World Policy Journal: Winter 2017/18

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Native Voices


Table of Contents

Editor’s Note: Native Voices
“The Indigenous peoples’ movement is not only one of the most significant social-justice movements of our time,” writes editor Jessica Loudis, “but also among the most multifaceted.” In that spirit, this issue of World Policy Journal contains contributions from Indigenous writers and thinkers from around the world. The issue comes in the wake of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As Loudis adds, although many of Native communities “share the traumas of colonialism, resource extraction, and environmental destruction, these ordeals are neither definitive nor predictive.”

The Big Question: How has migration affected Indigenous cultural and political identities?
World Policy Journal asked Indigenous writers and activists about how migration has affected Indigenous identities around the world. Hawad, a Tuareg Nigerien poet, describes the effects of African migration on his people, who live on the route many migrants take to Europe. Julian Brave NoiseCat recalls the U.S. history of forced relocation of Native Americans, and Omer Kanat details how the Chinese policy of moving Han into traditionally Uyghur parts of China has posed a threat to the group’s Indigenous identity.

Parks and Arbitration: How Indigenous Udege activism created a national park in Russia
Pavel Sulyandziga, a leader of the Indigenous Udege community in Russia, describes how years battling against corruption and corporate interests resulted in the creation of Russia’s first national park designed to safeguard Indigenous rights. The Udege were assisted in the process by (shockingly) honest bureaucrats, and the Amur tiger—the world’s largest cat.

Shaky Foundations: The flawed treaty between New Zealand and the Indigenous Māori population
Legal scholars Claire Charters and Tracey Whare examine the foundational treaty between the British crown and the Māori living on the land that would eventually become New Zealand. While the treaty is often held up as a “model” for protecting Indigenous rights, Charters and Whare argue that the reality is far more complicated, especially since there are two treaties: one in English and another in Māori.

A Gathering Storm: How an annual festival is helping revive Norwegian Sámi culture
Marianne Vigdis Henriksen writes about the decades-long process of “Norwegianization,” which brutally assimilated the country’s Native Sámi into the larger population. During these years, many Sámi chose to hide their identities, including Henriksen’s grandparents. It is only now—partly as the result of Riddu Riddu, an annual Sámi heritage festival—that people of Sámi descent are coming out of the shadows.

Reindeer Gains: For centuries, Sweden has systematically discriminated against its Native Sámi population through education and reindeer-herding laws
Education historian Charlotta Svonni looks back at how the Swedish state isolated and broke apart its native Sami population through reindeer-herding laws and a two-tiered education system. “Decades later,” Svonni writes, “our people remain divided over who is truly Sámi.” By defining the Sami only as reindeer herders, Svonni argues, the Swedish state is endangering the group’s broader identity.

Back to the Land: A new generation of activists is making the plight of the Bedouins in the Naqab region a global issue
Mansour Nasasra writes about the historic discrimination against the Indigenous Arab Bedouins in the Naqab region of what is now southern Israel, and how a new generation of Bedouin activists, known as Al-Hirak al-Shababi, have helped defend their land against government efforts to claim it. Their efforts, Nasasra writes, echoed “the political mobilization that had taken place in the surrounding region during the Arab Spring.”

Anatomy: Social Mobility
How much harder is it for Indigenous people to get ahead? A comparison of Indigenous and non-Native populations in several countries across Latin America suggests that the difference is not insignificant, and that inequality persists over generations. 

Paradise Lost? As extreme weather events threaten the Caribbean, the region’s Indigenous peoples see the legacy of their colonial past
“The arrival of Europeans in the 15th century greatly accelerated the decline of the Caribbean’s natural resources. As European population centers grew rapidly, island ecosystems began to deteriorate.” Taíno leader Roberto Múkaro Borrero reviews the history of colonialism in the Caribbean and makes the case that ongoing environmental destruction is part of this legacy. This is why, he argues, the Indigenous rights movement is inextricably bound up with the fight for climate justice, and why leaders must take more significant action in meeting the standards set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Status Anxiety: Advocate Lynn Gehl’s long fight to be considered Indian by the Canadian government
“Genocide is not always mass murder; it was first defined in cultural terms, as what happens when an oppressor imposes its worldview and governance structures on Indigenous people,” says Indigenous advocate Lynn Gehl. Because of a revision to the country’s Indian Act, Gehl was denied Indian status by the Canadian government. She took her case to court and has become an outspoken critic of the hypocrisies embedded in Canada’s legal approach to its Indigenous communities.

In a Lonely Place: Paul Okalik looks to the road ahead
Paul Okalik, the former premier of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, reflects on the region’s political and social challenges, and talks about what lies ahead.

Map Room: Industry and Violence
Does the arrival of big corporations lead to an increase in violence against women? Statistics from around the world suggest that it can—and particularly against Indigenous women.

Rough Drafts: The making of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Dalee Sambo Dorough spent more than two decades helping craft the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Here, she describes the arguments and concerns that drew out the process, and how every country in the world eventually came to sign it.

Stand Up for Your Rights: An Indigenous coca farmer and union leader discusses life in Morales’ Bolivia
Quechua coca farmer Roxana Argandoña was brutalized for years under the Bolivian government’s forced-eradication policies. Then, she became politically active. In an as-told-to interview, Argandoña discusses her involvement with union organizing, the transformation of her native Chapare region, and how President Evo Morales’s policies have benefited Bolivia’s Indigenous population. 



And the Beat Goes On
“Everyone’s freaked out about trust in media being at an all-time low, but it often feels like what they’re really talking about is it being at an all-time low with white people. It’s not like a lot of these legacy media organizations have done a particularly good job covering communities of color, ever.” Native journalists Tristan Ahtone and Christine Trudeau discuss the past and future of reporting on Indigenous issues in light of the challenges facing media and the structural biases against the beat.



Solidarity in Standing Rock
Photographer Josué Rivas spent months on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, documenting not only the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but also the culture that developed among the participants. In this portfolio and accompanying essay, Rivas reflects on the lessons of the event and captures some of the more moving images you’ll see of a transformational moment in American history.



The Words Are Maps: An anthropologist considers the narratives surrounding the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone as she searches for a rumored Ebola museum
Anthropologist Adia Benton reflects on the handling of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone by international civil-society organizations, the national government, and locals afflicted by the disease. While the Sierra Leonean state saw Ebola as “an overt challenge to its legitimacy and ability to function,” Benton writes, “much of the population saw it as evidence of ongoing failures of the government to attend to the needs of its people.” As she considers the narratives that unfolded during the crisis, she sets off in search of a rumored Ebola museum several hours outside the capital of Freetown.

Fringe Benefits: How an ultranationalist think tank is vying for Putin’s ear
Natasha Bluth writes about the Izborsky Club, a think tank made up of Russian ultranationalists working to pull Putin further to the right. “They advocate ‘Eurasianism,’” Bluth writes,an anti-West political movement that seeks to expand Russian territory to encompass the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia. The resulting totalitarian, Russia-led empire would confront and eventually overthrow the West, as well as the democratic and liberal values it stands for.” Through overseas ties and prolific publishing, the izborists are making their fringe views heard across Russia and around the world.

Access Nollywood: Nigeria’s transforming film culture is catering to a rising middle class
Emily Witt goes behind the scenes of Nollywood, Nigeria’s globally renowned film industry. “Lagos is a city of 21 million people that as recently as 2004 had no cinemas at all,” Witt writes. Yet this is no longer the case: In addition to producing thousands of low-budget films every year, what has been dubbed “New Nollywood” is making glossier movies catering to local middle-class audiences.

Freedom From Fear? Rohingya settlers in India have been there for decades—and now the government may expel them
Rohini Mohan reports from a settlement in the northern Indian state of Jammu, where Rohingya refugees have been living since fleeing Myanmar in the 90s. As the government of Myanmar continues to persecute the Rohingyas, the Hindu nationalist-led Indian government is taking its own hardline tactics against the Muslim population. Mohan writes that last July, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs declared the Rohingyas “national security threats” and “then directed all state governments to identify and deport these illegal immigrants.” Two cases making their way through Indian courts are now challenging this order.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Zanzibari seaweed collectives are tapping into a feminist history while showing the rest of us the future of food
From Zanzibar, Lisa De Bode writes about the proliferation of all-women seaweed collectives, which have broken with the dominant economic model by creating platforms for women to share resources and earn an income. Their enterprise taps into a forgotten feminist history of seaweed, De Bode says, in which the algae is linked to women and motherhood. There’s only one problem: As climate change causes water temperatures to rise, it is forcing women to harvest farther from shore.

Letter From Lisbon: A Portuguese journalist looks at her country’s so-called economic “miracle” and considers whether the country will allow it to last
“Being Portuguese is like living in a constant state of nostalgia,” writes Catarina Fernandes Martins. “We live with the memory of having been a wealthy, influential nation, but we have never been able to fully reclaim that role.” Here, Martins considers how this mentality played into the country’s unlikely left-wing coalition, and whether the economic boom that has lifted Portugal out of recession will be the one that sticks.

Infographic: Maternal Mortality
To what extent does maternal mortality around the world correlate to abortion policies, and are Indigenous women affected more than most?


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