Sunday, February 10, 2013


Self-determination - Governance by consent

Governance by consent and other Indigenous life ways

Exceptional excerpts:
The consensus process:
"It is in the nature of traditional indigenous political systems that power is not centralized, that compliance with authority is not coerced but voluntary, and that decision-making requires consensus.  (In practice, these principles mean that contention is almost a natural state in indigenous politics!)  Because traditional systems are predicated on the ideal of harmony and the promotion of an egalitarian consensus though persuasion and debate, leaders must work through the diverse opinions and ideas that exist in any community; because there is both an inherent respect for the autonomy of the individual and a demand for general agreement, leadership is an exercise in patient persuasion. Thus active disagreement is a sign of health in a traditional system: it means the people are engaging their leaders and challenging them to prove the righteousness of their position.  It means that are making them accountable.  In an indigenous conception of accountability, then, the question 'Who do you answer to?' seems to have literal meaning."

From: Abuse of Power:
"One reason we have lost our way is that the materialistic mainstream value system has blinded us to the subtle beauty of indigenous systems founded on profound respect for balance. Without that respect, the system fails. We must reorient our societies to provide leaders with a basis for conduct rooted in indigenous culture, to restore--bring back to life--traditional political cultures by abandoning the structures imposed on us, and exorcising the attitudes, beliefs, and values that perpetuate our colonization"

From: Re-empowerment:
"The problem is that at present Native politics is still understood and practised in the context of the law as structured by the state. Within this context, the state has nothing to fear from Native leaders, for even if they succeed in achieving the goal of self-government, the basic power structure remains intact. From the perspective of the state, marginal losses of control are the trade-off for the ultimate preservation of the framework of dominance. ... We must deconstruct the notion of state power to allow people to see that the settler state has no right to determine indigenous futures."

From: 'Sovereignty'--An Inappropriate Concept:
"The concept of sovereignty as Native leaders have constructed it thus far is incompatible with traditional indigenous notions of power... In fact, most of the current generation of Native politicians see politics as a zero-sum contest for power--just the way non-indigenous politicians do.
There is real danger in the assumption that sovereignty is the appropriate model for indigenous governance. The Canadian scholars Menno Boldt and Tony Long have described that danger in the context of their work among the Blood and Peigan peoples:
'by adopting the European-Western ideology of sovereignty, the current generation of Indian leaders is buttressing the imposed alien authority structures within its communities, and is legitimizing the associated hierarchy comprised of indigenous political and bureaucratic elites. This endorsement of hierarchical authority and a ruling entity constitutes a complete rupture with traditional indigenous principles.'"

From:  Self-conscious Traditionalism:
"The imposition of labels and definitions of identity on indigenous people has been a central feature of the colonization process from the start.  Thus another fundamental task facing Native communities is to overcome the racial, territorial and 'status' divisions that have become features of the political landscape.  Factions and conflicts based on divisions between 'status versus non-status', 'enrolled versus non-enrolled', or 'on-reserve versus urban' arise because our communities are still subject to outside controls.  The practice of dividing Native people according to their status in the colonial law opposes the basic tenets of all indigenous philosophies.  The extent to which these divisions continue to characterize Native communities indicates how deeply people have internalized the colonial mindset.

Who is indigenous?  To have any value in promoting recovery from colonialism, the answer to this question must respect the integrity of indigenous nations and their traditions, and must reject the divisive categories defined by the state.  Neither the cold linearity of blood quantum nor the tortured weakness of self-identification--both systems designed and currently validated by the state--can sustain indigenous nations.  When it comes to resolving questions of indigenous identity and determining membership, we ought to recognize the simple truth that indigenous nations are communities of human beings, and that as such they have the right to determine for themselves who they are.  So there are no theoretical restrictions to the collective definitions that may be put forward by individual communities.  The problem is that indigenous peoples are engaged with the state in a complex relationship in which there are varying degrees of interdependency at play, and history has created a range of definitions where formerly there were only those securely and collectively held by the communities themselves.  In the old days, having an identity crisis meant that you couldn't find the spirit or ancestor living inside you.  The strength of indigenous societies at the time, and the clarity of the cultural boundaries between them, meant that people didn't have to think about their group affiliation--much less whether or not they were truly 'Indian'.  But the breakdown of those traditional societies created in all Native people--even those consciously seeking recovery--many questions about belonging."

From "Peace, Power and Righteousness - an indigenous manifesto" by Taiaiake Alfred (1999)  - A revised 2nd edition was released in 2009. with more illuminated, evolved understanding.

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