We need to continue to work together“, a quote from Andrea Montilla of the OAS – as she explained the on-going process in the Draft Declaration of the Americas (which some say COULD be stronger than the UN Declaration – IF the USA joins the rest of the 34 member OAS community and supports instead of obstructing it); and the importance of the OAS and it’s genuine desire to work with Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas.

The audience concurred, for all have taken note that the Organization of American States HAS indeed prosecuted MORE cases in favor of Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere than even the United Nations!

Andrea Montilla of the OAS

Grand Chief Ed John of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada and Celeste McKay of the Native Women’s Association of Canada both gave informative opening addresses and likewise both re-affirmed the positives of collaboration with the OAS in a spirit of equity, and made excellent suggestions as to formats the OAS could consider adopting – which would enhance this special relationship between Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Organization of American States. The floor was then opened for audience feedback/questions/comments.

Former Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Ovide Mercredi – who presided at arguably the most tension-filled time in recent memory of relations between Native Nations and the Neo-Colonial Government in Canada in the 1990’s (Oka Crisis) – addressed the gathering.

Ovide, still no stranger to controversy – and an inspiration to a generation of anti-assimilationist native leaders – eloquently explained the difference between Indigenous Leaders and Political Leaders of the Nation States of the Americas.

I am a leader of MY indigenous people – not the Prime Minister of Canada, and likewise the Prime Minister of Canada is the leader of HIS non-indigenous peoples of the Neo-Colonial Political State of Canada. The OAS must find a way whereby the Indigenous Leaders of the Americas recognized by their own Indigenous Peoples, not merely representatives – who may potentially have no actual mandate to speak on behalf of any Indigenous Nation; must be able to sit across the table from the Political Leaders of the 34 Neo-Colonial Nation-States of the Americas and have a genuine and equitable dialog… for I believe this is the only way that over 500 years of inequity can be successfully addressed and redressed – in order to create a better future for generations to come.”

President Tony Belcourt of the ICCTA (Indigenous Commission for Communications Technologies in the Americas) spoke in detail about the need for a secretariat or Permanent Forum to be created by the OAS to allow for more effective participation by Indigenous Peoples within the OAS system, the suggested entity would function as a nexus between the Indigenous Leaders and Political Nation State leaders as Ovide had suggested.

Ellen Gabriel, the outgoing President of the Quebec Native Womens Association & Veteran of the crisis years of the 1990’s (Oka crisis) that also propelled her to International Fame as a committed Indigenous Rights leader in Canada; raised the issue of the need to protect traditional knowledge as a way to mitigate and survive the Global Climate change that is already effecting us all – and Indigenous Peoples more severely than any others.

Interested readers may follow the developments of the 3rd ILSA at the OAS run website www.summit-americas.org – which also has a FaceBook site as well.

President Clement Chartier of the Metis National Association of Canada supported Ovide Mercredis call and added to what Tony Belcourt had said highlighting the fact that presently there exists no separate category in the OAS system for ‘Indigenous Peoples’ – and much to all our chagrin – we still fall under the broad (and inappropriate in our minds) category of ‘Civil Society’ which lumps us in with religious organisations, charities and sexual orientation advocacy groups; when in truth and in fact our issues are that of the intricately delicate relations between Colonizers and those they forcibly Colonized.

President Roberto Mukaro Borrero of the UCTP (United Confederation of Taino Peoples) who has been almost singlehandedly pushing the agenda of Pan-Caribbean Indigenous Rights for over a decade delivered a very enlightening speech where he made several recommendations covering some areas not addressed previously;
exposed the fact that he had personally sent information from the 3rd ILSA (Indigenous Leaders Summit of the Americas) to virtually EVERY CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market) country asking them if they were aware of the issues being discussed with the OAS – which they are also members of – and asking for their official position on these matters… but unfortunately, true to their form of first decade of the 21st century not a single Caribbean Government had even the courtesy to respond.

The ONLY CARICOM government to say anything on the subject of Indigenous issues was the Government of Guyana – which unfortunately took the opportunity to blow it’s own horn and only talked about its Amerindian Affairs Minister (a political appointee of the President of that country – NOT one voted for by any democratic
majority of Guyana’s 100 Amerindian Chiefs/Toushaus
) and it’s Ministry of Amerindian Affairs… and said nothing of relevance about the Indigenous Summit of the Americas or Draft American Declaration process.

Leilani Stewart Vice President of the Pan-Tribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations in conversation with President Borrero of the UCTP gave a very insightful analysis which beautifully explained the validity of oral tradition as a vehicle to factually transmit information, and the need to strengthen the voice of Caribbean Indigenous peoples through the well positioned UCTP ‘Indigenous media octopus‘ was discussed in detail – with President Damon Corrie of the Pan-Tribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations pledging to supply the UCTP with as much information as he receives from allied communities in the Caribbean Region.

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