My Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Indigenous Peoples

 Guided by the principles and values of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island as set forth from the millennia of interaction with our lands and all relatives who coexist with us both seen and unseen.

Affirming that Indigenous peoples are full, integral, and accountable partners in Creation respecting covenants with our relatives who gift us with their knowledge and their essences in order for the gift of Creation to continue.

Affirming also that Indigenous peoples require the continuation of our cultural traditions in order to maintain the respect learned throughout the intimate relationship with our relatives and expressed through our traditional languages, songs, dances, ceremonies, foods, economies, and stories.

Recognizing that various aspects of colonization continue to erode our connection to those expressions.

Recognizing further that the injustices which have weakened our peoples are now being perpetrated not only by the state, but in some cases our own people.

Humbly proclaim that this declaration be an aspiration of Indigeneity which requires a higher level of morality and ethics which are encouraged in the dominant society of the colonial nations of canada, the united states of america, mexico, and other colonial nation states.

Article 1

Indigenous peoples have the right, as a series of collective groups, to the full enjoyment of our respective rights, freedoms, and responsibilities as understood by the collectivity and not by the individual who may or may not be accountable due to distance of geography or familiarity or other effects of colonization.

Article 2

Indigenous people have the right to enjoy our responsibility to maintain our cultural connection to our ancestors and to fulfill those responsibilities to reclaim the knowledge that is meant for us so as to realize the further enjoyment of our responsibilities.

Article 3

Indigenous people have the right and responsibility to hold ourselves and our peoples accountable to the principles and values of our respective nations in a kind, fair, and ethical way according to our own respective laws.

Article 4

Indigenous people have the right and responsibility to care for and continually teach and maintain good relations with children according to the principles and values of our respective nations in order to instill trust, belief, reciprocity, honesty, kindness, humility, respect and to facilitate the continual learning process throughout our lives.

Article 5

Indigenous people have the right and responsibility to care for the elders of our communities by providing for them the necessities of companionship, respect, love, food, service, and time.

Article 6

Indigenous peoples have the right and responsibility to care for and maintain good relations and respect for the women of our communities and to lift them and hold them up with our thoughts, words, actions, and beliefs.

Article 7

Indigenous peoples have the right and responsibility to care for and maintain good relations and respect for the men of our communities and to lift them and hold them up with our thoughts, words, actions, and beliefs.

Article 8

Indigenous peoples have the right and responsibility to fulfill all of our obligations to our lands, the lands of the peoples of whom we reside as guests, the lands of the peoples of whom we travel through, and to all our relatives who share those lands.

Article 9

Indigenous peoples have the right and responsibility to understand that we are a part of Creation, not the summit of it and to act on this knowledge.

Article 10

Indigenous peoples have the right and responsibility to learn and understand, to the best of our abilities and through all walks of life, colonization and its effects on our peoples at the collective and individual levels and to ensure the knowledge is passed on to the ensuing generations.

Article 11

Indigenous people have the right and responsibility to guard and protect our cultures, our lands, our waters, our collectives, our families, and our relatives to the best of our abilities at all times recognizing that we have to use our spirits, minds, and bodies in the acts of protection.

Article 12

Indigenous people have the right and responsibility to strengthen our spirits, minds, and bodies as they have been weakened by colonization and are necessary in the protection of our cultures, our lands, our waters, our collectives, our families, and our relatives.

Article 13

Indigenous peoples have the right and responsibility to enjoy, without guilt, regret, or shame, the gifts of life and the action of being Indigenous as fought for and maintained by our ancestors and our warriors today.

As we struggle through the darkest chapters of our collective lives through colonization and we are at a time of awakening, the knowledge that we are still here can impress upon us the notion that just simple being alive is an achievement. It is an achievement to be alive despite the efforts at genocide which continue to be perpetrated upon us and it is one we should all be proud of and saddened by. Proud that we have made it this far with our traditions intact in memory, if not in practice. Proud that we have survived through the abominable treatment we have endured. Saddened by the staggering losses which have accrued. Saddened that our traditions are intact in memory, and not in practice.

Although we are culturally emerging along with the traditions which have endured, the work has only begun. I am in the middle of my life and I have no language other than colonial language. My traditions are largely unknown to me. My family is disconnected to our lands, culture, and to some extent, to each other. This is the individual effect of colonization and there are many of us affected in this way and many of us do not even know why we are living lives far from our Indigenous rights and responsibilities and which mirror more of the dominant society than we care to admit. The admission brings with it the critical nature of our situation and the enormity of the work ahead.

Colonialism has used many tactics to obliterate us. The tools used have been identified as education, governance structures, military, “development”, resourcing our lands, waters and even our relatives and our peoples. They are tools which have built the master’s house and they are tools which are dangerous to the Indigenous crafter. That is not to say they are tools not to be used but they are only tools after all. If we wish to dismantle the master’s house they can be useful but they cannot be relied upon to rebuild our own. It is our homes which need to be restored and the tools which built and maintained them are very different. Our tools are our languages and our stories. They are our dances, our songs, and our ceremonies. They are our art, our dreams, and our families. They are ourselves and our collectives that we may refer to as nations in the colonial tongue.

Our tools are what will rebuild our homes and they are found in our homes where brave and wise warriors have kept them in working order as have our ancestors for thousands of generations. We are the generation, as is every generation, the ones to continue to learn how to maintain and use our tools. We have the right to do so in order to fulfill our responsibility to be a part of Creation in the way it is meant to be. Our ancestors knew that we every right comes with responsibility; it is called balance and it is called reciprocity. We take what we need and we leave a gift when we take. Our lives are lived in this way and when we go, we leave our bodies as gifts back to the lands which are our homes. As we concern ourselves with rights, we must assume the responsibilities which come with them and ensure that we are accountable to the morality and the ethics of Indigeneity which are to be found in our homes where they have always been since the beginning of things.

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