Reading as a Writer and Writing as a Reader: The Reciprocal Relationship Between Two Disciplines

Reading as a Writer and Writing as a Reader: The Reciprocal Relationship Between Two Disciplines

Much like exercise and diet, reading and writing are in a symbiotic relationship and one cannot grow without the other. One can follow the strictest meal plan, but if exercise is neglected, he or she will struggle to be a healthy and well-rounded person. Likewise, if the same person works out all the time but never eats well, it will be a struggle to stay trim and healthy. A relationship with words will act in kind because one can read all the time and study the best writers, but if one never writes to put what was learned it into practice, that person will not strengthen his or her composition ability. If, however, said person only writes and never reads, the writing abilities will stagnate. It is the marriage between the two concepts that creates the best opportunity for growth, and the L2 learner is no exception to this rule. John S. Hedgcock and Dana R. Ferris, professors and academic leaders in the field of second language reading and writing, strongly advise in Teaching L2 Composition that there must be a “central role of reading processes in the teaching and learning of L2 writing.” (93). Successful integration of the two is critical because they each directly impact growth in the other discipline and can easily form a cohesive curriculum for instructing both L1 and L2 students.

One of the primary reasons reading and writing are crucial to an L2 learner’s development is that they simultaneously impact growth. The average L1 composition education in an equal balance of both and this leads consistently through the course of one’s college education. For example, an instructor might try pairing students’ writing projects with the readings of successful authors in similar genres to the writing assignments. By reading great writers while they write, students are subconsciously strengthening their craft. A professor and Academic Program Specialist at Ohio State University, Alan Hirvela mentions in Connecting Reading and Writing in Second Language Writing Instruction that this connection is exceptionally useful for L2 students because “meaning is created by the active negotiation between writer, text, and reader.” (35). Reading, especially for writers, should be active, like how a mathematician would study a math formula to learn, not just to appreciate the equation. Although some instructors may be fearful of possessing enough time to equally integrate reading and writing into the classroom—especially while being highly sensitive to L2 acquisition needs—one can find balance if one was to “take better advantage of the inherent connections between reading and writing, using every reading experience as an opportunity to teach and reinforce core writing concepts, as opposed to isolating writing as a separate subject.” (Taking Advantage of the Reading/Writing Connection). Much of this balance can be found through annotations, analysis, and other deconstructive methods of texts. After assessing texts and making the reading process active, students can then apply what they have learned directly to their own projects.

The opposition to this instructional method may argue that tasks like annotating and student textual reflections can diminish the author’s original intentions or overall importance, but that is rarely the case with reader-response theory. Hirvela states that “although some reader-response theorists embrace the notion of the ‘death of the author’ and feel that all meaning resides in the reader, many take a middle ground approach.” (50). It is important to convey this concept when teaching to ensure classroom time is being used optimally. One does not want the students to feel like they cannot draw their own conclusions or have their own interpretations, but it is also necessary for them to have some respect for the text and learn to truly understand what the author was most likely trying to convey. This fence-like balance is crucial to proper reading interpretation and it also directly plays into making students better writers. For L2 students specifically, this active emphasis on reading and interpretation is exceedingly beneficial to composition development because it helps them understand things from the reader’s perspective as a writer. They can see how some things work, how others do not, and, ultimately, how to clearly convey their ideas. According to Hirvela, “adopting a reader-oriented approach enables a teacher to show students critical relationships between reading and writing through a focus on students’ composing processes.” (53).

Specific examples of the reader-oriented approach include summarizing and synthesizing. Summarizing allows students to reiterate what they have just read and translate it into a diction that is their own. Some benefits to this include opportunities to better understand the students’ reading comprehension as well as teaching them to read analytically with the goal of simplifying what they have read. Synthesizing also involves writing about what one is reading, but it is a discussion of at least two or more sources that are often compared. This method requires the summary of all materials combined with critical thinking to derive the meaning from them all. Both approaches have great value, and it is ideal for younger students or new L2 learners to start with summarizing and gradually work their way up to synthesizing multiple texts. One reason for this build-up process is the anticipation that these students may get overwhelmed. If students are given a text that is several pages long, it could be a frightening undertaking for an L2 learner to try to condense the entire text into a paragraph or two; that in and of itself intimidates a lot of L1 learners. Starting out with small texts for analysis is a great solution because once the students are comfortable with the process, an instructor can gradually move them up to larger and more advanced texts. If a student is still struggling, he or she can be encouraged to break up each main idea into a mini summary and go back and use those notes to draft a summary of the entire text. Over time, students would ideally learn how to set aside the non-essential pieces of any text into order to write a summary.

According to Dr. Lois Bridges, a former educator and literacy publisher, “every time we enter a text as a reader, we receive a writing lesson: how to spell, punctuate, use proper grammar, structure a sentence or paragraph, and organize a text.” This type of thinking echoes the nondirectional model of reading-writing instruction. It is appealing to many instructors because of the emphasis on the transfer of skill being able to work in both directions: reading directly affecting writing and visa versa (Hirvela 72). Even with all these interconnections, one should keep in mind that sometimes reading is just reading and writing is just writing. Students need to understand that they must be actively aware of the relationship between both practices and that they need to read as a writer and write as a reader. That is what will grow both skills simultaneously and make them stronger at both. An example of the conscientiousness in action could include the following steps in the classroom: students read a book in the style of the semester-long writing project; students discuss said book with classmates; students read a book on how to write the style of the semester-long project; students actively flesh out the semester-long project in peer groups by utilizing writing prompts. This is only one of many possible translations because “reading and writing both involve building meaning, developing cognitive and linguistic skills, controlling thinking, solving problems, and activating schemata.” (Ferris and Hedgcock 96).

Reading and writing are in an interdependent relationship. Not only does a student not strengthen one skill without the other, an instructor can also not successfully teach one without a proper balance of the other. Most activities should center around both reading and writing whenever possible, and in equal doses. Only by understanding the role of each discipline can L2 students successfully come to terms with the intricacies of a new language. This basic principal of approaching texts “not only increases deep comprehension but informs genre specific, effective, purpose-driven writing” for students who may initially struggle with either reading or writing an L2 language (Taking Advantage of the Reading/Writing Connection). The skills students will acquire, whether consciously or unconsciously, by studying such methods will help them devise tactics to build their reading and writing skills upon. The instructor must ensure the foundations of reading and writing are well-established with all students and that those areas are always being reciprocally encouraged.

Works Cited

Bridges, Lois. “What the Research Says: Reading and Writing Connections.” Scholastic.edu.

Scholastic, 2 July 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Ferris, Dana, and John Hedgcock. Teaching L2 Composition: Purpose, Process, and Practice.

Third ed. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014. Print.

Hirvela, Alan. Connecting Reading and Writing in Second Language Writing Instruction. Ann

Arbor: U of Michigan Press, 2004. Print.

“Taking Advantage of the Reading/Writing Connection.” Empowering Writers. Empowering

Writers., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Redressing Rights: The Indigenous Peoples’ Journey to the United Nations

Redressing Rights: The Indigenous Peoples’ Journey to the United Nations

To best understand the reasons behind Indigenous Peoples’ pursuit of the United Nations, one must revisit the 1920s and the story of Chief Deskeheh of the Haudenosaunee. Chief Deskeheh was the first Indigenous leader who attempted to speak at the League of Nations in Geneva, and he was allowed access because Canada had a seat through the British Empire. Sharon Venne, a Cree attorney and scholar, explains that “under international law, colonisers do not have a right of self-determination, whereas the colonised do…Deskeheh, living within a coloniser state, was able to lobby on the basis of treaties made with his ancestors.” (558). His reason for wanting acceptance from the League of Nations lied within the fact that Indigenous Peoples had historically been organized and self-governing peoples. Other nation-states were recognized as sovereign nations and had trade agreements and rights, and Deskeheh believed Indigenous Peoples should not be the exception to that rule. Although Deskeheh received some support, Canada and Great Britain outright prevented him from appealing to the League of Nations, going as far as directly “attacking the traditional longhouse council” of the Haudenosaunee (Venne 558). Not only did the League refuse to hear him, Canada also went as far as changing the Indian Act in 1927 which stopped Indians from fund-raising or taking legal action against the nation. It was not until a new institution appeared, the United Nations, and 66 years passed before “Indigenous peoples would be able to address an international meeting in [their] own voices.” (Venne 559).

There were several key issues that Indigenous Peoples were hoping to find reparation in by appealing to the United Nations. For one, their struggles had not been the slightest bit alleviated, and they had even worsened in some cases. Venne explained the situation vividly: “Indigenous peoples were being driven from our lands, our resources were being used without our consent, and our treaties were being disregarded by Canada and the United States.” Indigenous Peoples throughout North American banded together to discuss ways to regain their lands and rights while reestablishing treaties. In 1977, they convened at a Non-Governmental Organization held at the United Nations in Geneva. They brought many issues to the table, and “over 100 Indigenous peoples testified about the effects of natural resources exploitation, ‘development’ projects, repression and genocide.” (Venne 559). They rejected the label of minorities and asked to be recognized as people and for the UN to study their problems and struggles. Much of their arguments inspired the reports of José Martinez Cobo who was chosen “to undertake a comprehensive study of the problems of discrimination against Indigenous populations.” (Venne 561). Loosely paraphrased, the reports expressed the Indigenous Peoples’ desires to retain the little land they had left, to being the process of regaining the land wrongfully taken from them, to be recognized as a sovereign nation through means of language and institutions, and to maintain all of the above to be transferred to future generations. Cobo concluded that “the current international instruments did not contain provisions adequate to protect Indigenous peoples,” and therefore a declaration needed to be drafted (Venne 562).

Indigenous Peoples had some key principles underlying their movement. One is the right to self-governance—something all Indigenous Peoples has prior to colonization being forced upon them. When Indigenous Peoples reconvened in Geneva in 1977, they “could not use international mechanisms then in existence to decolonize…because the United States, Canada and other states refused to allow Indigenous peoples to use the UN Committee on Decolonization.” (Venne 564). Essentially, they are barred from many changes due to this one constraint. Another founding principle is the basic rights Indigenous Peoples have been prevented from asserting for many years. They had pushback in this area, too, because “the UN human rights system was set up to deal with the rights of individuals based on the Western model of human rights,” and these definitions are not inclusive of collective rights which is a crucial aspect of many Indigenous cultures (Venne 566). “The Declaration of Principles (Indigenous Draft Principles) was adopted at the Preparatory Meeting of Indigenous Peoples held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 27–31 July 1987,” and there were 22 principles in all submitted (Venne 568). In summary, they included themes such as self-determination, access to and permanent control over aboriginal ancestral-historical territories, rights to share and use land in a collective way, self-governance, restitution for violations of previous treaties, protection of history and culture, trade and relationships between Indigenous communities across the world, and the right to be recognized as subjects of international law.

After the 22 principles were submitted, it was an uphill battle for Indigenous Peoples to ensure they were incorporated into the final declaration. Venne argues that “in some ways, the struggle continues to this day.” (571). While the Indigenous Peoples had been working on their 22 principles, the UN issued Working Group had created their own 7 principles centered on anti-discrimination efforts by giving Indigenous Peoples equal rights and opportunity in political, economic, and social realms. The two approaches, when compared side-by-side, are significantly different in their scopes and overall intent. For example, the first principle of the Working Group “speaks to ‘[t]he right to the full and effective enjoyment of the fundamental rights and freedoms universally recognized in existing international instruments, particularly in the Charter of the United Nations and the International Bill of Human Rights,’” which was addressed in the International Bill of Human Rights, “which is not the primary concern of Indigenous peoples.” (Venne 571-572). The Working Group model also includes an individualistic focus while Indigenous Peoples prefer the collective rights of their nations. When the two principle works were present to the opposite group, there were many confrontations and disagreements. Finally, “the Working Group took up the Indigenous Draft Principles as a starting point for a Draft Declaration.” (Venne 572).

As the Working Group continued the draft in the early 1990s, some states like Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia pushed back on certain concepts like self-determination, ultimately resulting in them removing that section from the draft. This caused an uproar from Indigenous Peoples, and “the five members of the Working Group agreed to accept that Indigenous peoples have a right to self-determination.” (Venne 573). Even after the change, states like Canada misconstrued definitions of the declaration and tried to twist them in a way that still kept rights away from Indigenous Peoples. Finally, the Declaration passed, but it did so with great opposition from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. These nation-states have consistently sought to undermine the concerns of Indigenous peoples, so it is no coincidence that they continued to do so by opposing the adoption of the UN Declaration. A common theme of denial from these nation states is a struggle with accepting the lawful right of self-determination that Indigenous peoples possess. It is, perhaps, rooted in land and territory disputes because these nations do not want to give the rights of the resources back to a group of people they deem ill-worthy of political recognition. To this day, there are discrepancies over the term “Indigenous” and they are making excuses saying the term is not clearly defined for legal purposes, as well as arguments about how Indigenous rights do not “align” with their political beliefs or constitutions. In conclusion, these country leaders do not want to give up the stolen land and resources and/or deal with the consequences of their historical wrongdoings. It is a small victory that these four countries have since changed their vote in favor of the Declaration, but the work of Indigenous peoples in the UN is far from over.

Works Cited

Venne, Sharon H. “The Road to the United Nations and Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Griffith

Law Review 20.3 (2011): 557-77. Print.

Assessing the Indigenous Research Scenario in Light of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Readings

Assessing the Indigenous Research Scenario in Light of Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Readings

All life on Earth should be respected, and when non-consenting or manipulated Indigenous peoples are being used as human guinea pigs for personal gain in the name of science, the matter has become a human rights concern. The theoretical example presented in this week’s essay discussion prompt was riddled with ethical issues related to research of Indigenous peoples. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, a professor of indigenous education at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, argues that unethical research of Indigenous nations traces back to the earliest years of colonization efforts. Centuries later, similar situations are still ongoing and the ethical concerns include, but are not limited to, the following: group consent issues, individual consent issues, the relationship between the group and individual consent, a risk/benefit analysis of the research, and secondary use consent issues. However, in order to fully understand the modern concerns associated with Indigenous research, one must revisit the reason for the distrust in the first place.

When colonizers first began taking control of the Maori tribes in New Zealand, they were calculated in their approach and always pretended their actions—including destroying Indigenous traditions and placing them on reserves—were for the betterment of all people. The Maori tribes were virtually controlled without any consent on their part, and “the issue is not just that they are blamed for their own failures but that it is also communicated to them, explicitly or implicitly, that they themselves have no solutions to their own problems.” (Smith 92).  Since they were historically viewed by settlers in a negative light and experienced the detrimental effects of colonization and the eradication of their culture, Indigenous peoples have a just fear of so-called research and betterment for their nation. As Smith puts it, “in the research context the terms ‘research’ and ‘problem’ are also closely linked,” and therefore any discussion of those terms in an interrelated context sets off warning signals in Indigenous communities (92). The historical trends clearly set the stage for a number of new concerns related to Indigenous research in the modern world.

The first category, group consent issues, is made evident in theoretical scenario offered up in the essay prompt. The Indigenous tribe as a whole was clearly hesitant (rightfully so) about the idea of research been conducted on them for Type II diabetes. Still, they agreed to meet with the researchers and formed their own committee of leaders, elders, local scientists, and other members of the community. This deciphering process held true to the movements Smith discussed in her work, such as Article 45 of the Indigenous Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests signed in Penang in 1993, which states “all investigations in our territories should be carried out with our consent and under joint control and guidance.” (119). In the scenario, the committee decided after much consideration that the research was not ultimately necessary for or beneficial to their people. This was the first violation be the research team because they proceeded regardless as if they had group consent.

This plays directly into another issue: individual consent. Similar to group consent, the individual has innate rights to protect Indigenous traditions and knowledge. Since Indigenous peoples have had their rights stripped away in the past, “they have attempted through the development of instruments such as treaties, charters and declarations to send clear signals to the world’s scientific and research communities that open-cast mining approaches to research are absolutely unacceptable.” (Smith 118). The research team from the university chose to go behind the committee’s decision to refuse research and infiltrated the community by planting their propaganda in the office of a cooperative local doctor. This act directly impeded on the rights of individual consent because the individuals had elected group leaders on their behalf and that decision to refuse research was treated with ultimate disregard. Individual and group consent and closely interwoven, and what impacts one ultimately impacts the other.

These initial two categories have a problem that lies within their relationship and how it relates to consent. By placing the research study guides in the doctor’s office, the research team successfully lured a number of Indigenous peoples with Type II diabetes to participate in studies. This seemingly disconnected act of individual consent directly violated the group consent because the Indigenous committee had banned the research from taking place within the community. The volunteers, led on by the doctor and researchers, not only had their “rights, interests, and sensitivities” exposed, they also indirectly shared the protected information of their people without group consent (Smith 119). It is clear that the two are too closely interwoven and that group and individual consent should have both been given prior to any research moving forward.

Next, there is a risk/benefit analysis associated with research. In this scenario, the Indigenous peoples had little to gain from the study because Type II diabetes is not something that needs to be targeted on an Indigenous level. It was also risky because “they noted their opposition to research on the remains of their ancestors and questioned this particular researcher’s involvement in an ostensibly medical genetic study on diabetes.” (Class Lecture Notes). Like much of the research and practices forced on Indigenous peoples throughout the decades and even centuries, this particular program did little to benefit the group being studied. What made it worse was the deeper and underlying purpose of the study that was rooted not in Type II diabetes, but rather anthropological genetic research. If the true intentions of the research had been made clear from the beginning, a decision would have been reached sooner and it is probably that no individuals would have taken part in the research.

Finally, there is a consent issue related directly to secondary use which is made clear through the most recent analysis. Since the Indigenous individuals were deceived under the guise of Type II diabetes research, it is completely unethical for the researchers to use their findings for anything but said research. The fact the cooperating individuals believed they were participating in a diabetes study is dishonest at best and a direct violation of human rights at worst. Ultimately, it is a sign of complete and utter disrespect to Indigenous peoples. Smith says this is interconnected to most Indigenous concerns because “the denial by the West of humanity to Indigenous peoples, the denial of citizenship and human rights, the denial of the right to self-determination—all these demonstrate palpably the enormous lack of respect which has marked the relations of Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples.” (120).

It is clear that this entire scenario was one giant consent issue and directly related to a lack of respect for Indigenous peoples. If the research team had been transparent in the beginning with their true intentions, the community would have known right away that they would not have wanted to participate. The doctor would have most likely been opposed to the propaganda being placed in the office. Even if it had been placed, the individuals would not have been susceptible to said propaganda because the motives would have been transparent. If the research had truly been just about Type II diabetes, it still would not have been necessary or beneficial to the Indigenous peoples and the consent would still be needed from all parties. Anything that disrespects the consent practices at any time is intrusive on human rights and should have appropriate consequences for the malevolent actions.

Works Cited

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed, 2012. Print.

Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 7 of a Semester’s Reflections

Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 7 of a Semester’s Reflections

*Please read Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 1 of a Semester’s Reflections for an explanation of this series. This week’s post is a response to a reading from an insightful book on successfully publishing serious non-fiction. Below is the question prompt followed by my response.

For your blog/project assignment, make a simple list of your book’s chapters: give a working title for each chapter and a tentative, very short summary of what each chapter will cover. At this point, try to keep the chapter summaries to just 2-3 sentences each. In addition to summarizing each chapter’s scope, go ahead and indicate which type of chapter it will be, using Rabiner’s three categories: context chapter, narrative chapter, and break-narrative chapter. Lastly, after you make your table of contents and brief chapter summaries, finish your blog post with a statement about which part(s) of the book you’ll be drafting for your sample chapter. Give a couple reasons to explain why you have chosen to focus on that portion of the book.

I must admit this assignment intimidated me more than I anticipated. It’s typical to approach school assignments from a small mindset that’s hedged in by the safe walls of education, so looking at this like an actual project, a real book submission, is unnerving. Still, I’m looking forward to plotting out how this would break down. I’m currently unsure of which chapter would be best-suited for my sample chapter. Hopefully, this assignment will decide for me.

Introduction-

Self-explanatory, and Rabiner said “you don’t need to explain what will be in the introduction or epilogue.” It will, however, be narrative-driven and one of the more personal chapters of the book.

Part 1 (A brief history of the wolves in North America including the effect of settlers from the mid-1600s, recovery and rehabilitation efforts by environmentalists from the 1960s, and modern-day conservation efforts):

Chapter 1: Legend, Lore, and Legacy: The History of the Wolves in North America

This would mostly be a context chapter discussing some of the scientific origins of wolves and their characteristics. However, that would flow directly into their earliest history in North America and briefly begin the narrative by expounding on their interactions with the Indigenous Americans and how they lived in harmony with people and other species. This chapter would lead up to the start of the 1600s.

Chapter 2: Malicious Monsters: The Colonial Impact and the War on Wolves

This would be a narrative chapter and unfold the destruction of the environment and the direct attacks on wolves and other predators by colonial conquerors. This chapter is the backbone of the argument because it’s the direct cause of the wolves’ plight as well as all the environmental problems we face today. It will hint at the future impacts our ancestors’ actions caused and raise many questions that will not be fully addressed until the end of the book (here’s a hint: the malicious monsters are not the wolves).

Chapter 3: Answering the Call of the Wild: Deliberate and Coincidental Human-Wolf Interactions

This would be a break-narrative chapter that focuses on personal encounters with wolves in the wild and the humans who dared to answer their call. It will span from the days of Lewis and Clark all the way to a modern-day New Zealand couple who, with their dog, spent an entire year within stroking distance of these wilderness sages. I’m also considering including fictional or ancient tales of wolf-human interactions, like Native American histories and stories like The Jungle Book.

Chapter 4: Defending the Predator: The Subtle Journey from Resurgence to Silence

This would be a narrative chapter introducing the table-turning effect of the environmental awakening fronted by the likes of Rachel Carson and other public intellectuals in the 1960s. It will then describe the fallout during the 80s and the turn from environmental awareness. The chapter will close with the current situation today, including the open hunting of wolves and other predators in many states as well as the toll people are taking on the environment.

Part 2 (The benefit of wolves to our ecosystem and what will happen if things do not change or worsen, and suggestions to sustain and grow the wolf population):

Chapter 5: A Natural Antidote: The Wolf’s Critical Role in Restoring the Environment

This will be a strict context chapter that explains the positive impact wolves have on the ecosystem and therefore society—what impacts one species impacts another, and so on. This one will be extremely research and science-driven and will include a section on the transformation of Yellowstone after wolves were reintroduced.

Chapter 6: And Then There Was One: The Captivity Program and Reintroduction Challenges

This is a continuing narrative chapter and will discuss the process of reintroduction efforts from the mid-80s to the present. It will still incorporate hard data like wolf populations throughout rehabilitation and the exact processes used by scientists and reintroduction experts, but it will continue with the narrative feel discussing on-going efforts today and the challenges wolves and their protectors face.

Chapter 7: The Magic Pack: The Return to Glacier National Park

This is a break-narrative chapter closely following a specific wolf pack. It will force the readers to view the wolves in a direct narrative and personal light as I illustrate the struggles of a reintroduced pack, and emphasizing the wolves’ names and their relationships should show the readers a human side that they hopefully won’t be able to detach from easily. This should be successful after reading (in chapter 2) about how mankind put them in this detrimental situation in the first place.

Chapter 8: An Alpine Line: The Tipping Point Between Man and the Natural World and Visions of Equilibrium

The final chapter is a narrative that is strongly based on my own conclusions and projections given the history and research to this point. It will paint the picture of two possible futures: one with wolves and one without. I want to end the chapter with the latter because I want that climax of emotion prior to my epilogue.

Epilogue-

Like the introduction, this section has a clear purpose. That being said, I intend to reiterate the steps people must take to better the future of the wolves and the environment (and, ultimately, ourselves). It’s going to be part conclusion and part call to action.

 

For the sample chapter, my instinct is to draw the first portion from chapters 2 and 4 (what I’m talking about) and the second half from chapters 5 and 8 (what I’m saying). This will give me historical grounds to build upon and a scientific approach to stabilize my claims, ultimately resulting in a sound diving board for my argument: the need for wolves and what life will look like without them if we do not acknowledge the errors of our ways.

Fighting Biocolonialism Within an Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights Framework

Fighting Biocolonialism Within an Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights Framework

“We hold that life cannot be bought, owned, sold, discovered or patented, even in its smallest form.” -1995 Declaration Issued by Indigenous Organizations

Biocolonialism is a modern term that casts genetics research in its true light, showing the role it plays as an aggressive and damaging assimilation against indigenous peoples. Dr. Debra Harry, a Northern Paiute woman who serves as the Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, states “the biocolonisation process requires access to, and ownership of, the world’s genetic resources (both human and non-human) for the development of new genetic products and processes.” (703). Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are one of the most dangerous front-runners of the process as it the long-term effects of genetic food modification is unknown. Dr. Harry also believes the commercialization and release GMO crops ultimately threatens food security while simultaneously impacting the “cultural and spiritual relationships that Indigenous peoples have with their traditional foods and medicines” in a negative manner (703). The heart of the biocolonialism movement fosters attempts to control and own natural resources, thereby directly impacting the ancient knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples. To protect Indigenous knowledge, one must study the “intersection of international standard-setting debates related to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and Indigenous peoples’ advocacy in the assertion and protection of their rights in international fora.” (Harry 706). There are two primary frameworks in which people can protect the rights of international Indigenous knowledge: the intellectual property rights framework or an Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights framework. While both have their pros and cons, the latter is most consistent with Indigenous ideologies and is ultimately better for the planet and people long-term.

Championed by big industry, Indigenous authors like Laurie Ann Whitt believe the intellectual property rights framework solely benefits the biotech industry with little regard given to Indigenous peoples or nature (Harry 704). When an aspect of Indigenous heritage is claimed by these intellectual property rights, it becomes just another commodity to be bought, branded, and sold, directly conflicting with the cultural values of most Indigenous communities. In fact, most Indigenous peoples are so opposed to this idea that in 1995, many Indigenous organizations issued a meeting of Indigenous groups from the Western Hemisphere to call for no patents on life forms (Harry 705). Aside from clashing with Indigenous ideas, the intellectual property rights framework is extremely focused on short-term benefits, giving little regard to the future of all people. The idea of being able to patent nature is a dangerous one; prior to the Patent Act of 1980, “laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas were not patentable subject-matter.” (Harry 717). The intellectual property rights framework argues that it can still protect Indigenous rights, but few Indigenous peoples have faith in it because the best it can do is limit “economic benefit when IK, GR or TCEs are used commercially if Indigenous peoples themselves are the IP holder.” (Harry 718). The life of patent protection is usually capped at 20 years, therefore, even this meager shield is short-lived. The main issue with this form of protection is that it is attempting to protect property when the Indigenous relationship with nature is built around the concept of natural resources being anything but property.

An Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights framework is founded on the idea of “self-determination as the basis for [Indigenous] proprietary, inherent and inalienable rights over [their] traditional knowledge and biological resources.” (Harry 719). Self-determination is a human right, and although international law recognizes and upholds it, states rarely legitimize the self-determination rights of Indigenous peoples (Harry 720). The states’ fears are centered around their colonial goals being undermined by the beliefs and ideologies of Indigenous peoples. By impeding on Indigenous rights set forth by international laws, states are casting aside the valuable answers that lie within Indigenous knowledge systems. While colonial ideology is “compartmentalized and specialized, and are often reductionist in nature,” Indigenous knowledge systems are interwoven with their “rich cultural heritage and the territories.” (Harry 722). If one closely follows those values, it is clear that no aspect of nature can be patented or sold because it is impossible to separate one entity from the other. Dr. Harry poses a brilliant question by asking “how could anyone possibly claim a right to sell Indigenous intellectual traditions when those traditions are a gift from previous generations and the birthright of future generations?” (722). It is dishonorable and a direct violation of human rights to patent nature. There are no disadvantages to following an Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights framework, save for the big industry leaders who care only for short-term profit.

Due to the complete disregard for nature and their rights as Indigenous peoples, some tribes have “declared their territories life-form patent-free zones, while others have enacted local and national legislation to regulate research.” (Harry 723-724). While the international deliberations remain stagnant, Indigenous peoples must continue to fight the battle locally and exercise self-determination by choosing to be non-subjects of unlawful state choices. To obtain actual protection of Indigenous knowledge, Dr. Harry recommends the following: limiting the IPR regime so it only protects true innovation and creative works; furthering the expulsion of IK and genetic resources that have been wrongfully claimed; categorizing IK, TCEs and genetic resources as unchallengeable heritage, making them outside the laws relevant to the public domain (724). Although it is up to the “United Nations to ‘monitor and take action against any States whose persistent policies and activities damage the cultural and intellectual property rights of Indigenous peoples,’” states must recognize the “collective rights of Indigenous peoples to protect their genetic resources and Indigenous knowledge on their own terms and to live free from the threat and impacts of biocolonialism.” (Harry 725). Changes to the Western law will never fully protect Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity, and the only solution to ensure Indigenous heritage survive is to follow Indigenous traditions and to avoid commercial exploitation at all costs. The ancient wisdom of the Elders sums it up best by explaining that “Indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage must be lived and practiced, and transmitted from generation to generation within our communities, as we have been doing for millennia.” (Harry 725).

Works Cited

Harry, Debra, “Biocolonialism and Indigenous Knowledge in United Nations Discourse.”

Griffith Law Review, Volume 20, No. 3, 2011.

Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 6 of a Semester’s Reflections

Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 6 of a Semester’s Reflections

*Please read Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 1 of a Semester’s Reflections for an explanation of this series. This week’s post is a response to a reading from an insightful book on successfully publishing serious non-fiction. Below is the question prompt followed by my response.

In this week’s blog post, I want you to reflect on the research you gathered last week. With your sample chapter in mind, how might you foreground any key players or pivotal events to organize your material around a narrative thread? In other words, in examining your sources, can you formulate “a question with a curious mind at the center”? This is not to say that your sample chapter has to read like a story from start to finish, nor does it have to be totally character-driven. You’re just examining your research sources with narrative criteria in mind; try to identify some story elements that might draw on to help make readers feel more viscerally situated in your subject matter.

Rabiner said something early in the chapter that got me thinking this week: “Once you have your book’s major question and answer, you have key components of narrative: (a) a clear beginning and a clear ending; (b) a compelling reason to navigate your reader to that end; and (c) a clear sense of the key players or concepts who/that will come into the story, shaping how it can and should be told.”

Going back to my proposal, I have two large questions that seem to be driving my book. I have yet to condense them into one concise question, let alone derive the answer. If I were to do just that right now, my question would be as follows: how do we get Americans to start genuinely caring again about protecting the wolves, their habitat, and all the other creatures that take part in that symbiont relationship? The answer is another environmental awaking. We need to finish what we started in the 1960s. People are apathetic to sustainable living, and that’s far more dangerous than being adamantly against it. After all, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”—thanks, Edmund Burke. I think a lightbulb just went on in my head, too. I have been looking at this project with the wolves as my leading characters, and rightfully so because this book is about wolves. However, for the sake of narrative and the relational aspects of it, I think my leading characters should be men, not wolves. That is ultimately what drives this book and its main question. It’s what mankind has done to wolves and our world; it’s what we have done with this gift we never deserved in the first place. We’ve divided it up, sold, abused it, misused it, exploited it, and now it’s a mere shadow of the reciprocal paradise that once thrived.

The narrative story is man and his “colonize and conquer” mindset that destroys animals, nature, and humans alike. Much of my book is a history, so maybe it’s best narratively speaking to forecast the extremely detrimental periods where mankind exploited wolves and nature, and then show the events that led up to it, or the key players and mindsets behind the actions. It will be a lot of gloom and doom for about two-thirds of the book, so I’m hoping to use the last third to show people in a positive light; i.e. what they have down as of recent to better the wolves and the Earth, and then what we can do to prevent more damage from unfolding. What I’m telling is a story, and the beauty of it is that the story isn’t over. It’s still being written, and people need to realize the role they play in this life as the leading characters. As I continue to research, I will look closely at people throughout history that symbolize both sides of the environmental battle, and then use these ideologies to drive my narrative.

Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 5 of a Semester’s Reflections

Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 5 of a Semester’s Reflections

*Please read Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 1 of a Semester’s Reflections for an explanation of this series. This week’s post is a response to a reading from an insightful book on successfully publishing serious non-fiction. Below is the question prompt followed by my response.

Identify five major sources that will likely inform the argument/analysis you plan to advance in your sample chapter. You can simply list the title of each source and, one by one, make notes about what’s most pertinent in the source and how it may factor into your sample chapter. You can make your notes in the form of bullet points or a paragraph. Essentially, your objective here is to build up a reservoir of salient material that you can readily draw on to stimulate your writing, to keep your momentum toward that next sentence.

After revisiting the importance of research and finding myself thoroughly intimidated by Wulf’s 100+ pages of research in her non-fiction work on Humboldt, I spent most of this morning scouring resources that might help me develop and better understand my argument. I’m not certain where I want to go with my sample chapter, so my top five sources are a variety of works that inspire possible points of interest and arguments:

  1. Predator Defense
  • This first source is a website and it will help tremendously with current events. Historical and scientific research are crucial to my book, but it will be irrelevant if I’m not staying consistent with what is happening right now with the wolves in North America.
  • The website keeps statistics updated regularly and will provide my chapter with some hard-hitting numbers and facts.
  • Since it’s not specific to wolves, it will have a broader field of impact I can draw from. It should help me draw on the interconnections between the species and how what impacts one will directly affect the other.
  • Finally, there’s a section on suggestions regarding how people can help defend the predators, and since my book is ultimately a nature revival/call to action, I need to strengthen that area through similar means.
  1. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation by David L. Mech (thanks to my classmate for suggesting this author to me)
  • Mech is perhaps one of the most obsessed wolf writers out there. While most of his content focuses on the species and their livelihood, he scatters moments of conservation and calls for protection in his books.
  • Mech will also help bring my chapter credibility because he is a senior research scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and the Department of Ecology and Behavioral Biology at the University of Minnesota.
  • This one fascinated me because of his marriage between history/science and general appreciation. I’m hoping to study how he synthesizes the varying ideas while also gathering some concrete facts about wolves and their way of life.
  1. Wolves in the Land of Salmon by David Moskowitz
  • I came across this title thanks to my local librarian. She said that she wasn’t an environmentalist and knew little about “that whole green scene,” but she had surprisingly read this book. Since it appealed to her as a less-than-avid-wolf-fan, I figured learning the author’s style would be beneficial at the very least.
  • Moskowitz is from wrote this by the pacific northwest, my home, so I thought I could relate well to his references and the wolves in that area. This book focuses on the wolves being a key symbol for nature and that’s something I’m trying to drive home with this sample chapter.
  • It seems to focus on a lot of specific stories or instances, and I believe that will strengthen the narrative and personal vibe of the chapter. I know I’m throwing a lot of facts and rally cries at the reader, so I want to be sure to add the personal features needed to make it stand out and resonate with people.
  1. The Predator Paradox: Ending the War with Wolves, Bears, Cougars, and Coyotes by John A. Shivik
  • Like my first source, this one is all-inclusive regarding predators in danger. The same reasons apply, but I added this book as well because while it’s not going to be as current as that website, it is more developed and written by a credible expert in wildlife management.
  • One of my favorite things about this source is the fact that it’s centered on finding new ways for humans and mammalian predators to coexist.
  • He also strives to find solutions that aid the wildlife without greatly impacting mankind, and this balance is something I could study more because my answer often errs towards making the humans pay for their mistakes. A healthy balance can be achieved, so I’m eager to see where Shivik believes the answer lies.
  1. Gray Wolf Conservation
  • My last source is another website that focuses on a specific sub-species. Gray wolves are the ones most people envision when they imagine wolves and they are naturally the largest in population (under normal circumstances).
  • This site has a nice ratio of history to research papers/article to current news. It’s somewhat like my first source, but this one is wolf-specific.
  • I also found a lot of great pictures, and while I may not be inserting them in my sample chapter, it does inspire me and will aid me in setting the scene for my chapter.
  • Finally, this website has a special section on wolves in captivity. This is a crucial aspect of conservation because captivity programs have been the center of stabling populations and they work hand-in-hand with reintroduction programs.