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CERD :United States: United Nations


The Status Of Compliance By The United States Government With The International Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Racial Discrimination . DOC or .PDF


Committee on The elimination of Racial Discrimination Need for Canadian Regulation of Transnationals Operating on Western Shoshone Lands (Canada) . DOC or .PDF also see: "shadow report"


Report on Effects of Canadian Transnational Corporate Activities on the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation . DOC or .PDF


Convención Internacional sobre la Eliminación
de todas las Formas CERD/C/USA/DEC/1 de Discriminación Racial Versión Española.PDF

Update... on The Elimination of Racial Discrimination on The Early Warning And Urgent Action Procedure Decision 1(68) In Relation To The U. S.A. Submitted by The Western Shoshone National Council, The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, The Yomba Shoshone Tribe, The Wells Band Of Western Shoshone & The Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone . DOC or .PDF

Press Release, March 8, 2007

Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations
Suite 204, 10310 - 176 Street EDMONTON, AB T5S 1L3,
Tel (780) 944-0334; fax (780) 944-0346

INTERNATIONAL INDIAN TREATY COUNCIL
Administration                                  Office Information Office
456 N. Alaska Street                                 2390 Mission St. Suite 301
Palmer, AK 99645 USA                                       San Francisco CA 94110 USA
Tel. (907) 745-4482; fax 745-4484                      Tel. (415) 641-4482; fax 641-2198
Email: andrea@treatycouncil.org                                        Email: alberto@treatycouncil.org


The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls upon Canada to immediately endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


In a ground breaking finding, the CERD Committee today called upon Canada to reverse its position at the General Assembly and support the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. The United Nations Treaty Monitoring Body also voiced concerns that trans-national mining companies, registered in Canada negatively impact on the rights of Indigenous Peoples outside of Canada and urged Canada to “take measures” to ensure accountability of Canadian transnational mining companies with regard to Indigenous Peoples human rights in other countries.

The CERD Committee examined Canada’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) at its 70th session, in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 20th and 21st. Their findings were released today. Canada, like all countries that have ratified this legally-binding International Convention, is required to report on its compliance with the Conventions’ provisions. 

In its Conclusions and Recommendations, embargoed for a day on account of objections citing “factual errors” by the Canadian government, the CERD Committee noted Canada’s past support “and positive contributions” to the Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, stating that it “regrets” the recent change in Canada’s position. The Committee called upon Canada to “support the immediate adoption of the Declaration at the United Nations General Assembly.

NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) “Shadow reports” were submitted by the Indigenous Nations and organizations calling attention to the discriminatory position and actions of Canada in its opposition to the Declaration’s provisions upholding Free, Prior and Informed Consent, Rights to Land and Resources, Self-Determination and Treaty Rights. They pointed out that Canada was one of only two countries which voted against the Declaration when it was adopted last year by the UN Human Rights Council. Canada continues to actively lobby against its adoption at the UN General Assembly unless changes are made to seriously weaken its provisions. This would create "second class rights" for Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world.

“Canada has continued to insist on the inclusion of discriminatory language in the Declaration as a requirement for its approval”. This was one of several charges presented to the CERD by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations (CT6FN), representing 18 First Nations in Alberta. IITC is an Indigenous Organization with Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council. They were among several organizations representing First Nations of Canada which filed “shadow” or parallel reports to the CERD, challenging the Canadian government’s report.

The reports submitted by these organizations as well as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the British Columbia First Nations Leadership Council and the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) addressed a range of policies and practices violating Indigenous Peoples' human rights in and outside of Canada. Indigenous Peoples’ submissions were considered along with the Canadian Government’s report when CERD conducted its review of Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 20th and 21st 2007.

In addition to Canada’s position on the UN Declaration, these submissions addressed a range of other urgent concerns for Indigenous Peoples. Of particular concern of many First Nations and their organizations is Canada’s “modification” and “non-assertion” policies, demanding that First Nations relinquish aboriginal rights to land and natural resources in the settlement of land claims. The Committee voiced concern that these rights are being settled primarily through litigation at a disproportionate cost to Indigenous Peoples. The Committee urged Canada, “to engage, in good faith, in negotiations based on recognition and reconciliation” of Indigenous rights.

Other concerns raised by Indigenous Peoples and addressed by the CERD Committee included institutional racism and discrimination within the criminal justice and court systems, Treaty violations, a range of inequities in social services and living conditions, gender discrimination and lack of protection against violence in particular towards Indigenous women, youth and children. On these issues the CERD Committee also called upon Canada to comply with its internationally binding human rights obligations under the CERD Convention.

The complete findings of the CERD Committee can be found at their official website, http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds70.htm. For more information please contact the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations, Edmonton Canada, Mr. Ron Lameman at (780) 944-0334; or the International Indian Treaty Council, Alberto Saldamando, at (415) 641-4482.

 

Jan. 4, 2007

See Announcement excerpts from the Human Rights Network below.

The U.S. is preparing a country “compliance” report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The U.S. is anything but compliant when it comes to indigenous rights. This is the same United Nations Committee which found the U.S. in violation of Fundamental Human Rights in the case of the Western Shoshone (see attached Urgent Action decision and briefing sheet). The U.S. has failed to respond to this decision and is now rescheduling a 700 ton detonation on Shoshone lands called “Divine Strake”. The U.S. continues to threaten Western Shoshone with trespass notices and fines while pushing forward on mining exploration, expansion and privatization on the same lands.

The U.S. justifies their historic and ongoing actions against indigenous peoples by using the Doctrine of Discovery as the basis of Federal Indian law and policy. This Doctrine says indigenous peoples are less than other humans – “heathen”, “savage” and “childlike in nature”.

WE NEED Your Help! This legacy of racism and colonialism must go! Please submit your organizations’ or individual comments to U.S. State Department’s consultant Mary Beth West at west.marybeth@gmail.com by mid-January. Please highlight any indigenous rights violations that you are aware of or are experiencing. Let’s not let them push these issues to the back burners.

USHRNLS is intended as an electronic venue for information-sharing among scholars, students, organizations, and individuals interested in the culture, political economy, and human and social development of human rights both domestically and abroad; inter-hemispheric relations as they relate to human rights; and globalization and the effects it has on human rights both domestically and internationally.

The US Human Rights Network is made up of organizations and individuals working to bring the United States into compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally recognized human rights instruments by applying the standards and principles within those instruments to domestic and foreign policy priorities.

***** the State Department …said it plans to file a report on US compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) … in the next 6 months. The State Department requested that civil society groups contact them if there is information or issues they feel should be included in the government report. Once the government report is submitted, groups will have an opportunity to submit their own "shadow" reports highlighting issues the US fails to cover or providing additional information. Groups are not obligated to submit information to the State Department prior to submitting shadow reports. However, inclusion of an issue in the government's report makes it more likely that the issue will be picked up during the UN review of the report and also creates a record of attempts to engage the government in discussions. State declined to circulate an outline or list of issues it currently plans to include, but indicated that the report will cover the topics in the US's report in 2000, issues raised by the CERD Committee's concluding observations as well as some additional issues (see links below). State has hired a consultant, Mary Beth West, to write the CERD report, …Organizations interested in submitting information should contact: Mary Beth West for the CERD at west.marybeth@gmail.com by mid-January; …In order to help keep track of information sent to the State, please send a copy of any submission to the State Department to the listserv. To join the listserv, simply visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cerdshadow/ and click the "Join this Group" link.

US report in 2000
CERD Concluding Observations

 


JULY 5, 2006

U.N. TO PROBE U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

U.S. NON-PROFITS SUBMIT 465-PAGE “SHADOW REPORT”
DETAILING ABUSES AT HOME

U.N. TO PROBE U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES


WESTERN SHOSHONE DEFENSE PROJECT, CRESCENT VALLEY, NEVADA

U.S. NON-PROFITS SUBMIT 465-PAGE “SHADOW REPORT” DETAILING ABUSES AT HOME

INDIGENOUS (NATIVE AMERICAN) RIGHTS AMONG ISSUES TO BE REVIEWED

GENEVA, JULY 5, 2006—Today, the Western Shoshone Defense Project joined a coalition of 142 U.S.-based non-profits and organizations and 32 individuals to release the most comprehensive review of human rights violations in the United States ever compiled. The 465-page “shadow report” was assembled for the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee as part of its review of U.S. human rights abuses later this month.

The U.N. review is a routine procedure that occurs every four years for countries that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR is one of two treaties that together are equivalent to an international “Bill of Rights.” The U.S. signed and ratified the treaty in 1992, but the U.S. review – its second – is more than seven years late due to the State Department’s delay in submitting its own official report. 

Last year, the U.N. warned that it would commence reviewing the U.S. without the official report if it were delayed any longer. The State Department submitted its official report on October 21, 2005.

“We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. The situation is outrageous and we’re glad the United Nations is paying attention. Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and they’re continuing underground testing despite our protests. Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it – this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all.” Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone.

The “shadow report” is a rebuttal to the official U.S. report. Among the issues it documents are:

Indigenous Rights: The rights of indigenous peoples – Native Americans – are being violated by the United States under Articles 1 and 27 of the ICCPR. U.S. laws and policies continue to be based on the outdated, racist doctrines of “discovery” and deny native peoples the ability to protect their lands and resources from destructive military activities, multinational mining and other extractive activities. The Western Shoshone received a decision confirming their ongoing human rights violations in March of this year and calling upon the U.S. to cease and desist from further destruction throughout the land base, spanning across Nevada, Utah, Idaho and California.

Immigration: The physical abuse and intimidation many immigrants face when they are detained at the border and at airports, the failure of U.S. immigration law to protect immigrant families and respect their right to due process, and discrimination against migrant workers;

Hurricane Katrina: The discriminatory nature of evacuation plans for New Orleans, the failure to protect against unnecessary loss of life, the discriminatory policies in the hurricane's aftermath resulting in violations of the right to vote, ignoring residents’ “right of return” and right to participate in the rebuilding process, and continued denials of access to basic necessities.

In the “shadow report,” the groups underscore the common theme that binds these human rights violations together: an unstated policy of “U.S. exceptionalism.” Before ratifying the treaty, Congress attached various “reservations, understandings and declarations,” limiting the application of the treaty within the U.S. The coalition members point to the U.S. claimed limitations on the treaty, the State Department’s reluctance to participate in the U.N. process, and the ongoing human rights violations in the United States as a systemic pattern of ignoring international human rights obligations.

“We are Shoshone delegates speaking for a Nation threatened by extinction. The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains—our burials along with them--attempting to erase our signature on the land. We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land.” Bernice Lalo, Western Shoshone.

On July 10, members of the coalition will present findings from the report to the committee in Geneva. On July 17-18, representatives of the State Department and other federal agencies are expected to answer questions from the committee. 

Last May after hearings held by the U.N.’s Committee Against Torture -- an international review process similar to the human rights hearing that will be held in July -- the Committee Against Torture demanded that the U.S. close the prison at Guantanamo. 

The U.N. Human Rights Committee is expected to release its findings on July 28, 2006.
go to : http://afsc.org/news/2006/human-rights-report.htm
"American Friends Service Committe" to download the .PDF Report

 


Committee For The Elimination
of Racial Discrimination
Sixty- eighth session
Geneva, 20 February – 10 March 2006
Early Warning And Urgent Action Procedure
Decision 1 (68)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

PRINTABLE as: US-Western Shoshone Decision 1 (68).doc or .pdf


Western Shoshone Defense Project
Shundahai Network
Joint Press Release - April 4, 2006

U.S. Defies U.N. Decision- Plans Massive Military Detonation on Western Shoshone Land Western Shoshone call for halt to planned June 2 "Bunker Buster" detonation at the Nevada Test Site

Speaking with media last week, US military spokesman James Tegnelia confirmed U.S. plans to detonate a 700 ton explosion at the Nevada Test Site on June 2, 2006 in a test called "Divine Strake." The location of this test would be on Western Shoshone land, and would be in direct violation of a recent decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In its decision, made public March 10, 2006, the CERD Committee urged the United States to "freeze", "desist" and "stop" actions being taken, or threatened to be taken, against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. In its decision, CERD stressed the "nature and urgency" of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes "well beyond" the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee's Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

The CERD decision explicitly cited ongoing weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site as well as efforts to build an unprecedented high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, NV.

James Tegnelia of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying, "I don't want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," and notes further that this is the "largest single explosive that we could imagine." The Department of Defense announced in late October 2005 that the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrating (RNEP) weapon project was being dropped in favor of a more conventional methodology.

The detonation plan also runs contrary to earlier public statements made in late March to the Las Vegas Review-Journal by Linton F. Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. In his statement, Mr. Brooks announced that the Bush administration had no plans to start detonating warheads at the Nevada Test Site. "We have absolutely no evidence that we're going to need to test. ... We don't see any specific reason now that leads us to believe we'll need a test," Mr. Brooks said. "On the other hand," he said, "we don't know everything about the future."

According to Raymond Yowell, Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council, "We're opposed to any further military testing on Shoshone lands. This is a direct violation of the CERD finding and an affront to our religious belief - Mother Earth is sacred and should not be harmed. All people who are opposed to these actions by the U.S. should step forward and make their opposition known."

Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmother and Executive Director of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, "The U.S. has named this 700 ton explosive 'Divine Strake'. It's a mystery why they use 'devine.' Isn't 'devine' used for your deity, God, Your sacredness? Why don't they call it 'Hell Strake?' I believe when you are working testing weaponry of destruction of life, you should not associate it with 'devine.' We want this insanity to stop - no more bombs and no more testing."

Eileen McCabe-Olsen, Associate Director of Shundahai Network noted, "This test, besides being an egregious violation of Western Shoshone sovereignty, is an escalation that should outrage anyone concerned with peace, justice and care of our environment."

Pete Litster, Executive Director of Shundahai Network said "Ongoing weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site violate international law. They violate the standing treaty between the U.S. Government and the Western Shoshone people. They also violate the spirit of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Test Site is located on Western Shoshone territory, and must not continue to be misused in bold violation of standing agreements between the U.S. government and the Western Shoshone nation."

Although approval for the test was sought and obtained from the state of Nevada in January 2006, the test detonation can be cancelled. The Western Shoshone National Council, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Shundahai Network call for the United States Government to do so immediately. Concerned citizens can call or write to express their opinions:

President George W. Bush comments@whitehouse.gov 202-456-1111
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld http://www.dod.gov/faq/comment.html

Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

James Tegnelia dtra.publicaffairs@dtra.mil (800) 701-5096
Defense Threat Reduction Aagency
Attn: James Tegnelia
8725 John J Kingman RD Stop 6201
Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-6201

CONTACTS:
Julie Fishel, Western Shoshone Defense Project 775-468-0230 wsdp@igc.org
Pete Litster, Shundahai Network 801-637-1500 pete@shundahai.org

The Western Shoshone Defense Project's (www.wsdp.org ) mission is to affirm Newe (Western Shoshone) jurisdiction over Newe Sogobia (Western Shoshone homelands) by protecting, preserving, and restoring Newe rights and lands for present and future generations based on cultural and spiritual traditions. The W.S.D.P. was established in 1991 by the Western Shoshone National Council to provide support to Mary and Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone grandmothers who were facing the confiscation of the livestock that they graze on Western Shoshone lands.

Shundahai Network (www.shundahai.org ) is dedicated to breaking the nuclear chain by building alliances with indigenous communities and environmental, peace and human rights movements. We seek to abolish all nuclear weapons and an end to nuclear testing. We advocate phasing out nuclear energy and ending the transportation and dumping of nuclear waste. We promote the principles of Environmental Justice and strive to insure that indigenous voices are heard in the movement to influence U.S. nuclear and environmental policies. All of our campaigns and events incorporate the values of community building, education, spiritual ceremonies and nonviolent direct action.

Western Shoshone Defense Project
P.O. Box 211308
Crescent Valley, NV 89821
775-468-0230
775-468-0237 (fax)
www.wsdp.org
wsdp@igc.org

 

Western Shoshone Victorious at United Nations:
also in .doc or .pdf formats (download the free . pdf Reader )

For additional information, contact: Julie Fishel, at wsdp@igc.org or 41-22-747-0000(Geneva) / 775-468-0230 (U.S.). Or Raymond Yowell, Western Shoshone National Council at 775-744-4381.
(Quotes at end of Release – PRESS Conference today in Press Room 2, Library, Palais Nations, Geneva Switzerland) Full text of decision attached.

Press Release – For Immediate Release

For additional information, contact: Julie Fishel, at wsdp@igc.org or 41-22-747-0000(Geneva)/775-468-0230 (U.S.). Or Raymond Yowell, Western Shoshone National Council at 775-744-4381.
(Quotes at end of Release – PRESS Conference today in Press Room 2, Library, Palais Nations, Geneva Switzerland) Full text of decision attached.

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Western Shoshone Victorious at United Nations: U.S. Found in Violation of Human Rights of Native Americans – Urged to Take Immediate Action

10 March 2006, Geneva Switzerland. Today, in an historic and strongly worded decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) the United States was urged to “freeze”, “desist” and “stop” actions being taken or threatened to be taken against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. In its decision, CERD stressed the “nature and urgency” of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes “well beyond” the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

This monumental action challenges the US government’s assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90% of Western Shoshone lands. The land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. Western Shoshone rights to the land - which they continue to use, care for, and occupy today - were recognized by the United States in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley . The U.S. now claims these same lands as “public” or federal lands through an agency process and has denied Western Shoshone fair access to U.S. courts through that same process. The land base has been and continues to be used by the United States for military testing, open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining and nuclear waste disposal planning. The U.S. has engaged in military style seizures of Shoshone livestock, trespass fines in the millions of dollars and ongoing armed surveillance of Western Shoshone who continue to assert their original and treaty rights.

Based upon these actions and a dramatic escalation of new actions threatening irreparable harm to Western Shoshone and their environment, last year, with the support of the Univ. of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Program, the Western Shoshone filed a renewed legal action at the United Nations CERD. In addition to evidence of the United States’ conduct, the Western Shoshone delegation also delivered over 13,000 signatures from citizens across the United States of America supporting the Western Shoshone action to CERD. This petition was a result of a campaign organized by the rights-based development organization Oxfam America to demonstrate the widespread concern for the Western Shoshone peoples to the United Nations.

CERD rejected the U.S.’ argument that the situation was not “novel” and therefore should wait to be reviewed until the U.S. submits its Periodic Report – past due since 2003. The Committee informed the U.S. that “[a]lthough these are indeed long-standing issues…they warrant immediate and effective action… [and] should be dealt with as a matter of priority.” The United States was “urged to pay particular attention to the right to health and cultural rights of the Western Shoshone…which may be infringed upon by activities threatening their environment and/or disregarding the spiritual and cultural significance they give to their ancestral lands.”


CERD presented its decision to the Western Shoshone this morning. The decision details the U.S.’ actions against the Western Shoshone and calls upon the United States to immediately:

  • Respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples;
  • Initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights;
  • Adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and the U.S.’ obligations under the Convention;
    • Freeze all efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers;
    • Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on Western Shoshone ancestral lands;
    • Stop imposing grazing fees, livestock impoundments, hunting, fishing and gathering restrictions and rescind all notices already made.

The decision is historic in that it is the first time a United Nations Committee has issued a full decision against the U.S. in respect to its highly controversial Federal Indian law and policy. The decision expressed particular concern that the U.S.’ basis for claiming federal title to Western Shoshone land rests on a theory of “gradual encroachment” through a “compensation” process in the Indian Claims Commission. The decision highlights that this same process was found by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to violate “international human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests.” When the U.S. last appeared before the Committee in 2001, Committee members expressed alarm and concern that U.S. laws regarding indigenous peoples continue to be based on the outdated, colonial era “doctrine of discovery.”

The Committee gave the U.S. a July 15, 2006 deadline to provide it with information on the action it had taken. The decision issued today demonstrates a solid commitment by the United Nations human rights system to make the Western Shoshone’s struggle a priority. Whereas indigenous peoples have been active at the United Nations for several decades, the decision today also brings a breath of hope to indigenous communities across the U.S. and globally where the negative effects of U.S. policy and influence reach. In its decision, the Committee drew particular attention to its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.


Comments from Western Shoshone Delegation to United Nations (March 10, 2006):

“We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. The situation is outrageous and we’re glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us. Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and they’re continuing underground testing despite our protests. Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it – this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all.” Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone.

“The Western Shoshone Nation is very thankful to the Committee members for their decision affirming U.S. discrimination and destructive policies do not go on unaccounted for. Truth is what it is – that can never change. We pray for the healing of our peoples, the land and the harassment and destruction to stop. While others are allowed the freedom of religion, we are kept from the very same right. The Newe (people) use this ancestral land for sacred ceremonies. The federal agencies prevent our access to some of these important areas. Our ancestors’ burials are being dug up and placed into local museums’ basement storage areas because of surge of gold mines and nuclear developments. This is an outrage to our people!” Judy Rojo, Western Shoshone.

“This battle has been going on for quite some time, but we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the federal government and the companies’ rush to finalize what they consider a settlement in order to get a hold of our lands for activities that are contaminating our water and our air. Again, we are very pleased that our rights are finally being taken seriously and we look forward to positive actions being taken by the U.S.” Steven Brady, Western Shoshone.

“ We are Shoshone delegates speaking for a Nation threatened by extinction. The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains—our burials along with them--attempting to erase our signature on the land. We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land. We have endured murder of our Newe people for centuries, as chronicled in military records, but now we are asked to endure a more painful death from the U.S. governmental agencies —a separation from land and spiritual renewal. We thank our past leaders for their persistence and courage and the CERD for this monumental step” Bernice Lalo, Western Shoshone.

: U.S. Found in Violation of Human Rights of Native Americans
– Urged to Take Immediate Action

10 March 2006, Geneva Switzerland. Today, in an historic and strongly worded decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) the United States was urged to “freeze”, “desist” and “stop” actions being taken or threatened to be taken against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. In its decision, CERD stressed the “nature and urgency” of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes “well beyond” the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

This monumental action challenges the US government’s assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90% of Western Shoshone lands. The land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. Western Shoshone rights to the land - which they continue to use, care for, and occupy today - were recognized by the United States in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley . The U.S. now claims these same lands as “public” or federal lands through an agency process and has denied Western Shoshone fair access to U.S. courts through that same process. The land base has been and continues to be used by the United States for military testing, open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining and nuclear waste disposal planning. The U.S. has engaged in military style seizures of Shoshone livestock, trespass fines in the millions of dollars and ongoing armed surveillance of Western Shoshone who continue to assert their original and treaty rights.

Based upon these actions and a dramatic escalation of new actions threatening irreparable harm to Western Shoshone and their environment, last year, with the support of the Univ. of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Program, the Western Shoshone filed a renewed legal action at the United Nations CERD. In addition to evidence of the United States’ conduct, the Western Shoshone delegation also delivered over 13,000 signatures from citizens across the United States of America supporting the Western Shoshone action to CERD. This petition was a result of a campaign organized by the rights-based development organization Oxfam America to demonstrate the widespread concern for the Western Shoshone peoples to the United Nations.

CERD rejected the U.S.’ argument that the situation was not “novel” and therefore should wait to be reviewed until the U.S. submits its Periodic Report – past due since 2003. The Committee informed the U.S. that “[a]lthough these are indeed long-standing issues…they warrant immediate and effective action… [and] should be dealt with as a matter of priority.” The United States was “urged to pay particular attention to the right to health and cultural rights of the Western Shoshone…which may be infringed upon by activities threatening their environment and/or disregarding the spiritual and cultural significance they give to their ancestral lands.”


CERD presented its decision to the Western Shoshone this morning. The decision details the U.S.’ actions against the Western Shoshone and calls upon the United States to immediately:

  • Respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples;
  • Initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights;
  • Adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and the U.S.’ obligations under the Convention;
    • Freeze all efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers;
    • Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on Western Shoshone ancestral lands;
    • Stop imposing grazing fees, livestock impoundments, hunting, fishing and gathering restrictions and rescind all notices already made.

The decision is historic in that it is the first time a United Nations Committee has issued a full decision against the U.S. in respect to its highly controversial Federal Indian law and policy. The decision expressed particular concern that the U.S.’ basis for claiming federal title to Western Shoshone land rests on a theory of “gradual encroachment” through a “compensation” process in the Indian Claims Commission. The decision highlights that this same process was found by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to violate “international human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests.” When the U.S. last appeared before the Committee in 2001, Committee members expressed alarm and concern that U.S. laws regarding indigenous peoples continue to be based on the outdated, colonial era “doctrine of discovery.”

The Committee gave the U.S. a July 15, 2006 deadline to provide it with information on the action it had taken. The decision issued today demonstrates a solid commitment by the United Nations human rights system to make the Western Shoshone’s struggle a priority. Whereas indigenous peoples have been active at the United Nations for several decades, the decision today also brings a breath of hope to indigenous communities across the U.S. and globally where the negative effects of U.S. policy and influence reach. In its decision, the Committee drew particular attention to its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.


Comments from Western Shoshone Delegation to United Nations (March 10, 2006):

“We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. The situation is outrageous and we’re glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us. Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and they’re continuing underground testing despite our protests. Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it – this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all.” Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone.

“The Western Shoshone Nation is very thankful to the Committee members for their decision affirming U.S. discrimination and destructive policies do not go on unaccounted for. Truth is what it is – that can never change. We pray for the healing of our peoples, the land and the harassment and destruction to stop. While others are allowed the freedom of religion, we are kept from the very same right. The Newe (people) use this ancestral land for sacred ceremonies. The federal agencies prevent our access to some of these important areas. Our ancestors’ burials are being dug up and placed into local museums’ basement storage areas because of surge of gold mines and nuclear developments. This is an outrage to our people!” Judy Rojo, Western Shoshone.

“This battle has been going on for quite some time, but we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the federal government and the companies’ rush to finalize what they consider a settlement in order to get a hold of our lands for activities that are contaminating our water and our air. Again, we are very pleased that our rights are finally being taken seriously and we look forward to positive actions being taken by the U.S.” Steven Brady, Western Shoshone.

We are Shoshone delegates speaking for a Nation threatened by extinction. The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains—our burials along with them--attempting to erase our signature on the land. We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land. We have endured murder of our Newe people for centuries, as chronicled in military records, but now we are asked to endure a more painful death from the U.S. governmental agencies —a separation from land and spiritual renewal. We thank our past leaders for their persistence and courage and the CERD for this monumental step”

Bernice Lalo, Western Shoshone.

 

From: "Orakwa International Indigenous Ent."
orakwa@paulcomm.ca


Exorcising Colonial Demons -
How US Lost to Western. Shoshone at UN

 

MNN. March 16, 2006. On March 10, 2006, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that the United States was denying the Western Shoshone people "their rights to own, develop, control and use their land and resources". They warned the U.S. to respect their obligations according to the Convention". The U. S. was urged to "freeze", "desist" and "stop" their actions against the Western Shoshone and abide by the Committee's "Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure".

The Western Shoshone land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. Their land rights were entrenched in the 1868 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The U.S. used a procedure similar to that of the Canadian and Ontario governments when they turned land belonging to the Stoney Point people at Ipperwash into a park. The U.S. declared the Western Shoshone lands had become "public" or federal lands in violation of the treaty.

The U.S. uses Western Shoshone land for military testing, open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining and nuclear waste disposal planning. They have used military style seizures of Shoshone livestock, trespass fines in the millions of dollars and ongoing armed surveillance of Western Shoshone who assert their original and treaty rights. When the Western Shoshone questioned their actions, they were denied "fair access" to the U.S. courts. The U.S. courts represent the United States, one of the adversaries in the conflict. So the Western Shoshone took their case to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This became the neutral tribunal required under international law.

In 2001 the Committee had already expressed alarm that U.S. laws and treatment of indigenous peoples continue to be based on the outdated, colonial era "doctrine of discovery." The Committee's decision is a direct negation of the colonial process.

The US was extinguishing Western Shoshone's rights through "gradual encroachment" on their lands even though the Indigenous people continue to use and occupy their lands. This process was crafted in the U.S. Indian Claims Commission which does not follow "international human rights norms, principles and standards".

U.S. tactics include:

  1. Privatizing ancestral lands so they could be transferred to multinational corporations and energy developers.
  2. Destroying and denying them access to their spiritual and cultural areas; opening a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain; using explosives and open pit gold mining on Mont Tenabo and Horse Canyon; and issuing geothermal energy leases at, or near, their hot springs.
  3. Resuming underground nuclear testing;
  4. Conducting all activities without consulting with and despite the protests of the Indigenous peoples;
  5. Intimidating and harassing them through imposing grazing fees, trespass and collection notices; impounding horses and livestock; restricting hunting, fishing and gathering; and arresting them; and
  6. Blocking them from challenging these actions before an impartial court;

The Committee has ordered the U.S. to immediately stop all of these tactics.

Joe Kennedy, of the Western Shoshone delegation, said, "We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations". He asked people worldwide to help stop this insanity to secure a safe future for all.

Recognizing Indigenous rights is the beginning of healing the earth and the international family. We need support to assert our jurisdiction so that we can look after the environment. The interests in health, safety and the desire to lead a wholesome life are shared by Indigenous and ordinary people worldwide. In the past year the citizens of New York State have supported the Kanion'ke:haka/Mohawk in stopping the fraudulent land claims and the destructive plans of the multinational mega energy corporations.

There was no valid consultation with or consent by the constitutional Indigenous people according to the standards set by U.S., Canadian or international law. What is called "international law" is not yet 'international' because Indigenous people do not participate in its formulations. So we are still at the mercy of state governments. However, state governments have become estranged from the populations they supposedly represent.

Deals with tribal and band councils set up by the state are not consultation. When they are conducted in secret, as often happens, there is no possibility of popular consent. The U.S. and Canada have been encroaching on land even when there were no agreements or treaties to validate their intrusions. The Western Shoshone decision indicates that encroaching as a way to take over land has been formally rejected.

The Committee urged the U.S. to initiate a dialogue to work toward a solution acceptable to the Shoshone. The Committee implements the consultation and consent standard to make an agreement valid.

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in USA v. Lara stated in his concurring decision that he could find no evidence that any Indigenous people had given up any of their land and sovereignty; that federal Indian laws are "schizophrenic"; and Indian affairs would be "chaotic" until this is dealt with. This is the first time a United Nations Committee has issued a full decision against the U.S. and "its highly controversial Federal Indian law and policy".

This decision challenges the U.S. and Canadian theft of Indigenous title to all of Turtle Island. Kanion'ke:haka/Mohawks have not been allowed to use our land or even to traverse upon most of it. Our lands have been illegally taken for bridges, highways, seaway, railway lines, communities for the settlers, mines, extraction of our resources and mega developments without our permission. This is comparable to the imposition of fines, taxes, confiscation of sheep and putting mines on Western Shoshone property without their consent. States, mining companies, hydro developers and multinational corporations now have to get our permission to go on our land to set up their businesses.

The Committee has requested that the U.S. provide it with information on actions they are taking to implement their decision by 15 July 2006.

The University of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Program and Oxfam America, along with 13,000 signatures of U.S. supporters, helped the Western Shoshone file a new legal action at the United Nations CERD. (Contact Julie Fishel wsdp@ig.org or 775-468-0230 (US)).

The U.S. argued that their actions were not "novel". As if we didn't all know that! What is somewhat original is their resistance to the decolonization movement that everyone in the world is coming to terms with. One of the ironies of the situation is that the U.S. Declaration of Independence was an inspiration for much of the decolonization process that permeates the world. The U.S. has slipped from being a "leader of the pack" to being one of the "last lone laggards" charging off on imaginary crusades in ridiculous directions. Sadly, they are trampling a lot of ordinary and innocent people underfoot. They need to be exorcised them of their colonial ghosts.

Fortunately, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was not duped by the U.S.'s colonial phantoms. The U.S. asked the Committee to wait for them to submit their 'Periodic Report' which has been past due since 2003. The Committee insisted on an immediate response. The U.S. didn't even show up! We cannot expect fair dealing and straight play from the U.S. Maybe they will try to fool people and set up a UN Indigenous Affairs Department using the U.S. and Canadian Indian Affairs models. They will can hold all our land "in trust" so they can globally control us and our resources? Most likely they are looking for Indigenous leaders to co-opt.

How many times have we seen this before? Indigenous peoples have been active at the United Nations for several decades. This decision could promise hope to indigenous communities everywhere.

Kahentinetha Horn, MNN Mohawk Nation News, kahentinetha2@yahoo.com (Coming soon. Get your daily Kanion'ke:haka news on mnn.mohawknationnews.com)

 

Salt Lake Tribune
http://www.sltrib.com
03/11/2006
By Erica Bulman
The Associated Press

U.N. blasts U.S. treatment of Western Shoshone Indian rights: A panel accuses the United States of violating an international treaty against racism

 

GENEVA - A United Nations' anti-racism panel Friday said it had evidence the U.S. government was working with industry to ride roughshod over the rights of an American Indian tribe by exploiting its ancestral land in the western United States.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ruled that the United States was failing to respect an international anti-discrimination treaty, to which it became a party in 1994.

Organizations defending the rights of the Western Shoshone called the decision a victory, but the U.S. mission to the U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva had no immediate response to the decision, an official said.

''Maybe this will make the United States start looking at itself and at the problem of discrimination, and make it start to look at us as people instead of subhumans,'' said Western Shoshone delegate Bernice Lalo. ''We feel the decision will be helpful by opening the door. We will continue this struggle to give our children a better chance.''

The panel of independent experts said it had received ''credible information alleging that the Western Shoshone indigenous people are being denied their traditional rights to land.''

The committee of 18 independent experts said it was concerned that the U.S. government's position is based on processes ''which did not comply with contemporary human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property rights.''

The committee said it was particularly concerned about reported legislative efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational mining industries and energy developers, federal efforts to open a nuclear waste dump and the reported resumption of underground nuclear testing on Western Shoshone ancestral lands.

The panel said it also was worried about reported intimidation of the Western Shoshone people by U.S. authorities, through the imposition of grazing fees, trespassing and collection notices, the impounding horses and livestock, restrictions on fishing and hunting as well as arrests.

The committee was also unhappy that the conduct or planning of all these activities was done without consulting and despite the protests of the Western Shoshone people.

Western Shoshone rights to the land - some 60 million acres stretching across Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California - were recognized by the United States in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that the treaty gave the U.S. government trusteeship over tribal lands and it now claims them as ''public'' or federal lands.

But some Shoshone have kept up the fight, even after a majority of their fellow tribe members voted to accept a government settlement that has grown to $145 million.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for bill proponent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last month that the tribe had twice had voted decisively in favor of the settlement.

The U.N. committee said in August that the U.S. government should respond to the tribe's argument that the U.S. policy of ''gradual encroachment'' amounted to racism against an indigenous people. The committee says it ''regretted'' the United States had failed to meet the Dec. 31 deadline to answer a list of questions and had not considered it necessary to appear before the panel to discuss the matter.

The committee oversees compliance with the 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

 

Western Shoshone Victorious at United Nations:
U.S. Found in Violation of Human Rights of Native Americans
- Urged to Take Immediate Action

 

COMMITTEE FOR THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Sixty- eighth session
Geneva, 20 February – 10 March 2006

 

EARLY WARNING AND URGENT ACTION PROCEDURE

DECISION 1 (68)

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

A. Introduction

  1. At its 67th session held from 2 to 19 August 2005, the Committee considered on a preliminary basis requests submitted by the Western Shoshone National Council, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, the Winnemucca Indian Colony and the Yomba Shoshone Tribe, asking the Committee to act under its early warning and urgent action procedure on the situation of the Western Shoshone indigenous peoples in the United States of America.

  2. Considering that the opening of a dialogue with the State party would assist in clarifying the situation before the submission and examination of the fourth and fifth periodic reports of the United States of America, due on 20 November 2003, the Committee, in accordance with article 9 (1) of the Convention and article 65 of its rules of procedure, invited the State party, in a letter dated 19 August 2005, to respond to a list of questions, with a view to considering this issue at its 68th session.

  3. Responding to the Committee’s letter, the State party, in its letter dated 15 February 2006, stated that its overdue periodic reports are being prepared and that they will include responses to the list of issues. The Committee regrets that the State party has not undertaken to submit its periodic reports by a specific date, that it has not provided responses to the list of issues by 31 December 2005 as requested, and that it did not consider it necessary to appear before the Committee to discuss the matter.

  4. The Committee has received credible information alleging that the Western Shoshone indigenous peoples are being denied their traditional rights to land, and that measures taken and even accelerated lately by the State party in relation to the status, use and occupation of these lands may cumulatively lead to irreparable harm to these communities. In light of such information, and in the absence of any response from the State party, the Committee decided at its 68th session to adopt the present decision under its early warning and urgent action procedure. This procedure is clearly distinct from the communication procedure under article 14 of the Convention. Furthermore, the nature and urgency of the issue examined in this decision go well beyond the limits of the communication procedure.

  5. B. Concerns

  6. The Committee expresses concern about the lack of action taken by the State party to follow up on its previous concluding observations, in relation to the situation of the Western Shoshone peoples (A/56/18, para. 400, adopted on 13 August 2001). Although these are indeed long-standing issues, as stressed by the State party in its letter, they warrant immediate and effective action from the State party. The Committee therefore considers that this issue should be dealt with as a matter of priority.

  7. The Committee is concerned by the State party’s position that Western Shoshone peoples’ legal rights to ancestral lands have been extinguished through gradual encroachment, notwithstanding the fact that the Western Shoshone peoples have reportedly continued to use and occupy the lands and their natural resources in accordance with their traditional land tenure patterns. The Committee further notes with concern that the State party’s position is made on the basis of processes before the Indian Claims Commission, “which did not comply with contemporary international human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests”, as stressed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the case Mary and Carrie Dann versus United States (Case 11.140, 27 December 2002).

  8. The Committee is of the view that past and new actions taken by the State party on Western Shoshone ancestral lands lead to a situation where, today, the obligations of the State party under the Convention are not respected, in particular the obligation to guarantee the right of everyone to equality before the law in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, without discrimination based on race, colour, or national or ethnic origin. The Committee recalls its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources, and expresses particular concern about:

    1. ) Reported legislative efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers.

    2. ) Information according to which destructive activities are conducted and/or planned on areas of spiritual and cultural significance to the Western Shoshone peoples, who are denied access to, and use of, such areas. It notes in particular the reinvigorated federal efforts to open a nuclear waste repository at the Yucca Mountain; the alleged use of explosives and open pit gold mining activities on Mont Tenabo and Horse Canyon; and the alleged issuance of geothermal energy leases at, or near, hot springs, and the processing of further applications to that end.

    3. ) The reported resumption of underground nuclear testing on Western Shoshone ancestral lands;

    4. ) The conduct and / or planning of all such activities without consultation with and despite protests of the Western Shoshone peoples;

    5. ) The reported intimidation and harassment of Western Shoshone people by the State party’s authorities, through the imposition of grazing fees, trespass and collection notices, impounding of horse and livestock, restrictions on hunting, fishing and gathering, as well as arrests, which gravely disturb the enjoyment of their ancestral lands.

    6. ) The difficulties encountered by Western Shoshone peoples in appropriately challenging all such actions before national courts and in obtaining adjudication on the merits of their claims, due in particular to domestic technicalities.

    C. Recommendations

  9. The Committee recommends to the State party that it respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples, without discrimination based on race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, in accordance with the Convention. The State party is urged to pay particular attention to the right to health and cultural rights of the Western Shoshone people, which may be infringed upon by activities threatening their environment and/or disregarding the spiritual and cultural significance they give to their ancestral lands.

  10. The Committee urges the State party to take immediate action to initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights under, in particular, articles 5 and 6 of the Convention. In this regard also, the Committee draws the attention of the State party to its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.

  11. The Committee urges the State party to adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and the State party’s obligations under the Convention:

    1. ) Freeze any plan to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers;

    2. ) Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on the ancestral lands of Western Shoshone or in relation to their natural resources, which are being carried out without consultation with and despite protests of the Western Shoshone peoples;

    3. ) Stop imposing grazing fees, trespass and collection notices, horse and livestock impoundments, restrictions on hunting, fishing and gathering, as well as arrests, and rescind all notices already made to that end, inflicted on Western Shoshone people while using their ancestral lands.

  12. In accordance with article 9 (1) of the Convention, the Committee requests that the State party provide it with information on action taken to implement the present decision by 15 July 2006.

"U.S Western Shoshone Decision" also available in .doc format
or .pdf ( download the free .pdf Reader )

 

For additional information, contact: Julie Fishel, at wsdp@igc.org or 41-22-747-0000(Geneva)/775-468-0230 (U.S.). Or Raymond Yowell, Western Shoshone National Council at 775-744-4381. (Quotes at end of Release - PRESS Conference today in Press Room 2, Library, Palais Nations, Geneva Switzerland) Full text of decision attached.

Press Release - For Immediate Release

Western Shoshone Victorious at United Nations: U.S. Found in Violation of Human Rights of Native Americans - Urged to Take Immediate Action

10 March 2006, Geneva Switzerland. Today, in an historic and strongly worded decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) the United States was urged to "freeze", "desist" and "stop" actions being taken or threatened to be taken against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. In its decision, CERD stressed the "nature and urgency" of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes "well beyond" the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee's Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

This monumental action challenges the US government's assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90% of Western Shoshone lands. The land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. Western Shoshone rights to the land - which they continue to use, care for, and occupy today - were recognized by the United States in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The U.S. now claims these same lands as "public" or federal lands through an agency process and has denied Western Shoshone fair access to U.S. courts through that same process. The land base has been and continues to be used by the United States for military testing, open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining and nuclear waste disposal planning. The U.S. has engaged in military style seizures of Shoshone livestock, trespass fines in the millions of dollars and ongoing armed surveillance of Western Shoshone who continue to assert their original and treaty rights.

Based upon these actions and a dramatic escalation of new actions threatening irreparable harm to Western Shoshone and their environment, last year, with the support of the Univ. of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Program, the Western Shoshone filed a renewed legal action at the United Nations CERD. In addition to evidence of the United States' conduct, the Western Shoshone delegation also delivered over 13,000 signatures from citizens across the United States of America supporting the Western Shoshone action to CERD. This petition was a result of a campaign organized by the rights-based development organization Oxfam America to demonstrate the widespread concern for the Western Shoshone peoples to the United Nations.

CERD rejected the U.S.' argument that the situation was not "novel" and therefore should wait to be reviewed until the U.S. submits its Periodic Report - past due since 2003. The Committee informed the U.S. that "[a]lthough these are indeed long-standing issues.they warrant immediate and effective action. [and] should be dealt with as a matter of priority." The United States was "urged to pay particular attention to the right to health and cultural rights of the Western Shoshone.which may be infringed upon by activities threatening their environment and/or disregarding the spiritual and cultural significance they give to their ancestral lands."

CERD presented its decision to the Western Shoshone this morning. The decision details the U.S.' actions against the Western Shoshone and calls upon the United States to immediately:

  • Respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples;
  • Initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights;
  • Adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and the U.S.' obligations under the Convention;
  • Freeze all efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers;
  • Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on Western Shoshone ancestral lands;
  • Stop imposing grazing fees, livestock impoundments, hunting, fishing and gathering restrictions and rescind all notices already made.

The decision is historic in that it is the first time a United Nations Committee has issued a full decision against the U.S. in respect to its highly controversial Federal Indian law and policy. The decision expressed particular concern that the U.S.' basis for claiming federal title to Western Shoshone land rests on a theory of "gradual encroachment" through a "compensation" process in the Indian Claims Commission. The decision highlights that this same process was found by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to violate "international human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests." When the U.S. last appeared before the Committee in 2001, Committee members expressed alarm and concern that U.S. laws regarding indigenous peoples continue to be based on the outdated, colonial era "doctrine of discovery."

The Committee gave the U.S. a July 15, 2006 deadline to provide it with information on the action it had taken. The decision issued today demonstrates a solid commitment by the United Nations human rights system to make the Western Shoshone's struggle a priority. Whereas indigenous peoples have been active at the United Nations for several decades, the decision today also brings a breath of hope to indigenous communities across the U.S. and globally where the negative effects of U.S. policy and influence reach. In its decision, the Committee drew particular attention to its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.

Comments from Western Shoshone Delegation to United Nations (March 10, 2006):

"We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. The situation is outrageous and we're glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us. Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and they're continuing underground testing despite our protests. Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it - this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all." Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone.

"The Western Shoshone Nation is very thankful to the Committee members for their decision affirming U.S. discrimination and destructive policies do not go on unaccounted for. Truth is what it is - that can never change. We pray for the healing of our peoples, the land and the harassment and destruction to stop. While others are allowed the freedom of religion, we are kept from the very same right. The Newe (people) use this ancestral land for sacred ceremonies. The federal agencies prevent our access to some of these important areas. Our ancestors' burials are being dug up and placed into local museums' basement storage areas because of surge of gold mines and nuclear developments. This is an outrage to our people!" Judy Rojo, Western Shoshone.

"This battle has been going on for quite some time, but we've seen a dramatic increase in the federal government and the companies' rush to finalize what they consider a settlement in order to get a hold of our lands for activities that are contaminating our water and our air. Again, we are very pleased that our rights are finally being taken seriously and we look forward to positive actions being taken by the U.S." Steven Brady, Western Shoshone.

"We are Shoshone delegates speaking for a Nation threatened by extinction. The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains-our burials along with them--attempting to erase our signature on the land. We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land. We have endured murder of our Newe people for centuries, as chronicled in military records, but now we are asked to endure a more painful death from the U.S. governmental agencies -a separation from land and spiritual renewal. We thank our past leaders for their persistence and courage and the CERD for this monumental step" Bernice Lalo, Western Shoshone.

 

( These links open in new window, close window to return. )

 

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION IN SUPPORT OF THE WESTERN SHOSHONE

FORWARD TO YOUR LISTS, YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, ETC.

WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE AT LEAST 10,000 SIGNATURES BY FEBRUARY 28th! http://ga0.org/campaign/shoshone_petition

Thank you to Oxfam America for putting this together. www.oxfamamerica.org

 

US Fails to Respond to UN Request; Western Shoshone Petition for Public Support

Posted: 4 January, 2006

The United States government has missed a year-end deadline to answer questions posed by a United Nations committee looking into charges of federal harassment of the Western Shoshone people.

But along with the Western Shoshone traditional government, the Western Shoshone Defense Project is determined not to let the matter die. The defense project is one of the local organizations with which Oxfam America partners.

The Western Shoshone maintain that the US government, through a host of measures including the seizures of livestock and the imposition of heavy trespass fines as well as attempts to privatize large tracts of land to multinational gold companies, is violating the rights of indigenous people to their ancestral lands-some 60 million acres that stretch across Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and California.

The Western Shoshone have now launched a nationwide petition calling on the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD, to act immediately to address the human rights violations the Western Shoshone have long endured.

CERD was the committee that issued the list of 10 questions the government failed to answer by Dec. 31. The questions are part of a request for "urgent action," which, if accepted, would allow the committee to open an investigation into US conduct regarding the land issues and the treatment of indigenous people.

"CERD is going to get a lot of pressure from the United States to drop this thing and not take it on as a formal urgent action before the full committee," said Julie Ann Fishel, the land recognition program director for the defense project.

The appeal to CERD is the latest step in a long-simmering dispute between the Western Shoshone and the federal government. At issue is the Western Shoshone's contention that the land is theirs-recognized as such by the Treaty of Ruby Valley in 1863-and that federal agencies along with energy and mining industries are trampling on the rights of indigenous people in a scramble to access the valuable resources lying beneath the land.

Protection of the land is critical to the Western Shoshone's preservation of their cultural and spiritual integrity. But among the threats it now faces is a plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and to conduct open-pit gold mining at Mt. Tenabo, both areas that are spiritually significant to the Western Shoshone.

"This is a critical land rights issue. The federal government needs to be held accountable for violating treaties with Indian nations, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has clearly established," said Oxfam America's Laura Inouye, referring to an earlier decision by that body which found the US Bureau of Land Management had violated Western Shoshone rights to due process, property rights, and equality. "A similar finding by UNCERD will help the Western Shoshone press their case for justice."

"This isn't just about Indians. It's about everybody," added Fishel. "It's about land, clean water, clean air, and protection of significant areas. This is about not allowing the US government to place corporate interests before human rights and environmental concerns."

In August, a Western Shoshone delegation traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to speak with CERD members and present their case. Another delegation plans to make a second trip to Geneva in March to present the petition in person. The deadline for signing the petition is Feb. 28 of this year.

"If we can get to the heart of US treatment of indigenous people, and tell the truth about that treatment, we're going to get to the core of cleaning up social justice issues here and wherever US and corporate policies are affecting peoples' lives," said Fishel.

Sign the Petition: http://ga0.org/campaign/shoshone_petition

For more information: call: 775-468-0230 _____

Printer friendly Petition

 

 

January 11, 2006
Hello friends,

The U.S. has missed the deadline set by the United to answer 10 questions related to the Western Shoshone case. Please consider signing this petition on Oxfam America's website in support of the Western Shoshone and distributing to your lists. It's very important and simple. In one week, we have exceeded the 10,000 signatures goal and are now going for 100,000 signatures. Your support means alot to us,   Lee Dazey Western Shoshone Defense Project Development Coordinator.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION IN SUPPORT OF THE WESTERN SHOSHONE FORWARD TO YOUR LISTS, YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, ETC. 
WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE AT LEAST 10,000 SIGNATURES BY FEBRUARY 28th!

http://ga0.org/campaign/shoshone_petition 

Thank you to Oxfam America for putting this together. www.oxfamamerica.org

US Fails to Respond to UN Request; Western Shoshone Petition for Public Support

 

2 March 2006

FW from www.unog.ch

United Nations Office in Geneva - Press Release and Meeting Summary regarding in particular, Western Shoshone in the United States

COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION REVIEWS SITUATION IN ETHIOPIA AND PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Decides to Consider Case of the Western Shoshone in the United States Under its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today considered the cases of Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea under its review procedure for States parties whose reports were seriously overdue, and decided to consider the case of the Western Shoshone in the United States under its early warning and urgent action procedure.

Concerning the situation in Ethiopia, [text omitted]

With regard to the situation in Papua New Guinea, [text omitted]

On the case of the Western Shoshone in the United States, because of the compelling evidence presented, the Committee decided to consider it under its the early warning and urgent action procedure, not with the goal of provoking the United States Government, but with the objective of remedying the situation through dialogue and negotiation with the State party. It agreed that it would decide on action to be taken on the case during the final week of the present session which concludes on 10 March. When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it is scheduled to take up the initial to fourteenth periodic reports of Guyana (CERD/C/472/Add.1).

Situation in Ethiopia under Review Procedure

[text omitted]

Situation in Papua New Guinea under Review Procedure

[text omitted]

Case of Western Shoshone

PATRICIA NOZIPHO JANUARY-BARDILL, Chairperson of the working group on early warning and urgent action procedures, said that in his 15 February 2006 reply to Mr. Yutzis's letter concerning the case of the Western Shoshone, the United States Ambassador had acknowledged the Committee's concluding observations on the State party's third periodic report, presented in 2001, and had said that the question would be addressed in the next, fourth and fifth, periodic reports of the United States. The Ambassador had said that the issues the petitioners had raised were not "novel" and that the question did not warrant consideration under the early warning and urgent action procedure. In light of that response, the working group had undertaken to consider whether the Committee should continue to consider the case under the early action and urgent warning procedure and to formulate suggestions.

All Committee members had received additional information both in writing and in terms of visual images in an informal presentation made by a delegation of the Western Shoshone to the Committee yesterday. That informal presentation demonstrated evidence of massive and persistent discrimination against the group by the State party. In that regard, Ms. January-Bardill recalled that, in his report to the Security Council Summit of 1992, the Secretary-General had stressed the primary importance of early warning and preventive action to ensure that existing disputes did not escalate into conflicts and identified the need to find ways to address such situations. At that time, all treaty bodies were urged to identify such urgent situations of massive human rights violations and to refer them to the Security Council.

The working group recommended that, because of the compelling evidence presented, that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitor the case of the Western Shoshone under its the early warning and urgent action procedure, not with the goal of provoking the United States Government, but with the objective of remedying the situation through dialogue and negotiation with the State party.

The Committee agreed that it would decide on action to be taken on the case of the Western Shoshone under the early warning and urgent action procedure during the final week of its present session.

For use of the information media; not an official record CRD06011E

 

Western Shoshone Travel To United Nations To Combat Ongoing U.S. Human Rights Violations Against Indigenous Peoples

 

16 August 2005. Geneva, Switzerland.

Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone: "Our traditional laws tell us we were placed here as caretakers of the land. As part of the Western Shoshone Nation, we will not stand idly by and allow the U.S. federal government to cement its hold on our ancestral land base."

In response to increased threats from the United States, the Western Shoshone Nation has filed an Urgent Action Request before the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD or "Committee"). The request challenges the US government¦s assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90% of Western Shoshone lands. The land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. Western Shoshone rights to the land - which they continue to use, care for, and occupy today - are recognized by a ratified Treaty with the United States. The Committee established the early warning/urgent action procedures in 1993 in order to act quickly in preventing the further escalation of human rights abuses in situations like the one facing the Western Shoshone.

In addition to the written request, a Western Shoshone delegation is in Geneva, Switzerland August 8-19th. Delegates are speaking with the CERD¦s experts and have raised their concerns before the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. CERD will be meeting with representatives from the U.S. government this week to hear the government¦s response. The role of non-state actors, or multinational corporations, in the ongoing human rights violations against indigenous peoples is also being addressed by the delegation in response to the influential posture of the gold companies and the energy industry under the current administration. In its 2005 CERD Request, the Western Shoshone seek a halt to all further U.S. actions against Western Shoshone and the expansion of any extractive or other activities permitted by the U.S. Once the U.S. agrees to such a "cease fire," the Western Shoshone are willing to engage in good faith negotiations with the appropriate U.S. representatives in order to resolve the dispute.

CERD has previously expressed concern about the ongoing struggle of the Western Shoshone people and the continued violation of indigenous human rights in the U.S. In 2001, the Committee questioned the United States¦ continued application of the "doctrine of discovery," a racially based legal fiction that was used to justify the genocide of Indian peoples and the taking of their lands due to their "inferior" status as non-Christians. The Committee also questioned the U.S. delegation about why domestic law allowed the U.S. government to unilaterally abrogate Indian treaties, to which the U.S. never provided an answer. In 2001, CERD noted the situation of the Western Shoshone and the "persistence of the discriminatory effects ...and destructive policies with regard to Native Americans."

Since CERD expressed its concerns in 2001, the situation has become even more grave. The U.S. has conducted numerous military style seizures of Western Shoshone livestock, has transferred alleged Western Shoshone "trespass fines" to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and private collection agencies, and has reinvigorated federal efforts to open a nationwide nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. In 2003, the U.S. Congress passed legislation allowing for distribution of a highly controversial Indian Claims Commission award for alleged extinguishment of Western Shoshone land. Since that legislation was passed, efforts to privatize Western Shoshone lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers have been intensified. The Western Shoshone assert that these actions, justified by racially discriminatory legal doctrines enshrined in the domestic law of the U.S., demonstrate a serious, massive and persistent pattern of racial discrimination against the Western Shoshone Nation and its people in accordance with CERD¦s urgent action and early warning procedures.

In January 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the United States was acting in current violation of Western Shoshone rights to property, to due process and to equality under the law. The IACHR recommended that the U.S. remedy the situation of the Western Shoshone and review Federal Indian law and policy to ensure its compliance with recognized human rights standards. The U.S.¦ only response was to assert that the Inter American human rights body did not have jurisdiction over it.

Full copies of the legal filings, please call 775-468-0230, or email wsdp@igc.org.

For Additional Information or Interviews with the Western Shoshone Delegation to the United Nations, please contact Julie Ann Fishel, Western Shoshone Defense Project (41-22-747-00-14 in Geneva or 775-468-0230 in the U.S.)

 

 

 

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