International Human Rights Class: 2017 Indigenous People’s Rights Role Play

On Monday, May 1, students in Prof. Pennicino and Prof. Frosini’s International Human Rights class participated in an indigenous people’s rights role play. Beforehand, background knowledge was provided on the international provisions relevant to indigenous peoples and the importance of land rights. The topic of the role play was the Makah tribe’s application to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to resume whaling. Senior researcher at the Eurac Research Institute for Minority Rights, Dr. Alexandra Tomaselli, acted as role play mediator. Students simulated a meeting between the following four groups:

  • Makah tribe- Native American peoples who occupy the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State
  • The High North Alliance- An organization representing whalers and sealers which supports the Makah tribe
  • Sea Shepherd- An organization that focuses on marine wildlife species, and opposes the Makah tribe
  • Greenpeace- An organization of environmental activists generally opposed to whaling

These groups met before the fictional and independent, Culture, Rights, Environment, Sustainability, and Talk (CREST) organization, which works on human rights and environmental issues. Students were tasked with sharing information, holding a discussion, and coming to an agreement on the following questions:

  • Should whaling be allowed?
  • Is there a special case for whaling as part of cultural tradition?
  • If whaling is to be carried out, at what level is it to be carried out?
  • What sort of management regimes are needed?

After the role play, the class reflected on the task and shared concluding thoughts on the intersections of culture, discrimination, and protections. Images from the event can be viewed below.

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