Indigenous Nations and Modern States: The Political Emergence of Nations Challenging State Power

By Rudolph C. Rÿser | Go to book overview

7
FOURTH WORLD WARS
IN THE SHADOWS

I turn now to an examination of what the popular press calls “ethnic conflicts” or “ethnic wars” that have become widely associated with terrorist attacks—a convenient rationale for harsh suppression of indigenous peoples. In the words that follow, I suggest another view: the vast majority of these conflicts between nations and between nations and states are not simply outbursts of emotional hatred, and they aren’t terror-crazed haters of western civilization eager to kill civilian populations. Rather, they are a part of an historic process of nations defining their political status in the international arena while establishing or forming new social, economic, and political institutions of governance: processes I refer to as nationcraft and political transformation. By stabilizing relations with surrounding states nations choose their political future and form of governance without outside impediments. This is a right guaranteed by virtually all international conventions. While the international community grants the right to political self-determination for colonized peoples, individual nations inside existing states rarely make gains toward self-determination without a political struggle. When the political process fails to achieve self-determination, indigenous nations and states frequently engage in violent confrontations. Despite the new international standards (such as those contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) where indigenous peoples are supposed to have the right of self-determination and to have decisions about their interests made after the exercise of “free, prior and informed consent” (see Appendix A), military forces continue to oppose nations exercising this important political right. The use of violence or coercion against nations seeking to achieve political change works to prevent the political transformation of nations. Their political development can be frozen.

The world’s nations are constantly adapting to environmental and social change out of necessity. Decisions and actions taken by states’ governments, corporations and non-governmental organizations are outside indigenous nations’ control—much the way the weather is outside their control. Their political and physical environments create the need for considerable flexibility

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