DIGNITY for the Seventh Generation Coming

By Dana Gluckstein, Photographer & Activist

DIGNITY: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples chronicles my life journey with ninety museum collected photographs created over thirty years. DIGNITY features eloquent writings from icons such as Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Native American Faithkeeper, Oren R. Lyons and celebrates Amnesty International, the Nobel Peace-Prize winning organization, during its 50th anniversary year.

DIGNITY also chronicles centuries of painful struggle for Indigenous Peoples leading to the historic victory of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recently adopted by 146 nations. DIGNITY is inspirational, bold and explicit with a critical call to action as the United States and Canada voted against this important human rights declaration even after thirty years of UN debate.

Why is it important to listen to the wisdom of the “ancient ones” – the ancestors of the planet’s first peoples? Faithkeeper Oren R. Lyons in his scholarly introduction to DIGNITY states, “A thousand years ago or more, the Great Peace Maker (of the Iroquois) came among our people.. .He said to us, ‘When you sit in council for the welfare of the people, think not of yourself, nor of your family, or even your generation. Make your decisions for the seventh generation coming so that they may enjoy what you have here today. If you do this, there will be peace.’ That is a profound instruction on responsibility that should be the basis for the world’s decision makers today.”


Archbishop Desmond Tutu on "Dignity"

A forward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Dignity: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous People, a book benefiting Amnesty International

Indigenous peoples throughout the world have something profound and important to teach those of us who live in the so called modern world.  I have long believed this to be true, even before I discovered to my delight that I was related to the San People of southern Africa. I suspect that if each of us looks far enough back into our genome we will discover that we are all indeed related.

Indigenous Peoples remind us of this fact. They teach us that the first law of our being is that we are set in a delicate network of interdependence with our fellow human beings and with the rest of creation. In Africa recognition of our interdependence is called ubuntu. It is the essence of being human. It speaks of thefact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong to the whole, to the community, to the tribe, to the nation, to the earth. Ubuntu is about wholeness, about compassion for life.

Ubuntu has to do with the very essence of what it means to be human, to know that you are bound up with others in the bundle of life. In our fragile and crowded world we can survive only together. We can be truly free, ultimately, only together. We can be human only together. To care about the rights of Indigenous Peoples is to care about the relatives of one’s own human family.

The Indigenous Peoples of the world have a gift to give that the world needs desperately, this reminder that we are made for harmony, for interdependence. If we are ever truly to prosper, it will be only together.


What Do Sting, Desmond Tutu, and JK Rowling Have in Common?

They believe in the power of Amnesty International and our millions-strong global human rights movement:

“I feel that Amnesty International is the most civilized organization in history. Its currency is the written word. Its weapon is the letter; that’s why I am a member. I believe in its non-violence; I believe in its effectiveness.” – Sting

“Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. … Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet.” – J K Rowling

“It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. And never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.” – Bishop Desmond Tutu

Won’t you join them and millions of others worldwide in defending human rights?  Alone, a candle – Amnesty’s symbol – is a fragile, flickering light that can be extinguished by a whisper.  Shared by millions, it becomes a shining beacon of hope.  It becomes Amnesty International.

This month, we’re passing the candle to you.  Keep it bright with your gift.  Donate in September and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar! Please pass it on to inspire others to join our movement.

Mugabe Says Things in Zimbabwe are Just Fabulous

President Robert Mugabe granted an interview to CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour today – his first interview with a Western news agency in years. Mugabe spoke to Amanpour while he was in New York attending the UN General Assembly meeting. The interview yielded many choice soundbites. Here are a few of my favorites:

He denied that Zimbabwe is in economic shambles, saying it grew enough food last year to feed all its people. Which is interesting because the World Food Program is busily feeding 1.8 million people in Zimbabwe and Malawi is busily selling maize to Zimbabwe because it needs to import food to feed its citizens.

In refuting criticisms leveled against his government’s policies by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mugabe said  “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the little man.” Hmmm. The Nobel Peace Prize committee might refute that assertion.

Elections don’t go all that smoothly all the time in many countries,” he said. “Look what happens elsewhere. They didn’t go smoothly here, look at what happened during the first term of Bush.” Ok. Valid that elections don’t always go smoothly. However, if you are going to point specifically at the Bush/Gore contest as your comparative example, you might want to think again; because even though many of us were pretty darn unhappy with how things went down, there are some very stark differences between Zimbabwe in 2008 and the US in 2000.

First, not going “smoothly” is probably a pretty good description of events in the US whereas it masterfully understates events in Zimbabwe. In the time between the actual vote and the final determination of who won, people were not killed, tortured and sexually assaulted in the US in an attempt to create an atmosphere of political intimidation.

Second, our political stand off was resolved by the US Supreme Court and ended with a peaceful transfer of power (whether we wanted it or not). In Zimbabwe, Mugabe had his arm twisted into a power sharing agreement and then signed that agreement with his fingers crossed behind his back.

Now I’m not ever going to say that things are all sweetness and light and wonderful in the US, but I do think Mugabe could have come up with a slightly better comparison if he wanted to make a point that elections don’t always go “smoothly.”

You can watch the interview here and respond in our comments section with your favorite moments.