are faced with a two-fold challenge, to struggle as best we can to deal with the
immediate consequences of globalisation. Secondly, and more difficult, to
contextualise those problems within the 500-year-and-more history of the culture
- Moana Jackson,
Ngati Kahungunu/Ngati Porou,
lawyer and Maori sovereignty advocate
us, as Indigenous Peoples, we have noticed an interesting thing happening in the
last twenty years. We see the colonisation process has been redirected. It is
now directed towards the non-Indigenous citizens. The companies are
cannibalising their own settlers. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Where do
you go for help against the multinationals who are going to swallow up your jobs
and your lifestyle? Indigenous Peoples are not really interested in keeping
companies within Canadian control. These companies have been abusing our lands.
What does it matter if the company is Canadian or American or German or Japanese
owned? All these companies are abusing our lands and resources. Why should
Indigenous Peoples help non-Indigenous People protect their jobs and security
when these same people have been destroying our lands and waters? Globalisation
for us is colonisation continued without any letup. The question is to the
colonisers. What are the colonisers doing about addressing the issues of
colonisation and its continued oppression of Indigenous Peoples?"
- Sharon Venne,
Cree lawyer and scholar
on the left point out that opposition to free trade and the neoliberal agenda is
not necessarily anti-capitalist. They’re right, of course – it comprises a
diverse range of organisations, movements, motivations, agendas and goals.
anti-globalisation networks there is widespread coinage of the terms "colonisation"
or "recolonisation" to describe the current manifestations of globalisation. But
does that mean that the mobilisations and activism against globalisation are
anti-colonial? For the most part, I don’t think so.
those of us living in colonial settler states like New Zealand, Australia,
Canada, and the USA are prepared to take on transnational corporations, the
Bretton Woods institutions, and the neoliberal agenda we must also address
Indigenous Peoples’ struggles for decolonisation and self-determination.
are relatively few anti-globalisation initiatives where the perspectives and
struggles of Indigenous Peoples located in the "western democratic" colonial
settler states have taken centre stage. Their analyses and challenges are
all-too-often relegated to the anti-free trade movement’s equivalent of a social
clause or an environmental side agreement; side issues to be partitioned off
into a different space from unity statements and conference declarations which
tend to articulate noble-sounding demands about people power, taking back "our"
country, regulating corporations, genuine participatory democracy, etc.
his recent book, Human Rights Horizons, Richard Falk writes of the USA’s
"perpetual rediscovery of its own perceived innocence….Despite the
dispossession of the Indigenous Peoples of North America, despite slavery and
its aftermath, despite Hiroshima and Vietnam, this self-proclaimed innocence
remains untarnished". I’ve talked with activists from several countries about
this kind of phenomenon as it impacts on the perspectives of "civil society" in
the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Many social justice campaigns, NGOs
and activists in these countries operate from a state of colonial denial and
refuse to make links between human rights abuses overseas, economic (in)justice,
and the colonisation of the lands and peoples where they live.
doomsday scenario of corporate rule, transnational plunder, environmental and
social disaster which many opponents of the global free market economy warn of
has long been everyday reality for many Indigenous Peoples. Modern transnational
corporations are after all the heirs to the Hudson Bay Company, the New Zealand
Company, the East India Company – major players in earlier waves of colonisation
and the commodification of peoples, lands and nature.
our meetings, analyses, speeches and demonstrations we can talk about
transnationals, the WTO, globalisation as recolonisation, and perhaps even the
neoliberal agenda in the context of colonialism in the Third World. But to
advocate Indigenous Peoples’ right to self determination closer to home often
seems a surefire way to fasttracking one to extremist or pariah status – even
among social and environmental justice activists. It might "alienate" people,
I’ve been told.
struggles against globalisation taking place in the South are connected to
anti-imperialist, anti-colonial mass movements with long histories. However, the
voices heard most loudly and insistently in the international media and at most
major international gatherings opposing the neoliberal agenda and building
alternatives are rarely those of grassroots community activists from the South,
let alone Indigenous Peoples in the countries of the global North.
Well-resourced NGOs and trade unions usually based in the West, tend to command
considerable power to set the parameters of the debate and direction of the
campaigns against corporate globalisation.
too many times have I heard the history of globalisation – and the resistance to
it – compressed into the last two or three decades, and related in a way which
downplays or ignores anti-imperialist movements in the South and especially the
resistance of indigenous nations in territories claimed by Canada, New Zealand,
Australia, and the USA. In Canada and the USA I have shared platforms with North
American speakers who curiously trace the history of globalisation back to the
Trilateral Commission. Here in New Zealand, I have seen white environmentalists
accuse Maori of "reverse racism" for daring to assert their rights to protect
indigenous flora and fauna under threat from bioprospectors and the TRIPs
agreement. At other international conferences on globalisation, activists have
dismissed Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on globalisation as "narrow" and "nativistic",
arguing that they do not attach enough importance to class analysis.
Naturally we feel outrage at security clampdowns against popular mobilisations
in Auckland, Vancouver, Seattle, Melbourne, Quebec City, and Washington DC. But
shock and surprise? Colonial governments have always used police and military as
an army of occupation against Indigenous Peoples. State-sanctioned abuses
against indigenous communities have long been a dime-a-dozen but have frequently
failed to register with many folk.
have heard the fairy story, told with passion, authority, and a touch of
nostalgia, by non-indigenous New Zealanders, North Americans, and Australians
who speak earnestly of the freedoms and democratic rights enjoyed in their
countries. Apparently things were pretty good until the neoliberal ideologues
and big business seized control, opened up the economy, started hocking
everything off to the transnationals, and saw Joe and Jill Citizen dispossessed
of things that they thought were theirs. So say dozens of activists, academics,
and politicians as they state their opposition to the neoliberal agenda. This
version of history begins when globalisation started impacting non-indigenous
peoples. The words "democracy" and "sovereignty" crop up time and time again in
their talks, and in anti-globalisation literature and campaigns in these
countries. What do such appeals to democratic traditions, concepts, and values
mean when they ignore past and present-day realities of colonisation in these
attending the 1997 Peoples Summit on APEC in Vancouver I remember being struck
by how speaker after speaker attacked transnationals, and identified them as the
driving force behind APEC, yet utterly ignored struggles like that of the
Lubicon Cree Nation in Northern Alberta – the next province – against gas, oil,
and timber transnationals invading their unceded territory with the complicity
of the Canadian state. Nor did the fact that a "liberal democratic" government
of Canada, like the one which through hosting APEC hoped to influence Asian
trading partners with "Canadian values", had sent more armed forces against
Mohawk people defending their lands in the 1990 standoff near Oka, Quebec than
it sent to the Gulf War rate a mention. But then again, the Vancouver Peoples
Summit itself was part-funded by the same NDP British Columbia provincial
government which in 1995 initiated a massive military operation at Gustafsen
Lake only a few hours drive away, against a small group of Indigenous Peoples
defending their sacred lands.
critics of globalisation play down the role and relevance of the nation-state,
attributing power almost solely to transnational corporations and international
institutions like the Bretton Woods triplets. Yet this takes the focus away from
the nature and power of the state and even romanticises it. Such global
campaigns run the risk of distracting people’s gaze from long-standing
injustices underfoot. In delegitimising these global actors we must be very
aware of the dangers in uncritically legitimising nation-states which are
themselves based on the dispossession of Indigenous Peoples. We cannot ignore
the centuries of resistance by many indigenous nations against incorporation
into the colonial state. We cannot ignore the colonial foundations of the
countries in which we live. To do so is to mask the true nature of our
societies, and the extent to which they are built on colonisation and
can Indigenous Peoples be expected to validate, affirm and seek incorporation
into national or international movements dominated by non-indigenous activists,
organisations and agendas which are reluctant to address domestic issues of
colonisation with the same vigour and commitment that they put into fighting
transnational capital or the WTO?
course some important alliances have been forged between Indigenous Peoples and
non-indigenous organisations confronting globalisation. Many (usually small,
underresourced) activist groups struggle hard to draw the connections between
corporate globalisation and colonisation, to support local indigenous
sovereignty struggles and educate non-indigenous peoples about these issues.
Movements to expose and oppose corporate globalisation have a very real
potential to mobilise support from non-indigenous people for meaningfully
addressing the issues of colonisation in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the
USA. We should be challenging the jurisdiction of these colonial settler state
governments as they move to sign international trade and investment deals, in
the light of their continued denial of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, jurisdiction,
centuries-old culture of colonisation holds the key to understanding and
defeating the current wave of globalisation. If we understand how "democratic"
governments like Canada can sanction the ongoing assault on indigenous lands and
communities it isn’t hard to understand why such governments subscribe to
freemarket international trade and investment policies.
determining the values and foundations on which we build alternatives to the
neoliberal agenda our movements must be prepared to examine our own propensity
to oppress. We cannot build alternatives to globalisation on the rotten
foundations of the denial of occupying indigenous lands and the ongoing
suppression of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. "The colonisers are always building
rotten foundations and expecting us to step into a completed building" says
anti-globalisation activists and organisations do not address these questions
with some urgency then I fear that the growing resistance to neoliberalism in
the global North risks being as inherently colonialist as the institutions and
processes which it opposes. Our usage of the term colonisation will be little
more than empty rhetoric if our analysis does not acknowledge the context in
which corporate globalisation – and the worldwide opposition to it – is taking
of us active in anti-globalisation struggles in Canada, the USA, New Zealand,
and Australia need to examine our role in the colonisation and globalisation of
the earth. Only then can we seriously talk about liberation and real
alternatives to the neoliberal agenda.