Indigenous Movements for Autonomy
The concept of being indigenous, aboriginal, or native to a land would not exist without the history of colonial imperialism that haunts human history. It also wouldn’t be discussed if it didn’t result in unequal outcomes for its victims, those who refused to die or become refugee. Indigenous struggles for representation are present on every continent and are undertaken in a variety of manners. The Kurdish people were separated by Imperialist borders between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey and have sought autonomy through many means and to varying degrees of success ever since. They currently have an autonomous zone in Iraq and are hoping to receive autonomy when Syria’s civil war with ISIS and a rebel force is resolved. The Murrawarri of Australia founded the Murrawarri Republic in 2013 despite their declaration of independence being ignored by the Australian government, British crown, and the UN. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) engaged in armed conflict with the Mexican government from the country’s poorest State, negotiated the recognition of indigenous rights in the Mexican Constitution with Mexico’s Congress, and set up an autonomous zone in contention with loyalist paramilitaries in Chiapas. The Sakha and Komi people were both technically granted autonomy over their lands by Russia following a history of persecution and cultural devastation at the Russians’ hands.
Imperial powers have reacted to their indigenous people with many attitudes and strategies but a common theme is pushing the colonizer’s understanding of civilized on them, usually through religion and language. The US Americans and Oceanians separated indigenous children from their parents and placed them in boarding schools. The Russian Bolsheviks allowed the Sakha and Komi to maintain parts of their cultures but tried to push industrialization on them and settled their lands with Russian citizens. Indigenous people in Latin America were pushed to the margins of society, allowed to keep their culture but not provided with any of the benefits of society. In Mexico this eventually led to violent conflict, in Bolivia this poverty led to a successful mass mobilization of civil disobedience which eventually produced an indigenous president in Evo Morales. Israel attempted to simply remove the indigenous Palestinian people to occupy their lands until the mass of refugees they forced to exit the region led their neighbors to invade to stop that flow. As an aside, Winston Churchill was a fan of dealing with indigenous populations in lands to be colonized with poison gas.
Some of those that burn crosses,
Are the same that hold office
Rage Against the Machine, Killing In The Name, 1992
Indigenous peoples deserve to have their rights respected like every person does, as the founding fathers would have reluctantly argued after having reason shoved down their throats. Through the eyes of social justice, they should have the right to have their basic needs met. They deserve education, sufficient opportunity to make a living, and healthcare. This is a bare-bones list of what they deserve and it’s also unrealistic to expect these rights to be met for the people living in the extreme poverty in which indigenous and marginalized populations reside. These people are generally resigned to these segments of society because they live in civilizations that see them as ‘other’. Their governments don’t reflect or represent them and that’s why groups such as the Kurds, the Murrawarri, and the EZLN seek autonomy. They seek a government to address their issues and act with concern for them.