Where Do We Draw The Line?


It seems like every week I’m reading about a new movement that throws me into shock and shakes me for a little while as I sit there thinking “this cannot be actually happening right now”. Again, I sit here, learning about the Indigenous Rights Movement in my wonderful bed; with my own rights to my own assets, land, etc. So what is this “indigenous rights movement” that I speak of? Well, after reading “The Indigenous Rights Movement, Theory, Policy, and Practice” by Duane Champagne, I realized that it’s a real issue that needs social media attention.

Indigenous Rights Movement: The single unifying issue facing Indigenous Peoples everywhere is how to protect their territories and stop the “asset stripping” that robs them of their livelihoods and the foundation of their cultures. Without land and control of their assets, Indigenous Peoples are destined to remain the world’s poorest communities – with the worst health, highest mortality rate and shortest life span. (http://www.firstpeoples.org/who-are-indigenous-peoples/the-indigenous-movement)

Indigenous rights: Indigenous rights are those rights that exist in recognition of the specific condition of the indigenous peoples. This includes not only the most basic human rights of physical survival and integrity, but also the preservation of their land, language, religion, and other elements of cultural heritage that are a part of their existence as a people. (Wikipedia Definition)

I’ve always been an advocate for sustaining cultural differences within different communities, but for indigenous people, it’s even more than that. They’re facing issues like not having the rights to the natural resources that are within their own land. It becomes a difficult subject when we look at the fact that big oil companies are not only taking what isn’t theirs but they are hurting our environment.

“These extraction companies, including gas, oil, and mining, have been trampling and exploiting Indigenous Peoples’ rights, all in the name of profit, for centuries. Examples of the negative consequences of extraction company presence on or near indigenous communities abound today.” (Why Gas, Oil, and Mining Companies Must Respect Indigenous Rights).

I also want to ask you all a simple ethical question. Even though the rights are in place to sustain their culture- what if their culture goes against our laws? Some cultural practices involve murder and oppression by forcing marriage, religious choices, or even “spearing”. So who gets to decide what is right? Who is the one that has the right to say what someone else should do. Are we allowed to say “you should leave your cultural practices and follow our laws”, or should we say “continue with your culture even though it is against our laws”?

I stand with the Indigenous Rights Movement when it comes to big companies trampling on their rights. However, when we consider their cultural practices; should they be allowed to completely practice when their rituals involve things like murder? Where do we draw the line?

Character Count: 3,000


“The Indigenous Rights Movement, Theory, Policy, and Practice” by Duane Champagne




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