Declaration by the Kanak Indigenous People

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

(translated from the original French)

Solemn declaration of August 23rd 2002 by the Kanak Indigenous People affirming their right on space and the natural heritage of Kanaky (New Caledonia)

We, the Kanak people, declare belonging to this land for more than several thousand of years,

We are part of the Melanesian peoples, peoples of the Pacific;

Our country, that we call Kanaky, as we are the Kanaks, is called New Caledonia by the international community;

Victims of European colonisation during the last centuries, we never ceased claiming for our rights, as people first occupying this country.

Today, theses rights have been recognised and re-affirmed in the Preamble of the Noumea Accord which begins as following:

"On September 24th 1853, when taking possession of the Main Island that James Cook named New Caledonia, France took over a territory under the conditions of international laws, then recognised by the Nations of Europe and America. France did not establish any legal relations with the indigenous population. Treaties agreed on during the year 1854 and the following years, with the traditional authorities, do not constitute balanced accords, but in fact, unilateral acts.

However, this territory was not empty.

The Main Island and the islands were inhabited by men and women that were called Kanaks. They had developed their own civilisation, with their traditions, their languages, their custom that organised the social and political field. They expressed their culture and their imaginary through diverse forms of creativity. The Kanak identity was founded on a particular tie to the land. Each individual, each clan, defined itself in a specific relationship with a valley, a hill, the sea, the mouth of a river, and kept memories of the welcoming of other families. Names that tradition gave to each landscape element, taboos marking some of them, customary paths structuring the space and the exchanges..."

With the colonial and western system settling, the country has integrated, while enduring it, a new logic of domination in the man's relations with nature and its environment. And while it has been question here, of the social, economic and cultural situation of the Kanaks , there is a dimension that has not yet been taken into consideration, that is of their physical environment and their natural heritage.

Since the first mining exploitation of the nineteenth century, the European man has marked the New Caledonian nature, with his indelible footprint. This nature has been subjected and enslaved to serve the western man et his thirst for wealth and power.

This logic, under the 19th century conditions, gave as result, what we do deplore today : mining pollution, disappearance of rivers, lagoons, forests.

In the mining sector, its over 210 millions of tonnes of ore that have been extracted after over 2 billions of tonne of soil, rocks, vegetation have been removed. 4,350,000 tonnes of nickel, chromium, iron, cobalt, copper and gold, in diverse quantities have enriched the mining exploitation owners and contributed to settle a industrial economy. In many places, not to say everywhere, pollution has been irremediable, without any economic and sustainable outcome to benefit the concerned indigenous local populations.

This logic of destruction, subjection and domination of the nature by the Western people towards money-grubbing goals, with excessive profits, of exploitation and domination, found, at the international level, its limits with the pollution problems, specially the question of the climate warming, the ozone layer which today, call upon the entire mankind. Man is now well aware that nature and its sustainability has no elasticity, and there are boundary limits not to go beyond. Let us mention, for the Pacific, the Apia Convention of 1976 and the Noumea Convention of 1986, and the world summits, of Rio, Kyoto, and the Johannesburg Summit which is taking place this year.

The country is now aware of the pollution from mining exploitation and bush fires. But today is already tomorrow, as it will be matter of drought over the whole country, and peaks of pollution over the town of Noumea and over the Great South.

Taking into account this past and the situation, New Caledonia needs to re-conciliate with its environment and with its natural heritage. It goes through the recognition of the indigenous Kanak, and his rights and control over the whole matter.

We affirm that has come the time to act and get recognition, in extending the Noumea Accord spirit and words, for the Kanak concept of the relationship with space, with the natural heritage, and mineral resources, and recognition as well, for the orientation principles of the Kanak law in the matter.

It is as much necessary, that, standing on a strong base - the indigenous reality - one must face the new industrial challenges awaiting for us, if we wish not to live once more, under other conditions, irreversible pollution at the scale of our country of which ecosystem is more than fragile. This would be the keystone for a true policy of maintaining a good quality life for the citizens of this country.

Considering the above statement;

Considering the different stages of the institutional evolution of the country, marked by the Kanak people's never ending struggle for the recognition of their rights, of which the fundamental, innate and active right to self-determination and independence.

Considering the signing in 1988 of the Matignon and Oudinot Accords;

Considering the signing on May 5th, 1998, of the Noumea Accord, in which the preamble enshrines:

In article 1 : the existence of the indigenous Kanak people having " their own civilisation, with their traditions, theirs languages, their custom that organised the social and political field... The Kanak identity founded on a particular tie to the land..."

In article 2 : the existence of other communities;

In article 3 : recognition of "the darkness of the colonial era, even though it was not out of light. The chock of colonisation constituted a sustainable trauma for the original population ..."

In article 4 : that "Ten years after, it is appropriate to enter a new stage, marked by the full recognition of the Kanak identity, prior to the re-foundation of a social contract between all communities that live in New Caledonia, and through sharing sovereignty with France, on the path to full sovereignty. The past has been the time of colonisation. Present is the time for re-balanced sharing. Future must be the time for the identity within a common destiny. France is ready to accompanying New Caledonia on this path..."

Taking account of the persistent effects of the declaration n°18 of January 1855 by Marquis du Bouzet, Governor of the French Settlements of Oceania, by which "the Governor has the exclusive right to buy the land occupied by the indigenous people and the ownership, as domains of the State, of all non-occupied lands, as well the forests, the construction timber, the mines and the resources of all kind comprised.";

Given the prevailing realities in the country, four years after the signing of the Noumea Accord;

Considering the situation of extreme deterioration of the natural spaces, in particular in the old mines and in the old mining exploitation and the lack of sustainable rehabilitation policy that the political and administrative authorities should implement on these polluted areas.

Considering the stakes and challenges that the kanak people must face as indigenous people, with their collective rights applied, and in relation with their specific identity;

Considering the re-affirmation, during the three Djii Djarù (January 12th, 13th and 14th, 2002), of the perennial indigenous myth, that of the Kanak natural and mineral heritage, symbolised by the timber totem s, planted on the Goro mine by the whole traditional authorities of the country, gathering around the chieftains hips of Goro and of the Djubea Kapoume Customary council, to whom was given the will of the Living, to protect and to guarantee our country against pollution of all kind and against mining and industrial pollution in particular.

Considering that to concretise the spirit and the words of the Noumea Accord, the indigenous Kanaks, through the commitment of their chieftains, of their official representatives - the Customary Senate and the 8 customary councils - and of the National Council for the Rights of the Kanak Indigenous People, have the duty of re-establishing the collective rights of the Kanak people and in particular, to oppose to those that only see in the development of huge economic projects, profits for themselves and for the western system of domination.

Considering the London declaration of September 16, 2001, signed by indigenous people's representatives and Non Governmental Organisations from mining States of the world.

The Kanak people's representatives, in their diversity, from South to North, from West to East, over to the Loyalty Islands,
From the deep valleys and from the top of the mountains to the mouth of the rivers, to the flat hills and the coconut tree plantations of our islands, and to the reefs around the islets,

Descendants of the animal, vegetal or mineral totems that belong to the clans from all over the Kanak country,

gathered this day of August 23rd, 2002 in Noumea,

Solemnly declare :

1. The Kanak country, officially called New Caledonia since 1853, makes one and only country. The groundwork of this unity goes back to the ancestral history that the colonial history durably cemented.

New Caledonia comprises:

The Main Island, the isle of pines, the Belep archipelago, Huon and Surprise islands, the Chesterfield islands and the Bellone reefs, the Loyalty islands of Mare, Lifou, Tiga, Beautemps-Beaupré and Ouvéa, Walpole island, Astrolabe islands, Matthew and Hunter islands, and the islets close to the shore.

2. The Kanak people in general, the chieftains and the clans in particular, represent the indigenous population. This reality is reminded in the preamble of the Noumea Accord. The Kanak indigenous right must strengthen at the ground level. The Customary Senate and the Customary councils have the mission to co-ordinate and to organise that it is promoted. The Kanak indigenous right must be recognised at the international level and will be inspired by the world indigenous peoples' expertise.

3. The New Caledonian Nature constitutes, as such, a natural heritage of which the Kanak people, on one hand, and the political and administrative authorities, on the other hand, take upon themselves and manage the heritage in order to hand over in good conditions to the future generations. The Indigenous Kanak people, have the responsibility, as first people, in the name of the historical continuity, and the political and administrative authorities on behalf of the citizens and on behalf of the State.

4. In the name of this historical heritage, the soil, the subsoil, land and marine natural space, constitute the heritage of the Kanak people. The administrative and political authorities cannot decide for the transformation of this heritage without the prior, informed and written consent of concerned indigenous populations, which will be given in the required formats. For any project estimated unacceptable, the customary authorities will use their veto right.

5. In the frame of the compensation for past injustices, the means for a true rehabilitation policy of the former mines, forests and former exploitation sites of the natural heritage will be implemented by the authorities of the country.

6. All important economic projects for the development of the renewable and non-renewable natural resources will implicate in the future that means being implemented will allow Kanak traditional authorities to be actors and will also be able to re-construct new balances in these mutating spaces.

7. Any exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources will have to take into account the interests of the local surrounding populations and the interests of the country as well, through the participation of the Provinces and the Communes of New Caledonia in stock and share holdings.

8. Any exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources will be subject to instalments for a heritage capital, determined on the intrinsic value of the treated commodity, in a "Kanak Indigenous people Heritage Fund", managed by the indigenous populations under previously defined principles.

9. For any large-scale economic and industrial project, total transparency in matters of struggle against pollution and of protection of the environment, will be required. A control, analyses and independent follow-up body will be implemented, funded by the project, and placed under the scrutiny of the traditional authorities. With concerns for preserving the natural space and the country's interests, a environment law, inspired from international texts, will be elaborated and implemented as soon as possible.

10. Fitting up the space and its control must allow correcting the injustices of the past and preventing any new trauma of which the Kanak population of the industrialised regions could be the victims. The indigenous Kanaks will be actors in the fitting up definition process and will have to take up control of important territories, allowing to limit in time and space, land speculation operations.

11 Direct employment offered by the industrial projects must be clearly notified in terms of re-balancing aims. Taking account of acquired expertise, the Quota system appears, today, as the most sincere and most performing to make this challenge successful.

12. The traditional proceeding to free the spaces necessary to the projects and to give the corresponding authorisations, will be followed up from now on. It must precede any administrative authorisations. It concerns firstly, the clan or the clans concerned by the tie with the land and the chieftain concerned by the traditional space, the future site for the project. Then, the concerned chieftain will inform the surrounding chieftains, and after, the Customary Council, and at last, the Customary Senate.

13. The abrogation of any laws that impair the Kanak people identity and integrity, is required.

The signatories :

Georges Mandaoué
Customary Senate Chairman

Senator Stanislas Gaïa, Djubea-Kapone Customary Council
Senator Christian Tamaï, Xârâcùù Customary Council
Senator Pierre Zéoula, Drehu Customary Council

M. Clement Païta, Chairman of the Djubea-Kaponé Customary Council

Mickael Meureureu-Gowe, Chairman of the National Council for the Rights of the Kanak Indigenous People

Kanak Representatives of NGOs, political parties, trade union organisations and religious organisations