International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: Thursday 9th August 2018
- This piece was written by ANZASW member Miriama Scott
The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) recognises the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples as a time for reflection.
As we reflect on this day, which occurred earlier this month, we consider the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), the IFSW Global Definition of Social Work (2014) which refers to indigenous knowledge and the constant challenge for indigenous peoples to assert their indigeneity in the face of systemic opposition.
We also recall the struggles of indigenous communities in recent years for their land and rights: we remember the protest movement at Standing Rock in 2016 and 2017 in response to the plan to construct an oil pipeline across sacred lands; the thirty year battle for land rights won by the Sámi reindeer herders in Sweden in 2016; resistance to conservation policies which have alienated the Sengwer and Ogiek peoples from their lands in Kenya and the imposition of the “marco temporal” (a cut-off date for land claims) in Brazil— granting blanket amnesty for all violence against Indigenous People until 1988, including mass forced removals, torture, assassinations and even the creation of special prisons.
Turning to Aotearoa New Zealand, budgetary and organisational constraints within the social service sector, including debt recovery and contractual obligations, are limiting the scope for developing and implementing tangata whenua practices. This is an ongoing issue that for many tangata whenua people challenges the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Yet, despite all the opposition, the resilience of indigenous peoples persists and the belief in tikanga tuku iho (customs and traditions) strengthens their resolve- and so this Day is about that resolve. It is also about tangata whai muri (people who have come afterwards) and the need for them to consider the origins of their own indigeneity while critically reflecting on the role they can play in supporting the indigenous peoples of the place where they now reside.
It is ironic that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is an “awareness” Day, a day and an ‘awareness’ that dismisses the struggle of time perhaps in itself indicative of privilege, but it is a reminder nonetheless that resolve, and commitment are ongoing, never ending and absolutely essential to the continued expression of rangatiratanga and mana motuhake.