Just days after President Barack Obama announced U.S. support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the White House Tribal Conference Dec. 16, the Pueblo of Jemez and the Santa Fe National Forest entered into a historic agreement that gives the Jemez nation decision making powers over its aboriginal lands and provides a model implementation of the indigenous human rights document.
This seems like a great model for incremental decolonization. On the one hand, relocalization of decision making powers about land use is super desirable for communities everywhere. But also there’s a unique set of conditions that indigenous people face in the current culture, that in general are extremely challenging and oppressive. And loss of land sovereignty is huge part of that historical trauma. So steps like this that start to walk back the US’s historical usurping of native peoples’ local governance are very hopeful and healing.
This actually also illustrates the semantic difference between “sustaining” as in sustainable, and actually regenerating communities and ecosystems. The status quo is not a healthy, viable option for most indigenous peoples. So sustaining the current still-colonial cultural and economic setup is actually actively harmful. And it’s also important to understand that that’s true for people in the dominant culture as well, as (for example) John Taylor Gatto points out vis-a-vis the history and impacts of the school system.
Cans of worms everywhere here. But the point being, there are a LOT of concrete things that can be done on many scales to create a better future for everyone. And restoring aboriginal sovereignty is way up at the top of the governance-scale list.
(Earlier post about the Jemez landscape here. Interesting to note in the above article about the Jemez people historically being forced by the Spanish off the higher mesas into the drier desert basin.)