Saturday, February 16, 2008

Column of the Americas: New Website

I am pleased to inform readers of the new website by the authors of the Column of the Americas--Roberto Rodriguez and Patrisia Gonzales--some of whose articles have been reproduced with their permission in The CAC Review.

Rodriguez and Gonzales regularly author insightful pieces of critical social and political commentary as well as articles on spiritual, cosmological, and healing matters from an indigenous perspective.

For more information, see their new page at:


Global Conference of American Indian Nations: Native American Chamber of Commerce in Houston

[The editors of the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink do not endorse this event nor vouch for the legitimacy of the source or the information presented below. It is presented to readers for their information, should they wish to follow up on this news. In particular, the editor posting this note wishes to criticize the poor judgment shown by the organizers in situating the event in a Disney theme park, and of aligning indigenous organizations with transnational corporations that have done little to earn the glowing characterizations presented below. This event appears to be an attempt to coopt and purchase indigenous leadership in a likely effort to gain access to indigenous resources. That an entire day should be set aside for "native skateboarding" while calling this a global conference--of the Americas--is another of the remarkable features of the message below.]



Houston, TX – for immediate release

A first-ever gathering of American Indian Nations featuring a trans-global conference of tribal leaders to be held at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, on August 20-24 has been announced by the Native American Chamber of Commerce in Houston. Some 3,000 Indians from the U.S and Canada are expected to celebrate this event in dance, song, sports, food and golf.

The four-day event will feature prominent leaders and native celebrities from many of the 565 Indian Nations recognized by the federal government, as well as many from Canada and the Americas.

Major U.S. firms practicing social responsibility and supporting diversity, such as Lockheed Martin, Wal-Mart, IBM, Marathon Oil, UPS and BNSF are among the dozens of U.S. Corporations signed up to sponsor the event. All proceeds less expenses will go to education and native achievement centers.

In what may also be a first for the Native American, the inaugural day of the event will feature presidential candidates invited to speak about their positions regarding native sovereignty and rights at a formal dinner for tribal leaders and prime sponsors.

“Given the many challenges facing the American Indian and Alaskan Native today – unemployment, poverty, education, housing, contaminated lands – it will be important for our next president to clearly speak to an agenda which will address these needs,” said Carroll Cocchia, Chamber President.

In the following days, the Indian pageant will feature a special day for native business people and entrepreneurs to do what Indians have done from time immemorial – trade. A third day will feature native skateboarding. A final day showcases a huge selection of Native dancers, drummers, story tellers, artists, craftsmen and native foods to celebrate the depth and breadth of the Indian culture.

Inquiries can be addressed by email to Carroll Cocchia:

Forwarded to the CAC on 15 February 2008 by:
Jerry Ashton
Media Chair
Celebration of Spirit
Disneyworld FL
August 20-23 2008

Anti-Indigenous Film Broadcast in Sweden

[Our thanks to Tony Castanha for alerting us to this news]

Ideologies designed to undercut any indigenous claims to their identities and territories have long been a part of Eurocentric imperialist propaganda, with the hope that the home audience will be consume this ideological material. Indigenous peoples know where they stand and are not likely to be "persuaded" by assertions that they do not exist. In anthropology today, for example, once again we see the revival of arguments that indigenous peoples do not exist as such, at best they are ethnic minorities. There is indeed a debate that has been generated in part by the writings of Adam Kuper that the very concept of "indigenous" implies primitivism, exoticism, and racism, without however asking who reads it as such, and without investigating the myriad ways in which the concept is redeployed, adapted, and articulated by indigenous peoples themselves in the present.

There are two sides to a Catch-22 situation that has been set up for indigenous peoples:

One side is what I call anti-indigenous essentialism: indigenous cultures are those encountered in 1492, and since they are no longer identical to the cultures of that time, indigenous peoples have ceased to exist culturally, and even biologically if they dared to commit the sin of creating families with peoples of other nations. Thus an indigenous person today, who is seen to wear jeans and speak English, as two random examples, has his or her head forced under the water of anti-indigenous essentialism for daring to not be a carbon-copy replica of the past, for failing to be a breathing museum piece.

The other side is what I call anti-indigenous anti-essentialism: those indigenous groups that claim long historical continuity, that continue to wear traditional costumes during special ceremonies, that claim unbroken ancestry, are charged with being frauds. All cultures change, goes the argument, so anyone trying to show seamless continuity is simply putting on a show.

If you accept either of those sides of the debate, you find yourself in a Eurocentric Catch-22 designed to make the very idea of "indigenous" implode.

Back now to Tony Castanha's news:


If you would like to express your outrage about this film, you can write the Director, Poul Erik Heilbuth, at You can also write to the documentary department of Swedish TV for airing it,

Anti-Indigenous Propaganda film airs on Swedish TV February 8, 2008

This past Monday,

Swedish Television aired "Historiens Fångar" (History's Prisoners) - an anti-indigenous propaganda film that claims there are no traditional Indigenous cultures left in the world, and that the only chance of survival for the remaining 'drunk and pathetic few' is through assimilating into colonial society. "The most notable voice in the program," Jim Barrett explains, is Keith Windschuttle, author of "the Fabrication of Aboriginal History, a controversial book that attempts to resurrect an array of colonial fallacies toward indigenous people: that colonization was justified, "that Australia was never truly owned by its original inhabitants, that they were too savage to understand such a concept as property, too primitive to organise a war and too vulnerable to survive settlement." Another speaker in the film is David Yeagley, who, according to Wikipedia (once upon a time. The page has been gutted) is "a white supremacist who poses as a Comanche Indian. He was mistakenly enrolled in the Comanche Nation because the stepmother who adopted him is Comanche. He falsely claims descent from the Comanche leader, Bad Eagle (1839-1909). Comanche elders and members of the tribal government all deny he is actually Comanche. In 2006 Yeagley, his employer David Horowitz, and Front Page magazine used legal threats to try to silence Kiowa activist Cinda Hughes and the Native American Times for revealing his impersonation. Apparently, the film also features someone from "One Nation United," a privately funded, anti-indian lobby group based out of Oklahoma. The social and political integrity of these characters speaks directly to the legitimacy of the position maintained in the film. It's propaganda -- a film drenched in archaic and biased, insulated opinions that will utterly misinform every viewer. But don't take my word for it. See it for yourself. "History's Prisoners" It is currently available online. (it's in English). It's also set to air on Swedish TV once more, this coming Sunday.

The Australian Apology to Aboriginals: News Extracts

Feb. 12, 2008, Associated Press
Australia apologizes to Aborigines
Prime minister acknowledges the mistreatment of the 'Stolen Generations'

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Aborigines organized breakfast barbecues in the Outback, schools held assemblies and giant TV screens went up in state capitals today as Australians watched a live broadcast of their government apologizing for policies that degraded its indigenous people.

In a historic parliamentary vote that supporters said would open a new chapter in race relations, lawmakers unanimously adopted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's motion on behalf of all Australians.

A day of symbolism
....Aborigines were invited for the first time to give a traditional welcome Tuesday at the official opening of the Parliament session — symbolic recognition that the land on which the capital was built was taken from Aborigines without compensation.

The apology is directed at tens of thousands of Aborigines of the "Stolen Generations," who were forcibly taken from their families as children under now abandoned assimilation policies.

Years of divisive debate
More than 1,000 people gathered at two giants screens outside Parliament House and watched Rudd's speech in silence, many waving Australian and Aboriginal flags. Applause broke out occasionally, but mostly they listened intently....

The apology ended years of divisive debate and a decade of refusals by the previous conservative government that lost November's elections....

Rudd ruled out compensation — a stance that helped secure support for the apology among the many Australians who believe they should not be held responsible for past policies, no matter how flawed.


Feb. 12, 2008, Associated Press
Australia hails symbolic turning point
Native Aborigines celebrate apology from government

CANBERRA, Australia — Aborigines in white body paint danced and sang traditional songs in Australia's national Parliament today in a historic ceremony many hoped would mark a new era of race relations in the country.

The ceremony was the government's symbolic recognition, for the first time, that the land on which Australia's capital was built was once owned by Aborigines, and was taken away without compensation by European settlers.

[see a video of the ceremony in THE TELEGRAPH of London:

On Wednesday [13 February 2008], Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will offer a formal apology to thousands of Aborigines who were taken from their families as children under now discredited assimilation policies abolished in 1970 — an act that many people view as a vital step toward reconciling black and white Australians....

With faces and bodies white and a digeridoo — an ancient wind instrument — blowing a deep drone in the background, Aborigines of the Ngunnawal tribe called on their ancestor spirits to welcome newcomers to Parliament in a ceremony held in a hall of the national legislature.

Rudd accepted the gift of a traditional "message stick" of welcome from Ngannawal elder Matilda House.

"A welcome to country acknowledges our people and pays respect to our ancestors, the spirits who created the lands," said House, who crossed the hall's marble floor barefoot and draped in a kangaroo pelt cloak to give her speech. "This allows safe passage to all visitors."

Rudd has invited more than 100 Aboriginal leaders to attend Wednesday's apology speech, and other dignitaries from business leaders to former prime ministers were also due to attend. A giant television screen was being set up outside Parliament House so people who could not fit into the legislature could watch the proceedings.

A big screen was also going up in Sydney so people could watch the national live broadcast of Rudd's speech. Smaller, more private events were planned across the country.


Feb. 12, 2008
Formal government apologies
By The Associated Press

— Some of the formal apologies issued by governments around the world to oppressed or victimized groups:

► 2008: Australia's Parliament apologizes for past government policies that "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss" on Aborigines who were taken from their families under now discredited assimilation programs between 1910 and 1970.

► 1998: Canada apologizes to its native peoples for past acts of oppression, including decades of abuse at federally funded boarding schools whose goal was to sever Indian and Inuit youths from their culture and assimilate them in white society.

► 1992: South African President F.W. de Klerk apologizes for apartheid, marking the first time a white leader in the country expressed regret for the system of legalized segregation that allowed 5 million whites to dominate 30 million blacks.

► 1990: The Soviet Union apologizes for the murder of thousands of imprisoned Polish officers shot during World War II and buried in mass graves in the Katyn Forest.

► 1988: The U.S. Congress passes a law apologizing to Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II and offering $20,000 payments to survivors.

► 1951: West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer acknowledges the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust and the following year, Germany agrees to pay reparations to Israel. In 1990, the then East German Parliament issues an apology to Israel and all Jews and others who suffered.


Aborigines Plan to Sue Australia

Friday, February 15, 2008

CANBERRA, Australia(AP)

Representatives for Australian Aborigines confirmed plans Friday to launch the first compensation lawsuits since a landmark government apology earlier this week for past abuses.

The cases, details of which were not released because they had not yet been filed, would be the first since Parliament formally apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of Aborigines who were taken from their families as children under now discredited assimilation policies.

An activist and a lawyer representing some members of the so-called "Stolen Generations" of Aborigines said Friday as many as 40 compensation claims were being prepared in Victoria state.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ruled out setting up a compensation fund for victims of the policies, which lasted from 1910 until the 1970s, and legal experts say the apology does not strengthen chances of compensation being won through the courts.

Several cases have been filed in the past but most have failed. Lawyers say proving the harm inflicted by the policies in a legal sense is extremely difficult.

"The legal landscape is no different to what it was yesterday or will be tomorrow," said Hugh Macken, president of the New South Wales state Law Society, said in response to Wednesday's apology.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard reiterated Friday that the government would not offer compensation to head off court action.

"We have said no to compensation," Gillard told Fairfax Radio Network.

State governments have taken a similar stance, fighting compensation claims that have been lodged in the courts.

Lawyer Jack Rush said he was representing Aborigine Neville Austin, but declined to discuss specifics of the case. Austin also declined to comment.

A newspaper reported Friday that Austin intends to sue the state of Victoria for unspecified damages, alleging he was taken by authorities in 1964 from a hospital where he had been admitted as a 5-month-old baby with a chest infection.

He then lived in foster homes and orphanages until he turned 18, the Herald Sun newspaper reported.

His cousin, Lyn Austin, head of the state advocacy group Stolen Generations Victoria, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that dozens of lawsuits were pending.

An estimated 100,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents in an effort to make them grow up like white Australians.

Aborigine Bruce Trevorrow was awarded $700,000 in damages and interest this month from the South Australia state government. He was taken from a hospital without his parents' knowledge 50 years ago.

Australia's smallest state, Tasmania, is the only government to establish a compensation fund for Aborigines.

The state government announced last month it had paid 84 forcibly removed children and 22 of their descendants.

There are now about 450,000 Aborigines in Australia's population of 21 million. They are the country's poorest group, with the highest rates of unemployment and illiteracy. Their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than that of other Australians.


Australian apology to native people sets high bar for Canada: AFN
Thursday, February 14, 2008
CBC News

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says the Canadian government should match an apology Australia has made to its aboriginal people....

AFN national chief Phil Fontaine said he hopes the Canadian government will make a similar move.

"It's quite a statement. It's of great significance — monumental. It's a special moment for the country. It's inspirational and sets a very high standard," Fontaine said.

"We hope that Canada's apology that was promised in the recent speech from the throne will be as significant and as full as sincere as the Australian government's apology."

The federal government's last speech from the throne, delivered in October, indicated Prime Minister Stephen Harper would launch a truth and reconciliation commission into Canada's aboriginal schools, and "use this occasion to make a statement of apology to close this sad chapter in our history."....

In 1998, the Canadian government issued a "statement of reconciliation" which recognized and apologized to people who experienced physical and sexual abuse at residential schools. The statement was part of an action plan made in response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which called for extensive changes in the relationship between aboriginals, non-aboriginals and governments in Canada.

Fontaine described the 1998 statement as a "statement of regret, rather than a full and sincere apology."


Thursday, 14 February, 2008

Britain should also apologise to Australian Aborigines

Melbourne (PTI): Britain should follow its former colony Australia's example by apologising to Aborigines as it bore "heavy historic responsibility" for policies which led to many children being forcefully taken away from their parents, a leading human rights lawyer has said.

According to prominent human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, Britain should also endorse the apology because English intellectuals had inspired the policy of seizing the children.

Robertson said Britain bore a "heavy historic responsibility" for the stolen generations and needed to apologise, the Herald Sun reported.

He said the policy of removing indigenous children from their families was based on the theories of English eugenics intellectuals, who believed aboriginality to be a degenerate trait and should be bred out.


Text of the Australian Government's Apology to Aboriginals

This is the main text of the motion presented to the Australian Parliament:

"Today we honor the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

"We reflect on their past mistreatment.

"We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations — this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

"The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

"We apologize for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

"We apologize especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

"For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

"To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

"And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

"We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation."