Alternatives to Development - Environmental Values of Indigenous Peoples. Northwest Regional Conference on the Emerging International Economic Order.
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      A L T E R N A T I V E S   T O   D E V E L O P M E N T:


              Environment Workshop -- March 30, 1979

   Northwest Regional Conference on the Emerging International
                          Economic Order

                       March 29 - 91, 1979
                   Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

      In the original religions of many indigenous peoples there is 
the belief that human beings are thinking, acting and growing 
individuals with souls or spirits. This belief also applies to 
animals and plants, which live and grow, and may have influence upon 
our daily lives. Even the different phenomena in nature, the sun and 
moon which run from east to west, sunbeams which give warmth and 
growth, water which gives life, rivers which run, snow which comes 
and disappears again, volcanoes, dangerous and noisy lightning and 
more, were for our ancestors, and many of us still, the natural 
world. This world exists as a balance between natural and 
supernatural forces. Nature is a real environment that one must 
accept. Through experience and through different rituals, indigenous 
peoples have learned to live in harmony with nature. 

      Not until the intervention of European political states was the 
harmony between human beings and nature upset. The balance between 
the natural and supernatural was, and continues to be, violently 
disrupted by those who would seek short term beneFits by extracting 
natural resources at rates,and in amounts, greater than can be 
naturally replaced. Political states have grown so rapidly in the 
past two hundred years that they now consume resources in excess of 
their own ability ta produce them. The demand for consumable 
resources has increased so rapidly that shortages have multiplied to 
the extent that basic natural resources like water, petroleum and 
timber are more and more difficult to secure. 

      The motivating force behind the misuse of natural resources is 
growth consumption and the idea of progress. Because native peoples 
live in close proximity to the natural world, and the supernatural 
world a relative balance is maintained through limited growth and 
moderate consumption. Life could not be sustained without limits and 
moderation. Even political states recognize that limits must be 
placed on the consumption of natural resources when there are 
shortages, but instead of cutting back expectations and reducing the 
long term use of certain resources, new goals are set for exploration 
and exploitation. Such new demands place new pressures on the fragile 
ecology and threaten the long-term future of humankind. 

      The belief that both animals and plants, and even other natural 
phenomena are regarded as having souls ar spirits has been referred 
to as "nonsense" ,but it was,and is now, one of the most important 
features of indigenous beliefs that ensures respect for the 
environment. It may be difficult far many agriculturists to 
understand that hunting people have an enormous respect for the 
living, and For life itself. Many people today may find it ridiculous 
that our ancestors treated a slain animal as an honored guest by 
giving different gifts, or by saying prayers for it, or by making 
their hunting equipment beautiful and attractive. The western 
agriculturist especially may tell us that it would be better to make 
efficient hunting equipment than to say prayers far the killed 
animal. He might be right if it was a question of killing as many 
animals as possible in as short a time as possible. These ceremonies 
are not a "means of hunting". They give regulation to community life. 
It is through the balancing of the natural world with the 
supernatural world that the indigenous peoples realize that life 
taken must be restored. It is necessary for the members of a hunting 
community to kill animals, but it may also be vital for them not to 
disturb the balance of the animal life. 

      In the Northwest part of the United States, throughout the 
continent of Australia, in the jungles of the Amazon Basin, and in 
the lands of Taiwan and plains of Sudan, indigenous peoples continue 
to live in territories occupied once by their ancestors. In these 
areas, and many more all over the world, tribal peoples continue to 
practice the ways of our ancestors, though often in modern 
surroundings. Like our ancestors, we strive to continue the balance 
between the natural world and the supernatural world, and for this we 
have home lands which are not spoiled or completely disturbed. Tribal 
areas, the homelands of indigenous peoples, are now the green areas 
of the world, though they were once thought to be areas inhospitable 
to human life. Indigenous peoples have by virtue of their way of 
life, protected and preserved the lands, water, plants, and animals 
that represent the last major undeveloped resources in the world. 
Many indigenous people have chosen not to expand their own use of the 
resources, while still other indigenous groups have chosen to 
cautiously increase the amount of use they will make of minerals, 
timber and certain animal life. Using indigenous resources is most 
often not a choice made by an indigenous group; but the decision of a 
political state, transnational corporation, or other economic 
development interest. 

      Political states like Brazil, South Africa, United States and 
Denmark have came into existence and continue to exist because of 
their exploitation of indigenous natural resources. The cost of such 
exploitation by all political states has been the lives of in excess 
of 27,000,000 indigenous peoples world-wide. Since 1850 even greater 
damage has been dane to millions of square miles of land and 
thousands of miles of rivers and streams. Even the atmosphere around 
us has been seriously harmed. But the trend toward increased 
exploitation continues, even though the consequences are increasingly 
clear. The state of Brazil recently announced that several major 
companies would be allowed to "defoliate" the jungles and forests of 
the Amazon Basin to extract the "rich timber resources", while 
bringing civilization to natives. In the Northwest part of the United 
States political officials have decided to divert water from the 
Columbia River through a thing called the Second Bacon Siphon so that 
what is now a productive dry-farm area will be made into an irrigated 
farm area, with little possibility of becoming a productive and 
economically feasible sugar beet production source. In South Africa 
the indigenous populations have been squeezed into territories much 
too small for their health, while vast areas are being developed for 
a small minority. In each of the instances I have briefly mentioned, 
tribal resources have been the target of exploitation. Indigenous 
groups are either ignored, pushed aside, or killed so that their 
resources will become available to political states in need of trade 
materials or goods for general consumption. 

      The needs and interests of political states and indigenous 
groups are in many ways diametrically opposed to one another. 
Political states view uncontrolled growth and progress as the highest 
ideals, while indigenous groups regard balance and limited growth as 
essential to their livelihood. From all appearances these ideas 
cannot be reconciled. We must reconcile the differences or a great 
deal of humankind will not survive. There is more to bind humankind 
together than should separate. There is a common belief in the human 
potential and a common belief that human beings should determine 
their own future. There is the common belief that human beings should 
be free and that the rights of a people should be respected. We also 
have in common the belief that the world should have a new economic 
order which ensures the health and future of all peoples. In order to 
maximize human commonalities we must be willing to accept compromises 
and lower our expectations. We must agree that a new economic order 
must provide for all of humanity and not merely for a few. We must 
recognize that a new economic order cannot benefit all of human kind 
if it permits exploitation of one group by another group. A new 
economic order must mean the protection and preservation of nature 
and a restored balance. We have several proposals which we believe 
will increase the likelihood that a new international order will 
benefit humankind. We propose that: 

      Industrial states must not compete with tribal 
      groups for their resources. Indigenous resources 
      must be used only with the clear consent of the 
      groups affected. 

      Industrial states must institute new policies which 
      require a substantial reduction in the use of 
      timber, petroleum, water and all other raw 

      The responsibility for initiating outside contacts 
      between indigenous peoples and political states must 
      rest with the tribal peoples themselves. 

      National governments and international organizations 
      must recognize and support tribal rights to their 
      traditional land, cultural autonomy, and full local 

      The United Nations should, with the concurrence of 
      affected indigenous peoples, declare internationally 
      protected "autonomous indigenous areas" secured by 
      aboriginal title and established to preserve and 
      protect the right of self-determination for 
      indigenous peoples, and protect natural resources 
      from external exploitation and encroachment without 
      the consent of local indigenous populations and 
      international supervision. 

      The United Nations must establish an international 
      organization which includes membership from the 
      political states and indigenous peoples for the 
      purpose of reviewing grievances and claims 
      proclaimed by indigenous peoples, and such an 
      organization must be empowered to address the U.N. 
      Security Council and U.N. General Assembly to 
      promote redress of authenticated grievances. 

      The United Nations must establish an international 
      organization which includes membership from the 
      political states and indigenous peoples for the 
      purpose of offering financial aid and technical 
      assistance to indigenous peoples when they initiate 
      a request, and such a financial and technical aid 
      organization should be empowered to secure such 
      financial commitments from other world organizations 
      and political states as may be necessary to the 
      needs of indigenous peoples. 

      Change in the lives of indigenous peoples is a condition which 
has always existed. Serious changes have given rise to serious 
readaptations to the new condition. Indigenous peoples represent many 
peoples, many cultures, and also different ways of thinking. But, 
they share the same natural world and the same spiritual world. As we 
close this presentation we cannot help but make the observation that 
industrial political states have risen and seem to be in decline 
since their emergence just over two hundred years ago. Tribal 
societies have existed for aver 10,000 years and continue to adapt 
and adjust. Which is the better way, growth and consumption or 

This paper developed with the cooperation and support of the 
following individuals and organizations: 

World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP)
National Indian Lutheran Board (NILB)
National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
Satiacum Enterprises

Joe DeLaCruz, President, Quinault Nation
Joan Ortez, Chairwoman, Steilacoom Tribe
Russell Jim, Councilman, Yakima Nation
William Yallup, Councilman, Yakima Nation
George Manuel, WCIP
Marie Maruley, WCIP
Rosalee Tizya, WCIP
Anne Pavel, Skokomish Tribe
Mel Tonasket, Vice-Chairman, Colville Confederated Tribes and Vice-
  President, NCAI 
Calvin Peters, Chairman, Squaxin Island Tribe
Bernie Whitebear, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

Writing and Research Staff:

Rudolph C. Ryser, COSAMCO Ltd.
Sue Sawicki, COSAMCO Ltd.
Gary Morishima, Quinault Tribe
Shirley Keith, Muckleshoot Tribe
Randy Scott, Puget Sound Association of Cooperating Tribes (PACT) 

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