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ANTH 222 (14)

"Becoming Indigenous in Africa" (Dorothy L. Hodgson)

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ANTH 222
Ronald Niezen

IntroductionMoringe ole Parkipuny Maasai activistmember of Tanzanian Parl since 1980first African to address UN Working Group on Indigenous Population August 3 1989 first public assertion by a Maasai leader that Maasai is part of the transnational community of ind ppl new willingness of the body to entertain such claims and challenges to traditional definition of indigenousmuch less risk of being arrested when returned to Tanzania after speaking at UN Working Group because he is an MPtoured Europe and Canada in 1983 to publicize the plight of MaasaiWildlife have more rights than Maasaiwildlife conservation policies premised on separating wildlife from humans were undermining Massai rights to land and endangering their livelihoodenvironment for HR in Africa is severely polluted by the ramifications of colonialism and neocolonial social and eco relationships overcoming colonial legacies of unequal rights resources and access to pol power prejudices in African countries have included blatant cultural intolerance domination and persistent violations of minorities rightshuntergatherers and pastoralists most affected by changesland and natural resources are the means of livelihood cultural and spiritual integrity to themdont understand individual appropriationtheir way of life is viewed as outmoded inimical to national pride and a hindrance to progressalthough international recognition and visibility were quickly achieved groups encountered deep hostility from African nationstatesclaimed all Africans are indigenousThe Spread of the Indigenous Peoples Movement in Africainvolvement of various groups with the indigenous movement is the product of historical convergencevisionary leaders like Parkipuny reframed longstanding claims to land rights and cultural selfdetermination in the language of indigenous rightsshifts in donor agendas from financing huge staterun programs to supporting grassroots organizationsnew pol possibilities and eco exigencies produced by neoliberal restructuring under pressure from World Bank IMG and other institutionsseeming failure of prior forms of pol struggle change encounters and connections similarities between the contemporary situation and historical struggles of Maasai and those of Native Americansexploitative relationships produced and exacerbated by colonialism nationbuilding and eco modernizationland alienation forced settlement deep disparities in social services provided cultural disparagement sometimes forced assimilationthree key parallelsassertion of group rights which parallels ethnicindigenous assertion of rights elsewheregrave situation of HR in many parts of AfricaAfrican concerns for selfdevelopment and selfdetermination International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs IWGIAinstrumental in encouraging certain African groups to link their struggles to the indigenous rights movementsponsored national regional and intl workshopspublicized debates and initiatives financed the participation of African activists at the annual meetings of the working group permanent forum and relevant UN summitsfunded the capacitybuilding land rights and HR programs for some African NGOsoffered unique opportunity for indigenous ppl to convey their situation and compel the intl comm and governments to full live up to their obligations to protect their culture and rights Making Place Africans at the United Nationsafter Parkipunys speech in 1989 increasing number of African activists and NGOs began to attend UN working groupmaking place for themselves at the UNBUT by 2004 enthusiasm and vitality had wained as had African delegates participation simmering frustrations over slow pace of revision and approval of draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoplescreation of UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues created in 2001 as a more powerful alternative within UN systemlooming likelihood of the working group been disbanded having achieved the goal of developing the Declaration and establishing Permanent Forumresentment over heavyhanded hostile actions and words of chairman Manuel Alfonso Martinezunrelenting position that Asians and Africans were not indigenous only minoritiesbecause of their complex histories of migrationmurky distinctions between who was indigenous and not in Africanoted two possible exceptions to this San in Botswana and Maasai in KenyaAlternative Paradigms From First Peoples to SelfIdentification key challenge for African groups was to be recognized as indigenous by UN their states and other groupslate entry into the indigenous movement posed a structural disadvantagehad to engage the longstanding practices discourses and assumptions of the working group using dominant languages and demanding a voice in bureaucratic and other powersaturated encountersstretch reshape or even invert the meanings implied for indigenousinitially was a synonym for first peoples like Native Americans Maori etc who could show territorial precedence essential substantial or positivist definition of indigenous dependent on evidence of terr precedence the Africans do not claim to be first peoples they share a similar structural position visavis nationstates long history of pol subjugation eco marginalization terr dispossession cultural and linguistic discriminationconstructivist structural or relational definition as indigenous main groups to consider indigenous are huntergatherers and pastoralists cultural distinctiveness predicated on their distance livelihood strategies mobility communal lands that conflict with dominant agenda for control containment and modernizationhuntergatherers did not have the protective sociopolitical organization of pastoralists leaving them more vulnerable to prejudices state implementation of neoliberal pol and eco reforms mandated by intl capital US and co and multinational financial institutions like World Bankreduced funding for soc services privatized formerly statecontrolled functions and industries established strict private property regimes ensured free markettradeaccelerated the alienation of their lands and resources for more productive enterprises emerging principle of the indigenous movement selfidentificationUN 1986 report by Cobo emphasizedselfidentificationhistorical precedencecultural differencenondominance because of unequal power relationsIndigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169 adopted in 1989replaced earlier 1957 Conventionnew one agreed selfidentification should be the primary mode for determining who was covered by the Declarationdefuses power of states UN and others in deciding who is or is not indigenous Triumphs and Tensions Africans at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous IssuesUN Permanent Forum first meets in 2001involvement of Africans in the very formulation of the Forum produced a much more welcoming and inclusive space to voice their concerns and the working group experienced activistsnetworked with their fellow activistscourted representatives of donor agencies and transnational advocacy organizationspublished accomplishmen
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