Archive for the ‘Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues PFII / Foro Permanente sobre Assuntos Indigenas / Foro Permanente sobre Cuestiones Indígenas’ Category

Statement from the family of Arthur Manuel on his passing

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Arthur_ManuelOn Wednesday January 11, 2017 at 11:00 PM, Arthur Manuel, our beloved father, grandfather, husband, brother, uncle, warrior, and teacher passed away. Arthur was one of our most determined and outspoken Secwepemc leaders and activists—a pillar in the resistance, known globally for his tireless advocacy for Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination. He passed on into the spirit world surrounded by many generations of his loving family.

Arthur was the son of Marceline Paul of the Ktuanaxa Nation and George Manuel of the Secwepemc Nation. George was a political leader and visionary who served as president of the National Indian Brotherhood and the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

Arthur was born into the struggle and groomed to be a leader and defender of Indigenous rights and title. Coming up as a young leader in the 1970s, he served as president of the National Native Youth Association, leading the occupation of Indian Affairs. He attended Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec) and Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto, Ontario).

He returned to his community and was elected Chief of Neskonlith Indian Band, Chair of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, and Chair of the Assembly of First Nations Delgamuukw Implementation Strategic Committee. He was a long-time co-chair of the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and former co-chair of the Global caucus. He was active in the Defenders of the Land and Idle No More movement and as a board member of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. He was one of the main strategic thinkers of the decolonization movement in Canada. As the spokesman for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, he convinced the World Trade Organization to recognize that Indigenous peoples are subsidizing the BC lumber industry through the non-recognition of Aboriginal title. He was co-author, along with Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, of the award-winning Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, with a foreword by his friend and fellow activist Naomi Klein.

He worked selflessly in defence of Indigenous territorial authority and he fiercely opposed any termination of Indigenous land rights. He rejected provincial and federal authority over unceded Indigenous land, and challenged the extinguishment of Indigenous title through the BC treaty process. He fought climate change, battling the imminent threat of pipelines across Secwepemc territory.

He was a world traveller who connected Indigenous nations across the globe to unite in a common vision and defend their rights. He was gifted a button blanket by the Nuxalk nation and has received countless honours for his work around the world.

Arthur was also a teacher and a mentor to many. He was a source of knowledge for youth and young leaders. Through his fierce love for his people, he shone a light on the path to justice for a new generation of activists.

He’s a residential school survivor, having attended the Kamloops (Kamloops BC), St Eugene’s (Cranbrook BC) and St. Mary’s (Mission BC) residential schools.

Arthur is survived by his life partner, Nicole Schabus, by his sisters Emaline, Martha, Doreen, and Ida, his brothers George, Richard, and Ara, and by his children, Kanahus, Mayuk, Ska7cis and Snutetkwe. He is predeceased by his parents, sister Vera, brother Bobby, beloved son Neskie and his grandchildren Napika Amak and Megenetkwe.

In his most recent article on Canada’s 150th celebration, published only a week before his death, Arthur insisted again that Canada was built entirely on the theft of Indigenous lands.

“Our Indian reserves are only .02% of Canada’s land and yet Indigenous peoples are expected to survive on them. This has led to the systematic impoverishment of Indigenous people and the crippling oppression that indigenous peoples suffer under the current colonial system.

The .02 land based is used to keep us too poor and too weak to fight back. It is used to bribe and co-opt the Indigenous leadership into becoming neocolonial partners to treat the symptom of poverty on Indian reserves without addressing the root cause of the problem, which is the dispossession of all of the Indigenous territory by Canada and the provinces.” – First Nations Strategic Bulletin, August-December 2016 Issue

Wake: Friday, January 13th 5:00 PM and Saturday, January 14th, Adams Lake Indian Band Gymnasium, 6349 Chief Jules Drive, Chase, BC

Funeral Services: Sunday, January 15th 10:00 AM, Adams Lake Indian Band Gymnasium

Media contact: Russell Diabo at 613-296-0110 or
Donations to support Arthur’s service can be sent to
Condolences to the family and photos of Arthur can be sent to

Racism in the Arab world

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Racism in the Arab world covers an array of forms of intolerance against non-Arab groups, minorities in Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

The previously forbidden topics of race and racism in the Arab world have been explored more since the rise of foreign, private and independent media. In one example, Al-Jazeera’s critical coverage of the Darfur crisis led to the arrest and conviction of its Khartoum bureau chief.
Read more . . .

Indigenous Peoples Statement to UNPFII Expert Group Meeting: Dialogue on an optional protocol

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

“We cannot allow procedures that will allow for states to move disputes regarding our rights to our lands, territories and resources from international processes to domestic judicial and political forums.” *Tonya Gonella Frischner, Onondaga Nation*

Statement to the UNPFII Expert Group Meeting:
Dialogue on an optional protocol to the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
28-29 January 2015, UN Headquarters
Presented by the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA)

*Current and Historical Context*

1. We recall that Indigenous Nations and Peoples came to the United Nations in 1977, in part to have our nation-to-nation treaties upheld by UN bodies. We note that some of those courageous leaders are still with us today and still fully engaged in the fight to have our treaties upheld. At the time, Indigenous Nations and Peoples felt that this international forum would be one place to ensure enforcement of treaties between our Indigenous Nations and other governments such as the United States and Canada.

2. We further recall the statement of Ms. Navi Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at the time in her official position, on the central importance of treaties on August 7, 2013: “Even when signed or otherwise agreed more than a century ago, many treaties remain the cornerstone for the protection of the identity, land and customs
of indigenous peoples, determining the relationship they have with the State.” The statement marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9, 2013.1

3. With that current and historical context, we take note of the “Study on an optional protocol to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples focusing on a voluntary mechanism” (E/C.19/2014/7)2 which was prepared by Permanent Forum members Professor Dalee S. Dorough and Professor Megan Davis for the Thirteenth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) with the Special
Theme: “Principles of Good Governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, articles 3 to 6 and 46,” held May 12-23, 2014 at UN Headquarters.

4. The Haudenosaunee intervention on ‘Principles of Good
Governance,’ delivered by Chief Oren Lyons (Onondaga Nation), under Agenda Item 3 at the Thirteenth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) delivered on May 14, 2014 in paragraph 21, expressed the concern that a proposed optional protocol “*may allow procedures for states to move disputes regarding lands, territories and resources from
international processes to domestic judicial and political forums*.

5. We take note that the upcoming Fourteenth Session of the UNPFII to take place April 20- May 1, 2015 at UN Headquarters lists as its proposed Agenda Item 5: Half-day discussion on the expert group meeting on the theme “Dialogue on an optional protocol to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People”. We encourage this to be an
open dialogue on the various proposals and drawbacks for an optional protocol, considering these proposals from all angles, and including the “full, equal, and effective participation” of Indigenous Peoples.

*Full, Equal, and Effective Participation*

6. A separate but related issue under consideration at this Expert Group Meeting is the proposal to revise EMRIP’s mandate, which emerged from the negotiations of the HLPM/WCIP Outcome Document. Paragraph 28 of the Outcome Document of the HLPM/WCIP states: “We invite the Human Rights Council, taking into account the views of indigenous peoples, to review the
mandates of its existing mechanisms, in particular the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, during the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, with a view to modifying and improving the Expert Mechanism so that it can more effectively promote respect and the enforcement of the Declaration, including by better assisting Member States
to monitor, evaluate and improve the achievement of the ends of the Declaration.”

7. We note the HLPM/WCIP process arose between the annual sessions of the UNPFII. As a result, the proposed revision of EMRIP has not had the benefit of the full, equal, and effective participation by Indigenous Peoples. We are concerned that an essential Indigenous mechanism within the
UN system is being revised without the full participation of Indigenous Peoples. *We are concerned that a lack of full, equal, and effective participation is the new norm within the UN system*.

8. This lack of full, equal and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples contradicts the Modalities Resolution of the HLPM/WCIP and UNDRIP Articles 3, 18, 32, 33, 36, 37, 38 42 43 and 46. The full, equal, and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples is a clearly established requirement.

*Areas of Concern*

9. We acknowledge and appreciate all the papers submitted to this Expert Group Meeting by each expert and we have carefully reviewed each paper. We share the view as was laid out in the initial “Study on an optional protocol” and in some of the subsequent expert papers submitted for this Expert Group Meeting, that an implementation gap exists for the
UNDRIP. We also share the view that there is a lack of adequate knowledge and understanding of the UNDRIP. Part of AILA’s work since the adoption of the UNDRIP in 2007 has been to continually educate on its content and advocate for its implementation on local, continental and global levels.

10. We continue to be concerned about the desire for UN Member States to ‘domesticate’ our rights, rather than maintain relations with Indigenous Nations and Peoples in the international arena, on a nation-to-nation basis, which was the original purpose of Indigenous Nations and Peoples in coming to the UN. It should be duly noted that international law supersedes domestic law. We are concerned about moving disputes regarding our rights to our lands, territories and resources to an optional protocol, which would rely on governments to do the right thing and ratify this optional protocol.

11. We find a few proposals, presented in the expert paper submitted by Professor Mattias Åhrén to the Expert Group Meeting, relating to a possible new role for EMRIP to be particularly troubling.

12. The suggestion that only Indigenous Peoples recognized by states would be eligible to submit complaints to a new optional protocol body, is
in direct violation of the UNDRIP, our right to full, effective and equal
participation, and violates the right to self-determination. This is non-negotiable. We have been fighting against the perception that states
decide who is or is not Indigenous for hundreds of years.

13. A six month time limitation to raise human rights issues in international fora after exhausting domestic options is damaging and overly burdensome for our Peoples. We are unclear who determines what rights could be deemed principally important.

14. As we all know, UNDRIP was the result of an over twenty year negotiation process and sets the minimum standards for the “survival,dignity and well-being” of Indigenous Peoples around the world. Article 43 of the UNDRIP states: “The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples of
the world.” It has been established that the UNDRIP, along with the UN Charter, the human rights covenants and other applicable international human rights laws must be the basis for discussing the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples. UNDRIP has a strong norm setting role in international law, and member states cannot pick and choose when and which Articles they comply with of UNDRIP. Additionally, for Indigenous Nations
and Peoples, our treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements are the basis for the protection of our lands, territories and resources.

15. This proposed new role for EMRIP could lead to a claim of a ‘duplication of work within the UN system.’ We were happy to see that the original “Study on an optional protocol” stressed that “a voluntary mechanism cannot serve as a way for States to avoid being monitored by existing international or regional human rights bodies and mechanisms” (paragraph 40).

16. The work of the UNPFII is of paramount importance within the UN system. The American Indian Law Alliance, and the Nations and communities we serve, have always supported and continue to support the work of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Our Founder and President, Tonya
Gonnella Frichner, Esq. (Onondaga Nation), served as the North American Regional Representative to the UNPFII for a three year term from 2008-2011, brought forward by Indigenous Peoples. As a result of that role, she has direct experience and participated first-hand in the indispensable work of the Forum.

17. Indigenous Peoples have a voice and we must be recognized as our own experts in any forum concerning us.


1. We cannot allow procedures that will allow for states to move disputes regarding our rights to our lands, territories and resources from international processes to domestic judicial and political forums.

2. In line with established international law, the UNDRIP, the UN Charter, and all other applicable international law must be the framework for the realization of the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples, including Article 37 of the UNDRIP:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition,
observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

2. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

*3. All deliberations* concerning a proposed optional protocol for the UNDRIP, including any proposed overhaul of the mandate of EMRIP *must include the full, effective, equal participation of all Indigenous Peoples in line with the UNDRIP*.

4. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is an integral, international human rights instrument that recognizes the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right of self-determination, must be continually implemented on all levels. Further education on the content of UNDRIP is needed for
Indigenous Nations and Peoples, UN member states, UN agencies, civil society, governments at all levels and society at large. Adequate financial resources must be made available to further these goals.

Docip VIDEO: Bridge to the Future / Un Puente al Futuro / Un pont vers l’avenir / МОСТ В БУДУЩЕЕ

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Published on youtube May 6, 2014 by DOCIP
VIDEO: Bridge to the Future / Un Puente al Futuro / Un pont vers l’avenir / МОСТ В БУДУЩЕЕ

Indigenous Youth document the achievements of the First Indigenous Peoples’ delegates at the United Nations / La juventud indígena documenta los logros de los primeros delegados de los Pueblos Indígenas en las Naciones Unidas / La jeunesse autochtone documente les succès des premiers délégués des peuples autochtones à l’ONU / Молодежь из числа коренного населения запечатляет достижения первых делегатов от коренных народов в Организации Объединенных Наций

Territorial Integrity of Mother Earth – The TIME Is NOW (Intervention at UN Forum on Indigenous Issues)

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Statement ofTupac Enrique Acosta, Huehuecoyotl, TONATIERRA

Recommendation to the 13th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples

12-23 May 2014   UN Headquarters   New York

Good Governance and the Territorial Integrity of Mother Earth

In the Spirit of the Territorial Integrity of Mother Earth

Good greetings to you all:

To the ancestors and the Nations of Indigenous Peoples of these territories, to the Memory and Spirit of each of the Indigenous Peoples of Tonantzin, Our Sacred Mother Earth now in attendance, to the members of the UN Permanent Forum and all the support staff at this 13th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

A special greeting and congratulations to our Chairperson, Ms. Dalee Sambo Dorough and also a word of recognition for the deceased leaders and spiritual guides of our Nations of Indigenous Peoples who led the way in the struggle in the international arena for recognition, respect, and protection for the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We invoke their vision and strength once again here today, we call upon the leadership of Billy Frank, we call upon the strength of Tomas Banyacya, and all the others relatives of our Indigenous Peoples who acted upon the responsibility for our future in their times.


Fundamental to the right of nationality, as members of the Nations of Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala, the Great Turtle Island which is referenced in article 6 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and evidenced unequivocally by the Treaty Status, namely international personality which was subject of the UN Treaty Study conducted by Dr. Miguel Alfonso Martinez, is the collective right of nationhood of Indigenous Peoples beyond the contextual constraints of the Westphalian system of sovereignty of states.  It is a collective right, similar to how the present UN system of mutual international recognition as sovereign states provides the framework of jurisprudence for the purported jurisdiction of the states individually and then collectively at the global dimension under the dominion of the UN system, the jurisprudence which articulates the nationhood of Indigenous Peoples is also is a projection of jurisdiction at the planetary level, with mutual responsibilities towards the Territorial Integrity of Mother Earth, and the well being of the Future Generations.  The distinction being that our Rights of Nationhood emerge from the COGNITION, and then thus RECOGNITION, of our responsibilities as ONE of the Nations (two legged species of kindom) – among ALL of the RELATIONS to whom and with we share as human society collectively, the responsibility to act in complementarity within the equally shared environment of the Natural World.

We are Nations of Mother Earth, and will not consent to be diminished or to be dominated under the regime of the government states of the UN system as mere ethnic groups, or minorities.

Good Governance

Colonialism and colonization are incompatible and irreconcilable to the principles and practices of good governance.  With the adoption of UN GA1514 (1960), this reality became evident and standardized within the UN system by mechanisms of assessment, prosecution, and restorative justice exemplified by UN GA1541 (1960).  The intent in 1960 at the dawn of the era decolonization was a determination by global society not to simply to redress the international crime of colonization, but instead to act deliberately and collectively on the mandate “to bring colonialism to a speedy end.”

That was 54 years ago. It was only seven years ago upon the adoption in 2007 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that the rights of Indigenous Peoples “equal to all other peoples” became a norm in the international system of the United Nations in the context of colonialism and decolonization referenced by UN GA1514.

But in terms of good governance, it is not only seven years, or 54 years or 522 years (October 12, 1492) since the pogrom of colonization inflicted upon the Nations of Indigenous Peoples became a crime against humanity.  Colonialism and genocide have always been criminal acts against humanity.  These dates simply mark the codification within the Westphalian system of the states now known as the United Nations when the crime of colonization became an actionable crime in international law.  And again the call for action under UN GA1514 in 1960 was to “bring to a speedy end”, not simply camouflage the crime and become accomplice by dressing the body of the victim (the colonized) with a set of domesticated rights that actually diminish and would eventually destroy the Nationhood of Indigenous Peoples.

These codes of common conduct also mark the beginning of the processes of articulation and institutionalizing of mechanisms of decolonization.

One of the other international bodies which emerged in the processes was the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, where the UN system currently still monitors the situation of “non-self governing territories” in terms of the application of the principles of UNGA1514 and UNGA1541.  The government of the United States of America, for example reported to this body which was established under section 73(e) of the UN Charter until 1960, informing the UN on the status of the non-self governing territories of Hawaii and Alaska.  Currently, the USA reports to the UN Decolonization committee on the colonial status of American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands, while Puerto Rico is presented as an “associate free state” per UN GA1541.

Therefore, in view of the High-level Plenary Meeting of the UN in 2014 and in relation to the debate on the special theme of Good Governance of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 2014, the Permanent Forum should address without discrimination violations of the right to self-determination and full and equal participation of Indigenous Peoples, equal to all other peoples in the concept, design, implementation and evaluation of each and every one of the UN actions and policies that involve our Indigenous Peoples and the protection of our collective rights.  In particular, regional trade agreements among member states of the UN, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the imminent threat of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP for short English) should be juridically evaluated as instruments that violate of the right of Full and Equal Participation as Peoples, equal to all other peoples.

Likewise, in evaluating with these same criteria the UNHLPM 2014, the lack of respect and consideration to be considered in Equality as Peoples with all other Peoples in the proceedings is evident from conception, completely absent from the design, not even being considered in the implementation, and there are no mechanisms integrate equality in the evaluation of the HLPM 2014 which is not a UN conference.  We see individual advisors being selected by extractive and non-representational processes, international peons whose role in the projected UN High Level Plenary Meeting of States of the General Assembly, which arrogantly is to be known as World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, is to repeat what the states have scripted to be told, facilitating the assault of neo-liberal colonization by the corporations that dictate the policies of the states, and whose role is to provide legitimacy for development projects which the international financial consortia require in order to market the concept that there is justice and consent of indigenous peoples:

Colonization is inconsistent with the Good Governance.

The UN General Assembly High-level Plenary Meeting 2014


It is a schema of the states which is actively and openly but unrealistically being promoted to be named a CONFERENCE, in the same degrading naming process that we became known as INDIANS, AMERICA, LATIN AMERICA, etc.  The HLPM is a semiotic schema (doctrine) being constructed to contextualize the process INDIGENOUS CONSENT inside the Westphalian System of the Divine Right of States in order to domesticate the Universal Human Right in International Law of Indigenous Peoples, equal to all other peoples of the world.


The Doctrine of Discovery as a Violation of the Rule of Law and the UN Decolonization Committee

As a systemic violation of the rule of law, discriminatory and racist in conception and perpetration since October 12, 1492 until the present, the Doctrine of Christian Discovery of the Americas must not and cannot be simply be redressed through advisory bodies of the UN system.  Colonization must be brought to an end, not dressed up as domestic policy and repackaged for sanitized consumption under the guise of reconciliation. To do so would not invoke Good Governance.  It would not be governance at all, but instead complicity in the perpetuation of the crime of colonization.  The issues of colonization and genocide which are normalized socially and politically by the Doctrine must be criminally prosecuted and dismantled as violation of the rule of law, with the full effective and equal participation of the Nations of Indigenous Peoples, equal to all other peoples.  The Doctrine of Discovery is a violation of the rule of law.

Madam Chair and members of the Permanent Forum:

We have taken note that the dispute over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands between Great Britain and Argentina is an agenda item before the United Nations Decolonization Committee, and as we also have intervened on this matter as Nations of Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala at the V Continental Summit held in November 2013 in the Cauca Territories [Colombia], we now submit the call for clarification presented here at the Permanent Forum to the Representative of the Holy See on this issue.  In exercising our collective continental Right of Self Determination and Nationhood as Indigenous Peoples, the mechanisms of the UN bodies such as the UN Decolonizing Committee must not be complicit in legitimizing and perpetuating the Crime of Colonization by masking the issue of the Universal Call for Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery in their criteria and proceedings.  We call for accountability and justice in this regard, in order to move forward with collective corrective actions to address the systemic discrimination against Indigenous Peoples inscribed in the Decolonization Committee mandates and procedures.

The processes and mechanisms of the UN Decolonization Committee must address the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery as a Violation of the Rule of Law, which must be prosecuted and procedurally engaged in order to realize the Full, Effective, and Equal participation of Indigenous Peoples in peaceful co-existence with (but not under) those colonial settler societies in the Americas who derive their juridical personality through the regimes of succession of the Doctrine of Discovery (1492), the Papal Bulls (1493), the Monroe Doctrine (1823), and are contextualized regionally and globally under the present UN systems such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Westphalian system of State Sovereignty (AKA The Divine Right of States).


We call for the restitution of the primary source materials and testimony that was lent to the United Nations system as fundamental to the evidence in document form of the systemic (system to system) nature of the legal relationships between the Nations of Indigenous Peoples and the member states of the UN system for the purpose of the Treaty Study conducted by Dr. Miguel Alfonso Martinez of Cuba.

Such delivery, should be initial act of good faith in terms of the continuing process of systemic documentation among the Nations of Indigenous Peoples and the UN system prior to and as a necessary act of condition to allow for the full and effective participation of the Indigenous Peoples with the High Level Plenary Meeting on an equal basis and without systemic discrimination in the process of producing the Final Outcome Document of the High Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly 2014.

Western Highlands, Guatemala – The Maya Mam Council of Quetzaltenango and the Maya Mam Council of Huehuetenango express deep concern regarding the recent press release issued by CACIF and FUNDESA at UNPFII

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Western Highlands, Guatemala – The Maya Mam Council of Quetzaltenango and the Maya Mam Council of Huehuetenango express deep concern regarding the recent press release issued by CACIF and FUNDESA announcing an alliance of “Ancestral Maya Indigenous Authorities and Business Leaders from Guatemala” at the Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Thirteenth Session focusing on “Principles of good governance consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: articles 3 to 6 and 46” offers a critical and necessary space, through legitimate authorities, to address conflicts and power dynamics related to natural resources and indigenous peoples. Therefore, the Maya Mam Councils of Quetzaltenango and Huehuetenango call on the Permanent Forum to have a process to provide “serious verification to check the representativeness and legitimacy of the participants, especially when it relates to indigenous peoples and indigenous nationalities.”

According to CACIF President Mr. Hermann Girón, “the presence of this delegation sends a powerful message that there is great interest to work together for the good of the country.” The historical and current context of Guatemala demonstrate that development has and continues to be imposed on indigenous peoples in a manner that does not respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous, the ILO Convention No. 169, and Guatemala’s own Constitution. The victims of development projects such as the Chixoy Dam, Marlin Mine, Hydro Santa Rita, Hidro Santa Cruz, Cementos Progreso, El Escobal Mine and others, are proof that Guatemala continues to lag behind when it comes to a human rights framework to development that is truly inclusive of a “multicultural Guatemala.”

Members of the Maya Mam Nation Council and the Plurinational Council of Maya Peoples (CPO) recently contributed to an article in the Americas Quarterly Spring Issue, a special edition on The Perils and Promise of Consulta Previa. In their article, “A View from Indigenous Peoples”, they expressed some of their concerns related to imposed development in Guatemala because it is necessary that the original peoples of Guatemala speak for themselves. They wanted to share the thinking and decision-making process of indigenous peoples related to development.

Lastly, we want to make clear that we are not opposed to development – our position has and continues to be that any development that disregards legitimate authorities to make decisions over our lands, territories and natural resources, creates social conflict and division, harms the health and well-being of our peoples and our mother earth is not the type of development that we want or support.

For further questions or media inquiries related to any of the attached statements from indigenous peoples and the article, “A View from Indigenous Peoples”, please contact Juanita Cabrera Lopez, Member of the Maya Mam Nation Council,

Mash-Mash and José Guadalupe Gómez are members of the Maya Mam Nation Council and the Plurinational Council of the Maya Peoples (CPO).

North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC) withdrew in protest from “UN World Conference on Indigenous Issues”, disputing UN President of GA suggestion that an unified indigenous position has been achieved (read original NAIPC letter to United Nations)

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

The North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus (NAIPC) letter was submitted to  Mr. Ashe’s (United Nations President of the General Assembly) on April 1, 2014,  correcting and disputing Mr. Ashe’s  suggestion in his recent UN document that an unified indigenous position has been achieved regarding the High Level Plenary Meeting on Indigenous Peoples (aka “World Conference on Indigenous Issues”), and that in fact the NAIPC withdrew from it and any further participation because the modalities that were adopted by the UN for the HLPM meeting did not respect the full, equal and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples with UN state members.

Click here to read the original letter(1 April 2014):

NAIPC Letter to the UN General Assembly’s President Mr. Ashe – disputing his suggestion that an unified indigenous position has been achieved

To read previous post North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus calls for immediate cancellation of the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples:

click here

BERLIN – Vienna + 20: UN Human Rights Council Director Bacre Waly Ndiaye opening speech “Human Rights are indivisible”

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the Director Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Conference

Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the Director Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Conference

BERLIN, 15 April 2013:

Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the Director Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Conference reminded everyone about the history of the United Nations battle for human rights in his opening address to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna World Conference “Vienna + 20”, which hosted by the Human Rights Forum Menschenrechte und das Deutsche Institut für Menschenrechte in Berlin.

Vienna + 20

Opening address by Bacre Waly Ndiaye
Director Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Berlin, 15 April 2013

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to journey back into the past, and to measure the distance we have covered since the Vienna World conference on human rights, 20 years ago.

It is also an occasion for me to recall and pay homage to Stéphane Hessel, for whom it is my heart-felt and painful duty to replace at this podium.

A diplomat, writer, member of the French Resistance and survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, Stéphane Hessel was an inspiring and beloved example of humility, clarity, perception and depth, and I believe I speak for many of the people in this room when I say that I sorely miss his presence among us today.

I met Stéphane Hessel in Strasbourg in January 1993, at a cross-regional preparatory meeting for the Vienna conference which was being held under the auspices of the Council of Europe. It was barely six months before the conference was due to take place, and the general assumption was that it was going to be a failure. A failure so terrible that it might even lead to a roll-back of human rights protection around the world.

Despite the efforts of some leaders, including former US President Jimmy Carter, there were many disagreements on the agenda. Like the 1968 Tehran conference, 25 years before Vienna, it seemed that the delegations would break apart into blocs, each grasping tightly onto their highly fortified positions — the Western countries favouring the primacy, or exclusivity, of civil and political rights; the East bloc and many developing nations arguing for economic and social rights above all.

In addition, there was a bloc of countries pushing for what they called “third generation” human rights; these spanned a number of variously defined group rights and collective rights. And there was another sizeable group of countries who vigorously argued that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was in some deep sense the product of a specifically Western culture, possibly imposed by colonial powers, and that in reality human rights should be understood to vary according to the characteristics and traditions of different cultures, so as to accommodate the peoples that were not around the table in 1948.

These were some very deep, very sharp differences — potentially irreconcilable. Moreover, as many of you here today will recall, the world was undergoing a series of tectonic shifts at that time, and some of them seemed extremely ominous.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall had created a global surge of hope, and indeed it was the main factor that had inspired the Vienna conference to be called in the first place. It had seemed to be the right moment for a new world to review its agenda for human rights, from basic principles to implementation.

But at the same time, the cannons were rumbling just next door, in the former Yugoslavia. There were charnel houses and killing fields less than a day’s drive from the conference rooms where our meeting was to take place.

It was in this difficult, conflicted period — the run-up to what promised to be a very trying conference — that I met Stéphane Hessel on a bus. We were both on our way to the Palais de l’Europe, in Strasbourg. I had no inkling that he was an Ambassador, or that he had worked at the UN during the process of writing the Universal Declaration, or that he was in fact one of the leading figures in our modern human rights landscape. What I knew from the start was that he was friendly, funny, humble, with a sharp mind and no pretensions whatsoever. He was in his mid 70s, though he looked far younger, and he could recite the entire Universal Declaration by heart. Over dinner, poetry spooled out of him. He was both a learned man and completely devoid of ego. It was a joy and a never ending lesson of life to be in his company.

It turned out that Stéphane Hessel had been asked to chair the discussion on the relationship between human rights, development and democracy at that preparatory conference in Strasbourg. And I, who was then the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, had been invited to preside the commission on the protection of human rights and development. So we did have quite a lot of work to do in common together with President Mary Robinson of Ireland who volunteered to be the rapporteur of the cross regional Strasbourg conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As our working relationship blossomed, we watched the larger process of developing consensus in Vienna unfold. Just a few weeks before the Vienna conference, Ibrahima Fall, the Secretary-General of the conference, still had quite literally hundreds of parentheses on his draft document for consensus. But gradually those parentheses fell away, and were replaced by agreement.

The key point, I now believe, was acceptance of what became almost a magic formula: the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights. This was the single factor that was most responsible for crafting the agreement that ultimately emerged. It allowed a number of States that had been resisting the entire notion of economic and social rights – because they saw them as a laundry-list of aspirations rather than rights intrinsic to human dignity and freedom – to take these economic and social rights on board, and it really anchored them within our discussions.

For example, the right to development. Several delegations would essentially get up and leave the room if a discussion of the right to development was tabled. There was a very binary mindset: either political rights, OR economic rights. But if you phrased this as indivisibility — as an inter-related and inter-dependant constellation of human rights, each of them a meaningful contribution to enjoyment of the others — those same delegations would stay in the room.

The debate regarding the alleged cultural specificities of human rights was resolved in a manner that to me seemed to strongly recall the legacy of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which had been adopted in 1981. Ibrahima Fall was indeed a member of the drafting Committee of the African Charter. The African Charter states that ”civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from economic, social and cultural rights in their conception as well as universality “ and makes liberal reference to the primordial importance of rights and freedoms in traditional African cultures. It seeks, in its article 29, to preserve and reinforce Africa’s positive cultural values. (One example of those values would be the traditional freedom accorded to griots to criticize without risk of reprisals the conduct of the powerful. This in a sense prepares the way for freedom of expression and information).

This approach — of working with positive traditional values to strengthen attachment to the rights laid down in the Universal Declaration — was a particularly interesting one, given that African countries could not easily be suspected of seeking a colonial domination over other regions. As I’ve noted, in the run-up to Vienna a number of countries were asserting that human rights varied according to national and regional characteristics. These were countries which had not been present in 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, because they did not at that time yet exist. The underlying notion was that criticism of your government for its failure to respect individual liberty and dignity was a kind of betrayal, a form of cultural imperialism, so that such critics were somehow working in the service of foreign, possibly colonial, interests.

I had myself an experience of this kind and had to confront the then President of Benin, Mathieu Kerekou, while leading an Amnesty International delegation.

Of course all countries are not the same, and all voices must, naturally, be heard. But these cultural specificities in no way erode the universality of human rights. Indeed aspiration to equality of all human beings, in dignity and rights inspired the fight against colonialism and doctrines of racial or cultural superiority. And the formula that ultimately created consensus on this point was: you choose your path, but the goal is something we hold in common. Your specificity will influence your way to advance towards the common goal, but that goal — of human dignity and human freedom, via the specific human rights elucidated in the International Bill of Rights — is something we share.

This inclusive approach, which wraps in the resilience and flexibility of every culture’s traditions to strengthen a common goal, has since then been used many times, to shield the International Bill of Rights from various specious attempts to alter its integrity with claims of cultural or religious singularity.
And so the Vienna Declaration became one of the strongest human rights documents of the past century. It emphasized that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and took the key notion of universality a step further by committing States to the promotion and protection of all human rights “regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems.”
Dear Participants,
What emerged from Vienna was powerful new recognition of women’s rights as human rights. The Declaration called for universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the integration of women’s rights into all UN activities. It recommended adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and endorsed the creation of a Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.
Today, denial of rights to women — including sexual violence and domestic violence, subjects that had always been conceived as private crimes rather than human rights issues — are the subject of detailed reports by all the world’s governments in the course of the remarkable Universal Periodic Review, and this concerted global scrutiny of a long-neglected subject is just one of the many achievements of Vienna.
Mindful of the horrific abuse that continued in Bosnia, the Vienna conference was particularly vocal regarding impunity. Thus just one month after, the first ad hoc international criminal tribunal since Nuremberg was established, the Vienna Declaration encouraged the International Law Commission to push on with its work on establishing a permanent international criminal court.
A number of you in this room work closely on cases before the European Court of Human Rights, and you will understand the importance of this process.
The Vienna Declaration also amplified treaty implementation and their international and national monitoring. For instance, the Optional Protocols to the CAT, to CEDAW and to the ICESCR provide very important tools for the implementation of treaty bodies obligations; so is the expansion of special procedures to all sets of rights. It also called for new momentum in developing national human rights institutions. The thrust here was to “bring human rights home”.
This meant recognizing that human rights are not abstract words on an international treaty, but very real and practical rights to which every child, woman and man in every country are entitled.
They are also not limited to legal cases before the courts, but cut transversally across professions such as education, medicine and more.
National human rights institutions such as the German Institute of Human Rights — which was, I believe, set up following Vienna — are best placed to embed human rights into their home territory.
Vienna also acknowledged the crucial importance of civil society organizations. An unprecedented 800 NGOs were present, and they contributed with striking energy to the proceedings and to the mobilization of public opinion worldwide for a positive outcome of the Vienna Conferences.
Some of them are with us today in this room, as part of the German Human Rights Forum that was established following Vienna, and now counts 48 members.
But today we are seeing human rights NGOs under attack in several countries as “foreign agents” who face surveillance and even unacceptable reprisal. And I wonder, if Vienna were to be restaged today, whether they would be accorded as much prominence and respect as they were in 1993.
Women, children, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, representatives of minorities and migrants: individuals from all these groups testified to their experience at Vienna, and their concerns are reflected in the Declaration and Programme of Action. This laid the foundation for further development of international legal standards, their subsequent codification and establishment of means to encourage implementation.
Dear Friends,
It was also in Vienna that, upon an initiative from Amnesty International, NGOs pushed very hard for the creation of a High Commissioner for Human Rights. This was an old, blue-sky notion that had always seemed far too politically divisive and far-fetched to function. Most at the preparatory conference in Strasbourg thought it completely unrealistic. For one thing, how could the East bloc, the West and developing nations ever agree on who would become High Commissioner?

But the remarkable consensus that emerged, day after day, at the Vienna conference, made it possible for the idea of a High Commissioner to be accepted, too.

So as we discuss the legacy of the Vienna World Conference, we do also need to look at everything the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has achieved, because in a very real sense, OHCHR is the child of the Vienna Conference.

The post of High Commissioner was created to ensure that an independent, authoritative voice would speak out against human rights violations wherever they occur; to coordinate and supports the work of a range of different bodies; and to bring the weight of the United Nations to the work of supporting human rights for all.

With only two field presences in 1993, OHCHR now operates in 58 countries, and these field offices have increasingly played a human rights protection role — which is the ultimate aim of OHCHR — through their direct interventions, advocacy, monitoring, and contribution to legislative and policy reforms.

OHCHR has also become the focal point for commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions into violations of human rights and humanitarian law, whether through mandates of the Human Rights Council, the Security Council, the Secretary-General or upon the High Commissioner’s own initiative.

In addition to ensuring that human rights promotion and protection has become an integral feature of the UN’s peacekeeping and peace building, OHCHR has endeavoured to be increasingly responsive to crises, with a rapid response capability. The Office deploys staff for human rights monitoring or assessments in cases of deteriorating human rights situations, and recently has participated in UN responses to humanitarian crises such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010. These crisis response activities are increasingly contributing to the fight against impunity, and have been paving the way for international criminal investigations opened by the ICC.
In order to play a key role in UN efforts in the most critical situations, OHCHR must continue to expand its crisis capabilities, and explore new opportunities to engage effectively. In the late 90s it became a key member of the UN prevention and early warning framework team. The recent establishment of the UN Operations and Crisis Centre is an opportunity to provide more early-warning and crisis-related human rights information to senior decision-makers. But becoming a more systematic, operational and predictable actor in humanitarian and human rights crisis response remains a challenge.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Alongside the Office of the High Commissioner, the entire human rights system of the UN has grown stronger since Vienna.
The Human Rights Council began its work in 2006, replacing the Commission on Human Rights. The Council has gained credibility for its brave and steadfast positions in the face of controversy. It has adopted approximately 456 resolutions which address a wide range of issues, some of them very sensitive — such as the protection of human rights on the Internet — and others serving to create a consensus on thorny issues such as “combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief.”
In particular, the Human Rights Council has been notable for its successful management of the unique and remarkable Universal Periodic Review. This process — which examines every UN Member State’s human rights record without exception — requires governments to take charge of assessing and challenging each other’s detailed submissions regarding human rights measures in a number of specific topics, including women’s rights, domestic violence and gender-based discrimination. Other stake-holders, including non-governmental organizations, UN country teams, Treaty body experts and Special Rapporteurs, may also be involved in these Universal Periodic Reviews, and I can assure you that it is often a very powerful process.
During its first cycle, which ended in 2011, the Universal Periodic Review examined every UN Member State’s human rights record without exception, and it is now embarked on a second cycle. Implicit in this cycle is the need for every country to make progress regarding a number of benchmarks and recommendations that arose during the first round. Noting that the entire UPR procedure is also webcast — and thus available not only live but also permanently via the Internet — I think there can be no person in this room who does not appreciate what a ground-breaking process the UPR really is, and its potential for creating real advances in human rights in countries across the globe.
In June 1993, there were just 26 Special Procedures with thematic or country-based mandates. Today there are 48 separate mandates with 72 experts appointed by the Council. This combination of independence, expertise and UN-bestowed authority is a powerful one.
The human rights treaty bodies have also grown in number and weight. Two major new international treaties – on Persons with Disabilities and Disappearance – and nine important substantive and procedural Optional Protocols have been adopted since Vienna. In 1993, the seven treaties and protocols had received 742 ratifications by States. That number has grown to 2010 ratifications of 18 treaties and protocols.
Dear Participants
If we were to gather again in Vienna today, would we have a better text, or would the final declaration fall back from our 1993 commitments?

The global context was ominous in 1993, and it is ominous again now.

I refer not only to the upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa over the past two years, and to the crisis in the Sahel, but also to the painful global financial and economic crises and threats to the environment that make Vienna’s focus on economic, social and cultural rights especially relevant. Migrants, minorities and indigenous peoples remain the most vulnerable; the low ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is a matter of great concern.

In addition, terrorism and counter-terrorism have created a situation that seems to once more call into question rights we had thought were agreed on for good. I refer of course to acts of forced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and torture which pull us back to practises unbefitting of mankind.
There has been significant progress since Vienna in tackling impunity for international crimes. In particular, ad hoc tribunals such as those for Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia, but also the establishment of the International Criminal Court — the world’s first permanent tribunal with powers to prosecute suspected perpetrators of international crimes.
Yet here too, we still have a long way to go. The ICC can only become involved if the State concerned is among the 122 State Parties to the Rome Statute, or if a situation is referred to it by the Security Council. Two important situations – Darfur in 2008, and Libya in 2011 — have been referred, but the Security Council has so far failed with regard to Syria, despite OHCHR’s repeated reports of widespread or systematic crimes and violations.
Despite some truly inspiring advances in combating impunity and ensuring accountability both internationally and at the national level, far too many people with command responsibility continue to escape justice following gross human rights violations. Since Vienna, hundreds of thousands of people have died in genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia Herzegovina. The Palestinian territories are still occupied. Massive violations have occurred in Iraq and Sri Lanka. And war crimes continue to be committed in numerous internal conflicts, including those in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Syria and Sudan.
Moreover, despite tremendous progress, there continues to be some resistance within the UN and the international community regarding the priority that needs to be given to human rights issues. The economic context affects the UN as a whole, but has particular impact on OHCHR, which has since its inception been financially fragile. For many years, limited funding to OHCHR (we painfully moved from 1% to 3% of the UN regular budget) revealed unwillingness to support a strong human rights mandate, and this problem may re-emerge.
Many other challenges will face us in coming years. The spectre of discrimination and prejudice continues to fall across entire communities, creating obstacles to free choice, twisting lives, inciting hate and violence on the basis of perceived differences in birth or belief. Thus, because of spurious assertions based on national, ethnic or racial origin or religion, Muslim, Jews, Roma, Christians and indigenous people live, in various regions, under the threat of violence, and are prevented from playing full roles in their society.
Another example of such prejudice is the problem of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Recently there has been significant movement, including the first formal UN debate on the issue, which took place in March 2012 at the Human Rights Council. The atmosphere at the outset was tense and some States walked out rather than engage in discussion. There was also a walk out at the Durban Review conference against Racism and Xenophobia in 2008. But different States were involved and the very fact that there was a structured, formal debate among States was in itself a step forward.
Yet another thorny topic that will require sustained attention in years to come is helping companies and corporations to develop human rights agendas. Important economic actors, both transnational and national, need to understand the nature and legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights; the right to health; the right to housing; and, the right to water. We will also need to provide training and support for partners engaged in the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights, including NGOs, judges, lawyers, and national human rights institutions, as well as civil servants and regulators.
In fact, in a more general sense, translating States’ human rights commitments into reality is perhaps the single most important challenge of our time, following a long period devoted more to standard-setting. The demand on OHCHR’s field offices for technical assistance has increased steadily, and national human rights institutions can also play a crucial role. We also need to enhance the United Nations’ ability to improve the human rights of all. And this means we must also continue striving to mainstream human rights throughout the UN system, particularly in terms of the UN’s development agenda. This mainstreaming has been something of a challenging process, to date, but as part of drawing up post 2015 goals, we have seen some significant advances, including on 30 September 2010 when, under the leadership of High Commissioner Navi Pillay, 16 UN agencies agreed on a joint declaration on the human rights of migrants in irregular situation. Human rights are now much more widely regarded as indispensible assets, and, indeed, as the foundations, of a global partnership for development.

Dear Participants,

As we embark today on an agenda that promises to be rich with insight and practical advice, it seems to me I can do no better than to urge all of you to honour the memory of Stéphane Hessel, by striving for a world in which his vision of human freedom and dignity can be realized in the spirit of article 28 of the UDHR. All of us, I believe, are convinced that this world can only come about if there is greater accountability, the complete elimination of discrimination and prejudice, a more equitable allocation of resources, and a globalized freedom from want and from fear. Laws and international bodies are a necessary baseline, but the real work is to strengthen the “girdle of brotherly hands”, and of equally sisterly hands to make human rights, at last, a reality for all.

Thank you.

The Legacy of Oñate and the Continuity of Colonialism (North America)

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
One of Earth Peoples co-founders, Petuuche Gilbert from the Acoma people wrote this article a while ago, “the Legacy of Oñate and the Continuity of Colonialism”

The People of Acoma Still Fight to be Free

by PETUUCHE GILBERT, Acoma Pueblo.
Petuuche Gilbert (Photo © Sara Cintrón Schultz)

Petuuche Gilbert (Photo © Sara Cintrón Schultz)

How does a tribe survive an attempted annihilation? How does a nation of people survive a holocaust? Oñate burned and destroyed the village of Acoma. The place where the colonizer’s church, San Estevan del Rey, stands today is the site of the original village. It must have been a horrible massacre, with our people burned in their houses. It is written that mothers and fathers were killing their own children to prevent capture. How many of our people jumped off the mesa to avoid being killed by Spanish soldiers? It is written then that our people were taken as prisoners of war and marched up to Santo Domingo for punishment. As punishment and as a further act of premeditated terrorism the feet of our men were cut off, the survivors, men, women and children were enslaved. How many died soon afterwards is unknown and forgotten. So, how did Acoma survive? It is again written in Spanish records that ten years later there was another battle at Acoma. In spite of the atrocities committed upon us we endured and we are still a nation of Acoma people.

Spiritual and Physical Strength and Endurance.

Today my people do not remember the massacre and punishment. Very few people know of the battle. My mother talked of how people described the use of canons and how the rock walls were scarred black from explosions. No one knows about how two Acoma warriors hung themselves from a tree on the mesa top rather then submit to Spanish rule. It is written this is occurred and only the tree still remembers. No one at Acoma talks of the enslavement of our people as we were forced to build a huge, massive church. All the materials of sand, rock and wood, were carried on the backs of my people to the mesa top. Who knows how many Acomas died in the construction of their church. Today the people proudly say this is our church. We built it with our blood, sweat and tears. It is true what one of our guides said to tourists. “They made slaves out of us to build this church I guess that is why we are Catholics today”. Such is the power of the crown and the cross. Today the priest holds mass when tribal leaders allow him to do so. The Catholic Church should be so proud they have brainwashed so well that we are devout practitioners. We became Catholics so that we could survive another day. All the while we are still here, believing and practicing our language, culture and religion.
The Legacies of Colonial Institutions

At Acoma and in the homeland of indigenous peoples we carry on our backs the heavy chains of colonial institutions. The impacts of colonialism and terrorism are powerful. All of the remaining indigenous tribes call themselves pueblos and some even use Spanish names to identify themselves. Some resistors, like Acoma, identify themselves in their own names. All of the pueblos are Catholics and all have saints as their protectors. Most of them have feast days in honor of their patron saints. We have never really questioned ourselves why we do this. I know it is the impacts of fear and brainwashing. We became Catholics so that we could continue to live and practice our ways. Such is the power of the people to endure in spite of the brutality of the crown and the cross.

Another powerful institution intended to dispossess indigenous peoples of their homeland is the merced or mercedes. In English it is the Spanish land grant. On the Oñate statute being built in El Paso the conqueror conquistador is seen proudly waving La Toma in his hand. In April, 1598, Conquistador, Juan de Oñate, crossed the Rio Grande, near present day El Paso, Texas. He declared and claimed, “All lands, people, and resources north of the Rio Grande, possessions of the Royal Spanish Crown.” La Toma was the imperialistic method proclaimed by the conquerors to take indigenous land and intended to subject the indigenous people to a foreign rule. Essentially this action set the basis for pre-emptive war. If indigenous people did not submit to the rulers then just war could be declare upon them. The famous square league, about 17,000 acres, was recognized as the land set-aside by the Spanish for the indigenous tribes. The rest was, of course, was kept by the conquerors. The people of today have never understood how the conquerors could give out land that was not theirs in the first place. It was not free land for the taking. This continuation of imperialism was declared to be manifest destiny by the United States and the theft of land and subjection of people continued. Upon the implementation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848, the United States felt, as is duty to respect the land rights of indigenous peoples. Articles 8 and 9 talk of the indigenous people. In the treaty it stipulated that if pueblo Indian people did not want to be citizens of the United States they could just leave. I guess we could have just left our homelands and moved to Mexico. I think this imposition of citizenship has never really being understood by the ancient inhabitants of this land. In this way we were made political prisoners and we remain so to this day.

The third pervasive institution affecting us here as indigenous people is the form of Spanish civil government. Most of the pueblo governments have leaders named as governors and their attendant staff named after Spanish names. When the Spanish arrived they saw community leaders led us and they made us choose our own leaders. Today in the selection of our own tribal leaders we call this tradition. Too, it is a profound influence that the Pueblo Indian Governors carry the Spanish canes as the recognition of their authority to rule. Why? I once asked one of the former pueblo governors why do they carry the Spanish canes if we threw off Spanish implements during the Pueblo Indian Revolt. His reply was that we had already imbued them spiritually and, thus, they became sacred. This is maintained even today.

The Indigenous Peoples Of Today

The conquerors should be so proud of themselves. We are profoundly brainwashed that we behave as conquered people. This is the legacy of Oñate and the conquerors. Colonialism remains alive and well. We have Spanish forms of civil governments and we select our own leaders to rule ourselves. We rely on the land grant system to have our land rights respected. We are devout Catholics. We are proud American citizens and we proudly put our hands on our chests as we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We are proud to be called Native Americans. How tragic and what a travesty this is. As indigenous peoples we never ask ourselves why. Why do we have blind patriotism to a nation that stole our land, committed genocide and instituted creative law intended to keep us as political prisoners.

Today we, the indigenous people, fight for our human right to be free, sovereign and self-determining people. To become this is the challenge is upon all of us here. The United States of America is the most ardent enemy of indigenous people. This nation refuses to respect and recognize us as PEOPLES because peoples in international law have the right to self-determination. During the Decade of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples we aggressively pursued for the right of self-determination to be enshrined in the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This did not happen as the decade ended in 2004. Prior to this indigenous people at the last World Conference on Racism, indigenous people accused the world’s nation-states of being racist by refusing to recognize indigenous people to be as peoples. This struggle for self-determination continues at the Organization of American States as they work to adopt an Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In it we are not considered to be indigenous peoples with the full right of self-determination.

So, what is our future today? There are difficult questions to ask of ourselves, as the conquerors and the conquered. Do we accept the legacies of the conquerors and remain treated as the conquered? I think not. In order for me to be here speaking today, someone, somewhere in the past, stood up and died for me to be here. Now it is my turn and our responsibility to carry on that struggle to be free as indigenous people. It is no easy task and the challenge is before us all. Especially now that we, as warriors fighting against the domination of the United States, are considered as terrorist. Well, we as indigenous peoples have been fighting terrorism for over 500 years and we will continue on. So, did God bless Oñate and does God bless America? Does God bless conquerors, murderers and thieves? Does God bless a nation built upon the twin pillars of discovery and conquest? The conquerors think God does and that is what is wrong with people. Thus, we are still at war with the conquerors. It must change. We must learn to live in peace and respect.

What Form of Justice is Due Indigenous People

Apologies are easy to proclaim and they are easily forgotten. One such proclamation is in the works in Congress. In 2004 it is was called the HISTORIC RESOLUTION OF APOLOGY TO NATIVE PEOPLES INTRODUCED IN U.S. CONGRESS and it is now referred to as the NATIVE AMERICAN APOLOGY RESOLUTION. Both are quite meaningless. Some church groups have already apologized and it is now forgotten who did. Do indigenous peoples want all of America back? I think not. Indigenous people are realistic and they know this is impossible. The foreigners are here today and we must now survive together. Albeit, we want to keep our homelands in our possession without the fear of loss through the laws and policies of the conquerors. Are we seeking some form of reparation for genocide and theft of land? Perhaps. Some indigenous people are demanding it and dollars are appropriated by congress to rid itself of the Indian problem. It is done and can be done in order to alleviate the fears and embarrassment of genocide and land theft. Pay the Indians off and forget them. Let them be American citizens like everybody else. Life goes on. A more appropriate form of reparation is allowing our human right to be as peoples. As peoples to peoples we can be both sovereign and self-determining. We must respect and understand all this. That is our challenge today for us all.

12th Session of the UNPFII: Pre-Registration___12a sesión del Foro Permanente para las Cuestiones Indígenas___12e Session de l’Instance permanente___12 сессия Постоянного форума: Предварительная регистрация

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
United Nations Permanent Forum UNPFII (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

United Nations Permanent Forum UNPFII (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

The 12th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will take place from 20-31 May 2013 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Pre-registration is now open. Please visit the 12th Session page on our website for more information.
La 12 sesión del Foro Permanente para las Cuestiones Indígenas de la ONU tendrá lugar del 20 al 31 de Mayo de 2013 en la Sede de Naciones Unidas en Nueva York. El pre-registro esta ahora abierto. Favor de visitar la página de la 12ª sesión en nuestra pagina para obtener más información.

Pueblos Indígenas protestan contra REDD en el Foro Permanente para las Cuestiones Indígenas de la ONU (Foto © Rebecca Sommer)

Pueblos Indígenas protestan contra REDD en el Foro Permanente para las Cuestiones Indígenas de la ONU (Foto © Rebecca Sommer)

La 12ème session de l’Instance permanente des Nations Unies sur les questions autochtones aura lieu du 20 au 31 mai 2013 au Siège de l’ONU à New York. La pré-inscription est maintenant ouverte. Veuillez visiter notre site web pour plus d’informations.
Двенадцатая сессия Постоянного форума по вопросам коренных народов состоится с 20 по 31 мая 2013 года в штаб-квартире ООН в Нью-Йорке. Предварительная регистрация уже открыта. Для дальнейшей информации, пожалуйста, посетите страницу для 12 сессии данного сайта.

United Nations building in NYC (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)

United Nations building in NYC (Photo © Rebecca Sommer)