Relentless Assimilationist Indigenous Policy: From Invasion of Group Rights to Genocide in Mercy’s Clothing

Lantz Fleming Miller

Abstract


Despite the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, assimilationist policies continue, whether official or effective. Such policies affect more than the right to group choice. The concern is whether indeed genocide or “only” ethnocide (or culturecide)

—the elimination of a traditional culture—is at work. Discussions of the distinction between the two terms have been inconsistent enough that at least one commentator has declared that they cannot be used in analytical contexts. While these terms, I contend, have distinct senses, yet in cases of governmental and other institutional assimilationist policy for indigenous peoples, such ethnocide effectively entails genocide. Insofar as any people’s cultural practices and beliefs are essential for life and health, individuals in groups value, if tacitly, their culture as highly as their language or any artifact: Thus, attempts to eradicate a culture through assimilation in fact eradicate individuals’ lives and health and so are effectively murderous. Acknowledgement by worldwide organizations that assimilationist ethnocide is effectively genocide should affect policy concerning indigenous peoples and thus has significance for international law.

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