INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Aboriginal Justice Team changes its name to Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team

26 May 2015
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Aboriginal Justice Team changes its name to Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team 

The Christian Peacemaker Aboriginal Justice Team has undergone a transition to a new team name, after much deliberation and discussion. Although the mandate and vision for the team remains the same, the name change represents an effort to maintain currency within Indigenous movements for self-determination, and the team feels Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team better captures the desired scope of its work. The team has floated this change past some of its Indigenous friends and partners who have welcomed it. 

Still in popular use, the term “aboriginal” refers to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. However, as Mohawk scholar Taiaike Alfred and Cherokee professor Jeff Corntassel (2005) indicate, while some Indigenous people have embraced this label, “this identity is purely a state construction that is instrumental to the state’s attempt to gradually subsume Indigenous existences into its own constitutional system and body politic” (p. 598). In 2008, the Union of Ontario Indians and later Grand Council of Treaty #3 representing the Anishnaabek passed resolutions and launched a campaign to eliminate the inappropriate use of the term "aboriginal." To many, “aboriginalism is a legal, political and cultural discourse designed to serve an agenda of silent surrender to an inherently unjust relation at the root of the colonial state itself” (Alfred & Corntassel, p. 599). To the chagrin of many First Nations, in 2011 Canada's Conservative government changed the minister and department title responsible for “Indian Affairs” to “Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,” embodying this discursive tactic. 

Of course, you may still hear the team referring to the constitutionally recognized Aboriginal and Treaty rights that many Indigenous leaders and organizations have struggled for over the decades. That said, for all other intents and purposes, the team will continue to strive to use whatever identifier is preferable to its partners in the context where it works, but more generally, the team will use the term Indigenous. 

This term “Indigenous” has gained political traction in the last thirty years as part of a growing international movement for the rights of Indigenous peoples, and as an alternative identifier to colonially delegated terms (e.g., Indian, Aboriginal) from which these inherent rights emanate. While Indigenous people cannot be lumped into a homogenous cultural category, “the struggle to survive as distinct peoples on foundations constituted in their unique heritages, attachments to their homelands, and natural ways of life is what is shared by all Indigenous peoples” (Alfred & Corntassel, 2005, p. 597). 

Additionally, "Peoples" acknowledges the existence of nations or land-based, people groups with collective rights to culture, land, self-determination, and livelihood. And, "solidarity", is a historic term in common use within various movements to highlight the type of relationships the team seeks to foster across geographic, ethnic, and socio-economic difference. 

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