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An Indigenous Friendly Nation State?

Most indigenous Peoples are willing to participate in national government institutions, but also want to retain their ways of government and culture.

Most indigenous Peoples are willing to participate in national government institutions, but at the same time want to retain their own ways of self-government, land, and cultural orientations. Single cultural nation states encourage all citizens to adopt the culture, government, constitution, and property laws of the nation state. The indigenous position is that indigenous nations have their own forms of government, worldviews, property rights, and territories.

Consequently, single, or predominantly single, cultural nation states believe that it is in the best interests of the nation and the Indigenous Peoples to join into the single cultural nation state by accepting national institutions. Assimilation of all individuals into a unified national cultural and government is the aim of single cultural nation states. The processes of cultural assimilation in single cultural nation states may be contested by cultural ethnic groups and indigenous nations. Efforts of forced education, non-consensual citizenship, and the absence of political empowerment by non-mainstream and indigenous nations often leads to abuses of human rights and indigenous rights.

In recent decades, United Nations diplomats argue that many nation states have come to the realization that many of their citizens may have multiple cultural orientations. Consequently, nation states have increasingly come to recognize differences in race, religion, ethnicity, culture, and indigneity. The diplomats suggest that in the future nation states will increasingly address human rights issues and empower greater cultural, ethnic, racial and indigenous diversities.

There is general agreement that democratic nation states are best, and most nations of the world currently have constitutional governments. The basis of the United Nations is built upon the organization as a coalition of democratic nation states. Therefore, nation states and their cultural minorities need to work out justice and human rights issues through the organizations of democratic nation states and through their combined international agencies. Certainly, or at least hopefully, more nation states will become more culturally diversified and democratic within the multicultural nation state interpretation.

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In many ways, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) works within the multi-cultural democratic state models. Indigenous Peoples have rights to their cultural orientations and worldviews, however, the expression of those rights must be expressed or upheld within the national institutions of the multi-cultural nation state. In UNDRIP, Indigenous Peoples are encouraged to adopt local municipal governments that conform to a national constitutional government, while the municipal government can incorporate indigenous laws, norms, and self-government.

However, conflicts over property, law, and self-government that conflict with federal or provincial laws are decided in favor of the nation state. Within UNDRIP, Indigenous Peoples can live under their own local or municipal governments, but are still subject to the higher powers of provincial and federal law, government, and cultural order. The multi-cultural nation state approach is better and more in conformity with preserving human and collective rights, but are not in conformity with indigenous rights. Indigenous nations want to have more egalitarian, non-unilateral, respectful, negotiated, and consensual political relations with provincial and federal nation state governments.

As recent as 2010, Bolivia created a new name for their nation: The Plurinational State of Bolivia. Plurinational refers to a nation state that has plural political communities with differing worldviews that are recognized within the constitution. It is no accident that Bolivia and other counties like Ecuador are exploring asymmetrical constitutional orders that recognize the autonomy and self-government of Indigenous Peoples. Bolivia is a country where Indigenous Peoples form the majority of the national population.

Most nation states grant Indigenous Peoples equal citizenship under single cultural nation state mode, while multi-cultural states grant more recognition of municipal government cultural, but not political or territorial autonomy. Plurinational states may provide a nation state framework that constitutionally recognizes and respects indigenous rights to self-government, land, and cultural diversity, while upholding national government and cooperation.