Halito! On Thursday February 27th I attended the Tribal Sovereignty Symposium at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Its main focus was “Tribal Sovereignty: A Global Perspective.” The day consisted of a morning where tribal sovereignty was discussed by local leaders and an afternoon of tribal Sovereignty with interesting discussion put forth by world thinkers from at Central America and Europe.
A moment to reflect on the issue of the use of the Native Imagery in mascots. Naming your athletic team “Redskin” or “Indian”seems to be a widely “accepted” racial slur which his so ingrained in our culture that many people refuse to acknowledge it as an insult to the Native people’s culture they are utilizing. These Gentlemen who are representing our state flags in their Native dress, do not deserve having their warbonnets dishonored by the secularism represented within mascots. The use of Native symbolism within sports culture is an attack on Native tradition, ceremony and religion, no matter how long it has been happening within mainstream American Culture. There is meaning in their dress, the meaning may be compared to the dress worn by a priest or a soldier. What matters is it holds meaning that goes beyond the superficial and secular. The hashtag #NotYourMascot and #NotYourTonto on Twitter represent Native voices speaking out against the commodification and misappropriation of Native culture.
Chief Gordon Yellowman of the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribe gaved the opening statement and prayer at the symposium.
If you haven’t heard about the amazing things the Citizen Potawatomi Tribe is doing, you should. Above is Dr. James Collard speaking of the tribes economic successes. He was followed by
George Tiger, Principal Chief, Muscogee Creek Nation speaking on the “Engagement in Tribal/State/Federal Decision Making and Affairs.” Another tribe which is showing amazing growth when given their own choices and decision making powers as a government.
In the morning I kept hearing the words Sovereignty being closely related to economic successes of tribes. In a more Conservative sense I could plug the word capitalism in and replace the word sovereignty. Tribes are using a corporate approach to build economic success. The success of the tribes is to the advantage of the State of Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s growth and economic success during a difficult economic time is a testament to the strength of sovereignty and the ability of tribes to adapt and grow. With self government some tribes have blossomed and bloomed while under the strong handed actions of the BIA and DOI they suffered with governmental micro-management. There still needs to be more work done for many tribes but innovative leaders and strong governance has created an economic boom in Oklahoma that is only due to sovereignty. It is a small reminder to our government leaders that the Chickasaw Nation has a budget that surpasses the State of Oklahoma. The future of Oklahoma is in “Indian Territory” - the Natives are driving our growth.
I had to get a shot of Dr. Bread asking a question. We didn’t get to see him speak today.
The Council of Fire speaks on Sovereignty. Graduate students, and undergraduates.
I went to get the chance to see my friends and had a pleasurable day. It was a reminder of what an impact being an OU student had on my life and I feel strongly about the issues spoken of on this occasion. We went to lunch and returned to hear our special international topics. I find myself fascinated more and more with international indigenous topics. I also find myself using the term indigenous in regards to all Native people.
Armstrong Wiggins, as Director of the Indian Law Resource Center, Washington, DC Office, supervises the work of the Center dealing with human rights, standard-setting, and multi-lateral development Banks. Mr. Wiggins was born in Nicaragua and is a Miskito Indian from the village of Karata, Nicaragua. Mr. Wiggins was the Founder of the Indian Organization called ALPROMISU and was the Coordinator of Municipal Affairs of the East Coast for the government of Nicaragua. He was also the national representative of the regional Indian organization MISURASATA. Mr. Wiggins was arrested twice during both the Somoza and Sandinista regimes and became a political prisoner because of his work to promote human rights for his people in Nicaragua. In 1981, Mr. Wiggins was forced into exile. It was at this time that he began working for the Center as the director of its Central and South America Program. For the past two decades he has worked on numerous human rights cases involving indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, including the Yanomami in Brazil, and the case against Nicaragua in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 1984, which lead to changes in the constitution of Nicaragua for the recognition of indigenous rights and the creation of autonomous indigenous regions in Nicaragua. He worked on the case for the Maya in Belize. Then on behalf of the Center, Mr. Wiggins played a leading role in the precedent setting Awas Tingni case within the Inter-American system. He has also played a critical role in the Center‘s standard setting work with the United Nations and the Organization of American States, particularly regarding the Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People
He is seated in a panel with Dinah Shelton, former Inter-American Commission Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Professor, George Washington University Law School.
The duties that these people held involved working in areas that I’ve never thought about, in an attempt to do good in the world through channels that I have not read, nor researched in any capacity. I have never taken very much interest in the actions of the United Nations but, I can definitely see how indigenous people need a voice in a world filled with the echoes of imperialism. Part of sovereignty is not just within political sovereignty it is cultural and being able to resist outside interests in resource acquisition.
The speakers brought out the difference between Autonomous regions and sovereignty within tribes which was fascinating especially in being able to think about the situation in the Crimea and Ukraine (which is a huge mess and I feel as if we can not solve the problems of a thousand years of history). America is irrelevant in the Ukraine; according to this Reason article. I feel that often we inflate our duties, when most warfare come down to cultural and linguistic sovereignty and outside intervention always comes down to our global economy. Oil; speaks.
How fascinating to hear a German Professor, Dr. Dieter Dörr, Professor, Johannes-Gutenberg-University of Mainz, speak of Indigenous issues. While working on my Bachelor’s degree I focused on European History. I love the Early Modern German history so while I found it fascinating that our speaker was an experton indigenous topics. He was joined by Neha Sheth, Attorney-Adviser, Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State. Here is an article about her in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-defender-of-human-rights-at-the-state-department/2012/12/09/a8e79b74-425c-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html
Dr. Robertson introduces the keynote speaker. While he was many other student’s professor, he was a classmate of mine in a Native fiction class. So, I enjoyed his input on class discussion in our literature course and am glad that he helped bring such amazing people to OU for all of us in attendance to learn from.
Jose Francisco Calí Tzay, Chair, UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination gave the afternoon keynote Here is another article about our speaker. I hope you enjoy the links because they are all on topics that I feel I need more education on. I am a supporter of Indigenous rights and that the money and power behind governments and corporations should not supersede the beliefs of indigenous people living on their land.
The closing remarks were given by the President of the OU College of Law. I also had the opportunity to see the amazing Dr. Weiser and other friends. She of all the professors at OU influenced me the most and has a genuine passion for Indigenous people and their stories. I owe her a debt of gratitude for her guidance in my thesis writing process and inspiration to work on the thesis topic that I did. It was a good day that wasn’t over yet. Yakoke! Please take the time to check out all of the interesting links in this post.