Ensuring First Peoples are not last citizens (Part VII)…
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Wanted: A New Global Indigenous Alliance!

THE international dimension of First People’s existence today played-out in full in Australia and Canada this past week, with the supreme Catholic pontiff embarking on a “Pilgrimage of Peace” to indigenous populations in Canada and Australia’s new Prime Minister announcing a referendum to change the constitution to allow indigenous people parliamentary representation.

The invasion and occupation of aboriginal lands in Australia and Canada was followed by subjecting indigenous people to enforced and involuntary “civilised behaviour,” church and state handing indigenous children to colonial settler families to be “brought-up properly” and/or assigning them to so-called “Residential Schools” to be taught “civilised ways of life,” while indigenous populations were being effectively “assimilated” into the societies built by those who stole their lands.

That Australians should, in 2022, still be considering whether to allow the nation’s First People parliamentary representation — 252 years after Thomas Cook claimed the world’s largest island for Britain in 1770 – is both a reprehensible thought by itself and a regrettable 21st Century reality.

But then, Britain hasn’t apologised either for turning the world’s biggest island into a penal colony in 1788, while consigning its indigenous people to sub-human bondage and restricted to Australia’s vast interior.
The Pope’s Canada visit remained in the international news for all of last week after he met indigenous leaders at colourful ceremonies to express papal sorrow for the sins and crimes of Catholic officials against indigenous people, over decades and centuries.

Forged by his own experience as an Argentinian on a continent where many indigenous tribes exist, the world’s first non-European pontiff decided to personally embark on his “pilgrimage” to Canada, where indigenous tribes continue to protest and demand both atonement from the Vatican and punishment for the guilty, after recent revelation of human rights monstrosities committed at the mainly Catholic-run “residential schools” country-wide.

Generations of indigenous children (thousands of whom are still alive as aging adults) were abused, raped, forced to eat their own vomit, starved to death, or punished into malnourishment — then buried in hidden and unmarked graves.

Pope Francis said he was sorry for all the sins committed in the church’s name by men and women of the frock, but while the indigenous leaders accepted his words, there were victims who felt and said he didn’t go far enough.

The critics, including many victims still alive, feel the Pope should have apologised not just for the specific crimes in the areas he visited, but for all the sins committed by church representatives against indigenous people worldwide, with reparations as part of its blessed atonement.

Some argued that while the pontiff’s visit was enough indication of his positive will and intent, the church hasn’t formally apologised faithfully to the First People whose lands were stolen and their civilisations destroyed by Europeans bearing swords and arriving on ships with Christian crosses painted on their sails.

As seen and acknowledged by German explorer Robert H. Schomburgk in his epic oversized and illustrated book entitled, ‘Views of the Interior of Guiana’ (published in 1840), religion was seen as the traditional palliative for leading First People away from their traditional cultures.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, then a top Vatican official, was in 2017 accused and later legally found guilty of sexual abuse and covering-up what he knew about other cases; and many Australian victims are still alive and demanding repair by reparations.

Today’s activist pontiff will always be expected to go the extra miles to ensure the positive changes he’s introduced at and from The Vatican will not be reversed by any successor.
At the end of his week-long North American pilgrimage, a visibly-exhausted Pope Francis cited a longstanding knee problem to say he’ll reduce on his usual long trips — and even though the discomfort wasn’t bad enough for him to consider resigning, if that eventuality arrived, he’d be prepared to.

That said, by the time the chartered Al Italia jet entered Italian airspace, the new world news narrative about the pope’s penitential visit quickly changed — from the sufficiency of his expressions of papal sorrow, to how long he’ll remain healthy-enough to effectively and efficiently carry-out his usually-busy daily papal chores.

The cause and plight of the indigenous people in Canada and Australia dropped from the headlines dropped from the airwaves and left with the flight
The world’s indigenous people and their causes were treated by the mainstream world media journalists on the flight like any other news item: only worth the headlines it created.

And by the time the Pope got to the Vatican, the headlines returned to the continuing war in Ukraine, the unfolding ‘Weather Apocalypse’ and gathering ‘Economic Hurricanes’ in Europe and the US, speculation on possible consequences of Russia’s announced pullout from the International Space Station (ISS), uncertainties across Europe about Moscow continuing to play hard ball on oil and gas supplies ahead of what’s already predicted as a colder winter than usual and the US proposing an expected prisoner swap for female American basketballer Britney Griner.

It’s the same across the Caribbean, with indigenous people’s issues only making the news according to the topic’s headline value, best manifested in reportage of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments’ demand for “Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide” as if the native genocide part never happened.

First People have always been treated as last citizens of the world for centuries and it’s imperative, if not inescapable, that while their causes will continue to make the news headlines, it will take nothing less than a real alliance of the world’s indigenous nations and people, with supportive governments and regional and international institutions, to not just place their cases on the world’s agenda, but to also ensure the subjects remain there until addressed with the speed, urgency and seriousness necessitated by the fact that they represent the planet’s very first inhabitants everywhere the Europeans had conquered through reported violence and theft.

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