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Fording the River: Co-opting Indigenous Peoples

FordLogosheet_A_2009[FOR PRINT ONLY]

Intercontinental Cry

Sept 25, 2013

by Jay Taber

Ford Foundation is an ideological supporter of the World Bank (a mega co-developer of dams, mining and plantations in Indigenous territories), and a UN Millenium Development Goals supporter — along with Gates and Clinton — to do the same. Co-opting Indigenous peoples is a key objective of their neoliberal privatization project. Taking money from Ford Foundation is thus equivalent to taking money from Shell Oil, Rio Tinto or Monsanto.

Ford Foundation is known for funding NGOs promoting civil rights, while simultaneously supporting the state and corporate neglect of Indigenous human rights. Civil rights do not conflict with capitalism, while human rights do.

Anti-Indian organizations in the US believe tribal governments should be abolished, and work toward that end. Their main argument is that civil rights guarantee equality under domestic law, ignoring the fact that international law recognizes the human rights of Indigenous nations to make their own laws.

Protecting their territories and properties requires Indigenous nations to invoke international law and treaties that supersede domestic civil law. By undermining the implementation of Indigenous human rights law, Ford Foundation abets racism and religious bigotry against Indigenous peoples.

As Indigenous nations and modern states prepare for the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September 2014, corporations like Shell Oil and foundations like Ford are spreading money around to co-opt Indigenous activists and NGOs. While this bribery ensures Indigenous NGOs will be in attendance at the UN event, these partnerships and dependencies ensure they will not challenge the capitalist system in anything but moral theatrics.

Indeed, some of the recipients of Ford Foundation money have already demonstrated a willingness to attack Indigenous governing authorities in order to protect their state-approved, foundation-funded privileges at the UN. Ford Foundation funded brokerages include International Funders for Indigenous Peoples and the Seventh Generation Fund.

Because Ford Foundation funds academic institutions or NGOs or conferences does not mean that anyone working at these institutions or NGOs or attending their conferences supports neoliberal philosophy. What Ford tries to do is shape public opinion in favor of neoliberalism; supporting capitalist-oriented humanitarianism is essential to that psychological warfare.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as director of Public Good Project. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]