|NAISA Council Statement on “Zero Tolerance” and Family Separation in the United States
|Protesters at the Otay Mesa Detention facility in California.
Photo credit: The Japan Times
The Council of the Native American & Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) repudiates the “Zero Tolerance” policy and practice of family separation undertaken by the Trump administration on the U.S.-Mexico border. This practice is explicitly intended to punish vulnerable parents and children refugees as a deterrent to further refugee migration, and violates national andinternational law.
While the cruel separation of refugee families is intolerable in every circumstance, Council wants to draw special attention to the unique experience of Indigenous migrants, who make up a significant percentage of these refugees. For Indigenous refugees, the devastating process in which children are thrust into cold, prison-like institutions, and parents anguish over the fate of their children, not knowing what to expect or if they will ever see them again, is further complicated by having limited or no language fluency in Spanish or English compounding their fear, isolation, and trauma.
Further, family separation resurrects a federal policy toward American Indians and Indigenous people that the government of the United States rejected decades ago. During the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States abandoned a 50-year-old policy of separating children from their families through off-reservation boarding schools, arguing that forcible separation was inhumane and damaging to the bonds between parents and children. To revive a policy that educators, American Indians, lawmakers, and the government of the United States understood was harmful to family life 90 years ago is unreasonable and undermines the lessons of history.
The Trump administration, by tearing more than 10,000 children from the arms of their parents and families and leaving them for weeks and months in horrific institutional conditions, has effectively created a new stolen generation. The trauma these children have suffered is real, and will affect them for many years after they are reunited with their parents – if they are reunited with their parents and families.
NAISA Council further repudiates the extreme irresponsibility and callousness of the U.S. government in failing to keep adequate records of family relationships to facilitate the reunification of these families, the conditions these children are being kept in, the profits private sector companies are making on child detention, and the coercive and criminalizing nature of its capturing of DNA on the pretext of aiding reunification.
The brutal policy of family separation throws a harsh light onto the enduring nature of the settler state – founded on dispossession – with its compulsion to continually reestablish white dominance and the racial stratification of rights that place non-white subjects in precarious and criminalized positions. Repeatedly in the history of Indigenous peoples, this shameful compulsive need has taken the form of tearing families apart.
NAISA council statement supporting Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines
March 14, 2018
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (“NAISA”) expresses its solidarity with U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and with the Indigenous peoples of the Philippines, who are coming under worsening attacks under President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime. Most recently, the Duterte government labeled Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and over 600 others as “terrorists.” Human Rights Watch has asserted that this is tantamount to putting her on a government “hit list.”
Ms. Tauli-Corpuz is an Indigenous leader from the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. She has a consistent record of building power among Indigenous peoples across the globe and has been a strong advocate for women’s rights, speaking out against the criminalization of political dissent and training native women to organize and document acts of violence in situations of armed conflict and displacements from mining, logging, and other extractive industries.
Most recently, she has been particularly concerned for the safety of 2,500 displaced Lumads (Indigenous peoples of Mindanao) who were forced to flee their homes in October of 2017, and she has worked to shine attention on the need of the Philippine government to observe its obligations under international law to protect human rights.
We stand with protectors of international human rights who have expressed grave concerns about the Duterte government’s violence against Indigenous peoples and its accusations of terrorism against Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and other Indigenous activists.
Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, chairperson of the coordination committee of the special procedures, have reported that:
“The accusation against her comes after the public comments made, jointly with other Special Rapporteurs, in relation to the militarization, attacks and killings of indigenous Lumad peoples by members of the armed forces in Mindanao; this accusation is considered as an act of retaliation for such comments.”
The accusation of Tauli-Corpuz takes place in the context of an expansion of the extrajudicial killing of urban poor Filipinos profiled as “drug peddlers” or “addicts,” without trial or due process. Often this repression specifically targets Indigenous peoples. Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao in May 2017 sought to contain a political faction rebelling against the Manila-based central government’s discontinuance of Peace Talks regarding the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Lumad self-determination. Duterte resorted to aerial bombings of Marawi city, Mindanao, in attempt to neutralize the rebellion. According to the Asia Preparatory Meeting on UN Mechanisms and Procedures Relating to Indigenous Peoples, “Philippine Indigenous peoples organizations have recorded at least 62 illegal arrests, 21 political prisoners, 20 incidents of forced evacuation affecting 21,966 indigenous peoples, more than a hundred people facing trumped-up charges, and forcible closure of 34 Lumad schools from July 2016 to December 2017.” In February 2018, Duterte made public statements ordering his soldiers to shoot women rebels in their genitals: “We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina.”
Duterte’s promotion of armed violence against any opposition is backed by an increasingly militarized state. Even after the closure of Clark Air Force and Subic Naval base in the 1990s, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement emerged in the guise of “mutual security” between the U.S. and the Philippines. Training exercises were established between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. Military. The Duterte Administration is now a willing recipient of U.S. funds to modernize Philippine bases as the Trump Administration pursues the U.S. Pivot to Asia.
The NAISA Council expresses our deep concern about discrimination and violence against Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, and we stand against the criminalization and military repression of Indigenous land defenders at the hands of states.This includes extrajudicial killings and the curtailment of their basic rights, such as freedom of expression and mobility. We urge the Philippine government to uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), World Conference of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) Outcome Document, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law, and other international human rights agreements to which the Philippine government is a signatory.
The Council also urges all NAISA members to learn more about the situation of Indigenous peoples in the Philippines and to consider whatever kinds of support they are able to give.
 See https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-rights-un/worried-for-safety-says-u-n-special-rapporteur-on-philippine-hit-list-idUSKCN1GM0HO
 See http://unpo.org/article/956
 See http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22567&LangID=E
 See http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/646022/un-human-rights-experts-urge-phl-to-drop-petition-seeking-lsquo-terrorist-rsquo-tag-for-special-rapporteur/story/
 See https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/02/philippines-police-deceit-drug-war-killings
 See https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/bangsamoro-peace-process-complicated-by-philippine-politics/
 See http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/06/04/17/group-appeals-to-duterte-to-stop-air-strikes-in-marawi
 See http://www.nordis.net/2018/03/statements-alarmed-over-the-worsening-attacks-on-indigenous-peoples-in-the-philippines/
 See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/13/philippines-rodrigo-duterte-orders-soldiers-to-shoot-female-rebels-in-the-vagina
 See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38760942
NAISA COUNCIL STATEMENT ON THE STANLEY/CORMIER VERDICTS
March 2, 2018
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) Council sends our deepest condolences to the families of Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie. Tina Fontaine (January 1, 1999 – c. August 10, 2014), a 15-year old Indigenous girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation, was found wrapped in a weighted down duvet after having been murdered and dumped in the Red River. Raymond Cormier was charged with her murder. Colten Boushie (October 31, 1993 – August 9, 2016), a 22-year old Indigenous man from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, was shot by Gerald Stanley. In February 2018 both accused were acquitted of all charges and found not guilty in two separate trials. The verdicts continue a legacy of unjust treatment against Indigenous peoples amid colonial structures and institutions in what is currently Canada.
As a professional association of scholars and educators, activists, knowledge holders, and community members, NAISA is committed to opposing systemic racism and violence and exposing miscarriages of justice against Indigenous people through our interdisciplinary pedagogies. We send strength and support to the Boushie/Baptiste and Fontaine families, as well as to our colleagues, students, and elders in residence who confront and combat anti-Indigenous sentiments in and outside of the institutions where we work. We support the Open Letter to Universities Canada that calls upon universities to ensure that Indigenous students, faculty and staff are safe and commit to anti-racist professional development as part of everyone’s responsibility. The on-going violence against Indigenous people that these cases represent is intolerable and cannot be condoned. The verdicts in these cases reflect a legal and structural cynicism that counteracts any possibility of a better future. NAISA Council rejects this perspective and calls for justice for Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine.
NAISA Council Statement to Wells Fargo
April 28, 2017
420 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
Dear Mr. Sloan
As Council members of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), the premiere international and professional organization of Indigenous studies, whose membership consists of more than 1,000 scholars, students, independent researchers, and community workers, we write to you concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Wells Fargo’s investment in the pipeline. NAISA Council stands in solidarity with the Oceti Sakowin Oyate (the Great Sioux Nation), the Standing Rock Sioux, and the Water Protectors in their opposition to the DAPL, and has issued a statement in support of this struggle against the pipeline, which can be accessed from our website (https://www.naisa.org/). DAPL crosses un-ceded Sioux lands and violates treaty rights and continues to desecrate sacred burial and cultural sites. A spillfrom the pipeline, which crosses four states, would contaminate the drinking water of not only those at Standing Rock but millions of Americans, placing their lives in danger.
Since its inception in 2008, NAISA has had its financial accounts with Wells Fargo and has valued this relationship. As elected Council members, we have fiduciary and ethical duties to our members who in turn have responsibilities to not simply their intellectual fields and academic homes but to indigenous communities. ln our capacity as NAISA Council, but also as clients of Wells Fargo-a company that claims it is committed to environmental sustainability and human rights” and ‘respects Tribal governments and communities, ‘we implore you to exercise social responsibility to those who lives will be placed in danger and divest from the DAPL. As representatives of our membership, we are obligated to consider both the security and performance of NAISA assets and philosophical congruence when deciding on financial institutions. The current situation with DAPL is leading to a reconsideration of our current relationship with you as our financial institution.
NAISA Council Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline
September 11, 2016
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (“NAISA”) expresses its solidarity with the Oceti Sakowin Oyate (Great Sioux Nation), the Standing Rock Sioux, the numerous other Native tribal nations and individuals who have expressed their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL”), and with the brave and stalwart individuals who have put their bodies in the path of bulldozers to halt its construction.
Executive Order 13175, issued by President Clinton on November 6, 2000, requires executive departments and agencies to engage in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal national governments when federal policies and actions have implications for tribal nations. President Obama reaffirmed this policy in his Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation of November 5, 2009. In it, he wrote, “History has shown that failure to include the voices of tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results.” He went on to commit his administration to “complete and consistent implementation” of President Clinton’s executive order. Further, Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says that “states shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”
In a clear violation of the above stated obligations, the Army Corps of Engineers failed to engage in meaningful consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux prior to authorizing DAPL. As a result, sites sacred to the Sioux have already been destroyed. DAPL was originally planned to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota. Objections by the state and the city about the threat to the municipal water source led to a relocation to the crossing at Oahe Lake adjacent to the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservations. We cannot imagine a clearer example of environmental racism. Yet a rupture of DAPL under or near the Missouri River would not only contaminate the source of the tribes’ water source. It would create an environmental disaster of disastrous proportions to the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico.
We are heartened that President Obama’s administration has brought a halt to further construction, but that cessation is only temporary. DAPL must be halted permanently to fulfill the federal government’s trust obligation to tribal nations.
The NAISA Council urges all of its members to consider supporting the justified opposition to DAPL and to provide any aid and support that they are able to.
NAISA Council Statement on Indigenous Identity Fraud
Approved by NAISA Council, 15 September 2015
Issues of Indigenous identity are complex. Hundreds of years of ongoing colonialism around the world have contributed to this complexity. However, such complexity does not mean that there are no ethical considerations in claiming Indigenous identity or relationships with particular Indigenous peoples. To falsely claim such belonging is Indigenous identity fraud.
As scholars of Native American and Indigenous Studies, we are expected to undertake our work with a commitment to the communities with whom we work, about whom we write, and among whom we conduct research — we are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards of our profession. Further, as scholars it is incumbent upon us to be honest about both our ancestries and our involvement with, and ties to, Indigenous communities. This is true whether we are Indigenous or non-Indigenous. In no way are we implying that one must be Indigenous in order to undertake Native American and Indigenous Studies. We are simply stating that we must be honest about our identity claims, whatever our particular positionalities. Belonging does not arise simply from individual feelings – it is not simply who you claim to be, but also who claims you. When someone articulates connections to a particular people, the measure of truth cannot simply be a person’s belief but must come from relationships with Indigenous people, recognizing that there may be disagreements among Indigenous people over the legitimacy of a particular person’s or group’s claims. According to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues statement on Indigenous identity, the test is “Self-identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.”1
Being dishonest about one’s identity and one’s connections to Indigenous communities damages the integrity of the discipline and field of Native American and Indigenous Studies and is harmful to Indigenous peoples. If we believe in Indigenous self-determination as a value and goal, then questions of identity and integrity in its expression cannot be treated as merely a distraction from supposedly more important issues. Falsifying one’s identity or relationship to particular Indigenous peoples is an act of appropriation continuous with other forms of colonial violence.The harmful effects of cultural and identity appropriation have been clearly articulated by Native American and Indigenous Studies scholars over the past four decades, and it is our responsibilityto be aware of these critiques.
The issue is not one of enrollment, or blood quantum, or recognition by the state, or meeting any particular set of criteria for defining “proper” or “authentic” Indigenous identity. The issue is honesty and integrity in engaging the complexities, difficulties, and messiness of our histories (individual and collective), our relations to each other, and our connections to the people and peoples who serve as the subjects of our scholarship.
For these reasons, the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association expresses its conviction that we are all responsible to act in an ethical fashion by standing against Indigenous identity fraud.
1 – United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, “Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Voices Fact Sheet, ‘Who are indigenous peoples?’”
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/5session_factsheet1.pdf. Posted 09/05/2006, accessed 12/08/2015
NAISA Council Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions
Approved by NAISA Council, 13 December 2013
The council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) declares its support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
A broad coalition of Palestinian non-governmental organizations, acting in concert to represent the Palestinian people, formed the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Their call was taken up in the United States by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. A NAISA member-initiated petition brought this issue to NAISA Council. After extensive deliberation on the merits of the petition, the NAISA Council decided by unanimous vote to encourage members of NAISA and all who support its mission to honor the boycott.
NAISA is dedicated to free academic inquiry about, with, and by Indigenous communities. The NAISA Council protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly, which we uphold.
As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples.
NAISA is committed to the robust intellectual and ethical engagement of difficult and often highly charged issues of land, identity, and belonging. Our members will have varying opinions on the issue of the boycott, and we encourage generous dialogue that affirms respectful disagreement as a vital scholarly principle. We reject shaming or personal attacks as counter to humane understanding and the greater goals of justice, peace, and decolonization.
As scholars dedicated to the rights of Indigenous peoples, we affirm that our efforts are directed specifically at the Israeli state, not at Israeli individuals. The NAISA Council encourages NAISA members to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended.