Idle No More

On December 10th, mass actions were coordinated across Canada by Indigenous peoples and allies to challenge the Harper government’s neglect of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit issues. The pervasive resource extraction on native lands, stifling poverty and mortality rates on reserves and ongoing indifference to treaty rights by the Harper administration are the major focal points for agitation. This continued movement, self named Idle No More, represents all First nations, Inuit, Metis, and allies of every shade who seek to decolonize not just the political landscape but the forms of protest as well. From Victoria, BC to Montreal, QB and solidarity actions from LA to London, the possibilities for grass roots actions ranging from Flash Mobs to teach-ins has enabled a broad array of people to engage the movement’s call for everyday resistance. The issues facing Indigenous peoples have always been a part of Canada’s nation building and myth making, just as they are in the United States and the Americas. Further to the point for archives, the ongoing attempt at gathering and recording the human rights abuses of the church and state in the past through Indian Residential Schools will remain a disembodied historical corpse as long as the Canadian government, and large swaths of the settler population, continue to ignore the past’s clutch on the colonized present.  What better way to make good on the apology issued by Harper before parliament than to present some truth and reconciliation by addressing how the current “institution neglects and abuses” those of the generations after residential schools.  How tar sands, pipelines, damming and mining operations will ensure the destruction of the ecosystem.  How incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples is nine times greater than the national average.  How the ongoing disassociation of urban population to rural land grows with each economic deregulation venture. 

Nigamo Pejig!      

UConn Archives & Special Collections, on Algonquin land, has a wide array of materials relating to struggles of Native Peoples throughout the 20th century in our radical Alternative Press Collection.

Welcome to Human Rights Day 2012

Our old blog has a new home!  Thanks for finding us. 

Today there are two things I would like to introduce you to: 1. Myself, 2. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 64th Anniversary

As the new Curator of Human Rights Collections in the Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at UConn, it is my goal to bring the global challenges of human rights to the archives.  My experiences in archives and activism working with the LGBTTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, Two Spirited, Queer) community, peace activists, Latin American Solidarity groups and Human Rights NGOs has provided me with the tools to address new concerns in the evolving discourse of human rights and archives.  My intention is to focus collections policy and public programming toward the inherent needs of individuals and groups researching, advocating and seeking/experiencing human rights. 

Now that you know who I am, lets talk about who you are and why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights matters.  In 1948, most of the world was reeling from the horrors of war and oppression under fascism and imperialism.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted as a wish-list of rights to safeguard humanity from the atrocities of those who marshaled state power.  The model of human rights was voiced through the vessel of state bodies both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction” (UDHR Preamble).  In the globalized 21st century, rights have undergone a neo-liberal shift from the state-sanctioned arena of expressions and charters, to now being scripted to bolster a new and ever evolving individual.  Economic individualism through the 20+ year old Free Trade agreements in North America have led the way in demonstrating that states are still very much involved in securing rights, largely for business to move freely and express rights of ownership.

The focus of this year’s 64th anniversary is on the liberation struggles in the Middle East and at home in the Occupy movements.  The necessity of the individual’s rights to assemble and demonstrate as well as participate in the election of state representatives, are guarantees that attempt to eschew the inherent flaws in the system in place.  However, what remains important is the historical legacy of this document which seeks to promote the always becoming nature of well being.  Where these worlds collide are in the textile factories of Bangladesh, where last week 112 workers died in a fire that was preventable.  Infuriatingly just the most recent travesty from the deregulated periphery, the factory made clothes for Wal-mart (among other US clothing managers)which benefits from cheap labor and nonresponsibility for externalities – such as fire safety measures which they refused to pay for.  Meanwhile, workers in Wal-mart stores across the US on November 23rd (Black Friday) participated in the largest demonstration in their history in order to demand adequate pay and benefits.  

Now you’re wondering where archives come in.  The role which history plays is that of the sounding board for current democratizing movements in the Middle East, the US and all over the world.  Archives provide context for how things came to be.  Collections which document the push and pull of state and society throughout the 20th century help build the framework for what is to be done in the future.  How the State responded to communities and organizations of people who challenged its ability to provide.  The newly administered States and their guarentees to the rights of the past must be advocated and built upon in the Middle East, the individual rights to work in a safe environment must be acquired in Bangladesh and South Asia as a region, and the economic ideology of US consumers and producers need catalyzing evidence which demonstrates that economic disparity is a human rights issue at home and abroad. 

On this day and everyday we can take action through historical reflection, it is paramount that we acknowledge where people have come from and what they had to overcome to get there/here/everywhere and what is still becoming the individual, the group, the community, the global.



New Tactics in Human Rights Online Diaglog on “Monitoring Accountability for Human Rights,” May 18 to 24, 2011

New Tactics and its featured resource practitioners will hold an on-line dialogue on Front Line Watchdogs: Monitoring accountability for human rights from May 18 to 24, 2011.

Front line watchdogs come in all shapes and sizes. They can be seen in courtrooms ensuring fair trials, accompanying threatened human rights defenders, holding vigil outside police stations to prevent torture, protecting election ballot results, testing for discrimination, monitoring development aid projects, investigating toxic waste from companies, etc., etc. While government bodies and corporations are often expected to monitor and regulate themselves, self-regulation does not always successfully uphold rights. Front line watchdogs take on this important citizen role of holding communities, government and corporations accountable.

Watchdog monitoring provides an opportunity to analyze, understand and influence abusive systems of power and to engage community members in human rights work.

In this dialogue, we will explore successful front line watchdog tactics, discuss lessons learned, challenges and opportunities for practitioners to adapt these tactics for their own issues and communities.

For information on how to participate, visit: