Indigenous Rights Conference Will Discuss Limits of ‘Indigenous Rights’ In Face of Assimilation

People celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

People celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day / Getty Images


The University of Texas at Austin will host an indigenous rights conference this Friday featuring speakers from "Turtle Island," announced organizers, using the name for North America popular among Native rights activists.

"Indigenous Rights: A Forum Ten Years After the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007-2017)" will be hosted by UT's Native American and Indigenous Studies program and co-sponsored by 21 other academic departments, including the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, which prides itself on taking a "maverick approach" to public affairs by blending theory and practical experience.

Other sponsors include the law school, the English, comparative literature, history, and anthropology departments, the College of Education, and the Social Justice Institute.

 The speakers from "Turtle Island" or "Native North America" will speak to the "historical significance" of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and "how to move the discourse forward in the future."

According to organizers, issues considered will include "the deployment of new forms of colonial violence," and "the critical limits of the very notion of ‘Indigenous rights' in the face of new forms of assimilation, such as neoliberal multicultural recognition regimes as embraced by both nation-states and extractivist corporations."

The non-binding UNDRIP, adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007, created no new status for indigenous people under international law but recognized their individual and collective rights, including the right to self-determination.

The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand originally voted against the UNDRIP, citing concerns about its broad wording, though each of those countries have since rolled back their objector status.

The featured speakers will be LaDonna Harris, founder and president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, which promotes the cultural, political, and economic rights of indigenous peoples in the United States and internationally, and Pamela Palmater, an indigenous rights lawyer and associate professor of politics and public administration at Canada's Ryerson University. Palmater is also the university's chair in Indigenous Governance.

Organizers say Bolivian politician David Choquehuanca was to be the third speaker, but cannot attend as he was denied a visa by the U.S. Embassy in La Paz.

Choquehuanca has served under the socialist government of Bovilian president and former cocaine farmer Evo Morales, formerly as foreign minister and now as Secretary General of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, the socialist intergovernmental organization created by former Venezuelan president Hugo Chaves as an alternative to the free trade policies advanced by the United States.

Choquehuanca was barred from entering the United States "despite multiple institutional efforts," wrote forum organizers. "We deeply regret that [he] will not be with us as originally planned," they wrote.

 The event, open to the public, is part of NAIS's ongoing Indigenous Peoples' Week programming.

Requests for comment to NAIS were not returned by press time.

Rachel Frommer

Rachel Frommer   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Rachel Frommer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon reporting on campus issues, including anti-free speech and anti-Israel activity. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was the senior campus correspondent at The Algemeiner. Her work has been picked up by Fox News, Newsweek, and the New York Post. She graduated from Touro College in 2016 with a BA in English literature. Her Twitter handle is @Rachel_Frommer, and her email address is

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