent Alaska survey is F Korsmo, 1994: 'The Alaska Natives', in Polar Peoples: Self–determination and Development, edited by Minority Rights Group, Minority Rights Publications, London, pp 81–104.

[7] E Brower & J Stotts, 1984: 'Arctic Policy: The Local/Regional Perspective', in United States Arctic Interests: The 1980s and 1990s, ed. WE Westermeyer and KM Shusterich, Springer–Verlag, New York, 319–344. See also Lauritzen P, 1983: Oil and Amulets: Inuit: A People United at the Top of the World, Breakwater, St. John's, Newfoundland.

[8] D Sanders, 1977: The Formation of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, IWGIA Document No. 29, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen.

[9] For Sami internationalism, see H Minde, 1996: 'The Making of an International Movement of Indigenous Peoples', Scandinavian Journal of History, Vol 21, No 3, 221–246. For Sami at home see F Korsmo, 1996: 'Claiming Territory: The Saami Assemblies as Ethno–Political Institutions', Polar Geography, 1996, 20.3, 163–179. Also, C Oreskov's 'Editorial', pp 2–3, JB Henriksen's 'The legal status of Saamiland rights in Finland, Russia, Norway and Sweden', pp 4–13, HJ Hyvärinen's 'Finland: Threats to the cultural autonomy of the Saami', pp 14–16, & L–A Baer's 'Sweden: Indigenous People's Land Rights', pp 16–19, in Indigenous Affairs, 2/1996 (April–June), published by International Work Group of Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Copenhagen.

[10] R Paine, 1982: Dam a River, Damn a People? Saami (Lapp) Livelihood and the Alta/Kautokeino Hydro–electric Project and the Norwegian Parliament, IWGIA Document 45, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen.

[11] The Norwegian Sami rights history is covered in three articles by Terje Brantenberg:'The Alta–Kautokeino Conflict: Saami Reindeer Herding and Ethnopolitics', pp 23–48 in Native Power: The Quest for Autonomy and Nationhood of Indigenous Peoples, ed. J Brösted et al., Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1985; 'Norway: Constructing Indigenous Self–Government in a Nation–State', pp 66–128 in The Challenge of Northern Regions, ed. P Jull & S Roberts, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit, Darwin, 1991; & 'Murky Agenda in the Mörketid: Norwegian Policy, Sami Politics and the Tromsö Conference', pp 27–38 in Becoming Visible: Indigenous Politics and Self–Government, ed. OT Brantenberg, J Hansen & H Minde, Centre for Sami Studies, University of Troms6, Norway, 1995. For the Sami rights commission's own view, see C Smith's 'The Sami Rights Committee: An Exposition', pp 15–55 in Self Determination and Indigenous Peoples: Sami Rights and Northern Perspectives, IWGIA Document No. 58, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, 1987; and C Smith et al., 1990: Chapter 6 of the Report by the Sami Rights Committee [1984], Norwegian Official Reports (NOU) No. 1984:18, Unofficial English translation by G Nyquist and R Craig, Oslo. For a fine new survey of Norwegian Sami history, politics, society, and culture, see H Gaski (ed), 1997: Sami Culture in a New Era: The Norwegian Sami Experience, Davvi Girji Sami Publisher, Karasjok, Norway.

[12] M Nuttall, 1994: 'Greenland: Emergence of an Inuit Homeland', pp 1–28 in Polar Peoples: Self–determination and Development, edited by Minority Rights Group, Minority Rights Publications, London; & LE Johansen, 1995. 'Greenland—The Home Rule Experience', in A Harris (ed), A good idea waiting to happen: Regional Agreements in Australia, Proceedings from the Cairns Workshop July 1994, Cape York Land Council, Cairns, Old, pp 19–23.

[13] P Hoeg, 1994: Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, trans. F David, Flamingo Harper Collins, London.

[14] See 'Constitutional Reform', pp 9–18, Indigenous Social Justice: Strategies and Recommendations, by M Dodson, Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner, Sydney, 1995. (Reprinted pp 101–110, Third Report, 1995, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.) For the first years of indigenous Canadian constitutional progress see P Jull, 1981, pp 45–48, 'Aboriginal Peoples and Political Change in the North Atlantic Area', Journal of Canadian Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2, 41–52; P Jull, 1980: 'Canada's Native Peoples and the Constitution', IWGIA Newsletter, No. 24, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen, April 1980, 47–54; and P Jull, 1987: 'How Self–Government Must Come: Detailed work... after the failure of the constitutional conference', Policy Options, Vol 8, No 6, 10–13. For next phase see F Abele, pp 1–32, 'The politics of fragementation', and DC Hawkes & M Devine, pp 33–62, 'Meech Lake and Elijah Harper: Native–State relations in the 1990s', in F Abele (ed), 1991: How Ottawa Spends, 1991–92 Carleton University Press, Ottawa.

[15] See Aboriginal Self–Govemment. The Government of Canada's Approach to Implementation of the Inherent Right and the Negotiation of Aboriginal Self–Government, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development; & Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non–Status Indians, Government of Canada, Ottawa, 1995, and Greg Crough's Indigenous Organisations, Funding and Accountability: Comparative Reforms in Canada and Australia, Report Series No. 2, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit (NARU), Darwin, 1997.

[16] See BJ Richardson, D Craig & B Boer, 1995: Regional agreements for indigenous lands and cultures in Canada, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit, Darwin; P Jull, 1995: 'Politics & Process: The Real World of Regional Agreements in the Northern Hemisphere', ATSIC Regional Agreements Seminar, Cairns, 29–31 May 1995, Proceedings, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Canberra, 17–29; and D Craig & P Jull, 1997 (forthcoming): 'Regional Agreements: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow', Australian Indigenous Law Reporter, Sydney.

[17] Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 5 volumes, Ottawa, 1996. Or in CD ROM as For Seven Generations, The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) incl. Background Reports, Public Works and Government–Services (Publishing), Ottawa.

[18] Pauline Hanson, MP, devoted much of her October 1, 1997 Canberra parliamentary speech on native title to an ill–informed attack on Nunavut. For reliable information see P Jull, 1 992: An Aboriginal Northern Territory: Creating Canada's Nunavut, Discussion Paper No. 9, and T Fenge, 1993: Political Development and Environmental Management in Northern Canada: The Case of the Nunavut Agreement, Discussion Paper No. 20, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit, Darwin.

[19] NIC, 1995: Footprints in New Snow, A Comprehensive Report...; & NIC, 1996: Footprints 2, A second comprehensive report of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, Iqaluit, Northwest Territories.

[20] See P Russell & B Ryder, 1997: Ratifying a Postreferendum Agreement on Quebec Sovereignty, Commentary No 97 (October 1997), CD Howe Institute, Toronto. For differing Anglo–/Franco–phone intellectual outlooks, see pp 12–28, SG Baines, 1996: Social Anthropology with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada: First Impressions, Série Antropologia 197, Departamento de Antropologia, Universidade de Brasilia, Brasilia.

[21] All quotes in this pargraph are from pp 69 & 73, in E Niemi, 1997: 'Sami History and the Frontier Myth: A Perspective on Northern Sami Spatial and Rights History', Sami Culture in a New Era: The Norwegian Sami Experience, Davvi Girji Sami Publisher, Karasjok, Norway, 62–85.

[22] A Pika, J Dahl & I Larsen (eds), 1996: Anxious North: Indigenous Peoples in Soviet and Post–Soviet Russia: Selected Documents, Letters, and Articles, IWGIA Document No 82, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen. For policy see especially A Pika, 'The Small Peoples of the North: From Primitive Communism to "Real Socialism"', pp 15–33; VM Yetylen, 'Self–Government among the Small Peoples of the North', pp 83–94; B Prokhorov et al., 'Anxious North', pp 95–103; RV Ryvkina et al., 'The Small Peoples of the Soviet North: Life in the Soviet Empire and Future Prospects', pp 249–261; and

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