chapter  8
30 Pages

Accommodating Indigenous Rights

Indigenous rights are alien to the corporate world. Their collective and spiritual nature fundamentally counters industrial economics. Given this, industry tends to shrug off Indigenous Peoples’ communiqués as antiquated, unrealistic or radical thinking. This has far-reaching consequences for our immediate ‘biodiversity crisis’. It is difficult to forge bridges of communication on sustainability when one ‘side’ sees no reason, need or basis for connection. Industry will litigate for its own short-term interests, though we all sit on the same life team. Globally, government and industry have resisted appeals for the accommodation of Indigenous rights. Even so, Indigenous Peoples’ revived political and economic presence is affecting commerce. They are now vocal across the United Nations (UN) and at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Their persistent lobbying of international bodies and their articulate submissions on sustainability have created an impetus for dialogue. Even in countries where human rights violations are endemic, business interests detect this change. Consultation of Indigenous Peoples is increasing, though rarely as a voluntary practice. It is undertaken when government or industry feel cornered and need a public relations makeover. While many countries have ignored or directly perpetrated commercial violations of Indigenous rights, less political cover exists today. Globalization is biting back at the corporate world. As our consumer markets flood with excess, there is a corresponding depletion of life systems. If corporate media fail to warn us of the brewing chaos,

information seeps in on the air currents. The Inuit in the Arctic, for example, are experiencing the worst of industrial toxins and climate change.1 Industry infringement of human rights and collective ancestral rights is visible in the biosphere – if not by the lack of simple decency between peoples. Negotiations with Indigenous Peoples, recently unthinkable to colonial regimes and their trade partners, are becoming a feature of the global economy.2 Every industry has its own cases of community engagement; each is grasping for ways to limit local entanglement. But the new etiquette of global trade requires an appearance of reconciliation.3 Internationally and nationally, public policy is addressing Indigenous Peoples. It is a sign that the financial stakes of biodiversity are high; the goal is to ward off conflict so that business is unimpeded. In the tourism industry, like other economic sectors, we are stuck in unproductive patterns of communication about what is sustainable. We need to pull out of this now. No dialectic will restore balance if we continue to neglect relationship-building. It is relationships, and daily economic transactions comprising these relationships, that define our humanity and success. So, are we sincere about learning how to restructure the economy for balance and respectful interchange? Or are consultation and negotiations simply our way of convincing Indigenous Peoples to forsake their cultures, sacred knowledge, ancestral territories and Mother Earth?