At this the 11th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), the “issues” to be discussed during the session include the rights of Indigenous peoples to food and food sovereignty, the situation of Indigenous peoples in places such as Central and Eastern Europe, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples slated for 2014, and the special theme of ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ – the way courts justified the annexing of indigenous lands – and the right to redress for past conquests.’
The Doctrine of Discovery is viewed as the basis from which national and domestic laws that are discriminatory to Indigenous Peoples are formed. From the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: “… all doctrines, policies and practices based on advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust”.
We are fortunate to have our long time partners, Roger Jones of the Assembly of First Nations and Paul Joffe of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), present for the week ahead as Jennifer Preston (CFSC staff) works closely with them to prepare meaningful interventions during the sessions of the PFII. Jennifer is a respected colleague on whom our partners rely.
Though the issues are many, the frame for the interventions and discussions is the theme of ‘Doctrine of Discovery’. On Monday, we were able to hear the intervention, to which we signed on, delivered by National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, entitled “The Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress (article 28 and 37 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)”.
As usual we are impressed by the manner of National Chief Atleo, not only in his graciousness in appreciation of our work, but in the way he makes his intervention with calm, clear authority. Clearly he is a respected voice in the room. In meeting in the hall after, Monica Walters-Field (CFSC volunteer) was rendered (uncharacteristically) speechless as she shook hands with National Chief Atleo.
On Monday night, Jennifer and Monica, as Board members, attended the Board Meeting of First Peoples Human Rights Coalition. FPHC is a New York based partner with which CFSC works closely. The event was over dinner. Conversation, ideas and discussion were rich and confirmed the basis for further work.
On Tuesday May 9th, we were joined by our Friend Don Alexander (CFSC board member) who maneuvered the registration procedure like an expert. We were very glad to see him.
We proceeded to the chambers on Tuesday, three strong, equipped with the photo and sound recording abilities that Don brought with him. Don is our official roving recorder with iPad and camera in hand. He is expertly clicking and recording not only pictures, but sound bites from our partners and those attending the Forum.
At the end of the day this is Don’s reflection: “My respect for the United Nations and the way it builds informed and influential world-wide networks has been affirmed. Aboriginal peoples have found shared interests here. I notice again and again how representatives are dealing with similar concerns. They have been led to shared ways to describe harm done by colonization and conquest. For the aboriginal peoples here I sense a powerful resolve that is a product of the coming together that has been afforded by the United Nations process.
“I am here to take some video for our Quaker service web-site. I am an observer. I see so many people come to check-in and compare notes with Jennifer Preston. CFSC has provided the means to have this long-time relationship with the UN Permanent Forum.”
The Quaker UN Office-New York’s (www.quno.org) provision of nearby Quaker House as an informal off-the-record meeting place has worked wonders in bringing people together and, in friendship, finding a shared resolve to move toward a more peaceful and respectful world. We look forward to being at Quaker House on Wednesday and being in the presence of this dynamic company of Indigenous and States representatives.
On this Day 2 we split for side events. Jennifer went off with Paul Joffe to a side event on implementing the Declaration in Canada. This was hosted by the Indigenous Bar Association; Paul and Jennifer were called on to share our experiences with the ad hoc coalition and the presentations we have done. Willie Littlechild also spoke at the event, and thanked Paul and Jennifer for our ongoing work – including our booklets!!
To end Don’s day, Monica and he (while Jenn attended a supper meeting!) attended the opening reception of 11th PFII. What a celebration! We were hosted to entertainment by Indigenous groups from around the world, refreshment and the evening ending with dancing to the beautiful sounds of the pipes of Latin America. Amongst the vast crowd with many in traditional dress, Monica could be seen dancing and Don taking a photo record of the festive event. Tired bodies and feet went home that night.