NGO STATEMENT: Palestinian Support for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Historical Justice from Palestine to Turtle Island
8 October 2018
We, the undersigned Palestinian human rights and community organizations, state as follows:
August 2018, several Palestinian human rights organizations attended The Red Nation’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Red Nation, a community organization dedicated to Indigenous liberation, extended an invitation to Palestinian civil society to participate in the conference, exchange strategies for securing human rights and historical justice, and develop shared language around systems of oppression as well as future visions of decolonization and self-determination.
October 8, 2018 marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day, officially celebrated in the United States as Columbus Day. This day marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 to indigenous lands in what is now known as the ‘Americas’, and the arrival of foreign domination over its Native peoples. Though recognized as a historical event, the dehumanizing structures introduced by the European settler-colonization of Turtle Island have allowed for the elimination of the Native people, the confiscation of Native land and the extraction of natural resources. Such institutionalized hierarchy of human life continues to the present day.
Similarly, the Nakba, Arabic for ‘Catastrophe’, is our rupture. In 1948, 85% of the Palestinian people were forcibly displaced from their homeland and over 500 villages were destroyed in order to establish the State of Israel. This process of displacement and dehumanization of Palestinians is ongoing. In addition to continued colonisation and control of the land, Israel attempts to preclude Palestinian collective memory through legal means. In 2011, for example, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed the ‘Nakba Law’ in order to deny public funding to any institution that commemorates Israel’s Independence Day as a “day of mourning,” violating the rights of the 1.6 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel to preserve their history.
While recognizing the limitations of international law, significant developments have been made in legal discourse and practice to protect and promote the human rights of indigenous peoples to full self-determination, including the right to history, culture and heritage. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognizes the right of all people to self-determination. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN general assembly in 2007 to elaborate on existing human rights standards as they apply specifically to indigenous peoples. We call on all governments to fully implement human rights instruments that ensure the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples.
We acknowledge that any advancement for human rights is the result of the “sumoud” (steadfastness) of the people and their sustained efforts to transform the dehumanizing institutions and structures of colonialism and oppression. We support and celebrate the victories of indigenous people on Turtle Island to change Columbus Day from a holiday that glorifies colonialism, to a day that respects and honours Native people. To date, 55 cities in the United States now celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. We welcome your victories and are reminded that community mobilization is often the strongest path for achieving human rights and collective liberation.
Truth, like accountability, is a virtue of justice. Centering the lived experiences of those impacted by oppression lays a foundation of collective knowledge upon which society can construct just legal, social and political solutions. By first publicly reclaiming critical facts about the injustices of the past, restorative practices such as the right of return, reparations for stolen land and labor, and deep institutional changes can usher in a future of justice and decolonization.
We call on the international community to center Native history as the necessary beginning of historical reconciliation and a collectively emancipatory process of decolonization.
In solidarity, we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day and the continued strength of the world’s indigenous peoples.