Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The curriculum vitae of Nan Marie Greer, Ph.D. at eight pages long, is as long your arm (or more probably, your legs). It seems there’s nothing she can’t do, and she does it all extremely well. Currently, an adjunct lecturer at the University of Redlands in California, Greer teaches cultural and environmental anthropology in addition to indigenous land rights.
Nan reached out to me and my husband a few years back, introducing herself. She wanted help exploring the indigenous rights of the Jewish people, which she felt needed to be—deserved to be—enshrined in law. Impressed with her sincerity and her knowledge, we promised to do whatever we could to help her.
This two-part interview lays out Nan Greer’s vision for the people of Israel. That vision points to a resolution to territorial disputes between Arabs and Jews, the protection of both Jewish and Arab rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere. Of course it all sounds far-fetched until you read what Nan Greer has to say. And then it all makes perfect sense.
Judean Rose: What does it mean to be an indigenous people? Are the Jews an indigenous people?
Dr. Nan Marie Greer, Ph.D.
Nan Greer: The ILO Convention 169 and the U.N. working definition are the most utilized and notable documents referring to indigenous people, with the U.N.D.R.I.P. established to identify rights of indigenous people under international law. ILO Convention 169, finalized in 1989 has not been revised to contain the U.N. definition of indigenous, listed on their websites and formal documents.  However, ILO Convention 169 states: “Article 1: This convention applies to…”, it DOES NOT state, this convention “DEFINES” indigenous.
All but one organization of the U.N. maintains the definition developed by Martinez Cobo as published in U.N. documents and websites. UNESCO is NOT consistent with other U.N. organizations, and fails to utilize the U.N. working definition of indigenous.
For the purposes of international litigation, a working definition of indigenous people was established and published in U.N. policy documents and websites deriving from José Martinez Cobo’s definition:
1)    Self-identification as indigenous people at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member;
2)    Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies;
3)    Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources;
4)    Distinct social, economic, or political systems;
5)    Distinct language, culture, and beliefs;
6)    Form non-dominant groups of society; and,
7)    Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinct communities.
Critical to this definition is the identification of indigenous people having a language and belief system distinct to the area claimed in its ancestral land rights, and not generalizable to other areas, such as Arab-Muslim groups claiming lands in multiple nation-states throughout the Middle East.
Judean Rose: Why is it important for Jews to be accepted as an indigenous people? What are the implications of being indigenous to Israel?
Nan Greer: Currently, the observer state of Palestine has introduced several measures that are replicas of specific articles of rights in the UNDRIP However, they have never signed the UNDRIP, nor attempted to use the UN definition of indigenous in international circles - wisely so, as they fall outside the bounds of this critical, widely-used, and internationally recognized definition. 
While the P.A. has not pushed for legal recognition of its Arab-Muslim people as indigenous, they have been awarded approximately U$1.8 billion for legal fees directed at attacking Israel in international and national courts. If both Israel and the international community allow populations of merely “long-standing presence” to declare themselves indigenous, while not having a language, culture, or religion distinct to the geographical locale/nation-state, it allows them to jeopardize indigeneity everywhere.  This ultimately leads to the justification of colonial domination of indigenous people throughout the world - a risk that is simply not acceptable to the U.N. and the international community. 
As such, the opportunity exists for Israel to protect the indigenous Jews, and to delineate and protect communities of long-standing presence in a manner not recognized under current colonial and political formations. Indeed, much of the Arab-Muslim population has been colonized by highly politicized P.A. structures aimed at the elimination of the Jewish indigenous nation, using the Arab population, as it were, in a political war - threatening children utilized as soldiers and human shields in war, impoverishing families, and promoting lifestyles of terror. Under international law, Druze, Bedouin, and other Arab groups may not be considered indigenous as they do not have a language and religious beliefs distinct to Israel. However, they deserve a humanitarian approach outside the bounds of corruption of the current P.A. and Gaza political arrangement. Ultimately, adjudicating each land dispute and presence claim of a given group ought to occur in the legal system of the nation state, not outside of the country of Israel.
Judean Rose: Tell us about your work with other indigenous peoples.
Nan Greer: I have worked with the Mayangna and Miskitú of Central America for over 25 years now - and I continue to work with them to this day. Initially, I worked with these groups on a consultation for writing a land law that would help them to protect their lands (Law 445, Nicaragua), which defined the indigenous right to land, outlined a procedure for making a traditional land claim, and determined a phase of normalization of land tenure in the indigenous autonomous regions of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) and South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS). 

Mayangna Leaders meet with children from Orphanage - Nicaragua
Data Analysis Awas Tingni - preparation for Court land defense, Mayangna
Mapping Matumbak, Mayangna

After this, we began with documenting the right to land amid the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, for the purpose of assisting the indigenous to protect their lands, and also to help protect the rainforest (given a 18% rate of annual cutting by illegal colonists, compared to a -1% of forest cutting by indigenous).  This work went on for approximately 18 years, and as a result, all 9 territories of the Mayangna Nation now have legal title to their lands, in addition to four Miskitú territories. Other groups assisted by others, and some working on their own, were also titled, with some remaining pending. As such, my task has now turned to dealing with illegal colonists on indigenous lands, whereby lands are inalienable to indigenous peoples (not able to be sold, under national law 445).  Some indigenous territories have chosen to allow illegal colonists to remain (those who do not destroy the forest), while forcing others to leave - per Nicaraguan law 445, and 28).

Nan Greer with Brooklin Rivera - head indigenous representative Nicaragua; president YATAMA; Miskitu

Nan Greer & Noe Coleman - Current Nicaragua Indigenous Representative to MesoAmerican Group of Indigenous; leader, Matumbak - Mayangna
For approximately 5 years, I worked directly with Native Hawaiians and other ethnic groups on the islands of Hawai`i Nei, as they struggled to defend their right to farm lands where they grew taro/kalo (Colocasia esculenta) - the Hawaiian “staff of life” which is used in making poi. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had been purchasing wetland areas used by traditional farmers as a method of protecting endangered wetland birds. However, in so doing, USFWS often utilized methods that were inconsistent with the local ecology, even threatening the wetland bird populations themselves. As such, I worked with farmers to document the wetland waterbird populations, in addition to tracking another 150 environmental variables with each farmer for over a period of a year and a half (the average growth period of taro).

Exchange between Native Hawaiian elder and Noe Coleman

Noe Coleman meets with students and faculty of Kauai Community College, Nan Greer, right

Taro Farmers: Alternative Wetlands Management

Fascinatingly, we found taro farmers provided habitat to more endangered wetland birds per acre than those found on the USFWS wetland refuge systems (USFWS data was acquired under the Freedom of Information Act). Consecutively, we collectively examined the economic viability of farming taro as an economically sustainable activity in Hawai`i, and as an alternative to USFWS management of wetland areas, found to be areas inhabited by Native Hawaiians going back to approximately 600 A.D.
After moving to California in 2014, I have worked with elders of a group of Cahuilla-Serrano in the state of California. This work focused more on the preservation of ethnoecological knowledge, in addition to protecting religious and spiritual connections to land.
Exchange between Leader Noe Coleman and Elder of Morongo Band of Mission Indians-Cahuilla-Serrano
Judean Rose: What steps have you taken toward having the Jewish people declared the indigenous people of Israel?
Nan Greer: Actually, a very unusual series of events has occurred in Israel this summer (2018). The Basic Law - Nation-State Law was signed and approved by Knesset. Combining the Declaration of the Nation of Israel with this recent Nation-State Law, we can see demonstratively, that the Jewish people have self-declared their status under state laws, as an indigenous people. 
Israel has declared its Jewish population as indigenous to the Nation of Israel and to the world through two critical documents:
     1) The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (Official Gazette: No. 1; Tel Aviv, 5 Iyar 5708, 14.5 1948), stating: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people.  Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped.  Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance…”
     2) Basic Law-Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.
“1-Basic principles:
A.    The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
B.    The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
C.    The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
Israel has thus issued laws recognizing Jewish indigeneity. While not possessing the word “indigenous” in the Hebrew language, Israel has utilized all terminology under international law to declare itself indigenous to its homelands, the Nation-State of Israel. Through this self-declaration, Israel protects its indigenous population nationally as a distinct people. Israel also protects itself as an indigenous nation under the accepted working definition of the United Nations.

Signing UNDRIP

Israel is advised now to sign the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), with reservations that under sovereignty, indigenous people do not lose their international indigenous status, where sovereignty represents the pinnacle goal of indigenous human rights.
The benefits of such a declaration include the protection of the Jewish people as indigenous under international law, in perpetuity, in addition to the permanent protection of their lands and rights to those ancestral lands, as inalienable. 
Consistent with historical approaches, it is possible that Arab-Muslim populations in Israel may attempt to thwart their declaration as an indigenous people in international circles. Though numerous resolutions have passed the U.N. General Assembly to Israel’s detriment, a self-declaration by Israel of Jews as indigenous is paramount to their protection. Considering the above-mentioned legislation declaring their indigeneity, and the great wealth of evidence supporting this Jewish indigenous status, to deny the Jewish ethno-religious group recognition in international circles, would be to go against U.N. laws and policy. 
Additionally, the declaration of Jews as indigenous in no way denies the right of other ethnic groups to their human rights, as such a declaration is without prejudice to other cultural groups. 

An Autochthonous Solution

By signing the UNDRIP with reservations, the opportunity exists to litigate indigenous rights of Jews to their homeland, sacred sites, and the upholding of their cultural traditions. Despite sovereignty, by signing the UNDRIP with reservations, Israel can further decisions and resolutions by the people of the land, for the land and its people - an autochthonous solution, without the control and colonial domination of other nation-states, politics, or international governance from outside its borders - respecting and strengthening Israeli sovereignty, and human rights.
With respect to recent decisions by UNESCO to deny Jewish right to its sacred and historical sites, Israel as a self-declared indigenous nation has the opportunity to request immediate redress and revocation of these malicious political motions by the U.N., demanding the respect of Jews to their own sacred sites and lands, as indigenous people. Israel is within its rights to demand UNESCO resolve their malicious discrimination, libel, slander, religious discrimination and hostility. Current antisemitic, anti-historic resolutions that their sacred sites are not theirs, changing their historical names and authoritative management, are contrary to laws afforded to indigenous people under the U.N. itself. 
(Next week, part two of this two-part series.)

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