Kauanui Speaks at U.N.’s World Indigenous Peoples Day

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, at left, was one of four panelists to speak at the 18th Commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. At right is panelist Lily Valtchanova, cultural affairs officer at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, at left, was one of four panelists to speak at the 18th Commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. At right is panelist Lily Valtchanova, cultural affairs officer at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, associate professor of American studies, associate professor of anthropology, discussed her public affairs radio show on indigenous politics during the 18th Commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

The event was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Aug. 9 and focused on this year’s theme, “Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices.” Kauanui was one of four invited panelists who spoke at the commemoration about indigenous media – television, radio, film, and social media – and its role in helping to preserve indigenous peoples’ cultures, challenge stereotypes, and influence the social and political agenda.

The event’s traditional welcome was led by Roberto Múcaro Borrero, Chairperson of the NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General; and Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Edward John, the Grand Chief of the Tl’azt’en First Nation in Canada and Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened the event. Official representatives from the U.K., Mexico, Israel, Sweden, Australia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and more than 20 other countries attended the event, including Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief of the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

“Panelists were invited to speak about the role of media in raising awareness on the indigenous issues with particular reference to the education on indigenous peoples’ rights as enshrined in the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the realization of the right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent in terms of the agenda-setting activities, influence over political and decision-making processes and mobilization around crucial issues for indigenous peoples,” she explains.

Her radio show, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond” is produced at Wesleyan’s WESU (88.1 FM) and is syndicated through nearly a dozen stations through the Pacifica radio network. Since her show launched in February 2007, Kauanui has featured interviews with indigenous officials, political leaders, activists, scholars, cultural workers and artists about a range of topics exposing Native resistance to settler colonialism. Regarding the name of the show, she explained, “‘from Native New England’ grounds it in this region, where tribal resistance to active erasure and domination is continuous, while the ‘beyond’ in the title allows for ‘global scope’.” In addition, she has featured episodes on the indigenous activism in various parts of Canada, Latin America, Hawai`i, Australia, as well as Aotearoa/New Zealand on themes such a land desecration, treaty rights, political status questions and cultural revitalization. All past episodes are archived online and can be heard here.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was first proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994, to be celebrated every year during the first International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (1995). For more information on the proceedings see this link.