As the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) dissected the Doctrine of Discovery this week, peoples from ancient cultures worked to modernize the outlook of those who would discount their knowledge, needs and rights.
“In addressing the medieval ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ we wish to begin by highlighting the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” said Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo in a joint statement before the forum on May 8. “As a consensus, universal international human rights instrument, the realization of UNDRIP is crucial to the survival, dignity, security and well-being of Indigenous peoples worldwide.”
Aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups united to talk about implementing UNDRIP and eradicating racist doctrines as the key to the survival of indigenous peoples worldwide.
“The consequences of the past wrongs regarding the taking of indigenous lands and resources are visible worldwide, through debilitating impoverishment and suffering endured by Indigenous Peoples,” said Atleo in a statement. “In Canada, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples concluded in its 1996 Report: ‘Without adequate lands and resources, Aboriginal nations … will be pushed to the edge of economic, cultural and political extinction.’ ”
Two main recommendations were contained in the joint statement by the AFN, Chiefs of Ontario, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Amnesty International, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) and Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.
First, UNPFII should request that nation-states work with Indigenous Peoples “to examine State history, laws, practices and policies and report on their reliance of doctrines of superiority, including ‘discovery,’ as the foundation of State claims of sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. States should complete and provide their reports by the 12th Session of the PFII,” Atleo said in the joint statement.
Second, states should be urged to work with Indigenous Peoples “to establish national plans of evaluation and work, with clear timelines and priorities, to eradicate from existing laws and policies any remnants of doctrines of superiority, including ‘discovery,’ as a basis for the assumed sovereignty over Indigenous Peoples and their lands and resources,” the joint statement said. “States should report regularly on the progress of their work to their national legislatures and to the PFII.”
The hope, at least among many First Nations leaders, is to get the word out to the rest of the world. For that, they say, they must turn the doctrine on its head among themselves.