Categories Article, Events, World

Recap: “Sustaining Territories of Life: A solidarity exchange on Indigenous decolonization and sustainable self-determination”

ICCA Consortium exchange held in conjunction with the 2021 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples shines a spotlight on experiences and perspectives from Turtle Island/North America, the Arctic, and East and Southeast Asia

By Sutej Hugu (Regional Coordinator for East Asia);
June Rubis (Council co-chair for documenting territories of life); and
Holly Jonas (Global Coordinator)

On 9 August 2021, the ICCA Consortium held a solidarity exchange to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, focusing on Indigenous practices of sustainability that entail nurturing and perpetuating territories of life beyond the state apparatus and market system. The speakers examined how Indigenous knowledge and practices are shared, renewed and reinterpreted across generations to promote Indigenous nations’ well-being, governance, and sustainability. By taking a comparative approach of Indigenous nations and communities across continents and regions, the exchange examined different pathways to self-determination and resurgence through a lens of Indigenous sustainability and climate justice. Below, we share some highlight quotes and video clips from the exchange initiated and moderated by Sutej Hugu (Indigenous Taiwan Self-Determination Alliance, ICCA Consortium Member, and Regional Coordinator for East Asia).

“We have a shared past in colonization, but we also have a shared future”

“This is a special day for us – not just Indigenous Peoples but for everybody, as we are celebrating the greatness of Indigenous Peoples’ way of life. From Latin America to Africa to Asia, we share a colonial past. Many are still subjected to colonization today, many from our own governments and big business. I cannot forget what one of my elders told me: it is important for Indigenous Peoples to go to school, not because we are uneducated. We are very much learned with our own traditional knowledge, but it is also important to learn the ways of other people so we will be able to defend our own culture by learning about our rights under the law. Self-determination has been our battle cry, but we need to learn about our rights. We have a shared past in colonization, but we also have a shared future.” ~ Teddy Baguilat, Jr. (Tuwali of Ifugao and Gaddang of Nueva Vizcaya; ICCA Consortium President)

Opening remarks by Sutej Hugu (moderator) and Teddy Baguilat Jr. (10:45).

“Decolonisation is about creating spaces for resurgence and spaces for solidarity”

“Colonization is part of our everyday lives and has intergenerational impacts. Colonization needs to be challenged and confronted, just as we confront the challenges of climate change, which is a result of encroachment onto our territories of life. We are still here, and we’re also resurging as Indigenous Peoples. Decolonization is about creating spaces for resurgence and spaces for solidarity. Spaces of resurgence are structured not on but for the principle of reciprocity. They presuppose Indigenous centricity and authority, and in doing so, figure settlers as guests… Take direction from Indigenous Peoples rather than declaring yourself as an ally. Are you creating space or taking space?” ~ Jeff Corntassel, Ph.D. (Cherokee; ICCA Consortium Honorary member)

Keynote presentation by Jeff Corntassel, Ph.D.: “Life Beyond the State: Indigenous Expressions of Sustainable Self-Determination” (15:43).

“Our way of life is our connection to the environment; it’s part of being Sámi”

“A key principle of the Sámi ideology is to take just what you need and make sure there is enough left for the future. Traditionally, we don’t leave any marks on nature. There’s a false perception that the Arctic is empty, but they are large areas of use. We modify our actions, so they fit the environment rather than vice versa. Our way of life is our connection to the environment; it’s part of being Sámi. The Siidaskuvla (Siida School) is a collaborative and community-driven project by more than 10 Sámi scholars, artists, and activists that aims at decolonizing Sámi society through reclaiming and reengaging with the traditional Sámi siida system and its concomitant laws and practices.” ~ Aslak Holmberg (Sámi; ICCA Consortium Honorary member)

Presentation by Aslak Holmberg: “A view to the Sámi situation: current challenges and ongoing work” and discussion with other panelists (50:00)

“Individual and collective resistance seeking to maintain and promote Ainu worldviews and practices have the potential to question the state logic and dominant narratives”

“The context of Ainu resurgence in Japan is decades of colonization and assimilation policy combined with late recognition of the Indigenous status of the Ainu without acknowledgment of colonial history by the Japanese government. The case of fishing rights exhibits some forms of self-determination and protection of Ainu lands and waters and encounters with colonial state policy. International forums and the use of a rights-based discourse provided important leverage for the Ainu to achieve recognition. While recent policy development continues to promote a colonialist attitude toward the Ainu, individual and collective resistance seeking to maintain and promote Ainu worldviews and practices have the potential to question the state logic and dominant narratives.” ~ Eleonore Komai (Centre for Environmental and Minority Policy Studies in Japan and Concordia University in Canada)

Presentation by Hiroshi Maruyama and Eleonore Komai: “The Ainu and fishing rights in Japan: historical legacies and ways forward” (25:09).

“The Salween Peace Park is a movement for peace, biocultural conservation, and a just future; it is a living hope for our planet and future generations”

“The Salween Peace Park builds on our [Karen] Indigenous values and worldview. It has three core goals: peace and self-determination, environmental integrity, and cultural survival. We hope that these three things together will help us sustain our territory of life for generations to come. Even in the current environment with the military coup in Burma, we are governing, defending, sustaining, and promoting territories of life together. It is a movement for peace, biocultural conservation, and a just future; it is a living hope for our planet and future generations.” ~ Paul Sein Twa (Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, ICCA Consortium Member, and Council co-chair on sustaining territories of life)

Presentation by Paul Sein Twa: “A Karen Indigenous grassroots movement for peace, conservation and a just future” (27:36).

“Sustaining Indigenous Peoples’ conserved territories of life is about embeddedness and connectedness”

“Sustaining Indigenous Peoples’ conserved territories of life is about embeddedness and connectedness. The inherent sovereignty of Indigenous and tribal peoples existed before any state system. Countering the myths of the unified nation-state is about evolving a pluralistic legal and knowledge framework for cultural and biological complexity and diversity. We are striving for sustainable self-determination and inclusive new nation-building to conserve the trinity of language, culture, and biological diversity.” ~ Sutej Hugu (Indigenous Taiwan Self-Determination Alliance, ICCA Consortium Member, and Regional Coordinator for East Asia)

Presentation by Sutej Hugu: “Survival and revival of Indigenous Taiwan in the post-colonial, post-modern and post-tradition era” (34:40).

Cultural exchange highlight: “Eymün weke che (en mapudungún) – Ensamble Transatlántico de Folk Chileno (feat. VILDÁ)”

During the exchange, Aslak Holmberg shared this music video (03:44) as an example of cultural cooperation and youth supporting one another across cultures, languages, and regions. It was a collaboration between Sámi artist Hildá Länsman and a Finnish harmonica player, singing in a local Mapuche language during a visit to Chile.

“Indigenous resurgence is about maintaining healthy relationships with our territories and self-strengthening at the community level – seeking recognition and respect not from the nation-state but first from other Indigenous nations”

Panel discussion with Sutej Hugu, Aslak Holmberg, Hiroshi Maruyama, Eleonore Komai, and Paul Sein Twa, with questions from participants (50:00).

“This gathering today is a beautiful example of the power of exchange, of solidarity and of mutual recognition and respect”

“Despite very different contexts, there are also many similarities as Indigenous peoples confront and challenge decolonization and strive for self-determination. This gathering today is a beautiful example of the power of exchange, of solidarity, and of mutual recognition and respect. We are clearly in a time of great change, and much needs to be done – from self-strengthening Indigenous governance systems and interspecies relations to advocating for legal pluralism that genuinely recognizes and supports diverse worldviews, values, and practices. As a membership-based association, the ICCA Consortium is fully committed to supporting Indigenous and community organizations in our membership and to continue with such exchanges, connecting within and between Indigenous nations and organizations around the world in support of your self-determined priorities.” ~ Holly Jonas (ICCA Consortium Global Coordinator)

Closing remarks of the solidarity exchange by Sutej Hugu and Holly Jonas (03:37).

View all the video clips from the solidarity exchange on the ICCA Consortium’s dedicated YouTube playlist.