The systematic racism, forced assimilation and apartheid of Indigenous Peoples in the United States has been documented in the “Consolidated Indigenous Shadow Report,” to be presented by the International Indian Treaty Council to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Dedicated to Floyd Red Crow Westerman, who passed to the Spirit World on December 13, 2007, the report is compiled from the testimony of individuals and groups of Indigenous Peoples and includes data from a wide range of sources.
The data reveals “a system of Apartheid and forced assimilation,” where Indigenous Peoples are “warehoused in poverty and neglect” in the United States. The racism permeates Indian life, including life at its foundation, at American Indian sacred places.
Indian treaty rights, the abrogation of treaties and discrimination toward non-federally recognized Indian Nations are detailed. Statistics are included for unemployment, violence against women and sexual abuse in residential schools. The destruction of sacred places, environmental racism and border injustices are revealed. Further, the high rate of incarceration and disproportionate long prison sentences for American Indians are exposed in the 87-page report.
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The exportation of banned pesticides by corporations in the United States to Sonora, Mexico, where Yaqui are suffering from death and toxic illnesses, and other Indigenous Peoples' territories, is also documented.
Alberto Saldamando, IITC board president, and board member Lenny Foster, Navajo, who reported on the freedom of religion for Indigenous prisoners in the US, will present the report to the UN Committee in Geneva in February. Western Shoshone and other organizations and Nations will join Saldamando and Foster.
“As described in this Shadow Report, the colonialist policies of racial subjugation have not ended for the Indigenous Peoples in the United States (US). Under US constitutional doctrine first established in the early 1800’s, Indigenous Peoples can be unilaterally deprived of their lands and resources without due process of law and without compensation; Indigenous governments can be terminated or stripped of their rightful authority at the whim of the federal government and their lands ‘allocated’ as ‘surplus lands.’ Treaties made between Indigenous Peoples and the Colonialist governments and the Successor State may be arbitrarily abrogated. Religious freedoms and religious practice, Sacred Lands and the cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples go virtually unprotected,” the report states.
The data includes the overwhelming disparities in income, life expectancy, poverty and unemployment. The disproportionate number of Indians in prisons is revealed with statistics from Montana.
“Native Americans are not counted separately from whites in the Department of Justice statistics but statistics from states with higher percentages of Native populations show that they are also overrepresented in the jail and prison population. For example, in Montana, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, Native Americans, the state's largest non-white group, comprise just 6.2 percent of Montana's population but 20 percent of those in correctional institutions. Nineteen percent of the 3,704 Montana men and boys being held in correctional institutions are Native American. Nearly one-third of the 429 women in correctional institutions are Native American.”
While sacred places are destroyed by energy development at an alarming rate, the report reveals the special relationship of the Lakota Nation and Bear Butte (Mato Paha), Black Hills, in South Dakota.
Miguel Alfonso Martinez, the special rapporteur on treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements between states and Indigenous Peoples’ populations, is quoted.
“Probably the most blatant case in point is the United States federal Government’s taking of the Black Hills (in the present day state of South Dakota) from the Sioux Nation during the final quarter of the nineteenth century. The lands which included the Black Hills had been reserved for the indigenous nation under provisions of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. It is worth noting that in the course of the litigation prompted by this action, the Indian Claims Commission declared that ‘A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history,’ and that both the Court of Claims, in 1979, and the Supreme Court of that country 61 decided that the United States Government had unconstitutionally taken the Black Hills in violation of the United States Constitution. However, United States legislation empowers Congress, as the trustee over Indian lands, to dispose of the said property including its transfer to the United States Government. Since the return of lands improperly taken by the federal Government is not within the province of the courts but falls only within the authority of the Congress, the Supreme Court limited itself to establishing a $17.5 million award (plus interest) for the Sioux. The indigenous party, interested not in money but in the recovery of lands possessing a very special spiritual value for the Sioux, has refused to accept the monies, which remain undistributed in the United States Treasury," according to the information available to the Special Rapporteur.
Further, the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Mr. Abdelfattah Amor drew special attention to the forced relocation of Navajos on Black Mesa and the United States refusal to take into consideration the spiritual practices of Navajos.
“On the subject of Black Mesa, the Special Rapporteur also calls for the observance of international law on freedom of religion and its manifestations. In the case of the Navajo elders, the reconciliation of their human rights and other legitimate concerns were not taken into account. No consideration was given their spiritual practices and beliefs by the United States government in ordering their relocation.”
As lands are seized or leased for energy developments, human rights violations increase. On the Navajo Nation, coal mining and uranium mining have been detrimental.
“Economic interests, such as the coal mine, have often prevailed over Indigenous human rights. These are principally private ventures that do not have a true public interest, and their activities rarely consider the fundamental rights or freedom of others. International law had not been observed with regard to the Navajo Elders," Amor stated.
There are over 1,000 abandoned uranium mines and mills on the Navajo Nation that have not been reclaimed. It has been over 50 years since the federal government or the corporations reaped millions of dollars in the mining and milling processes. These contaminants pose a continuing health hazard to traditional Navajos who live in close proximity to these sites.
“The Navajo Nation, which spans the New Mexico-Arizona border, was polluted in 1979 when an accident at the United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock Mill near Gallup, New Mexico released 94 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Puerco River. The river flows through reservation communities impacting a population of 10,000 Navajos who live along the river using shallow wells and springs which flow from the Puerco to draw water for livestock and personal needs. Despite the fact that the spill is considered the second worst nuclear accident in U.S. history after the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant meltdown in Pennsylvania and the designation as superfund site by the EPA the area remains un-reclaimed almost 30 years after the spill.”
Nearby the Navajo Nation, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos were also victims of radiation from uranium mining.
The Jackpile Mine on the Laguna Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico grew to be the largest open pit uranium mine in North America from 1952-1982. The mine site is 2,000 feet from the Laguna village of Paguate which has a population of 2,500 people.
Water quantity and quality were directly impacted by the mining of uranium in the Grants Mineral Belt in New Mexico. Surface water sources like the Puerco River became contaminated due to the close proximity of mines and mills which spread contaminants through run-off and wind. These contamination issues have impacted domestic water consumption and use as well as agriculture and livestock watering and have drawn correlations to cancerous related illnesses among the impacted population.
Western Shoshone have been leaders in the fight against racism, nuclear dumping and the abrogation of treaties. As Western Shoshone continued their fight against the planned Yucca Mountain waste dump in Nevada, Goshute fought a battle in Utah.
“Currently the Goshute Tribe in Utah is being considered for a low level nuclear Monitored Retrievable Storage Site despite vehement opposition by a majority of tribal members and the state of Utah. Disposal of spent fuel and high level radioactive waste being proposed by the U.S government at Yucca Mountain, Nevada has been an on-going proposal for over 25 years. Yucca Mountain is a sacred site to the Western Shoshone. Transportation of nuclear waste to repository sites poses a problem for the entire country,” the report states.
While the past tragedies are exposed, the Bush administration has pressed for more development on Indian lands already suffering from atrocities.
“As the Bush administration has advocated the use of nuclear power as an answer to global warming and climate change indigenous peoples must strongly consider the historical past that have left the legacy of health impacts from human exposure, land, air and water contamination, contamination to traditional food sources, sacred sites, tradition and culture from past uranium exploration and production.”
Indigenous Peoples at the borders are now the victims of Homeland Security as Americans respond with paranoia and xenophobia.
“Under the guise of Homeland Security, and under the rubric of ‘homeland security,’ the United States has increasingly become paranoid and isolationist, and is ahead of schedule in building a barrier, a steel wall along 700 miles of the US Mexican border. This wall and US xenophobia greatly affect Indigenous Peoples whose lands straddle both sides of the border,” the report statesm
The end result of US policies is many deaths of undocumented immigrants, many of whom are Indigenous, including Mayans from Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guatemala.
O’odham in Mexico Lt. Gov. Jose Garcia described the impact of the border on his people in Sonora, Mexico. “Our people live on both sides of the border, and we maintain relations with each other on a regular basis, crossing the border to attend baptisms, weddings, funerals and our traditional ceremonies, maintaining our Spiritual practice in spite of the obvious difficulties the border poses for us.
“We understand that the United States is to build a steel wall on the border and we are concerned as to how it will affect us, that it will further divide our people. It will certainly be an obstacle not only to immigrants but to the Indigenous Peoples of both the United States and Mexico.
“We really need to look at it. It affects our centuries old traditions and customs," Garcia said.
“It will block our customs and traditions and is not any solution to the problem. The problem is one of poverty and the lack of economic opportunity in Mexico. The migration of people, crossing into the United States, will continue as people search of a better way of life.
Since July, Lipan Apache elders of El Calaboz, Texas have been the targets of threats and harassments by Border Patrol, Army Corps of Engineers and other US officials related to the proposed building of a fence on their levee. The National Security Administration has demanded that elders give up their lands. They have been told that they will have to travel 3 miles to go through checkpoints, to walk, recreate, to farm and herd goats and cattle on their own Apache lands.
Eloise Tamez, Lipan Apache in El Calaboz, describes the harassment and threat of the seizure of her lands by eminent domain.
“In mid July 2007, I was informed by telephone that Homeland Security plans to split my property with a wall/fence. The informant (Border Patrol Agent Rick Cavazos) indicated that the government, under a National Security Directive, plans to build a fence on my private property with or without my consent or approval. For the record, land grant title holders currently own properties which extend to north of the levee but also south of the levee of the Rio Grande. Of this, the only ‘choice’ given me is that I can access my land south of the levee via a proposed checkpoint that will be built three miles east of my property (Garza Road). Many elders in our community will be denied basic freedoms to access their private property, due to the burden this ‘access’ will impose on their daily lives. The government denies the economic, social and cultural divides which are entrenched in the agrarian, land-based cultures indigenous to South Texas. Significant sectors of our communities will not be economically or socially positioned to travel three miles and through a security check-point to access their land grant private property holdings. Effectively, this measure would seriously sever an indigenous community from cultural resources, and cause immeasurable injury to community economic, social, ecological proprietorship and future development.”
Meanwhile, representatives of 19 Indigenous Nations of the Americas met in Tucson, Arizona, on November 17, 2007, to examine the situation of the Border and Indigenous Peoples. They issued a report, wherein they expressed their “… collective outrage for the extreme levels of suffering and inhumanity, including many deaths and massive disruption of way of life, that have been presented to this Summit as well as what we have witnessed in our visit to the border areas during the Summit as a result of brutal and racist US policies being enforced on the Tohono O’odham traditional homelands and elsewhere along the US/Mexico border.”
In the report, the segments include: “Dishonored Treaty, Seeking Recognition: The Winnemmem Wintu of Northern California, McCloud River;” “Indigenous but with No Recognized Rights: the Native Peoples of Hawai’i, Mauna Kea;” and “No recognition and no rights at all: The Taino, Native Peoples of Puerto Rico, The Sacred Caguana Ceremonial Center in Utuado, Borikén.”
The recommendations to CERD are:
Racist Constitutional Doctrines:
· Although there have been no dialogues or conversations with Indigenous Peoples with regard to the abolition of the racially discriminatory constitutional doctrines described in this Shadow report, including the so-called Trust Relationship, there is a well founded fear among many that simply abolishing the present relationship between recognized tribes and the United States would lead to individual States exerting jurisdiction over Indigenous Peoples, the loss of land and its collective nature, and many rights valued by recognized tribes as well as unrecognized Indigenous Peoples. Consultations should take place with Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, prior and informed consent, with the view of abolishing these racist doctrines while protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples as reflected by international customary law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
· That the United States recognize all Indigenous Peoples in the United States as Indigenous Peoples with Indigenous rights, consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with international customary law, including terminated Tribes, unrecognized Tribes, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawai’ians and the Taino Peoples of Puerto Rico. It should also comply with its Charter responsibilities of ensuring the well being of the Native Peoples of Guam and Puerto Rico.
· The “Plenary Powers Doctrine” should be immediately abolished. Consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, General recommendation XXIII, and customary international law, Indigenous lands taken under this doctrine should be restored.
· The United States should begin a process of reinstating abrogated and unrecognized Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, with the view of respecting and adhering to their terms, and provide, with the free prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected, restitution and where appropriate, compensation for damages as a result of their abrogation or failure of recognition.
1. Sacred Lands and Religious Freedom:
· Consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, General recommendation XXIII, and customary international law, Sacred Lands should be returned to Indigenous Peoples with particular attention paid to the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Lakota Nation.
· Indigenous Peoples should be allowed to practice their religion without the necessity of permits or the observation and encumbrances of tourists, bikers and rock climbers;
· Development that affects the Sanctity of Sacred Lands should immediately cease and should only be allowed with the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected; and,
· Prison Inmates, in both Federal and State prisons should immediately be allowed their religious practice as is allowed all other religions in United States prisons, including but not limited to, last rites for condemned Indigenous inmates.
2. Environmental Racism
· Development with potential harm to Indigenous Peoples’ rights, whether on recognized reservations or not, should not be done without their free, prior and informed consent. The United States should take immediate steps to remediate and compensate for the legacies of development harmful to Indigenous Peoples.
· The United States should be held accountable for its behavior and that of US trans-national corporations that violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples abroad. It should immediately cease these racist policies and practices and take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to prevent these adverse activities and to explore ways of holding transnational companies registered in the United States accountable. Particularly, the United States should:
— Outlaw the manufacture of banned pesticides for export.
— Stop the spraying of herbicides in Colombia and other countries
— Cease their economic and logistical support of paramilitary death squads under the guise of “economic development.”
3. US Apartheid and Coerced Assimilation
· The United States must cease its de facto system of apartheid on Indian Reservations as places to warehouse its Native American poor, leaving them only option for “an economic existence worthy of human dignity” the abandonment of community, language and culture.
· The United States must comply with its Treaty Obligations as well as customary international law, and provide the means by which Indian Reservations can develop and provide for future generations in keeping with their cultures and traditions.
· Congress should act to reauthorize and update the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to reflect both current needs of Indian health and the current health care systems enjoyed by most Americans. Equally importantly, it should receive the necessary funding to be effective.
· In order to better protect tribal female citizens from sexual violence, the United States should recognize full tribal criminal jurisdictional authority over all crimes occurring within Indian country. In addition, Congress should provide adequate funding to fully implement Title IX of the Violence against Women Act.
· The United States should afford Native Americans the full right to participate in government by addressing the rampant voting discrimination practices throughout the nation, and particularly in South Dakota.
4. Articles 6 and 7 of the CERD Convention
· The United States should provide just and adequate reparation and compensation for any damages suffered by indigenous victims of abuse by the United States under its historical practice of mandating that Native children attend federally sponsored boarding schools.
· The United States should promote the development of textbooks and the teaching of culturally appropriate and historically accurate curriculum for all school age children, particularly Native American children, of the dignity and worth of Indigenous Peoples and cultures, as well as their human rights.
PHOTO: Sebastian Quinac, Mayan, speaks of searching for bodies of fellow Mayans on Tohono O'odham land in Arizona, including women walking with their children, who died of dehydration and heat exposure. Bill Means, cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council, (seated) was master of ceremonies at the Indigenous Peoples' Border Summit of the Americas in November in San Xavier District on the Tohono O'odham Nation. Photo Brenda Norrell.
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