|Dina Gilio Whitaker reflects on a year of gains for indigenous self-determination:
In terms of advancing self-determination, however, I believe the biggest news is what happened with Native nations on the international front. Six years after its passage the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is proving to be an effective framework to engage such efforts. This year saw preparation conferences for the upcoming 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in April, marking the first time that tribal governments (as opposed to Indian civil society groups) in the U.S. organized in unison to participate in a United Nations conference on Indigenous issues. While the conferences (one sponsored by NCAI for tribal governments and one organized for civil society groups) demonstrated a significant level of contention between the two groups it nonetheless opened a dialogue between them and was a landmark event for tribal governments’ assertions of self-determination. Evidence for this is the statement issued by 72 Indigenous nations.
In Native nation governments’ international engagement efforts were fueled in part by the abuses of the IRS and conflicts over the General Welfare Exclusion rule and the need for trust reform. Although the conflict resulted in the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2013, it remains to be seen how effective the law will be in curtailing IRS intrusions into Indian affairs. And there is still a long way to go before any meaningful articulation of trust reform is manifested.
Big strides were made in the realm of international relations by a handful of tribal nations, most notably the Quinault Indian Nation. Behind the scenes QIN quietly made history by hosting a reception for a handful of UN member governments during the annual meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May and later in the year when they met with the ambassadors from Germany and Lithuania in New York. The precedence-setting reception in May made waves in the US State Department, who hadn’t been invited. Their attention gotten, the Department responded with a hap-hazard last minute call for a listening session for all interested Indians to be convened in early August (in Washington DC, at the expense of those attending) to prepare for the WCIP in 2014. Native governments had called for an intergovernmental meeting, not a listening session and thus rejected the proposed meeting.
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Dina Gilio Whitaker:
2013 Was a Breakthrough Year for Tribal International Engagement
(Indian Country Today 1/1)