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Historical SymposiumLaying the groundwork for a review of 35 years of the promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights by establishing international and community archives and giving young people the means to continue this work of oral memory collection, thus ensuring the sustainability of the project

Historical Symposium


Laying the groundwork for a review of 35 years of the promotion of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights by establishing international and community archives and giving young people the means to continue this work of oral memory collection, thus ensuring the sustainability of the project

To be a Docip volunteer involves putting one’s skills at the service of indigenous delegates during their participation in the UN arena.

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2013 Historical Symposium

The first Symposium, entitled: "Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations", brought together the first Indigenous delegates coming before the UN and Indigenous youth from the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Arctic and the Pacific for a four-day conference in 2013. Laying the groundwork for a review of 35 years of the promotion of Indigenous Peoples' rights through intergenerational and interactive dialogue with a formal, symbolic and public component, the Symposium gave rise to rich discussions and results. The Symposium conferences were held from 10 to 13 September at the Palais des Nations, in Room XVI, where the elder delegates had been based in 1977. More than 70 people took part in the Symposium.

The event was also designed to publicize the historical role played by international Geneva and Switzerland, which has been welcoming Indigenous delegates ever since the first Conference on the rights of indigenous peoples and the international Conference on discrimination against indigenous populations of the Americas.

The objectives of the 2013 Symposium are:

  1. to organize and film a four-day Symposium that is intergenerational, intercultural and respectful of gender balance on the history of the promotion of the rights of Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations;
  2. to facilitate networking between the pioneers of indigenous presence at the UN and the younger generation;
  3. to train young people in the production of audio-visual materials and in methods of collecting and recording oral memory; and
  4. to publicize the central role played by human rights for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' rights.

This meeting produced the following results:

  • The final Declaration of the Symposium: adopted on the last day of the Symposium, this document summarizes the remarks made during the four days of conferences, concerning the reasons for which the first delegates resorted to the United Nations in the 1970s, the historical context of this period, as well as the role played by non-governmental organizations, the UN and the treaties in the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' rights.
  • The production/creation of a 35-minute public awareness video in English, French, Spanish and Russian, entitled: "Bridge to the Future: Indigenous youth document the success of the first delegates of indigenous peoples at the UN". The product of a collaborative effort of 7 indigenous youth, a professional videographer and Docip, this video compiles sequences of interventions and interviews of delegates invited to the Symposium, archival documents and images of the 1977 and 1981 conferences and the historical themes covered there, as well as footage shot later by the 7 indigenous youth in their respective home communities.
  • The publication and dissemination on the Internet of the Symposium Proceedings, a document of more than 200 pages that constitutes the full transcript of the interventions of the four days of the Symposium in the original languages (English, Spanish and French). It was a deliberate choice to transcribe the discussions in their entirety in order to better reflect the oral expression of participants (some parts of the interventions are in indigenous languages) and also to produce a document with historical value.
  • Organization of a side event during the Permanent Forum in New York, on 14 May 2014, to present the results of the Symposium. This event was organized specifically within the framework of the Permanent Forum in order to fulfil the implementation of its Recommendation, and in accordance with the will expressed by the participants at the Symposium, in Article 23 of the Final Declaration of the Symposium.
  • Organization of a meeting during the Permanent Forum in New York, on 17 May 2014, to present a more extensive research project on the transmission of oral memory among Indigenous Peoples, as suggested by Article 27 of the Final Declaration of the Symposium. This first meeting led to the desire to develop a project on the transmission and conservation of oral history among Indigenous Peoples, dealing particularly with issues of indigenous youth interviewing elders, as well as the protection and strengthening of indigenous languages, which ensure the transmission of culture and history of the communities.
  • An illustrated publication of a condensed version (100 pages) of the Symposium Proceedings in four languages (English, Spanish, French and Russian). This high-quality publication requires special attention in its work of transcribing the parts in indigenous languages and their translations into four languages. Similar consideration was paid to the illustrations, which were mostly created by indigenous artists, and to the searches for archival documents, images and photographs.

Watch the documentary: "Bridge to the Future" produced by indigenous youth who participated at the Symposium

2015 Historical Symposium

The success of the 2013 Symposium was such that it was decided to organize a second Symposium in 2015. Similar to the first, this event was designed to allow other former delegates, absent in 2013, to be able to share and transmit their experiences to the younger generation. This Symposium was designed to follow up on the work done by the young people and the commitments made between them and the elders in 2013. The Symposium, lasting four days at the UN in Geneva, brought together elders and youth from the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, the Pacific and Eastern Europe.

The objectives of the 2015 Symposium

  1. Ensure transmission of the international struggles of Indigenous Peoples from the older generation to the newer generations of indigenous activists in order to better guarantee the continuity of 38 years of indigenous participation at the UN.
  2. Prepare an assessment of these 38 years of work with international forums and its impact at the local level.
  3. Discuss the creation of an international Council of Indigenous Peoples, with the aim of facilitating the work of Indigenous Peoples at the international level and to advise the United Nations and indigenous delegates on international issues.


Symposium Committee

It is important to note that the two Symposiums were created and thought out by the indigenous delegates present, in collaboration with Docip.

The organizing committee of the Symposium 2013 is composed of:

  • Chief Oren Lyons, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations Confederacy ;
  • Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree, Member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP);
  • Carlos Mamani, Aymara ;
  • Bill Means, Oglala Sioux ;
  • José Carlos Morales, Brunka, former member of EMRIP ;
  • Mike Myers, Nation Seneca, Six Nations Confederacy.

The organizing committee of the Symposium 2015 is composed of:

  • Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree, Member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP);
  • Carlos Mamani, Aymara, historian;
  • José Carlos Morales, Brunca, former member of EMRIP;
  • Mike Myers, Seneca Nation, Six Nations Confederacy;
  • Nilo Cayuqueo, Mapuche;
  • Marcella Gilbet, Lakota;
  • Michael Eckford Aka Anderson, Euahlayi;
  • Mary Simat, Maasai;
  • Wayanay Mamani, Aymara youth;
  • Morgan Catlett, Cherokee youth.