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Wheeler: Indigenizing globalization

Globalization is upon us. LaDonna Harris, Comanche, founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity, believes American Indians need to become partners in globalization so that globalization does not become another form of colonization. Relationships should be established to form a transnational indigenous community advancement organization.

In an ever-increasingly interdependent world, the advantages to corporations and colonial governments are evident. We see multinational corporations working longer, paying less and profiting greatly. Nations' economic potential is no longer defined by political and geographical boundaries. Due to globalization, the goods, services and genius that stimulate success are free to move where they are most valued. But where do American Indians and other indigenous peoples fit into this scheme?

Our values have value. It is time to take action in order to promote indigenous leadership and protect the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous individuals and groups in the global society. The first step is facilitating a network of transnational indigenous interactions that are liberating, nurture the self-determination capabilities of indigenous communities and contribute indigeneity (indigenous values, philosophies and worldview) to global society.

One organization leading the way in international indigenous networks is Americans for Indian Opportunity. Located in Albuquerque, N.M., and founded by Harris in 1970, the organization operates on the belief that all peoples of the world have the right to coexist in peace and practice self-determination. AIO and the Ambassadors Program utilize core cultural values to guide decision-making in a global community. By helping develop leaders, AIO is also helping develop self-determining indigenous communities. It is important for indigenous communities to not only retain their values and worldviews in the face of globalization, but also to contribute their values to an international audience.

By strengthening the self-determination capabilities of indigenous communities and their leaders, it enables indigenous peoples to exert control over their lives and participate in their societies in meaningful and effective ways. Once a critical mass of indigenous leaders is assembled, they can support local, regional, national and international community advancement and facilitate transnational exchanges for leaders to problem-solve and collaborate.

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Bolivia's President, Juan Evo Morales Ayma (Aymara), the highest-ranking indigenous leader in the Americas, made a call to action in 2006 while addressing the United Nations when he asked indigenous communities from around the world to weave a network. With the recently adopted U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and indigenous leaders serving as national leaders, there has never been a more perfect time to share our values with the world. AIO had the opportunity to meet with Morales during the summer of 2007. One participant said, ''To see an indigenous man taking ownership and leadership in the realm of indigenous empowerment and development is a lesson to us in courage and strength.'' His leadership serves as a reminder that there is a place for indigenous values in this rapid world of globalization.

Civilization is at a crossroads. Rapid globalization is creating a new world order that is changing our lives economically, politically, culturally, socially and environmentally. Interaction between indigenous peoples is essential at this time so that we may learn from each other and share our knowledge with the outside world. During the same U.N. speech in 2006, Morales said, ''This new millennium in which we are living must be a millennium of life, not war; a millennium of the people, not of empire; a millennium of justice and equality.''

Let's make indigenous values part of this new millennium.

Nicole Wheeler, Comanche, is the community liaison and communications coordinator for Americans for Indian Opportunity, in Albuquerque, N.M.