Weekend Reading and Efforts to Resist the Dakota Access Pipeline

Below are brief synopses and links to articles. Pick the one(s) that speak to you:

  • The Canadian commitment to fully embrace the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Returning to Harmony, an essay about residential schools, intergenerational trauma, and healing by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe)
  • A United Nations proposal to increase participation by indigenous governments — and some pushback
  • An update on resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline


1. Canada Fully Embraces U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Several articles have reported on the recent announcement out of Ottawa. According to an article by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network:

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Monday Canada would fully embrace the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and remove its “permanent objector status” to the document. …

It appears that while the Harper government announced in 2010 it would “endorse” UNDRIP it officially maintained an objection to the document. The previous Conservative government said UNDRIP was an aspirational document that would be interpreted “in a manner that is consistent with our Constitutional and legal framework.

The announcement put the resource extraction industries on notice that they need to “seek free, prior and informed consent” before moving on projects impacting Indigenous lands. Here is the CBC’s take on the story.

2. Returning to Harmony: Richard Wagamese was a victim of Canada’s residential schools, not because he ever attended one but because they had such a devastating affect on his parents, a history which ultimately broke his family apart. His essay talks about how he came to terms with that incredibly painful experience.

3. The United Nations is Proposing Ways to Increase Participation of Indigenous Governments

A column in Indian Country Today by Dina Gilio-Whitaker is titled: Will It Be Enough? UN Proposed Changes Could Give Indigenous Peoples a Voice. It examines two key issues: “creating an avenue for meaningful participation and representation of Indigenous governments in the U.N., and how to implement a mechanism to monitor the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).”

There has been some critiques of the U.N. proposal on listserves. For instance, one commentator noted: “The problem with all these UN recommendations is that they include only those Indigenous ‘governments’ already recognized by settler states. These can be corrupt, complicit, or just fumble issues, but because they are settler-backed, will studiously ignore anyone outside of their system.”

The Gilio-Whitaker column notes that the State Department has been consulting with Native leaders about the proposed U.N. language. (Traditionally, the Bureau of Indian Affairs exclusively deals with Native nations, not the State Department.) The column continues:

The nascent relationship between Native nations and the Department of State is a matter of debate among some observers who may see it as insignificant at best, or at worst another attempt of the federal government to undermine the concept of Indigenous self-determination.

On the other hand, it may be seen as an unprecedented level of engagement between American Indians and the federal government in the international arena. Either way, the involvement of the State Department is part of the U.S.’s government-to-government policy with Native nations.

4. Update on Native Efforts to Resist the Dakota Access Pipeline

On April 1, Nakota, Lakota, and Dakota Nation leaders set up the Iyan Wakanya Gagnapi Oti (Camp of the Sacred Stones) to build community, pray, and defend their territory from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), according to an email from the AIM Interpretive Center.

“The DAPL is proposed to transport as much as 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota crossing the Missouri River twice, through Standing Rock reserve lands and sacred sites, on to South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois,” it said. “The pipeline route threatens significant sites of historical and cultural significance to many Northern Plains tribes, including the Lakota, Dakota, Mandan, Arikara and Cheyenne.”

An update on this work will be given Monday, May 16, 6 p.m. at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin Ave. Presenting will be people on the front lines of the protest and representatives from Honor the Earth. They will “discuss uniting our region to support indigenous communities and resist oil infrastructure.”

Here is the event Facebook page.

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