Peter d'Errico: The dangers in accepting a colonial view of sovereignty

The Yellow Bird Apache Dancers perform at the United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2011. Photo: Eric Bridiers / U.S. Mission

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples remains controversial more than a decade after its adoption by the United Nations. Retired professor Peter d'Errico debates whether the document promotes true self-government or simply advances a different form of colonization:
Duane Champagne recently pointed out that policies of “self-government” promoted by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “are amazingly close…to Spanish colonial policies.” Champagne described how the U.N. and the Spanish policies both postulate the assimilation of Native Peoples into state government systems. Both conceptualize indigenous local governments as ordinary municipal governments subject to nation-state laws and control.

Champagne’s analysis echoes what Vine Deloria Jr., and Clifford Lytle wrote in 1984 (The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty), where they discussed the 1975 U.S. Indian Self-Determination and Education Act: “In an overall sense, self-determination policy puts tribal councils on the same footing as state and municipal governments with regard to acquiring federal funds, thus undermining the unique treaty-based position of Native Americans.”

Deloria, never one to mince words, said U.S. programs pushing Native Peoples into a municipal government model were “clothed ironically not as termination but in the new language of self-determination.” He added, “Federal bureaucrats began to speak in hushed tones about the ‘government-to-government relationship.’”

Read More on the Story:
Peter d'Errico: When ‘Self-Government’ Means Neo-Colonialism (Indian Country Media Network 5/1)

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