The purpose of this inaugural World Conference was to provide a meeting ground for indigenous communities and state representatives throughout the world to pursue and realize the objectives and rights outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples originally adopted in 2007.
The World Conference was paired with an off-site event organized by a group of faculty and students from NYU, Columbia, and Yale to discuss “Genocide Denial in North American Popular Culture.” Introduced by news editor and journalist Aura Bogado of Colorlines, the panel discussion included presentations from activist Ellen Gabriel and scholars Audra Simpson, Andrew Needham, and Ned Blackhawk. The brief talks touched upon the urgent issue of the disappeared indigenous women in Canada and the legal justifications for this femicide, dependency on the energy production in native territory, cultural amnesia as a depoliticizing trend in contemporary indigenous life, as well as the oft-neglected American Indian holocaust of North America.
Tasked with running the open mic and Q&A session at the close of the event, Cuéllar delivered some brief comments connecting the abovementioned issues to similar phenomena taking place in Mexico and Central America. Following some of the comments made earlier by Rigoberta Menchú, Cuéllar introduced migration as a problematic to genocide studies, shared stories about the increasing political assassinations of indigenous leaders in Honduras and El Salvador as a direct attack on the self-determination of native communities, as well as reasserting the importance of the never-ending femicide against Mayan women in Guatemala.
What are the growing communities of Mixtec, Maya, and Zapotec peoples doing to our conceptions of “indigenous North America?” Migration of indigenous peoples from the south is changing the makeup of areas in North America, for example as the P’urhépechas have done to the Coachella Valley or as the Piscataway Indian Nation has done through the opening of their lands as sanctuary for indigenous migrants from places like El Salvador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico, Peru.