U.N. Permant Forum on Indigenous IssuesUnited Nations



Good News! Uranium Company ordered to vacate Lakota lands in South Dakota…


(From Owe Aku International Human Rights and Justice Program, New York City) As explained in the following article, Owe Aku, a grass roots Lakota organization, just utilized the principle of free, prior and informed consent as set forth in the recently passed United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Plaintiffs, including Owe Aku and the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, argued that a third-party corporation could not come to the reservation for the purpose of uranium exploration without following established procedure and without providing adequate information thereby violating the principle of “free, prior and informed consent” as set forth in the Declaration on Indigenous rights. Does this mean that the Declaration may now be used as defacto precedence in Oglala Lakota tribal court?

Two weeks ago, members of Owe Aku’s leadership team were in New York presenting a documentary film called Standing Silent Nation on their struggle to develop industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota reservation. The New York trip was right in the middle of the uranium court case. Nonetheless they took the time to bring their efforts on a different issue to the people of New York. Production of industrial hemp would have been a solution to the overwhelming poverty and environmental degradation created by most industries in the region. So of course, the federal government put a stop to that. The Monday after the New York trip, Owe Aku was back on Lakota treaty territory taking on a mining company and, on Tuesday, WINNING.

Owe Aku has had a long term, multi-phases action and education campaign in place to stop uranium mining in and around Lakota treaty territory for the past several years. This has included extensive research on the process of uranium mining, the environmental and health effects, the direct effects on Pine Ridge and the possibility for oppositional coalitions. Earlier this year though a uranium mining company calling itself (for no apparent reason) Native American Energy Group (“NAEG”) descended on Pine Ridge and, through deceit and less than ethical maneuvering, started taking steps to expand uranium mining within reservation borders.

Owe Aku took immediate action, going door-to-door on the reservation educating the people about uranium mining, and eventually filing an action in tribal court. Unlike NAEG, Owe Aku was not represented by attorneys but, as is the case with all our work, was represented by our own members. In this case, our Executive Director Debra White Plume, often found herself examining witnesses and testifying. Given the Court’s ruling, an excellent job was done using tribal and treaty law, as well as some international standards.

The mission of Owe Aku is to preserve, restore and revive traditional Lakota values. Owe Aku’s efforts are focused at the most basic grassroots level in order to create real change – both in our people’s lives and in the world around us. Throughout our work, our goal is to find positive solutions to economies and societies based solely on consumption and exploitation of people and resources.


Pine Ridge, SD… On October 29, OST Chief Judge Lisa Adams issued an exclusion order to remove the Native American Energy Group (N.A.E.G.) from the Pine Ridge reservation, declaring that the company has been trespassing on tribal lands. The finding gave NAEG 30 days to vacate the reservation.

The Judge also noted that N.A.E.G. ignored a tribal resolution that accepted the OST Environmental Technical Team’s recommendation that the Tribe not enter into any working relationship with N.A.E.G. Further, the order stated that OST Member, Eileen Janis, failed to inform N.A.E.G. about OST ordinances prohibiting exploration and mining for uranium.

Plaintiffs in the case, Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council (Oglala Delegation) and Owe Aku, were pleased with the exclusion order. “Judge Adams showed great respect for the Treaty Council during this hearing. However, we must update the language in our outdated Tribal Law and Order Code to combat new mining and exploration techniques. N.A.E.G. is gone, but they could try and return in another form and there are many other companies out there that will try to bribe their way onto our homeland,” stated Floyd Hand, Treaty Council delegate.

N.A.E.G., a New York-based oil/gas/mining company, approached OST tribal officials in early 2007 with a written proposal to embark on a multi-phase plan to mine uranium on the reservation. Once this proposal was disclosed to the public, tribal members expressed outrage that a mining company had been on the reservation for so many months without following protocol. The Treaty Council, along with Owe Aku, a non-profit environmental activism group, took action and filed a motion in early September, to exclude the company from Pine Ridge.

“The Pine Ridge Reservation and 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty Territory has been declared a nuclear free zone by both the Tribal Government and the Treaty Council. The court action brought by Owe Aku and the Treaty Council to stop this company from desecrating our sacred Mother Earth has been decided in our favor. It has been a challenging experience to fight an energy company, but worth the effort to protect our Treaty Territory. Companies who come to our land need to come with full disclosure of their intentions to do business with our people, our leaders need to enforce such a policy so we are not faced with a similar situation in the future,” said Debra White Plume of Owe Aku.

Kent Lebsock, Director of Program
Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way
International Human Rights & Justice Project
Pine Ridge and New York


Indigenous rights need to be included in Victorian charter

Helen Szoke
September 26, 2007

The State Government can undo some damage done by Canberra.

AUSTRALIA'S reluctance to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People makes a mockery of our supposed renewed commitment to addressing the welfare of indigenous Australians. This month the UN General Assembly adopted the declaration, which reaffirms that indigenous people are entitled to all human rights recognised in international law without discrimination.

Australia opposed the declaration. How could this be so at a time when we have become so acutely aware of the health, welfare and social issues that plague our indigenous communities?

In Australia, indigenous children are more likely to be taken into state care than other children. They are more likely to become homeless and more likely to end up in jail.

Yet our Government has refused to sign a declaration that explicitly provides for the protection of indigenous women and children against violence.

The health of indigenous Australians is far worse than for any other groups of people. Indigenous adults in Victoria have a life expectancy up to 20 years lower than the state average.

Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory have called on the Federal Government to work constructively with them to deal with issues that indigenous communities face.

Australia has nothing to lose in signing the declaration and much to gain in agreeing to adhere to human rights principles in its treatment of indigenous people. In not signing, we have sent a strong message to the rest of the world that indigenous people are not deserving of the freedom and equality that many of us take for granted.

The declaration does not create new rights. It elaborates on existing international human rights as they relate to indigenous people. These are international standards that Australia should already be adhering to. The declaration, while non-binding, provides a powerful instrument by which to measure our treatment of indigenous Australians. It affirms that indigenous people contribute to the diversity and richness of civilisations and cultures.

Australia's refusal to support the declaration does not preclude it from having relevance domestically. In Victoria, the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities provides a mandate to consider international law, such as the declaration, when interpreting the practical meaning and application of the rights contained in the charter. This means the declaration will prove an invaluable resource in understanding how the rights of indigenous people can be best served under the charter.

The Victorian charter aims to improve the work of state and local government by compelling decision-makers, be they law-makers, bureaucrats, the courts or public authorities, to consider the human rights dimension of all matters before them.

The charter explicitly refers to Aboriginal culture in two parts — as part of the preamble, which recognises that human rights have special importance for Aboriginal people of Victoria, and again in the context of the right to culture, which emphasises that Aboriginal people hold distinct cultural rights. Given the continuing levels of discrimination experienced by indigenous Victorians, the equality provisions of the charter are important.

Indigenous advocates were disappointed that the charter did not contain the right to self-determination. At the time of drafting, self-determination was an unclear area of international human rights law. This right has now been recognised in the UN declaration.

The inclusion of rights relating to self-determination is of great concern to the Australian Government and has been the sticking point in its failure to support this declaration. The Prime Minister has stressed that it is wrong to support something that argues the case of separate development for one group within a country. This is reasonable, but the Prime Minister has missed the point.

Self-determination does not mean that there is a different set of laws and rules for indigenous people. It is a provision within existing law by which indigenous people can freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. This includes rights of indigenous people to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, to pursue their development and to have the autonomy to decide how to address issues indigenous communities confront.

As recent public responses to successful native title claims have demonstrated, the notion of indigenous self-determination can be used to whip up near hysterical concerns and fears in the general community. If this country is genuine in its commitment to addressing indigenous disadvantage, there is a need to revisit the concept of self-determination and demonstrate that the recognition of such rights does not destroy the right of the government to govern, nor does it intrinsically split the community into two.

As it stands, the Victorian charter includes only civil and political rights.

The inclusion of self-determination and economic and social rights will be considered when the charter is reviewed after four years. Reaffirming these rights is now more urgent than ever, given the Australian Government's failure to do so.

Dr Helen Szoke is chief executive of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Copyright © 2007. The Age Company Ltd.

First Peoples Human Rights Coalition (First Peoples Rights) contributes to a growing understanding that the inherent and inalienable rights of Indigenous peoples are human rights and need to be respected as such. The urgent on-the-ground challenges confronting us today require that more people, more of the time, be more familiar with the rights we do have. info@firstpeoplesrights.org


Sept. 14, 2007 by OneWorld.net
by Haider Rizvi

UN Adopts Historic Statement on Native Rights

Yolanda Perez carries a palm leaf full of flowers during the "Festival of Palms and Flowers" May 2007 in the indigenous town of Panchimalco, 20kms of San Salvador. The UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted a non-binding declaration protecting the human, land and resources rights of the world's 370 million indigenous people, despite opposition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. (AFP/File/jose Cabezas)

UNITED NATIONS - Despite strong objections from the United States and some of its allies, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution Thursday calling for the recognition of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their lands and resources.
The adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples comes after 22 years of diplomatic negotiations at the United Nations involving its member states, international civil society groups, and representatives of the world’s aboriginal communities.

An overwhelming majority of UN member countries endorsed the Declaration, with 143 voting in favor, 4 against, and 11 abstaining.

The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand stood alone in voting against the resolution. The nations that neither supported nor objected were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Samoa, and Ukraine.

“It’s a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after the General Assembly vote. “This marks a historic moment when member states and indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories.”

In her comments, General Assembly President Haya Al Khalifa described the outcome of the vote as a “major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”

Pleased with the General Assembly’s decision, indigenous leaders told OneWorld they wanted the declaration to be adopted by consensus, but since certain countries remained unwilling to recognize their rights until the end, a majority vote was the only possible option left.

“If a few states do not accept the declaration, then it would be a reflection on them rather than the document,” said Les Malezer, an aboriginal leader from Australia, before the resolution was presented to the General Assembly.

Before the vote many indigenous leaders accused the United States and Canada of pressuring economically weak and vulnerable nations to reject calls for the Declaration’s adoption. Initially, some African countries were also reluctant to vote in favor, but later changed their position after the indigenous leadership accepted their demand to introduce certain amendments in the text.

The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures, and traditions and pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.

It also calls for recognition of the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, a principle fully recognized by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, but deemed controversial by the United States and some of its allies who fear that it could undermine their rights to rule over all their current territory.

In return for their support, the African countries wanted the declaration to mention that it does not encourage any actions that would undermine the “territorial integrity” or “political unity” of sovereign states.

Though the African viewpoint was incorporated into the final version, the Declaration remains assertive of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their land and resources.

“It is subject to interpretation, but we can work with this,” Malezer said last week.

Thursday, Malezer and his colleagues in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues described the world body’s decision as “a major victory.”

“The 13th of September 2007 will be remembered as an international human rights day for the indigenous peoples of the world,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chairperson of the Permanent Forum, in an emotional tone filled with joy.

International civil society groups working for the rights of indigenous peoples also expressed extreme pleasure with Thursday’s vote.

“We are really very happy and thrilled to hear about the adoption of the Declaration,” said Botswana Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone of First People of the Kalahari, who works with the independent advocacy group Survival International.

“It recognizes that governments can no longer treat us as second-class citizens, and it gives protection to tribal peoples so that they will not be thrown off their lands like we were,” Gakelebone added in a statement.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said he hoped the declaration would raise international standards in the same way the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did nearly 60 years ago.

“It sets a benchmark by which the treatment of tribal and indigenous peoples can be judged, and we hope it will usher in an era in which abuse of their rights is no longer tolerated,” he added.

Vivian Stromberg, executive director of the New York-based rights group MADRE, said Thursday that the Declaration’s passage “will signal a major shift in the landscape of international human rights law, in which the collective rights of indigenous peoples will finally be recognized and defended.”

At the UN, indigenous leaders, however, cautioned against a possible gap between rhetoric and effective implementation of the Declaration.

“It will be the test of commitment of states and the whole international community to protect, respect, and fulfill indigenous peoples’ collective and individual human rights,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

“I call on governments, the UN system, indigenous peoples, and civil society at large to rise to the historic task before us and make the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a living document for the common future of humanity,” she said in a statement.

Though pleased with the General Assembly’s decision, some indigenous leaders seemed unhappy that the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand did not accept the Declaration.

“Canada has shown its true colors on our human rights,” Arthur Manuel, a leader of Canada’s indigenous peoples, told OneWorld.

Those in opposition have said the Declaration is “flawed,” mainly because of its strong emphasis on the right to indigenous self-determination and full control over lands and resources. In their view, these clauses would hinder economic development efforts and undermine so-called “established democratic norms.”

The United States has also refused to sign on to a UN treaty on biological diversity, which calls for a “fair and equitable” sharing of the benefits derived from indigenous lands by commercial enterprises.

Meanwhile, threats to indigenous lands and resources persist, say rights activists, in the form of mining, logging, toxic contamination, privatization, large-scale development projects, and the use of genetically modified seeds.

“The entire wealth of the United States, Canada, and other so-called modern states is built on the poverty and human rights violations of their indigenous peoples,” said Manuel. “The international community needs to understand how hypocritical Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are.”

Recent scientific studies have repeatedly warned of devastating consequences for indigenous communities in particular as changing climates are expected to cause more floods, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events across the world.

The United States and Australia have taken particular criticism also for their refusal to join the majority of the world’s nations in efforts to combat climate change

Haider Rizvi
inter press service (ips) news agency
rm s-485 united nations
tel: 212-963-6156 / cell: 917 913 5673
fax: 212-888-6099
email: haiderrizvi@gmail.com


New York City, September 13, 2007: Thirty years – nearly to the day - after Indigenous Peoples were first invited to Geneva, Switzerland to declare their issues to the global arena, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), setting a minimum international standard for the protection and promotion of the rights of the nearly 400 million Indigenous Peoples of the world.

“This was an historic day, and a step forward to help assure Indigenous Peoples’ treaty rights, human rights, and self-determination,” stated Tonya Gonnella Frichner, North American Regional Representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2008-2010). A citizen of the Onondaga Nation, Ms. Frichner is President of the American Indian Law Alliance, which has participated in a lead role in the development and articulation of the Declaration since early in the process and also the Vice Chair of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, an international Indigenous Peoples’ organization involved with human rights advocacy.

With a majority vote by governments of 144 – Yes, 4 – No (U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia) and 11 – Abstentions, this Declaration is uniquely situated as being the sole UN Declaration which was drafted in concert with the rights-holders, Indigenous Peoples. The forty-six articles represent many decades of work by Indigenous leaders, human rights advocates, governments and UN agencies. It was interesting to note, however that Mexico, which had taken a strong role in the negotiation process, was not listed as a sponsor as expected. Now adopted, the next step for governments of the world is to set forth their intended implementation strategies by reviewing and assessing their respective countries’ policies, legislation, programs and other applications in light of this new standard in all their dealings with Indigenous Peoples.

A milestone in the legacy of the UN system, the Declaration directly addresses Indigenous Peoples’ human rights - including both individual and collective rights, cultural rights as well as rights to language, health, and education, among many others - and further articulates a mandate for free, prior and informed consent by Indigenous Peoples to development on Indigenous territories.

The 144 yes votes by members of the UN General Assembly (GA) supporting the adoption echo around the world to the great joy of Indigenous Peoples and human rights champions. Unfortunately, those present at the GA noted that of the 144 governments that voted for the Declaration, some 20 said in explanation of their votes that, for them, “individual human rights superceded collective rights, or that the Declaration must not challenge the territorial integrity or political rights of the state.” Others, like the Swedish Ambassador, appeared to limit Saami territorial and resource rights in Sweden in regard to herding rights.

The statement by  Norway’s Ambassador, however, was most welcomed in that he noted an understanding that the Declaration illustrated, but did not limit, ways in which Indigenous Peoples may exercise their self-determination. He also asserted that the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations offered the correct interpretive context for the DRIP. Finally, although he regrettably noted that Norway would, “continue with military exercises" on Indigenous territories, he at least recognized that they had to meet the test of a ‘significant threat’ to “the public interest.” 

Indigenous leaders are very concerned about such positions. For instance, "the public interest" test could possibly be interpreted as a government's interest in mineral or water rights, or halting a blockade or march. In light of this, Tupac Enrique (Xicano-Nahuatl) director of Tonatierra, an Indigenous community development and human rights organization said, “We got out of the domestic cage, but now government-states are attempting to cage us within the parameters of territorial integrity and political unity, internationally, through the wording of the Declaration  . . . This is unacceptable!”

Strong opposition to the Declaration’s adoption came from the negative voting countries, such as Canada, which wrote, “In Article 26, the document states: ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.’ This could be used by Aboriginal groups to challenge and re-open historic and present day treaties and to support claims that have already been dealt with.” Such remarks clearly mandate a close eye by human rights advocates, Indigenous nations, and governments as the implementation process unfolds around the world, impacting the lives, cultures, territories and futures of Indigenous Peoples.

As Indigenous leaders around the globe embrace the great potential inherent in this new human rights instrument, they also recognize there is much work still ahead of us all to assure protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights for generations to come. “This is a significant and momentous day in our history. A time when Indigenous communities and nations should take a lead role in breathing life into this new human rights document,” noted Christopher Peters (Pohlik-lah), President of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development.

Thank you for your review of this release. We will share a more detailed analysis in the forthcoming days.


FYI - Great news!! UN General Assembly adopts Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples

For media enquiries, please contact: Renata Sivacolundhu, Department of Public Information,
tel: 212.963.2932, e-mail: sivacolundhu@un.org
For Secretariat of the Permanent Forum, please contact: Mirian Masaquiza,
tel: 917.367.6006, e-mail: IndigenousPermanentForum@un.org

From: Indigenous Permanent Forum


Historic Milestone for Indigenous Peoples
Worldwide as UN Adopts Rights Declaration

New York, 13 September - Marking an historic achievement for the more than 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, the General Assembly today adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the result of more than two decades of consultation and dialogue among governments and indigenous peoples from all regions.

"Today, by adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we are making further progress to improve the situation of indigenous peoples around the world," stated General Assembly President Haya Al Khalifa.

"We are also taking another major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warmly welcomed the adoption, calling it "a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world."

He further noted that "this marks a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples reconciled with their painful histories and resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all."

Adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, the Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It establishes an important standard for eliminating human rights violations against indigenous peoples worldwide and for combating discrimination and marginalization.

"The 13th of September 2007 will be remembered as an international human rights day for the Indigenous Peoples of the world, a day that the United Nations and its Member States, together with Indigenous Peoples, reconciled with past painful histories and decided to march into the future on the path of human rights," said Ms. Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language and others. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and Indigenous Peoples. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.

Calling the Declaration "tangible proof of the increasing cooperation of States, Indigenous Peoples and the international community as a whole for the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples", Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Sha Zukang said that the UN "has fulfilled its role as the world's parliament and has responded to the trust that Indigenous Peoples around the world placed in it, that it will stand for dignity and justice, development and peace for all, without discrimination."

The Declaration was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, with 143 countries voting in support, 4 voting against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstaining (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa, Ukraine).

To view a webcast of the General Assembly session, see: www.un.org/webcast/ga.html

For more information on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, please see:

For media enquiries, please contact: Renata Sivacolundhu, Department of Public Information, tel: 212.963.2932, e-mail: sivacolundhu@un.org For Secretariat of the Permanent Forum, please contact: Mirian Masaquiza, tel: 917.367.6006, e-mail: IndigenousPermanentForum@un.org


Contact: Tupac Enrique Acosta (602) 466-8367; Jose Matus (520) 979-2125





Friday September 14th, 2007 11:00 AM
Embassy of the Indigenous Peoples

802 N. 7th Street
Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, AZ - After more than three decades of struggle at the international levels of UN diplomacy and centuries of outright genocide and forced assimilation programs, the Indigenous Peoples of the world today will be finally acknowledged as full members of global society with inherent rights of Self Determination under international law. The act comes in the form of passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly today, which addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language and others.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on June 29th, 2006. Today's adoption by the General Assembly of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples outlaws discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic, social and cultural development. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious and cooperative relations between States and Indigenous Peoples.



To view the UN news story, see http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=23728&Cr=indigenous&Cr1=#

For more information on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, please see:




Two messages to the international community are pasted below: one from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteur Rudolfo Stavenhagen; the other from the Secretary General of the United Nations.

From the first Article: “As we stand at the brink of this historic decision by the General Assembly, it is the time to call upon member states of the United Nations to join as one and adopt the Declaration and thereby establish a universal framework for indigenous peoples' rights, social justice and reconciliation”



Message of Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur, on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

7 August 2007

The Declaration establishes international human rights standards for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and was adopted in June 2006 by the Human Rights Council, the principal human rights intergovernmental body of the United Nations. It has been 20 years in the making. Its contents are drawn from the experiences of thousands of indigenous representatives who have shared their anguish and their hopes.

As we stand at the brink of this historic decision by the General Assembly, it is the time to call upon member states of the United Nations to join as one and adopt the Declaration and thereby establish a universal framework for indigenous peoples' rights, social justice and reconciliation.

The adoption of the Declaration by the Human Rights Council should be seen as providing impetus for renewed efforts by the international community to address the pressing concerns of the world's 370 million indigenous people, including perhaps the most urgent issue of all: poverty and marginalization.

World leaders committed themselves in the year 2000 to realizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in particular reducing poverty by half, by the year 2015. There has been progress towards meeting these commitments but as we reach the mid-point for the realization of these goals, there is increasing evidence that indigenous peoples are largely overlooked in these global efforts. They remain among the poorest of the poor, with little reference to them in the reports on implementation of the MDGs.

While the International Day of the World's Indigenous People is a celebration of humankind's diversity and richness, it needs also to serve as a reminder of the continuing exclusion indigenous peoples face. Halfway to the 2015 deadline for the MDGs, and with the impending adoption of the Declaration by the General Assembly, it is time to call upon States and the international community to reach out to indigenous peoples and ensure that they also benefit from the pledge made by Heads of State at the turn of the millennium.



9 August 2007
At: http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/D35F84A98F4E2DF3C12573300052F4C4?opendocument

Today, we celebrate the contributions which indigenous peoples make to humanity through their rich civilizations. We also celebrate the partnership that has existed for three decades between indigenous peoples and the United Nations. From that partnership have emerged significant international achievements, including the proclamation of two International Decades of the World's Indigenous People, the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, and a United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Today, indigenous peoples have a home at the United Nations.

But today is also a time to remember those indigenous peoples who continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty and conflict; who face dispossession of their traditional lands and livelihoods, displacement, destruction of their belief systems, culture, language and way of life -- and even the threat of extinction.

Recently, the international community has grown increasingly aware of the need to support indigenous people -- by establishing and promoting international standards; vigilantly upholding respect for their human rights; integrating the international development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals, in policies, programmes and country-level projects; and reinforcing indigenous peoples' special stewardship on issues related to the environment and climate change.

Our fast-paced world requires us to act with urgency in addressing these issues. As we do, let us be guided by the fundamental principle of indigenous peoples' full and effective participation. Let us give life to "Partnership in action and dignity" -- the theme given by the General Assembly to this Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. On this International Day, let this be our motto and inspiration.


More information at http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/intday2007.htm



United Nations calls for
second Indigenous Border Summit


By Brenda Norrell
July 3, 2007

NEW YORK -- The Indigenous Border Summit of the Americas, held in San Xavier on Tohono O'odham land in Arizona, was so successful that the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is calling for a second Border Summit.

Tony Gonzales, staff for the International Indian Treaty Council, said the Border Summit is having far-reaching global impacts.

"As the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues VI came to an end, I am glad to inform you that it too recommended the call for another International Border Summit, "Gonzales said.

"Migration and development, border deaths and conflict, border crossing and ID use and displacement of whole communities apparently is coming under scrutiny. It is emerging as a hot topic in the halls of the United Nations and gathering movement; and the global search for solutions."

In New York, the Permanent Forum priorities were the protection of intellectual and traditional property rights, safeguarding genetic integrity, climate change and border issues.

The Border Summit of the Americas, organized by Mike Flores, Tohono O'odham, with support from the International Indian Treaty Council, in 2006, issued a proclamation of Indigenous border rights. The proclamation called for an end to the militarization of borders and a halt to the harassment of Indigenous Peoples crossing borders. The declaration opposed the construction of a U.S. and Mexico border wall that would dissect O'odham communities and violate an O'odham ceremonial route.

The summit gathered testimony from those who are living in the border region, including victims of the military and border agents and those struggling to uphold human rights. The summit brought together in solidarity Mohawk from the north with Indigenous from the southern border.
Gonzales said the Border Summit received endorsement from the United Nations at the preparatory session in April, then again in May from the Forum.

"The preparatory meeting held in mid-April 2007 in Minneapolis in the presence of Willie Little Child, UN Permanent Forum member, endorsed the Border Summit including the San Xavier District Declaration, and recommended in their report the support of another such effort to the UN Permanent Forum."

A site has not yet been selected for the second Border Summit.

The United Nations said that Indigenous leaders wrapped up the annual session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues with a series of recommendations calling on Member States to take steps to protect their rights to lands, territories and natural resources.

Participants urged countries to adopt measures to halt "land alienation" in Indigenous territories – such as by imposing a moratorium on the sale and registration of land in areas that are occupied by Indigenous Peoples, according to the U.N. news release.

They also called for the world's estimated 370 million Indigenous Peoples to be given a central role in dispute-solving arrangements over the lands, territories and natural resources they occupy and use, as well as the right to receive information about these issues in a language they can understand.

During the two-week summit, recommendations included a call for financial and technical assistance so that Indigenous Peoples can map the boundaries of their communal lands, the imposition of penalties on those who carry out harmful activities on indigenous lands, and the payment of compensation to indigenous peoples as a result of such activities.

The recommendations are contained in the Forum's report, to be forwarded to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which stresses that territories, lands and natural resources are the sources of Indigenous Peoples' spiritual, cultural and social identity.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum, said that Indigenous People worldwide have long suffered discrimination over their entitlements to occupying and using lands and natural resources.

"One of the key reason why Indigenous Peoples are being disenfranchised from their lands and territories is the existence of discriminatory laws, policies and programmes that do not recognize indigenous peoples' land tenure systems and give more priority to claims being put by corporations – both State and private," she said.

More than 1,500 Indigenous representatives attended the Forum's session. Next year's Forum will focus on the theme of climate change and there will also be sessions devoted to the Pacific region and to the protection of the thousands of threatened Indigenous languages.

Indigenous oppose Border Wall and Militarization:
To read reports on the Border Summit, please see:

Also on the Censored blog:

--Western Shoshone film, "Our Land, Our Life," wins People's Choice award at Mountainfilm fest in Telluride

--Oglala Commemoration announcement for 2007

--Commentary: 'Wounded Knee' end of Hollywood trail

--Mohawk Nation News

--News from the Zapatistas' Other Campaign in Northwest Mexico
Brenda Norrell

April 2007,

United States Report to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – Western Shoshone case response.

See specifically pages 112-119 of the Report and the full text of Annex II.
PERIODIC REPORT (.pdf), ANNEX II (.pdf) (download the free . pdf Reader )
Geneva, 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 .doc or .pdf


Western Shoshone Keeping the Pressure on - US Human Rights Violations Against Indigenous Peoples Highlighted at UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

May 17, 2006 (New York City, New York)

Today, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a Western Shoshone delegation will call upon the recently-formed UN body to pay close attention to the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States and other "developed" countries.

Attending the forum were thousands of indigenous representatives and leaders from every region of the world, governmental representatives from United Nations member states, including the United States, and observers and UN agencies.

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. For more information on the Permanent Forum, go to http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/.

Western Shoshone grandmother and activist Carrie Dann will present the statement on behalf of the Western Shoshone delegation and a coalition of U.S., Canadian and European-based organizations and networks.

Recent actions being taken by the United States against the Western Shoshone, including the threat of a 700 ton ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mixture detonation named "Divine Strake" will be reported on as well as the critical need for the UN Permanent Forum and other bodies to hold the United States and other "developed" countries to the same standards "regardless of how much money they have or how much political influence they wave around." Specific recommendations include:

  1. To promote a clear articulation of the fundamental indigenous guidelines of land, air, water and sun ("l.a.w.s.") to measure all "development" projects or other proposals; and
  2. To instruct all UN bodies and agencies to recognize the serious and ongoing human rights violations against indigenous peoples in the United States, Australia, and other "developed" countries and the reach of those violations through multinational companies headquartered, incorporated and licensed by those same governments. This point is emphasized especially by the United States' and other governments' continued use of the antiquated "doctrine of discovery" to take lands and resources and remove or diminish decision-making of indigenous peoples.

A full copy of the Western Shoshone statement is attached to this release.

The Western Shoshone delegation also delivered a copy of the recent UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's Urgent Action decision issued against the United States on March 7, 2006 to each of the members of the Permanent Forum. The decision calls upon 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.

For additional information, contact:
Julie Ann Fishel, (cell: 775-397-1371)
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

From: wsdp@igc.org
May 17, 2006
UN Statement of US New Zealand Australia

FYI. Update. Here's the joint statement made by the U.S., Australia and New Zealand during today's session of the UN Permanent Forum. Question: From what "political and moral" authority do these governments speak? At least in the case of the U.S., they have never responded to the findings of their ongoing violations of human rights against indigenous peoples in the U.S. Instead, on Western Shoshone lands, they now plan 700 ton detonations like "Divine Strake" and move forward with federal processes to give Yucca Mtn to Bechtel Corporation for nuclear waste storage and Mt. Tenabo to Barrick Gold and Kennecott for open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining. The members of the Permanent Forum responded to this statement reminding everyone present that these three countries have serious issues within their own borders and that that fact would be considered when weighing their recommendations. One member referenced the ongoing effects of colonialism and the fact that these three countries have yet to address the situation that has been ongoing for hundreds of years against indigenous peoples in their borders.

*Statement by Australia, New Zealand and the United States of American on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 17 may 2006

Madame Chair, distinguished delegates, I am making this statement on behalf of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America.

Madame Chair, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America supported the establishment and the work of this Forum. Over its relatively short history, the UN Permanent Forum has contributed to the promotion of issues affecting indigenous peoples. It is serving to bring their concerns into direct engagement with the United Nations. We welcome that, Madame Chair.

Madame Chair, this Forum was one of the main achievements of the first international decade of the world's indigenous peoples. It is disappointing that another objective of that decade - to elaborate a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - has not been met. It has been impossible to reach a consensus amongst States on a text. The Chair's "final compromise text", which was annexed to his report to CHR earlier this year (E/CN.4/2006/79) is an improvement on the original Sub Commission text and a possible basis for further consideration. But, it does not enjoy consensus. There is no agreement on most of its crucial provisions, as the chair himself has acknowledged. It, therefore, remains fundamentally flawed.

Madame Chair, the provisions for articulating self-determination for indigenous peoples in this text, for example, are inconsistent with international human rights law. Indeed, some of its provisions attempt to reinterpret the Covenants. They could be misrepresented as conferring a unilateral right of self-determination (Article 3) and possible secession upon a specific subset of the national populace, thus threatening the political unity, territorial integrity and indeed the security of existing UN Member States. Article 3 in the text, unqualified as it is at present, has the potential to create instability.

The draft text also appears to confer upon a minority, a power of veto over the law of a democratic legislature (Article 20). While we strongly support the full and active engagement of indigenous peoples in democratic decision-making processes, no government can accept the notion of creating different classes of citizenship. Nor can one group in society have rights that take precedence over those of others. In this context, it is important to be mindful of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Madame Chair, the provisions on lands and resources are particularly unworkable and unacceptable. They ignore the contemporary realities in many countries with indigenous populations, by appearing to require the recognition of indigenous rights to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens, both indigenous and non-indigenous (Article 26). Such provisions would be impossible to implement.

Other important provisions in the Chair's text are potentially discriminatory. It seems to be assumed that the rights of all individuals, which are enshrined in international law, are a secondary consideration in this Declaration. Collective rights do not prevail over the human rights of individuals, as implied in Article 34 of the text. That only confirms that this text it is fundamentally flawed in its most significant provisions.

Madame Chair, any attempt to put this text forward for endorsement in the United Nations would be disingenuous and irresponsible. It lacks consensus support and thus any moves to adopt it by the new Human Rights Council would establish a dangerous precedent. It would also risk creating confusion, ambiguity and endless debate on what the Declaration means. Endorsement of this text, which many States - even with the best intentions - could never live up to, would be a gross disservice to indigenous people. And, it would potentially undermine the cause of advancing human rights internationally. Many other countries, representing all regions, have shared their concerns in this regard with our respective governments.

States need to pause and reflect very carefully indeed on the very obvious shortcomings in the current text before any action on it could be legitimately contemplated in the United Nations.

Madame Chair, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America want a Declaration that can become a tangible and on-going standard of achievement. To achieve that, it must be universally accepted, observed and upheld in order to have political and moral force as a Declaration. None of us want a Declaration that, at its outset, is regarded as artificial, unrealistic, simply rhetorical, and thus ultimately irrelevant. The situation for indigenous people in some countries is very worrying indeed. What is needed is a new standard of achievement that has the potential to make a real difference in their circumstances and one that is an investment and positive force in their futures. Sadly, the current text falls well short of ever achieving that. It would be in effect, Madame Chair, a lost opportunity.

Madame Chair, I thank you.

* This is a retype of the original document that was provided to the UNPFII. The original document will be posted on the UNPFII website at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/

Western Shoshone Defense Project, Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, Tonatierra, International Indian Treaty Council, American Indian Law Alliance, Hawaii Institute for Human Rights, Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples

May 16, 2006
United Nations Permanent Forum Session V
Intervention under Agenda Item 3

Madame Chairperson, members of the Permanent Forum, distinguished state delegates and indigenous relatives. Good morning. My name is Carrie Dann, I am Western Shoshone. Thank you for this opportunity to speak. We have three specific recommendations for the Permanent Forum, as well, because we are unable to be here next week to raise these issues during the North American focus, we ask that the members consider this intervention and our statement during that discussion.

Western Shoshone lands span across approximately 60 million acres of land within the borders of the United States. The U.S. claims that our lands are federal or public lands – they have no legitimate basis for this claims, in fact that claim is a direct violation of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley that the U.S. signed with our leaders. Despite ongoing federal seizures of our livestock and continued harassment and intimidation of our peoples, we continue to live on and use our lands according to our traditions and our spiritual teachings. Both the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have issued final reports or decisions agreeing with us. A copy of the UN CERD decision has been provided to each member.

Our requests that the Permanent Forum pass on to ECOSOC are:

1. Clearly articulate the fundamental indigenous guidelines of land, air, water and sun (the acronymn is L.A.W.S., “laws”) to measure all “development” projects or other proposals – any destruction of these sacred things must be prohibited for the protection of all life and for any type of environmental sustainability under the MDGs, the World Bank and the UN agencies, funds and programmes.

To us, as indigenous peoples, these four sacred things must be addressed as the starting point for any discussion of “development”, economic sustainability, or government accountability. All life depends upon these four things. Our responsibility as indigenous peoples is to protect these things and to serve as caretakers of our homelands. All the situations presented in the Permanent Forum have these things in common – the situations may be at different stages– but all stem from the desire by others to take our land, to take our resources, and to take our water and our spirituality. These things are destruction, not development. There should be no debate on that issue.

2. For all UN bodies and agencies to recognize the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States as documented by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other “developed” countries and to treat these situations as the United Nations would treat any other violation of basic human rights. This is especially necessary when the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly is considering the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Why should the violators of these rights, the U.S, Canada, and others be able to hold up the processes necessary to protect and recognize our rights? This is shameless.

As the distinguished representative from Bolivia stated on Monday, this has been going on for the last 500 years. Without our consent, Western Shoshone lands are currently the second largest gold producing area in the world. There are huge, open pit cyanide heap leach mines with one mine alone dewatering up to 70,000 gallons of water per minute, 24 hours per day. Under current U.S. law we are given no ability to stop a mine – they are also threatening massive geothermal energy exploitation, destroying hot springs which are spiritual areas for our people and the U.S. is moving forward on storing the nation’s, and much of Europe’s, nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain – an area long known for ceremonies and burial sites. How can we even talk about environmental sustainability as reflected in MDG number 7 when we are denied our basic rights to decision making over the lands where we were placed by the Creator?

We received a full report from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights in 2002, they found the U.S. in violation of our rights to property, due process and equality under the law. This year, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination confirmed the Inter American Commission’s finding and issued a full decision under their Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure. We are very pleased that these bodies have recognized the wrongs that the government is committing against our people and other indigenous peoples, however the U.S. has responded with complete defiance to these rulings- setting a very dangerous precedent for other states parties to the OAS and to the UN.

The time is now for the change to happen. Western Shoshone peoples and other indigenous peoples in the U.S., Canada, and other so-called “developed” countries are being actively denied our rights to fulfill our responsibilities as caretakers of our lands. These same policies are then pushed at the international level and promoted as “economic development and sustainability”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Reassess the use of the terms “developed” versus “developing” countries on all issues affecting indigenous peoples, including monitoring and review, funding and other UN agency support and assistance.

The laws and policies used against us, indigenous peoples in the “developed” world are the same out-dated and racist notions known as the “doctrine of discovery” – a colonialist concept which describes indigenous peoples as sub-human, childlike and savage. This continues to be used by the United States and other “developed” governments to take our lands, to force compensation on us, to exploit our land, air and water to the benefit of multinational corporate and military interests. These concepts are then used to promote economic development interests by multinational interests globally. Everyone knows this – we should just say it like it is and starting telling the truth and looking for real solutions for all peoples.

Those are our recommendations. And I thank you for listening to this little old lady.

printable .doc or .pdf


Full text of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- draft declaration adopted by the Human Rights Council yesterday –
on its way now to the United Nations General Assembly for full and final adoption.
Apr. 06 .pdf (380KB)